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I am going to DebConf11 — Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:02


I'm going to DebConf11 As others have started posting in Planet Debian, I'll do my part: Yesterday I finished booking our flights, so if everything goes as planned, Reg and me will be arriving to Zagreb (Croatia) at 21:30, Monday July 18, to take part of the 12th Debian development conference, DebConf11, in Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina!

Of course, reiterating this will never hurt: Do you want to support a global-scale, well-recognized, community-based Free Software project development? Be a sponsor for DebConf11!"

Be a sponsor for DebConf11!

Want some more DebConf11 banners and posters?

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Lets go to Nicaragua, 2012!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/22/2011 - 17:55

Ok, so finally it is official!

We just had the DebConf 12 decision meeting. We saw two great proposals, from the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Managua, Nicaragua.

If you are curious on the decision process: We held it over two IRC channels — The moderated #debconf-team channel, where only the five members of the decision committee (Marga Manterola, Andrew McMillan, Jeremiah Foster, Holger Levsen, Moray Allan) and two members from each of the bids (Marco Túlio Gontijo e Silva and Rafael Cunha de Almeida from Brazil; Leonardo Gómez and Eduardo Rosales from Nicaragua) had voices, and the open #dc12-discuss channel where we had an open discussion. Of course, you can get the full conversation logs in those links.

I have to thank and congratulate the Brazilian team as they did a great work... The decision was very tight. It was so tight, in fact, that towards the end of the winning all of the committee members were too shy to state the results - so I kidnapped the process by announcing the winner ;-) (I hope that does not cast a shadow of illegitimacy over it)

And, very much worth noting, both teams were also very professional: In previous years, we have seen such decisions degenerate into personal attacks and very ugly situations. That has always been painful and unfortunate. And although the Brazilians will not be able to go celebrate tonight, the decision was received with civility, knowing it was a decision among equals, and a decision well carried out.

Well, that's it — I am very much looking forward for that peculiar two weeks when the whole Debian family meets, this year to be held in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I am very eager towards meeting in 2012 in Managua, Nicaragua!


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Posts explaining DebConf

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 07:51

Just echoing what happens in Planet Debian for people who follow my blog (or any other planet where it is syndicated) and is interested in DebConf processes — I'm specially thinking about people interested in preparing a bid for hosting a future DebConf, as well as people organizing hacking conferences who are interesed in understanding how DebConf works:

Richard Darst, a.k.a. our very invaluable MrBeige, started a series of posts describing various processes of DebConf organization. He explicitly asked me for comments while this series was still in planning/wiki stage, but I failed miserably at doing so ;-) So at least I'll publicize his work, linking from here:

  1. DebConf and Debian: Introductory message, basically outlining (Richard's view on) the relation between Debian and DebConf. This is not yet a clear thing — It seems we are converging on the fact that DebConf *is* part of Debian, but there are several things to clear before it is viewed as a done deal.
  2. Timeline of a DebConf: Running a DebConf as a local team is not (just) becoming crazy for two weeks, leaving life behind ans working hard for having your friends and peers in your hometown. It is an interesting full two year process, with different phases and aspects for the work. Richard has been involved as an organizer for the last two years, and he summarizes the main periods here.
  3. What is the DebConf team?: We talk about the localteam and the globalteam as if those terms make any sense. Then again, we have had people as part of localteam who live in different countries... What does this mean? What are the tasks of the teams? How do you join? What kind of work is expected from you? What is the real difference between the teams, if there is any?
  4. The DebConf selection process: How does the next year's venue selected? How is this "contest" held? When do you have to submit your proposal? How is it ranked/judged/decided? As I have told several people, the first document you should check is always the location checklist (also linked from Richard's text), but having this timeline will surely help you know what to expect.
  5. How DebConf manages money?: How should the DebConf fundraising process be, and how it actually is; what is the money relation with the whole Debian project... and a couple of points where you can step in and help, as managing money is really difficult
  6. DebConf budgeting for a single conference: A bit further details on how fundraising, negotiations and money spending was handled for DebConf 10
  7. The DebConf registration process: What are the parts of our registration process? When does it open/close? Why are the deadlines set so early? How has this been determined in the past? What is corporate and professional attendance?
  8. DebConf Fundraising (this text by Pablo Duboe): If you want to host a DebConf, an important part of the job is to get money. How should you do it? Who should you ask, what can we show to potential sponsors, how can we approach them?
  9. How DebCamp relates to DebConf: What is DebCamp? What are the terms for participation? what can you expect to have (and to lack)?
  10. The DebConf travel sponsorship process (this text by Michael Schultheiss): How is the money for travel sponsorship (travel fare only, lodging and food not included here) awarded to the people requesting it? How does the team reviewing this work decide on whom to grant to? What are the decision criteria?

I don't know if MrBeige is planning further parts for this series; if the past four were interesting, you should check on his weblog. Update: Yes, he is planned, and he has delivered. Adding them to the list as they flow...

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Back home, back from DebConf – And, hopefully, cleaner than ever!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/10/2010 - 00:44

So, DebConf time is over once again. The two weeks worth of fifty weeks waiting are left behind once again, and it's back to get back to normal. DebConf was great — Yes, it always is, and that's what we are all saying, but hey - Seriously! Being in the same building than 300 crazed developers is always fun, and it's always better than last year's fun. A good highlight this year is that, given the number of Free Software and Free Culture groups that exist in USA's north-eastern coast, we had the opportunity to join a large crowd which has never been part of DebConf. Also, I must agree that the USA bid for DebConf was aiming to attract as many Debian people (developers, maintainers, or just happy users) which had not yet been to a DebConf before as possible. And it was a great success! I finally met several people I have long read in the mailing lists, in blogs or in IRC. A much higher proportion than usual, I'd venture to say. Another interesting phenomenon /methinks is that this year's DebCamp started much more staffed than usual: I arrived on the first day, Sunday 25, and there were ~40 people there already; I don't have the actual numbers, but we quickly grew, and the number started to stabilize past mid-week, only to (sharply) rise in the weekend, in time for DebianDay and DebConf start. Great time!

But, they say, nobody can go to the USA without buying some sweet toys, right?

Well, being the proud owner of six very hairy cats, I have thought into entering the looming and weaving industry... But cat hair, while abundant, I have heard is untreadable... Maybe due to the indisciplined, natural and independent personality of the cats (catonality should I say?)...

So I had two choices: Clean up my home quite often, or live in a –literally– hairy mess.

Enter choice #3: The Roomba!

I had been waiting to buy this thing for several years, as they refuse to send to Mexico or charge Mexican cards. So, I walked across Manhattan and got my very own robot cleaner!

For my further surprise, although I have not yet tried it (I don't even have a suitable cable yet), I found this:

Yay, the Roomba is actually hackable (via a 7 pin miniDIN serial port)! Wikipedia says that:

Roomba comes with a Mini-DIN TTL serial interface, which is incompatible with standard PC/Mac serial ports and cables, both electrically and physically. However, third-party adapters are available to access the Roomba's computer via Bluetooth, USB, or RS-232 (PC/Mac serial). New, 500-series, and 410/420 series Roombas upgraded with the OSMO hacker device allow the user to monitor Roomba's many sensors and modify its behavior. The Roomba Open Interface (formerly "Roomba Serial Command Interface") API allows programmers and roboticists to create their own enhancements to Roomba. (…)

My first impressions? Well, the Roomba lazily charged its battery throughout the day today, and was hungry and ready when I arrived home. It is a but louder than what I expected, and –of course– my cats were not thrilled by the presence of a eighth animated and apparently sentient being at home. Their initial reaction was –of course– to be verrry alert of the thing. Twelve eyes were constantly pointing at the Roomba while mine alternated between them. As they measured the thing's speed and (I guess) inferred its movement patterns, they started escaping upstairs – A flat, round thing with no legs to be seen will not likely be able to climb the stairs. And they were completely right. At first, only Chupchic remained downstairs. After a bit, I went up to show them the Roomba didn't jump on us to eat our brains, and after a bit, Santa and Macusa joined. The Roomba roombed for maybe 90 minutes (this space is large, and decided it was enough... And slowly, the rest of them started coming down.

I would not say Roomba's cleaning is perfect, of course. Its room discovery algorithm is funny, and it even seems it's based on the mere chance of covering most (never all) of the space it has to clean. I had, of course, not fully studied it (after a single run, how could I?). It does make a honestly good attempt at cleaning under coaches, chairs and tables. It collected a fair amount of dust (on a house that seemed quite clean to me, I cannot imagine what would happen on a messy one). I have not yet played with the virtual walls (infrared transmitters which limit rooms as if a door was closed), but given the size of this house (and that I don't want it to clean around the cats' designated bathroom area), I guess I will end up using them regularly.

During DebConf, I heard one bad (stupid useless noisy thing) and two very good (it has radically changed my life) comments on the Roomba. I hope to shift the balance towards 3/4 and not towards 2/2!

Anyways... Thanks to each and every one of you. DebConf is great. Always great. Always a success. I cannot even thank specific teams. Debian Rules, and DebConf Rocks!

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We have released!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/02/2010 - 14:25

If you have seen me anywhere near my computer at DebConf, you probably have seen the face of a hurried, worried developer. Still, if you monitor my Debian-related activity, you will notice it is still quite low, even given my (much needed and very much enjoyed) vacations pre-DebConf. Yes, orga-team work is very time consuming, even if my role is far from central this year. And yes, DebCamp+DebConf are known for sucking time into social interaction, which is great but not so (formally) productive. And yes, I even took 1.5 days off to visit my family and a friend who live in the area...

Still, I managed to release! \☺/

Release what?

I have been working with Pooka for the last ~2 years on the Seminary on Collaborative Knowledge Construction. We assembled a group of ~10 speakers/authors, each of whom prepared a chapter for a book meant for publication. Pooka and me coordinated the work, which took a long time because it was also an interaction experiment (and because we both did it only in our free time).

After the coordination work started fading, I took up the task of coming up with a way to translate it all into LaTeX (and fix a host of conversion bugs, and play with the available packages, and... Hey, I'm after all just a LaTeX newbie, and had to learn to tame the beast!), I stumbled upon that precious fact that makes so many projects release.

I stumbled upon a deadline.

We want to publish the book under the seal of IIEc-UNAM. Besides my workplace, it is a very well regarded university, and having its seal in our work is definitively a big plus. And the Publications Committee of my Institute is meeting this week - So I had to send our final manuscript by today.

Having a deadline overlapping with DebConf sucks. But somehow, I managed to do the needed work to my complete satisfaction. The work is now in the Committee's hands, and I expect to have more news soon(ish).

Oh, and where can you get our work? Well, if you register in our site, you will be able to read the whole contents. And once the book is approved and published, the whole work will be published online under a free (CC-BY-SA) license.

BTW, that probably means I will have more time to fix my Debian bugs and pending stuff! \☻/

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Running around

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/27/2010 - 19:53

If Tim can report his movements around New York, so can I! ;-) Sadly, due to Nokia deprecating my still-quite-new N95 phone by not allowing me to use their service anymore, I won't be able to share my routes with you – But anyway…

This morning I decided to take a quick run to start off the day on Riverside Park (the park where we had dinner yesterday). I went South for about 3Km and headed back (for, you guessed right, a grand total of 6Km), and decided that 45 minutes of exercising are enough to declare my day started - As I started at ~8:15, it was getting warm (specially when running under the sun). I am quite heath-intolerant; it's not unpleasant at all, but I will try to run earlier on future days.

Riverside is a long and narrow park. I ran Southwards by the lower trail, in the park itself, but ran Northwards by the upper trail, in the wide sidewalk between the street and the park. The way South was also way flatter, while the way back goes up and down repeatedly.

I don't think I will run on a daily basis, but that will be determined by my mood when I open my eyes in the morning ;-) Anyway, riverside is a very nice run, and I expect to head North. I still am not back to running ~10Km, so I won't do the Central Park trail Tim did - But I'll surely go run there as well a bit. And rent a bike one of this days for a ~2hr morning ride, of course!

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New York at last!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/26/2010 - 13:36

I spent the past three weeks away from basically any kind of usual contact. I took a three week vacation in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy, Córdoba), got my first snow experience and enjoyed a real lot... But got completely disconnected from all of my usual activities... and responsabilities :-}

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I landed in New York. Arrived to Columbia around 2PM, and spent most of the day zombying around with the Debian crew. And today it starts feeling like the real job is starting.

As always, there is a lot of excitement when DebConf starts. I have many items I want to work on, and most are even Debian related ;-) So, lets get work flowing!

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A FLISOL critic

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 08:28

Once again, I was invited by several different groups to be present at FLISOL, a quite interesting phenomenon: FLISOL (Latin-american Free Software Installation Festival) is s very large-scale, very loosely coordinated thing put together for five years already in over 200 cities in basically every Latin American country. Go to the FLISOL page, it is quite interesting to try to understand it!

Now, I don't like FLISOL. I managed to avoid it in 2005 and 2006; in 2007, I was present at a FLISOL, although I didn't know beforehand it was the reason for the conference I was invited to. In 2008 and 2009 I took part for reasons I should not go into right now. This year, again, I will not be part of any of its activities (regardless of rumors to the contrary – I was invited to be present at a panel on ACTA, but I have not followed the topic enough to be aware of anything besides the very basic aspects, I have no authority to speak about it; I told the organizers I would like to be there as part of the audience, but not present the topic. And I am quite work-stressed, so I doubt I'll make it). Why am I against FLISOL?

FLISOL itself, as I said, is a positive and interesting phenomenon, and I have enjoyed the conference cycles which often happen together with it. What I am against is installfests – In my opinion, in the stage we are at today, instead of promoting Free Software, an install-fest just works against it.

Free Software –Linux-based distributions at least– is widely known already, as a concept, even though most people dare not come anywhere close to it. Few people outside our already consolidated groups recognize programs such as the Mozilla and OpenOffice suites as being also Free Software, and valuable, quality alternatives for their everyday needs in the environments they currently use.

If we need to show how to install and understand the GNU/Linux ecosystem to people who have not got close, it is not IMHO to end users. Installing a GNU/Linux system is easy enough for anybody interested in doing it, or at least, for him to request a one-on-one help session, handholding and understanding the basic ideas. We need, in any case, for the computer corner shop technicians to be somewhat acquinted, at least with the basics, at least with one popular distribution (and with the fact that there are many, and that they are different).

People who have not had the curiosity and courage to try to install Linux by themselves do not need to be evangelized (a verb that should be out of our vocabularies by now, as that phase in our movement should be over by now) – End users have simple needs: Things should work, and be as surprise-free as possible. They don't want to depend on a specific time-starved person (or even on a small group of people, all of which have a sanctity delirium/aura). When they go to technical support, they expect the problem to be solved – Not even understanding what was wrong. End users are willing to pay a small fee to anybody to help them solve their problems.

The key word is anybody. If we (myself, or me and my 10 friends who were there at the gathering, or any sufficiently defined small group) are the only support point for the OS, it is no good. Online support forums are not good either, in my experience, as the end user will prefer just lugging the computer to the nearest technician and get it fixed. Even if fixed means just installing one more readily-available package (not to mention, of course, when an update breaks something).

I have witnessed, after an install fest, people walk very happy with their new system as a new toy. After a week or two, they cannot install the latest virus^Wscreen saver, or a legitimate program they need for their work. As it does not work, they take the computer to the technician... Who will end up formatting his system and installing something more usual.

On the other hand, some people prefer installing a dual-boot system – That guarantees the user will feel he is carrying some kind of moral superiority on his computer, and will often remember he has something Not Evil. This will often happen, of course, at boot time – When they see GRUB at boot time, and rush to select Windows before That Strange Thing starts up.

Anyway... Go ahead, install Free Software, enjoy the day. The conference cycles are usually interesting, and are the best part of it all — I'm not saying you should stop doing it. But I'd urge you to take the focus away from the mass-installs, which become often just lost work (even detrimental to furthering Free Software). Try to see things as a non-technically-interested user would. Try to design ways to get corner shop technicians interested. Maybe that can be useful in the long run.

Plead for help: Transcriptors for videoconferences (Spanish)

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/23/2010 - 17:53

Help! Help! Help wanted! Please help!

Dear world,

As many among you know, I have spent a good portion of the last year (together, of course, with a great and interesting group of people) working on Seminario de Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento (Collaborative Construction of Knowledge Seminar, or SECO3), derived from the Encuentro en Línea de Educación y Software Libre (On-line Encounter of Education and Free Software, EDUSOL). We have been working on producing a book that illustrates several different aspects of knowledge-building communities – Among them, of course, the Free Software movement.

Now, we need some help: Although we do have the chapters from most of the authors, some did not manage to produce them. And we are very interested in having them as part of the book as well, even if only as an appendix (as, of course, the kind of work of a transcription is completely different than the ellaboration for a well-rounded and written chapter).

As the little academic I am, I have to request for your help: I have no students assigned to me. But I would love to have interested people on board.

We need to transcribe two of the videoconferences that were given as part of the seminar. Please, if you are interested, contact me so we can arrange (and have no work duplication!)

Thanks a lot,

Getting away from Panamá

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 13:40

Several months ago, around the Central American Free Software Encounter (ECSL) in Estelí, Nicaragua, I started stirring the waters — The Central American regions have vibrant, beautiful Free Software communities, but have mostly (with some very notable examples, of course) shied away from being active participants in major development projects. What was I to do about it? Of course, try to get them to become Debian contributors!

During the following weeks, I talked about it with several friends from the region, and the result was an announcement and lots of arguments that followed it. Panamá was decided as the host country, and many people have put a lot of work into making the MiniDebConf happen.

Mauro Rosero and Anto Recio came up with what appears to be a wonderful local venue and a set of sponsored amenities, and the Debian project is sponsoring what is needed in terms of transportation for people from the whole region (spanning from Mexico to Ecuador and Venezuela IIRC).

I am very sorry, however, that I cannot attend this meeting. This very same weekend, I will fly three hours, but in the opposite direction: I will go to Tijuana, where fate decided I will present my first round of CENEVAL equivalence exams (Acuerdo 286 Licenciatura). I expect that to be the topic of another post, to come soon.

So, while my friends will be having a good time and talking about Debian and group work, I will sit through three periods of four hours, answering an exam for the first time in a very long time. Fun, hah? Anyway, I will meet Guillermo Amaral (thanks for hosting me! ;-) ), which ensures I will not miss all of the fun ;-)

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I am going to DebConf 10!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 19:17


I'm going to DebConf10, the 2010 edition of the annual Debian developers meeting

The ticket is ready, and the long trip is getting closer.

Long trip? Won't most Debianers have a longer trip than me this time? Nope, not by far – My University will be on vacations starting July 3, and it is three weeks before DebConf... So I will be travelling Southwards before :-)

Details will follow later. Suffice to say that I am more than happy to announce that... I am definitively going to DebConf10!

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EDUSOL almost over - Some highlights

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/19/2009 - 22:16


Is it karma or what? What makes me get involved in two horribly complex, two-week-long conferences, year after year? Of course, both (DebConf and EDUSOL) are great fun to be part of, and both have greatly influenced both my skills and interests.

Anyway, this is the fifth year we hold EDUSOL. Tomorrow we will bring the two weeks of activities to an end, hold the last two videoconferences, and —finally— declare it a done deal. I must anticipate the facts and call it a success, as it clearly will be recognized as such.

One of the most visible —although we insist, not the core— activities of the Encounter are the videoconferences. They are certainly among the most complex. And the videoconferences' value is greatly enhanced because, even if they are naturally a synchronous activity (it takes place at a given point in time), they live on after they are held: I do my best effort to publish them as soon as possible (less than one day off), and they are posted to their node, from where comments can continue. This was the reason, i.e., why we decided to move at the last minute tomorrow's conference: Due to a misunderstanding, Beatriz Busaniche (a good friend of ours and a very reknown Argentinian Free Software promotor, from Via Libre) thought her talk would be held today, and we had programmed her for tomorrow. No worries - We held it today, and it is already online for whoever wants to take part :-)

So, I don't want to hold this any longer (I will link to the two conferences that I'm still missing from this same entry). Here is the list of (and links to) videoconferences we have held.

Tuesday 2009-11-17
Wednesday 2009-11-18
Thursday 2009-11-19
Friday 2009-11-20

As two last notes:

Regarding the IRC interaction photos I recently talked about, we did a very kewl thing: Take over 2000 consecutive photos and put them together on a stack. Flip them one at a time. What do you get? But of course — A very fun to view and interesting interaction video! We have to hand-update it and it is a bit old right now, but nevertheless, it is very interesting as it is.

Finally... I must publicly say I can be quite an asshole. And yes, I know I talked this over privately with the affected people and they hold no grudge against me... But still - yesterday we had an IRC talk about NING Latin American Moodlers, by Lucía Osuna (Venezuela) and Maryel Mendiola (Mexico). One of the points they raised was they were working towards (and promoting) a Moodle certification. And... Yes, I recognize I cannot hear the mention of the certification word without jumping and saying certifications are overrated. Well, but being tired, and not being really thoughtful... I should have known where to stop, where it was enough of a point made. I ended up making Maryel and Lucía feel attacked during their own presentation, and that should have never happened. A public and heartfelt apology to them :-(

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Personal assessment about myself: Being slow everywhere…

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:40


I am starting to fill up my annual report for my real-life work. You know, that chore you must do every year where you score little bullets next to each completed project and talk well about yourself. For my workplace, fortunately, I do not have to lie and convince people I am worth rehiring - As this year I achieved definitividad as a Técnico Académico Asociado C de Tiempo Completo at my University, I can say for sure I have long-term job safety. UNAM is the best place for me to work, and I am most grateful — Even if I do want to advance for the future, even though I would strongly like at some point to start working in a real academic position — My job is mostly operative, limited to keeping things running smoothly in our network and servers. I work in a social sciences (Economics) research institute, and even though I have taken on an interesting project that is viewed from the social sciences I do expect to finish with a very interesting product in the near future, my interest lies in computing as a science.

Anyway, back on track… This is the time of year to start evaluating many things, many factors, from many different sides. And yes, for me that involves measuring how am I faring in my involvement in the projects I most care about — Specifically, Debian, but also several other Free Software projects, even if my involvement in them is mostly organizational.

I am once again going through a tough period in my personal life, and the impact it carries is obviously deep. However, I am not fond of finding excuses for my underachievement or underperformance. And that's what I feel now. Even more when I see posts such as Zack's and Tim's status updates, and when I see that we continue to be on a history-high streak of RC bugs.

Regarding the several teams I am (at least formally) involved with in Debian, I have been away from the pkg-perl group for far too long... It is still my first group when it comes to identifying myself with - Both as on a personal level, as I consider them as good friends and great people to work with, and I do feel the responsability to share the load with them, as maintaining >1300 packages (even if they are so highly regular) is just not an easy task. But for over a year, my involvement has been basically zero. I have been a bit more active on pkg-ruby-extras, maybe paradoxically as it is a smaller team and with less packages (as I know it is much less probable for somebody to keep my packages in adequate shape if I don't do it)... and also because I am working more with Ruby than Perl nowadays. And finally, about Cherokee, I decided during DebConf9 to redo the packaging to fully use DH7 instead of our old-style quasimanual style. I have had several bursts of activity, and am almost-almost-ready to do the first newstyle upload... But so far, have been unable to do so.

Of course, keyring-maint: With Jonathan's help, I have come to terms with most of the processes. Both Jonathan and I have been swamped lately, but at least I think I am finally helping speed up the process instead of holding it down. We do, yes, have several pending updates - but are working our way up the queue, and I hope not to leave people waiting for too long. And yes, we have discussed several ways of documenting and automating several of the tasks we currently sustain, and that should come soon

I have been also leaving maybe a bit too much responsability aside on EDUSOL, for which today we are entering the second week of activity, and I'm very sorry to see our server is just too overloaded to even reply to even answer to me — And even lacking admin powers myself, I should have worked earlier on setting up redundancy on a more automatic way (as we have an off-site backup we can promote to live and redirect to, but I am unable to do this... Given that I am the techie person on board/the only "professional" sysadmin).

This year I also –quietly– finished the bulk of the Comas rewrite. What? Comas? Still alive? Yes, and you can expect me to show it off to more people soon, and get it used for more conferences. I will talk more about it (and its motivation, and its current status) later on — But basically, the only two things that Comas shares in common with the mod_perl-based system most of you got to know (mainly at CONSOL 2004-2008 or at Debconf 5 and 6, although I know of several other conferences which used it) and the current incarnation are… The (most) basic database structure and the name. The project underwent a full rewrite, and is now a far more flexible, far easier to install, Ruby-on-Rails based application. And most important, it does no longer involve your name being Gunnar Wolf as a prerequisite for successfully setting it up ;-)

Regarding DebConf, I have promoted a Central American MiniDebConf, and we are right on track for holding it in late March in Panamá City. Everybody's invited, and we will have (surprise, surprise!) the very professional involvement of Mr. Anto Recio as local team, as it seems he didn't have enough with last year's DebConf9 and wants to suffer further. What am I lacking here? Motivation. I have been quite pessimistic, possibly turning some people away, even though we have a good first sampling of interested people's profiles and expectations. If you want to get involved, tomorrow (Tuesday 17-nov) we will have a meeting at Freenode's #sl-centroamerica, 17:00 GMT-6. Please note we do need involvement from the Central American communities, it is more than just a motivational issue. Last meeting it seemed Anto and I were the only people pushing the MiniDebConf - and frankly, that would be a basis for not even holding it. We need motivation from the very people involved in it!

Anyway… You can see I have (and it seems to be a constant in my life) a series of contradictions going on. However, the excercise of putting it all into writing helps me understand better where I am standing. When I started writing this post I felt much heavier, much more at a loss… Right now I feel I want to refocus my energy on the same projects and teams I have been involved with, yes, but feel it at least more plausible. Hope so.

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PieSpy: Modelling IRC interactions

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/10/2009 - 18:41

As some of you know, yesterday we started the two weeks of activities for the Fifth On-line Encounter of Free Education, Culture and Software. This year, the main topic for the conference is social networks, but not in the twitter-facebook sense — Social networks as ways of understanding and modelling human-to-human interactions. Of course, there is interest from many attendees in using and taking advantage of said social network systems (and others), but the topic is far broader.

One of the core tools of EDUSOL, and the only tool that is constantly active through our two weeks of activity, is IRC — Which is somewhat of a challenge, as we receive some not-tech-savvy users from all over the world. The first year or two we asked everybody to connect via an IRC client (and we had even decided that it would be a technological filter — We thought we would not cater for people without the technical skills to install and use IRC). Life proved us wrong, and we ended up using two web-to-IRC gateways: One of them, via an instance of CGI:IRC, and the other one via a third-party service, Mibbit.

Now, the core mind behind EDUSOL is Alejandro Miranda, Pooka; I am not really into education (it is a very interesting topic but far from what I am good at). Pooka has been invovled in on-line communities analysis for several years already, since we worked together at FES Iztacala. For a long time he wanted to graph the interactions at EDUSOL, which was obviously possible given it was all centered on three tools (IRC for live chat, Drupal for generic information and Moodle for the talks and workshops' material — This has changed this year, as we are giving much more weight to Drupal and taking it off Moodle), and so last year he was finally able to generate a «EDUSOL 2008 conference photo (warning: 2MB image, 4311x3352px), where each person's avatar appears where most of his interactions were. This photo was (unfortunately) achieved using non-free software, but is very much looking at!

Now, this year Pooka stumbled upon a great tool, PieSpy (available in Debian — package piespy). Piespy generates very interesting interaction graph for IRC channels, as you can see here:

Piespy is a bot that sits in the IRC channel logging everything that any given user "says" directly to another one, and graphs it. Not much to say here, only that it generates a very good (and practically real-time) view of what happens on the channel. For this particular channel, and during EDUSOL, you can see here the latest IRC snapshots.

Very fun to see - and somewhat addictive how it morphs across time :)

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Getting closer to the fifth EDUSOL Encounter

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/15/2009 - 23:54

This is the fifth year we hold an EDUSOL, and we are closing in on it. EDUSOL is an online encounter whose topics are Education and Free Software — Actually, this year we are widening our scope, and we will include Free Culture as well as a base area.

Now, besides those three general areas, each year we have had a base topic around which we invite the speakers to talk about (although it is a lax requirement). This year, the base topic is social networks — No, not in the Twitter/Facebook/blah sense, but as a wider phenomenon, studying interaction between people, the forming of communities. And for our particular areas, the forming of knowledge-based communities.

Anyway – I agreed with the organizers to provide the English translation of the participation invitation. I will skip the call for papers, as we are basically at the proposal deadline (October 17), but if you have anything you want to propose, please tell us so!

Leaving that aside... Please excuse the quality of my translation, it is late and I'm tired. We will work on it :)

Videoconference reception

EDUSOL spans several participation categories. The closest category to a traditional, face to face conference. Each year, we invite a group of speakers to talk about a topic related to our main discoursive line.

Among the speakers that have confirmed so far, we have:

  • Sofía Liberman Shklonikoff, Mexico. Social networks.
  • Dolors Reig. Barcelona, Spain. Open social education.
  • Marko Txopitea. Bilbao, Spain. Politics 2.0
  • Carolina Flores. Costa Rica. Building methodologies for infoinclusion
  • Luis Rodrigo Gallardo Cruz. United States. OpenSocial.
  • Margarita Manterola. Argentina. Debian-Women

We invite you to be active participants in the videoconference cycle. You can invite your social or user group to be part of the Encounter. There are three ways to do it:

  1. Using the videoconference facilities in your University network
  2. Connecting from a personal computer with broadband access, by using Ekiga or any other H.323 client
  3. Following the .ogg stream and participating back via IRC

In any case (specially in the first two, which require more coordination), please contact us. For further information, visit

November 6: Free Education and Free Culture day

We invite social and user groups to host talks regarding Free Education and Free Culture. This is not a call to promote Free Software, as there are many other spaces devoted to it.

We should start with the idea that freedom resides in us, not in the software. Some of the topics our community recommends are:

  • Common goods
  • Free culture: Success stories
  • Be legal: Sharing digital media
  • Free culture at school
  • Collaboration and collectivity
  • Freeing your computer

Further details at

We need some help in this area to generate contents with slides, making it easier for proposed scripts for the talks. If you want to collaborate, please write to our academic support list,

Want to collaborate? Further questions or comments?

We are holding on-line meetings for this group of topics on Thursday 22:00 GMT-5, in the #edusol channel in OFTC (; you can enter the IRC channel using the Web client at or


EDUSOL started as a proposal seeking to provide a space so that people interested in education could discuss and analize the good and bad points about Free Culture and Free Software, with no geographic restrictions. Year after year, freedom-loving educators of all Latin America and Spain gather for our annual party.

EDUSOL's core language is Spanish, although participation in English is allowed and encouraged (although understanding Spanish will be a strong aid).

We invite you to participate and contribute in this collective effort using and commenting on our blogs, or adding your personal blog to our planet:

You can follow us by or RSS:

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