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,">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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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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Configuration files for humans and for computers

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/12/2007 - 17:16
Erich wonders about a sane way to reorganize the configuration file mess we have, going in fact farther than Aigars' previous rant on the topic: Not only it would be really desirable to do away with the dotfile-as-everything-but-more mess, it would be really, really nice to do it in a more or less standard way. Erich suggests four base configuration syntaxes - I won't reveal too much, as his message deserves being read as well ;-) But hey, I have a question here: I know XML is well-established and well-supported, and I'm told there are a couple several hundred thousand people who think it is really cool and even human-editable. Still, I hate XML. Configuration files are often, yes, written by the programs themselves - But one of my most beloved features of Unix-like systems is that I am free to poke in them, as they are meant to be human-editable. XML is not human-editable. I'm sorry, say whatever you want, but keeping XML valid and happy is... Just not for me. Why not pushing instead something prettier, and with almost the same feature set of XML, plus a much-enhanced readability/modifyability? Why not promoting my dear and beloved YAML? (Yes, the YAML project home page _is_ valid YAML) [update: I was kindly requested in a comment to link to the YAML project page, which hosts more information. I'm keeping the other link anyway. ] Note: No, this only looks like a rant, but it is really a question. Honest!
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Five rarely known things about me

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/05/2007 - 15:05
Hah! Targetted memes have hit again - Arareko decided I should talk about myself. I will do this, but I won't point the finger at five others - Lets see just who bites ;-) Besides, having left this post rot as a draft for over a week already, it got a bit more interesting: The meme bit from two sides. Arareko (as well as Ion) was bitten by Cicloid, from the side of reality, and then Hanna bit Wouter on Planet Debian. Ok, time to get this message out from the freezer... So... Five not very well known things about me? Ok, here I go.
  1. Many people inquire me routinely about my name, specially when reading it off an official document where it appears with both names and both family names (Gunnar Eyal Wolf Iszaevich). As many Jewish families, mine comes from all over Europe: My mother-side grandparents were both born in Poland (hence the Iszajewicz, morphed into the slightly more writable Iszaevich). My father-side grandmother was born in Vienna, Austria (I still have some family in Graz), and my father-side grandfather was a proud child of the Austro-Hungarian empire - His family probably was originally Austriac (Wolf is a German name), but became Hungarian and Hungarian was their home language. He was born in Felszoviso, Transilvania (the part of Hungary that later became Northern Romania). And, yes, I mentioned my family is Jewish, so having the Hebrew name Eyal (my second given name) is no surprise. Now, about Gunnar? Well, I still don't know :) It's a Scandinavian name. My family has no (upwards) relation to Scandinavia, but both of my parents (although merely by coincidence, and with over 30 years between periods) lived in Western Sweden - My father, 1970-1972, and my mother, 2003-2006. Oh, and people usually expect them to carry strange foreign names as well - No, they are Bernardo and Ofelia.
  2. I like to think started my journey into Free Software very early in my life. No, I didn't use Linux until 1994 (and only installed it in 1996), I'm not talking about such a modern piece of free software. I first touched computers around 1983-1984, when my father used to take me on Friday nights to his institute, to play with the computer. This computer was a Foonly F2, administered by La Mancha. What did I use to play on such a beast? Why, of course, I used Emacs to write TeX! Rumors say that this Foonly had the first TeX installation outside of Stanford (I guess this fact derives from Donald Knuth's visit to UNAM in 1977 - But of course I don't remember that!)
  3. My family is bitterly split in two camps: Those who love eggplant and those who hate it. At least my parents, my aunt and I are known to love it. At least my wife (Nadezhda), my brother and two of my cousins are known to hate it. The feelings towards this noble plant are really strong, but out of respect for the other party of the family, we practically never cook with it.
  4. Now that we mention food-related strangeness, I was a vegetarian for almost my first 20 years of life. My father is still a vegetarian (for over 35 years already). Nadezhda became a vegetarian almost a year ago. I still think I have saved enough karma during those 20 years to endure some more meat eating, but who knows... I might switch back just to be on the safe side ;-)
  5. Often, memes can absorb too much energy from me. Even having left this entry not responded for over a week, I've been thinking (and forgetting) on and off what to write in it. So, Mauricio, thanks for making me waste my time this way! ;-) I hope this fact counts as a legal fifth thing.
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A mug of joy

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/20/2006 - 16:16
I'm officially on vacation. That basically means there is nobody at my office. This time, though, it does not mean I will be the only sentient being in the building - I'll take most of the three weeks at home. I hope to be able to do some Debian work and catch up with some other projects... Anyway, part of not being at the office means I don't have my usual dose of coffee. At home, I very seldom drink coffee, although I really love to have it home-style (i.e. not made by the easy-to-massify drip coffee machine). In fact, for at least a month, we had not had any coffee. Yesterday I bought 1/2 Kg of fresh ground coffee at a nearby store. Right away, I drank two large mugs of coffee. Yummy. Today, I felt a bit more creative. One of the things that my nutriologist taught me in the last year (wow... it's been over a year I started dieting and excercising daily! Around 40Kg less. Not bad, huh? :D ) is that I was eating too little sugar, and ordered me to get at least two portions of sugar a day. So, I'm having today's second coffee. With kahlúa (coffee liquor), which would be forbidden at my workplace. And I'm enjoying it terribly. Hmh... I do hope I don't get too much sugar during vacations! ;-) (including the family dinners over holidays)
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Comments in blogs

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 12/19/2006 - 21:14
Many people have recently posted in Planet Debian regarding the use, usability and usefulness of having comments enabled in blogs, of using comments as the right way for following discussions, of dealing with spam, and so on. I'm sorry I'm not linking to more of them, but I'm too lazy to look them up. This is one of the down-sides of not using comments - Ideally, if I were interested on commenting on a topic, I would just leave the comment on the blog that started it. It goes somewhat against Joey's logic of posting both the comment and the posting itself - Of course, we all want everybody and their dogs to read our comments, don't we? And, given we know that (most of) our target readers regularly follow Planet Debian, we continue ranting on our personal blogs (as I'm doing now). Besides, that will rank our page higher. We all want Google to love us, right? Of course, following discussions on a bunch of blogs is not optimal, as it's easier to miss parts of it (hey, would somebody volunteer on writing threading support for Planet? It'd have to be multidimensional, as postings often refer to different threads... Bah :) ). Besides, many of us are syndicated on different planets (and many people read our blogs as individuals as well), so many of my postings start with a stupid amount of background information so the martians understand the terrans. But still, here I am, writing a post that provides nothing but a braindump, serves no purpose, and links to your posting. So there, the world is not ideal. QED. As always, MJR rants against captchas (and yes, thank you, you have commented on my blog that most captchas are trivially crackable by automated means). They do reduce spam, but they are REALLY not a strong barrier against it. I have thought of some ideas, or thought about implementations for other ideas I've read here and there, but I'm too lazy to implement them on my blogging software. I could switch, but I happen to like Jaws. I would like to contribute to making it better, but have had a permanent lack of time for a long time already :-/ I do get swamped by spam comments, and every now and then mass-delete whatever looks like spam (hundreds to thousands of comments, for crap's sake!), but anyway... It's not too important for me. I like having comments on my entries, but sometimes a long time must pass until I even read them (I read my own blog syndicated via the Planets, on a RSS reader). BTW, Lucas: I used to have trackbacks enabled. The amount of spam, and the control I have over spam in my blog, makes me favor comments against trackbacks. My trackbacks used to be so wildly abused that it almost made me cry. I hope it is not your case :)
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