Hot water and long pipes

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/30/2007 - 18:07
Every now and then, I see somebody who -just as Russell did today- talks about the advantages of water heating systems not being tank-based, but tankless! Sounds kewl, hah? Shiny, new?
Well... I live at a house that is slowly but steadily started to show its age. Built in 1955 and owned for almost two decades by the very renowned phycisist (of course, my father's mentor and teacher) Marcos Moshinsky, my parents bought it in 1974, and it has been my home since 1976. And, at least since 1980 (I cannot be sure about earlier events for reasons that might be obvious to the casual reader), we have always had an Calentador Ascot de paso. Ascot (and further companies that have bought their name) have manufacutred this kind of water heaters for at least 60 years in Mexico. Yes, they are gas-based and not electricals like the ones Rusell links to, but that might just be because in Mexico gas has always been incredibly cheaper than electricity. And yes, the heater is godsent for ecolocigally conscious people - No more storing 20 to 40 lt (the sizes of the usual storage-based tanks around here) of hot water all day around just because you might want to take a shower, no more waiting for 20 minutes after you turn it on until you start having your morning shower (and more important, no more taking your morning shower ice-cold just because you overslept!)
Yes, it seems like life is perfect with our tankless (de paso) system... Almost.
As I said, our house was built over 50 years ago. It was built on what intended by then to be a middle-upper class suburb, on a very modern house with fancy stuff and all. And of course, the heater was not planned for the most visible or hearable areas of the house - specifically, nowhere close the living room - or the bedrooms. Silly details, the bathrooms are close to those areas. So, what's the answer? Want to take a shower? Ok, open the water...
And wait.
For around 3-5 minutes, until the hot water finishes the looong ride from the opposite corner of the house.
Of course, it takes a path that's not easy to intercept in order to move the heater to a saner place: The hot water pipe goes right under the middle of the living room, yay.
So we use our fancy de paso system whenever we are too lazy. Nadezhda and I prefer to fill one hot water bucket (~20lt) for each in the washing room, just by the kitchen (and the heater, of course!) and throw hot water over us to get a nice bath. Or, in case we are too lazy for that, collect as much as possible from the otherwise-wasted hot water in another bucket (we usually get ~10lt - but I fear another such amount just falls around it) and use it later for our various household duties.
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On the Debian Maintainers GR

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/30/2007 - 12:06
Hmh... It's hard to get to a decision on this aspect, although I'm mostly sure I'll vote for a "yes". I have read most posts on this subject on debian-vote and on the planet, and I'm still not too much at ease... Anyway, one of the most relevants so far is Joerg's - And not because he is so involved with the NM process, but because he drives me to what I think is a very important point few people have addressed:
For long, we have been saying that you don't have to be a programmer to help Debian - But so far, we have been unable to deliver except for this funny French guy. And although the current proposal still focuses on getting a step closer to DDness, and for many people this seems like geared at reducing the frustration when going over the NM process, my impression is that this will help us implement something similar for other areas.
Some people have complained about implementing decisions per policy instead of doing so gradually. Thing is, I feel, this kind of proposals have been reiterated over the years - and they have always dropped into the silence because some actions need to be taken by the people who are less willing to. Maybe the only way to break the inertia is to take a step by a GR vote. Maybe parts of it will have to be undone or re-done differently if we end up with the wrong results - but we will have broken the status-quo. Maybe, who knows, this will serve as an experiment - and after another long series of long flame threads we will end up in 2010 in the same position are we currently at - but it won't be because of inaction.
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On social networks

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/24/2007 - 22:50
There have been many (too many) social networks coming and going out of fashion in the last years. I got quite excited when I first learnt about them. Advogato was as cool as it could be, and having somebody label me master (even though most had me as a journeyer, IIRC, and that was my level as far as I tracked it) was really inspiring.
Then came friendster, and then orkut. I spent far too many hours in them, and was really happy (and surprised!) to find the many ways to my friends, some of them have been out of my radar for too long.
And then, everybody started creating their social networks for remembering birthday dates, and for finding who likes the same music (and books and whatnot) as you do. And this silly thing called Twitter.
I'm sorry. I don't play anymore. I'm fed up with it.
Maybe it's that I've grown old and cranky, but I don't even answer to invitations to social networks nowadays. And I'm sorry - It's not that I don't care about you, it's not that I don't like you - I don't like losing my time creating yet-another-mapping of still-the-same group of friends.
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Repurposing laptops

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/17/2007 - 10:10
Russell argues (when talking about Mark's proposed high-end Free Software-based laptop) that laptops are hard (or expensive) hardware to modify and repurpose - Maybe your laptop will one day go to your child or something like that, but it's hard for it to be a server.
I disagree.
One of my most faithful and most beloved home servers was my old laptop, a Compaq Armada 4120 we originally got (used, for that matter) in 1998 and that was my main laptop until 2002, when I got my first Dell. 120MHz Pentium, 16 MB RAM (later upgraded to 32), 2GB hard disk.
From 2002 and until around 2005, it was my home server - Think about it: A low-power, compact machine you can store anywhere, and that has (still today! Wish I could say that for ~2 year old machines...) a two hour battery with the LCD on. We swapped the hard disk for a 40GB one around 2003, and it was just perfect for DSL sharing, Samba file serving to our internal network, and simple, personal HTTP server. Of course, it started aching when Nadezhda and I started running our blogs - MySQL and Apache didn't fit in the memory at the same time :)
For some months, we had an old 1GHz Athlon as our server, but it was too noisy and ate too much electricity - We now have a nice Mac Mini, but share the UPS with Nadezhda's main machine. Which is fine, but takes a bit off the coolness factor :) Oh, and -of course- it does not have a built-in screen anymore. Nadezhda uses an iMac, so whenever we need to directly use the server, I have to go find our clunky 17" CRT and work sitting on the floor...
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On collaborative maintenance

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 07/14/2007 - 00:07
Following Zack's and Lucas' posts regarding group maintenance of packages: Do I have to AOL with you guys? Yes, I also agree with Zack's both 1 and 2. And I also want to share the bit of experience we have got in this regard in the pkg-perl group. In our case, group maintainership has often saved our collective butts. We have also debated somewhat which way should our packages' maintainership be handled. In the end, our packages' maintainer will (most usually) be the pkg-perl group itself, subscribed through an alias that reaches all of us. Then, every group member that feels identified with the package lists himself as an uploader (note that this does not necessarily have a relation with the last uploads, at least not as strongly as in what the KDE and Gnome groups do, according to Lucas' post - it's closer to the pkg-ruby-extras handling). Of course, there are some packages which I have NMUed in the group's pool - packages I prefer not to have listed in my maintainer page, as I don't usually care too much about them, but I happened to be able to fix a bug with them.
Now, what about the roles of the different group members? Each of us has some skills that make him better for part of the task - i.e., we have an amazingly knowledgeable member, Niko Tyni. He just fixes all the bugs that baffle us. Honest, my best kudos to Niko, he is a good part of our team's success. And then, we have hard-working people as Gregor Hermann, who not only fixes also nice amounts of bugs, but also writes and runs general QA tests throughout our over 300 modules. Neither of them is a DD yet. And of course, many other hard-working folks. Some of us are DDs and try to upload promptly - and, of course, also try fixing bugs. So far, we are in good shape, and we tend not to lag too much. I have taken some vacation periods (both announced and unannounced - sorry :) ), but to my surprise and amazement, my packages tend not to be buggy - Why? Because there is a real team looking after them, and in the end, we keep an eye on each other.
For the pkg-perl group, group maintenance has really worked. We collectively maintain more packages than it would be reasonable for all of us added together as individuals, and they are in a better shape. There are several things we can make better, and we do try to address them - it is not yet heaven, but... :) I'll elaborate later, when I finish a text I'm preparing for presenting at YAPC (it's not that long, of course - During Debconf, I showed advances of it to several people... I just have left it aside). Right now... Well, I have 3hr of sleep left before we leave for a daytrip to the beautiful (but hot and humid!) Veracruz Huasteca. See you on Sunday/Monday!
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It still gets to my nerves...

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 07/06/2007 - 21:46
I've gradually become happier and happier with Ruby on Rails. I've got mostly past the constant "WTF?WTF?WTF?" phase that's so frustrating when you try to understand the magic behind the scenes (after all, I like understanding what happens inside a framework - the bang and the bling are not what lured me into Rails).
So I've tried to become a more idiomatic, more complete. In the last project I started, I decided to -gasp- stop declaring my schema structure in SQL, and use migrations instead. All fine until I reached migration 008... The first one including a table modification (adding a admin column for users) instead of a creation. Well, that one went pretty fine, but 009 was also a table modification (adding an order column for tsgs). And I updated my server - with both migrations at the same time.
Bad news: Tsg has_many :users, and every User validates_associated :tsg as it should. And as migration 8 modifies (and saves, of course) a User, this validation was triggered... So, migration 8 died complaining about an undefined method `order' for #<Tsg:0x2b2d2dd8d0d0>. WTF?WTF?WTF? all over again. It took me quite a while to realize.
What's the moral of the story? That a sleepy programmer can and will mess up. That batching up several migrations does not guarantee success, because the model is already up to the newest version. Crap. :-/
Or maybe it will just be safer if I abstain from directly instantiating models in migrations? umh... Does not feel right :-/
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Celebrated 10 years of the SC

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 07/06/2007 - 06:08
Following Liw's initiative, yesterday night Nadezhda and me joined the distributed pancake party. With a nearby restaurant's hotcakes, anyway, not as fresh or as great as they could, but you can still smell the spirit:

(artwork by Nadezhda)
And... Well, it was not until this morning that I checked on the Wiki just to discover that Damog took part of the same distributed party, just ~15km away from us. Shame - I had just met Damog that very morning at the University :)
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Keep rolling!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/02/2007 - 08:02
It seems that I've held up -at least for half a year- what I stated back in January - I come by bike to work almost every day, and really enjoy the time spent on two wheels. My times have -of course- improved, as has my dominion of the bike - I make ~10 minutes each way (must be a bit more on my way to work than on my way back, as it is uphill).
My city's government seems to be seriously promoting people to consider using the bicycle as means for regular transport and not just as a recreational device - I see some of its measures as quite silly, but some are just perfect. One week ago, while I was on the plane from Edinburgh, we had the first Ciclotón, a 32Km ride open to everybody (and of course, Nadezhda was among them). Over 70,000 people took part, reportedly, and it seems it will be held monthly. Besides that, yesterday we had the paseo dominical in Coyoacán very close to my house - What's that? Something similar to the ciclotón, only much smaller (14Km), much less publicized, and in a different place of the city every Sunday. Well, we started up the day at 8 AM by cycling from Metro Copilco to Miguel Ángel de Quevedo, Av. Universidad, Río Churubusco, División del Norte and Henriquez Ureña back to Metro Copilco. We later learnt that around 10,000 people took part. 14 Km, 30 minutes - not bad, and quite enjoyable!
We didn't go for the second round, because we wanted to be by ~10 AM at Reforma, probably the city's most emblematic avenue, to be part of the demonstration marking one year of the electoral fraud. But... Well, we didn't want to just leave the bikes at home and go by metro - What can we do? Yes, take the open streets. We followed a bit of the path we had taken a bit earlier, then took Minerva, Insurgentes until Reforma (~45 minutes). And once we got to the meeting point, we didn't want to step down and crawl the bikes along... So we both found out that not only we dared take the main streets where people are not really used to cyclists and where taxi drivers will often try to make a point that if you don't own a car you should use a taxi and not a bike - We were able to cycle most of our way to Zócalo, going slowly and moving through people, in what seemed to be almost an unthinkable feat for me just a couple of months ago. We can now control the bike, we can even be almost still while riding it, and not crash into anybody!
Of course, the way back was similar - We took our bikes across Obrera, Doctores, Algarín and Álamos, then took Av. Universidad all the way down to Copilco, and -after some three hours riding, with my arms quite red and of course somewhat dehydrated and sore-butted- got home.
It feels great to have a well-deserved siesta! And... Well, biking is just too enjoyable. I guess we had ~45Km yesterday, plus some ~5 extra zig-zagging through the crowd. It rules.
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Back from DebConf7

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/25/2007 - 11:43
Ok, I'm officially back. Yup, when you have a meeting just over your regular lunch time and are suddenly seen as the guy who will fix the institute's video needs just because you worked manning cameras with the amazing DC7 video team, it just means you are back home. Lets see how several projects that have sprang up in the last couple of weeks (both at DebConf and at work) start materializing.
Anyway... DebConf was great. Just great. This time I had time both to feel I was useful and productive (mainly doing video-related stuff, although on some other points as well), to attend several interesting talks (although manning the camera did not leave my attention as complete as I would have liked), to have several nice chats, to play a good couple of hands of Mao - Hell, thanks to Kitty, I managed even to have some chats _while_ having a hand of Mao!
Of course, I was not productive neither with my Real Life duties nor with with the Debian stuff I wanted to hack on - In fact, the most productive period during the two and a half weeks I was away (excluding probably the two days I spent understanding/hacking Pentabarf with Damián) was the flight back - During the ~12hr we were on the air, I managed to read the second half of my book, to review two chapters for a thesis, to write a (really simple) article and to work on another one.
Anyway... Thanks to everybody. I had a great time, and am only looking forward towards Argentina.
Ah, and I also got The Debconf Flu.
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Fun at Debconf - And redefining targets

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 06/19/2007 - 05:06
For some days at Debconf, I've been somewhat stressed and frustrated. You see, the first DebCamp/DebConf I took part in (Oslo), I was really productive - Besides meeting lots and lots of people and having a great time, during DebConf3 I learnt a scary lot about the project in many aspects and, although I was already a DD, it really decided me to get more involved.
When we were at Brazil, I had a great time as well, but (code-wise, bugs-wise and so on) I was much less productive - I started peeking at the processes that involve running such a strange and intensive conference, I was more active talking with other Latin Americans, and so on.
So, for DebConf5, I was a full orga team member - Man, did that make me feel powerful! Of course, as there was so much orga work to be done, I basically didn't hack into anything. During the day it was organizational work, and during the night time-after-22:00 (how do you people live without a night!?) it was sauna. What a great invention of the Finns! After getting relaxed by sauna, nights were socially intensive
About DebConf 6... Well, it was hectic and chaotic. It is probably the most stressful two-week period (two week? Two months at least! Well, anyway) period of my life. It is the only Debconf so far I don't even remember having had much social interaction. But still, for reasons I fail to understand, I am really happy we held DebConf in Mexico. It is one of the best, most exciting and (hopefully!) unrepeatable experiences in life.
What about this year? Well, I took a couple of steps back, and while I'm formally still part of the always-great orga team, there are way too many things I don't know or can answer. Partially, I blame that impossible dialect of English they speak in the UK - Please, next time you feel a bit tired, lock yourself in a room with six hurried English and Scottish people, add a couple of Germans to the mix (no, I don't have problem with the other accents spoken in there), and try to get the general lines discussed. Impossible.
As I took a couple of steps back, I thought I would be able to hack a bit. There were some great ideas of things to work on - But so far, I've practically not started with any! I wanted to do some QA rounds in the pkg-perl repository, kill a couple of long-standing bugs, and then there is thismetainit idea we have been discussing... So we held the MetaInit BoF, and Nomeata has been actively hacking it - But I must recognize I have done little besides documenting and cleaning a bit a minor module of it. The second day I was here, I started working on something that was completely outside of my plan (hacking up a subsystem for Pentabarf to help the video team, as I previously complained). Just after we finished with it, DebConf properly started - So I've been basically taping the talks, reviewing the files, in the orga and video meetings... Until yesterday, I was quite frustrated not to have been able to work a bit on the couple of things I wanted to do. I have not yet been able even to work on three things I need for my Real Life, which still counts, even at DebConf.
But then, yesterday I read a post by Wouter - Man, you are completely right, and I must keep this in mind at all times: DebCamp to me isn't about being productive, so much as it is about meeting people and getting to know the environment. Well, I've terribly even failed to get to know the environment (I'll reserve some time on Thursday or Friday, I hope), but so far this has been quite fun, and completely out of what I usually do. And, even without me considering this, DebConf has been quite productive for me in ways I didn't expect - I've met and had a couple of beers with the pkg-perl group (and today I'll meet with the pkg-ruby-extras group), have plotted several things with the Spanish-Speaking group (which, by the way, has tremendously grown since we were at Oslo), I even started hacking a bit my way into Pentabarf, which will be very useful once I get back to work!
Anyway, in short: Wouter, you made me reconsider, you made my day - Thanks! And now, I'm a happy man again :)
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Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 06/14/2007 - 11:31
Yesterday and today, I've spent most of the time sitting next to Damián Viano (des), feeling 1337 because we are doing exactly the heavily recommended pair-programming thingy with a Rails application that everybody in Debconf is familiar with: We are adding some stuff for our beloved video-team in Pentabarf! Now, Pentabarf is -as we were trying to explain earlier on, amidst angst and frustration- a strange beast: It looks like your regular Rails app. It smells like Rails. But it tastes like Java.
For some reason, the Pentabarf author (who I sincerely expect to meet soon - yes, he is coming to Debconf as well!) decided not to use Rails' killer app part, the one which has got most interested people into the whole framework, ActiveRecord. For all of the object-relation mapping needs, uses something called Momomoto.
To its defence, Momomoto is a lightweight library. This has the great advantage that, although it completely lacks documentation, its source code is very easy to follow, and it takes just a couple of hours (and forehead-wall bangs) - Much unlike ActiveRecord. But on the down side, as lightweight as the library is, the model it uses is completely suboptimal for many of our (so far really simple) uses. We have a simple view, for example, that runs in at least On^3 (measured in independent DB queries, of course). Going through a different model, it could at least be cut to a much nicer On^2.
Anyway... I'm relieved. The extension the video guys wanted is not that large, and it's mostly done. It is surely showable by tonight's meeting (modulo a couple missing bits, of course, but it's just bits), and will be ready no matter what by tomorrow. I'm just sorry I had to throw des aside, as pair-programming for two days in a row for the best portion of the day is not good for sanity.
Well, neither coming to Debconf is, so whattheheck... ;-) At least I could get a bit of my mail and RL work backlog processed.
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Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/11/2007 - 08:11
Ok, so here am I, just arrived to Debconf, surrounded by tens -soon to be hundreds- of Debianers. A big YAY! :D
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Top-down and bottom-up: Two approaches for... Hydrodynamics?

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 09:52
Yesterday we had one of our first full-evening rains of this Summer. It started raining around 15:00, and didn't really stop until past 22:00. Most of the time, it was a low intensity rain. Also yesterday, Sergio and I started with the Debian course I recently talked about - Fun!
Now... This course is scheduled at Instituto de Astronomía, which is halfway between my work and my home. 19:00 to 21:00.
I decided to leave early, so we could check some pending details - At 18:00. I biked to Astronomía, about 1.5km. When I arrived, I was as wet as you usually get at a regular rain: I still had some dry spots under my arms and legs. Nothing terrible, although a bit coldish - Anyway, that's a top-down approach for hydrodinamics, the approach most people are used to.
When we finished this session, I had to go out in a rush, as I had a meeting at 20:00 at Balderas (downtown Mexico City, ~25min away by metro). Of course, I was one hour late already, and adding the time it would take me to get home, leave the bike and run to the metro, I could not just sit and wait for the rain to get any easier on me. So I pedalled.
Contrary to what I originally expected, I didn't get soaked wet in the usual pattern. Stronger rain leads to more rain flowing down the road. Yes, almost immediately I felt a cold shudder on my legs and back: The water sprayed from below by my wheels. Of course, the front wheel was even more fun, as it sprayed my face from below - My helmet has a small protuberance at the front to make some shadow, and tilting a bit my head forward prevented the rain from hitting my eyes - but the dirty water, with small bits of wood and whatnot, from the ground found an easy way to my face. My only defense was to close the eyes as much as I could without losing visibility. A strange excercise to do :) Anyway, that's the bottom-up approach for hydrodinamics.
Anyway, by the time I got home, after an extra ~1.5km, my pants were basically a soup. My shirt was not exactly dry, but it still kept me a bit warm. I just ushered inside, grabbed a jacket, and went on for my second meeting.
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On sending out the right image

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 22:29
At my Institute, we get the El Financiero newspaper - I like it quite a bit. It's very well balanced, with opinions from all of the political and economical points of view. Of course, it has huge business and market sections which I don't usually even care on looking at, as I won't understand much anyway. Those sections usually include advertisements for potential courses and businesses.
Today, Nadezhda showed me an ad that's just beautiful - It shows off the level of commitment and seriousness a company has. It is so beautiful that it deserves me copying it in Spanish and translating it for your further enjoyment. Of course, if somebody stumbles upon this advertisement at my personal blog - I don't know them, they might just be serious but clueless :)
A académicos, investigadores, intelectuales, economistas y expertos en reformas estructurales para el análisis de las siguientes:
  • Economía y finanzas
  • Educación y empleo
  • Seguridad y desarrollo social
  • Política y Energía
  • Reforma del estado
Para integrarse a un equipo serio y propositivo de Profesionales en estas áreas que brinde asesoría puntual sobre las antes descritas.
REQUISITOS: Titulados con Maestría y/o Doctorado. Contar con publicaciones especializadas.
Interesados enviar CV al correo electrónico:

Bosque de Ciruelos No. 140, piso 12, oficina 1202, col. Bosques de las Lomas
And now, for your further amusement, in my hastily translated English, as faithfully as I can do it.
Academics, researchers, intelectuals, economists and structural reform experts for the analysis of the following areas:
  • Economics and finances
  • Education and employment
  • Social security and development
  • Politics and Energy
  • State reform
To join a serious and propositive team of Professionals in the above areas that gives punctual advice regarding the aforementioned.
REQUIREMENTS: Holders of a title, with M.Sc. or Ph.D. studies. Having specialized publications.
Interested people, send your CV by email to:

Bosque de Ciruelos No. 140, piso 12, oficina 1202, col. Bosques de las Lomas
Yes, several of the redaction mistakes are in the original text (and several more were introduced due to my English translation, of course).
Anyway... Would you believe in the seriousness of a professional-looking group of economists, paying around US$2000 for 1/4 page in one of the leading Mexican newspapers? By the way, their offices are located at one of Mexico City's most exclusive, expensive areas. But... For ${deity}'s sake... COME ON! Please tell juan_zzz to get a decent-looking mail and domain! Having their main contact addresses at two free mail providers, Starmedia and Yahoo, does no service at all to their professional image! How can people still not pay even a bit of attention to those basic details?
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Cannot help it - Are you into human interface design?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 10:42
Thanks to Planeta Debian (yes, planeta, the Spanish version of Planet Debian), I came across this Darío Rapisardi's post.
Sometimes poetry can be expressed in human-interface guidelines.
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