Authoral rights in the editorial world seminar

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 17:58

I must confess I don't remember who I got this invitation from. Anyway, if you are in the right geographic area, you might be interested. I will try to participate:

This is a year-long seminar that will be held the second Thursday every month at Fonoteca Nacional (a place I have wanted to visit for a long time!), in Barrio de Santa Catarina, Coyoacán. Among the organizers they have Creative Commons Mexico.

Free entrance (but limited space - so they ask interested people to confirm their presence by mail to

[update] I went with Pooka to the first session. We arrived almost 1hr late (due to me mistaking the schedule :-/ ) but it was interesting. Of course, quite biased towards the Google viewpoints, but interesting. We got the program for the next sessions — So, mostly for myself to keep handy, here it goes:

Date Title Speakers
2010-03-11 Google and copyright Manuel Tamez, Hugo Contreras, María Fernanda Mendoza
2010-04-08 Generalities about rights on intelectual property Jesús Parets, Guillermo Solórzano, Jorge Mier y Concha
2010-05-13 Copyright's nature and competent authorites Carmen Arteaga, Luis Schmidt, César Callejas
2010-06-10 Moral and patrimonial rights Guillermo Pous, Eduardo de la Parra, Ramón Obón
2010-07-08 Reproduction rights for audible material Álvaro Hegewisch, Óscar Javier Solorio, Marco Antonio Morales, José Ramón Cárdeno
2010-08-12 Licenses and patrimonial right transmission. Works for hire, works done under laboral relationship, or carried out in official service Dolores Franco, Jesús Mejía, Raúl Pastor
2010-09-09 Limits to explotation rights and literary plagiarism Carmen Arteaga, Juan Ramón Obón, Jorge Mier y Concha, César Callejas
2010-10-14 Copyright in a digital setting Jesús Parets, Gastón Esquivel
2010-11-11 Law-regulated intelectual property rights Rosalba Elizalde, Salvador Ortega, Gastón Esquivel, Manrique Moheno
2010-12-09 International protection and collective gestive societies Horacio Rangel, Luis Schmidt, Jesús Mejía
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I am going to DebConf 10!

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


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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Computer education parallelisms

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/18/2010 - 20:09

I opened Slashdot's «Looking back from the 1980s at computers in education» article because I am quite convinced of the point some of the commenters argued before me, (and it's good to know others think as you do ;-) ) — When I got close to computers, learning computing for children basically meant learning programming in a fun way.

For years, my hobbies included Logo and BASIC. At age 7 (by 1983), typing TeX and using Emacs at the computer of the institute where my father worked, I started walking the path I took for my professional life. When I taught computing to high school students as my first paid job (which didn't last long, only a semester, as for an untrained 20 year old it is very hard to control a group of kids nearly his age), I tried to teach some basic BASIC programming (which was the best I knew then)... But no, both students and the school wanted me to focus on teaching MS Office applications. It seemed stupid for me 14 years ago, and it still seems stupid for me today.

Anyway, on Slashdot, I came across this beautiful way to explain what computer education should mean:

"computing is no longer taught in schools (parents look quizzical), they are simply 'trained' (parents look like they vaguely get it). if this was sex instead of computing that was taught in schools, would you prefer that your kids have sex _education_ or sex _training_? (parents finally get it)".

By the way, if you are interested in reading a bit of paleofuturism, to feel the joy and excitement with which computer-aided education was seen 30 years ago, be sure to get the Classroom Computer News issue for September-October 1980, linked from the Slashdot article (and copied over here for your convenience, of course!)

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Über-redundant paperwork

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/03/2010 - 19:23
Über-redundant paperwork

So I finally got off my lazy butt and started the paperwork to get a formal recognition of studies equivalence for a undergraduate studies (Licenciatura en ingeniería de software) via CENEVAL's Acuerdo 286 (licenciatura).

Part of the paperwork involves filling the form I photographed and attached to this node. This is the utmost example of über-redundant paperwork... Where it requires my personal data, some of the fields are:

Clave Única de Registro Poblacional, Unique Populational Registration Key. This is a string composed by:
  • WOIG: First letter and first vowel after the first letter of my first family name, first letter of my second family name, first letter of my given name
  • 760427: birth date, yymmdd
  • H: Sex (H = male, M = female, I guess)
  • DF: State or federative entity I was born in
  • LSN: First consonant after the first letter of the first and second family name and of the given name
  • 03: Deambiguation digits

…So far, so good.

Well, cannot it be deduced from the CURP? It has my full birth date!
Well, cannot it be deduced from the CURP? It is a specific field in it
Birth date
Man, you already have it literally on top of the field!
This tramit is only for Mexicans, so... what's the point?
Birth place
The CURP states already the state or federative entity I was born... But I'll accept this one, as not all states have only one city as DF does

Quite a nice catalog of redundancies. As a cherry on top of the cake, the phone number states I should write my long distance phone code (LADA – historically, Larga Distancia Automática, Automatic Long Distance) only if I am in any of the states. I can only ask myself why...

Anyway... Lets continue filling paperwork. Grah. Hopefully I will be able to get my papers... somewhen in the next half century.

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Captchas are for humans...

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:

(BTW, I was unable to comment on your blog - couldn't even read one letter of the CAPTCHA...)

And, yes, Drupal module «captcha» introduced in its 2.1 release (January 2) feature #571344: Mix multiple fonts.

Only... no fonts were selected. Grah.

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Packaging PKP OJS (Open Journals System)

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:

deb lenny misc
deb-src lenny misc

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:

  • I want to make it available for other Debian- and Ubuntu- users in my University, as I am sure several people will be installing it soon. And after apt-getting it, it is just ready to be used right away.
  • As I said, I am no PHP guy. So if you want to criticize my packaging (and even my minor patch, fixing a silly detail that comes from upstream's bundling of several PHP and Javascript libraries, and those libraries' authors not sticking to a published API in a well-distributed version), please go ahead!
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100 years of «policletos»

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:

January 18, 1910

Good results of using bicycles for surveillance

As we have come to know, the service the first-class policemen are doing on bike, mainly during night time, has yielded great results, as the street policemen often fell asleep and woke up upon hearing a horse approaching, which does not happen anymore because the first-class policemen make much quicker rounds, and before the street policemen even think of it, their superior is standing in front of them.

It also seems that robberies, so frequent during the nights, have ceased because the burglars, hastily breaking the locks, are caught by the bike-riding policemen, given the machines barely make any noise, and besides, they cannot run away because they are chased with no effort.

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Engineer? Scientist?

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:

The search for an alternative to the programmer image is already a generation old. In 1989 we asked: Are we mathematicians? Scientists? Engineers? We concluded that we are all three. We adopted the term "computing", an analogue to the European "informatics", to avoid bias towards any one label or description.


Predictable outcomes (principle of least surprise)

Engineers believe that unexpected behaviors can be not only costly, but dangerous; consequently, they work hard to build systems whose behaviorthey can predict. In software engineering, we try to eliminate surprises by deriving rigurous specifications from well-researched requirements, then using tools from program verification and process management to assure that the specifications are met. The ACM Risks Forum documents a seemingly unending series of surprises from systems on which such attengion has been lavished. Writing in ACM SIGSOFT in 2005, Riehle suggested a cultural side of this: where researchers and artists have a high tolerance, if not love, for surprises, engineers do everything in their power to eliminate surprises. Many of our software developers have been raised in a research tradition, not an engineering tradition.

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.

Winter in the tropics

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/10/2010 - 01:21

Five out of six experts agree:

Five out of six cats cannot be mistaken
It. Is. Cold.

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 :-}

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Internationalizing into your local customs

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.

Preparing for the geeky holidays with suitable wine

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/23/2009 - 13:45
Preparing for the geeky holidays with suitable wine

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!
In order to properly welcome this 2010 in a geeky fashion, I got the following wines to share with my friends:

  • My last bottle of the now world-famous and limited edition Debian wine, from Extremadura Tempranillo grapes
  • What is it like trying to coordinate a timely, predictable release? Why, yes, it has precisely been described as herding cats. And even better, the most successful project so far to mate Debian with timely, predictable releases seems to come from South Africa. Likewise this nice bottle!
  • Mar del Sur (Southern Sea) Chilean wine. Strikingly similar to our Debian wine, with a swirl that tends towards some reformistic proposals we have seen. We shall see what it holds for us!
  • And as a tribute to our little derivative, Emdebian, we shall also try this Australian Little Penguin.

Happy ${joyful_ocassion}!

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Now with "Siamese" theming

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/23/2009 - 13:27
Now with "Siamese" theming

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.

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The end of an era

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)

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Source format 3.0 (quilt) for teh win!

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 ranted presented informed and opinionated blog posts on this topic — Ruby culture dictates the distribution via Ruby Gems, which are for many reasons not Debian friendly. Besides Gems, most projects have adopted Git for development tracking and are hosted under Github — That's why I came up with Githubredir, which basically presents an uscan-friendly listing of tags for a given project.

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:

  1. require 'hpricot'
  2. require 'open-uri'
  3. url = ''
  4. doc = Hpricot(open(url))
  5. tot = ( (doc / 'table' )[1]/'tr').map { |row|
  6. (row%'td' % 'a').inner_html rescue nil}.select {|i| i}
  7. team = ( (doc / 'table' )[1]/'tr').map { |row|
  8. (row%'td' % 'span.uploader' % 'a').inner_html rescue nil}.
  9. select {|i| i}
  10. mine = ( (doc / 'table' )[1]/'tr').map { |row|
  11. (row%'td' % 'span:not(.uploader)' % 'a').inner_html rescue nil}.
  12. select {|i| i}

And work from the three very simple lists there — i.e. {|pkg| pkg =~ /lib.*perl/}.size gives me 177.

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EDUSOL almost over - Some highlights

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.

Tuesday 2009-11-17
Wednesday 2009-11-18
Thursday 2009-11-19
Friday 2009-11-20

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 :-(

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