Life

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On errors in exams - Short rant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back aches...

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 11:04

This year, I had slowly taken again running. It's an activity I enjoy, even though I'm far from the condition I had when I did it every day — My maximum was running about 8Km four days a week (ocassionally up to 15Km, say, on weekends)... But I slowly drifted out of it over the last three years. Yes, I have taken it up now and then, but dropped out again after a few weeks.

Well, this year it felt I was getting back in the routine. Not without some gaps, but I had ran most weeks since July at least once, but usually two times. I started slowly, doing about 3Km close to home, but didn't take much to go back to my usual routes inside UNAM, doing a modest average of 4.5-5Km per run, and averaging somewhat over 8Km/h (6.5 min/Km).

But... Well, I cannot relate precisely what happened on this — Exactly a month ago, after a very average run (even a short one, 3.6Km), I had a lower back ache. Didn't pay too much attention to it, but it was strange since the first day, as I often have upper back aches — Never lower.

The pain came and went slowly several times. I kept cycling to work, although not every day. On October 27th, I even took the time to do the Ciclotón, a nice 38Km (including the ~5Km distance from home) around central Mexico City. I enjoyed the ride, even though every stop and re-start of the bike was a bit painful — what hurts is to get off and on the bike: The posture change. But the pain has been almost constantly there. When I stand up, or when I sit down, it's about five minutes until the body gets used to the new position and stops hurting.

Another strange data point: This last weekend (together with a national holiday) we went to a small conference in Guadalajara, and then to visit our friends in Guanajuato. So, we spent 12 hours on the bus there (12‽ Yes, there was an accident on the road, and we could not pass... So many hours were wasted there, and going back to a junction to take an alternative, longer road), then one night in a hotel bed, and two nights in our friends' guest mattresses — which are not precisely luxury-grade. And Sunday night... I had no pain at all!

Came back home, and after only one night back in our bed... I just could not move. I had the strongest pain so far. Could not even walk without some help. We went to the orthopedist a friend recommended, and I was seriously bending my posture: While that part of my posture is usually stable, my right hip was about 2cm higher than the left one, and my shoulders were almost 7cm displaced from my hips!

So... Well, I'm having a cocktail of painkillers and antiinflamatories. The doctor says next week he wants me to have a tomography taken to better understand the causes for this.

And, of course, tomorrow I'm leaving for Festival de Software Libre in Puerto Vallarta. I'm going there by plane, so no big hassle. But the way back, it will be 12 more hours on a bus. I'm... not precisely looking forward to this bus ride :(

Anyway... I sorely miss my bike+running :(

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Is there some old-school programmer available around here?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/25/2013 - 17:04
Is there some old-school programmer available around here?

Just saw this ad today at my Institute's door. Rough translation:

Interim programmer sought

Requisites:

  • High school
  • One year of experience
  • Theorical and practical exams on the area
  • Familiarity handling electronic equipment, such as computers, perforators/punchers, terminals and similar.

[Yes, this is a joke post. I don't know how anybody is using such an obsolete job description. A job description at least three decades out of date]

[Well, yes, I understand it, because I knowhow that particular union works. But I cannot accept it is for real]

[...And no, please don't apply for the job. You will be miserable in the unlikely event you are chosen]

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Not in Switzerland — But still, cheering for Debian's 20th anniversary!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/09/2013 - 11:19

So... Well, contrary to the popular sentiment in Planet Debian, this year I'm very sorry to inform that...

-(

This is the first DebConf I miss in ten years, so... Yes, it's a big bummer for me. I'm not attending because this year, DebC(amp|onf) coincide with the two first weeks of classes at my university — And as a new teacher, I cannot afford to miss it!

Anyway, but that should not stand in the way to attend a nice Debian 20th anniversary party!

Parties will be held around the world. (Didn't find your city? Plan something and add it *now!*). In Mexico City, the nice guys at the very interesting Rancho Electrónico hackerspace took the lead, and organized the following activities:

Debian Day 2013 Mexico City program

Don't you yet know the hackerspace? You should go there! It's in a very centric location, just two blocks West from Metro San Antonio Abad (Juan Lucas Lassaga 114, col. Obrera). And the only two times I have been there, it has been good fun. Surely this Saturday we can have a nice party as well!

The planned activities are from 13:30 to 20:30. See you there!

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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 debian-whatever@lists.debian.org, 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 ZTE it is

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 09:03

Some weeks ago I posted about the long-expected demise of my old phone. And even given I don't usually don't pay much attention to phones (and could care less about the smartphone fad), I asked for a recommendation here on what to change to.

The only thing that made me look for something other than a ~US$15 phone is that I enjoy having a GPS-enabled device. So, with that in mind, I went to my carrier's offices, with a top budget of MX$2,000 (~US$150), and asked for help. After being a Telcel subscriber for ~10 years (and ~6 with the same device), even though I use prepaid cards only (and seldom pay over MX$100 a month), I expected some advice. So, when the employee told me to go to the phone exhibit they have and pick my favorite, I declined, by telling I just want the cheapest unit with a GPS. He almost immediately offered me the ZTE V791, an Android 2.3-based unit, for MX$990 (~US$75), just around half of what I expected to pay. So I got two - One for myself, one for Regina, as her previous "nice" phone died under the Bosnian rain and had one of the sturdy, reliable but utterly boring US$15 phones for over a year ;-) As a new Mexican resident, she can surely use a GPS as well! (and some other tools in it). So, two nice phones, and still (squarely!) in my projected budget!

I *did* give some thought to the comments posted in my original post, but given I don't want to bite in to the tendency too much, I let price determine what we get. And after all, I do not plan to ever enable data over the phone network (if at all, I use it on wifi). A recommendation for people with similar profiles/interest than me: Maps with me allows for downloading OpenStreetMap data on a country basis (so I get all of Mexico with me). I also got Vespucci OSM Editor, to be able to do OpenStreetMap updates from the phone, but given it has some stability issues I have not used it much (and it's understandably not so disconnected-mode-friendly)

Not much more to add to this. I am writing this prompted by Russell's "iPhone vs. Android" post. My point after getting these two cheap phones? Having a wide range of devices under this same OS (even if it still has long ways to go freedom-wise) makes it a choice for people like me, who don't want to save money for a couple of months in order to get the newest gadget. I hope this phone lasts with me several years as well, without changing my usage pattern!

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The phone is dead. How to stay reasonably unbound?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 23:31

So, today an endurance test can be declared as finished.

In early 2008, for the first time, I paid for a cellular phone (as my previous ones were all 100% subsidized by the operator in a fixed plan). I got a Nokia N95. And, although at the beginnning I was quite thrilled with my smartphone (when such things were still a novelty), it didn't take much to me to start dumbing it down to what is really useful to me: A phone with a GPS. And the GPS only because it is the only toy I want in such a form factor.

Anyway, despite the operator repeatedly offering me newer and more capable models, I kept this one, and as soon as I was free of the forced 18 month rental period, switched to a not-data-enabled, pay-as-you-go plan. I don't want to be connected to the intertubes when I'm away from a usable computer!

But yes, five years are over what a modern phone wants to endure. Over time, I first started getting SIM card errors whenever the phone was dropped or slightly twisted - As I'm a non-frequent phone user, I didn't care much. Charging it also became a skill of patience, as getting the Nokia micro-connector to make contact has been less and less reliable. Over one year ago, the volume control (two sensors on the side) died after a phone drop (and some time later I found the switches broken from the mainboard loose) - A nuisance, yes, but nothing too bad. I don't know how, but some time ago the volume went down when using the radio, and as I can't raise it again, my phone became radio-disabled. And today, the screen died (it gets power, but stays black). I can blind-operate the phone, but of course, it is really not meant for that.

So, I expect this Saturday to go get a new phone. Between now and then, I'll be cellphone-deprived (in case you wonder why I'm not answering to your messages or whatever). I would love to get a phone with a real keyboard (as I prefer not to look at the screen when writing messages, just to check if everything came out right and fix what's needed). I understand Android phones are more likely to keep me happy as a free software geek, and I'd be delighted to use Cyanogen if it is usable and stable — But my phone is *not* my smart computer and it should not attempt to be, so it's not such a big deal. I will look for something with FM radio capability, and GPS.

Of course, I want something cheap. It would be great to get it at no cost, but I don't expect I'll find such a bargain. Oh, and I want something I can find at the first Telcel office I come to, am I asking for too much? :)

Anyway - I'll enjoy some days of being really disconnected from any wireless bugs (that I am aware off).

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The joys of Internet The Bolivarian dream

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/23/2013 - 23:54

Oh, the joys of the Internet.

A Mexican and an Argentinian listening to a Spanish cantaor singing Mexican music for an Argentinian audience, remembering a Costa Rican woman.

What?

Regina and me are finally back home in Mexico, after a month (me) and six weeks (her) of vacations in Argentina. And this week, in the city of Cosquín (Córdoba, Argentina), they celebrate most important Argentinian folkloric festival. The Cosquín Festival can be followed live on the TV Pública website.

Right now, while I finish writing a short article and Regina fights her way to learn some of the GNOME 3 tricks, we are following Cosquín. Among many great Argentinian folklorists, they invited a Spanish cantaor, David Palomar, who is remembering Chabela Vargas, a great singer, born in Costa Rica, but who became famous in Mexico, singing very heartfelt Mexican music, and deceased earlier this year.

Trivia: Q: What do Mexico, Argentina and Spain have in common (besides a language that can be almost-understood)? A: They all have a city called Córdoba.

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Becoming a teacher!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 17:29

For many years, I have aspired being a university teacher. I remember asking at different universities as early as ten years ago — But I didn't have the needed papers. And yes, I have been a "Licenciado en Ingeniería en Software" for one year already.

Anyway, I won't go into the details on why I didn't do this earlier on. But this time, I did get my act together in time, and by mid October, I contacted Juan Carreón, an enthusiastic teacher I met a long time ago as he helped a lot for the formation and cohesion of the (now defunct?) LIDSOL group (Laboratorio de Investigación en Software Libre, Free Software Research Laboratory), a group of very worthy students, mostly from the Engineering careers.

Juan Carreón had long offered me help in getting to the right people in Facultad de Ingeniería as soon as I had my formal requirements ready. I just didn't expect it to be so swift! Within two days of my initial mail, he contacted me back asking me to look at the subjects in Computing Engineering and choosing some I would be willing to teach — Yes, understanding that due to my time (as I'm already full-time employed in UNAM) would allow me to take only one group.

Rush of excitement, of course. I promptly looked at the program, and answered with a list of 12 subjects I would be confident to teach. Next day I was contacted by the Chief of Computing Engineering Department, offering me to dictate the Operating Systems course. A subject that has always motivated me, and towards which I feel confident. A fifth semester course (from 9 semesters in the career), with around 30 students in the classroom.

And I'm very happy with this! Yes, this will be my first formal university course experience (either as a student or a teacher), and I'm quite nervous on how this will turn out. But I'm already reading again my books on the subject, starting to structure a set of teaching notes, and... Lets see what comes next!

So, I will be teaching this course starting January 28, three times a week for 1.5hr, for a formal theric total of 72 hours. We shall see how this results six months from today! :-D

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Kissing metaphoto

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 13:04
Kissing metaphoto

In Desierto de los Leones, with (obviously!) Regina, October 2012.

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Here comes winter...

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 13:02
Here comes winter...

Six cats mish-mashed together as a single furry body? Must be that winter is coming!

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Here comes winter...

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 13:01
Here comes winter...

Six cats mish-mashed together as a single furry body? Must be that winter is coming!

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Married!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 11:47

So, yay! Title says it all!

On Saturday September 22, Regina and I got married in my parents' house, in Cuernavaca, Morelos.

We had a very very nice little party with our family and a small group of friends — Of course, due to the nature of our life, we could not forego inviting our family and friends in Argentina, as well as those in other parts of the world, so we set up a simple video stream so that our friends could follow along — And they did, with much greater success than what I expected!

So, besides those people present with us in Cuernavaca, we had people tuning in (at least to the degree I could get from the log files) from Argentina (Buenos Aires, Paraná, Formosa), Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

This next Saturday (September 29) we will have a second party, to which our friends in Mexico are invited, at home. And for the people from far away,, the stream will be available again — Expect at least one interesting surprise :)

PS- Visit also our wedding page, with some photos, video, and general information (Warning! Part of it is outdated by now)

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