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Talking about Debian while Debian was getting released

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 11:59

Last Saturday, I was invited to talk about Debian to Hackerspace DF, a group that is starting to work at a very nice place together with other collectives, in a quite centric place (Colonia Obrera). I know several of the people in the group (visited them a couple of times in the space's previous incarnation), and wish them great luck in this new hackerspace!

Anyway — I was invited to give an informal talk about Debian. And of course, I was there. And so was Alfredo, who recorded (most of) it.

So, in case you want to see me talking about how Debian works, mostly on a social organization level (but also regarding some technical details). Of course, given the talk was completely informal (it started by me standing there, asking, "OK, any questions?"), I managed to mix up some names and stuff... But I hope that, in the end, the participants understood better what Debian means than when we started.

Oh, and by the end of the talk, we were all much happier. Not only because I was about to shut up, but because during my talk, we got notice that Debian 7.0 "Wheezy" was released.

Anyway — If you want to see me talking for ~1hr, you can download the video or watch it on YouTube.

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Ten years already!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 20:49

(actually, please set your calendars to the day before yesterday — I had a mental tab on this, but it seems watching mental tabs is a low-priority task for brain.sched)

Ten years ago today, I got that long awaited mail telling me I had passed all of the needed hurdles and was accepted as a Debian Developer. We were at the first third of a very long release cycle, and the general spirit of the project was clearly younger — both as in "things moved easier" and "we were much more immature" — Try to follow the mailing list discussions we had back then, and even with all the vitriol that's every now and then spilled on, it's clear we have more experience working together.

And yes, the main change that ten years bring to a group of people is social. I was at DebConf in Oslo when the now-historic presentation that prompted the birth of the Debian-Women group was given — Surely, Debian (and Free Software) still is by far predominantly male and white — But I fel it's no longer a hostile group, much to the contrary.

Over the years, I was first active (as was the norm by then) as a "solo" maintainer. When Joachim Breitner started the pkg-perl group in 2004, I joined, and was part of the group while an important part of my work was based in Perl. I joined pkg-ruby-extras, and slowly migrated my technical work from one to the other. For several years, I also maintained the Cherokee webserver. I started getting involved in DebConf organization in 2005, and (except for 2008, as I took a vacation from many topics due to personal issues). Back in 2009, I became an official delegate! I joined Jonathan McDowell handling keyring maintenance. One year later, another delegation: With Moray Allan and Holger Levsen, the three of us became the DebConf chairs.

This last couple of months, I have been quite inactive in most of my Debian work. I took up teaching at the univerity, and have been devoting what amounts to basically a full time job to prepare material. I expect (hope!) this craze to reach back a "workable" level by late May, when the course finishes, and I can retake some of my usual Debian tasks.

Anyway — 10 years. Wow. This project is one of the longest commitments in my life. I am still very happy I joined, it still thrills me to say I am part fo this great project, it still makes me proud to be accepted as a peer by so many highly skilled and intelligent people — But, as I have repeatedly stated, I see Debian more as a social project (with a technological product) than as a technical one. And as such, I am really happy to have made so many good, close friends in this project, to have the opportunity to work and exchange points of view about anything, and have this large, highly disfunctional but very closely regarded family of friends.

So, guys, see you this August in Switzerland. I will be among the group celebrating we have been there for half of the project's history!

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Of European descent

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 19:42

A colleague of mine at Facultad de Ingeniería pointed me to a note published in the Faculty's gazette about a short cycle of talks we had on April 4th, trying to get life and interest back in the once-active LIDSOL (Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo en Software Libre, Free Software Research and Development Laboratory), which nowadays lies mostly dormant.

Good thing the official communication channels got notice of this! Only I am not sure if they can properly produce Spanish (as this feels more like an English redaction). Quoting only the first lines of the paragraph that referes to me:

La última conferencia fue presentada por Gunnar Wolf, que aunque su nombre nos hiciera pensar en una nacionalidad europea, él es nacido en tierras mexicanas pero con descendencias húngaras, austriacas y polacas.

Which translates to:

The last talk was presented by Gunnar Wolf, that although he has a name that makes us think about an European nationality, he was born in Mexican soil, but with Hungarian, Austriac and Polish descent.

As far as I can tell (and I am almost sure I know all of the story — At least on that regard), I have no descent yet. Not Hungarian, Austriac, Polish, nor of any nationality.

(nitpickers: Yes, similar words are often used. In Spanish, it would be correct to say de ascendencia húngara, austriaca y polaca, and in my attempt towards English translation, it would be of Hungarian, Austriac and Polish descent).

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So you want to be a leader

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/11/2013 - 18:46

So we are at the beginning of this year's Debian Project Leader elections. And yes, after Stefano's long and (IMO) very successful DPL term, I feel as my voting machinery is somewhat stuck; it will not be so easy to get it back up to speed. Anyway, I have glanced over the three platforms, but only actually read 1.5 from the three DPL platforms. I know that whoever succeeds, I will be quite happy with the results.

This year there are three runners for the post. I have worked in several teams with two of them, and would love to know better the third. In the same order as presented in the vote:

Gergely Nagy
I have not yet worked with Gergely, but enjoy reading him. The closest I have been to working with him was sketching a packaging tutorial during DebConf11, in Bosnia. Sadly, I was quite busy, and he picked up the complete workload — And correspondingly, got the credits. I can say that Gergely has a very important quality, the ability to put in seductively easy words the most complex processes. So, yes, being the Debian Leader post a public-facing one, I am certain he has one of the important qualities.
Moray Allan
We have worked together organizing DebConf for many years, first loosely as orga-team members, and starting two years ago (and together with Holger Levsen) as formal delegates. I think our team is quite well balanced, and Moray plays an important role. Holger and I are sometimes anxious to take measures, measures that IMO would have proven disastrous more than once. Moray is often the voice of reason. Given that another one of the DPL's roles is to mediate in social conflicts and keep Debian working smoothly (or something close to it ;-) ), that is also a very important trait of a DPL, and I'm also sure Moray would shine as a good leader.
Lucas Nussbaum
I have long been part of the pkg-ruby-extras team (although I am way less active than what I used to, where Lucas often dazzles us with his intense streaks of activity. Among this group of three, I see Lucas firstly as the most technically oriented, the biggest implementer. Also, as the proactive bug-finder and team-herder. And yes, Lucas is maybe the most enthusiastic about the (always) important Making Debian Sexy point. So, if elected, I'm sure this facet will also make him shine

So, it's not that I'm trying to bribe our next DPL with sweet nice words about how interesting a person or how good a friend he is, but am trying to look at the election process as something different. It seems for me that we are going to choose which Debian do we want to pursue for this starting period.

Now, for our soon-to-be-ex-DPL Stefano: As many will surely tell you (or already have): You rock. I truly enjoyed your DPL term, and there is much we should adopt and learn from your personality and leadership.

And, although it has waned over the past few years, many people tend to publish their (stated?) vote during the campaigning period. I (think I) have never done so, and this time I will surely not do so. Choosing a DPL involves personal feelings, sympathies, and many non-objective things. And although I know nobody will feel hurt if I don't put them in the first place, I prefer not to expose such issues. I can only assure you that this year, "None of the above" will sink to the bottom of my ballot.

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Dkg: Unwrap it with Blender. And ask @octagesimal / @casyopea !

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:30

Daniel tells his story building a wooly mammoth, and throws some ideas on how this could be implemented easily with free software. But if I read his post correctly, Daniel still misses the precise ways to do it.

Our friends Octavio and Claudia (twitted hereby) have given some Blender courses here at our classroom at home (Guys! Come again! We miss you!), and host the Spanish-speaking g-blender community. At one of their courses, they showed how to model an object/character, and in order to color/texture its parts, you can unwrap it — This process yields a flattened image with the surfaces that build your object, that you can then color. Well, you can also use it as a base pattern to cut and sew your plush!

It is not meant to be used for this (although it works), so it won't give you the extra tabs to be sewn in place, and the joints might not be at the most comfortable places. But it is base you can work from.

Too cool not to repost

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:54

[ post made mainly for those poor souls who don't yet follow Planet Debian, but do follow me ]

Earlier today, Roland Mas threw an idea towards whoever had too much free time: Implement a valid QR code construction that would become an interesting pattern when interpreted in Conway's Game of Life.

But, as Jurij Smakov promptly showed, there is only one flaw in Roland's request: The need for too much free time. Jurij replied within ~4hr with a arbitrary string to QR code converter that allows said code to be seeded into a Game of Life interpreter.

Jurij: You get all the geek points I had in store for this month.

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19 years of Debian

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/16/2012 - 12:19

Happy 19th birthday, Debian!

The Debian project is 19 years old now. Following Francesca's invitation (and Raphaël's lead, and using Leandro's image, collaboratively as it always happens here), I will tell a bit of my memories: How I got to Debian.

I am a Debian user since ~2000, and a Debian Developer since April 2003. But, just as Raphaël's, my history must go somewhat further back in time.

In 1992, I got my first 1200bps modem, and almost immediately became an avid BBS user (what's that? Javier Matuk talks [in Spanish] about BBSes in his newspaper column back in 1994). By mid 1993 I started operating my own BBS, CatarSYS. One of the key points that defined CatarSYS is that my focus was large-scale communication. I started connecting to several BBS networks, allowing messages to be relayed to distant people, mainly in the USA and Spain, and getting some feeds that could be seen as the poor man's Usenet.

At some point during the year I kept CatarSYS going, I got connected through a strange set of gateways to pure gold: A UUCP feed! This means, during some months, I operated the first (free, hobbyist) service that offered its users a free Internet mail address in Mexico. Yes, it was completely different to what we are used to today. I tried to connect to my provider at least three times a week, but this meant less than one week turnover time for messages sent to people anywhere in the world! But, back to Debian: Via this UUCP feed, I also got some real Usenet newsgroups — Including several on the comp.os category. I remember reading about Linux back then, and learning some commands, but didn't really get hooked into it.

I was in Israel from July 1994 to June 1995, doing completely non-computer-related tasks. Came back in 1995, and due to my father being an academic, got dialup internet access at home. WOW, *real* Internet!

It didn't take me long to start downloading Linux information and floppy images. One failed after another. But before the end of the year, I found in a bookshop a book (that included a CD-ROM) called "Build your own web server with Linux". WOW again — Remember this was still 1995! I bought it, and shortly afterwards, I had a Slackware system (Linux kernel 1.0.9) running. That meant many sleepless nights full of joy and frustration (as getting hardware to work was cloe to impossible).

By 1996, I got (within one week) my two first real jobs: A systems administrator at a small ISP and a highschool teacher. At the ISP, I got a spare computer to play with Linux, as –of course– the Big Server was running with Windows NT 3.51. Poor little machine... By then I was already a part of the Mexican Linux User Group. This group had just printed a batch of Linux CDs — RedHat 4.0. This was the first release that really made me happy and allowed me to do good work. Together with a friend I took to work with us, Juan Pablo Romero, we installed over a weekend a full replacement for our buggy NT machine, in much cheaper hardware. Of course, Linux was nowhere near corporate-recognition, and our project remained a project, not touching the Windows machine.

Anyway... Several years passed, and I was happy with my RedHat choice. I won't mention the milestones and job changes, as it would get boring and leave the point completely aside. By the year 2000, I was quite more involved with the LUG, as well as with the computer security group in DGSCA-UNAM. I became also an OpenBSD user, and had got so hooked up in free software that I felt the need to collaborate: To be a little part of one of those Big Projects that had given me so much. But which one?

I have never been much of a programmer — Yes, I can solve my everyday needs and have fun with it, and sometimes a bit beyond that. I enjoy programming. But all of my projects have begun little… and stayed little. I wanted to join OpenBSD, as it was a community I really believed in, but given my skillset (and given a flame-prone, aggressive developer community), I lost motivation to do so.

By 2000, I had also lost faith in RedHat. I don't have the exact dates, so I might be some months off — But after RedHat's IPO, I felt a sharp change. Version 7.0 was really demotivating — It tried to offer a polished desktop experience, but was really buggy, unstable, and full of bad decisions. In Mexico, Pepe Neif had taken up the job of making a derivative distribution of RedHat (called LinuxPPP), pressing hundreds of CDs and making a teaching program I was part of several times. Talking with Pepe (who continued to release based on RedHat 6), he told me he was interested in switching over to become a Debian-based distribution, but the job of migrating his installed base made the project stall — LinuxPPP reached only version 6.4.

But I installed Debian in early 2000, and loved it. I started getting familiar with its social philosophy and foundation documents at the same time I started migrating my servers from RedHat to Debian — This must have been by Spring 2000, as I installed Potato while it was frozen but not yet stable.

By January 2002 I applied for NM. My process took a long time, as my AM got MIA when he had already approved me (but before sending the AM report), so basically I had to go through AM twice — And by April 16, 2003, I got accepted as a DD. Contrary to what is acceptable today, I requested the full process to be done before starting to maintain any packages, as I didn't want to bother people with package sponsorship requests, so my whole process was done evaluating packages I would eventually upload.

Since becoming a DD, my main involvement in the project has been in packaging groups (I was a pkg-perl founder and member for many years, and am currently working in the pkg-ruby-extras group). But, as I said, my main strength is not programming — So my main involvement in Debian has been more social than technical: I have been a DebConf organizer since 2005, a very interesting, stressing, rewarding and (for some months) time-demanding role, and since 2009 I am part of the keyring maintainence team, which is much easier workload, although carries important ramifications.

So, after 19 years of Debian, and after nine years of me being part of it, Debian is clearly my strongest link to the Free Software community, a project I have grown to love and whose way of being I share and enjoy studying and explaining. And it is a technically excellent product, and a great place to start and keep learning both about how every aspect and layer of an operating system works, and how human-to-human interaction works in such a diverse, almost impossible environment happens.

Congratulations, Debian!

From DebCamp to DebConf through cheese, wine and an intro track

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/10/2012 - 02:16

One week. One long week. One beautiful week. One of the two major weeks of the year has passed since my previous post. Surely, we are in the middle of the two Major Weeks of the year, in the yearly schedule I have upheld for almost(!) ten years: DebConf+DebCamp.

Yesterday, DebConf officially started. For the first time ever, we had a DebConf track targetted at the local (for a wide definition of local: All of the Central American countries) communities, which I chaired.

We had the following talk lineup during this track:

  • Empaquetando software para Debian (Gunnar Wolf)
  • Introduction to Debian translation workflow and processes (Christian Perrier)
  • OpenPGP discussion and skillshare (Daniel Kahn Gillmor)
  • Empaquetando colaborativamente con git y collab-maint (Ulises Vitulli)
  • Uso del sistema de manejo de errores de Debian (Hector Colina)
  • Building free software communities (Leandro Gómez)

I believe it was a great success, and I hope the talks are useful in the future. They will be put online soon thanks to the tireless work of our work team.

Today we sadly lost the presence of our DPL due to very happy circumstances he will surely announce himself. But DebConf will continue nevertheless - And proof of that is our anual, great, fun and inviting Cheese and Wine Party!

After a series of organizational hiccups I hope nobody notices (oops, was I supposed not to say this?), today we had a beautiful, fun and most successful cheese and wine party, as we have had year after year since 2005.

As many other people, we did our humble contribution for this party to be the success it deserves.

There is lots of great cheeses, great wines, and much other great stuff we have to thank to each of the individuals who made this C&W party the success it was. Yes, it might be among the least-academic parts of our conference, but at the same time, it's one of its most cherished -and successful- traditions. And above all else, we have to thank our Great Leader^W^WCheeseMaster (who we still need to convince to play by our Great Leader's mandates - And no, I don't mean Zack here!)

Hugs and thanks to my good and dear friend Christian Perrier for giving form to one of DebConf's social traditions that makes it so unique, so different from every other academic or communitary conference I have ever been part of.

We still have most of the week to go. And if you are not in Managua (and are not coming soon), you can follow our activities following our video streams.

Remember, debian/rules, now more than ever! And even given the (perpetual) heat in Managua: Wheezy is frozen, whee!

[ all photos here taken by regina ]

Arrived to Nicaragua. DebCamp has officially started!

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 07/01/2012 - 15:24

Yesterday night, Regina and me arrived to Nicaragua. Ready to greet us, we found quite a good number of good friends. We had a nice pizza+beer dinner at Diana's house, and some of the foreigners among us were distributed among the houses of several locals.

This morning, we woke up –together with Víctor, Moray and Gaudenz– in Norman's brother's beautiful house. We had breakfast with the family, were picked up to go to the hotel that will have the ho(n|rr)or to host us all for the following two weeks, and walked to the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) campus.

Contrary to our usual practices... It seems everything is working fine! I mean, I'm sure we will stumble with some unforseen details and what not... But coming on the very first day to the university, to find that food is all sorted out, that we have food tickets (and they are all printed!), that network works (and it's by a fiber connection that was laid out expressly for us), that we have all the hardware I was worried about, that people are arriving and getting accepted at the hotel. I mean, things work!

So, I'm quite optimistic this DebCamp will have everything ready to be a success — And the DebConf following it as well, of course!

If you have not yet arrived - See you soon!

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Co-starring: Debian Tour Managua 2012!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:25

As stated in the 2012-04-30 edition of the Debian Project News, this weekend I will be meeting Holger Levsen (who has been there for over a week now) in Managua, Nicaragua, as part of the Debian Tour 2012, a set of talks meant to raise awareness and interest on Debian between the Nicaraguan (+Central American) user groups, university students, companies and government.

Not all of the planned activities are present in the Debian Tour webpage. I know I will be giving my talk on Debian in the Free Software projects' universe, this Saturday at Universidad Centro Americana (UCA). Besides this, we will be meeting on Monday with the UCA staff to discuss some DebConf-specific issues. Sunday? Well, I hope^Wfully trust we will have interesting activities as well :)

I am going to DebConf12!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 17:10

I have just bought our plane tickets to Managua, so I can finally say this:


Yes, many of you will ask what happened, I was bragging everywhere I wanted to go by land, driving from Mexico City to Managua. I'd love to, and I'm sure it's completely doable... But we have family issues to attend on July 21, in Argentina. So we will have a beautiful flight schedule (and carbon footprint) for this July:

June 30
Mexico→San Salvador→Managua, 17:35-20:30. Yes, this means I will not be in Mexico to cast my vote on July 1st. Well, I had already accepted this would happen... And the price difference was quite sensible.
July 15
Managua→San José→Mexico, 16:25-22:20
July 16
Mexico→Santiago→Buenos Aires (AEP), 20:30-09:55
July 23
Buenos Aires (EZE)→Lima→Mexico, 08:35-19:00

Several people have asked me on the best airline options for this trip. In our case, to Managua, it was with TACA, US$518 total. You can get tickets for ~US$30 less, but the flight goes through Panama instead of San Salvador, for an extra 1000Km – And instead of ~3hr it makes slightly over 6. Yes, on our way back we will be routed a bit South to San José, but it's not as bad, and it's for a very short layover.

For Argentina? Well, we have always found LAN to be the cheapest and most convenient. This time, TACA/Avianca was a very close second, which lost due to almost doubling the flight+layover time

Why aren't we taking a Mexico→Managua→Buenos Aires flight instead? Because it's ~US$150 more expensive per person. Not *that* much, but still some money. And by returning to Mexico and having a night at home, we will save us the hassle of carrying Winter clothes to Nicaragua and Summer clothes to Argentina.

Oh, and if you are planning on dropping by home while we are away and robbing all of our stuff: There's not that much to take from there, and we have already arranged for somebody to be there while we are away. But thanks for thinking about us, anyway!

[update] And what about DebConf12 registration? When is the system opening for us all to register? Soon, dear friends, we are talking about some related issues, and you will have your registrationi open soon.

One bug less!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:50
One bug less!

At our BSP in nul-unu, Debcember 2007

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BSP at nul-unu

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:48
BSP at nul-unu

December 2007

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LVM? DM-RAID? Both? None?

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/17/2011 - 13:06

Patrick tells about his experience moving from LVM to RAID.Now, why do this? I have two machines set up with LVM-based mirroring, and they work like a charm - I even think they work with better flexibility than setting it up in a RAID-controlled way, as each of the partitions in a volume group can be easily set to use (or stop using) the mirroring independently, and the requisite of having similar devices (regarding size) also disappears. Of course, this flexibility allows you to do very stupid things (such as setting up a mirror on two areas of the same rotational device - Good for toying around, but of course, never to be considered for production). And the ability to online grow and shrink partitions is just great.

So, Patrick, fellow readers, dear lazyweb, why would you prefer LVM-based mirroring to a RAID alternative? Or the other way around?

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Morning in the hacklab

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/12/2011 - 11:01
Morning in the hacklab

It's still early and few people have shown up in the lower hacklab. DebConf 11; Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia i Herćegovina.

Photo by Robert "Blars" Larson

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