Conferences

Otvaranje očiju uz dobru kavicu

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/05/2009 - 08:31

Safir, Adnan: If you want to push the Bosnian bid, please mention the pleasure it is to drink a good cup of good coffee in the morning. And Bosnian coffee really qualifies as good coffee!

Fino mljevena Jubilarna kava dobivena je izhorom najkvalitetnijih vrsta sirove kave kao rezultat dugogodišnjeg iskustva tvornice Franck.

Hvala ti, brate!

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Back home, keys signed and all

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/03/2009 - 13:02

After leaving DebConf on the much uncomfortable 06:45 train last Friday (uncomfortable not because of the seats but because of the timing — It basically meant not sleeping at all in order to spend a last full night of socialization+Mao), I stopped by two dear friends' houses near Madrid (Adriano+Nuria at Alcobendas, María+Borja at Alovera) and came back to Mexico. I must say I was... Really, really, really tired most of the time. On Friday, I met my friends slightly past 5PM, and all the time in between was spent walking to get some things done in Madrid. I would not call this sight-seeing as I was mostly in places I had already been before, but crossing out to-do items from my checklist (i.e. getting a much needed second suitcase, getting some music for Nadezhda's brother, finding good cheap food and so on). Every now and then, when I was not walking (i.e. while on the Cercanías trains), I would doze out - And it was common, for this couple-of-seconds dozing-out, that I would hear or even see any random person of DebConf speaking about any random topic. Quite close to a hallucinative thing! Anyway, my brain has finally understood it does not have to carry you guys around at all times, and I'm just back to (jetlagged and tired) normality.

I got home at ~21:30, unpacked a couple of things, and fell asleep right away. Woke up at around 6AM. That is great, if I can sustain the trend, I will have defeated jetlag!

Today, I got to work, only to find an unresponsive computer — During some update I did from .es, dbus was left on a semi-installed state. No dbus means no HAL, and no HAL means X won't know which input devices to use. Of course, easy to fix, but as I didn't have any other computer handy, instead of ssh'ing my way in, I had to do a couple of reboot cycles until I found the culprit (bah…)

First thing I did upon getting my machine in a workable state is to sign the keys I had left, and to fix those that were probably not signed with SHA256. Some people asked me what was BDale's post about, so I'll summarize, hoping that more explanations might not be better, but contain the same information worded differently, and gets best in everybody's brain. One of the instructions at Ana's great post regarding what to do to get a SHA256 key mentions setting up the following lines in your .gnupg/gpg.conf file:

  1. personal-digest-preferences SHA256
  2. cert-digest-algo SHA256
  3. default-preference-list SHA512 SHA384 SHA256 SHA224 AES256 AES192 AES CAST5 ZLIB BZIP2 ZIP Uncompressed

Thing is, those lines are not added to .caff/gnupghome/gpg.conf, which is an independent copy. I was missing such file, and I don't really know the defaults, so I am not sure this was really needed, but followed BDale's instructions: Delete my signatures on all the affected keys, and run them again through caff (in signing-party). Of course, hand-processing a handful of keys is not exactly fun — But given that signatures are stored in .caff/keys/ ordered by date, it was quite easy to get them all. Yes, some manual shuffling was required, but quite minor all in all. First of all, edit each of the keys, removing your signature from each of the UIDs. This is the user-interaction-heavy part, as gnupg does not like to be driven by piping commands to it (understandably). I wanted to do this on all the keys I had signed during July 2009, so:
  1. $ for i in $(find .caff/keys/2009-07* -type f|cut -f 2 -d .|cut -f 4 -d / |sort|uniq)
  2. do
  3. gpg --homedir=~/.caff/gnupghome/ --secret-keyring=~/.gnupg/secring.gpg \
  4. --no-auto-check-trustdb --trust-model=always --edit-key $i
  5. done

So, for each key, I would do:

  • uid 1
  • delsig
  • Delete all of my signatures (not that it matters deleting others', but it is easy to set your brain to grep for yourself ;-) ) It is very important to note if any of the keys does not have your signature on — That would mean that, for whatever reason it happened, you would need to remember that key to be skipped in the caff step.
  • If the key has more than one UID, repeat for all others

After this, go through each of those keys again, re-signing them. I could have included this step in the previous block, but I... didn't ;-)

  1. $ for i in $(find .caff/keys/2009-07* -type f|cut -f 2 -d .|cut -f 4 -d / |sort|uniq)
  2. do
  3. caff --no-download $i
  4. done

Note that by specifying --no-download, I am not getting it from the keyserver but using the copy I already had on my directory, without the weak signature. And, as I checked I had already signed each of them, it was no longer necessary to triple-check the signature (as I had discarded several of the paper snippets people had given me). I trust well enough this computer, where I had done the initial signatures (and which is not accessible from teh intarwebs without compromising an intermediate server).

As a last bit of caff goodness: Many people will remember only the last eight bytes of their signature. As an example, my new and shiny key information reads:

  1. pub 4096R/C1DB921F 2009-07-09
  2. Key fingerprint = AB41 C1C6 8AFD 668C A045 EBF8 673A 03E4 C1DB 921F
  3. uid Gunnar Eyal Wolf Iszaevich <gwolf@debian.org>
  4. uid Gunnar Eyal Wolf Iszaevich <gwolf@gwolf.org>
  5. uid Gunnar Eyal Wolf Iszaevich (Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas UNAM) <gwolf@iiec.unam.mx>

Speaking informally, I will tell you my key ID is C1DB921F — A short-enough string to be memorized. However, many people do not note this string is just the final part of the fingerprint. And caff allows for keys for it to work on to be specified in several different formats, being C1DB921F only the shortest one. However, you will find way more comfortable (but only after triple-checking the SHA256sum matches!) to ask caff to do the process based on the whole fingerprint. In this case, if I gave caff as its argument AB41C1C68AFD668CA045EBF8673A03E4C1DB921F, I would not have to hand-check the fingerprint matches what I have on the listing, isn't it great? So I did so both for those that were handed out to me as paper snippets (I typed the whole fingerprint as an argument to caff, as I'd have to check it anyway) and for those in Anibal's list. Good thing on Anibal's list is that it is already electronic, and after comparing the SHA256sum to the string I had hand-written in the paper, and weeding out all the people I had not cross-signed with, I just did:

caff $(cat ksp-dc9.txt |grep Key\ fing|cut -f 2 -d =|sed s/\ //g )
And, ta-da, just answer some prompts (I prefer to always answer to them, checking one more time against my list, just to be sure), produce your passphrase a couple dozen times, and off the mails are sent.

As a final note: I felt much, much more in control and at ease with this edition's key signing process. No more horribly long queues, no more stupid and pointless document checking. Many people just agreed to cross-sign based on the fact that we have known each other's face-to-name relation for long enough to trust it more than any government-issued IDs; other people did request an ID, so I always kept my passport handy. There are several people I engaged in interesting conversations as a result of keysigning request. This year, I did not sign any keys of people whose face I cannot remember (of course, that recalling bound to decrease with time, but it is a much stronger policy than previous years... And I might end up following a stricter one, as several other friends do). And, strangely… Well, there are many people I felt strange of not signing. People I spent long amounts of time working or talkin with, and I ultimately trust their identity. However, seems we didn't ask each other for signatures, or I didn't have a pen handy, or something like that… Anyway, that only leaves me with one more excuse to see you all guys next year in New York!

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Encodings, fonts, PDF and pain

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 07/19/2009 - 10:37

I volunteered to work on producing the DebConf nametags, and worked on it closely with César (cek) for most of the afternoon. The process clearly shows no database is comprehensive enough to base DebConf on it - All in all, we managed a very good advance percentage, integrating the data on who sleeps where, how each person eats, and so on. And slightly before lunchtime, we had the final listing. Joy!

…Until I asked César what script would we use for turning the data into nice, printable nametags. He plainly replied, «none that I know of». Ok, so on to produce the layout. The first idea was, as it has been done at other DebConfs, to make a LaTeX layout - but both our LaTeX-fu is heavily limited. Well, to the hell with it, that's why I recently packaged and uploaded Prawn, which is currently sitting in the NEW queueFast, Nimble PDF Generation For Ruby. Prawn has two main characteristics which are making me migrate some systems away from PDF::Writer into it:

  • Proper UTF8 support
  • Cool, easy relative positioning in bounding boxes

So, yes, populating the page with the ten nametags each will take is quite simple:

  1. pdf = Prawn::Document.new(:page_size => 'A4')
  2. pdf.font '/usr/share/fonts/truetype/arphic/uming.ttf'
  3. while !people.empty?
  4. 5.times do |row|
  5. 2.times do |col|
  6. person = people.delete(people.keys.sort.first)
  7. next if person.nil?
  8. pdf.bounding_box([pdf.bounds.left + (col) * 8.6.cm,
  9. pdf.bounds.top - (row) * 5.4.cm],
  10. :width => 8.6.cm, :height => 5.4.cm) do
  11. generate_nametag_for(person, pdf)
  12. end
  13. end
  14. end
  15. end

Yay, nice, isn't it? Of course, inside generate_nametag_for() we have all the needed magic to position the text, resize the images and so on. All in all, a cute and nice library, even with Ruby's often strangely idiosincratic culture.

Until we started checking for correctness. First, we hit Eddy Petrişor — The ş was showing as an unknown character. Of course, even though Prawn correctly understands UTF8, the built-in font does not handle Eastern European alphabets. No worries, pdf.font "/usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-dejavu/DejaVuSans.ttf" got us out of the predicament. But then, Andrew Lee (李健秋) appeared as a second case of undisplayable characters. And yes, Andrew has all the right in the world to expect his name, a proper UTF8 encoded string, to appear on the nametag!

…The problem is that all the fonts we could find that work for CJK fail for non-US-ASCII Latin characters. Isn't Unicode supposed to solve this? Yes, fonts need to properly implement the correct encoding… Jonas explained that Prawn (as well as any libraries dealing with fonts) should really use Fontconfig so multiple fonts can be specified, falling back in case some codepoints are not specified in them. But Prawn does not support Fontconfig.

To make matters worse, most Asian fonts (the Arphic family) are now shipped as TrueType Collections (TTC) instead of TrueType Fonts (TTF), in order to save space due to the tremendous similarity they have. And, you guessed it, Prawn does not yet understand TTCs (or I couldn't find how to).

All sorts of ideas were brought up. After playing a bit trying to change the font being used when detecting Asian encoding (and failing at it), I threw up my hands and decided I'd just change the font whenever the name contained the "Andrew Lee" string. Dirty and ugly idea, yes, but would work.

Just as I was about to do it, Andrew came back jumping with joy — He gave me an Arphic font which contains TTF files. And, lo, it properly renders Eastern European characters. All set, yay!

Honestly. What a pain. I hope humanity loses alphabets forever and goes back to the stone age. That's the only sane way to leave all the multialphabet, multiencoding, multifont, multipain behind.

¡Cáceres!

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 07/18/2009 - 08:54

My flight was scheduled to leave at 18:35 UTC-5 from Mexico. It left around 20:30. I took my friend Toño Malpica's newest book, Siete Esqueletos Decapitados, to have a nice reading for the road.

I was worried I would miss my 17:30 bus from Madrid to Cáceres, but I had plenty of time, and everything turned out just fine.

Just as I was reading the last page of Toño's book, when the bus was about to leave, Rhonda and Weasel boarded the bus — Great! Instead of five boring hours on my own (if possible, take the train — The traffic to leave Madrid is really really not fun), I had five boring hours with good company.

After some strange repositioning of my clothes and other contents of my bag (read: My bike!) in several grossly underoptimal configurations, we arrived at Residencia Universitaria Muñoz Torrero around 23:00. We greeted some people. About 90 minutes later, and after a verrry nice and needed shower, I was already deep asleep.

...Today, I woke up shortly after 10AM. Rushed for breakfast (and still got some! ☻), and headed to the first presential orga-team meeting for me this year.

¡DebCamp has started!

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Ogg stream for ECSL

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 14:06

I was sent to Nicaragua by the Cofradía community, and I want to somehow pay back this very nice sponsorship. I approached the organizers and offered to set up video streaming for the Encounter - The idea was most welcome, and it is basically ready to go live now. Please look at the ECSL activities - We will stream activities held at the main (Villa Vieja) auditorium. Remember that Nicaragua is in GMT-6. The stream will be available at http://video.cofradia.org:18000/ecsl.ogg

Now, once all attendees arrive tomorrow, it is very probable the available bandwidth will not be enough, even having our server in Mexico. Anyway, if we are unable to keep a decent stream up, we will locally record all said activities, and as soon as I get back home, I will make the recorded activities available.

[update]: It seems to work, although differently than what I expected. Instead of streaming using my usual magic1, which died at the merciless hands of network delays, but am instead storing the file locally, and just oggfwding it to the server with a couple of minutes of delay. But so far, it seems to work!

I will also try to push+publish the encoded files as often as possible to this server. I will link to them from this page:

  • 1. Which would be dvgrab --format raw - | ffmpeg -f dv -i - -acodec libvorbis -vcodec libtheora -s 320x240 -maxrate 230 -ab 32 -f ogg - | tee /tmp/ecsl_$(date +%y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S).ogg | oggfwd -p -n "Encuentro Centroamericano de Software Libre ECSL" video.cofradia.org 18000 my_password /ecsl.ogg
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Nicaragua, here I go!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 06/12/2009 - 17:36

Yay!

Yes, I know I had already said I would be travelling next week to the Central American Free Software Encounter. However, I was close to not making it.

I had got a sponsor for the plane ticket, and counted on it. However, in a depressed economy, you cannot count on anything… Least of all on a company being able to give you money for nothing.

On Wednesday, I was informed I... would not be getting the money. And although a Mexico-Nicaragua-Mexico flight is not too expensive (I got it for US$330 with TACA), it is bad to suddenly understand you have to pay this amount you didn't consider, and that it has to be right away.

Well, I was crying my sorrow near Fernando "El Pop", who had originally contacted me with my prospective sponsors. He said we could ask for donations at La Cofradía Digital, a site he set up several years ago and that for a long time was a main referring point to the Mexican Free Software community and friends. I hesitated — I felt it to be more or less like standing on a corner to beg for money. But, yes, El Pop does not ask — He does. So, a short couple of minutes later, my pledge was published.

Less than 48 hours, I am very happy to inform you that the money was raised, that the 100% of the ticket1 has been covered, and that I am a very happy man.

I never thought so many people would end up giving money from their own pockets to see me away from this country.

Thank you all!

  • 1. Of course, it was slightly over 100% of the ticket. I will donate whatever I get over the needed amount back to Cofradía, as someone else may need it
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RubyCamp Mexico

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 06/05/2009 - 18:07

RubyCamp UNAM logo Today I attended RubyCamp (schedule available), organized by my friends at Instituto de Física, at my University. I presented three plugins I made and regularly use.

The organizers followed a short, more informal scheme than most conferences I am used to — Talk slots range between 5 and 15 minutes, so we attended a whole day of semi-lightning talks. Of course, many people have run late, and although there was quite a bit of free space in the schedule, it has been practically non-stop — I was thinking on also giving a talk on encodings (as many people really still don't understand what is UTF-8, what is Latin1, why all that mess — People, please learn at least The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!)), but the schedule is full by now. Interesting and successful experiment, I'd say. The talks are being taped, and the organizers say they will be soon made available online.

There are many cultural details to note here. First of all, yes, the Rails Fanboys _are_ a cult/sect. I think we have ~90% of MacBooks... I still fail to understand why a coder feels at ease on MacOS. I deeply despise it! ☻ Also, most of this community have bitten the Twitter plague. This is also a community very much into businessspeak, speaking a word in English for each two words in Spanish (I try to be consistent, not mixing languages at least). Some conferences have been quite business- and enterpeneur-oriented. Although I should not complain too much about this, as it is an important aspect for many people — But I still don't feel at ease having talks on how to run a business if we were asked for presentations on technical aspects!

Anyway - I was quite happy to be here. This is the first real technical, code-oriented conference I have attended in a long time in Mexico. And we need more like this! We have too many entry-level, evangelization-oriented conferences, but very few like this one.

[update]: Group photo!

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Encuentro Centroamericano de Software Libre

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 18:12

¡vos también podés ir!

Yup — Over a month ago I was contacted by Norman García (who I met via the various EDUSOL activities), and René Mayorga (who I met thanks to his Debian involvement) inviting me to join them for the First Central-American Free Software Encounter. I had insisted to several Central American friends on setting up such an encounter for several years, and I am really glad I was invited.

So, if you happen to be near Central America between June 17 and 21, don't miss it! They are even organizing a bus (which still has place for more travellers!) going from Guatemala City, passing through San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and arriving to Estelí, Nicaragua.

I must also prominently thank Fernando Romo and Neocenter for kindly offering to sponsor my flight to Nicaragua. You rock!

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Some prefer marathoning... I prefer going to my old workplace

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/24/2009 - 14:21

I was invited to talk about Free Software at yesterday's FLISOL. Yesterday? Aren't FLISOLs organized on Saturday? Well, not this one, for various reasons which I won't quote here. And no, I am not a supporter of the installfests idea, but I went gladly to talk about what is Free Software all about - The philosophy behind Free Software. Besides, the talk was at FES Iztacala, where I worked for four happy years, 1999-2003. I have not been often to Iztacala since 2003 (probably I have visited only three or four times), partly because of the distance (~25Km from home in a straight line, but the city's Northern part is quite poorly communicated). The last time I was there, last October, I went by bike, just to test my endurance and... because I could.

Yesterday, I also did, not to be outdone by my fellow Debianers Christian and Dirk. Think they are so cool because they can run for 43Km? Well, I had my 55Km yesterday, and I was not even in a competition! (yes, yes, running and biking is not the same. So sue me. I just didn't want to stand still and let them walk away with all of the fun!) I took slightly different routes (my route to get there on Nokia Sportstracker and OpenStreetMap trace, my route back on Nokia Sportstracker and OpenStreetMap trace), crossing diagonally Azcapotzalco, a region of the city (delegación) I hardly know... The Sourthern of it seems like a continuation of Tacuba to the North, small and not-very-well-communicated prior villages engulfed by our hungry, huge city. The Northern half is a mostly industrial area, with very sparse population, lots of trucks, and streets that are not in the best shape. You can end up feeling lonely in those regions, and I am glad not to have crossed back by night.

And the trip back was interesting as well... Mexico City is home to many more bikers you would expect given its size, and it is very common to find other people doing nice long stretches. In this case, I started cycling quite close to another guy in a white bike more or less when I got to Calzada Camarones. Possibly we had passed each other over and over until after Tlatelolco, arriving to Guerrero, where I approached him at a stoplight:
— Hi! Where to?
­— Near Vocacional 7, Iztapalapa!
— Nice! I'm just going to Copilco

Every now and then we crossed each other... Turns out he does this ~30Km commute daily between Iztapalapa and Azcapotzalco. Quite admirable, to be honest. I also crossed my road with Sergio Mendoza, fellow Debianer (and co-administrator of our Mexican mirror) around Centro Médico (about 7Km north from my destination), whom I had only seen before around the University. Nice surprise. And yes, getting to know the city by bike is the best way to go!

Back to the conference... my first thought when I was invited was to present ¿Qué es el Software Libre?, a talk I have given over and over since... 2002 (although, yes, with updates). I must say it's one of the best structured talks I have prepared and has almost always been very successful - But give the same talk based on the same script over and over (AFAICT, around 20 times), and you will be fed up with it. And yes, yesterday I didn't take my laptop along, and didn't put my presentation on a USB stick - I took a pen and some paper, and during the presentation prior to mine, wrote some points to go over. And yes, it was a refreshing change. The talk was as successful as expected, and it's much more refreshing to talk about the same topics bot on a different way, and without being constrained to a predefined script. I know that organizing formally your ideas makes sure you don't miss out important points and that the audience is sometimes encouraged to pay attention by having some bullet points to look at - But on the other hand, it is much easier to follow your audience's interest if you are not bound by the script. And the few times I've spoken that way, it has felt refreshing and nice.

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EDUSOL 2009 Seminar - How to participate?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 20:26

My attention was just drawn (thanks, Txopi!), slightly less than two days before the kick-off date, that although we have advertised quite thoroughly how to participate in this Thursday's EDUSOL Seminar session (didn't you read about it already?) via the formal videoconferencing channels (wow, we have 14 videoconferencing rooms signed up, w00t!), we have not yet announced how to participate by following the Ogg stream and the IRC channel. So, please:

Ogg stream
Connect to http://seminario.edusol.info:18000/edusol.ogg.m3u. What to connect with? If you are a Linux user, just about any media player will do. If you are not, download the great VLC - VLC for Windows, VLC for MacOS X.
IRC chat

Of course, you might be interested not only on listening to our talk but in participating as well, right? Take your favorite IRC client and enter the #edusol channel in irc.oftc.net. (I won't go into further details on this post on what is or how to enter IRC - But I will explain a bit more in the EDUSOL website, in Spanish, if you need it).

...We are very hurried and excited about this all. Hope to see you there, and during our work sessions for the many following months!

Inviting: First VC for the EDUSOL 2009 Seminar - Thursday, Feb 26

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 17:38

It's time to drive some buzz this way ;-) Although this post will only be a pointer towards the Spanish post I made on Planeta EDUSOL, for reasons soon to become obvious. In any case, the information I'm posting here is not exactly the same. Can you read Spanish? Please go on to the invitation for the first videoconference for the EDUSOL Seminar.

This year, we the organizers of the On-line Encounter of Education and Free Software (EDUSOL) are aiming higher - we are not "just" having a two-week encounter at the end of the year - We are having an all-year-long Seminar, focusing on the collaborative construction of knowledge. People from quite distinct backgrounds will be part of this project, and we aim to drive it towards the publication of a book.

We (mainly, Alejandro Miranda and me) have been quite busy bootstrapping this seminar, getting the proposed authors, thinking over the intended communication channels and ways, and setting up the needed infrastructure) and are ready to start the public-facing activities.

We will be having monthly videoconferencing sessions, the last Thursday each month, 16:00-18:00 Mexico Central time (currently GMT-6; GMT-5 after the beginning of April). The VC sessions will be also relayed through Ogg streams, and we will have an IRC channel available to offer full interactivity for those who do not have access to a H.323 VC setup.

This first session will be moderated by Victor Manuel Martínez; the speakers will be Alejandro Miranda and myself - The topics we will present are:

  • Short project presentation, delineating the list of invited authors and tematic lines we will pursue
  • Description of the collaboration scheme we expect to hold, including how everybody (not just invited authors) can participate
  • Presentation of one of the topics we will work into in the Seminar: Free Software and the Democratic Construction of the Society

If you have access to videoconferencing facilities, please get in touch with Carlos Cruz, the Videoconferences Coordinator at the Economic Research Institute, as soon as possible for all the needed coordination.

Free Software and the Democratic Construction of the Society

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/24/2008 - 23:52

Last Wednesday I went for the first time in many years to FES Iztacala, the UNAM faculty where I worked for four years (1999-2003) and where I have most learnt and advanced in my career so far. I have a very special spot in my heart for Iztacala :-)
But it was not just a nostalgy drive - In no small part, I had not visited Iztacala -despite several invitations- because... It is really far away, in Tlalnepantla, Northern Mexico City (while I live in the South, just by UNAM). It takes me approximately 1.5 hours to get there via public transportation, and I would not venture less than 1 hour travel time by car. So... Having nothing to lose, I decided to go by bike - you can look at my route to get there (OpenStreetMap, SportsTracker) and safely back home (OpenStreetMap, SportsTracker). Some people I have talked with think it was a crazy thing to do - No, I don't feel that, by a long shot. A 26Km ride in slightly under two hours, and back. People insist on thinking that biking in such a large and chaotic city as Mexico is unsafe, dangerous, suicidal... I deeply disagree. Cycling is fun and got me to my destination in almost the same time I would have made by bus. And no, I would not buy four liters of gasoline just to cross my city.
Anyway, I am also happy about the reason that actually got me to go to Iztacala - I submitted a talk+paper I prepared together with Alejandro Miranda to Congreso Internacional Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento organized by Universidad Politécnica Salesiana in Quito, Ecuador. This conference is quite different to those I am used to, as it is quite more formal and academic; it is mainly targetted at social scientists working on understanding our movement. We prepared a talk called Software Libre y la Construcción Democrática de la Sociedad - which was accepted, to my amazement.
Neither Alejandro nor I were unable to travel to Ecuador to give the talk, so we arranged to present it via a videoconference call - Which was based on Iztacala. A nice session, although quite different to what I am used to. Our presentation was on a panel setting, under the global Ethical and political dimensions in the Free Software culture, with 20 minutes to present the topic (I am used to preparing one- or two-hour talks), and it was frankly rushed... We "met" with some friends (or were able at least to greet them shortly after the talk) who attended live to the conference, and... Well, all in all, it was one of those good, interesting experiences I would surely repeat. And besides, I have several things pending to show off about my current work to my Iztacalan fellows ;-)

FISOL, Tapachula / OpenStreetMap

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 12:49

I was invited to participate at Festival Internacional de Software Libre (FISOL), in Tapchula, Chiapas. The other invited speakers were Sandino Flores (tigrux), Alexandro Colorado (jza), Eric Herrera (crac), John Hall (maddog) and Fernando Romo (pop), all well-known due to very different contributions to the Free Software movement in Mexico and abroad. Several other people also presented tutorials, but I was not involved in that part, and mentioning one while not the rest would be unfair.
The conference was quite massive - Tapachula is a medium-sized city (~200,000 people) in Mexico's Southernmost point - Sadly, due to its geographical location, it is mainly famous for being the region where illegal immigrants from Central America enter Mexico towards the USA, and it is a known spot for all kind of abuses, both from the authorities and from gangs of thieves.
This is the third time I come to this conference. The first two years (2005, 2006) it was organized by the local CUCS university and it was reasonably large, but this year it counted also with many other universities in the region. Attendance was... HUGE. We were told around 1600 students were registered to participate, and I expect at least 1000 to have actually been there. Very amazing and encouraging!
It is, by far, a base-level conference - Most attendees had had no previous contact with Free Software at all, or had at most toyed around with a distro for some hours. Some people, of course, _are_ already working and involved, on various different degrees. All in all, quite encouraging.
But not only I had fun (and got extremely tired!) at the conference, or at the beer sessions afterwards. I also got to push some more publicity (and work, of course!) towards my new favorite pet project: OpenStreetMap.
As many other Debianers, I joined the fever last August, during Debconf. So far, I have been quite busy tracing and mapping; I am quite fortunate to get the OSM addiction while living on the edge of the well-mapped area of Mexico City. So far, I have mostly worked on the Ciudad Universitaria and Coyoacán areas, where some sensible improvement can be felt. Lots yet to do, for sure, but I'm making progress.
Still, mapping Coyoacán sometimes feels a bit futile. Why? Because all of my cycling/tracing/mapping sessions look almost like a little blip on the overall state of my city, which is way better than what I expected - Most of the central city is done (although lots of work is still pending on the very large outskirts - but getting there can be a trip just by itself!)...
But this time, I had the opportunity to do something new, something better and sensible. And, yes, it feels very good. How does the map of Tapachula look for just a weekend of mapping activity? And, yes, I only went out once (morning running) expressely to get some new traces, the rest of it was while being transported by car to the conference-related activities. And I didn't even have to say once "lets go by a different route"! ;-)
Just for comparison: Last week, Tapachula's state was quite similar to what they have today on Google Maps - Just the major highways in the area. Besides, if you look at the satellite map for Tapachula, I estimate I managed to map around between a fifth and a tenth of the city's surface.
So, have you got a GPS? Do you enjoy going out on the street, be it walking, running, cycling on driving? Or even if you don't enjoy it, are you sometimes forced into it? Start contributing to OpenStreetMap now!

Kept silent for a week...

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 07/17/2008 - 15:42

Last week (July 7-13) was basically hell on Earth, for me and for the group that somehow got the name Cabras locas, of which I am part since I joined the National Pedagogical University, where I worked full-time 2003-2005.
It was, yes, the first of my officially three weeks of Summer holiday at IIEc-UNAM, so no problems here. So, why hell on Earth? Because we were in charge basically of anything related with information flow, retrieval and manipulation at the 11th International Congress on Mathematical Education, in Monterrey.
What we thought would basically be one or two days of hard work followed by six days of relaxed vacations (we had even planned to have an internal seminar, showing off the shiny stuff each of us is working on) became... A mind-boggling eight day experience where we worked over 12 hours a day on being human replacements for Google, SQL engines, full-text parsers, report generators, printer watchdogs, and in general lines, just a bunch of unhappy firemen, ready to be called off for whatever task was necessary.
We did have, of course, several calm periods every now and then. We even had to learn how to look busy while doing something compeltely unrelated (that would explain, for example, a couple of low-hanging bugs I fixed for Debian, or some dozens of lines of code I could get off my head).
But my advice for whoever reads this: Don't trust people with long database-handling experience. Specially when they insist that hand-capturing a thousand registers is preferrable (i.e. less error-prone) than parsing three separate databases and discarding duplicates. And, of course, specially when this person is your boss, which is enough of an argument to have it his way.

FLISOL 2008 - Monterrey, NL

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/25/2008 - 15:06

I'm about to leave for Monterrey, Nuevo León, some 700Km North. Why? Because I was invited to be at the Monterrey FLISOL. And what exactly is a FLISOL? A very nice and interesting idea: Festival Latinoamericano de Instalación de Software Libre, Latin American Free Software Install Festival.

So far, I have stayed away from install-fests. I don't like them. And I will keep what I have always said: I am going because I was invited to talk about network security (of course, giving more than a little bit of relevance to Free Software as the IMHO only way to get to a decent level of security). But I do want to be part of this. It is large. Very large. So large, you don't want to miss out.
According to Beatriz Busaniche, FLISOL will be simultaneously held in 210 cities all over Latin America, in Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In short: everywhere.
Spread the word. Spread the love. Spread the fun!

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