Talk submitted for YAPC::EU

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/22/2007 - 18:03
I just submitted my talk proposal for YAPC::EU, which will be held in Vienna in late August. The topic? Integrating Perl in a wider distribution: The Debian pkg-perl group. I took part in YAPC::NA (Yet Another Perl Conference - North America) in 2001, in Montreal, and YAPC::EU (you guessed right: Europe) in 2002, in Munich. While in Munich, I met Debian's Erich, Weasel and the late Jens. It is a very nice conference with all kinds of Perl-heads, apt for different experience levels. the talk I am proposing will be about what do we work for in Debian, how can we get a better synergy from our upstream group and (oh, this point is quite itchy - specially in strongly opinioned communities such as Ruby's! Perl people are quite nice to play with, however, but still...) what do we (as Debian maintainers) request from them in order for life to be smoother. Of course, I only submitted the talk. The CFP has just been launched, and so far, mine is the fourth talk offered - It can still be rejected (as it is not really related to Perl development, the heart of YAPC), but I guess it will be deemed interesting by the Perl monks reviewing them. In any case, hope to see you in Vienna as well!
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Dell laptops without Windows? No, not yet

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 20:06
Steinar: You can get some (few) Dell desktop models with no preinstalled Windows, IIRC they are called the «L series». I tried, however, to get a OS-free laptop. I had to buy my XPS M1210 (sweet machine, BTW) with Windows XP. Tried on the phone, yes.
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Back from [VAC]?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 18:47
On January 13, I sent a mail to debian-private saying I'd be on a semi-vacation until around February 10 - And yes, for over a month I've basically not touched my packaging, and for around three months my general profile in Debian has been really low. I sent this message because the Institute I work at moved, and I got the task of taking care of everything related with electrons flows carrying information (namely, voice and data networks). It's not that I'm really-really-back now - Work is still too absorbing, users still come too often to me expecting me to solve their problems. I can often try to do so on the data network, but I'm far from even having access to the voice equipment (I've done my hardest effort not to get such access, because that'd instantly turn me into the phone operator for life). However, for the first time in many weeks, today I had some quiet time, I catched up with some mailing lists, and... Well, I expect to work on my QA page. Boy, team-maintainership rules! pkg-perl friends, thanks for saving me from the creepy bugs sometimes too often. I expect to pick up work I haven't even looked at since I committed to doing so with the pkg-ruby-extras team as well, specifically, getting mongrel in shape and into Debian, despite our deep differences with its author. This will make Rails roll smoother and faster in Debian. And of course, there is Debconf. After last year's burnout, I think I recovered - I'm not a core organizator anymore, but I'm back to work my way to Edimburgh ;-) As for my local activities (Mexican Free Software conferences, meetings and people): Partly because so I decided and partly because so it happened, I've been off the hook with the local community since before Debconf 6. Before, because I was too busy to think about anything besides it, and after, because I was burnt out and somewhat bitter at several facts. I've been to few regional or local conferences, also because I knew that between last October and today I'd be too tied up at work. But last week we had both CONSOL and BarCamp Mexico. Somehow I managed to be at both (well, at CONSOL I was only enough time to do my two talks, for which I miraculously managed to get prepared, and BarCamp was during the weekend). Both were very positive for me, and I'm willing again to find some time to devote to promoting and developing Free Software in our country. Oh! One more note: Thanks to Sergio Mendoza for pushing me and for co-discussing on the subject, we are getting small but tangible results pointing to a Debian-UNAM project. Not much to see yet, besides having received the domain authority, which for now just means a nicer name for Nisamox, Mexico's main (and only long-running) full Debian mirror.

Farewell

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/08/2007 - 20:59
This morning, we woke up to find out that Vicuña, our most senior cat, had passed away. She was 13 years old, and appears to have went away peacefully, shortly before our wakeup time. She chose our home - In March 1994, the first night my mother, brother and me spent at our current home, we woke up with scared, little meow sounds. We found her over our fence - it took us years to finally understand how a baby cat could have got there. I don't want to start describing all the ways in which Vicuña brought love and light to our life. She gave us such great gifts over her life. We will surely miss her.
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La Jornada vs. Debian

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/06/2007 - 10:51
One of the leading newspapers in Mexico, often associated with its left-wing ideology (and, I don't think it's a coincidence, my personal favorite newspaper) published today this cartoon: So, dear Rocha... Are you implying that many past and present Debian releases are identifiable with the corrupt Mexican government? Our de facto president is like our first official release, Buzz (1.1)? Does Rex (1.2) properly represent the worst of the PRInosauric regime? Is Hamm (2.0) a good symbol for our whole political class? Woody (3.0), the first release I had the opportunity to work on while still being in NM, is like our sadly unforgettable ex-president Fox? Does our current stable release Sarge (3.1) equal to the repression that Chiapas, Atenco, Oaxaca, Michoacán and others have suffered? This cartoon made me sad, really sad. </jokingly>
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Free KQemu - Yay!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/06/2007 - 10:34
I've been feeling dirty lately - For my netadmin tasks, I've been heavily relying on running virtualized instances of the various MS Windows flavors, to check for compatibility with my work. Of course, being a zealot, I would not run VMWare (as it is grossly non-free from every possible angle) - I used Qemu. I'm also, however, impatient as hell - If I'm going to suffer from the sluggishness of the typical Microsoft desktop OS, I just don't want to suffer from emulation slugishness as well! Of course, the KQemu kernel accelerator module came to my rescue. I felt tainted, as it was just free as in beer. Well, today the sun rose, and the world looks shinier. Yes, it's chilly in Mexico City (around 5 Celsius), but great news always make the sun shine brighter: First thing I read in the morning, http://lwn.net/Articles/220807/">KQEMU 1.3.0pre10 released - under the GPL! Of course, it's echoed at Barrapunto. Even better, it took little time for Mike Hommey to post it into Planet Debian. Better still, Daniel Baumann has already packaged and uploaded it to NEW (and has an APT repository already set up with unofficial packages). Ftp-masters, please, issue the dear green light soon! :-D /me does the dance of joy
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But it does!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/30/2007 - 17:54
Bastian: I'm unable to provide the about:config key to prove it, but clicking on a link on my Iceweasel does open a Mutt mailto dialog. Maybe network.protocol-handler.external.mailto or network.protocol-handler.expose.mailto will do? They are booleans, so I cannot get much insight out of their respective true and false values... Keep peeking around ;-)
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Rolling!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/30/2007 - 10:12
I had this planned for over a year, but for whatever reasons, I didn't get around to doing it until last week - Knowing that my Institute was moving to almost the opposite edge of Ciudad Universitaria, and would now be located at over 3Km from home (from around 300m that it was before), I decided to get a bike. And, after having it in my to-buy list, I bought it last Sunday (January 21), and Nadezhda got one for herself as well. I had had a bike before, over 15 years ago, and we rode a bit when we were in Amsterdam, but that was back in 1996. Since then, I cannot recall using a bike - So, of course, I was quite shaky and afraid to begin with. I must admit, I envied Nadezhda, as she seems to be natural - While I was still trying to get the bike moving without crashing into something, she was literally making circles around me. On Sunday, we went for a short ride in the main circuit of UNAM. On Monday night, we went most of the way to the gym/running lanes where we go to make our excercises - Yes, mostly uphill, and I managed! (she had already done that road earlier the same Monday). Thursday and Friday, I rolled early to do my excercise, and we basically crossed each other on the way. On Saturday, finally, we came all the way to the new Institute. Sunday was amazing: We went with her family (two sisters, one brother and five pedalling nephews, plus one nephew in a basket in his mother's bike) along the Ciclopista. The Ciclopista goes on the path that used to be the Mexico-Cuernavaca railroad, and starting at Contreras, it goes uphill to cross the Ajusco/Chichinahutzin ridge. I cannot find a decent map, and I don't have a clue on what distance we rode, but it was just great - We crossed basically all of the Magdalena Contreras part of the Ciclopista and part of Tlalpan, until maybe 500m past the market at Calle 8. Of course, after the ride, we feasted with quesadillas at the market, plus some tacos of a delicious chicharrón prepared by Nadezhda's mother. It was a long ride anyway - I got quite tired, and the way back (fortunately, downhill) was still long. We had promised the four year old nephews to take them to the zoo that same day, although we counted on them being tired by that time - Well, a child's will is stronger than being tired, so we still went to Chapultepec to dive in a sea of people and look at some nice animals ;-) ...Finally, yesterday and today I have come by bike to the Institute. There are a couple of hard parts, and I still have not mastered the techniques for being an effective rider, but the way back is just delicious. Besides, yesterday I made 15 minutes on my way back, today it was 20 minutes coming here - almost the same time that going by car! Oh, and on the way back, I get to enjoy a beautiful view of my beloved volcanos, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. And, as Mauricio already pointed out, thanks to the light rains we had in the previous days... They just look amazing, covered in snow from their very bases. Not much to add to it... But I'm delighted :)
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On Trusted Computing

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/23/2007 - 12:40
I came across this excellent video clip on what Trusted Computing means, and why we should stay away from it. CC-licensed and all, of course.
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Then fix the software, not the format!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/18/2007 - 14:17
Erich: Of course that I know XML's obstination on manually matched closing tags is intentional - That and several other points simplifying SGML were what in the end allowed SGML to succeed (and wildly). However, I still not agree. If you have a tool that generates broken files (which are expected to be read, no less, by any other arbitrary tool which does not require to be very bright), whose fault is it? The file format? No - The generator's. Besides, if you have a configuration format that's expected to be used by al kinds of tools, and sent over every conceivable type of configuration channel (including slow and expensive ones, such as mobile phones), or that can contain arbitrarily deeply nested structures and become just huge, shouldn't your priority be to make the protocol less repetitive instead of more? If you want a format to be robust, yes, you should insist on well-balancedness (what's the last time you were able to compile C code with unmatched braces?), and reject unbalanced documents (possibly even, yes, pointing out where the match was probably broken - Yes, this last point favors XML over simple braces, but still, a compiler often makes a decent job at finding where a nesting problem lies)... Yes, I don't have the authority to question what has become a world standard - But I still have to be persuaded XML is the way to go for many (no, of course, not all) of its uses. No, I'm not pushing YAML too hard - I just happened to like it for several uses, but I'm far from an informed fan. I'm just bashing XML, which is fun enough for me ;-) Oh, and about your blog: Right, it seems the culprit is Google Reader. Planet links just fine, and using RSS 1.0, the only link I get is the right one. Planet's RSS 2.0 generator should be to blame then.
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Are we evenly distributed?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/17/2007 - 12:38
Russell: I don't think so. I do think that most Free Software people, even more in settings such as Debian, will tend to be in the lower-left quadrant of the political compass. Personally, I ranked Economic Left/Right: -8.00, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.87 - No surprise for me ;-) And yes, we do have some more upper- or right- sector people, but I think our center of mass will surely fall in the lower-left quadrant. More samples needed ;-)
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Why were we offline - Is gwolf banned?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/16/2007 - 10:17
Several people have wondered why were Nadezhda's and my site offline this weekend. Well, it surely raised my ego ;-) What happened? As many of you know, this blog is hosted in my home machine - A Mac Mini connected by DSL. A couple of weeks ago, my ISP announced the doubling of our connection speed (it was 512/128k, it got increased to 1024/128, so it's not exactly doubled, specially if you are used to saturating the upstream channel... but anyway). From then on, we started suffering all kinds of connectivity problems. The connection would drop several times a day, it would be sluggish at times... I decided to wait a bit, to let them upgrade their whole network. Anyway, it didn't happen. Nadezhda was pissed at it, as she is our main user - And just to make sure I was not doing NAT wrong in my server, I decided to set up my DSL modem (a SpeedStream 5200) as a router instead of a switch. Yes, Ta^3, some people never learn ;-) In short: I hosed the connection, and had to work with Prodigy Infinitum's staff on getting it back online. Contrary to the popular belief, Infinitum support is up to the task, customer-friendly and helpful (although they insisted on me shutting down my Linux server and configure it from MacOS - I don't blame them, after all. Thank $deity I didn't have to set up a Windows machine after all!). But after recovering connectivity, the speed still sucked. I was prompted to use a temporary account, which they provided me, and the connection was just perfect, 10KBps upstream, 105KBps downstream. WTF?! Well, the girl told me that my login/password pair had a problem (?!) and I needed to change them. Ok, no sweat, we changed them, so I'm no longer gwolf@prodigy - I had not even used that mail address, so no worries. What happened? Well, as my username/password is the same for all of Prodigy's services (dialup, Wifi hotspot and DSL), and as I have lent it to a couple of people over the years, I just guess they penalized me :-/ But... Why wouldn't they tell me about that? Not even after changing my login/passwd (no, they would not keep even the old login) Why wouldn't they request me not to share my credentials? Go wonder.
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Ok, now we are getting somewhere! (Re: XML-based configurations)

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/16/2007 - 09:04
Ok, at least Erich states something I agree with (and, lets be fair, its also told by Marius on a comment to my previous post): XML should not be pushed where the data to be represented is flat (or flattish - Say, a INI-style configuration is enough with a not-exactly-flat-but-still-unnested configuration). Still, I do not buy XML as adequate. Erich insists on the Apache configuration file as an example of how not to do things - And I agree wholeheartedly: It sucks and makes no sense. However, it's just too easy to break proper XML nesting (for the love of the FSM, why is it necessary to repeat the element name we are closing?!) to be something I want to deal with when in a hurry. XML might be great as a data interchange language, but -in my always humble opinion- not more than that. PS- Erich, your blog is broken as well ;-) The generated RSS has URLs which repeat the '/en' part. Oh, and about my blog complaining about XML: Yes, I was syndicating another site - And the XML parsing engine I use was somehow b0rked as well. Nah, I don't feel like changing my blog's software, it's mostly fine as it is ;-)
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More on the unkillable XML-for-configuration rant

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/15/2007 - 20:55
In short, Erich says that XML, plus the right editor, Just Works(tm). Well, yes. But when you are over a slow link, or when you are desperate with a b0rken system, you just don't have Eclipse at hand to edit a config file. Of course, you could use the half-existing XML support you talk about in vim (I have not tested it, cannot be sure of it), but it is still a PITA if your /usr is not working fine or if your termcap is too dumb to manage. Yes, there are each time less of those situations, but anyway... I won't start ranting on how YAML is the right tool for every situation where XML is used - It's clearly not. XML is, after all, a standard. Some configurations can be done by XML, say, if you have any of those Java frameworks (I've only suffered^Whated^Wgot despaired^W^Wset up JBoss), but still... Configuration files, at least the important ones, should be editable by using a lightweight, easy and available tool like nvi, pico, or even cat|sed. Oh, and about YAML's site being valid YAML: Of course, it only looks like it. But cut and paste it - It works for me :) Of course, it is not meant to replace or work over HTML. I would never dream of using YAML as a web-services language or anything of that sort. There are better tools for that. But please, leave config files hand-editable. With common, light and hard-to-break editors.
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Those who owned the Bible

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/12/2007 - 17:40
I came across a very nice story by Leonel Rubio (Leonel, please correct me if I'm misattributing this to you), licensed under the Creative Commons license. It's in Spanish, but quite worth a read - Aquellos que Poseían la Biblia (Those who owned the Bible). It starts with the supposition that Disney, at the end of the ever-recurring cycle where they ask the US Congress to extend the duration of copyright (so that Mickey and Donald don't fall into the public domain), they push boldly for a new record: Not just 20 more years, but 500. Of course, this would be easily torn apart in little pieces in the laxest of law courts, but still, a nice read :) Thanks, Leonel! :D
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