Hyperdimensional strings

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 17:41

I am stunned no more people have been bitten by this. Or at least, the Intarweb has not heard about it. Censorship perhaps? I haven't researched more into the causes, but anyway...
I was pushing a project I have had lingering for some time from Rails 2.0.x to 2.1.x (yes, 2.2 is already out there, but 2.1 is the version that will ship with Lenny) - The changes should not be too invasive, as it is a minor release, but there are some quite noticeable changes.
Anyway... What was the problem? Take this very simple migration:

  1. class CreatePeople < ActiveRecord::Migration
  2. def self.up
  3. create_table :people do |t|
  4. t.column :login, :string, :null => false
  5. t.column :passwd, :string, :null => false
  6. t.column :firstname, :string, :null => false
  7. t.column :famname, :string, :null => false
  8. t.column :email, :string
  10. t.column :pw_salt, :string
  11. t.column :created_at, :timestamp
  12. t.column :last_login_at, :timestamp
  13. end
  14. end
  16. def self.down
  17. drop_table :people
  18. end
  19. end

The problem is that PostgreSQL refuses to create a hyperdimensional string field. I offer this here to you, line-wrapped by me for your convenience.
  1. PGError: ERROR: syntax error at OR near "("
  2. LINE 1: ...serial PRIMARY KEY, "login" character varying(255)(255) NOT ...
  3. ^
  4. : CREATE TABLE "people" ("id" serial PRIMARY KEY,
  5. "login" character varying(255)(255) NOT NULL,
  6. "passwd" character varying(255)(255)(255) NOT NULL,
  7. "firstname" character varying(255)(255)(255)(255) NOT NULL,
  8. "famname" character varying(255)(255)(255)(255)(255) NOT NULL,
  9. "email" character varying(255)(255)(255)(255)(255)(255) DEFAULT NULL NULL,
  10. "pw_salt" character varying(255)(255)(255)(255)(255)(255)(255) DEFAULT NULL NULL,
  11. "created_at" timestamp DEFAULT NULL NULL, "last_login_at" timestamp DEFAULT NULL NULL)

Beautiful. Now I can store strings not only as character vectors, but as planes, cubes, hypercubes, and any other hyperdimensional construct! Are we approaching quantum computers?
What is really striking is that... I found only one occurrence on tha net of this bug - one and a half years ago, in Ola Bini's blog. No stunned users looking for the culprit, no further reports... Strange.
Still, the bug was fixed in Rails 2.2 about half a year ago, although not in revisions of earlier versions. I will request the patch to be applied to earlier versions as well. Sigh.

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Historias de la Historia del cómputo en méxico

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/06/2009 - 18:21

Some months ago, I got a phone call from Rafael Fernández Flores. He wanted to interview me for a book he was working on regarding the history of computers in Mexico. The first computer in Latin America was installed in 1958 at my University (UNAM), and last year there were several activities conmemorating it. One of said activities is the publication of the book Historias de la Historia del cómputo en méxico, by Rafael Fernández and Margarita Ontiveros.
The book was printed in November, and Rafael gave me my copy in early December. It is quite an entertaining read - I mostly enjoyed the archaeological parts of it, referring to the 1950s and 1960s, and with many people that I know first hand (as my father is one of the founding researchers of the Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas Aplicadas, Sistemas y Servicios, CIMASS, now IIMAS).
I do believe, anyway, the book is focused too heavily on what happened in the large-scale computer world during a fundamental point in time for me (late 1970s, early 1980s) - It shows that the authors were very involved in the important projects the University set foot on, but they overlook fundamental pieces of the history. Very important developments were made in smaller venues (it was shocking for me to find only one mention, and just as a reference, to Fundación Arturo Rosenblueth and its great Centros Galileo, where many hundreds of kids (me included) learned to love computers, to program, and had a thriving socialization place. I also missed mentions of the BBS scene in Mexico, for which there are various exponents. And, just to single out one person, I found it absurd to have me interviewed and not to include La Mancha de la Calabaza que Ladra.
One of the last chapters -there are over 40 chapters, stemming from over 30 individual interviews- publishes the talk I had with Rafael. I must say there are small errata in its transcription (the first example that comes to my mind: I told him that one of the fruits of the OLPC project was the appearance of the now-popular netbooks, partly due to the appearance of lower cost parts, but I must reiterate I didn't say the Asus EEE is a part of said project). You can I am attaching my interview (as scanned, low-res images) to this post, in case you are interested.
Anyway - If the topic interests you, you will find many interesting passages, many passages you will surely laugh with and probably remember. The book is very well laid out. And it is a great joy to be part of it!

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DebGem is on its way

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/05/2009 - 18:15

This morning, I got a mail that made me very happy. I followed it up a bit, and some hours later, echoed it over the pkg-ruby-extras list. And, yes, a blog posting won't hurt :)
I have done some rantings on why it is so painful to integrate cultures such as Debian and Rails. Those rants were part of quite a large rant-net and attracted a fair share of traffic/comments over here. Flamefesting over your blog is fun! :-) but anyway, I am delighted to say that at least some people worth their weight in code were watching, interested.
The mail I got this morning (yes, follow the links above!) was from Hongli Lai, one of the very nice people at Phusion - The people behind Phusion Passenger (a.k.a. mod_rails) and Ruby Enterprise Edition. Yes, people with a very different mindset to mine (specially when it comes to being a 100% Free Software person).
Hongli invited me to try their new DebGem service (still in Beta, although quite usable as it is). They are offering an auto-built full repository of Rubyforge, translated to Debian packages. They are currently supporting Debian 4.0 (Etch) and Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10 (Intrepid and Hardy). And, yes, installing any arbitrary Ruby module is now just as easy as aptitude install libsomething-ruby. For over 20,000 Gems.
There is a catch, yes. The service is currently free, while they finish the public beta period. Their pricing is available.
Best luck to you guys. And... Shall you enjoy fierce competition from Debian proper! ;-)
[Update]: They just posted the official Beta announcement for DebGem

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5 million breakfasts a day?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 12:38
5 million breakfasts a day?

Our municipal (Coyoacán, Mexico City) government announces 5,147,000 breakfasts are served daily in the Coyoacán public schools.
Sounds great, doesn't it?
...Until you remember Coyoacán has only 628,000 inhabitants. I'd venture to say, 100,000 children in public schools can be a decent figure. So... Is the government forcing each child to eat 51 breakfasts a day?
Truth to be said: A week after the advertisement appeared, it was replaced by other, more believable figures: Over 5 million school uniforms given to the students for free. And now it mentions Distrito Federal, which contains Coyoacán - The total DF population is around 9 million people (from the ~25 million that live in the metropolitan area), say 3-4 million kids in school age, lets assume 2.5 million of them go to public schools. Two uniforms per kid. Sounds possible.

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Startups here and there

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 12/13/2008 - 20:21

David Welgon has a nice post regarding his opinions on pros and cons on running a startup in Europe (Italy) and the USA (SF/Bay area). The first of the Italy cons got my attention:

Less of a startup culture and mentality. It's more typical to get a "job for life" and hang on to it for all you're worth. Many Italians are tremendously creative, industrious, inventive people, but are going to find it more difficult to express that in some form of business.

I know I am unlike many people, specially in this field... But anyway. I live in Mexico. Many factors in The Way Things Work are pushing people towards having an enterpeneur mentality - And what you see as a point against, I see as a very big advantage.
Some people have what it takes to run a business, and that's great. However, I think it is wrong to assume most people will benefit from running their own business - And specially in a country as mine. I cannot speak much about Europe, but from what you say, it confirms it is a good model of what I'd like Mexico to morph into.
Too many people start their companies with dreams of glory, thinking they have something to differentiate from the rest of the marketplace - and they lack it. So instead of enriching an existing company with more, and better focused, technical talent, they will end up making it poorer with yet another generic company with nothing new to offer, paying famelic wages to their employees, finding a way to skip the social security payments. And there are lots of legal ways to do so in Mexico - and a growing segment of the population has neither health care nor retirement savings, as this makes their day-to-day incomes substantially more juicy... But the future will bite them hard. Well, not only them - It will bite all of us. I still think we will inevitably, sooner or later, evolve into a more caring society, a society where the strong protects the weak, where it (via the State, the government) ensures nobody has under the minimum needed to have a decent life.
And, although I am essentialy a Socialist at heart, I do recognize there is place for people getting more money than others - After all, courage and creativity should be encouraged, and true enterpeneurs should get compensed for what they give to the society - But the ridiculous, stupid differences we get to see, specially in third world countries (remember that the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, lives on the same city I do, and around ~15 years ago even lived less than five blocks away from me... But I do have close family where having food daily on the table is far from a fact) are something that should disappear for good.
Loyalty to your employer and long-term job commitment are two values I hold very dear, and hope to be able to practice. So far, I have worked for eight years for UNAM (1999-2003 and 2005-present), and I hope to continue here for many years to come. I was just talking about this with a friend - The payment itself is far less than what I could get somewhere else, but the work conditions and long-term viability are more than enough to repay for the difference. And I am sure many of my friends and acquintances would be much better off if they stopped prioritizing getting more money now in respect to leading a better, richer life - And, of course, if we all valued more giving back to the society, as we will probably all need to ask from it sooner or later.

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My git tips...

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 12/13/2008 - 19:35

Ok, so a handy meme is loose: Handy Git tips. We even had a crazy anatidae requesting us to post this to the Git wiki whatever we send on this regard to our personal blogs.
Following Damog's post, I will also put my .bashrc snippet:

  1. parse_git_branch() {
  2. branch=`git branch 2> /dev/null | sed -e '/^[^*]/d' -e 's/* \(.*\)/\1/'`
  3. if [ ! -z "$branch" ]
  4. then
  5. if ! git status|grep 'nothing to commit .working directory clean' 2>&1 > /dev/null
  6. then
  7. branch="${branch}*"
  8. mod=`git ls-files -m --exclude-standard|wc -l`
  9. new=`git ls-files -o --exclude-standard|wc -l`
  10. del=`git ls-files -d --exclude-standard|wc -l`
  11. if [ $mod != 0 ]; then branch="${branch}${mod}M"; fi
  12. if [ $new != 0 ]; then branch="${branch}${new}N"; fi
  13. if [ $del != 0 ]; then branch="${branch}${del}D"; fi
  15. fi
  16. fi
  17. echo $branch
  18. }

This gives me the following information on my shell prompt:

  • The git branch where we are standing
  • If it has any uncommitted changes, a * is displayed next to it
  • If there are changes not checked in to the index, M (modified), N (new) or D (deleted) is displayed, together with the number of files in said condition. i.e.,

    Sometimes, entering a very large git tree takes a second or two... But once it has run once, it goes on quite smoothly.
    Of course, I still have this also in .bashrc - but its funcionality pales in comparison:
    1. get_svn_revision() {
    2. if [ -d .svn ]
    3. then
    4. svn info | grep ^Revision | cut -f 2 -d ' '
    5. fi
    6. }

    I am sure it can be expanded, of course - but why? :)
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githubredir.debian.net - Delivering .tar.gz from Github tags

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/10/2008 - 14:03

There is quite a bit of software whose upstream authors decide that, as they are already using Git for development, the main distribution channel should be GitHub - This allows, yes, for quite a bit of flexibility, which many authors have taken advantage of.

So, I just registered and set up http://githubredir.debian.net/ to make it easier for packagers to take advantage of it.

Specifically, what does this redirector make? Given that GitHub allows for downloading as a .zip or as a .tar.gz any given commit, it suddenly becomes enough to git tag with a version number, and GitHub magically makes that version available for download. Which is sweet!

Sometimes it is a bit problematic, though, to follow their format. Github gives a listing of the tags for each particular prooject, and each of those tags has a download page, with both archiving formats.

I won't go into too much detail here - Thing is, going over several pages becomes painful for Debian's uscan, widely used for various of our QA processes. There are other implemented redirectors, such as the one used for SourceForge.

This redirector is mainly meant to be consumed by Debian's uscan. Anybody who finds this system useful can freely use it, although you might be better served by the rich, official GitHub.com interface.

Anyway - Enough repeating what I said on the http://githubredir.debian.net/ base page. Find it useful? Go ahead and use it!

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Apt-get and gems: Different planets, right. But it must not be the war of the worlds!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 12/08/2008 - 23:57

Thanks to some unexplained comments on some oldish entries on my blog, I found -with a couple of days of delay- Rubigem is from Mars, Apt-get is from Venus, in Pelle's weblog. And no, I have not yet read the huge amount of comments generated from it... Still, I replied with the following text - And I am leaving this blog post in place to remind me to further extend my opinions later on.
Wow... Quite a bit of comments. And yes, given that the author wrote a (very well phrased and balanced) post, I feel obliged to reply. But given that he refered to me first, I'll just skip the chatter for later - I'm tired this time of day ;-)
Pelle, I agree with you - This problem is because we are from two very different mindsets. I have already said so - http://www.gwolf.org/soft/debian+rails is a witness to that point.
But I do not think the divide is between sysadmins and developers. I am a developer that grew from the sysadmin stance, but that's not AFAICT that much the fact in Debian.
Thing is, in a distribution, we try to cater for common users. I have a couple of Rails apps under development that I expect to be able to package for Debian, and I think can be very useful for the general public.
Now, how is the user experience when you install a desktop application, in whatever language/framework it is written? You don't care what the platform is - you care that it integrates nicely with your environment. Yes, the webapp arena is a bit more difficult - but we have achieved quite a bit of advance in that way. Feel like using a PHP webapp? Just install it, and it's there. A Python webapp? Same thing. A Perl webapp? As long as you don't do some black magic (and that's one of the main factors that motivated me away from mod_perl), the same: Just ask apt-get to install it and you are set.
But... What about installing a Rails application? From a package manager? For a user who does not really care about what design philosophy you followed, who might not even know what a MVC pattern is?
Thing is, distributions aim at _users_. And yes, I have gradually adopted a user's point of view. I very seldom install anything not available as a .deb - and if I do, I try to keep it clean enough so I can package it for my personal use later on.
Anyway... I will post a copy of this message in my blog (http://gwolf.org/), partly as a reminder to come back here and read the rest of the buzz. And to go to the other post referenced here. And, of course, I invite other people involved in Ruby and Debian to continue sharing this - I am sure I am not the only person (or, in more fairness, that Debian's pkg-ruby-extras team is not the only team) interested in bridging this huge divide and get to a point we can interact better - And I am sure that among the Rubyists many people will also value having their code usable by non-developers as well.

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Familar poetry

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 14:02

I love it when a lack-of-humor and lack-of-appropriateness-originated flamewar causes somebody to point me towards a very nice display of intelligent humor. Specially when it is so close to me, to my roots, to my family and my personal history. FWIW, for several years, while I was a BBS user, I used WereWolf as my nickname. Great thanks to Frank Küster - and, of course, to Christian Morgenstern.

The Werewolf - English translation by Alexander Gross

A Werewolf, troubled by his name,
Left wife and brood one night and came
To a hidden graveyard to enlist
The aid of a long-dead philologist.

"Oh sage, wake up, please don't berate me,"
He howled sadly, "Just conjugate me."
The seer arose a bit unsteady
Yawned twice, wheezed once, and then was ready.

"Well, 'Werewolf' is your plural past,
While 'Waswolf' is singularly cast:
There's 'Amwolf' too, the present tense,
And 'Iswolf,' 'Arewolf' in this same sense."

"I know that--I'm no mental cripple--
The future form and participle
Are what I crave," the beast replied.
The scholar paused--again he tried:

"A 'Will-be-wolf?' It's just too long:
'Shall-be-wolf?' 'Has-been-wolf?' Utterly wrong!
Such words are wounds beyond all suture--
I'm sorry, but you have no future."

The Werewolf knew better--his sons still slept
At home, and homewards now he crept,
Happy, humble, without apology
For such folly of philology.

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It's just a different mindset. Not necessarily a _sane_ one, though...

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 14:18

Wouter insists that Ruby Gems are enough of an argument to keep Rails at a distance. Even though I agree with the basic claim and think that Gems are basically insane and sick, this should be taken a bit more under perspective.
We are blessed. We are blessed to have Debian, such a rich OS with such a great package management system, and with superb integration between so many packages. Blessed are also the users of most Free Software based distributions, as they share the advantages of systems growing with full consciousness of their interaction's benefits. However, integration with the rest of the world is not seamless.
Most scripting languages have their own infrastructure for managing the modules/libraries/pacakges/whatevers dependencies. Perl has CPAN, PHP has PEAR, Ruby has Gems... I do see Gems as the most obnoxious of them all, but the basics are the same.
The Rails crowd started being Unix-centric, but the Windows (and MacOS - they are no better, believe me, at least in this regard) world has exerted its pressure. Gems caters very well to their needs, but we do suffer the integration at the distro side.
The only sane way the propietary-minded people have managed to stay clear of the well known "DLL hell" is to ship everything a given program requires bundled together - that's the main reason for the bloat of lots of applications, and for the sloppiness of security support. Every application packager is responsible for shipping updated versions to any library it bundles in, except for the very basic core that the OS itself provides. That seems so annoyingly backwards to us that... it is unbelievable.
So, yes, Rails application trees often include Rails itself. For $DEITY sake, even I have grown used to working that way, as things tend to break under your nose otherwise. My proposal (which we talked over at DebConf, but have not pushed so far) is to support simultaneous versions of Rails installed in a Debian system (of course, via different packages), more or less in the way that simultaneous versions of Ruby, PHP or Python (and, in some limited fashion, Perl - Although Perl does not suffer from this incompatible bumps. Yay for Perl!) can be installed.
...And, yes, together with the pkg-ruby-extras team, I have been trying to -slowly, yes- package whatever modules we often use so they don't have to be included in Rails applications.
So far, the best way (although by far not optimal) I have found to limit this explosion of trees is to include most libraries in my Rails application trees as git submodule trees - If they are not explicitly downloaded, the systemwide libraries will be used.
Yes, the "ship the whole thing as a bundle" approach is quite annoying. However, at least I must acknowledge that it works better than the approach I took with previous (mod_perl-based) webapps I wrote... As relatively few people grok mod_perl, I ended up with quite some apps which were not installed by anybody but me. Rails is obnoxious... but seems to be parsable by the humanity at large.

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You insensitive clods. s/lo/ol/

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/24/2008 - 08:12

It's sad that today in Planet Debian we have hit an Eurocentric geographically discriminating meme. Particularly, one I'd love to take part of. Well, at least I can assure you we have reached the usual low temperature of 2 Celsius in Mexico City... As always, people say it's so cold that this year we _will_ get snow. And as always, I'm sure it's just wishful thinking ;-)
So, even with Marcelo's frozen Zócalo live again for this winter, I can only reinforce our tropical paradise stereotypes by reminding you that this is less than 500Km away from home - All year 'round:

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Remember, remember, the 20th of November...

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 22:35

This might be a good message to write in Spanish... But then again, a long time ago I decided this is an English-posting site. So be it, I'll only have to give more background information.
This day marks the date when, 98 years ago, Francisco I. Madero started the Mexican Revolution - About a decade of unrest, civil war and ideologies. The revolution is what created the violent, uncivil image of the Mexican, which accompanied us for long years in many foreigners' minds. The revolution brought to an end 30 years of a single-man rule, the Porfiriato. But that's only the major symptom - The Revolution had many, many other consequences. About one million (out of a 10 million population) people died. There was a very significative rearrangement of the society, a rearrangement that took about half a century to settle. But I won't write more background - You can always ask the wikipedia about our Revolution.
The reason I am posting this is that, as it usually happens in this time of year, several so-called analysts in the media have started asking, was the Revolution really worth it? Did it change anything at all? Did the Revolution in the end win, or was it defeated from within? Should we still celebrate it?
And there are, yes, reasons to doubt it. Renato Leduc, at the same time a great journalist and a delicious poet, says it as many - while at the same time, as nobody else: Tiempos en que era Dios omnipotente / y el señor Don Porfirio presidente / Tiempos, ¡ay! tan iguales al presente, or ya se están muriendo todos / ¡Jesús qué desilusión...! / se está volviendo gobierno / ¡Ay dios...! La revolución.
Anyway... Our media overlords insist on us forgetting the struggles and the real changes that came from them, on rewriting the history... Probably they will push us later on to have the cristeros as the real fathers of the Nation?
Even if so many bits of reality didn't change after Porfirio Diaz's regime fell in 1910, I find it insulting to think that even 70 years of PRI -with very sharp differences between periods, with huge differences between the PRI-born governments- are comparable to 30 years of a one-man rule; even with brutal repressions such as the dirty war against so many subversive movements in the 50s-80s (as officially There Was No Armed Struggle Anymore, just some pesky communist subversives), it cannot be compared to the Porfirian Peace (ask Cananea and Río Blanco). Today we might have a shameful concentration of money and power in very few hands (including the world's richest man), but it certainly does not reach the point of 1910 where most of the Mexican soil was owned by less than 30 families, with latifundios as big as many states...
Anyway - So far, nothing new - just bits I heard here and there, and my reactions to them. But this morning, around 8:25, I tuned in to Noticias IMER, the news program of one of the few public, non-gubernamental, independent radio stations. An interview was under way, but I could not get the interviewed person's name (I guess, a historian - will write to ask for his data). His comments were very interesting, and very worth echoing. I'll try not to distort him.
The Revolution started off very organized, and with a very simple goal: Get Porfirio Diaz out, and call for real federal elections. Sufragio efectivo, no reelección. Of course, the fight was very short, and Madero became the president, with an overwhelming majority. Of course, also, the reactionary sectors set up a coup and killed Madero. Victoriano Huerta seized the power - and that's where the real revolution really began. Groups all over the country (some of which were at unrest since Madero, as they were not seeing the changes they needed - changes that would bring an end to the huge class differences and disrespect to the native Mexican population) rose in arms, and forced Huerta into exile. Then, they battled each other for many more years. It became known as la bola - When somebody joined the revolutionary forces, people said he went to fight with the crowd. But, inside the crowd, there were very different points of view. No, Carranza, Villa and Zapata (the foremost leaders in the hardest part of the fight) were not power-hungry barbarians - much to the contrary. They had very full, very complex views of the problem and possible solutions. I won't delve much into them, also, as I'm not an expert...
Villa and Zapata had the most compatible approaches, seeking an aggresive land redistribution, a communal property system (closest to most of the indigenous population's roots, what we would now call usos y costumbres). For the government, both favored going towards a Europe-like parliamentary system, where the parliament were the real force, and the president (or prime minister or whatever) would only be the designated person to implement the parliament's decision. Both Villa and Zapata feared the evil stemming from the unlimited power that the Presidential Chair symbolized (Fui soldado de Francisco Villa / de aquel hombre de fama mundial, / que aunque estuvo sentado en la silla / no envidiaba la presidencial). They met at the Aguascalientes convention, and were quite close to each other - but were defeated by the superior Venustiano Carranza (Constitucionalista) army.
Carranza, although vilified for his corruption (nowadays, carrancear is still a synonim for stealing), had an opposite view - also originating from a very deep analysis. Carranza saw that what brought down Madero was, in the end, the lack of power of the President to rule the country without support from the legislative power. So, he pushed a political program making the President the strongest man in Mexico. He and his people wrote and passed the 1917 Constitution, valid today. This constitution goes to great lengths pushing revolutionary ideals - Land and wealth redistribution, universal and free education, keeps a complete separation between state and church, ensures state control over strategic areas... The 1917 constitution is one of our history's greatest achievements.
But, of course, it is not perfect - it paved the way for a hegemonic party controlling the real power behind it all. PRI started as a very heterogeneous mixture of the whole revolutionary family, but slowly became a bureaucratic, stagnated monolith.
And in a somehow ironic twist of destiny, the forces that today push for deepest changes, and precisely in the same direction that Villa and Zapata wished, are... Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and Frente Popular Francisco Villa (FPFV). EZLN is far more successful and advanced in its social experiment. Again, I won't comment further in what I don't really understand.
As a last point, the commenter I'm quoting (and whose name I must get, to update this post!), said that practically in every country that has transited from any sort of dictatorship towards a more-or-less believable democracy (say, everywhere in South America, or Spain, or Eastern Europe, or...), one of the first steps has been to update or replace the constitution with a new one, preventing the mistakes overlooked by the previous one from being reinstated. In our country, we have long heard about the "Reforma del Estado", a very nice-sounding-term which nobody believes in. After the 2006 electoral mess (no matter who won in the end, everybody will agree it was a mess that should be prevented from happening again, we had high hopes of real changes being introduced. A parliamentary, or at least semi-presidentialist regime was strongly suggested as a way forward. Changing the electoral system towards having second-rounds if needed. _anything!_ But no, we were stuck with... The same as always.
So, did the Revolution win or lose? It is clear to me. It won, and it really shaped -for better- what would happen in the next 100 years. However, in a century, we have been able to twist the law to make it turn against itself. I have to agree with my EZLN-minded friends (I sympathize with EZLN's general goals, but don't think its way forward is the right way to go): Pushing the change from within the government is just wishful thinking, but a strong delusion. However, is there a way to push our country forward without repeating a violent cycle? I really hope so. Our current situation is simply pathetic.
I lack a good closing for this post... So I'll let good old Jefe Pluma Blanca, Renato Leduc, do it for me.
Tiempos de Pancho Villa
y de la guerra de mentadas y tiros en la sierra.
Tiempos de fe
no en Dios sino en la tierra

Por el cerro de la Pila
fueron entrando a Torreón
mi general Pancho Villa
y atrás la revolución...
¡Ay jijos...! ya se nos hizo
cuánto diablo bigotón...

Ya viene Toribio Ortega
subiendo y bajando cerros
y no te enredes ni engañes
que ahí anda Pablito Seáñez
haciendo ladrar los perros.

¡Cuánto usurero barbón...!
¡Ay jijos... cómo les vuela
de la levita el faldón...!
¡Ay jijos... ya se nos hizo:
triunfó la revolución...!

Tenemos camino andado...
No hay que juntarse con rotos
siempre te juegan traición
ya Madero está vengado
ya murió la usurpación.

En su caballo retinto
llegó Emiliano Zapata
bonita su silla charra
y sus botones de plata
pero mucho más bonito
su famoso Plan de Ayala...

Este gallo es de navaja
y no es gallo de espolón
si quieres tierra trabaja
trabaja no seas huevón...

Ya llegó don Venustiano
con sus anteojos oscuros
y Villa y Zapata gritan:
No sé que tengo en los ojos...
porque ya en Pablo González
se vislumbra la traición
¡Ay reata no te revientes
que es el último jalón...!

ya se están muriendo todos
¡Jesús qué desilusión...!
se está volviendo gobierno
¡Ay dios...! La revolución.

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4ª Rodada Nacional Tri-Estatal México-Pachuca

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:48
4ª Rodada Nacional Tri-Estatal México-Pachuca

Yesterday I took part of the fourth inter-state bike ride, requesting the construction of proper and safe cycling ways. Tens of Mexican bike-rider organizations were part of the organization, althought the effort is basically grouped under the Ciclopistas y Ciclovías Interestatales project - For further details on the route we took, you can look at the México-Pachuca road map, although it was not followed literally.
I am very happy I decided to take part of this - I went with Adrián, but after the first rest/grouping we lost track of each other, and decided the best would be for each to go at his own pace. He managed to do the 95Km ride, I decided to stop at about 85 (I set my target to the first houses of Pachuca, so I could say I arrived ;-) ) and took a ride from the barredoras that were trailing us. Still, 85Km in about six hours (including the two rests) are well over what I expected to endure. And although the conditions were not ideal (i.e. there was some re-pavement jobs in a large portion between Tizayuca and Pachuca, which led to poor road conditions in some areas, and the dry, horrid smell of tar in others; we cycled along the vehicles in the very busy highway, so we didn't exactly get a dose of clean air), it was great. And I thought each of my muscles would hurt like hell today, but no, they are just feeling lazy ;-)
The GPS tracking on Nokia SportsTracker, The GPS tracking on OpenStreetMap

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How (and how not) to create cyclist awareness

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/31/2008 - 17:46

Michael blogs about Critical Mass.
What is Critical Mass in case you are too lazy to go to Michael's or to the Wikipedia? A cyclist-awareness movement, showing how bikers are safer (i.e. more visible) when there are more of them. The (dis)organizational nature of this movement (at least according to Wikipedia's information) seems quite fun and interesting.
However, I have to oppose what Michael says is a strong point of CM in Austria - At least, given my country's culture.
People who don't bike often say we have the least bike-aware culture, and that this city must be like hell to cyclists. It is not - Mexicans tend to believe this is the worst place possible on many accounts, and I'm happy to prove the contrary. I do feel that bringing people out to the streets, as our local government's Muévete en bici program pushes, is completely right: It shows people how fast they can move in real streets in the city, taking away the fear of being run over by a bus, and people will gradually understand we can all excercise the right to use the streets without polluting, and gives us a better idea on how to behave with traffic (even if the traffic is made of fellow bikers) around us. I know this program works - At least, because it worked on me. Whenever possible, I go everywhere in this (not small or friendly by any measure) city by bike.
Anyway - What criticism do I have for Michael's post? That he states they:

Bicycling ludicrously slowly for a good hour, we managed to claim some fairly busy streets while many people tried to get home by car.

IMHO, what we should be doing is to demand the drivers to respect us, not to make them want to run us over. They should not be driven into hating bikers because of the chaos they generate - It is terrible to sit in a car for two hours when you usually take 30 minutes. There is simply no justification for that.
When I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride, some people wanted to take all four lanes of Reforma. Fortunately, reason prevailed, and we took only the lane we were assigned. And we should keep that in mind! Whenever possible, we should protest and make ourselves heard, but without interfering, without damaging, other people's lives!
Oh, by the way: If anybody in Mexico wants to have some nice hours of healthy fun: I am still pondering whether to join, as it is a huge effort, but I am very inclined to do so. Next week, November 9, we will go by bike from Mexico City's Zócalo to Pachuca. We face 95Km and close to four hours. The road to Pachuca is basically flat, and going in a large group is a great experience. Hope to see you there!

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SSH visual host keys

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 18:14

Via Kees Cook (and sorry for the reiteration for people following along Planet Debian, thanks to Caspar Clemens: Recent (>= 5.1) versions of OpenSSH (found at least in Debian Lenny and Ubuntu Intrepid), have the VisualHostKey option. What does it do?

$ ssh -o VisualHostKey=yes
Host key fingerprint is db:7a:d8:a8:2e:41:a2:e5:51:e1:7f:d0:73:bd:85:bf
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|    ..           |
|   ..  .   . .   |
|   .. . o . o .  |
|  + .. . o   +   |
| + +  . S   . .  |
|. . .  . o     . |
|     .  .+.   E  |
|    .   o.o      |
|     oo...       |

Linux respaldos.local.iiec 2.6.26-1-vserver-amd64 #1 SMP Wed Oct 1 13:08:10 UTC 2008 x86_64

What does this mean? This ASCII-art graph represents your host's public key, which uniquely identifies (or at least, it better damn should uniquely identify!) it. This representation was added mainly because it is way easier to be able to visually record the shape of your most frequently used hosts' IDs than their fingerprint. If you connect from a foreign or untrusted machine (i.e. one that does not yet know your host's identity), make sure to run with this switch - it will protect you from somebody supplanting your server's identity.
Besides, it adds to the general kewlness factor, doesn't it? ;-)
To enable this behaviour by default, add the following to your /etc/ssh/ssh_config (or to your personal .ssh/config):

Host * 
  VisualHostKey yes

Now... What about publishing the list of the 32767 known-bad SSH keys? That'd make for a nice ASCII-art exhibit :-}

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