Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 08:35
Nobody cares about me, I thought. Whatever I say is just like throwing a bottle to the infinite ocean.
No comments, no hopes of getting any, for several days. Weeks maybe? Not even the spammers cared about me.
Until I read this mail, by Thijs Kinkhorst commenting to my yesterday post:
And, yes, Drupal module «captcha» introduced in its 2.1 release (January 2) feature #571344: Mix multiple fonts.
Only... no fonts were selected. Grah.
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/27/2010 - 15:23
New guidelines for periodic publications' websites at my University favor the different journals we have to use a standardized system — And it makes quite a bit of sense. It is quite hard to explain to the people I work with that the content is not only meant to be consumed by humans, but also by other systems; the reasons behind rich content tagging and deep hierarchies for what they would just see as a list of words (think list of authors for an article, list of keywords, and so on). After all, aggregator databases such as Latindex and SciELO have achieved getting this understanding through.
And I must be quite grateful, as the University's guidelines point to what appears to be a very well-thought and thorough system, the Open Journal Systems by the Public Knowledge Project, co-funded by several well-regarded universities. OJS is a GPL-2-covered PHP bundle.
Anyway… I am very glad at least one of my Institute's journal accepted the challenge and decided to go OJS. I know I will quite probably be administering this system long-term. And, being as snobbish as I am, I know I loathe anything installed in my machines that is not either developed by myself or comes in a Debian package. So, as it was not packaged, I made the package ☺
Note that I am still not filing an ITP (which means, I have not yet decided whether I will upload this to Debian) because I want first to make sure I do have the needed long-term commitment — Besides, I am by far not a PHP person, and being responsible for a package… Carries a nontrivial weight. Still, you might be interested in getting it. If you are interested, you can either download the .deb package or add it to your apt repositories (and stay updated with any new releases), by adding this to your /etc/apt/sources.list:
Note: My packaging has still a small bug: The installer fails to create the PostgreSQL database. The MySQL database works fine. I will look into it soon
So far, I am quite impressed with this program's functionality and the depth/quality of its (online) documentation. Besides, its usage statistics speak for themselves:
So, it is quite possible I will be uploading this into Debian in a couple of weeks (hopefully in time to be considered for Squeeze). The reasons I am making it available in my personal repository now is:
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:53
Among the many columns and lesser sections of my favorite national newspaper I enjoy reading the Centenaria column — Notes published one hundred years ago in Mexico City local newspapers.
A couple of decades ago, we started having policletos on the streets — "Policías bicicletos". Cops on bikes. I don't know if we had policletos as a continuous presence before that, but I do remember it being somewhat controversial in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Anyway, this snippet (and sadly I cannot capture the 1910 writing style in English) was a joy to read:
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/10/2010 - 21:14
Looking over some articles in the March 2009 issue of the Communications of the ACM magazine, I found a very good piece column (Is software engineering engineering?, Denning, Peter J., and Riehle Richard D. , Communications of the ACM, 03/2009, Volume 52, Number 3, p.24-26, (2009) ). Quoting from it:
It would be an interesting excercise to find how people rate themselves in this regard in a large group of developers, and find the differences in their coding styles, or how varied (in developer profiles) are each of the sub-groups.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/10/2010 - 01:21
Five out of six experts agree:
No, we are far from this very impressive picture of a fully-snowed UK seen from the sky that everybody and their dog must have seen by now. Still, in Mexico City we are experiencing the traditional one-or-two-weeks-a-year where it is genuinely cold. And, very strange being this Winter (the rainy season is Summer around here, January should be dry!) we have rain all day long.
The Ajusco mountain is around 15Km south from my home, and it is the closest of the giants that surround our valley. Yesterday I managed to get some peeks at it behind the very thick layer of clouds we have. Ajusco looks really gorgeous all snowed, maybe down to the 3400m line (while the city's main area is at 2300m). This picture was not taken this year, we have snow in Ajusco almost every year (although very seldom as much as this time):
(last photo is not current, we have not yet had a clear day to take a picture of our Ajusco yet this year)
How does it feel? Well, I live in Coyoacán, in the flat area of the valley. Remember that houses here are not built to endure extreme temperatures (and this week is what we call extreme, of course ;-) ). According to Yahoo! Weather:
And while the difference appears to be small, what about Magdalena Contreras, ~200m higher, where many people dear to me live (and have even a window pending to be installed)?
People say this cold wave is the strongest in 120 years, since records are being taken. Every year people get excited, expecting that this time we will get snow. This has only happened once in at least a century, in 1966 AFAIR. I do not think this year to be atypical.
Still, I have a reputation for being insensible to cold weather. Everybody wears heavy jackets while I still go to work with my usual long-sleeved shirt and that's it. But the last two days, I have been using jacket and scarf...
But, of course, I don't look as gratious or cute as my cats :-}
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/30/2009 - 14:08
It seems strange to me. I don't think I know people as aware of internationalization issues as Bubulle, a.k.a. Christian PERRIER, and I have the feeling his last post regarding how he shall address himself is somewhat short-sighted. That might just mean I am in an even worse position.
First, I recognize Christian's concern, but not only when dealing with people from around the globe – It happens in my everyday life. When you show an ID stating Gunnar Eyal Wolf Iszaevich, the first reaction is a blank stare of disbelief, only to be followed by a question: So, what is your name?
So I understand Christian wants to make it easier for people to guess what his name is in the least obtrusive way possible. I have seen the convention he suggests (uppercasing the family name) AFAICT used by French and Japanese people. But for me, it is intuitively backwards. If I were to emphasize a part of my name, it would be the part by which I expect people to address me with – I would write GUNNAR Wolf. And yes, I usually leave out my second given name and my mother's family name, as it is customary here.
Well, anyway... Reading my name, few people would guess I live in Mexico. Even fewer will believe I was born here. And if somebody calls me by the wrong part of my name, I won't feel at all offended. I strongly prefer my name to be used, as I like to be addressed casually, but quite often I am introduced as Dr. Wolf, in what at most would be an ex-profeso honoris causas doctorate, or at least an ignoratis causas one.
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/23/2009 - 13:45
Quoting The Klezmatics: It's everybody-else's annual end-of-the-year-time holiday, the name of which respectfully we do not choose to say, but that does not prohibit us in any concievable way from wishing you a very merry everybody-else's end-of-the-year-time holiday!
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/23/2009 - 13:27
A nice, non-aggressive, brown-colored theme suitable for your siamese herding cats, courtesy of South African people trying to bring a better life to this world.
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 12/04/2009 - 15:23
[Notice] Personal content follows. If you got to this post expecting any of the recurring topics I talk about in my blog, feel free to skip it.
This is one of the topics I don't like to share as impersonally as a blog post goes… But I know I will not be able to meet most of the people I care about that this will reach in person — And even if I did, it is not something easy to say. I have failed several times to communicate this to my closest friends.
And if you are among the group of people I am thinking of, this will most probably not surprise you, given there is precedent. But in the end, it didn't work out.
Nadezhda and I have lived together for practically 14 years. We had a for month long timeout in 2008. And, a couple of weeks ago, decided that we should make the separation definitive while we are in good terms and have hopes to continue having a good relationship.
Anyway… Life continues. It will take a bit for things to fall in their place. I know that many of you (again, the group of people I am writing this for) know and care for Nadezhda as well as me. We will… Try to do things right as much as possible, and keep the many good things that are still there after all. And while life comes back to track, please excuse me for the many oversights I have done and will probably continue doing during the following weeks.
(yes, comments closed. As I said ~18 months ago, Want to say something? Just think it hard enough, it will get to its destination)
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 11/25/2009 - 14:26
My Debian QA page shows what I consider to be a huge amount of packages — I am currently uploader for 207 packages. Why so many? There are many factors — The main one is group maintenance (I'm directly responsible only for 19; of course, this should not mean I disregard the rest of them), the second one is regularity. By far, most of my source packages (177) match lib.*perl, followed by lib.*ruby with 20.
Anyway — A strong factor that allows the pkg-perl group to be successful in maintaining 1411 packages is the regularity of the task: Packaging Perl modules is usually as easy as running dh-make-perl on them (of course, not taking away the merit of packaging the few strange corner cases…
In Ruby-land, the landscape is quite different. The developer community is quite anchored in agile worldviews, which go beyond coding practices and all the way over to confronting the way most Free Software projects distribute their work. I have previously
But if you develop in Git, you might want to split a project in its constituent parts for easier organization, without meaning that each subproject should be an independent project by itself, right? After all, that's what Git submodules are for. That's what happened with a great PDF generating library for Ruby, Prawn. Thing is, the three parts of the main project are required for the project to be built.
Anyway, that was a great reason to move the package over to the new dpkg 3.0 (quilt) source format. And, yes, it is a straightforward move! If you have not yet done so, take a look at Raphael Hertzog' explanation+FAQ wiki page. It just works, and makes many things way easier.
There are still some wrinkles in my packaging, like where I'm getting the orig tarballs from — As the submodules are not presently tagged in any way, I was only able to download a snapshot of their respective current master branches. This is suboptimal, I know, but I have talked to the upstream author, and he confirms that for the next major version (which should not be long in coming) the tags will be synchronized, and things will be even cleaner.
PS- I love Hpricot. To get the numbers for my QA page, I just had to get three dirty but useful arrays:
And work from the three very simple lists there — i.e.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/19/2009 - 22:16
Is it karma or what? What makes me get involved in two horribly complex, two-week-long conferences, year after year? Of course, both (DebConf and EDUSOL) are great fun to be part of, and both have greatly influenced both my skills and interests.
Anyway, this is the fifth year we hold EDUSOL. Tomorrow we will bring the two weeks of activities to an end, hold the last two videoconferences, and —finally— declare it a done deal. I must anticipate the facts and call it a success, as it clearly will be recognized as such.
One of the most visible —although we insist, not the core— activities of the Encounter are the videoconferences. They are certainly among the most complex. And the videoconferences' value is greatly enhanced because, even if they are naturally a synchronous activity (it takes place at a given point in time), they live on after they are held: I do my best effort to publish them as soon as possible (less than one day off), and they are posted to their node, from where comments can continue. This was the reason, i.e., why we decided to move at the last minute tomorrow's conference: Due to a misunderstanding, Beatriz Busaniche (a good friend of ours and a very reknown Argentinian Free Software promotor, from Via Libre) thought her talk would be held today, and we had programmed her for tomorrow. No worries - We held it today, and it is already online for whoever wants to take part :-)
So, I don't want to hold this any longer (I will link to the two conferences that I'm still missing from this same entry). Here is the list of (and links to) videoconferences we have held.
As two last notes:
Regarding the IRC interaction photos I recently talked about, we did a very kewl thing: Take over 2000 consecutive photos and put them together on a stack. Flip them one at a time. What do you get? But of course — A very fun to view and interesting interaction video! We have to hand-update it and it is a bit old right now, but nevertheless, it is very interesting as it is.
Finally... I must publicly say I can be quite an asshole. And yes, I know I talked this over privately with the affected people and they hold no grudge against me... But still - yesterday we had an IRC talk about NING Latin American Moodlers, by Lucía Osuna (Venezuela) and Maryel Mendiola (Mexico). One of the points they raised was they were working towards (and promoting) a Moodle certification. And... Yes, I recognize I cannot hear the mention of the certification word without jumping and saying certifications are overrated. Well, but being tired, and not being really thoughtful... I should have known where to stop, where it was enough of a point made. I ended up making Maryel and Lucía feel attacked during their own presentation, and that should have never happened. A public and heartfelt apology to them :-(
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:40
I am starting to fill up my annual report for my real-life work. You know, that chore you must do every year where you score little bullets next to each completed project and talk well about yourself. For my workplace, fortunately, I do not have to lie and convince people I am worth rehiring - As this year I achieved definitividad as a Técnico Académico Asociado C de Tiempo Completo at my University, I can say for sure I have long-term job safety. UNAM is the best place for me to work, and I am most grateful — Even if I do want to advance for the future, even though I would strongly like at some point to start working in a real academic position — My job is mostly operative, limited to keeping things running smoothly in our network and servers. I work in a social sciences (Economics) research institute, and even though I have taken on an interesting project that is viewed from the social sciences I do expect to finish with a very interesting product in the near future, my interest lies in computing as a science.
Anyway, back on track… This is the time of year to start evaluating many things, many factors, from many different sides. And yes, for me that involves measuring how am I faring in my involvement in the projects I most care about — Specifically, Debian, but also several other Free Software projects, even if my involvement in them is mostly organizational.
I am once again going through a tough period in my personal life, and the impact it carries is obviously deep. However, I am not fond of finding excuses for my underachievement or underperformance. And that's what I feel now. Even more when I see posts such as Zack's and Tim's status updates, and when I see that we continue to be on a history-high streak of RC bugs.
Regarding the several teams I am (at least formally) involved with in Debian, I have been away from the pkg-perl group for far too long... It is still my first group when it comes to identifying myself with - Both as on a personal level, as I consider them as good friends and great people to work with, and I do feel the responsability to share the load with them, as maintaining >1300 packages (even if they are so highly regular) is just not an easy task. But for over a year, my involvement has been basically zero. I have been a bit more active on pkg-ruby-extras, maybe paradoxically as it is a smaller team and with less packages (as I know it is much less probable for somebody to keep my packages in adequate shape if I don't do it)... and also because I am working more with Ruby than Perl nowadays. And finally, about Cherokee, I decided during DebConf9 to redo the packaging to fully use DH7 instead of our old-style quasimanual style. I have had several bursts of activity, and am almost-almost-ready to do the first newstyle upload... But so far, have been unable to do so.
Of course, keyring-maint: With Jonathan's help, I have come to terms with most of the processes. Both Jonathan and I have been swamped lately, but at least I think I am finally helping speed up the process instead of holding it down. We do, yes, have several pending updates - but are working our way up the queue, and I hope not to leave people waiting for too long. And yes, we have discussed several ways of documenting and automating several of the tasks we currently sustain, and that should come soon
I have been also leaving maybe a bit too much responsability aside on EDUSOL, for which today we are entering the second week of activity, and I'm very sorry to see our server is just too overloaded to even reply to even answer to me — And even lacking admin powers myself, I should have worked earlier on setting up redundancy on a more automatic way (as we have an off-site backup we can promote to live and redirect to, but I am unable to do this... Given that I am the techie person on board/the only "professional" sysadmin).
This year I also –quietly– finished the bulk of the Comas rewrite. What? Comas? Still alive? Yes, and you can expect me to show it off to more people soon, and get it used for more conferences. I will talk more about it (and its motivation, and its current status) later on — But basically, the only two things that Comas shares in common with the mod_perl-based system most of you got to know (mainly at CONSOL 2004-2008 or at Debconf 5 and 6, although I know of several other conferences which used it) and the current incarnation are… The (most) basic database structure and the name. The project underwent a full rewrite, and is now a far more flexible, far easier to install, Ruby-on-Rails based application. And most important, it does no longer involve your name being Gunnar Wolf as a prerequisite for successfully setting it up ;-)
Regarding DebConf, I have promoted a Central American MiniDebConf, and we are right on track for holding it in late March in Panamá City. Everybody's invited, and we will have (surprise, surprise!) the very professional involvement of Mr. Anto Recio as local team, as it seems he didn't have enough with last year's DebConf9 and wants to suffer further. What am I lacking here? Motivation. I have been quite pessimistic, possibly turning some people away, even though we have a good first sampling of interested people's profiles and expectations. If you want to get involved, tomorrow (Tuesday 17-nov) we will have a meeting at Freenode's #sl-centroamerica, 17:00 GMT-6. Please note we do need involvement from the Central American communities, it is more than just a motivational issue. Last meeting it seemed Anto and I were the only people pushing the MiniDebConf - and frankly, that would be a basis for not even holding it. We need motivation from the very people involved in it!
Anyway… You can see I have (and it seems to be a constant in my life) a series of contradictions going on. However, the excercise of putting it all into writing helps me understand better where I am standing. When I started writing this post I felt much heavier, much more at a loss… Right now I feel I want to refocus my energy on the same projects and teams I have been involved with, yes, but feel it at least more plausible. Hope so.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/10/2009 - 18:41
As some of you know, yesterday we started the two weeks of activities for the Fifth On-line Encounter of Free Education, Culture and Software. This year, the main topic for the conference is social networks, but not in the twitter-facebook sense — Social networks as ways of understanding and modelling human-to-human interactions. Of course, there is interest from many attendees in using and taking advantage of said social network systems (and others), but the topic is far broader.
One of the core tools of EDUSOL, and the only tool that is constantly active through our two weeks of activity, is IRC — Which is somewhat of a challenge, as we receive some not-tech-savvy users from all over the world. The first year or two we asked everybody to connect via an IRC client (and we had even decided that it would be a technological filter — We thought we would not cater for people without the technical skills to install and use IRC). Life proved us wrong, and we ended up using two web-to-IRC gateways: One of them, via an instance of CGI:IRC, and the other one via a third-party service, Mibbit.
Now, the core mind behind EDUSOL is Alejandro Miranda, Pooka; I am not really into education (it is a very interesting topic but far from what I am good at). Pooka has been invovled in on-line communities analysis for several years already, since we worked together at FES Iztacala. For a long time he wanted to graph the interactions at EDUSOL, which was obviously possible given it was all centered on three tools (IRC for live chat, Drupal for generic information and Moodle for the talks and workshops' material — This has changed this year, as we are giving much more weight to Drupal and taking it off Moodle), and so last year he was finally able to generate a «EDUSOL 2008 conference photo (warning: 2MB image, 4311x3352px), where each person's avatar appears where most of his interactions were. This photo was (unfortunately) achieved using non-free software, but is very much looking at!
Piespy is a bot that sits in the IRC channel logging everything that any given user "says" directly to another one, and graphs it. Not much to say here, only that it generates a very good (and practically real-time) view of what happens on the channel. For this particular channel, and during EDUSOL, you can see here the latest IRC snapshots.
Very fun to see - and somewhat addictive how it morphs across time :)
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 15:09
Every year, for Día de Muertos (November 1 and 2) the Mexican tradition is to set colorful, beautiful offerings for our deceased loved ones. The offerings often have the very vivid orange color of the cempalsúchitl flower, and have pictures, food, and whatever our loved ones used to like.
The offerings are traditionally set up at home and at some offices and public buildings. UNAM, Mexico's largest university, where I am very happy and proud to work, has set a yearly offering for many years already. Every year they select a base theme around which the invited groups base their monuments — For 2009, it was Edgar Allan Poe's 200th anniversary.
By early November, the rainy season has usually finished. This year, however, the rain lasted a bit more – And many structures and altars were sadly damaged. Still, it is a very colorful and worthy visit to share.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/29/2009 - 11:00
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to travel to Colombia, where I delivered a talk at III Encuentro Internacional de Seguridad Informática in the city of Manizales (photos available, of course. I travelled with Colombia's nacional airline, Avianca.
On completely unrelated news, today I entered Avianca's website to check my miles. To my biggest amusement… Turns out I am now a resident of Bamiyan, Afghanistan! (I swear I didn't select that)
…Seems they do beard-based georeferentiation?
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