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Kannan Thambiah
Contact info
pygospa (IRC)
User info
Gentoo user since 2004
de This user is a native speaker of German.
en-4 This user is able to contribute with a near-native level of English.

About me

I am a student at the end of getting his Masters degree in computer science at the University of Bremen; before that I got my Bachelor's degree at Christian Albert University of Kiel. I love the Unix computer systems, I discovered them at age 16 and since then I am hooked, especially the shell is something I consider one of the greatest computing tools.

I program in Java, Scheme, Ruby and Smalltalk. I also have some experience in C++, Haskell and Python, but nothing I would brag about.

I've always wanted to contribute to some open-source project, however due to time limitations and no idea of where to start, I never actually did get involved anywhere. Due to an error I found in this wiki I finally decided to create an account here and let's see where it takes me contribution-wise?


Besides (Gentoo) Linux and open source software, I enjoy everything regarding artificial intelligence and neuroinformatics/cognitive sciences, as well as robotics (my focus in my Master's studies), I am part of my universities RoboCup SPL soccer team, B-Human (btw. the robots run on Gentoo - however that was decided long before my time), I am interested in parallel algorithms and GPGPU, and computer security. I also read up a lot on different science fields, especially biology, physics and astrophysics. I am also studying for my HAM radio license.

Besides computing I love travelling and combine this with Geocaching. I also like learning foreign languages; I have basic knowledge of French and Spanish and I am trying to learn Japanese.

Also I love good music, go to concerts whenever I can, spend at least one evening a week at the cinemas and collect Blu-ray discs, comics and records (CD and Vinyl). I also used to read a lot and do a lot of sports - I somehow lost that in the last years, but I am working on picking that up again. I used to be a competitive swimmer and I have a yellow belt in Jujutsu.

And of course I love to program.

Meaning of pygospa

I used to have long alliteration nick names (two of them), so when I needed a new one in 2005, I was looking for something that had a connection to me, was (near to) unique on the internet and still had that alliteration thing going for it. And there it was: Pygoscelis papua, the scientific name of the Gentoo penguin.

Now as this was of course too complicated for anyone to remember and used, people started shortening it, e.g. to pygo. However, pygo wasn't unique enough, and so after some thinking and combining of the two words, I found pygospa had a nice ring to it and was short and memorable, yet unique enough.

UNIX/Linux experience

S.u.S.E. Linux (1998-2004)

I started using Linux at around 1998, starting with S.u.S.E. Linux 6.3, which came in a big paperbox including a 1000-paged handbook, 8 CD-Roms, 1 boot floppy and an extra CD-Rom containing StarOffice. First it was only a parallel install which was booted every weekend when I had a little time and fun figuring out why this Linux was supposedly superior to my Windows 98. Then, when I bought Windows ME in 1999 and it crashed after half an hour of usage, I was angry and abandoned Windows for good. I used it with YaST to configure my system, but whenever possible I tried to do it the manual way to learn more about the system. For SuSE 8.0 however, SuSE dropped YaST and only promoted YaST2, and that in the first version, had a "security feature" that would override any configuration file not changed by YaST2, so after an hour of configuring my system mostly the manual way, everything was lost when rebooting the system.


Knoppix became my favourite live distribution. Whenever people wanted to try out Linux or when there where problems with computers and people asked me to help, I would bring my Knoppix along.

Debian (2004)

Being fed up with SuSE I switched to the supposedly more advanced Debian 3.0, aka Woody. Installing and running Debian I had the feeling I didn't know anything about Linux itself and in the past years only learned SuSE Distribution specifics. I had to learn a lot of stuff anew and I did.

I was happy for a while, but updating the system became a pain once I mixed stable, testing and unstable because all of Debians software being so dated (just imagine Woody still hat Linux kernel 2.2 as stable and 2.4 as testing, while the rest of Linux distributions celebrated the arrival of 2.6). So again I found myself looking for a new distribution, and ended up trying Red Hat, Mandrake, Slackware, OpenBSD and finally Gentoo.

Gentoo (2004-today)

When installing Gentoo, once more I felt like knowing nothing about Linux. All that choices you could make - different logging managers, different cron implementations, preparing a system and chrooting - things I've never heard of. Once everything was set up, I loved how everything was working - even things I could not manage using Debian. And I loved the ease of upgrading - I felt that because of the building from sources and the use of USE flags I had a much easier life. I fell in love with Gentoo and started ricing my system, and also more and more moved away from WMs doing much more in the terminal, customized my own fvwm², etc.

I started my job training in 2005 and got myself an IBM Thinkpad and ran Gentoo on that one as well, but while I was happy with Gentoo on my main PC at home I wasn't so much on the Laptop, especially if you needed new software on the go, it was a pain compiling stuff on an Intel Pentium M processor with 1 GB of RAM.


Somewhere during that time I also joined the local Linux User group in my home town Hamburg and met two of the developers of Grml, which up to now is my favourite live Linux system and replaced Knoppix. I used to carry a CD-Rom around in my backpack, but I don't any more.

Mac OS X, macOS (2008-today)

My Thinkpad broke because of overheating during a system update while staying at Gran Canaria. The fan probably broke, and due to the heat at Gran Canaria and the lengthy compilation my system fried. As Mac OS X was gaining popularity since it moved from it's own OS implementation to a Unix Kernel I wanted to see what all the fuzz was about, and got myself a white polycarbonate Macbook. I did install Gentoo on it as dual boot system as well, but I ended up using OS X all of the time. Since today it is my favourite systems for mobile computers. However, somewhere on the way I dropped the Gentoo Linux partition.

Arch (2012-today)

I got myself a Raspberry Pi as soon as it got out, and tried out different distributions: the Debian based Raspbian, Gentoo and - because compiling on a Raspberry is no fun at all - Arch Linux ARM, which turned out to be my favourite. To me, pacman works equally good as Gentoo, and it's just great fun on the Pi.

Hardware I use

I always keep a Windows partition just in case I need it. But normally it just gets booted every other month; main system is in bold.


Intel Xeon E3-1231v3 @ 8x 3.4GHz (Haswell), 16GB DDR3, nVidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB, 2x Crucial MX300 525GB SSDs [Gentoo + Windows 10]
MacBook Pro (4th Gen, 2016, Touchbar)
Intel Core i7 @ 4x 3.3GHz, 16GB DDR3, Intel Iris Graphics 550 1563MB, 525GB SSD [macOS]
Raspberry Pi B Rev. 1.0
ARM11 76JZF-S @ 700MHz, 256MB SDRAM, Broadcom VideoCore IV [Raspbian, Arch, Gentoo]
Raspberry Pi B Rev. 2.0
ARM11 76JZF-S @ 700MHz, 512MB SDRAM, Broadcom VideoCore IV [Raspbian, Arch, Gentoo]
2x Raspberry Pi 2
ARMv7 Cortex-A7 @ 4x900MHz, 1GB SDRAM, Broadcom VideoCore IV [OpenELEC, Arch]


Lifetec MT2
Pentium MMX 166MHz, 32MB RAM, ATI Rage II 3D, 2.1GB HDD [Windows 95-Me + SuSE Linux/Debian/Gentoo]
Medion MD3000
Pentium 4 1.8GHz, 768MB SDRAM, nVidia GeForce3-Ti200 @ 64MB, 80GB HDD [Gentoo + Windows XP]
IBM Thinkpad R51
Pentium M @ 1.6GHz, 512MB SDRAM, ATi Mobility Radeon 7500 @ 32MB, 40GB HDD
Medion MD8818
Pentium Core2 Duo E6300 @ 2x1.83GHz, 1GB DDR2, nVidia Geforce 7650 GS @ 256MB, 320GB HDD [Gentoo + Windows Vista/Window 7]

Software I use

Software that I install on all my Linux systems - and as far as possible also on macOS:

my favourite Linux shell
after trying out a number of different terminal emulators, like xterm, aterm, etc. I came to the conclusion that urxvt is the best terminal emulator.
I used to use screen since a few years ago. tmux is just more powerfull - can't believe it took me so long to switch
after zsh, urxvt and tmux this is probably the most frequent tool I use. I learned vim at S.u.S.E. Linux times, just when starting learning Linux and never switched since. I hate it that Gentoo switched to nano, and if someone gives me an emacs, I cannot manage anything. I am using a lot of plugins:
  • a: easy file switching from header to source file in C and C++
  • ctrlp: a fuzzy finder
  • delimitMate: closes opened brackets automatically
  • nerdcommenter: easy comment in/out source file blocks
  • nerdtree: a file tree sidebar. I rather use ctrlp, however I'm a graphical guy and like seeing the tree anyways (especially if working on Ruby on Rails projects)
  • pathogen: easy plugin installer and updater
  • snippets: snippets
  • surround: easily edit pairs (such as brackets, parentheses, quotes, tags, etc).
  • syntastics: syntax checker for different programming languages.
  • tagbar: a sidebar listing all the variable and method declarations to easy jump around in a big source file.
  • TaskList: a sidebar showing all TODO, FIXME, XXX comments, and allows to easily jump to them
  • YouCompleteMe: source code completion
a note taking/personal wiki tool, directly integrated into vim, using markup language
I used to spend hours and hours on irc. Am not using it lately, however...
the better top
my download manager of choice
GNU Privacy Guard
I like encryption
my audio CD ripper
my goto email client, until I got a Mac; now I am back using a graphical interface on my laptop, just because it integrates so well with the Address Book, the Calendar and the messenger application Adium. That's something I am totally missing for Linux.
I love listening to music. Used to use orpheus for this.
ruby version manager. Great if you have different Ruby on Rails projects using different Ruby versions and you like to switch Ruby automagically when switching to a RoR project directory.
for coding in Haskell - I am no expert, but I like to get better with Haskell
as far as possible I do everything with LaTeX: my (home)work related stuff, letters, my CV, invoices, notes that I like to print out, etc.
I used to use fvwm², but somehow grew out of it. Now I wanted to have a tiling window manager. I love awesome, but I hate the Lua part, and after updating most configuration files did not work any more. i3 on the other hand is not as perfect as awesome but is just simpler to configure and use.
Firefox + Pentadactyl
firefox is my goto browser, and pentadactyl turns it into a beautifully keyboard controllable superbrowser: vim-style!
I used to get Mplayer, however there was one issue with that and therefore I switched to mpv, which is basically Mplayer with a few additional features and a modern and easier interface.
an image viewer
GNU Octave
the MATLAB of Linux
I am teaching Java, and our students should use eclipse, so I am using it as well, to be able to give support.
to view my PDFs, and to comment homework I get from my students
to edit my photos, create custom made blu-ray covers, etc.
hardly ever use this, but sometimes you just get a .doc-File, and have to make it work somehow.