Mexico

Narrow road going South

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/08/2012 - 10:48
Narrow road going South

Between Veracruz and Alvarado

Starting the day early: Leaving Veracruz Southwards

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/08/2012 - 10:48
Starting the day early: Leaving Veracruz Southwards

Cycling: Atzcapozalco's cycle path; @p00k4 sends me rail-riding!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 18:16

Yesterday I went to FES Iztacala, the faculty where I worked between 1999 and 2003. It's nice to go visit some good friends (even if to talk for work issues). It is somewhat far from my usual roaming area (~25Km straight to the North), so I cannot do it as often as I'd like. But anyway - I had to be at work early in the morning, but leaving from here a bit early for lunchtime, and leaving home at ~14:30, I managed to arrive to Iztacala in ~75 minutes. Sustained cycling for 20 Km/h, even counting stops at traffic lights on the way, yay!

Anyway, had a productive and fun evening there, but around 18:00 I decided to head back before night got me — Specially for the first part of the way, as I'm not familiar with Atzcapozalco. Alejandro suggested me to go by the recently (some months ago) opened cycle path that covers 4Km and almost exactly crosses the delegation (each of the 16 constitutive parts of Distrito Federal, where an important part of Mexico City is located).

The cycle path is a good initiative... But I must say, I'm very very glad I took it still with good daylight. As well as the Recreative cyclepath that goes to the South, until the border of Morelos state, this one was built over abandoned rail tracks. Good use for a vacant and useless public space — Rail tracks which lay unclaimed in the city are uncomfortable to walk, and useless for anything else, so they basically mean a useless 2m-wide strip of common grounds. So, I welcome any initiatives that make it into a useful space again! And two meters are just enough for a comfortable cycling path - Yes, which will surely be shared with pedestrians, and sometimes becomes uncomfortable. But lets try it!

However... When rail tracks are decomissioned and cycle paths built over them... the metal should be dismounted! Not only because of economic concerns (good metal used for rail tracks is much more expensive and useful than asphalt), but because if it stays there, it just becomes a danger. Specially, as is the case, if the asphalt is just deep enough to sometimes cover the tracks — And sometimes not.

Had I known, I would have taken several photographs of important mistakes in the rail layout. I know I was very close to having an accident at least once (this means, I lost balance and miraclously managed to slow down from ~15Km/h by running with the bike between my legs!), and got in uncomfortable situations several more times. For a good portion of the track, there is a train track running at about ⅔ of its width, so I had to constantly ring the bell or shout whenever I saw pedestrians — As changing from side to side to route around them would put both them and me in danger. Towards the Southern part of the cycle path, as it is a much more active industrial area, there are many places where multiple tracks cross each other — under the thin asphalt, sometimes completely unpaved. In one of those points I even decided to step down of the bike and make ~20m walking.

This cycle path seems like it was done in a great hurry to present a successful project to the Politicians in Charge, without much thought on what it requires to be really a good project. It provides, yes, a very useful and good mobility solution for cyclists in the North-West. But it is too dangerous... And I am not sure whether I'd take it again. Probably not.

So, all in all...

  • Thanks to the Atzcapozalco authorities who thought of the cyclists and claimed back unused public space for us all to enjoy!
  • The job done was too hasty. Valuable money (selling the tracks) was lost by burying it under asphalt. But it was not enough asphalt — It needs attention before somebody gets hurt (or, before more people — I'd be surprised if nobody had yet felt adrenaline over there)
  • I hope the entrant city government takes the self-powered vehicle promotion more seriously than the outgoing one — Which has done great advances (such as the Ecobici program), but is still far from reaching its promises... As always, I know.
  • I managed to get back home alive and complete, yay!
  • Of course, the cycle path has been mapped into OpenStreetMap. My SportsTracker tracks are also there, but they require Flash (ugh): the way to Iztacala and the way back.

Oh, and lastly: Some might be surprised I'm using bits of Twitterspeak here. But well, I now have presence a bot repeating my posts over there, so I'd better get Alejandro to read this using the proper channels ;-)

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To CURP or not to CURP

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 12:58
To CURP or not to CURP

CURP: Clave Única del Registro Poblacional, or Unique Population Registry Code. This is a (hopefully) unique, 18 character long, string identifying each Mexican - I won't get into the technicalities, but serve yourselves.

By following such a convoluted scheme, the authorities should have ensured a biunivocal relation between each person and their CURP number. Well, at some point, due to a bureaucratical mishap completely outside my hands (my patron registered me with the wrong birth date, as you can see in the page at the bottom), I got two CURPs - And the procedure to fix it was far from trivial.

Last Sunday, I entered the Consulta CURP system to print a copy of the official document. Much to my surprise... It answered that I was not registered!

A couple of minutes later, I tried again, and succeeded. But I could not refrain from printing my Certificate of non-registration.

I guess their system follows a strong-but-stupid scheme such as:

  1. begin {
  2. db = connect_to_database
  3. curp = find_curp_for_person(query)
  4. generate_document(curp)
  5. } rescue {
  6. generate_non_reg_certificate(query)
  7. }

So, right, if a user submits a query during the system maintenance window (after all, it was Sunday after 23:00), the system will fail to connect to the database (or whatever), raise an exception, trap it, and... Well, you no longer exist, thanks for playing!

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Turning failure into apparent success, and carrying on: e-voting in Jalisco

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 18:02

I will sound monothematic, but I have been devoting quite a bit of work to this topic lately: Trying to stop the advance of e-voting in Mexico, Latin America and the world.

Why trying to stop it? Isn't technology supposed to help us, to get trustable processes? Yes, it's supposed to... but it just cannot achieve it, no matter how hard it is tried — I won't get into explanations in this blog post, but there is plenty of information. Feel free to ask me for further details.

Anyway — Yesterday (Sunday, 2012-06-17) was the fifth simulated voting that will lead to the first wide-scale deployment of electronic voting booths in my country: About 10% of the population of the state of Jalisco (that means, ~500,000 people) will cast their votes on July 1st electronically.

This particular case illustrates how simulated votings can be used to forge a lie: Pounce Consulting, the company that won the e-voting project for IEPC (Jalisco's voting authority), delivered their booths over 40 days late, just before the deadline for the project to be canceled. Oh, and by the way, it's the same company that just failed to deliver on time for another planned local authority (10% of the booths in the Federal District, where I live, where fortunately 100% of the votes will be cast on traditional, auditable and cheap paper).

After this delay, five voting simulations were programmed, to get the local population acquinted with them. The first ones just failed to get the population's interest and had close to 40% failure rates (mainly regarding transmission). Several other "minor details" were reported, including mechanical details that allowed subsequent voters to see the vote of who had just left.

Anyway, making long story short: The fifth and last simulation was held yesterday. Officially, it was finally successful (about time). As these booths include the "facilities" to communicate the results via the cellular network, but the populations where they are to be deployed do not yet have cellular coverage, 10% of the booths will have to be carried back to the Districtal Header (that can be a ~10hr trip) to be counted. Also, in all places, traditional paper stationery and paraphernalia will be printed just in case it is needed (and when will they now? When half of the votes are cast and lost?)

Anyway... e-voting is still in its first stage in Mexico. Right now, I'm sure, no attempts to rig the election will be made (centrally). But every effort will be made (as it has been made) to dismiss the obviously big and nontrivial ways it has failed and will fail, and any problems will be labeled as "minor". And probably by 2018 we will be facing many more states (even nationwide) deployments.

But propaganda fails to see the obvious: E-voting is more expensive, more complicated, leads to more possible failure states. E-voting should not be deployed in large-scale (i.e. more than a couple of hundred voters) elections. Electronic voting is insecure, violates secrecy, allows for fraud. No matter how many locks are put into it.

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e-voting: Bad when it's near, worse when it's far.

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/22/2012 - 10:18

Note: All of the information linked to from this post is in Spanish and related to Mexico… Part of it will be translatable via automated means, some will not. Sorry, that's what I have, and it's too much text to invest the effort to hand-translate

I have been following the development of the different e-vote modalities in Mexico for several years already, although I have only managed to do so methodically in the last half year or so. If you are interested in my line of reasoning as to why I completely oppose e-voting, you can look at the short article I published in 2010 or the slightly longer and more updated version published in our book in 2011.

Currently, in Mexico there are two different venues of e-vote that are being pushed: Bad and worse. The bad one will be carried out for about 10% of the population of the state of Jalisco and somewhat less for the state of Coahuila (Distrito Federal was also to be in this list, but the contract was cancelled due to the provider company delivering booths with too many problems and unable to deliver in the due time). The worse one is, fortunately, likely to have the least impact. Why? Because it regards votes cast by Distrito Federal residents (the capital entity, where part of Mexico City is located) living abroad. And it will have less impact because of the amount of the population registered for it: We are about 9 million residents in DF, and in the last election (first time IIRC there was the right to vote from abroad) there were only about 10,000 people registered for casting a (enveloped and sent by post) vote. Even if this year we the campaign for this was better (and I'm not yet sure about it), the number of voters will not be enough to make a dent on the results.

I'm not going into details as to why it is bad in this post — I requested information from the DF Electoral Institute (IEDF) with academic interest, to try to find more information about it, and I want to share my results with you — and, of course, to request for your input on how to continue with this. On May 3rd, I sent the following request (this I am translating to English :) You can look at the receipt for the request for the original redaction) to the official contact address, oficinadeinformacionpublica@iedf.org.mx:

  • What company was hired to develop the system that will be used to receive the votes from Distrito Federal citizens residing abroad that have decided to use the Electronic Voting over Internet procedure ("Vota chilango")?
  • What is the technical information for said system? That is, which technological basis was it developed on? Which operating base (hardware) will it be deployed on?
  • How many revisions or security audits has the developed system ben exposed to? Which are the entities in charge of doing them? What has been their evaluation?

Of course, I wasn't very optimistic when receiving this information. Still, I have to share my results: My information request was largely denied:

(…)
III. The divulgation of this information harms the interest it protects
Given that, were it to be divulged it would affect the informatic security of the refered system. Anyway, we have to point out that said systems have enough measures and security provisions, so that the citizen can emit his vote in a universal, free, secret and direct way.
IV. The damage that can be produced by making this information public is larger than the public interest to know it
This is so because making this information public puts at risk the correct development of the Internet-based voting, because were the technical, purpose-specific information be made public, it could be misused to carry out informatic attacks.
It is also important to mention that a confidentiality agreement was signed with the company that developed said systems.
(…)
VI. The time for the information to be reserved
It will be seven years starting at the present resolution, this information will be made public when the reserve period is over or when the target is reached, except for the confidemtial information that it could contain. (…)

In case some other person is interested in following this information, the other two points were answered, and I'll try to get some relevant information from it:

  • The company that provided the Internet-based voting solution was SCYTL SECURE INTERNET VOTING, S.A.
  • The only entity in charge of conducting a security revision/audit is Telefónica Ingeniería de Seguridad de México S.A. de C.V.. The audit is still in process, and thus it is not yet possible to give any results from it.

So, I don't have any real conclusions yet. I'm just reporting how work is unfolding.

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday May 23) I'll give a talk on the "e-voting in Mexico 2012" subject in Congreso Internacional de Software Libre in Zacatecas, Mexico. I'll talk on the situation on this and the other topics I have been able to work on.

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Our ride to Cd. Neza

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:33
Our ride to Cd. Neza

54Km. Not a very fast pace, mainly because we were going between people for long stretches of time. Very interesting trip. Further details of the workout (Flash required) in my SportsTracker.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This last image gives us a bit of perspective on the size of this beast: Each of the little squares is a full-size football field. There are 76 of them. We entered by the road more or less in the middle and reached near its North-East limt, then back. Didn't even look at the Western part — but it was surely more of the same unbelievable nothingness.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This photo shows the soil. Most of it was just like this: Dry compact dirt. In some parts, darker sections, even wet bits (where I guess part of the wetness is still from the decomposing garbage underneath) and patches of grass-like weeds here and there.

Entering the ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Entering the ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This photo is the entrance to the park, crossing over the (open) main sewage system. And yes, the smell does not fool you into thinking any other thing.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This image shows most of what there is to see inside: Huge spaces of dry dirt lined with football goals. Surreal, huge, impressing

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This image shows most of what there is to see inside: Huge spaces of dry dirt lined with football goals. Surreal, huge, impressing

El Coyote

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
El Coyote

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl's main symbol: The coyote. Very small, in front of it, you can see a state of Aztec Emperor Nezahualcóyotl — And many public transport minivans, omnipresent in Neza..

El Coyote

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
El Coyote

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl's main symbol: The coyote. Very small, in front of it, you can see a state of Aztec Emperor Nezahualcóyotl.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

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