gwolf's blog

On the demise of Slack's IRC / XMPP gateways

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/09/2018 - 20:23

I have grudgingly joined three Slack workspaces , due to me being part of proejects that use it as a communications center for their participants. Why grudgingly? Because there is very little that it adds to well-established communications standards that we have had for long years decades.

On this topic, I must refer you to the talk and article presented by Megan Squire, one of the clear highlights of my participation last year at the 13th International Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS2017): «Considering the Use of Walled Gardens for FLOSS Project Communication». Please do have a good read of this article.

Thing is, after several years of playing open with probably the best integration gateway I have seen, Slack is joining the Embrace, Extend and Extinguish-minded companies. Of course, I strongly doubt they will manage to extinguish XMPP or IRC, but they want to strengthen the walls around their walled garden...

So, once they have established their presence among companies and developer groups alike, Slack is shutting down their gateways to XMPP and IRC, arguing it's impossible to achieve feature-parity via the gateway.

Of course, I guess all of us recognize and understand there has long not been feature parity. But that's a feature, not a bug! I expressly dislike the abuse of emojis and images inside what's supposed to be a work-enabling medium. Of course, connecting to Slack via IRC, I just don't see the content not meant for me.

The real motivation is they want to control the full user experience.

Well, they have lost me as a user. The day my IRC client fails to connect to Slack, I will delete my user account. They already had record of all of my interactions using their system. Maybe I won't be able to move any of the groups I am part of away from Slack – But many of us can help create a flood.

Say no to predatory tactics. Say no to Embrace, Extend and Extinguish. Say no to Slack.

Things that really matter

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:34

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Material for my UNL course, «Security in application development», available on GitLab

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/23/2018 - 13:26

I have left this blog to linger without much activity... My life has got quite a bit busy. So, I'll try to put some life back here ☺

During the last trimester last year, I was invited as a distance professor to teach «Security in application development» in the «TUSL (Techical Universitary degree on Free Software)» short career taught by the online studies branch of Universidad Nacional del Litoral, based in Santa Fé, Argentina. The career is a three year long program that provides a facilitating, professional, terminal degree according to current Argentinian regulations (that demand people providing professional services on informatics to be "matriculated"). It is not a full Bachelors degree, as it does not allow graduated students to continue with a postgraduate; I have sometimes seen such programs offered as Associate degrees in some USA circles.

Anyway - I am most proud to say I had already a bit of experience giving traditional university courses, but this is my first time actually designing a course that's completely taken in writing; I have distance-taught once, but it was completely video-based, with forums used mostly for student participation.

So, I wrote quite a bit of material for my course. And, not to brag, but I think I did it nicely. The material is completely in Spanish, but some of you might be interested in it. And the most natural venue to share it with is, of course, the TUSL group in GitLab.

The TUSL group is quite interesting; when I made my yearly pilgrimage to Argentina in December, we met and chatted, even had a small conference for students and interested people in the region. I hope to continue to be involved in their efforts.

Anyway, as for my material — Strange as it might seem, I wrote mostly using the Moodle editor. I have been translating my writings to a more flexible Markdown, but you will find parts of it are still just HTML dumps taken with wget (taken as I don't want the course to be cleaned and forgotten!) The repository is split between the reading materials I gave the students (links to external material and to material written by myself) and the activities, where I basically just mirrored/statified the interactions through the forums.

I hope this material is interesting to some of you. And, of course, feel free to fix my errors and send merge requests ☺

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Is it an upgrade, or a sidegrade?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 14:43

I first bought a netbook shortly after the term was coined, in 2008. I got one of the original 8.9" Acer Aspire One. Around 2010, my Dell laptop was stolen, so the AAO ended up being my main computer at home — And my favorite computer for convenience, not just for when I needed to travel light. Back then, Regina used to work in a national park and had to cross her province (~6hr by a combination of buses) twice a week, so she had one as well. When she came to Mexico, she surely brought it along. Over the years, we bought new batteries and chargers, as they died over time...

Five years later, it started feeling too slow, and I remember to start having keyboard issues. Time to change.

Sadly, 9" computers were no longer to be found. Even though I am a touch typist, and a big person, I miss several things about the Acer's tiny keyboard (such as being able to cover the diagonal with a single hand, something useful when you are typing while standing). But, anyway, I got the closest I could to it — In July 2013, I bought the successor to the Acer Aspire One: An 10.5" Acer Aspire One Nowadays, the name that used to identify just the smallest of the Acer Family brethen covers at least up to 15.6" (which is not exactly helpful IMO).

Anyway, for close to five years I was also very happy with it. A light laptop that didn't mean a burden to me. Also, very important: A computer I could take with me without ever thinking twice. I often tell people I use a computer I got at a supermarket, and that, bought as new, costed me under US$300. That way, were I to lose it (say, if it falls from my bike, if somebody steals it, if it gets in any way damaged, whatever), it's not a big blow. Quite a difference from my two former laptops, both over US$1000.

I enjoyed this computer a lot. So much, I ended up buying four of them (mine, Regina's, and two for her family members).

Over the last few months, I have started being nagged by unresponsivity, mainly in the browser (blame me, as I typically keep ~40 tabs open). Some keyboard issues... I had started thinking about changing my trusty laptop. Would I want a newfangle laptop-and-tablet-in-one? Just thinking about fiddling with the OS to recognize stuff was a sort-of-turnoff...

This weekend we had an incident with spilled water. After opening and carefully ensuring the computer was dry, it would not turn on. Waited an hour or two, and no changes. Clear sign, a new computer is needed ☹

I went to a nearby store, looked at the offers... And, in part due to the attitude of the salesguy, I decided not to (installing Linux will void any warranty, WTF‽ In 2018‽). Came back home, and... My Acer works again!

But, I know five years are enough. I decided to keep looking for a replacement. After some hesitation, I decided to join what seems to be the elite group in Debian, and go for a refurbished Thinkpad X230.

And that's why I feel this is some sort of "sidegrade" — I am replacing a five year old computer with another five year old computer. Of course, a much sturdier one, built to last, originally sold as an "Ultrabook" (that means, meant for a higher user segment) much more expandable... I'm paying ~US$250, which I'm comfortable with. Looking at several online forums, it is a model quite popular with "knowledgeable" people AFAICT even now. I was hoping, just for the sake of it, to find a X230t (foldable and usable as tablet)... But I won't put too much time into looking for it.

The Thinkpad is 12", which I expect will still fit in my smallish satchel I take to my classes. The machine looks as tweakable as I can expect. Spare parts for replacement are readily available. I have 4GB I bought for the Acer I will probably be able to carry on to this machine, so I'm ready with 8GB. I'm eager to feel the keyboard, as it's often repeated it's the best in the laptop world (although it's not the classic one anymore) I'm just considering to pop ~US$100 more and buy an SSD drive, and... Well, lets see how much does this new sidegrade make me smile!

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Excercising my trollerance at #EDUSOL

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/20/2017 - 17:31

EDUSOL is back to life!

The online encounter I started together with my friend Pooka twelve years ago (Encuentro en Línea de Educación y Software Libre, Online Encounter of Education and Free Software) was held annually, between 2005 and 2011 if I recall correctly. Then, it went mute on a six year hiatus. This year it came back to life. Congratulations, Pooka, Sheik and crew!

Anyway, this is a multimodal online encounter — They managed to top the experience we had long time ago. As far as I can count, it now spans IRC, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube chat, plus a Google Hangouts → Youtube videoconference... And I am pushing for some other interaction modes to be yet added (i.e. using Meet Jitsi as well as Google Hangouts as the YouTube source)... ... ...

Anyway, between sessions and probably thanks to a typo, I was described as Siempre eres trolerante. I don't know if the person in question wanted to say I'm always trolling or always tolerant, but I like the mix, plus the rant part once it is translated to English.

So, yes, I enjoy being trollerant: I am a ranting troll, but I excercise tolerance towards others. Yay!

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Achievement unlocked - Made with Creative Commons translated to Spanish! (Thanks, @xattack!)

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:05

I am very, very, very happy to report this — And I cannot believe we have achieved this so fast:

Back in June, I announced I'd start working on the translation of the Made with Creative Commons book into Spanish.

Over the following few weeks, I worked out the most viable infrastructure, gathered input and commitments for help from a couple of friends, submitted my project for inclusion in the Hosted Weblate translations site (and got it approved!)

Then, we quietly and slowly started working.

Then, as it usually happens in late August, early September... The rush of the semester caught me in full, and I left this translation project for later — For the next semester, perhaps...

Today, I received a mail that surprised me. That stunned me.

99% of translated strings! Of course, it does not look as neat as "100%" would, but there are several strings not to be translated.

So, yay for collaborative work! Oh, and FWIW — Thanks to everybody who helped. And really, really, really, hats off to Luis Enrique Amaya, a friend whom I see way less than I should. A LIDSOL graduate, and a nice guy all around. Why to him specially? Well... This has several wrinkles to iron out, but, by number of translated lines:

  • Andrés Delgado 195
  • scannopolis 626
  • Leo Arias 812
  • Gunnar Wolf 947
  • Luis Enrique Amaya González 3258

...Need I say more? Luis, I hope you enjoyed reading the book :-]

There is still a lot of work to do, and I'm asking the rest of the team some days so I can get my act together. From the mail I just sent, I need to:

  1. Review the Pandoc conversion process, to get the strings formatted again into a book; I had got this working somewhere in the process, but last I checked it broke. I expect this not to be too much of a hurdle, and it will help all other translations.
  2. Start the editorial process at my Institute. Once the book builds, I'll have to start again the stylistic correction process so the Institute agrees to print it out under its seal. This time, we have the hurdle that our correctors will probably hate us due to part of the work being done before we had actually agreed on some important Spanish language issues... which are different between Mexico, Argentina and Costa Rica (where translators are from).

    Anyway — This sets the mood for a great start of the week. Yay!

Call to Mexicans: Open up your wifi #sismo

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/19/2017 - 16:52

Hi friends,

~3hr ago, we just had a big earthquake, quite close to Mexico City. Fortunately, we are fine, as are (at least) most of our friends and family. Hopefully, all of them. But there are many (as in, tens) damaged or destroyed buildings; there have been over 50 deceased people, and numbers will surely rise until a good understanding of the event's strength are evaluated.

Mainly in these early hours after the quake, many people need to get in touch with their families and friends. There is a little help we can all provide: Provide communication.

Open up your wireless network. Set it up unencrypted, for anybody to use.

Refrain from over-sharing graphical content — Your social network groups don't need to see every video and every photo of the shaking moments and of broken buildings. Download of all those images takes up valuable time-space for the saturated cellular networks.

This advice might be slow to flow... The important moment to act is two or three hours ago, even now... But we are likely to have replicas; we are likely to have panic moments again. Do a little bit to help others in need!

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It was thirty years ago today... (and a bit more): My first ever public speech!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:35

I came across a folder with the most unexpected treasure trove: The text for my first ever public speech! (and some related materials)
In 1985, being nine years old, I went to the IDESE school, to learn Logo. I found my diploma over ten years ago and blogged about it in this same space. Of course, I don't expect any of you to remember what I wrote twelve years ago about a (then) twenty years old piece of paper!

I add to this very old stuff about Gunnar the four pages describing my game, Evitamono ("Avoid the monkey", approximately). I still remember the game quite vividly, including traumatic issues which were quite common back then; I wrote that «the sprites were accidentally deleted twice and the game once». I remember several of my peers telling about such experiences. Well, that is good if you account for the second system syndrome!

I also found the amazing course material for how to program sound and graphics in the C64 BASIC. That was a course taken by ten year old kids. Kids that understood that you had to write [255,129,165,244,219,165,0,102] (see pages 3-5) into a memory location starting at 53248 to redefine a character so it looked as the graphic element you wanted. Of course, it was done with a set of POKEs, as everything in C64. Or that you could program sound by setting the seven SID registers for each of the three voices containing low frequency, high frequency, low pulse, high pulse, wave control, wave length, wave amplitude in memory locations 54272 through 54292... And so on and on and on...

And as a proof that I did take the course:

...I don't think I could make most of my current BSc students make sense out of what is in the manual. But, being a kid in the 1980s, that was the only way to get a computer to do what you wanted. Yay for primitivity! :-D

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Made with Creative Commons: Over half translated, yay!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:05

An image speaks for a thousand words...

And our translation project is worth several thousand words!
I am very happy and surprised to say we have surpassed the 50% mark of the Made with Creative Commons translation project. We have translated 666 out of 1210 strings (yay for 3v1l numbers)!
I have to really thank Weblate for hosting us and allowing for collaboration to happen there. And, of course, I have to thank the people that have jumped on board and helped the translation — We are over half way there! Lets keep pushing!

Translation status

PS - If you want to join the project, just get in Weblate and start translating right away, either to Spanish or other languages! (Polish, Dutch and Norwegian Bokmål are on their way) If you translate into Spanish, *please* read and abide by the specific Spanish translation guidelines.

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:54


I have recently started to serve as a Feature Editor for the ACM XRDS magazine. As such, I was also invited to post some general blog posts on XRDS blog — And I just started yesterday by posting about DebConf.

I'm not going to pull (or mention) each of my posts in my main blog, nor will I syndicate it to Planet Debian (where most of my readership comes from), although I did add it to my account (that relays my posts to Twitter and Facebook, for those of you that care about said services). This mention is a one-off thing.

So, if you want to see yet another post explaining what is DebConf and what is Debian to the wider public, well... Thate's what I came up with :)

[Update]: Of course, I wanted to thank Aigars Mahinovs for the photos I used on that post. Have you looked at them all? I spent a moste enjoyable time going through them :-]

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#DebConf17, Montreal • An evening out

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 06:49

I have been in Montreal only for a day. Yesterday night, I left DebConf just after I finished presenting the Continuous Key-Signing Party introduction to go out with a long-time friend from Mexico and his family. We went to the Mont Royal park, from where you can have a beautiful city view:

What I was most amazed of as a Mexico City dweller is of the sky, of the air... Not just in this picture, but as we arrived, or later when a full moon rose. This city has beautiful air, and a very beautiful view. We later went for dinner to a place I heartfully recommend to other non-vegetarian attendees:

Portuguese-style grill. Delicious. Of course, were I to go past it, I'd just drive on (as it had a very long queue waiting to enter). The secret: Do your request on the phone. Make a short queue to pick it up. Have somebody in the group wait for a table, or eat at the nearby Parc Lafontaine. And... Thoroughly enjoy :-)

Anyway, I'm leaving for the venue, about to use the Bixi service for the first time. See you guys soon! (if you are at DebConf17, of course. And you should all be here!)

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DebConf17 Key Signing Party: You are here↓

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:23

I ran my little analysis program written last year to provide a nice map on the DebConf17 key signing party, based on the . What will you find if you go there?

  • A list of all the people that will take part of the KSP
  • Your key's situation relative to the KSP keyring

As an example, here is my location on the map (click on the graph to enlarge):

Its main use? It will help you find what clusters are you better linked with - And who you have not cross-signed with. Some people have signed you but you didn't sign them? Or the other way around? Whom should you approach to make the keyring better connected? Can you spot some attendees who are islands and can get some help getting better connected to our keyring? Please go ahead and do it!

PS— There are four keys that are mentioned in the DebConf17 Keysigning Party Names file I used to build this from: 0xE8446B4AC8C77261, 0x485E1BD3AE76CB72, 0x4618E4C700000173, E267B052364F028D. The public keyserver network does not know about them. If you control one of those keys and you want me to run my script again to include it, please send it to the keyservers and mail me. If your key is not in the keyservers, nobody will be able to sign it!

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Getting ready for DebConf17 in Montreal!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/24/2017 - 22:56

(image shamelessly copied from Noodles' Emptiness)

This year I will only make it to DebConf, not to DebCamp. But, still, I am very very happy and excited as the travel date looms nearer! I have ordered some of the delicacies for the Cheese and Wine party, signed up for the public bicycle system of Montreal, and done a fair share of work with the Content Team; finally today we sent out the announcement for the schedule of talks. Of course, there are several issues yet to fix, and a lot of things to do before traveling... But, no doubt about this: It will be an intense week!

Oh, one more thing while we are at it: The schedule as it was published today does not really look like we have organized stuff into tracks — But we have! This will be soon fixed, adding some color-coding to make tracks clearer on the schedule.

This year, I pushed for the Content Team to recover the notion of tracks as an organizative measure, and as something that delivers value to DebConf as a whole. Several months ago, I created a Wiki page for the DebConf tracks, asking interested people to sign up for them. We currently have the following tracks registered:

Andreas Tille
Debian Science
Michael Banck
Cloud and containers
Luca Filipozzi
Systems administration, automation and orchestation
Gunnar Wolf

We have two tracks still needing a track coordinator. Do note that most of the tasks mentioned by the Wiki have already been carried out; what a track coordinator will now do is to serve as some sort of moderator, maybe a recurring talkmeister, ensuring continuity and probably providing for some commentary, giving some unity to its sessions. So, the responsibilities for a track coordinator right now are quite similar to what is expected for video team volunteers — but to a set of contiguous sessions.

If you are interested in being the track coordinator/moderator for Embedded or for Systems administration, automation and orchestation or even to share the job with any of the other, registered, coordinators, please speak up! Mail and update the table in the Wiki page.

See you very soon in Montreal!

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Hey, everybody, come share the joy of work!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 07/20/2017 - 00:17

I got several interesting and useful replies, both via the blog and by personal email, to my two previous posts where I mentioned I would be starting a translation of the Made With Creative Commons book. It is my pleasure to say: Welcome everybody, come and share the joy of work!

Some weeks ago, our project was accepted as part of Hosted Weblate, lowering the bar for any interested potential contributor. So, whoever wants to be a part of this: You just have to log in to Weblate (or create an account if needed), and start working!

What is our current status? Amazingly better than anything I have exepcted: Not only we have made great progress in Spanish, reaching >28% of translated source strings, but also other people have started translating into Norwegian Bokmål (hi Petter!) and Dutch (hats off to Heimen Stoffels!). So far, Spanish (where Leo Arias and myself are working) is most active, but anything can happen.

I still want to work a bit on the initial, pre-po4a text filtering, as there are a small number of issues to fix. But they are few and easy to spot, your translations will not be hampered much when I solve the missing pieces.

So, go ahead and get to work! :-D Oh, and if you translate sizeable amounts of work into Spanish: As my university wants to publish (in paper) the resulting works, we would be most grateful if you can fill in the (needless! But still, they ask me to do this...) authorization for your work to be a part of a printed book.

Reporting progress on the translation infrastructure

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/12/2017 - 23:28

Some days ago, I blogged asking for pointers to get started with the translation of Made with Creative Commons. Thank you all for your pointers and ideas! To the people that answered via private mail, via IRC, via comments on the blog. We have made quite a bit of progress so far; I want to test some things before actually sending a call for help. What do we have?

Git repository set up
I had already set up a repository at GitLab; right now, the contents are far from useful, they merely document what I have done so far. I have started talking with my Costa Rican friend Leo Arias, who is also interested in putting some muscle behind this translation, and we are both the admins to this project.
Talked with the authors
Sarah is quite enthusiastic about us making this! I asked her to hold a little bit before officially announcing there is work ongoing... I want to get bits of infrastructure ironed out first. Important — Talking with her, she discussed the tools they used for authoring the book. It made me less of a purist :) Instead of starting from something "pristine", our master source will be the PDF export of the Google Docs document.
Markdown conversion
Given that translation tools work over the bits of plaintext, we want to work with the "plainest" rendition of the document, which is Markdown. I found that Pandoc does a very good approximation to what we need (that is, introduces very little "ugly" markup elements). Converting the ODT into Markdown is as easy as:
$ pandoc -f odt MadewithCreativeCommonsmostup-to-dateversion.odt -t markdown >
Of course, I want to fine-tune this as much as possible.
Producing a translatable .po file
I have used Gettext to translate user interfaces; it is a tool very well crafted for that task. Translating a book is quite different: How and where does it break and join? How are paragraphs "strung" together into chapters, parts, a book? That's a task for PO 4 Anything (po4a). As simple as this:
po4a-gettextize -f text -m -p MadewithCreativeCommonsmostup-to-dateversion.po -M utf-8
I tested the resulting file with my good ol' trusty poedit, and it works... Very nicely!

What is left to do?

  • I made an account and asked for hosting at Weblate. I have not discussed this with Leo, so I hope he will agree ;-) Weblate is a Web-based infrastructure for collaborative text translation, provided by Debian's Michal Čihař. It integrates nicely with version control systems, preserves credit for each translated string (and I understand, but might be mistaken, that it understands the role of "editors", so that Leo and I will be able to do QA on the translation done by whoever joins us, trying to have a homogeneous-sounding result. I hope the project is approved for Weblate soon!
  • Work on reconstructing the book. One thing is to deconstruct, find paragraphs, turn them into translatable strings... And a very different one is to build a book again from there! I have talked with some people to help me get this in shape. It is basically just configuring Pandoc — But as I have never done that, any help will be most, most welcome!
  • Setting translation policies. What kind of language will we use? How will we refer to English names and terms? All that important stuff to give proper quality to our work
  • Of course, the long work itself: Performing the translations ☺
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