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«Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento», the book: Finally!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 10/25/2011 - 19:25

Finally!

Last Friday, after two years worth of work, I finally got the first box of books for the Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento (Collaborative Knowledge Construction) project I worked on as a coordinator together with Alejandro Miranda (pooka), and together with a large group of 11 authors:

Translating over from the back cover text (and this is just a quick translation from me — It reads better in Spanish ;-) ):

What defines us as humans is our ability, on one side, to
create knowledge, and on the other, to share or communicate it with our neighbors. Both features have worked together over tens of thousands of years, and, working together, have led the knowledge to transcend the individual, avoiding the need to rediscovery or reinvention of is already known. Sharing knowledge is what has taken our species to the dominant role it occupies today.

But knowledge creation and sharing has seen a deep transformation in recent decades, thanks to the quick evolution of telecommunications, specially the massification of Internet and cellular telephony. We are transiting towards the so desired –and at the same time so feared– knowledge society.

In this book, eleven authors from very different disciplinary backgrounds and geographic origins ellaborate on how a hyper-connected world has modified the basic rules of interaction in areas as diverse as artistic creation, social organizations, computer code development, education or the productive sector.

This book is the result of a year worth of work for in the "Collaborative Construction of Knowledge" seminar, during which we
used the same new forms of knowledge production we have studied.

The videos of the sessions, electronic participations and the full contents of this book are available under a permisive license at
http://seminario.edusol.info/seco3/

We will soon have the book ready in IIEc's e-store (which is mostly meant for national requests). I am also uploading the book to the lulu.com self-publishing service, and we are working on a epub-like edition. Right now it is still not available, but it should be there in some days. I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, the full contents can be read online at http://seminario.edusol.info/seco3

Back with Ruby on Debian polemics

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/06/2011 - 09:38

Once again, a polemic regarding how to properly integrate the Ruby language and libraries with the Debian distribution has been ignited. Similar arguments were presented in November and December 2008 and September 2010 — And excuse me for just refering to my own blog, but there are links to some other posts from there... and there will surely be many others I just missed. There were even nice collaboration attempts (such as DebGem, announced in January 2009... But which apparently never stuck on, as it is still listed as in its public Beta period and lists only support for Debian 4.0 and Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10).

Some days ago, while I was on vacation, I received a mail from Lucas Nussbaum expressing the burnout he had been suffering from this situation. Some days after that, he posted a corresponding blog post - Giving up on Ruby packaging. The comments following his post are most interesting — The one comment I'd like to highlight (noting I skimmed a whole deal of them) is by Paul Brannan, one of the original RubyGems authors. Yes, possibly the design criteria for Gems included some mutually-conflicting goals, and they cover some of Debian's goals. Unfortunately, this conflicting criteria... Was resolved to the opposite way we would have wanted (specifically, that a sysadmin should be able to install software with the same tools he was already familiar with). And of course, there are deeper disagreements, which are rightly stemmed from different priorities: Debian (+derivatives) is meant to make user's and sysadmin's lifes simpler. Gems are meant to make developers' lifes simpler. And while all developers are some sort of users, and sysadminsthe reverse is (obviously) not so.

A developer maintaining several different codebases will surely suffer (well, this particular developer has surely suffered) if he has to maintain them all using coherent versions of system libraries. When a system is programmed, its developers want to use the greatest, latest tools to offer the best experience and functionality. And it's natural for libraries to evolve over time. However, any sysadmin will grind their teeth at the prospect of having many different versions of libraries, as the Gem model proposes. Why? Well, I was bitten by a minor example of it — Bug fixes do not get backported. Of course, if simple bugs are not backported, security and stability of the system as a whole suffers. Often, new software versions will not only add functionality, but improve on how things are done. Not only bugs get corrected, but we get better response times, better memory handling, etc.

It might sound harsh to say this, and even more, as a developer it feels I am talking against myself — But while development time should be minimized during the system design/implementation, once systems are in production, it should be used to allow for friendlier sysadmin relations.

I have to wear both hats at my real-life job. So, what is my take on this? Of course, blaming myself for choosing the wrong version is a no-go. When evaluating a library before using it in my projects, I try to look at its history and API-stability. APIs that change often speak about immature libraries which are still trying to get the right way to implement their functionality; just-started projects might be great and revolutionary, but they do not yet show any kind of long-term committment... And can lead (and have often led me) to painful rewrites when the Next Big Thing is reached.

As for the users: Even if your favorite language has the best and friendliest distribution method, users just do not care about what language was a particular piece of software implemented in. Users want to be able to install and uninstall with their system's usual tools. Directly using Gems, CPAN, PEAR and whatnot is just unnatural for users, however convenient they are for developers. Distributions offer a non-technical advantage in this regard as well: A human filter. As an example, as I write this there are 19392 Ruby Gems and 19092 Perl modules in CPAN (note that CPAN stores some older versions but discourages authors from keeping too many - So no, they are still very different in size). Debian has around 30,000 packages. Why is that? Because all Debian packages _must_ be human-generated, human-reviewed, human-submitted. This means, a person must think each packaged piece of code is worth packaging, is stable enough and provides value to users as it is, and is fit for being part of a stable release. I am not saying with this that 90% of CPAN and Gems are crap — I am saying that they are probably early implementations, to be installed, tested and improved by developers, and still not apt for general public use. Or maybe not interesting enough to be packaged as a service for the non-techie public at large.

Oh, and one last point: Ruby is not a new language anymore. It is a mature, powerful language with different implementations, every time more stable... But it is a language deeply affected by the (not so new anymore either) the appearance of Rails. Why do I say this? Because although the language is in no way tied to Web development, many of its strongest uses are Web-oriented. How does this affect the current discussion? Well, because many people argue that users are no longer needed to install the software. Web systems are installed by sysadmins and used via a Web browser, and sysadmins are expected be more skilled than casual users. Still, in Debian (and in other distributions, surely) we try to make sysadmin's lives simpler — I have (again, talking out of personal experience) installed several webapps (and system tools, and whatnot) for which I never followed any instructions besides aptitude install foo — Using different languages, frameworks, and so on. Can I troubleshoot their installs? Probably, as there is a common logic for how the distribution I have chosen and specialized in works. Can I find causes for bugs in them? Possibly, although there are some languages and frameworks I dare not touch. Can I get help on getting them out of a tight spot? Surely, as there is a central bug tracking system for my distribution — And one of the maintainer's tasks is to separate the problems related to the distribution (packaging, installing, simple user questions and misconceptions) to those derived from real bugs upstream.

Anyway — I am not saying that our way is the best way. No, by a long shot. Again, developers should have an easy, convenient way for installing whatever they want to play with. And to publish it without jumping through hoops. With this post, I'm only trying to express –again– why Debian works the way it does. And hope for better cooperation in the future.

And as for several comments of what I read in Lucas' post, I think that there is interest for this synergy among some of the most committed Ruby people.

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Copyright: Protecting who from whom?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 12/14/2010 - 13:58

As I'm not currently working on any suitable paper, I'll just post this to my blog so it does not completely slip off my radar ;-) Also, it might be interesting to my reader. Readers? Oh, there are two of you now? Good!

Yesterday, I learnt thanks to Beatriz Busaniche that a group of South American Free Culture activists launched number zero of a magazine that promises to be very interesting: Cultura RWX, cultura en modo lectura, escritura y acción (culture in reading, writing and action mode). Guys, best luck with this new project!

Anyway, reading it, I found this asseveration I want to keep at hand:

(…)cuando surge la industria musical aparecen los derechos de autor como forma de defensa de los productores musicales, específicamente los músicos. No tanto frente a los usuarios, porque hasta el “cassette” no existió posibilidad de copiar una obra musical. Era una defensa frente a las discográficas, que buscaban cerrar contratos muchas veces abusivos con los artistas.

— Música en Libertad: La industria musical frente al cambio de paradigma; Matías Lennie, adaptación: Sebastián Vazquez

Yes, yes, translating to English:

(…)when the musical industry was born, copyright appeared as a means of defense of the musical producers, specifically of the musicians. Not so much against the users, because up until the invention of the “cassette” there was no possibility to copy a musical creation. It was a defense against the discographic companies, which tried to close often abusive contracts with the artists.

Music in Freedom: Musical industry and the paradigm shift; Matías Lennie, adaptation: Sebastián Vázquez

I have argued (i.e. in here) in this same line regarding the birth of copyright itself — It was an arrangement that had to be made between writers and printers, back in the XVI/XVII centuries. Simple individuals were just unable to get anything of value out of the copying technology they had at hand.

Copyright was born in a time where reproduction required specialized equipment. Today, massive reproduction technology is a given for a good portion of the planet's population. Copyright now only defends big corporations — And will inevitably fade away as anachronic. Of course, it refuses to go without a fight... But it cannot win long-term. We cannot afford to allow it!

Thanks, Debian!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 08:00

This Monday, Debian celebrated its 17th birthday. Yay!

I was invited to celebrate the birthday at HacklabZAM, but could not make it due to the time (17:00-19:00, and I was just leaving work by 19:00), but still, had some beers with long-time geekish friends Iván Chavero, Rolando Cedillo, Manuel Rabade and Odín Mojica. Nice hanging around, good beer+pizza time, and explicit congratulations to Debian.

On the Debian front, Margarita Manterola, Maximiliano Curia, Valessio Brito and Raphael Geissert came up with a very fun Debian appreciation day page. It even included a (slight) hijacking of the bug tracking system's Web interface, showing happy fun balloons! Guys, thanks for a good laugh, and thanks for providing a vehicle for getting the users' thanks to the project!

All in all, that was a great reminder to what we have been repeating as a mantram throughout the last years: Lets keep Debian fun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter choice #3: The Roomba!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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World Naked Bike Ride 2010 — Mexico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 15:15

For the second time (First time was in 2008; I didn't join in 2009 as I travelled to Nicaragua on that date), I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride. The WNBR is a global effort, where people in ~150 cities all over the world go cycling nude on the streets of our towns, with varied demands, including:

  • Safe conditions for cyclists (mainly aimed at car drivers, at the society at large, but also requesting proper infrastructure measures from our respective governments)
  • Raising the consciousness that every individual has a bit of power to free us all from oil-produced pollution
  • Tolerance, acceptance of people who are not exactly like us
  • Lower the ecologic impact of humans against the world

I love my bike!

One of the things I most like about WNBR is its diversity. Not everybody goes for the same reasons. As people who read me often will know, I took part because I believe (and act accordingly!) that the bicycle is the best, most efficient vehicle in –by far– most of the situations we face day to day, but we need to raise awareness in everybody that the bicycle is just one more vehicle: On one side, we have the right to safely ride on the streets, like any other vehicle. On the other side, we must be responsible, safe drivers, just as we want car drivers to be.

Ok, and I will recognize it before anybody complains that I sound too idealistic: I took part of the WNBR because it is _tons_ of fun. This year, we were between 300 and 500 people (depending on whom you ask). Compared to 2008, I felt less tension, more integration, more respect within the group. Of course, it is only natural in the society I live in that most of the participants were men, but the proportion of women really tends to even out. Also, many more people joined fully or partially in the nude (as nudity is not required, it is just an invitation). There was a great display of creativity, people painted with all kinds of interesting phrases and designs, some really beautiful.

Oh, one more point, important to me: This is one of the best ways to show that we bikers are not athletes or anything like that. We were people ranging from very thin to quite fat, from very young to quite old. And that is even more striking when we show our whole equipment. If we can all bike around... So can you!

Some links, with obvious nudity warnings in case you are offended by looking at innocent butts and similar stuff:

As for the sad, stupid note: 19 cyclists were placed under arrest in Morelia, Michoacán because of faltas a la moral (trasgressions against morality), an ill-defined and often abused concept.

Also, by far, most of the comments I have read from people on the media, as well a most questions we had by reporters before or after the ride were either why are you going nude‽ (because that's the only way I'll get your attention!) or But many people were not nude! (nudity is not a requirement but only an option.

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I am going to DebConf 10!

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

Yay!

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

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

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

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

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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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E-voting and paper-based-voting - UNAM teaches us how to achieve the worst of all worlds

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/30/2009 - 22:06

As my Institute's sysadmin, I was appointed as the responsible for my Institute's certificate handling for today's voting session for the Universitary Council (Consejo Universitario).

UNAM, Mexico's largest University, is moving towards an e-voting platform. I talked about this with our (sole) candidate for the Council, and she told me this has been used a couple of times already - And, as expected, it has led to having to repeat voting sessions, due in part to e-voting's inherent lackings: It is impossible to act on any kind of impugnation. The only thing we have is an electronic vote trail, no way to recount or to make sure that all votes got in. Besides, we had a perfectly antinatural and inadequate identification system, which means voter's identity have no way to be trusted.

Besides, we still have all the traditional Universitary bureaucratic paper flow, which completely obscures any positive points this e-voting system might have had.

Before going any further, if you are interested: There is a so-called security audit certificate for this system. In Spanish, yes. Take a look at it if you understand the language and want to crack some laughs.

I will not make a detailed review of (what I could gather about) the setup. But to make things short: I had to go to the central administrative offices to get a CD-ROM with the monitoring station's SSL certificate. This certificate is tied to an IP address, so only one computer was able to be set up as a monitoring station. So far, so good.

But, what is the monitoring station's real role? You will probably laugh. The voting session (at my Institute - Each dependency can specify its own opening and closing times) was from 10:00 and until 18:00. We were instructed to place this computer at a public location, from where:

  • Shortly before 10:00, we had to check the booth's status was set to closed and that zero votes were received.
  • During the votation period, the computer would continuously display the number of received votes, refreshing the page twice a minute1
  • During the day, anybody could go to the computer and check the number of total votes received. Its main function is, I think, to show that no votes are substracted precisely when a person is staring at it.
  • Shortly before 18:00, we had to check the booth's status was still set to open, and wait until 18:00 to witness the booth is now closed.
  • Get the needed data from the system and hand it over to the proper bodies. I'll get back to this point later on.

So, what is strange here? That there is a tremendous apparatus providing supposed security to... Information that is completely worthless. Just protecting a number that is, for all purposes, public. Oh, and the opening and closing of the booth - Of course, the system could have flaws during the process, or inject spurious votes along the way, or flip-flop the votes cast whichever way. But, did I mention votes? So far I have not mentioned how people are supposed to vote.

Together with our last paycheck, we got a piece of paper with all of the needed information: A randomly generated, 10-character-long-with-mixed-case-and-symbols password, and the link to a web page2. This paper was folded, yes, but it was in no way secured - So, whoever wanted to have all of our passwords could just go through the bunch of papers and get them.

Now, contrasting to the strong perception of physical security surrounding the oh-so-important monitoring stations, how can a person vote? Oh, sure, just fire up your favorite browser and go to https://www.jornadaelectoral.unam.mx/, produce your student number if you are a student or your full RFC3, select via checkboxes4, click on "submit", and voilà, you have voted. From any location, from any machine.

Yes, the University's population is largely itinerant, many people will be voting from abroad and all. It is good to give them a voice. But... At what price? Lets see... The security audit mentions the system is free from any malicious routine that can automatically alter the results and it has the minimum needed validations against spurious data injections from the most common Web browsers. However, if I am interested in modifying the results... I could put a trojan in a Faculty's laboratories, which modifies the votes sent by their users (students vote as well). Yes, I'd have to know how the system works, but lets accept security through obscurity does not work, and that this is a well-known system (as it has been used for over 3 years and is at version 3.5). PHP-based, for further points. Oh, and (if I recall correctly) a voter does not even get feedback as for which formula did he vote for, so no way of knowing if the computer really sent the information I requested. And given the low security for the password handling, I would not bet on it being worth much. Besides, this system was partly established to allow people voting from abroad - as long as they picked up their March 10 paycheck. That excludes anybody who has spent over three weeks away!

Many other things can be said. Last detail: e-voting's main selling point is that the results are known instantaneously, and (if no paper trail exists) no tedious re-counting is ever done, right?

Meet universitary bureaucracy. Technology changes, but processes don't. The Local Electoral Surveillance Commission has the responsability to enter once again the system after the vote has finished, and ask the server for the preliminary results. This consists of a tarball with the tally sheet (from the voters, who voted and who didn't), the total votes for each formula, and... one more file I don't remember. They also have to generate the signed legal documents where they testify to the received information. And then, ahem, they have to burn those files5 onto a CD-ROM, print them, and physically take them to the central administrative offices. Yes, take something from the server and get it to the server. For us it is not terrible (1.5Km can be readily done), but this same procedure must be done by people in other cities where there are University campii holding elections. How Nice!

Anyway... Worst of both worlds. The inefficacies of a paper-based ellection, together with the unaccountability of an e-voting ellection, sprinkled with fake sense of security here and there.

Bah.

  • 1. Except that it didn't. I guess they didn't stress-test the server, so every couple of minutes it returned a connection error. Of course, the page would no longer self-update. And after noticing that, I (and nobody else but me) had to go and give the password and certificate for the system to continue to operate.
  • 2. which is http://www.dgae-siae.unam.mx/ - The Schooling Administration General Direction (DGAE), an universitary body which has no relation with electoral issues. DGAE made available a poster detailing how to vote... But, again, lets ignore that fact for now
  • 3. A nationwide ID number, largely derived from name and birth date data - Both numbers are often widely known, they cannot be considered private in any way.
  • 4. Oh, for goodness sake... The "ballot" has 1..n options, and each has a checkbox, not a radio button. That means, you can select multiple options, which is of course invalid. Why? Because the electoral rules indicate that selecting more than one option in a ballot makes the ballot invalid, and thus, a way for making it invalid must be provided. Isn't logic beautiful?!
  • 5. Want some more insight on what needs to be done? Take a look at the instructions. Don't forget paying attention to the lexicon used - We are still asked to count the votes, an impossible feat given the vote is 100% system-based - Quote: Los miembros de la CLVE realizarán, con base en el reporte del sistema, el cómputo de los votos depositados en la urna a favor de cada una de las fórmulas, declarando nulos los votos que procedan.
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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.

How active are your local {Linux,Free Software} User Groups?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 09:15

Ted T'so wonders about the LUGs over the world, seeking to answer a conversation he recently had at the Linux Foundation. He quotes a blog posting in Lenovo, “Local User Groups - gone the way of the dinosaur?”. I think this is an interesting point to gather input from others.

In Mexico City, we did have a strong LUG several years ago, holding not-very-regular-but-good-quality-wise meetings, roughly monthly, at Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares. I was active there ~1996-2001.
By 2001, however, the group stopped acting as one - Maybe one of the main factors is that we had a very strong, unquestionable group leader and cohesion factor (Miguel), who worked at Nucleares and regularly got said auditorium. Once Miguel left to form Ximian, the group slowly disgregated.

In one of the last LUG meetings, we started working towards the National Free Software Conference (CONSOL)... Nowadays, in Mexico (as a country) we have several conferences around the year, although I'd be hard-pressed to say whether any of them really fills the needs of a LUG (and my answer would probably be negative).

Now, there are several smaller groups that have popped up in the void left by the Mexico City LUG - Mainly LUGs local to universities or faculties... And yes, a 25-million-people city is too large to have a single, functional LUG - Just the geographical size of the thing is too daunting. Besides, we are too many people, even though few of us are contributing any real work. But I also recognize that a local *users* group should care about making the users better, before focusing on making the world a better place ;-)

Anyway... My intention with this post, besides writing what I see, is to ask to other people that read me (I know this blog is syndicated at Planeta Linux Mexico, maybe even people reading in other Latin American countries through Planeta EDUSOL) to write what they see at their local communities. To make this a bit more useful, please leave a comment (in English, if possible) at this blog, so this can be used as a summary for Ted's request as well.

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