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Debconf5 flood

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/15/2005 - 18:28
WOW... The Debconf Comas system we set up had been running quite smoothly for already some months. People were registering in quite a nice, ordered way... We had around 30 registered proposals, and everything was fine. Well, mostly everything. You see, we had as a proposal submission deadline March 15 2005, 23:59 UTC. In order to allow only for timely new proposals, Comas checks this date - only that I was checking for the date, not for the time... Since March 15 2005 00:00 UTC until around 16:00 UTC when I fixed this, we were gratuitously rejecting the proposals. And I had done the math wrong when setting the local cutoff time, as the server is in UTC+2, but I am (as I live in UTC-6) used to adding instead of substracting, so we got another two more hours off the air. I even gasped when I saw the titles for #debconf and #debconf-team: website proposal form b0rken, mail proposals to debconf5-speakers@l.debconf.o, cc: gwolf@debian.o - WHATTHEFUCKDOYOUMEANBYB0RKEN?! My system is not b0rken (although my logic certainly is)! ;-) I have been receiving mails with proposals for the last couple of hours - add that to having a stupidly busy day, I was longing for 23:59UTC to finally arrive. And it has finally arrived - No new proposals for Debconf will be accepted (unless our academic committee (Stockholm+Jbailey+Amaya) strong-arm me into acceptance, of course). Well, anyway... Sadly I don't record proposal submission timestamps in Comas, it should be interesting to make a graph similar to the one about persons - During the first day, we got five registered proposals. Then, a long period of laziness... and today we got at least 10 (out of the current 42. And, yes, I am still missing two. Anyway, time to go back to UNAM work - Jordi, Juanjo, I'll upload your talks by tomorrow :)
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Among the best Linux distributions

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 03/10/2005 - 12:26
Debian has been often rated as a great distribution technically, ideologically and socially. Now, how about seeking objective perfection? What if we could say that our distribution is simply great according to standards that have been widely respected for centuries? I came across the Gematriculator, which uses gematria to objectivelly rate a site? The results for the analysis of www.debian.org: This site is certified 11% EVIL by the Gematriculator This site is certified 89% GOOD by the Gematriculator Ok... And how do other Linux distributions rate? Mandrake: 37% evil - 63% good RedHat: 13% evil - 87% good. We need to watch out for these guys! Gentoo: 58% evil - 42% good. Does it surprise anybody? Novell Suse: 8% evil - 92% good. Ok, we _NEED_ to see what are they doing better than us! Slackware: 35% evil - 65% good FreeBSD: 33% evil - 67% good. What?! But... Their logo is a daemon! How can this be? NetBSD: 41% evil - 59% good OpenBSD: 23% evil - 77% good Ubuntu: 16% evil - 84% good. Sorry guys. You are in the right track, but you'd be much better off if you didn't stray away from Debian.
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Re-stating the obvious / Mozilla's trademark

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/09/2005 - 11:15
First of all: I have been asked why do I post my blog in English. I know it is syndicated in Planeta Linux en México, a mostly-Spanish-speaking planet (I am though not the only one posting in English, but there are few of us). It is also syndicated in Planet Debian, which is strictly in English. I don't have time to maintain two blogs. I want my Mexican friends to know what am I up to... So well, now you know. ;-)
Visor posted his opinions regarding Mozilla's and Firefox's trademarks. This is answering to a posting by Damog which I cannot find, but which referred to Gervase's mailing to debian-legal. Before anything else, Visor, please take a look at Mozilla's trademark policy as well. The problem, you are right, is not about patents - I am sure Damog slipped to the wrong term when making his post. The problem is about trademarks (marcas registradas). Mozilla's licensing is quite twisted, but generally conceived as free as well (and I will not go to that dark area). The problem is, the Mozilla Foundation wants to retain quality assurance control over any product which has their name on it. It _is_ fair, yes. Is it compatible to the way most Linux distributions work? No, sorry. And specially no for the distributions that most care about freedom. I had not previously read Gervase's message, in which he does offer an important advance over what we previously had... But lets limit our analysis first to Mozilla's official policy. A responsible distribution must take care of fixing as promptly as possible any important bug in its software. However, only software authorized by the Mozilla foundation can be called Mozilla Firefox and carry its logo (first case of the policy). Even if a distribution decided to call it Firefox Community Edition, there are many limitations imposed on them - The code itself is free, but you are still not free to add your modifications to it. Of course, you can take the code and rename it (as section 3 of its policy, Iceweasel, suggests). Of course, every distribution will make its best for the QA levels to be as high as possible, but we are always liable of including something the Mozilla Foundation does not approve. Even with Gervase's interesting mail, distributions that hold freedom as such a high value as Debian does would not be able to include the Mozilla trademark - Debian Free Software Guidelines define what we perceive as being Free Software. The eigth condition states that License Must Not Be Specific to Debian - And in Gervase mail, we can read:
7) The Foundation requests that Debian document, in a place where it might be seen by package modifiers, the potential need to acquire such a trademark licence.
...What is the end of this discussion? It has not been reached yet, as far as I can tell. There is good will on the part of the Mozilla people, but we have to recognize that, being Mozilla a Free Software project, it is one that most behaves as a propietary initiative. I am not for suggesting people to run away from Mozilla or Firefox. They are great products, and they _are_ free... But we must be able to be able to treat them by the same standards that we treat other software.
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It feels like Europe down here...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/08/2005 - 10:53
My country is slowly but steadily becoming more and more like Europe. No, it is not because Mexico suddenly became a free, democratic and advanced nation - it is because Europe is becoming more and more a banana republic. Europeans: Don't let the antidemocratic Council (not elected by you) get away with it. Don't let it overturn a decision made by the European Parliament, an elected and legitimate body. If this corrupt initiative does not pass, it will be thanks to the government and people of Denmark and Poland. Thank you very much!
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Bye bye, my oldest bug

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/07/2005 - 18:57
Wow... It is not every day that you have the chance of closing a bug that is over five years old. #41890 can now be crossed out, thanks to Julian Mehnle for his patch. No, no big trumpets, as it was quite an easy bug to fix... But at least is just a little step closer to world domination, just a little step closer to perfect code ;-)
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Ternary operators, conditionals in the middle

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/02/2005 - 11:54
Daniel Silverstone asked on our opinions on ternary operators, and as it seems his blog doesn't like comments (boo!). I just love them. I really like being as concise as possible, without being cryptic - I find it awful to say [code="C"]if (condition) var = val1; else var = val2;[/code] Not only it hides the real intention of your statement (you want to assign a value to var, not just to check for a condition), but it is much more error prone (when I typed the line the first time I did an assignment to var and one to val. Daniel says someone suggested the use of functions... Well, yes, sometimes a function would be fine, as in the classical example - I agree that [code="C"]var = max(val1, val2);[/code] is better than [code="C"]var = val1 > val2 ? val1 : val2;[/code] ...But that's hardly the most common case. Now, I know we Perl guys are seen by the rest of the world as bizarre creatures with the strangest sense of code grokking abilities... But I love how Perl allows us to show where emphasis is in our statements. For example, [code="Perl"]$result = 0 unless $success;[/code] shows the reader the important part in this statement is the assignment (which only happens if $success is true), while [code="Perl"]$success or $result = 0;[/code] is semantically equivalent, but puts the reader's attention on the fact we are checking for $success, and the assignment happens as a consequence of that. There is more to programming than letting the computer understand your intentions. Although it is often seen as a write-only language by speakers of other tongues, this level of expresiveness helps reading code. A lot. I happen to like Python quite a bit, but this limits it puts on the programmer always put me off while deciding on using it for a new project. BTW, back to ternary operators: It seems not many Perl programmers use them as often as I do, as for Perl6 there will be a language redesign involving operator Huffman-encoding (this means, the shortest and easiest-to-type operators will be the most common ones)... And the current ternary operator ( ? and : ) will be replaced by a more visible, more lengthy ones ( ?? and :: ) :-(
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Got my own office!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/28/2005 - 17:31
I formally started working at IIEc exactly two months ago (Jan 1 2005, although I have been showing up to work here since November 17), and finally today my workplace is no longer the lab - I have my very own seven square meters - a very strange office, 2x4 meters, with one square meter devoted to one of the building's pillars. I'll have to find a way to put my desk to be confortable (right now I am facing a corner). I have always admired the care my University gives to having nice, confortable places to work, with nice views - Well, this is the exception. I do get some natural light, although mostly obscured by my neighbour's stuff. But hey, I have some space of my own after exactly two years of being in a public place. It feels good. Update: Half an hour of Sokoban later, I feel this is good. There is still a dark spot in the usable square meter behind me, but anyway... I'll find a use for it sooner or later. Meanwhile, I have a much more ergonomic space than what I had in the morning. Joy! :)
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Finishing CONSOL 2005

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/25/2005 - 16:32
This is the last day of CONSOL, and I am quite happy with it. Tired as hell (have been spending my nights printing T-shirts for about a week), but happy. This is the fourth CONSOL, and it is the first time I am not at all involved in the organization, and... Well, it was smoother than ever. And it feels quite good not to be an organizer, to have time to enter any interesting talks, chat with my friends, to go out have a coffee, even go out in case something is needed back home. I don't have statistics for this year's CONSOL, but I heard there were somewhat less people than last year... I'll wait and see. I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted talking with people, as between finishing my presentation and printing T-shirts at night I lost lots of interaction time... But nothing too much, most of this was just good time. After many nights in a row sleeping 4 hours, I am falling asleep... And I am sure this post strongly lacks grammatical and style details - Forgive me :)
Wouter: Great graphs! Quite interesting and entertaining. Thanks!
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PHP segfaults, incomplete laptops

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/16/2005 - 19:22
Shit. I hate losing time due to someone else's faults. Yesterday, a client of mine told me his Horde is not working. Ok, set myself in debug mode. What do I see? Nothing, just a stupid blank webpage. What does the Apache log say? Not much, nothing too informative, and what's worse, nothing I expect from a PHP application: [code=""][Tue Feb 15 09:54:26 2005] [notice] child pid 2421 exit signal Segmentation fault (11)[/code] Over and over. I set in paranoid mode, as I had just upgraded the system. New Horde2 and Imp3 versions had just made it in Sarge, so there was no doubt: I was the culprit. Besides, being tired made everything worse - Two hours checking and rechecking that no files were different from the files I had on a working server. Today I gave it a shot again... Started stracing the Apache processes - I saw the segfault shortly after opening /usr/share/php/Log.php, but couldn't explain it nor relate it to anything else: [code=""](...) open("/usr/share/php/Log.php", O_RDONLY) = 5 fstat64(5, {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=8526, ...}) = 0 fstat64(5, {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=8526, ...}) = 0 lseek(5, 0, SEEK_CUR) = 0 lseek(5, 0, SEEK_SET) = 0 close(5) = 0 --- SIGSEGV (Segmentation fault) @ 0 (0) ---[/code] Ok, I spent some extra time grokking this, until I checked in order what was being opened and in what order (BTW, that helps a lot understand program flow, specially while diving through frameworks such as Horde in languages you don't really enjoy reading, such as PHP ;-) ). First thing I noticed: Silly me. I was looking for the error messages in the Apache log, while Horde sends them to its own log file... Just opening the Horde logfile made me understand the problem right away: [code=""]Feb 16 10:43:56 HORDE [error] [imp] Error retrieving session data (id = faea99bff4f2b114cde7f26e81818f7f) [on line 119 of "/usr/share/horde2/lib/SessionHandler/mysql.php"] [/code] Well... The thing is, my client modified the Horde code (yes, the code, not the configuration) to fit another system he developed - and the session-related columns simply had a different name. Gah. Now, fixing this queries got Horde back running... But I am not sure what to think about it: If Horde cannot find the sessions, should it complain visibly at least? Why just letting it die? Even more: Why the hell does it segfault? I am not sure on whether to file a bug for this... But it does annoy me.
Yesterday I called a friend of mine to check if my laptop was finally fixed (I have been laptopless for about a month already)... He told me he finally had it at home, he helped me send it and follow through the repair process with a vendor he trusts (trusted?)... But he wanted me to go with the power supply and battery just to test it. - But I gave them to you together with the machine! - You did?! This guy says you didn't! - I did... Why would I keep it? - To spare me carrying extra weight? Well... I do believe you, but... Well, I'll have to check with that guy... So... No power, no battery... Sounds like I am still laptopless. Have been working at home from my trusty, old and annoyingly too very slow laptop-server (P120, 48MB RAM, 800x600). I _need_ my laptop soon. He said he'd drop by today - I hope he does with good news...
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Life...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/15/2005 - 09:15
Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends. - Joseph Campbell, mythologist
Seen on the January 2005 edition of Scientific American, on Steve Mirsky's Captive Audience article.
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chaos at home / treasures of a forgotten era

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/11/2005 - 13:39
My home is still in chaos. It is almost three weeks we are covered in dust, as we are changing most of the house's floor (after 50 years, it was really in bad shape). Terrible. Everything is dusty, everything feels uncomfortable, we cannot get good rest at any time... But well, today the workers began with the last (and largest) area, and it seems in one week it will finally be over. This, of course, has led me to bump into many things I didn't expect to find - This is, after all, a house where my mother lived before she went to Sweden, and we have years and years of stuff in every possible place. Yesterday I got really surprised when I found this certificate: The certificate for the first ever computer course I had, at IDESE, for three weeks in July 1985 (nine years old). And the best thing about it was not just finding it, but looking it was signed by the Mexican Perl guru Salvador Ortiz! :-D That put me into old-memory mode... Linking memories from little computer-enthusiast kids (and, of course, looking at Amaya's and Tolimar's comments on Elizabeth Garbee (Bdale's 13 year old daughter addressing a Linux developers conference) made me come to one of the greatest experiences I had, and that sadly does not happen anymore: One year after this course I mentioned, during summer of 1986, I took another set of computer courses in Fundación Arturo Rosenblueth's Centros Galileo. After the course, we were allowed to stay in their C64 lab. Some of the most interested students (me included) were invited to prepare a project to take part in a conference on computers and education - Kids from all over the country flew to Mexico City, showed off their programs (mostly games), played together, and I understand there was also adult-oriented conferences. Over the years, I have met at least two other people who took part in the conference - I am still in contact with one of them, good ol' perl hacker [friend]Amnesiac[/friend].
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Music helps!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/02/2005 - 17:02
After many slow days at work during which I could not really focus on any given thing, I finally felt this day was worth it. I think it is strongly related to the fact that I finally brought my earphones - as I work in a public area, I have been asked to keep my music volume as low as possible. And today I feel much less stressed, and have been to work much better than other days. Good thing! I hope the trend continues and this theory proves valid.
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On natural language processing

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/25/2005 - 12:55
Wouter was wondering about natural language processing. I have got quite interested in that field, although I also lack any real knowledge on that except for a couple of quite simple articles I have read and talks I have attended. A great resource on this is Alexander Gelbukh - I saw him at his talk in the 30th CLEI conference in Arequipa, Perú. He has some quite interesting articles about NLP on his web site, although they are in Spanish (anyway, for anybody interested: Avances en análisis automático de textos and Tendencias recientes en el procesamiento de lenguaje natural) but browse around, there are still many good links. The basic idea from the two Spanish articles is that NLP goes through the same basic steps that a formal language compiler goes (i.e., lexing, parsing, semantic analysis) - The main difference is that any sentence in a natural language has many implicit relations with an universe of knowledge around it, so you cannot just build a parse tree for each of the sentences - You must have a universe of concepts and fit each of the sentence parse trees of the text you analyzed in it. Of course, in order to do so, you must also solve the ambiguities that are so common in spoken language, but that's another whole topic. Gelbukh's works are, AFAICT, driven towards data mining - performing automatical analysis of many texts and coming up with conclusions that are not explicitly stated in any of them, probably with mechanisms to trace back to which pieces of information led the system to each of them. As I told you, I really liked this topic, and I intend on diving deeper into it as soon as I get out of some obligations... But I'm sure Gelbukh's page will be a interesting reading. Another project I really enjoyed (and completely unrelated to what I wrote here, its realm lies much further to the bottom, near the lexical/grammatical analysis phases) is Snowball, a free language for stemming algorithms, which has implemented stemmers for many European languages. The Snowball site has also a very nice article regarding what is stemming, how it works, and how it has grown over the time.
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I am complete! / Debconf stuff

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/18/2005 - 10:37
Yesterday I got my X-ray results - I am fortunately complete, no apparent injuries to my bones or discs. I got some pretty simple advice from an aunt who is a Feldenkrais instructor, and yes, it still hurts and I still look funny when standing up/sitting down, but it is getting better. Sadly, I still haven't received the medical insurance papers from UNAM, so those MX$2300 for a complete set of X-rays were off my pocket. I'll see what can I do to pay some other things I have pending :-/ Anyway... I'll manage. [code="sh"]for i in seq 1 100 do echo "I should not inspire pity" done [/code]
Yesterday was a productive day. I did the finishing touches to allow for registration for Debconf using a branch off Comas - There are still details to fix, so the registration is still not in the official server, but I hope to have it soon. Why am I blogging about it and getting more people to whine on why isn't it ready yet? Because, at best, that will cause more pressure on me to have it ready soon ;-) Guys, see you in HEL! I also started yesterday asking my Debianmexico friends for suggestions on where to make Debconf6 - Oaxtepec looks like the winner, but there are many other possible choices (and many still unexplored). Strangely, most of them seem to be IMSS-owned. I hope to go to meet those places soon, I'll keep you posted.
Rodrigo, you should know that I take you as one of the prime examples of nerdiness in Mexico. I am amazed you think the same about me :)
Jesús: I don't understand how can you believe that Tlalnepantla is better than ${place}. I worked in Tlalnepantla for some four years - It is just like a little town inside Mexico City, but without the beauty. It is one of the places I'd gladly omit from my memory. Good look in Guadalajara!
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Meme, meme, meme time! / My language of mine / Driving++

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/17/2005 - 10:50
I am 87% loser. What about you? Click here to find out! I am nerdier than 94% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out! What is your weird quotient? Click to find out! So it turns out I am a big loser, a VERY big nerd and quite a weird guy. Does not really surprise me - Well, I feel happy about being that nerdy (and, yes, I answered with the truth) - How the hell did Steve, Alexander, Per-Arne and Martin make it? My hat off to you guys! (OTOH, it should not surprise me having that many über-nerds in Debian ;-) )
Isaac blogged about lack of a way of not using possessives in English, and he says that he thinks that Spanish has the same problem - In theory, yes. In practice, it is even greater. It is very common to hear people say, for example, su mamá de él (his mother of him) instead of simply su mamá (his mother), as there is ambiguity between formal-second-person and third person. Yes, that's a mistake and cannot be tolerated in educated circles - but nevertheless, it is very common.
My [term]coccyx[/term] still hurts badly since last Wednesday's fall. Yesterday I went to have some X-ray shots of my whole column (at US$200, they'd better be worth something!), I'll get them today to a doctor. But at least something good came out of it: I was not in shape to drive there, so Nadezhda took the car for the first time into the wilderness of Mexico City. Congratulations, Cosa! :-D She was so happy and confident she even gave a ride home afterwards to her sister and nieces, who dropped by to visit us.
[friend]ion[/friend]: You are insane - But your ideas rock!
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