DrupalCamp starting in 5... 4... 3... 2... ( → #DrupalCampMX )

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 04/23/2014 - 09:26

Ok, so the day has come: Today begins the much awaited Drupal Camp Mexico City, yay!

For those that cannot make it to Mexico City, I understand understood1 we would have live streaming of at least one of the rooms, but anyway, talks will be recorded, and will be put online later on.

As for the talks schedule, here you have it. Yes, today my workmate and I will be giving a simple introduction to having a useful basic Drupal install. Today is the tutorials / workshops / BoF / hackathon day, and Thursday and Friday will be the more traditional talks days. Several of the talks on Thursday are grouped under the SymfonyDay track and will refer to the framework that serves as a base for Drupal 8.

Anyway, for the Tweetheads among the readers of this post, I understand information will flow under the #DrupalCampMX tag.

  • 1. I cannot find the link to the information, but it might appear later on... /mehopes
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Mozilla: So our communitary echobox *does* resound with social issues

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 20:16

I woke up to the news that, after a very short tenure, Brendan Eich steps down as the Mozilla CEO.

Why? Because of the community outcry. Because some years ago, Eich pubilcly supported (and donated funds) the ban of any kind of marriages in California that were not between a man and a woman. The world has advanced enormously in this regard in the last years/decades, and so many individuals and organizations opposed and announced they would boycott Mozilla that either him or Mozilla could not stand the pressure anymore.

So, of course, it's sad the person had to resign. Many people talked about freedom of speech, freedom of harbouring his own personal opinion — But when it comes to the rights of minorities, particularly of minorities that have suffered such hard prejudice and abuse as the gay, lesbian and all the other non-orthodox sexual- and gender- orientations, righting a wrong is much more important than preserving an individual's freedom of opinion. Besides, it's not just thinking or talking about something — The concrete proposition Eich supported (and eventually made him resign) is about bringing the life of thousands of people to a hellish state of uncertainty, and going back to not having a way for the society to legally recognize their way of being, their love, their lifes.

But anyway — What prompts me into writing this is that, once again, the Free Software (and related denominations) community has shown that a set of core values, seemingly shared by a very large amount of our own people with no coordination or correlation with what conforms us as a community (and thus, being emergent traits), are strong enough to create a critical mass, to achieve cohesion. And that ours is not just a technical community of people writing software at all layers of the stack, but –first and foremost– is a group of social activists, committed to making the world better.

I will quote from Matthew Garrett's post on this topic, clearly more contundent and thorough that what I'm trying to come up with:

The Mozilla Manifesto discusses individual liberty in the context of use of the internet, not in a wider social context. Brendan's appointment was very much in line with the explicit aims of both the Foundation and the Corporation - whatever his views on marriage equality, nobody has seriously argued about his commitment to improving internet freedom. So, from that perspective, he should have been a fine choice.

But that ignores the effect on the wider community. People don't attach themselves to communities merely because of explicitly stated goals - they do so because they feel that the community is aligned with their overall aims. The Mozilla community is one of the most diverse in free software, at least in part because Mozilla's stated goals and behaviour are fairly inspirational. People who identify themselves with other movements backing individual liberties are likely to identify with Mozilla. So, unsurprisingly, there's a large number of socially progressive individuals (LGBT or otherwise) in the Mozilla community, both inside and outside the Corporation.

A CEO who's donated money to strip rights from a set of humans will not be trusted by many who believe that all humans should have those rights. It's not just limited to individuals directly affected by his actions - if someone's shown that they're willing to strip rights from another minority for political or religious reasons, what's to stop them attempting to do the same to you? Even if you personally feel safe, do you trust someone who's willing to do that to your friends? In a community that's made up of many who are either LGBT or identify themselves as allies, that loss of trust is inevitably going to cause community discomfort.

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DrupalCamp Mexico City: April 23-25

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 08:30

We are organizing a DrupalCamp in Mexico City!

DrupalCamp Mexico City logo

As a Drupal user, I have so far attended two DrupalCamps (one in Guadalajara, Mexico, and one in Guatemala, Guatemala). They are –as Free Software conferences usually are– great, informal settings where many like-minded users and developers meet and exchange all kinds of contacts, information, and have a good time.

Torre de Ingeniería

Torre de Ingeniería, UNAM

This year, I am a (minor) part of the organizing team. DrupalCamp will be held in Torre de Ingeniería, UNAM — Just by Facultad de Ingeniería, where I teach. A modern, beautiful building in Ciudad Universitaria.

Talks, tracks

So, who is this for? You can go look at the accepted sessions, you will find there is a lot of ground. Starting from the very introduction to how Drupal is structured and some tips on how to work with it (delivered by yours truly), through workflows for specific needs, to strong development-oriented talks. The talks are structured along four tracks: "Training", "Theming", "Development", "Business" and "SymfonyDay".

"SymfonyDay"? Yes.

Drupal is a fast-evolving Free Software project. Most users are currently using versions 6 and 7, which are as different between each other as day and night... But the upcoming Drupal 8 brings even greater changes. One of the most interesting changes I can see is that Drupal will now be based on a full MVC framework, Symfony. One of the days of our DrupalCamp will be devoted to Symfony (dubbed the Symfony Day).

...And... Again, just look at the list of talks. You will find a great amount of speakers interested in coming here. Not just from Mexico City. Not just from Mexico. Not just from Latin America. I must say I am personally impressed.


Of course, as with any volunteer-run conferences: We are still looking for sponsors. We believe being a DrupalCamp sponsor will greatly increase your brand visibility in the community you want to work with. There are still a lot of expenses to cover to make this into all that we want. And surely, you want to be a part of this great project. There are many sponsor levels — Surely you can be part of it!

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Getting rid of rodents

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 12:28

So a good friend of mine talked about something in the debian-private mailing list. And we should not disclose that something outside such a sensible space without his approval.

But Jakub is right. Once the discussion goes over to only messages talking about non-private stuff, the discussion should be moved to a non-private area. After all, we will not hide problems yada yada, right?

So, not knowing where in the Debian lists this should go to, it will land on my blog, reformatting mail to make sense in this media:

Luca Filipozzi dijo [Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 03:36:49PM +0000]:

Or don't use a mouse. When I started getting shoulder strain from using a mouse too much, I switched to an Adesso touchpad keyboard and was very happy with the positive outcome. I'm a touch (that's punny) less efficient with the touchpad compared to a mouse, but the lack of permanent injury and ongoing pain is worth it.

Right. I also have this keyboard (same brand even, different model). The keyboard is not that good (keys are not as smooth as in my previous, stock-Dell keyboard), but not having to move my right hand just to feed the rodent has made my back way way happier. I even feel better using a trackpad than a mouse (mabye because I use too much my netbook?).

Luca, just out of curiosity: Did you ever manage to recognize the keyboard under the Synaptics driver, or to get it running under ChordMiddle or Emulate3Buttons? I had to fall to a ugly hack, mapping the "XF86Search" key to the middle button by telling my window manager (i3) to "bindsym X86Search exec xdotool click 2".

[ this can be declassified at any time ]

my contributions to this thread too...

my contribution unclassified, also

My classifications remain contributed. Do as you will with my bits of this message.

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Trying to get Blender to run in the CuBox-i (armhf): Help debugging Python!

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 03/15/2014 - 22:10

As I posted some weeks ago, I have been playing with my CuBox-i4Pro, a gorgeous little ARM machine by SolidRun, built around an iMX6 system-on-a-chip.

My first stabs at using it resulted in my previous post on how to get a base, almost-clean Debian distribution to run (Almost? Yes, the kernel requires some patches not yet accepted upstream, so I'm still running with a patched 3.0.35-8 kernel). After writing this step by step instructions, I followed them and built images ready to dd to a SD card and start running (available at my people.debian.org space.

Now, what to do with this little machine? My version is by no means a limited box: 4 ARM cores, 2GB RAM make a quite decent box. In my case, this little machine will most likely be a home storage server with little innovation. However, the little guy is a power server, at only 3W consumption. I wanted to test its capabilities to do some number crunching and aid some of my friends — The obvious candidate is building a Blender render farm. Right, the machines might be quite underpowered, but they are cheap (and look gorgeous!), so at least it's worth playing a bit!

Just as a data point, running on an old hard disk (and not on my very slow SD card), the little machine was able to compile the Blender sources into a Debian package in 89m13.537s, that is, 5353 seconds. According to the Debian build logs (yes, for a different version, I tried with the version in Wheezy and in a clean Wheezy system), the time it took to build on some other architectures' build daemons was 1886s on i386, 1098s on PowerPC, 2003s on AMD64, 11513s on MIPS and 27721 on ARMHF. That means, my little machine is quite slower than desktop systems, but not unbearably so.

But sadly, I have hit a wall, and have been unable to do any further progress. Blender segfaults at startup under the Debian armhf architecture. I have submitted bug report #739194 about this, but have got no replies to it yet. I did get the great help from my friends in the OFTC #debian-arm channel, but they could only help up to a given point. It seems the problem lies in the Python interpreter in armhf, not in Blender itself... But I cannot get much further either. I'm sending this as a blog post to try to get more eyeballs on my problem — How selfish, right? :-)

So, slightly going over the bug report, blender just dies at startup:

  1. $ blender -b -noaudio
  2. Segmentation fault

After being told that strace is of little help when debugging this kind of issues, I went via gdb. A full backtrace pointed to what feels like the right error point:

  1. (gdb) bt full
  2. #0 0x2acd8cce in PyErr_SetObject ()
  3. from /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libpython3.3m.so.1.0
  4. No symbol table info available.
  5. #1 0x2acd8c9a in PyErr_Format ()
  6. from /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libpython3.3m.so.1.0
  7. No symbol table info available.
  8. #2 0x2ac8262c in PyType_Ready ()
  9. from /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libpython3.3m.so.1.0
  10. No symbol table info available.
  11. #3 0x2ac55052 in _PyExc_Init ()
  12. from /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libpython3.3m.so.1.0
  13. No symbol table info available.
  14. #4 0x2ace95e2 in _Py_InitializeEx_Private ()
  15. from /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libpython3.3m.so.1.0
  16. No symbol table info available.
  17. #5 0x00697898 in BPY_python_start (argc=3, argv=0x7efff8d4)
  18. at /build/blender-dPxPUD/blender-2.69/source/blender/python/intern/bpy_interface.c:274
  19. py_tstate = 0x0
  20. py_path_bundle = 0x0
  21. program_path_wchar = L"/usr/bin/blender", '\000' <repeats 1007 times>
  22. #6 0x0044a1ca in WM_init (C=C@entry=0x1d83220, argc=argc@entry=3,
  23. argv=argv@entry=0x7efff8d4)
  24. at /build/blender-dPxPUD/blender-2.69/source/blender/windowmanager/intern/wm_init_exit.c:176
  25. No locals.
  26. #7 0x0042e4de in main (argc=3, argv=0x7efff8d4)
  27. at /build/blender-dPxPUD/blender-2.69/source/creator/creator.c:1597
  28. C = 0x1d83220
  29. syshandle = 0x1d8a338
  30. ba = 0x1d8a840
  31. (gdb)

I'm not pasting here the full bug history (go to the bug report for the full information!), but it does point me to this being a problem in Python-land: It points to something not found at line 59 of Python/errors.c. And what I understand from that line is that some kind of unknown exception is thrown, and the Python interpreter does not now what to do with it. The check done at line 59 is the if (exception != NULL ** ....:

  1. void
  2. PyErr_SetObject(PyObject *exception, PyObject *value)
  3. {
  4. PyThreadState *tstate = PyThreadState_GET();
  5. PyObject *exc_value;
  6. PyObject *tb = NULL;
  8. if (exception != NULL &&
  9. !PyExceptionClass_Check(exception)) {
  10. PyErr_Format(PyExc_SystemError,
  11. "exception %R not a BaseException subclass",
  12. exception);
  13. return;
  14. }

So... Dear lazyweb: Any pointers on where to go on from here?


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Pushing keyring updates. Let us bury your old 1024D key!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/03/2014 - 13:09

I have just pushed our pseudo-monthly batch of keyring updates to Debian. I am happy to inform you that, while the situation described in Clint Adams' interesting assessment of the state of the Debian keyring (and the quite constructive conversation that followed) still holds, and we still have way too many weak (1024D) keys in the Debian keyring, we got a noticeable effect as a result of said thread: 20 key upgrade requests in somewhat over a one week period! (mostly from DDs, with two from DMs IIRC).

So, for any DD or DM reading this and not following the debian-project list where this thread took place:

As keyring maintainers, we no longer consider 1024D keys to be trustable. We are not yet mass-removing them, because we don't want to hamper the project's work, but we definitively will start being more aggressively deprecating their use. 1024D keys should be seen as brute-force vulnerable nowadays. Please do migrate away from them into stronger keys (4096R recommended) as soon as possible.

If you have a key with not-so-many active DD signatures (with not-so-many ≥ 2) waiting to get it more signed, stop waiting and request the key replacement.

If you do not yet have a 4096R key, create a new one as soon as possible and get some signatures on it. Once ≥2 DDs have signed it, please request us to replace your old key. If you cannot get to meet two DDs in person, please talk to us and we will find out what to do.

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Like a Lord and Lady, with my dearest passions...

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 02/15/2014 - 11:03
Like a Lord and Lady, with my dearest passions...

For those of you who didn't yet know it: My mother is a painter. A serious, professional, respected painter. But she sometimes goes to the funny side as well — Of course, with all due professionalism!

So, she gave us this great gift: She took one of our pictures from DebConf12 (from the "Conference Dinner" night), and painted it. Real size even!

So, next time you come to our house, even if we are not around to greet you, we will be glad to welcome you to the Residence!

( categories: )


Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 02/02/2014 - 11:44

Somewhere back in August or September, I pre-ordered a CuBox-i — A nicely finished, completely hackable, and reasonably powerful ARM system, nicely packaged and meant to be used to hack on. A sweet deal!

There are four models (you can see the different models' specs here) — I went for the top one, and bought a CuBox-i4Pro. That means, I have a US$130 nice little box, with 4 ARM7 cores, 2GB RAM, WiFi, and... well, all of its basic goodies and features. For some more details, look at the CuBox-i block diagram.

I got it delivered by early January, and (with no real ARM experience on my side) I finally got to a point where I can, I believe, contribute something to its adoption/usage: How to get a basic Debian system installed and running in it.

The ARM world is quite different to the x86 one: Compatibility is much harder, the computing platform does not self-describe properly, and a kernel must first understand how a specific subarchitecture is before being able to boot on it. Somewhere in the CuBox forums (or was it the IRC channel?) I learnt that the upstream Linux kernel does not yet boot on the i.MX6 chip (although support is rumored to be merged for the 3.14 release), so I am using both a kernel and an uBoot bootloader not built for (or by) Debian people. Besides that, the result I will describe is a kosher Debian install. Yes, I know that my orthodox friends and family will say that 99% kosher is taref... But remember I'm never ever that dogmatic. (yeah, right!)

[update]: Read on if you want to learn the process. If you just want to get the image and start playing with your box, you can go ahead and download it from my people.debian.org space.

Note that there is a prebuilt image you can run if you are so inclined: In the CuBox-i forums and wiki, you will find links to a pre-installed Debian image you can use... But I cannot advise to do so. First, it is IMO quite bloated (you need a 4GB card for a very basic Debian install? Seriously?) Second, it has a whole desktop environment (LXDE, if I recall correctly) and a whole set of packages I will probably not use in this little box. Third, there is a preinstalled user, and that's a no-no (user: debian, password: debian). But, most importantly, fourth: It is a nightly build of the Testing (Jessie) suite... Built back in December. So no, as a Debian Developer, it's not something we should recommend our users to run!

So, in the end and after quite a bit of frustration due to my lack of knowledge, here goes the list of steps I followed:

Using the CuBox
On the i2 and i4 models, you can use it either with a USB keyboard and a HDMI monitor, or by a serial consoles (smaller models do not have a serial console). I don't have a HDMI monitor handy (only a projector), so I prefer to use the serial terminal. Important details to avoid frustration: The USB keyboard has to be connected to the lower USB port, or it will be ignored during the boot process. And make sure your serial terminal is configured not to use hardware flow control. Minicom is configured by default to use hardware flow control, so it was not sending any characters to the CuBox. ^A-O gets you to the Minicom configuration, select Serial port setup, and disable it.
Set up the SD card
I created a 2GB partition, but much less can suffice; I'd leave it at least to 1GB to do the base install, although it can be less once the system is set up (more on this later). Partition and format using your usual tools (fdisk+mke2fs, or gparted, or whatever suits your style).
Install the bootloader
I followed up the instructions on this CuBox-i forums thread to get the SPL and uBoot bootloader running. In short, from this Google Drive folder, download the SPL-U-Boot.img.xz file, uncompress it (xz --decompress SPL-U-Boot.img.xz), and write it to the SD card just after the partition map: As root,
# dd if=SPL-U-Boot.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=1024 seek=1 skip=1.
Actually, to be honest: As I wanted something basic to be able to debug from, I downloaded (from the same Google Drive) the busybox.img.gz file. That's a bit easier to install from: xz --decompress busybox.img.xz, and just dump it into the SD from the beginning (as it does already include a partition table):
# dd if=busybox.img of=/dev/mmcblk0
This card is already bootable and minimal, and allows to debug some bits from the CuBox-i itself (as we will see shortly).
After this step, I created a second partition, as I said earlier. So, my mmcblk0p1 partition holds Busybox, and the second will hold Debian. We are still working from the x86 system, so we mount the SD card in /media/mmcblk0p2
Installing the base system
Without debian-installer to do the heavy lifting, I went for debootstrap. As I ran it from my PC, debootstrap's role will be for this first stage only to download and do a very initial pre-unpacking of the files: Bootstrapping a foreign architecture implies, right, using the --foreign switch:
debootstrap --foreign --arch=armhf wheezy /media/mmcblk0p2 http://http.debian.net/debian
You can add some packages you often use by specifying --include=foo,bar,baz
So, take note notes: This board is capable of running the armhf architecture (HF for Hardware Float). It can also run armel, but I understand it is way slower.
First boot (with busybox)
So, once debootstrap finishes, you are good to go to the real hardware! Unmount the SD card, put it in the little guy, plug your favorite console in (I'm using the serial port), and plug the power in! You should immediately see something like:
  1. U-Boot SPL 2013.10-rc4-gd05c5c7-dirty (Jan 12 2014 - 02:18:28)
  2. Boot Device: SD1
  3. reading u-boot.img
  4. Load image from RAW...
  7. U-Boot 2013.10-rc4-gd05c5c7-dirty (Jan 12 2014 - 02:18:28)
  9. CPU: Freescale i.MX6Q rev1.2 at 792 MHz
  10. Reset cause: POR
  11. Board: MX6-CuBox-i
  12. DRAM: 2 GiB
  13. MMC: FSL_SDHC: 0
  14. In: serial
  15. Out: vga
  16. Err: vga
  17. Net: phydev = 0x0
  18. Phy not found
  19. PHY reset timed out
  20. FEC
  21. (Re)start USB...
  22. USB0: USB EHCI 1.00
  23. scanning bus 0 for devices... 1 USB Device(s) found
  24. scanning usb for storage devices... 0 Storage Device(s) found
  25. scanning usb for ethernet devices... 0 Ethernet Device(s) found
  26. Hit any key to stop autoboot: 3

Let it boot (that means, don't stop autoboot), and you will soon see a familiar #, showing you are root in the busybox environment. Great! Now, mount the Debian partition:
# mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /mnt
Finishing debootstrap's task
With everything in place, it's time for debootstrap to work. Chroot into the Debian partition:
# chroot /mnt
And ask Debootstrap to finish what it started:
# /debootstrap/debootstrap --second-stage
Be patient, as this step takes quite a bit to be finished.
Some extra touches...
After this is done, your Debian system is almost ready to be booted into. Why almost? Because it still does not have any users, does not know its own name nor knows I want to use it via a serial terminal, and does not know how the filesystems should be mounted and made available. And having a Debian system means having its very extensive software repository collection handy! Five very simple tasks to fix:
  1. Set a password for root:
    1. # passwd
    2. Enter new UNIX password:
    3. Retype new UNIX password:
    4. passwd: password updated successfully
  2. Setting your hostname is trivial:
    1. # echo cubox-i.gwolf.org > /etc/hostname

    So you have now a usable root user, and when you boot with it you can create further users.
  3. Now, to get the serial console working (you might not need it, if you use the CuBox-i via keyboard+monitor) add a line to /etc/inittab specifying the details of the serial console. You can just do this:
    1. # echo 'T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttymxc0 115200 vt100' >> /etc/inittab
  4. Create a /etc/fstab specifying how the system will be laid out. Right now, it is quite trivial (and in fact, I used my machine for some time without even thinking about this, just using the parameter provided to the kernel, this setting will just give you an easier and even faster experience):
    1. # cat > /etc/fstab
    2. /dev/mmcblk0p2 / ext3 noatime 0 0
    3. /dev/mmcblk0p1 /boot ext2 ro 0 0
    4. proc /proc proc defaults 0 0
    5. tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults 0 0
    6. tmpfs /run tmpfs defaults 0 0
  5. Tell your computer where to get the Debian packages. I suggest you use the http.debian.net meta-mirror, which will resolve to the mirror closest to you, but you can of course choose from the worldwide list of Debian mirrors.
    # echo deb http://http.debian.net/debian wheezy main > /etc/apt/sources.list
    # echo deb-src http://http.debian.net/debian wheezy main > /etc/apt/sources.list
Boot into Debian!
So, ready to boot Debian? Ok, first exit the chroot shell, to go back to the Busybox shell, unmount the Debian partition, and set the root partition read-only:
  1. # exit
  2. # umount /mnt
  3. # mount / -o remount,ro

Disconnect and connect power, and now, do interrupt the boot process when you see the Hit any key to stop automount prompt. To see the configuration of uboot, you can type printenv — We will only modify the parameters given to the kernel:
  1. CuBox-i U-Boot > setenv root /dev/mmcblk0p2 rootfstype=ext3 ro rootwait
  2. CuBox-i U-Boot > boot

So, the kernel will load, and a minimal Debian system will be initialized. In my case, I get the following output:
  1. ** File not found /boot/busyEnv.txt **
  2. 4703740 bytes read in 390 ms (11.5 MiB/s)
  3. ## Booting kernel from Legacy Image at 10000000 ...
  4. Image Name: Linux-3.0.35-8
  5. Image Type: ARM Linux Kernel Image (uncompressed)
  6. Data Size: 4703676 Bytes = 4.5 MiB
  7. Load Address: 10008000
  8. Entry Point: 10008000
  9. Verifying Checksum ... OK
  10. Loading Kernel Image ... OK
  12. Starting kernel ...
  14. Unable to get enet.0 clock
  15. pwm-backlight pwm-backlight.0: unable to request PWM for backlight
  16. pwm-backlight pwm-backlight.1: unable to request PWM for backlight
  17. _regulator_get: get() with no identifier
  18. mxc_sdc_fb mxc_sdc_fb.2: NO mxc display driver found!
  19. INIT: version 2.88 booting
  20. [info] Using makefile-style concurrent boot in runlevel S.
  21. [....] Starting the hotplug events dispatcher: udevd. ok
  22. [....] Synthesizing the initial hotplug events...done.
  23. [....] Waiting for /dev to be fully populated...done.
  24. [....] Activating swap...done.
  25. [....] Cleaning up temporary files... /tmp. ok
  26. [....] Activating lvm and md swap...done.
  27. [....] Checking file systems...fsck from util-linux 2.20.1
  28. done.
  29. [....] Mounting local filesystems...done.
  30. [....] Activating swapfile swap...done.
  31. [....] Cleaning up temporary files.... ok
  32. [....] Setting kernel variables ...done.
  33. [....] Configuring network interfaces...done.
  34. [....] Cleaning up temporary files.... ok
  35. [....] Setting up X socket directories... /tmp/.X11-unix /tmp/.ICE-unix. ok
  36. INIT: Entering runlevel: 2
  37. [info] Using makefile-style concurrent boot in runlevel 2.
  38. [....] Starting enhanced syslogd: rsyslogd. ok
  39. [....] Starting periodic command scheduler: cron. ok
  41. Debian GNU/Linux 7 cubox-i.gwolf.org ttymxc0
  43. cubox-i login:

And that's it, the system is live and ready for my commands!

So, how big is this minimal Debian installed system? I cheated a bit on this, as I had already added emacs and screen to the system, so yours will be a small bit smaller. But anyway — Lets clear our cache of downloaded packages, and see the disk usage information:

  1. root@cubox-i:~# apt-get clean
  2. root@cubox-i:~# df -h
  3. Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
  4. rootfs 689M 228M 427M 35% /
  5. /dev/root 689M 228M 427M 35% /
  6. devtmpfs 881M 0 881M 0% /dev
  7. tmpfs 177M 144K 177M 1% /run
  8. tmpfs 5.0M 0 5.0M 0% /run/lock
  9. tmpfs 353M 0 353M 0% /run/shm
  10. tmpfs 881M 0 881M 0% /tmp

So, instead of a 4GB install, we have a 228MB one. Great improvement!

For this first boot, and until you set up a way to automatically (or configure it to be static) determine the network configuration, you can use dhclient eth0 to request an IP address via the wired network port (configuring the wireless network is a bit more involved; I suggest you install the wicd-curses package to help on that regard). With the network working, update the Debian package lists:

# apt-get update
Get:1 http://http.debian.net wheezy Release.gpg [1672 B]
Get:2 http://http.debian.net wheezy Release [168 kB]
Get:3 http://http.debian.net wheezy/main Sources [5956 kB]
Get:4 http://http.debian.net wheezy/main armhf Packages [5691 kB]              
Get:5 http://http.debian.net wheezy/main Translation-en [3849 kB]              
Fetched 15.7 MB in 1min 27s (180 kB/s)                                         
Reading package lists... Done
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Calculating upgrade... Done
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

Yay, all of Debian is now at your fingertips! Now, lets get it to do something useful, in a most Debianic way!

[note]: I have tried to keep this as true as possible to the real install. I have modified this text every now and then, looking at ways to make it a little bit better. So, excuse me if you find any inconsistencies in the instructions! :)

[update]: I finally followed through the instructions again and produced a downloadable image, where I did all of this work, and you can just download it and play with your CuBox-i! You can download it from my people.debian.org space. You will find there instructions on how to get it installed.

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Ligatured iceweasel

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/23/2014 - 13:34
Ligatured iceweasel

I am not (yet?) reporting this as a bug as this happened with a several days old session open, and just while I was upgrading my Sid system, after a long time without doing so (probably since before the vacations started... In December 2013). But I cannot avoid sharing this interesting screenshot.

Of course, this does not happen in other browsers. And AFAICT it only happens while reading the Debian Policy (either online or locally, even recoding it to UTF-8). Funniest thing, the Debian policy specifies no Javascript, no stylesheets at all...

(Hey, and FWIW... Why is the online copy of the Debian policy still in iso-8859-1‽ It's not 1995 anymore...)

[update] Of course, it's the default font, not only the Debian policy. Just as an example, the following text:

  1. <html><body><p>Ufffiii flat different!</p></body></html>

Yields the following output:

[update 2] And, of course, after finishing the update process... I got a new version of Iceweasel. Restarted it, and everything is back to normal :-}

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Finally: A student once again

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:47

Formally, today is my first day as a student on a formal, scholarized institution — Basically for the first time in almost twenty years!

Yes, those that know me know that I aspire to live the life of academia. I have worked at public universities for almost all of my adult life (between 1997 and 1999 I worked at a local ISP and at a private school), and have had a minor academic position («Técnico Académico») for almost ten years. And not having a proper degree limited me from pursuing anything further.

Then, in early 2010 I presented the written exam. By late 2010, the corresponding oral exam. That allowed me to get my formal diploma in December 2010. By the end of 2011, I requested to be a teacher in the Engineering Faculty of UNAM, and started teaching Operating Systems a year ago, in January 2012.

So, a good advance in the last few years... But I know that if I just sit here, I won't be able to advance my position towards really entering the Sacred Halls of Academia. And there are some rituals I have to comply with. One of those rituals is... Devoting some long time to studying under the formal structures.

Ok, so I'm finally a postgraduate student — I have enrolled in Especialidad en Seguridad Informática y Tecnologías de la Información, a short (one year) postgraduate program in ESIME Culhuacán, of Instituto Politécnico Nacional (a small campus of Mexico's second-largest university).

Some friends have asked me, why am I starting with a Specialization and not a Masters degree. Some simple reasons: Just as when I went to Tijuana in 2010 to do my written exam, once I got and started with the paperwork, I didn't want to let it go — If I postpone it, I will probably lose the push to do it by May-July, when the Masters admission process starts. Also, this specialization can be linked with the masters degree on the same topic given at the same campus. This program is one year long, and the masters two — But having them both takes 2.5 years. So, not such a bad deal after all. And finally, because, after such a long time without being scholarized, I fear not having an easy time getting to grips with the discipline. I can commit to overworking myself for a year — If it's too much for me, I'll just stay with that degree and give up. I expect to like it and continue... But it's also a safe bet :-)

Now, there has to be a downside to picking up this path: Of course, my free time will be harshly reduced. I have reduced my Debian involvement in the last year, as I devoted a huge chunk of my time to teaching and book-writing... This year... We shall see what happens. I can for now only confirm what I have said publicly but inside our team only: I have requested to my peers and to our DPL to step down as a DebConf chair. I love organizing DebConf, but I don't want to be formally committed to a position I just cannot fulfill as I did when I started with it. As for package maintenance, by far most of my packges are team maintained, and those that are not are relatively easy to keep track of. And of course, I'll keep an eye on my keyring-maint duties as well — Will even try to link that work with what I do at school!

Anyway, lets see what comes now!

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[review] Packt's «Instant Haml»

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/08/2014 - 14:34

Packt Publishing sent me Krzysztof Nikiński's «Instant Haml» to do a short blog review... Thing is, and those who read me know, I cannot write short reviews ;-) So lets see how this goes.

Packt's Instant series

First, as for the format this book follows and the series it fits in: They are very short books. I was the tech reviewer for their «Instant Debian – Build a Web Server», and when I opened it for the first time, I thought I had received only the first chapter. This series' motto is Short | Fast | Focused — so, yes, the books are ~50 pages long, with ample margins and many big screenshots. I told the editors I was quite unsure about the value this kind of publications add, as they are very similar to online tutorials, but given they have so many books in this series (printed and electronic), there must be a market for them. They surely know their business better than me!

There is one other detail regarding the publisher I'll stick in this section, although it is not specific to their Instant series: I do most of my reading in my Kindle. Packt seems to have chosen to specify a very small font for their texts. Besides the two books mentioned, I also have their Object Oriented JavaScript book. For all of the other books I read, I use the smallest font setting. Packt books in mobi format (what they present as Amazon format in their web site) are basically illegible without bumping up the font size through the roof. As I understand it, publishers should use industry-wide default sizes, and let the reader adjust their reading experience. Yes, books of technical nature (such as Packt's) often benefit from having more displayed information than what an ebook reader normally shows... But that's for me to decide! And no, this is not a Kindle-specific glitch: I also get a similar experience when opening it from Calibre.

And as for the book...

I am a long-time Haml convert/fan; I packaged its Ruby implementation for Debian (and should update it soon :-/ as new versions have appeared), the corresponding Emacs Lisp mode, and I use it for basically all of my static HTML sites and Ruby-based Web systems.

Haml is a great templating language, meant to make dynamic HTML generation leaner and easier. It is a clean and elegant technology, and can clearly sell itself. And the project webpage has very good documentation, ranging from a short tutorial and a full API documentation for people to contribute to the project.

The first part of this book, of course, covers the "why is Haml so great?" part, presenting the basic equivalences with HTML. In my opinion, the book could be structured a bit differently and would generate a stronger following. Why? Because, even given that Haml is greatly benefited from its Ruby integration and has many hooks to be tightly integrated in a Rails workflow, it can also be used by people who don't want to do Ruby.

I have some static websites that are just a bunch of Haml files, compiled by a very simple Makefile and calling the haml command from the shell. I think there would be some value in presenting this invocation before learning how to call it from the Gems environment (i.e. bundle install).

Using Haml as a standalone tool is only presented almost as an appendix ("Using HAML outside of Rails" section). Even more so if the author presents four different static-site solutions (probably more non-programmer-friendly than my trusty Makefile).

Oh, and this little section uses the (old? obsolete?) uppercase HAML notation for the project's name instead of the now-standard Haml.

Dirty screenshots

About the screenshots presented in this first section (and I refer mainly to the scaffolding examples), they are meant to show how easy things are, but have an important stylistic mistake: Terminals with transparency might look cool (I hate using them, but then again I'm a very boring person when it comes to my computer habits ;-) ), but transparencies have no place in a book (be it printed or e-book), as the images appear very uncrisp. In the Kindle, they just seemed dirty — Now that I'm browsing the PDF from my desktop, I see that the screenshot in "Step 1" has a photo of Earth from space behind the terminal, and even worse, in "Step 2" it is shown over a Web page detailing the installation! These elements are just distracting, and the text would be much cleaerer if it were presented typeset just as a regular code fragment. Opening many of those screenshots in the Kindle was plain useless.

Editor integration

It is perfectly clear from this text that the author strongly prefers Sublime Text, sometimes uses TextMate, and has just heard reports that Haml has some support in Vim, Rubymine, Emacs and Coda. Of course, devoting a full page (as it is for the first case) for each editor would be out of proportion for this size of book... I just felt the imbalance too big, specially given that most editors will sport approximately the same feature set.

Text redundancy

If the Instant series is about making short books, I would expect them to be loaded with easy to follow content (as they are), but free of repetition. I felt, however, a large chunk of step 1 of the "Quick start" chapter to be repeated with the the first section of the "Top 6 features" chapter. Yes, the second one adds some depth, but very little. Still, in the later parts of this "Top 6 features" chapter, a more thorough explanation could be used for the Filters, Multiline attributes/code/strings and helpers and extensions sections. It seems the author was on a hurry trying to get it finished, as it is barely explained — Explaining a bit more deeply would surely benefit readers.

Wrapping up

Reading my review, I'm mostly talking about negative issues. IMO, the book is not excellent, but it is clearly not bad. Specially given it fits very well the format for which it was designed. There are many items that could be fixed, and I hope some of them can be fixed (i.e. the screenshots) before the book goes to print — If I understand Packt's page correctly, it is currently only available as ebook, contrary to most of the Instant series' titles.

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Meeting with Chilean sysadmins

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/08/2014 - 12:33
Meeting with Chilean sysadmins

Ok, so I'm back in Mexico!

This year, the best fare I found for travelling to spend the Winter^WSummer season with Regina's family had an oddity: I usually have a layover at either Santiago de Chile or Lima (Perú) of between 45 minutes and 2 hours, clearly less than enough to do anything. But this time, I had a massive 10 hours layover in Santiago. And spending 10 hours in an airport is far from fun. Specially when you have a good group of friends in town!

I visited Chile in 2004 for Encuentro Linux (still before the time I had a digital camera: Those photos are all taken by Martin Michlmayr), and I have stayed in touch with a group of systems administrators since then. So, I mailed the list, and we managed to get eight people to have lunch together. In the order we appear in the photo:

  • Victor Hugo dos Santos
  • Mauricio Troncoso
  • Álvaro Herrera
  • Ricardo Lemus
  • Marcelo Riquelme
  • Carlos Sepúlveda
  • Gunnar Wolf
  • Pablo Silva

Some of them, even living in the same city, had never met in person before — So, of course, we had a table reserved at the restaurant to the name of Dennis Ritchie. And having had nice, fun, sometimes-technical talks... Well, a tiny bit of his spirit was there. Of course, we can only trust he was there, as no Ouija boards were used and no null pointers were dereferenced (just to make sure not to disturb him).

Victor Hugo and Álvaro took me for a short Santiago city trip before lunch, we had a very nice time. Thanks! :-)

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Pan Latin American Hashomer, 18 years later

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/06/2014 - 10:06
Pan Latin American Hashomer, 18 years later

In 1994/1995, I spent probably the most unique and memorable year of my life with the people of several Zionist youth movements in Israel, working in a kibutz, learning in Jerusalem...

In 1995, after most of my group returned to Mexico, I stuck with the newly arrived South American group of Hashomer Hatzair (plus some affiliates).

We were 18-19. And 18-19 years later, here we are: Fabián (from Buenos Aires) and Fabiana (from Montevideo), living in Buenos Aires, with two kids. Regina (from Paraná) and me (from Mexico), living in Mexico, no kids yet.

Two couples. Three countries. Four cities. And a lovely evening. And the hopes to stay in touch, to meet every year when we come to visit Argentina.

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For people in Mexico: Workshop next Wednesday! Video editing from the command line (by Chema Serralde, @joseserralde)

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/05/2013 - 20:56

(Yes, yes... Maybe I should post in Spanish.. But hey, gotta keep consistecy in my blog!)

General, public, open invitation

Are you in Mexico City, or do you plan to be next Wednesday (December 11)?

Are you interested in video edition? In Free Software?

I will have the pleasure to host at home the great Chema Serralde, a good friend, and a multifacetic guru both in the technical and musical areas. He will present a workshop: Video editing from the command line.

I asked Chema for an outline of his talk, but given he is a busy guy, I will basically translate the introduction he prepared for this same material in FSL Vallarta, held two weeks ago.

With the help of the commandline, you can become a multimedia guru. We will edit a video using just a terminal. This skill will surprise your friends — and your couple.

But the most important is that this knowledge is just an excuse to understand step by step what does a video CODEC mean, what is a FORMAT, and how video and audio editors work; by using this knowledge, you will be able to set the basis for multimedia editing, without the promises and secrets of propietary editors.

How much does my file weigh and why? How to improve a video file's quality? Why cannot I read my camera's information from GNU/Linux?

By the end of this workshop, we well see how some libraries help you develop your first audio and video application, what are their main APIs and uses.


Everybody is welcome to come for free, no questions asked, no fees collected. I can offer coffee for all, but if you want anything else to eat/drink, you are welcome to bring it.

We do require you to reserve and confirm your place (mail me to my usual mail address). We have limited space, and I must set an absolute quota of 10 participants.

Some people hide their address... Mine is quite publicly known: Av. Copilco 233, just by Parque Hugo Margain, on the Northern edge of UNAM (Metro Copilco).

The course starts at 16:00, and lasts... As long as we make it last ;-)

So, that said... See you there! :-D

[update]: Chema sent me the list of topics he plans to cover. Copy/pasting from his mail, in Spanish:

José María Serralde Ruiz, facilitador

  1. Editando como cavernícola.
    1. Manipulación básica de archivos multimedia en entornos POSIX.
    2. Sé un Bash VJ (videojockey)
    3. Vaciando y entubando
  2. Editando como científico.
    1. Encabezados y fourcc
    2. 3 familias de CODECS de vídeo y sus patentes
    3. 3 famlias de CODECS de audio y sus patentes
    4. Muxers, demuxers y muxes.
  3. Editando como artista.
    1. Cajas de herramientas en software libre para procesamiento de vídeo.
    2. Procesamiento en tiempo real de vídeo (el que se crea artista pierde)
    3. Derritiendo vídeo, audio con calcetines MELT + SOX

Software necesario

(sistemas operativos POSIX, windouseros acercarse con el afán de repensar sus vidas): mplayer, avconv/ffmpeg (libavcodec), melt, sox, imagemagick

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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.

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