academic

Kaz explaining ext4

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 05/17/2014 - 16:34
Kaz explaining ext4

Following the source code in his laptop screen, with ~10 eager students following from behind

Kaz explaining ext4

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 05/17/2014 - 16:34
Kaz explaining ext4

A full group of students following on Kaz's thorough explanation

Guest class: César Yáñez (@caesarcomptus) talks about virtual memory

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 05/17/2014 - 15:05

Shame on me... I should have uploaded this video a long time ago. I wanted to edit this video to remove pauses, add some in-band indications on who and what it is, and stuff... But after a month, I have not yet got around to do it.

On April 23, I invited César Yáñez to present a talk on virtual memory management to my students (for the Operating Systems class). As always (this is the third time I invite him — The previous iteration was on process scheduling, and is on my site as well), he gave a great class.

I still have some pending videos to upload from the other guests we had this semester, they should come shortly.

Finally: A student once again

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:47

Formally, today is my first day as a student on a formal, scholarized institution — Basically for the first time in almost twenty years!

Yes, those that know me know that I aspire to live the life of academia. I have worked at public universities for almost all of my adult life (between 1997 and 1999 I worked at a local ISP and at a private school), and have had a minor academic position («Técnico Académico») for almost ten years. And not having a proper degree limited me from pursuing anything further.

Then, in early 2010 I presented the written exam. By late 2010, the corresponding oral exam. That allowed me to get my formal diploma in December 2010. By the end of 2011, I requested to be a teacher in the Engineering Faculty of UNAM, and started teaching Operating Systems a year ago, in January 2012.

So, a good advance in the last few years... But I know that if I just sit here, I won't be able to advance my position towards really entering the Sacred Halls of Academia. And there are some rituals I have to comply with. One of those rituals is... Devoting some long time to studying under the formal structures.

Ok, so I'm finally a postgraduate student — I have enrolled in Especialidad en Seguridad Informática y Tecnologías de la Información, a short (one year) postgraduate program in ESIME Culhuacán, of Instituto Politécnico Nacional (a small campus of Mexico's second-largest university).

Some friends have asked me, why am I starting with a Specialization and not a Masters degree. Some simple reasons: Just as when I went to Tijuana in 2010 to do my written exam, once I got and started with the paperwork, I didn't want to let it go — If I postpone it, I will probably lose the push to do it by May-July, when the Masters admission process starts. Also, this specialization can be linked with the masters degree on the same topic given at the same campus. This program is one year long, and the masters two — But having them both takes 2.5 years. So, not such a bad deal after all. And finally, because, after such a long time without being scholarized, I fear not having an easy time getting to grips with the discipline. I can commit to overworking myself for a year — If it's too much for me, I'll just stay with that degree and give up. I expect to like it and continue... But it's also a safe bet :-)

Now, there has to be a downside to picking up this path: Of course, my free time will be harshly reduced. I have reduced my Debian involvement in the last year, as I devoted a huge chunk of my time to teaching and book-writing... This year... We shall see what happens. I can for now only confirm what I have said publicly but inside our team only: I have requested to my peers and to our DPL to step down as a DebConf chair. I love organizing DebConf, but I don't want to be formally committed to a position I just cannot fulfill as I did when I started with it. As for package maintenance, by far most of my packges are team maintained, and those that are not are relatively easy to keep track of. And of course, I'll keep an eye on my keyring-maint duties as well — Will even try to link that work with what I do at school!

Anyway, lets see what comes now!

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On errors in exams - Short rant

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 11/30/2013 - 13:08

Blogging from a phone... first time ever. I don't want to forget some specifics for this :)

I have just completed an exam to try to enter a postgraduate program (I'll talk more about it once it becomes real ). The exam is administered by CENEVAL, the same evaluation agency Where I presented my graduation equivalency exam some years ago - Only this exam is for all of the postgraduate studies on many national universities and is thus basically just a psychometric test.

The exam had 162 questions, all to be filled in a optical reader sheet, on five subjects: mathematical reasoning, Spanish grammar and comprehension, Project management, Computers and technology, And English reading and understanding.

It was all in all a fun exam to take, mostly due to the math reasoning part. But... on the Subject I Know I am an expert, I have to complain (and intend to find a easy to do so formally). First, I spotted two absolute mistakes (and answered based on What I knew others would, but knowing the answer is wrong technically). One was a subtlety, on how and why have hard drives should be defragmented (and part of my quip is that it's an obsolete habit, but besides, the answers were all erroneous), but a second one was... just wrong. It asked on what should not be part of an "Internet link" (can only guess they meant An URL). The 4 options were valid parts of a URL - including one very seldom used by most people, but very often by many of us: the @ sign.

Anyway, answered it, but my other main gripe is that most of the section was in specific use of Office software. Not only In Office-like, which would be bad enough to begin with, but on specific ways of using Mainly Excel And PowerPoint. Syntax issues, or the name of the menu under which to look for specific functions.
Anyway, I will wait the stipulated 10 days for the exam to be rated, but will anyway look die a way to contact the very opaque and secretive CENEVAL. Not to demand to be better treated, but to try to correct those known mistakes and errors.

Talking in Paraná: Free Software philosophy / the Debian project. PS: Want to contribute?

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:46

I'm very happy: I was finally able to present a talk at a Free Software conference in Paraná, Argentina — Regina's hometown. Not only in Paraná, but at the Vieja Usina culture center, half a block away from her parents' house. So, I must doubly thank Laura: First, for letting us know there would be a Free Software conference there, and second, for taking some pictures :-}

What was this conference? Conferencia Regional de Software Libre, organized by Grupo de Usuarios de GNU/Linux de Entre Ríos (GUGLER). Of course, flying to Argentina (and more specifically, to Paraná, which is ~500Km away from the international airport) just for a one day conference was out of the question — So I gave the talk by videoconference. Of course, given we will be travelling for the December vacations to Argentina, I expect to meet in person the GUGLER guys soon.

I gave a single talk, mixing together two different topics: (my very personal take on) the Free Software philosophy and Debian's place in the Free Software universe. I had a very good time giving the talk, and while I was unable to look at my audience, I got reports saying they were happy and interested. I even got some mails from them, which makes me quite happy ;-)

Now, one of the recurring points whenever I talk about Debian: I often tell people that I cannot tell them why they should use Debian instead of other distributions. My years testing every distribution I come across are long gone, and I nowadays am familiar with Debian only. But I also tell them that personally I gain nothing by having more Debian users in the world — What I want to achieve is the next logical step: To have more people contributing to Debian. So, here is a great opportunity for interested people, specifically a group that often has a hard time finding a way to collaborate with Free Software projects.

Today, Paul Tagliamonte published a call for proposals for Debian 8 (Jessie)'s artwork. So, given many people always want to find a way to contribute to Free Software without being a coder, here's a golden opportunity. You can look at the themes sent for Debian 7 as a reference; look also at the technical requirements for your artwork, and... Well, you have until early February to work on it!

Talking at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:19
Talking at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Presenting my talk via videoconference at Conferencia Regional de Software Libre, set up by GUGLER, in Paraná, Argentina, November 7, 2013

Questions from the audience at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:17
Questions from the audience at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

The audience during my (network-provided) talk in Paraná, Argentina; November 7 2013

Another guest in the classroom! Sandino Araico ( @KBrown ): Memory management and security

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 12:16

This last Thursday I was able again to lure a good friend of mine into presenting an interesting topic to my students at my Operating Systems class: Sandino Araico, a very well known and very well regarded local security guru, presented several issues regarding memory management. I asked him to present the issues on buffer overflows, as well as possible mitigaion strategies, but of course, to present that topic, he had to walk all over the map of memory management.

A good and interesting class. I was able to film it again, and here it is — Sadly, as I explain to some students who suggested me to put the computer in a different place, the angle and the audio quality are not as good as they could — If I were to move the computer to have a better angle of Sandino, I would lose audio quality.

Being it the eve of Día de Muertos, and having a beutiful mega-altars festival just outside the faculty, the outside noise level was quite high, and... Well, I know Sandino rarely raises his voice, so it was better to locate the computer close to him. Of course, add to it that my hardware is by a long shot far from professional-grade. I just used a very cheapish laptop.

I was a bit skeptical to begin with — I have to recognize I have given this topic quite hastily, as we are getting near the end of semester and there's still a lot of topics to cover. But the students seemed interested in Sandino's presentation, and –once again– I am fully satisfied with my guest's performance.

As always. All of my six guests' presentations (over two semesters) have been great. If I were able to get a guest for each of my classes... I'd even save a lot of class-preparation time! :-}

Oh, but you came here looking for the video, right? Here it is: Memory management and security, by Sandino Araico. October 31, 2013.

Buffer overflows, memory corruption: Sandino explains it all

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 11:58
Buffer overflows, memory corruption: Sandino explains it all

Sandino as a guest speaker to my Operating Systems class

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Sandino explains what a buffer overflow looks like

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 11:57
Sandino explains what a buffer overflow looks like

As a guest speaker at my Operating Systems class

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My students during Sandino's talk on memory management security

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 11:55
My students during Sandino's talk on memory management security

Students paying attention to Sandino's talk on memory management related to computer security

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Sandino talking about security in memory management at my class

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 11:53
Sandino talking about security in memory management at my class

I invited Sandino Araico to give a class in my Operating Systems class. Photographic evidence.

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César Yáñez (@caesarcomptus) in the classroom: Process scheduling

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 10/13/2013 - 21:34

I try to have some guests every now and then to my Operating Systems class. The class is not as practical/interactive as I'd like, and having some people show the students how the subjects I teach are reflected in the real world is, I feel, very useful for them to understand the topics' importance.

The past semester (the first one for me) I had three guests: Chema Serralde, talking about process scheduling and in particular on the importance of real time, from his perspective as a musician, Rolando Cedillo, talking about the early stages of the boot process, and César Yáñez, giving a review of file systems. This semester, there have been two guests so far: Felipe Esquivel, who spoke about parallelism, and used renders with Blender to illustrate the speed gains and limitations (i.e. Amdahl's law), and this last Thursday, I invited again César Yáñez. César spoke about process scheduling, first giving a quite thorough review of what had taken me at least three sessions to go through, and second, giving some in-depth review based on his experience with Haiku OS.

What else was different this time? I told our coordinator in the faculty, and she invited the other teachers of the subject (and attended herself). So, instead of the usual ~25 students, we have ~40 people in the classroom. And one of them, Adolfo, recorded most of César's explanation. Yay!

Of course, I asked Adolfo for a copy of his recording, and recoded it in a format more suitable for Web viewing. Here it is (almost 300MB, Ogg Video, ~95 minutes). I still have the original video file given to me, in an Apple-generated badly-compressed .mov, but at over 1.5GB, it's too much for a Web download. I will try to record future sessions, as they will surely be useful!

Piracy and culture circulation: #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 10/01/2013 - 15:15

This week's lesson on the «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales» course talks about piracy and the circulation of culture, a topic that over time has been debated over and over. And a topic, yes, that can always lead to interesting discussions.

This time, we are requested to choose one among ten ideas among the media groups' discourse on what piracy is and means for the "cultural industry". There are tons of material written already on several of those ten lines (i.e. piracy disincentivates creativity, or two that can be seen as two faces of the same argument, If a consumer can have free access to cultural products, he will stop spending his money on them and Every time a consumer has access to an illegal copy, the industry loses a sale), and some are quite obvious (i.e. Piracy makes job positions be lost... Just look at the amount of people the unauthorized distribution industry feeds! Or possibly, Piracy is a prosper industry that gives money to people distributing illegal products — Of course, that is true. The problem is, what causes said products to be illegal to begin with? Should they be so?). Some other ideas talk about harsher penalties and ways to punish illegal copying in order to drive actors out of that sector (and into the... void?)

So, I chose item #4: Cultural products have a high cost because their production is complex (and a tag could be made, linking complex with expensive). I think this item can lead to a long discussion as to what does this complexity and cost mean.

Some cultural products do require quite a bit of investment, yes. Others don't. How do content producers make the jump to produce expensive works?

If I am a new programmer/artist/writer/screenplayer/whatever, most likely, my products will be not very complex or expensive. I will start small. And if I excel at my work, somebody will look at me and, in some way, become my patron, my sponsor. Being a sponsor might mean that, based on the results of my good work, I could get hired as a software developer at a large company, or an editorial company would buy the patrimonial rights of my book/music (be it for a fixed fee or for a percentage of sales), or whatever. But the leap is not made quantically — A newcomer to the cultural scene will at first, most likely, have a hard time selling his products.

At first, it takes convincing just getting people to take a shot at looking at your work («Hey, please take a look at my program and tell me what you think about it!», «Would you be interested in listening to my latest song?» — And those two are by far ahead of the first attempts where the interactions would more likely be «Turn off that $#^#!^ computer, it's well past bedtime» or «stop murdering that guitar, I'm having a headache»). Maybe the toughest part is to get people to agree to read/hear your work. And there, you start into a continuum — Selling your CDs while performing on the street, then getting to play to a bar, then getting somebody to want to produce (maybe even "discover"!) you. Publish some short stories in your school magazine, then in a "From our audience" section in a larger magazine, then a collective book, your self-published book, yet-unwritten books by contract... The same story over and over again, in each different field.

Ok, yes, but... This logic succession still leaves space for the Important Producers with the Mighty Big Pockets for the most wanted/largest productions, right? And were unauthorized distribution (piracy) to be the norm (as it currently is, dare I say), wouldn't they stop producing an important portion of cultural works?

I'd be tempted to say so. However, a different actor comes into play. When Mighty Big Pockets comes into play, they no longer worry only about getting money from each cultural creation, but from all derived uses of it. And the cultural creation industry (when seen as an industry) goes very much hand in hand with the advertising, marketing industries — They end up blending with each other.

So, the biggest best sellers will most likely have a hit from illegal copiers. Books are still a great business, but hey — An even better business is (usually) movie making. And when you make a movie out of a great story, you will surely link some advertising into it (or at the very least, push advertising/product pushing campaigns to go after it). And there, illegal distribution actually helps the money circle to grow stronger. In the early 1990s, the link between dinosaurs and carbonated drinks was a top seller (because Pepsi™ was a Jurassic Park® sponsor). Although I have always loathed the madness around the World Cups (and basically anything that involves football of any kind), I can perfectly remember several of the theme songs for most of the world cups played during my lifetime.

So, in short... No. Illegal distribution does marginally little harm to the money income to the cultural business, at any level. And where it does get some direct harm, it increases the money flux given the auxiliary channels.

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