World Social Forum 2008 - Another world is possible

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/20/2008 - 23:10
A phone call in December made me very proud: A colleague I met thanks to the Espora collective told me she was involved in the Mexican activities for this year's World Social Forum (FSM Mexico 2008 site). The Mexican activities? Yes. This year, the World Social Forum will not be held at one -or several- distinct places, but it will happen globally. There will be activities in tens of countries. The activity program for Mexico (full PDF version) is quite loaded - And I was invited to give one of the talks, this Friday (Jan 25) at 12:00, about Free Software for a Free Society, in the Foro Derecho a la Comunicación track.
I am very honored by this invitation! I just spent a couple of hours organizing/going through the topics I will be presenting. I hope to be able to be at some other of the forum's activities, as it just is too important and interesting to miss out!

Royal abuse

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/09/2008 - 10:54

I just went to our Institute's yearly ceremony of rosca de reyes. What's that? Well, according to the tradition, on January 6 the tres reyes magos (boringly translated to English as three wise men - It should be something like three wizard kings) payed a visit to the newborn baby Jesus. In Mexico, the tradition mandates that every family, group of friends, or whatnot should gather and eat rosca de reyes, a round, sweet bread, usually some 10cm wide. The rosca has some plastic babies hidden in it, remembering how baby Jesus had to be hidden and smuggled out of his birthplace. And, according to the Mexican tradition, if you cut your piece of rosca and get the baby, you are expected to buy tamales for everybody on February 2, día de La Candelaria. (why? Don't ask me!)

Anyway... An image is worth ~10Kb of UTF8 (so it's still better to describe it, as it weighs around 63K, but what the hell):

Two babies?! I was abused by the Three Wizard Kings! (at least it does not sound as sad as "I was abused by three wise men"!) I'll have to buy tamales for everybody on La Candelaria twice, even if they are no longer hungry!

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Supertheory of supereverything

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/12/2007 - 19:58

First time I had read the Bible
It had stroke me as unwitty
I think it may started rumor
That the Lord ain't got no humor

Put me inside SSC
Let's test superstring theory
Oh yoi yoi accelerate the protons
stir it twice and then just add me, 'cause

I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

From the maelstrom of the knowledge
Into the labyrinth of doubt
Frozed underground ocean
melting - nuking on my mind

Yes give me Everything Theory
Without Nazi uniformity
My brothers are protons
My sisters are neurons
Stir it twice, it's instant family!

I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

My brothers are protons
My sisters are neurons
Stir it twice dlja prekrastnih dam...

Do you have sex maniacs
Or schizophrenics
Or astrophysicists in your family
Was my grandma anti anti
Was my grandpa bounty bounty
They ask me in embassy!

'Cause I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

And my grandma she was anti!
And my grandpa he was bounty!
And stir it twice
And then just add me!
now afterparty...

That's the Supertheory of Supereverything, by the gypsy-punk Gogol Bordello. I was really surprised to find their Super Taranta! at a local music shop. Of course, five minutes later, we were heading home with our shiny and oh-so-very-green purchase. Highly recommendable!

BTW, does anybody else think that Eugene Hutz is Larry Wall's evil twin? (No, and I don't only mean it because of their choices in background colors)

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Debian Developers fail Turing tests?

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 12/07/2007 - 12:31

Ok, so two people replied to yesterday's post about triple negations - Dato (by email) and MadCoder. Both, said basically the same thing: || false and && true are silly noops. And yes, knowing this, I added them. Why? Clarity... At least having them at the end of a test shows the statement is of conditional nature (and not just another obscure attempt to do ${DEITY}-knows-what). They at least look cleaner than a one-line-squashed if block in a makefile. To me, at least ;-)

But... If you noticed this post's title, it goes beyond this comment - One of the most benefical effects I noticed when I installed Jaws 0.7 (over 0.6, of course) is that I no longer had the swarms of spambots flooding me - I often had hundreds of comments a day, and nowadays I hardly get any spam. Now, I fail to see what is so strange in my blog's comment forms (it does not even have any obvious Javascript, although it does obfuscate a bit the source of the captcha image). And you are not the first Debian people to complain you cannot post comments to my site. Strangely, few non-Debian people have ever complained.

And yes, the spam has stopped, almost completely.

So, Debian guys: Are you human?

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Triple negations

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/06/2007 - 15:18

I'm packaging Ruby's PDF::Writer module for Debian - It is a simple module and (almost) ready for upload. But anyway, it carries some issues I had to bring to debian-legal's attention, mainly, five files licensed under Creative Commons licenses (specially two of them, which are under its NonCommercial variant - clearly non-free), so I'm repackaging the .orig.tar.gz into a +dfsg version.

But I know I'm a lazy and sometimes stupid bum. Even more, the package will be group-maintained by the pkg-ruby-extras team, so we must be as careful as possible not to forget to remove the non-free material - To remove two scripts, and to replace three images with free equivalents I just made. But hey, tell me if this does not feel ugly to you. At least to the bits of you who learnt human grammar:

	# Make sure we strip out non-DFSG demo files from the orig.tar.gz
	[ ! -f demo/qr-library.rb -a ! -f demo/qr-language.rb ] || false 
	[ $$(md5sum images/bluesmoke.jpg | cut -f 1 -d ' ') == 0586eca5af7523ab871609eceb44724a ] || false
	[ $$(md5sum images/chunkybacon.jpg | cut -f 1 -d ' ') == a000b1917142ce332fd3474f0722cd6f ] || false
	[ $$(md5sum images/chunkybacon.png | cut -f 1 -d ' ') == 927feec1cbbf23c4d89a4a5ad88e6d0f ] || false

Triple negations. How nice.

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Digging into Drupal

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/06/2007 - 12:06

As of late, I've shifted quite dramatically my sysadmining/development activities. On the development front, although Perl is still my mother tongue and I maintain many systems I wrote with it (and my main involvement in Debian is through the pkg-perl group, of course), I've been largely switching over to Ruby - both under the Rails framework and doing standalone stuff.

But somehthing that's new to me (well, relatively - it has been observed I have been playing with the idea in and out for some more time) is entering this maze of twisty little passages, all alike called Drupal. What can I say? I'm quite surprised by it. It is such a reach CMS, and so twistable for almost-anything, that it still defeats me.

I've been asked (ordered? pushed?) to propose a complete plan to replace my Institute's current static-and-butt-ugly-HTML site with something dynamic and manageable, so, of course, this last week has been an intensive Drupal crash-course for me.

Drupal itself is quite complex, yes, and I thought I had it mostly mastered for the trivial tasks. But then, I started looking for some I-thought-quite-simple extra thingies - And I started discovering its user-contributed modules. I've been having quite a bit of fun with them, and as I hate messing up my clean and nice installation, I've even set up a Drupal5 modules APT repository for Etch, where I'm putting the modules as I process them.

As I'm really not into PHP, and I still lack enough of the Drupal framework understanding to really step forward and become responsable for them, I'm not yet even suggesting packaging them for Debian - but a time might come where I upload them as well ;-)

BTW, in case somebody is wandering about this Jaws-to-Drupal scripty I mentioned that other time: It basically works for blog entries (as you can see in my test site - barring some trivial latin1-UTF discrepancies). I have not yet migrated because I'm also trying to migrate my Phoo photo galleries to Acidfree albums... And it's quite a more challenging task than just migrating blog+comments. But soon, I hope - I have a bit more time than in the last weeks to be able to play with it. Anyway, here it is as it is.

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Welcome on board!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/06/2007 - 11:40
Yes, yes, I know I already said so, and surely in a more visible site, and even he also announced his victory over DAMnation... But still, having more Mexicans in this little project I call home makes me very happy. So, welcome on board, Rodrigo!
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Is it already December!? Oh, crap...

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2007 - 19:38

Last weekend, Nadezhda and me went to the the San Nicolás Totoloapan park, a beautiful area in the slopes of the Ajusco mountain. We cycled only for a short while, as we are not really used to slopes nor to non-paved roads - But all in all, it was very fun and a very nice time.

But, only now I realize, thanks to the oh-so-always-nice Rodrigo, that, because of having fun while being at the Ajusco, we completely missed November's Ciclotón.


Cycling over 30 Km in Mexico City is very fun. Nadezhda loved it when she did it in August, just the day I came back from Vienna. I loved it when I did it last month, when she was in Monterrey. But, being together, we insist on missing it. Bah. Anyway, this Sunday we will have the short (~15Km) ride in Coyoacán.

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Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 11/24/2007 - 20:10

Yesterday I went with Nadezhda to the always interesting teatro/bar el Vicio. as she found that Klezmerson were going to play there. We tried to get some more friends to join, but gave too short notice, and ended up having a great night out just by ourselves.

Just as a side rant: I just hate that places I want to refer to, and I want other people to get to know, have Flash-only sites! You can read some more things about Klezmerson at -ugh- their MySpace site, even get some of their music there.

Their name give away their basic lines: Klezmer and son. The common line to all of the songs they performed is a strong Klezmer feel. Benjamín Shwartz and María Emilia Jimenez (violin/keyboard and flute respectively) are responsible IMHO for most of that spirit, as their instruments are the most traditional ones, and they carry the melodies. But the rythms they play to are plain crazy and extremely well engineered - Cuban son, Colombian cumbia, jazz, rock, and... Well, I'm not a musician. But I really, really enjoyed them. Of course, bought their CD as well.

Congratulations to a very surprising and unexpected band!

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Runners of the world, unite!

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/18/2007 - 09:16
Yay, the club seems to be getting bigger and bigger. While I've been mostly away from this blog, Bubulle has joined the group. Also, the long-disappeared Evan promises to be back, and running as well. I didn't get to see him, but Gaby told me she saw Mauricio (making a IMHO very nice 0:51:33 time for 10Km) on last week's Nike race. Of course, I was also at the race, with a 1:07:36 total time. Not bad for such a strange period!
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Life in the tropic

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 11/17/2007 - 08:23

Ok, this is the first time of the year also for me - H0lger was the first to remind me that, as proud inhabitant of the not-precisely-warm tropic, once again this year I won't get a chance to get my first snowfall yet (although the volcanos around the city do get their share of snow, and as a child I've been there to play with it... Imagine a city of then-almost-20 million people rushing to the three nearby volcanos just to get a taste of what snow feels like - Yes, heavy traffic is the foremost sensation I remember)...

Sigh... But, sadly, that's not the main concern right now. My life feels quite upside-down, inside-out, wrongside-right. I hope to be out of this situation soon. It is just not sustainable.

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Lucas killed ries!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 18:19
Is there a causality relation between Lucas' posting and's (a.k.a. sudden demise? Grmbl...
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Mini-post-mortem of a failed mini-Debconf

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/04/2007 - 13:04

Over one year ago, still at DebConf 6, the Latin American Debian people (and by people I mean just interested people, regardless of whether they were/are official DDs or not) held a BoF session. One of the ideas we discussed there was that, in order to increase Debian presence in our region (which is by no means small - Let alone the geographical aspects, I'm guessing we are about 350 million people, roughly split in half between [officially] Spanish- and Portuguese- speaking countries). Yet, this is an area with very little involvement in Debian in particular, and with Free Software in general.

One of our first issues seems to be language - Just by its scale and economic importance, we cannot even put in the same scale Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries... So I'll focus on Spanish-speaking Latin America, as (I recall) we did in that session.

So, we agree: We need more local involvement in each of our communities. And, so far, we have seen quite relevant results. The number of people directly involved in Debian in Argentina, Chile, Perú, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador and Mexico (excuse me if I forget you in another country!) has notably risen since I brought this topic up, together with Christian Perrier, back in DebConf5, Helsinki. An undeniable fact is that distances in our continent, however, are huge. In the 2006 BoF, we agreed we should promote regional meetings, that would serve both for working focused on Debian topics (i.e. hack sessions, as we do in DebConf) and for spreading our work to the local population, to help them see that it is not needed to be super-skilled or anything like that to contribute to a real, important and large Free Software project such as ours. Of course, taking into account the distances in the continent, we thought it would be sensible to split it in two - and to try and hold regional mini-debconfs - One for the Northern half (i.e. Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Cuba and Mexico), and one for the Southern half (Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay). And, for logistical reasons mainly, I strongly advocated having our first Northern meeting in Panamá. Why Panamá? Because it is a place cheap and easy to get to. They have a very important international airport, connecting to most if not all countries in the region, and -as they have risen as a business center- have good connectivity. Visa is required for many of the interested countries, but trivial to get (as opposed to what happened here in Mexico :-( ). Of course, other countries also looked interesting (there was some argument pushing Venezuela, but in the end, we all conceded it would be in Panamá.

I have to strongly thank Guillermo García - He is not (yet? :) I hope he still wants to get involved with this bunch of people) in Debian in any way, but after I contacted him, he agreed to start looking for a way to get us the right facilities in Panamá. He coordinated with a team which did most of the organization - A very nice web site is still available so you can look at their work - Quite a good job, I must add.

They contacted Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, started talking with several potential sponsors, got information regarding hotels for us... But in the end, it flopped. Why? Because, although many of us were originally interested, in the end very few people (only three, none of them officially a Debian Developer, according to their last press release) confirmed their intention to attend.

Which brings me again to the question: Why?

First and foremost, I think it was lack of involvement. For one reason or another, all of the people that in the beginning pushed for this miniDebConf ended up busy doing other stuff, and didn't get at all involved in organization. It would have been a great present from our Panaman friends, yes, but quite unfair. And, of course, with no Debian people involved in organizing it, we got an chicken-and-eggesque situation... Where it didn't grab the attention of other Debian people.

Second, what they offered us was quite different to what we intended in the first place - At least, to what I imagined. On my first messages both to debian-devel-spanish and to Guillermo, I tried to get something close to what we had in mind: Something as informal and as intimate as it could be. My original request to Guillermo was just to get us a room where we could hack and talk, and probably sleep with sleeping bags.

Of course, I can perfectly imagine that when he requested the space to the university, on one hand, they didn't feel at ease having International Guests (with capital I and G - Very important for most Latin American universities!) sleeping on the floor. And, on the other hand, they would love to be able to show us around! Having an international project focus on a university in a non-technologically-well-known little country is quite something to show off!

Anyway... What happened? I was among the instigators, but Real Life called me away (I've been mostly inactive in Debian since September! :-( ). The miniconf was scheduled for November 14-17. I also insisted originally on having the miniconf on a long weekend (say, Friday through Sunday), as -being a miniconf and not the Real Deal- it'd be much easier for most of us to rob one day off work than a full week. In the end, this was the most important point for my decision not to join: I cannot afford more time off my work, not at this time of year. About the other involved people? I do not want to speak for any other people.

In the end, sadly, Guillermo had to inform us they cancelled - No, not postponed, but definitively cancelled. Why? Because -and I have to agree- next year we will have DebConf in Argentina... And many people in the region will focus our time and money on getting there.

Ok, making this whole story short: I'm very, very ashamed and sorry, with you personally, Guillermo, and with your whole team. And I hope we can resurrect this idea - be it in Venezuela (as it was suggested once) or elsewhere.

Sixth Ciclotón - Finally!

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 10/28/2007 - 19:03
I just love my city.
Mexico City, chaotic, unknowable, imposible to understand, so huge, so varied, so broken, so feared, complex, unique... I think few people realize how easy it is to fall in love with this city, to drink its beauty, which leaps up always when you least expect it. Today, it was a good day for loving it. For one thing or another, I've missed the five previous ciclotones, which are held on the last Sunday of each month, 7:00 to 14:00. Today, finally, I made it.
What is it? It is a 32 Km route circling roughly around the mid-South and Center of Mexico City:

The weather is abnormally cold lately in Mexico City - We have reached temperatures around 5 Celsius in the last two weeks, which is agreeable for December/January, but certaiunly not for October. Anyway, today it was quite chilly from the early morning. I did this ciclotón on my own, as Gaby is out of town - I left home at around 11:30, and headed North towards the nearest point of the route, ~5Km north from here (Circuito Interior and Universidad). The chosen circuit is quite good and varied. And quite enjoyable, too.
And how did I fare? Well, not bad at all, I think... I did the ~37Km (32Km of the Ciclotón, plus the ~5 to get there - I came back by metro, as I was already too tired to be alert while driving in the traffic) in 2hr 13 minutes. According to my trusty Polar watch, I used 1831 Kcal (which is a bit less than what I eat per day), averaging at 138 heartbeats per minute.
Very enjoyable. This is one of the ideas that I most like that have been promoted by our local government: As Mexico City citizens, we need to claim back our streets. Also, we have to be responsible and think about different ways of moving around than by burning gasoline - Biking is fun, and it is not riskier than driving or walking. Try it!
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This blog has not seen activity for a full month

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 10/21/2007 - 23:37

That does not mean I'm dead yet, of course - It just means I've been too tied up with real life. Yes, I do feel to be close-to-MIA in Debian as in most other projects I work in out of personal interest... It's that bureaucratic point in year where we have to get all of the paperwork sorted out in order to enjoy another year working in the University. And, of course, it's a huge PITA - but all in all, it's worth it.

That point by itself is not the only reason why I was drawn away from my usual posting, mind you - My blog was broken for some time because of a b0rken table in MySQL... And it has been at least three weeks since I noticed, but I only got around to fix it today. And, BTW, how come did I fixed it? Because I'm working on a migration tool. Migration? What? Why?

Back in 2004, when I started this blog, I chose JAWS as the software to run it on. It was started by a group of good friends of mine, and they keep developing it. It is a very nice piece of work... But I've had several problems with it (and yes, I have not bothered to submit bug reports - shame on me. Anyway, I think they are related to how I made some mistakes while upgrading), and I do miss some bits of functionality... So, yes, I'm migrating away to Drupal. After all, I'll be setting up several sub-sites at my real-life work with Drupal, so I'd better get familiar with it... And, of course, as migrating a three-year-old blog is not easy (and even less migrating four sites I have lying around), so today I've been working on a nice migration script covering the components I use (blog, comments and photos). I expect it to be ready for prime-time after one more session (which I don't know when will happen).

Anyway, Jaws guys: You do rock. Thanks a lot for all the fish!

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