Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/22/2009 - 13:33
There has been a lot of buzz recently in Mexico after a tax increase that has been announced for next year. The two main points I have seen criticized are:
So… What is my opinion on this? What would my ideal tax scheme be?
Yes, I am painfully aware that an important portion of what gets into the government disappears due to corruption and ineptitude. Still, the only position from where I can criticize is from being clearly legal. The same point as I do with software: I cannot ask people to comply with my Free Software licensing if I use ilegally propietary software, can I? So no, I don't use any. Even legal propietary software, free-as-in-beer (i.e. Flash player).
So, please think this over before you join the Lemmings into complaining about the tax increase. Yes, this is a bad moment to increase taxes. Yes, Mexico is the worst faring country in all of America in its response to the crisis; the GDP will probably fall between 8% and 10% this year and 2010 will not be much better. Yes, it would be better to increase competitivity. But, yes, we pay ridiculously low amounts of taxes — And those of us who can afford a little reduction in our expenditure should do it. And those who make gross money should just stop it.
Oh, and last point, regarding the #internetnecesario Twitter hashtag: Don't be Lemmings. Internet should be recognized a basic need for a free society. But right now in our country, it completely is a luxury, even if you cannot live without it. If you are Internet-addicted as myself, you most probably will not notice the 3% increase. FFS, We will pay MX$360 instead of MX$350 a month for my Infinitum connection. Will we really notice? In Mexico, middle and upper class are Internet-enabled. Lower classes are not. Things should change, no doubt. But it is not at all comparable to an universal IVA. Things should change and universal connectivity should be a given. But right now, calling Internet a basic good... is just out of touch with reality.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 10/19/2009 - 23:42
Every now and then, people ask me why Debian? Why, among so many projects to choose from, I first liked, then got into, and finally I got committed into Debian, and not anything else?
Of course, one of the main points —back in 2000-2001 when I started using it, and still to this very day— is a strong identification with the ideological side. Yes, I am a strong Free Software believer, and Debian is what best suites my ideology.
Still, I did not only get into Debian because of this — And I was reminded about this by an article in this month's Usenix ;login: magazine: An anecdotal piece by Thomas A. Limoncelli titled Hey! I have to install and maintain this crap too, ya know! (article requires ;login: subscription, but I'll be glad to share it with whoever requests it to me — I have of course no permission to openly put it here in whole online. Yes, I am expressly sending a copy of this text to the author, I will update this if/when I hear from him) [update] The author has kindly allowed me to redistribute his article's PDF — Download it here.
Before anything else… I'll go on a short digression: I am writing a bit regarding the Free Software participants' culture, and this is a trait I love about it: The lack of formality. Even though ;login: (and Usenix as a whole) is not exactly Free Software, it runs quite close to it), it is a well regarded magazine (and association) with an academic format and good (not deep or highly theoretical, but good) contents. Still, it is quite usual to see titles as informal and inviting as this one. And it happens not only here — I have been fearing having to explain at work, over and over, why I have requesting permissions to go to Yet Another Perl Conference, Festival de Software Libre or DebCamp, tagging them as academic settings. Or why I am wasting our library's resources on buying cookbooks, recipes and similar material on the most strange-sounding subjects.
Anyway, back on track… This article I found refers to the lack of value given to the system administrator's time when selling or purchasing (or more in general, as it happens also in Free Software, when offering or adopting) a product. Quoting Thomas:
Thomas goes on to explain his experience with Silicon Graphics, how Irix was so great regarding install automation and how they blew it when switching to Windows NT; talks very briefly about IBM AIX's smit, a very nifty sysadmin aid which is basically a point-and-click interface to system administration with the very nice extra that allows you to view the commands smit executes to perform a given action (and then you can copy into a script and send over to your hundreds of AIX machines)… Incidentally, by the time I started digging out of what became the RedHat mess of the late 1990s and passed briefly through OpenBSD on my way to Debian enlightenment, I was temporarily the sysadmin for an AIX machine — And I too loved this Smit approach, having it as the ultimate pedagogical tool you could ever find.
Anyway, I won't comment and paraphrase the full article. I'll just point out to the fact that… this was what ultimately sold me into Debian. The fact that I could just install anything and (by far) most of the times it will be configured and ready to use. Debian made my life so much easier! As a sysadmin, I didn't have to download, browse documentation, scratch head, redo from start until I got a package working — Just apt-get into it, and I'd be set. Of course, one of the bits I learnt back then was that Debian was for lazy people — Everything works in a certain way. Policy is enforced throughout.
So as a sysadmin, I should better get well acquinted with the Debian policy and know it by heart. In order to be able to enjoy my laziness, I should read it and study it. And so I did, and fell in love. And that is where my journey into becoming a Debian Developer started.
Why am I talking so nostalgic here? Because I got this magazine on the mail just last weekend… And coincidentally, I also got bug report #551258 — I packaged and uploaded the Haml Ruby library (Gem, as the Rubyists would call it). Haml is a great, succint markup language which makes HTML generation less of a mess. It is even fun and amazing to write Haml, and the result is always nicely formatted, valid HTML! And well, one of Haml's components is haml-elisp, the Emacs Lisp major mode to do proper syntax highlighting in Haml files.
Of course, I am an Emacs guy (and have been for over 25 years), so I had to package it. But I don't do Emacs Lisp! So I just stuffed the file in its (supposed) place, copying some stuff over from other Emacs packages. During DebConf, I got the very valuable help of Axel Beckert to fix a simple bug which prevented my package from properly being installed, and thought I was basically done with it. I was happy just to add this to my ~/.emacs and get over with it:
However… As Mike Castleman points out: This requires manual intervention. So it is not the Debian Way!
Reading Mike's bug report, and reading Thomas' article, made me realize I was dilluting something I held so dearly as to commit myself to the best Free Software-based distribution out there. And the solution, of course, was very simple: Debian allows us to be very lazy, not only as sysadmins, but as Debian packagers. Just drop this (simplified version) as $pkgroot/debian/haml-elisp.emacsen.startup and you are set!
This will make the package just work as soon as it is installed, with no manual intervention required from the user. And it does not, contrary to what I feared, bloat up Emacs — Adding it to the auto-mode-alist leaves it as known to Emacs, but is not loaded or compiled unless it is required.
Deepest thanks to both of you! (and of course, thanks also to Manoj, for pointing out at the right spells in emacs-land)
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/15/2009 - 23:54
This is the fifth year we hold an EDUSOL, and we are closing in on it. EDUSOL is an online encounter whose topics are Education and Free Software — Actually, this year we are widening our scope, and we will include Free Culture as well as a base area.
Now, besides those three general areas, each year we have had a base topic around which we invite the speakers to talk about (although it is a lax requirement). This year, the base topic is social networks — No, not in the Twitter/Facebook/blah sense, but as a wider phenomenon, studying interaction between people, the forming of communities. And for our particular areas, the forming of knowledge-based communities.
Anyway – I agreed with the organizers to provide the English translation of the participation invitation. I will skip the call for papers, as we are basically at the proposal deadline (October 17), but if you have anything you want to propose, please tell us so!
Leaving that aside... Please excuse the quality of my translation, it is late and I'm tired. We will work on it :)
EDUSOL spans several participation categories. The closest category to a traditional, face to face conference. Each year, we invite a group of speakers to talk about a topic related to our main discoursive line.
Among the speakers that have confirmed so far, we have:
We invite you to be active participants in the videoconference cycle. You can invite your social or user group to be part of the Encounter. There are three ways to do it:
In any case (specially in the first two, which require more coordination), please contact us. For further information, visit http://edusol.info/es/e2009/convocatorias/videoconfrencias
November 6: Free Education and Free Culture day
We invite social and user groups to host talks regarding Free Education and Free Culture. This is not a call to promote Free Software, as there are many other spaces devoted to it.
We should start with the idea that freedom resides in us, not in the software. Some of the topics our community recommends are:
Further details at http://edusol.info/es/e2009/convocatorias/dialternativo
We need some help in this area to generate contents with slides, making it easier for proposed scripts for the talks. If you want to collaborate, please write to our academic support list, http://lists.edusol.info/listinfo.cgi/soporte-academico-edusol.info
Want to collaborate? Further questions or comments?
We are holding on-line meetings for this group of topics on Thursday 22:00 GMT-5, in the #edusol channel in OFTC (irc.debian.org); you can enter the IRC channel using the Web client at http://irc.bine.org.mx or http://edusol.info/irc
EDUSOL started as a proposal seeking to provide a space so that people interested in education could discuss and analize the good and bad points about Free Culture and Free Software, with no geographic restrictions. Year after year, freedom-loving educators of all Latin America and Spain gather for our annual party.
EDUSOL's core language is Spanish, although participation in English is allowed and encouraged (although understanding Spanish will be a strong aid).
We invite you to participate and contribute in this collective effort using and commenting on our blogs, or adding your personal blog to our planet: http://edusol.info/es/node/add/blog
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 10/13/2009 - 10:48
Even at the most physical level. This is a cup that won't topple over when you accidentally kick the desk! Gunnar's Viking of Approval certifies it.
I bought this Tux Mug (Mugx) in Colombia, from CeramiGeek. It feels a bit strange to drink penguin brain, but all in all, it is a great geek present ;-) Thanks a lot to Andrés Restrepo and his girlfriend for coming up with this product! :-} I expect to get quite a bit of joy out of it.
[update] CeramiGeek's site says they sell the mug for $20,000 — Of course, that's Colombian pesos. Slightly over US$10. I don't know whether they ship outside Colombia, and am completely unaffiliated to them. But I surely wish them success!
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/01/2009 - 18:04
Humm... Has anybody else seen a pattern like this?
I am getting a flurry of root login attempts at my main server at the University since yesterday 7:30AM (GMT-5). Now, from the machines I run in the 126.96.36.199/16 network (UNAM), only two listen to the world with ssh at port 22 — And yes, it is a very large network, but I am only getting this pattern on one of them (they are on different subnets, quite far apart). They are all attempting to log in as root, with a frequency that varies wildly, but is consistently over three times a minute right now. This is a sample of what I get in my logs:
[update] Logs omitted from blog post, as it is too wide and breaks displays for most users. You can download the log file instead.
Anyway… This comes from all over the world, and all the attempts are made as root (no attempts from unprivileged users). Of course, I have PermitRootLogin to no in /etc/ssh/sshd_config, but… I want to understand this as much as possible.
Initially it struck me that most of the attempts appeared to come from Europe (quite atypical for the usual botnet distribution), so I passed my logs through:
The top countries (where the number of attempts ≥ 5) are:
I am attaching to this post the relevant log (filtering out all the information I could regarding legitimate users) as well as the full output. In case somebody has seen this kind of wormish botnetish behaviour lately… please comment.
[Update] I have tried getting some data regarding the attacking machines, running a simple nmap -O -vv against a random sample (five machines, I hope I am not being too agressive in anybody's eyes). They all seem to be running some flavor of Linux (according to the OS fingerprinting), but the list of open ports varies wildly — I have seen the following:
Of course, it strikes me that several among said machines seem to be Linuxes, but (appear to) run Microsoft services. Oh, and they also have P2P clients.
Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/26/2009 - 16:08
Martin rants about the German electoral system. From his rant, I'll pick up only two points — And I'll try to connect with Toxicore's excelent (Spanish) blog post, where he quotes political analist Denise Dresser.
Dresser has made a great point: Our probably-imposed, legitimacy-impaired president Felipe Calderón has requested the society to «talk good» about Mexico, to project a positive image of the country. Dresser says, yes, there is a lot of good to talk about the country, and we should emphasize on its richness and beauty, invite people to come and visit, to know what the country is really like. But at the same time, it is our duty to talk bad about the bad areas and decisions of our government, as that is the best (if not the only) thing many of us can do to really get things to happen — That is what we can do to push our country's good things forward, to make the country sustainable, to pull attention towards what needs (such as the very very deplorable cases of censorship, human rights violation, ecosystem predation we have seen in the last years).
Anyway... What did I want to comment about Martin's post? He criticizes Germany's law requiring a 5% quota for a party to have parliamentary representation.
In Mexico, the minimum is 2%. Most people agree, though, that it is too low, and that we should push to increase it. Why? Because the money that is spent in supporting the party system. In Mexico, when a political party fails to get 2% of the vote, it is basically disbanded and it is very hard for it to regroup, to compete again.
Many people believe we should aim to a political system with as few political parties as possible (such as the semi-democratic system they have in the USA). I strongly prefer the system found in most European (and even many South American) countries where there is a real wealth of ideological positions represented, and where governments have to be formed by agreeing to form coalitions, as it is almost impossible for them to get full majority.
I would much rather see Mexico march towards a parliamentary-based political system, away from the presidential one. Of course, that is almost impossible to expect.
With the current political system, we are bound to have forever few monolithic, meaningless political parties. We will likely converge on three blocks, following the current three major blocks (leftoid PRD, centroid PRI, rightoid PAN). They are different in some important senses, yes, but in general they are much the same. I don't hold any hopes to ever see something like the Pirate Party appearing in our system...
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 09/25/2009 - 12:55
I was requested to forward this information to as wide an audience as possible.
Possibly two months ago the legality/legitimacy of the actions carried out by the Hondurean armed forces, which captured a democratically elected president and without a judicial order or trial process forced him out of the country, starting a de-facto government, was something questionable. Each day, however, it becomes clearer and clearer the Hondureans are suffering a represive military-backed system which cannot be expected to fulfill as a trustable entity to conduct fair, credible elections.
I got this message from a Hondurean friend (of course, whose identity I am not divulging) denouncing the government's invasion of the .hn domain name registry, which is handled by the Sustainable Development Network (Red de Desarrollo Sustentable — RDS-HN). The National Telecomunications Comission (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, CONATEL) demands all domain name registration under the .hn top-level domain (TLD) to be suspende, and all the lists and databases regarding said TLDs to be handed over, detailing the IP ranges and the responsibles. They did this under the argument that RDS-HN is an Internet Service Provider (which it is not — Being a registrar means they are responsible for the well-keeping of public information and of handling a public good, the .hn TLD, not that they provide any kind of regulated service to individuals or organizations), with military personnel disguised as civilians (and who refused to identify themselves).
If you are interested, please read further on the text I received straight from my Hondurean contacts (Spanish) (or its unaccurate but often helpful automated translation to English, done through Google Translate)
Even though this information is normally accessible via WHOIS and similar services (this only states clearly nobody in CONATEL was able to do what I just did legally and anonymously from my personal workstation), they did it in such a fashion in order to scare the operators and the society.
Honduras is going through a very hard process. Whatever happens there will likely impact on the future reactions to the most retrograd and powerful sectors of society in the rest of Latin America. We do our best (even if as non-Hondureans living outside Honduras it only means raising our voices) to avoid the risk of our region going back to the sad, cruel and bloody 1970s history.
[update] My friend Mave, who works at NIC Chile, sent as a comment to this post LACTLD's official stand on this regard (Spanish. English version also available). LACTLD (Latin American and the Caribbean ccTLD's Organization) clearly backs RDS-HN and condemns the illegal government's actions.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 09/20/2009 - 13:13
I was pointed to this Toast to Turing, by Matt Harvey. Very much worth sharing.
What, don't you know who Alan Turing was? Read a bit on him then, one of the core seminal minds for Computer Science. And a scientist vilified for being different from what is regarded as normal.
[update] And answering to some people's doubts: Why this toast? Because the UK Government, in the voice of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, after over 50 years of leading Alan Turing to commit suicide due to criminally accusing him for gross indecency for being a homosexual and forcing him into a deep body-altering hormonal therapy to cure him, has finally posthumously apologized. Brown said, So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better.
Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/12/2009 - 07:59
I just woke up. I was having a funny and surprisingly not-abnormal dream. You know, the few occasions where I remember my dreams, I practically always find a really impossible situation going on. Not this time, and that was the first thing that struck my mind.
The dream was staged on a very nice bar, something not very different from the bar on the park by DebConf (in fact, with nice, Spanish-evening-esque light conditions). I was having there some beers with Andrew (NZ), Penny (NZ), Steve (UK), Damog (MX). We were just ordering a nice round of beers; I paid for mine with the €0.50 coin I found yesterday in my kitchen (hey, that's cheap beer! ;-) ). And the conversation was, in fact, quite logical and interesting.
We were comparing the worldviews with which children across our cultures are educated at school. Andrew was sharing how children in New Zealand were taught about the human migrations that led to the population distribution until the 1500s, when Europeans started changing the face of the Earth. Most of the argument was the same one we all know — Early humans leave Africa, their traits specialized for the different weathers, what is widely regarded as the three main racial branches (European white, African black, Eastern yellow - My inner Neo Zealander does not care too much about political correctness, it seems), with Amerindian brown and South-seas black branching off at some point in the process. So far, so good… Debatable but good.
Andrew and Penny continued explaining that the apparent reason, according to New Zealander anthropologists, why the indigenous population in America accepted the culture imposed after the European conquests in the XVI-XVII (contrary to the almost complete annihilation of the Pacific/Indic ocean native cultures) centuries is because the group that crossed Bering ≈50,000BC, and some later groups with whom they inter-mixed came from a semi-developed proto-Christian society, so the new ideas were closer to their own beliefs. Damog, Steve and me gust nodded with interest.
Less than 30 minutes later, awake and after my morning coffee, I'll have to ask you: WTF‽ A proto-Christian society... ≈48,000 years before Christian era? No, no way your argument holds any water!
(on a side note: At least I know that if at some point I develop a multiple personalities disorder, and they are allowed in the same room at once, I will have a good time debating with myself about interesting topics)
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/07/2009 - 13:24
I am updating an old package's packaging style to take advantage of the new DebHelper 7 goodities. So far, I have been quite successful, but I hit a problem… And before bugging on IRC, I decided to check with Joey Hess' presentation at DebConf9, Not your grandpa's debhelper.
Of course, not remembering the URL, it was the most natural thing to ask Google:
Of course, putting this thingy aside, the right answer was the first hit. However, what is the first hit for the Grandma version? Quite dangerous: A post in Ubuntuforums for which the Google excrept reads: this tool can obviously eat your cat, poison your grandma, create an earthquake or do any other unexpected harm, so I don't provide any warranty whatsoever.
I sincerely prefer joeyh's version.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 20:55
During DebConf, Noodles discretely approached me and asked whether I'd be interested and willing to join him as Debian's keyring maintainer. Of course, I felt greatly honored and happy about this. Over the past weeks, we have exchanged some mails where he details how it is handled, and I feel I get the general logic — and this last week (which was quite hectic for me — apologies in advance for all the work and mails I have due for different people!) he finally took the big steps: Requested DSA to give me login rights to the needed machine and RT queue and to be listed in the relevant area of the Debian Organization page.
So, even if I still feel afraid of botching Debian and sending the universe swirling away into chaos, I am most happy, and could no longer hide it. Yay! :-D
[BTW] No, it was not on purpose. I did not grow my beard in order to look like St. Peter. But it must have been part of the decision process!
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 11:05
I met my friend Josef Daberning, who did his Austrian Social Service working with Drupal at the Casa de los Tres Mundos NGO, in Granada, Nicaragua, at the Central American Free Software Encounter, last May. He told me that, when going back to Austria, he would spend some days in Mexico, and wanted to give a workshop on Drupal.
The course has just started, and will take place today and tomorrow — You can follow the live stream at http://www.iiec.unam.mx:18000/drupal.ogg — The videos will be uploaded soon as well, I will post them on this same node.
This node will be used for whatever is needed to make public for people following the talk. As of right now, you can download his presentation — http://gwolf.org/files/gira-drupal.odp and http://gwolf.org/files/gira-drupal.pdf
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 19:05
Today I had a nice and productive day, code-wise. Maybe that's a side effect from being unable to lose my time following E-mail?
The code itself? Naah, too pedestrian, to simplistic. It will ruin the sight. It just looks so beautifully universal!
Ok, I am compelled to share, even if it spoils it and renders it into a completely regular, even stupid method.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 10:56
Yesterday (Sunday, 31/08/09) I far from any computer-like object for most of the day. When I got back home, of course, I promptly opened my laptop to check my mail — who knows what destiny might have for me in a 24 hour period? Maybe I won yet another fortune I have to cash in Nigeria? Maybe there is (GASP!) a new RC bug on one of my packages?
But no, my mail server didn't feel like answering to my ssh queries. The connection was established, but shut down before even sending the protocolary SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_5.1p1 string. Fearing an overload (after all, the little bugger is just a Mac Mini running in another room in my house), I tried to check (via Web) its Munin status — Apache didn't want to listen either. It answered, but got only access denied. Things started worrying me… But (silly me) not enough — The machine runs headless1, so I just danced the boring raising elephants song2.
Allowed for a couple of minutes for everything to settle, and tried to connect. Horror, now even pings didn't work!
So I ran to fetch my old, bulky and trusty monitor. Went back to the machine, plugged it in, switched it off and back on. Everything worked fine this time — At least appearingly. I opened up mutt and started happily reading mails, while trying to understand on another console what happened at 07:06 that didn't get logged anywhere and had the machine dead for basically all the day. And then, BRRRT-BRRRT-BRRRT, I started hearing the HDD seeking.
I was able to send a couple of mails, but decided to let the machine rest and... Will reduce its disk usage to an absolute minimum. Fortunately, I have already the machine meant to replace it — A much nicer, beefier iMac G5, waiting to be vacated from its data, task which has suddenly become prioritary.
So, in short: If you need to get in touch with me in the next day or two, don't count on my usual @gwolf.org mail, as it is down. I hope to be able to get the data out of the poor little bugger painlessly after it rests a bit. And I hope not to drown in a sea of mails after I get the replacement back online :-/
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/25/2009 - 13:09
On August 22, 2009, Pooka and Moni offered a visit to the archaeological mini-sites in Tlalnepantla, the municipality they live in in Estado de México, Northern part of Mexico City. More people were originally invited, but in the end, only Caro, Vicm3 and myself were able to attend.
Tlalnepantla is a very strange municipality nowadays. Pooka explained us of its vast regional influence, until it gave way to Texcoco —and later Mexico-Tenochtitlan— as the dominant power. Tlalnepantla lost notoriety — So much that its current (and last) prehispanic name means the place in between — between two more important places.
Anyway, being us three complete geeks (plus Moni, who blends quite well between us) with lots of social, politic coincidences, we also had a great talk — Víctor summarized it: Wikipedia, FaceBook and their clones, license and licenceable material understanding, the hopefully upcoming Central-American mini-DebConf, different CMSs. And many things that escape any relationship.
Very nice and worthy visit. And the photos, of course, are here.
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