Open source luminary Atul Chitnis dies of cancer at age 51

Indian technology pioneer mourned by colleagues

Atul Chitnis

Atul Chitnis

Atul Chitnis, a pioneering technologist and former contributing editor to the landmark Indian IT publication PCQuest, died Monday at the age of 51, following a battle with intestinal cancer.

Chitnis was a leading authority on a wide range of technological subjects, but he is likely best known for his work in the world of open source software -- he is credited with being one of the driving forces behind the creation of a vibrant open source community in India, and an important evangelist for FOSS. His zeal is plain in one of his favored descriptions of himself as an "irrationally committed product guy," still seen on his Twitter bio and LinkedIn page.

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Colleagues from PCQuest have written movingly of Chitnis' enthusiasm, wit and honesty, and described him as a guru, sounding board and counselor.

"He was our friend, philosopher, go to guru of last resort, mentor, confidante, most ardent critic and more, all rolled into one," wrote former Editor Krishna Kumar. "He has had a huge contribution in making each one us who were involved with PC Quest -- analysts and readers -- into what we became in later life, and in shaping our thinking about everything tech and beyond."

As both an advocate and critic working in the technological realm, Chitnis was blunt, plain-spoken and never shy about expressing his opinions, said Editorial Advisor Prasanto Roy.

"He had zero tolerance for mediocrity. On panels and juries ... we often got a taste of his sharp tongue. His views and their expression were as fiery clear as his principles," Roy wrote. "He would never win a popularity contest. He would simply never try -- he just didn't give a damn. But at the end of the day, if you had a tech problem, this was the guy who had the answer."

Chitnis was diagnosed with advanced intestinal cancer in August 2012. He blogged in detail about his battle with the disease, which had spread to his liver by the time treatment began.

A tech writer to the end, Chitnis' last entry touches on his battle with cancer, but is primarily an enthusiastic review of the MacBook Air given to him by his sister-in-law.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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