Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 05/31/2013 - 13:23
I like Drupal. It's a very, very flexible CMS that evolved into a full-fledged Web development framework. Mind you, it's written in PHP, and that makes it a nightmare to develop for (in ~6 years I have used it for all of my important websites I have only got around to develop a set of related modules for it once).
PHP programming sucks and makes my eyes and fingers bleed, but happily there are people who disagree with me — And they tend to write code. All the better!
Minor upgrades with Drupal are quite easy to handle. Not as easy as I'd like (i.e. whenever I upgrade the core system or a module, I have to log in as
The updates that have to be run via this URL are usually on the database's structures, so I understand they have to be started (and watched) by a human. And yes, I know I could do that with Drush, the Drupal shell, but it is not very friendly to Debian-packaged Drupal... But easy enoguh.
But major updates are a royal pain, and they usually amount to quite a bit. First, disable all of the modules and revert to a known-safe theme. Ok, it makes sense. Second, check whether the modules exist for the newer version (as they won't work — Drupal changes enough between major versions that not only it's API-incompatible, I'd classify it as API-unrecognizable). Ok, all set? Now for the live migration itself... It has to be triggered from the browser.
So yes, I am now staring at a window making clever AJAX status updates. I am sitting at 46 of 199, but following the lovely ways of programmers, it's impossible to forsee whether update #47 will just be an UPDATE foo SET bar=0 WHERE bar IS NULL or a full-scale conversion between unspeakable serialized binary structures while rearranging the whole database structure.
And yes, while the meter progresses I stand in fear that update #n+1 will bomb giving me an ugly red error. I must keep the magic AJAX running, or the update might be botched.
And, of course, the update has sat at #69 all while I wrote the last two paragraphs. Sometimes the updates can progress after an interruption... And it seems I have no choice but to interrupt it.
/me crosses fingers...
[update] Wow... I am happy I got bored of looking at the meter and decided to write this blog post: After several minutes, and just as I was about to launch a second update session (130 updates to go), the meter advanced! I'm now sitting watching it at #75. Will it ever reach 199?
[update] And so it had to be... At around 115, I now got:
*sigh* The update process was aborted prematurely while running update #7000 in biblio.module...
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 05/24/2013 - 21:28
Wouter still does not like the 3.0 (quilt) packaging format. And as he writes on his blog, I shall answer on mine.
And what if one of the blogs becomes unreachable with time? Aha! That's one of the weaknesses, Wouter, on yuor closing comment:
I am aware this would not be so much of an argument, or so much of a change. But the way I view a shipped package is that it should, by itself, be as a snapshot with its whole, full description. Say that three years from now Apple has scrubbed your brain and you went to work with them. And you decided to pull all of your non-iOS repositories. They have convinced you working for Debian is bad for mankind. So you erase all of your Git repos, including those in Alioth or whatever.
But Debian Wheezy has some of your packages. And three years from now, I decided to be the maintainer.
So, having fully commented and individually marked patches is a sort-of-way to avoid a situation akin to the tentacles of evil.
Now, it's not that I'm criticizing your workflow. I have sen many ways to manage patches in quite a natural way, and I undestand it might be way easier when dealing with complex packages (FWIW I usually deal with very little complexity). Still, it is an argument.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 12:45
Some weeks ago, I contacted Rosa Martínez, a tech journalist with some questions regarding what I regarded as a trick interview with an e-voting salesman. Well, not only she offered me to publish an answer to that interview, but she also offered me to write another article on a second site she also works with.
So, I accepted. Being quite time-deprived, although I managed to send her the first answer quickly, by April 22, I only sent the second article yesterday night.
Anyway, the links. The texts are published in Spanish:
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 11:59
Last Saturday, I was invited to talk about Debian to Hackerspace DF, a group that is starting to work at a very nice place together with other collectives, in a quite centric place (Colonia Obrera). I know several of the people in the group (visited them a couple of times in the space's previous incarnation), and wish them great luck in this new hackerspace!
Anyway — I was invited to give an informal talk about Debian. And of course, I was there. And so was Alfredo, who recorded (most of) it.
So, in case you want to see me talking about how Debian works, mostly on a social organization level (but also regarding some technical details). Of course, given the talk was completely informal (it started by me standing there, asking, "OK, any questions?"), I managed to mix up some names and stuff... But I hope that, in the end, the participants understood better what Debian means than when we started.
Oh, and by the end of the talk, we were all much happier. Not only because I was about to shut up, but because during my talk, we got notice that Debian 7.0 "Wheezy" was released.
Activities facing the next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations ( #yaratpp #tpp #internetesnuestra )
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 16:31
Excuse me for the rush and lack of organization... But this kind of things don't always allow for proper planning. So, please bear with my chaos ;-)
What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Yet another secretely negotiated international agreement that, among many chapters, aims at pushing a free-market based economy, as defined by a very select few — Most important to me, and to many of my readers: It includes important chapters on intellectual property and online rights.
Hundreds of thousands of us along the world took part in different ways on the (online and "meat-space") demonstrations against the SOPA/PIPA laws back in February 2012. We knew back then that a similar project would attempt to bite us back: Well, here it is. Only this time, it's not only covering copyright, patents, trademark, reverse engineering, etc. — TPP is basically a large-scale free trade agreement on steroids. The issue that we care about now is just one of its aspects. Thus, it's way less probable we can get a full stop for TPP as we got for SOPA. But we have to get it on the minds of as many people as possible!
The countries currently part of TPP are Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam — And, of course, the USA.
Mexico, Canada and Japan are in the process of joining the partnership. A group of Mexican senators are travelling to Lima to take part of this round.
What are we doing about it?
As much as possible!
I tried to tune in with Peru's much more organized call — The next round of negotiations will be in Lima, Peru, between May 14 and 24. Their activities are wildly more organized than ours: They are planning a weekend-long Camping for Internet freedom, with 28 hours worth of activities.
As for us, our activities will be far more limited, but I still hope to have an interesting session:
This Friday, we will have Aula Magna, Facultad de Ingeniería, UNAM, México DF, from 10AM and until 3PM. We do not have a clear speakers program, as the organization was quite rushed. I have invited several people who I know will be interesting to hear, and I expect a good part of the discussion to be a round table. I expect we will:
We want you!
So... I am posting this message also as a plead for help. Do you think you can participate here? Were you among the local organizers for the anti-SOPA movement? Do you have some insight on TPP you can share? Do you have some gear to film+encode the talks? (as they will surely be interesting!) Or, is the topic just interesting for you? Well, please come and join us!
Some more informative links
So, again: Friday, 2012-05-03, 10:00-15:00
[Update] So, 2012-05-03 came and went. And thankfully, Alfredo was there to record most of the talk! So, you can download the video:
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 20:49
(actually, please set your calendars to the day before yesterday — I had a mental tab on this, but it seems watching mental tabs is a low-priority task for brain.sched)
Ten years ago today, I got that long awaited mail telling me I had passed all of the needed hurdles and was accepted as a Debian Developer. We were at the first third of a very long release cycle, and the general spirit of the project was clearly younger — both as in "things moved easier" and "we were much more immature" — Try to follow the mailing list discussions we had back then, and even with all the vitriol that's every now and then spilled on email@example.com, it's clear we have more experience working together.
And yes, the main change that ten years bring to a group of people is social. I was at DebConf in Oslo when the now-historic presentation that prompted the birth of the Debian-Women group was given — Surely, Debian (and Free Software) still is by far predominantly male and white — But I fel it's no longer a hostile group, much to the contrary.
Over the years, I was first active (as was the norm by then) as a "solo" maintainer. When Joachim Breitner started the pkg-perl group in 2004, I joined, and was part of the group while an important part of my work was based in Perl. I joined pkg-ruby-extras, and slowly migrated my technical work from one to the other. For several years, I also maintained the Cherokee webserver. I started getting involved in DebConf organization in 2005, and (except for 2008, as I took a vacation from many topics due to personal issues). Back in 2009, I became an official delegate! I joined Jonathan McDowell handling keyring maintenance. One year later, another delegation: With Moray Allan and Holger Levsen, the three of us became the DebConf chairs.
This last couple of months, I have been quite inactive in most of my Debian work. I took up teaching at the univerity, and have been devoting what amounts to basically a full time job to prepare material. I expect (hope!) this craze to reach back a "workable" level by late May, when the course finishes, and I can retake some of my usual Debian tasks.
Anyway — 10 years. Wow. This project is one of the longest commitments in my life. I am still very happy I joined, it still thrills me to say I am part fo this great project, it still makes me proud to be accepted as a peer by so many highly skilled and intelligent people — But, as I have repeatedly stated, I see Debian more as a social project (with a technological product) than as a technical one. And as such, I am really happy to have made so many good, close friends in this project, to have the opportunity to work and exchange points of view about anything, and have this large, highly disfunctional but very closely regarded family of friends.
So, guys, see you this August in Switzerland. I will be among the group celebrating we have been there for half of the project's history!
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 19:42
A colleague of mine at Facultad de Ingeniería pointed me to a note published in the Faculty's gazette about a short cycle of talks we had on April 4th, trying to get life and interest back in the once-active LIDSOL (Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo en Software Libre, Free Software Research and Development Laboratory), which nowadays lies mostly dormant.
Good thing the official communication channels got notice of this! Only I am not sure if they can properly produce Spanish (as this feels more like an English redaction). Quoting only the first lines of the paragraph that referes to me:
Which translates to:
As far as I can tell (and I am almost sure I know all of the story — At least on that regard), I have no descent yet. Not Hungarian, Austriac, Polish, nor of any nationality.
(nitpickers: Yes, similar words are often used. In Spanish, it would be correct to say de ascendencia húngara, austriaca y polaca, and in my attempt towards English translation, it would be of Hungarian, Austriac and Polish descent).
Looking for a (small) place to host a Free Software-related meeting, course or similar in Mexico City?
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/29/2013 - 11:00
Hey, Mexican hackers!
If anybody is interested in holding a small Free Software-related meeting (say, with up to 10-15 people) in the South of Mexico City, please tell me — We have adapted a nice room at our house where we want to invite people to come and do activities — Courses, meetings, whatever. It is not very big (~5×5 meters), but it has all of the needed amenities (some chairs, a projector, coffee-related amenities, and is very conveniently located). We are not charging for hosting your activities (but will of course want to schedule it beforehand with you).
So, if you have something to teach, or some project to hack on, and want a nice place to do it in, please drop us a line/call.
(hmh, yes, this is one of the posts that should probably be in Spanish — But this blog has a long-standing policy for English content ;-)
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/11/2013 - 18:46
So we are at the beginning of this year's Debian Project Leader elections. And yes, after Stefano's long and (IMO) very successful DPL term, I feel as my voting machinery is somewhat stuck; it will not be so easy to get it back up to speed. Anyway, I have glanced over the three platforms, but only actually read 1.5 from the three DPL platforms. I know that whoever succeeds, I will be quite happy with the results.
This year there are three runners for the post. I have worked in several teams with two of them, and would love to know better the third. In the same order as presented in the vote:
So, it's not that I'm trying to bribe our next DPL with sweet nice words about how interesting a person or how good a friend he is, but am trying to look at the election process as something different. It seems for me that we are going to choose which Debian do we want to pursue for this starting period.
Now, for our soon-to-be-ex-DPL Stefano: As many will surely tell you (or already have): You rock. I truly enjoyed your DPL term, and there is much we should adopt and learn from your personality and leadership.
And, although it has waned over the past few years, many people tend to publish their (stated?) vote during the campaigning period. I (think I) have never done so, and this time I will surely not do so. Choosing a DPL involves personal feelings, sympathies, and many non-objective things. And although I know nobody will feel hurt if I don't put them in the first place, I prefer not to expose such issues. I can only assure you that this year, "None of the above" will sink to the bottom of my ballot.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:30
Daniel tells his story building a wooly mammoth, and throws some ideas on how this could be implemented easily with free software. But if I read his post correctly, Daniel still misses the precise ways to do it.
Our friends Octavio and Claudia (twitted hereby) have given some Blender courses here at our classroom at home (Guys! Come again! We miss you!), and host the Spanish-speaking g-blender community. At one of their courses, they showed how to model an object/character, and in order to color/texture its parts, you can unwrap it — This process yields a flattened image with the surfaces that build your object, that you can then color. Well, you can also use it as a base pattern to cut and sew your plush!
It is not meant to be used for this (although it works), so it won't give you the extra tabs to be sewn in place, and the joints might not be at the most comfortable places. But it is base you can work from.
Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 23:38
I just got this message through my University, and the least I can do (given I'm still, although barely, in time) is to repost it here, hoping it helps to spread the activity we have on this regard in Latin America:
So, what do I consider worthy of adding to a list of resources I can point to?
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 09:03
Some weeks ago I posted about the long-expected demise of my old phone. And even given I don't usually don't pay much attention to phones (and could care less about the smartphone fad), I asked for a recommendation here on what to change to.
The only thing that made me look for something other than a ~US$15 phone is that I enjoy having a GPS-enabled device. So, with that in mind, I went to my carrier's offices, with a top budget of MX$2,000 (~US$150), and asked for help. After being a Telcel subscriber for ~10 years (and ~6 with the same device), even though I use prepaid cards only (and seldom pay over MX$100 a month), I expected some advice. So, when the employee told me to go to the phone exhibit they have and pick my favorite, I declined, by telling I just want the cheapest unit with a GPS. He almost immediately offered me the ZTE V791, an Android 2.3-based unit, for MX$990 (~US$75), just around half of what I expected to pay. So I got two - One for myself, one for Regina, as her previous "nice" phone died under the Bosnian rain and had one of the sturdy, reliable but utterly boring US$15 phones for over a year ;-) As a new Mexican resident, she can surely use a GPS as well! (and some other tools in it). So, two nice phones, and still (squarely!) in my projected budget!
I *did* give some thought to the comments posted in my original post, but given I don't want to bite in to the tendency too much, I let price determine what we get. And after all, I do not plan to ever enable data over the phone network (if at all, I use it on wifi). A recommendation for people with similar profiles/interest than me: Maps with me allows for downloading OpenStreetMap data on a country basis (so I get all of Mexico with me). I also got Vespucci OSM Editor, to be able to do OpenStreetMap updates from the phone, but given it has some stability issues I have not used it much (and it's understandably not so disconnected-mode-friendly)
Not much more to add to this. I am writing this prompted by Russell's "iPhone vs. Android" post. My point after getting these two cheap phones? Having a wide range of devices under this same OS (even if it still has long ways to go freedom-wise) makes it a choice for people like me, who don't want to save money for a couple of months in order to get the newest gadget. I hope this phone lasts with me several years as well, without changing my usage pattern!
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:54
[ post made mainly for those poor souls who don't yet follow Planet Debian, but do follow me ]
Earlier today, Roland Mas threw an idea towards whoever had too much free time: Implement a valid QR code construction that would become an interesting pattern when interpreted in Conway's Game of Life.
But, as Jurij Smakov promptly showed, there is only one flaw in Roland's request: The need for too much free time. Jurij replied within ~4hr with a arbitrary string to QR code converter that allows said code to be seeded into a Game of Life interpreter.
Jurij: You get all the geek points I had in store for this month.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 21:50
"No al voto electrónico", Triple W, W Radio.. 2013.
In yet another episode where we push for the population to be aware of the perils that electronic voting represents, Octavio Ruiz (@tacvbo) and me were invited to (briefly) talk about the topic in W Radio, one of the largest radio networks in Mexico.
The interview was short-ish, but we managed to get several points accross. And, of course, one of the best ways to do so is via a radio show with tens of thousands of listeners. So, we were quite happy to be there!
Here is the audio of the segment we presented in Fernanda Tapia's radio show "Triple W", in W Radio, Mexico.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 23:31
So, today an endurance test can be declared as finished.
In early 2008, for the first time, I paid for a cellular phone (as my previous ones were all 100% subsidized by the operator in a fixed plan). I got a Nokia N95. And, although at the beginnning I was quite thrilled with my smartphone (when such things were still a novelty), it didn't take much to me to start dumbing it down to what is really useful to me: A phone with a GPS. And the GPS only because it is the only toy I want in such a form factor.
Anyway, despite the operator repeatedly offering me newer and more capable models, I kept this one, and as soon as I was free of the forced 18 month rental period, switched to a not-data-enabled, pay-as-you-go plan. I don't want to be connected to the intertubes when I'm away from a usable computer!
But yes, five years are over what a modern phone wants to endure. Over time, I first started getting SIM card errors whenever the phone was dropped or slightly twisted - As I'm a non-frequent phone user, I didn't care much. Charging it also became a skill of patience, as getting the Nokia micro-connector to make contact has been less and less reliable. Over one year ago, the volume control (two sensors on the side) died after a phone drop (and some time later I found the switches broken from the mainboard loose) - A nuisance, yes, but nothing too bad. I don't know how, but some time ago the volume went down when using the radio, and as I can't raise it again, my phone became radio-disabled. And today, the screen died (it gets power, but stays black). I can blind-operate the phone, but of course, it is really not meant for that.
So, I expect this Saturday to go get a new phone. Between now and then, I'll be cellphone-deprived (in case you wonder why I'm not answering to your messages or whatever). I would love to get a phone with a real keyboard (as I prefer not to look at the screen when writing messages, just to check if everything came out right and fix what's needed). I understand Android phones are more likely to keep me happy as a free software geek, and I'd be delighted to use Cyanogen if it is usable and stable — But my phone is *not* my smart computer and it should not attempt to be, so it's not such a big deal. I will look for something with FM radio capability, and GPS.
Of course, I want something cheap. It would be great to get it at no cost, but I don't expect I'll find such a bargain. Oh, and I want something I can find at the first Telcel office I come to, am I asking for too much? :)
Anyway - I'll enjoy some days of being really disconnected from any wireless bugs (that I am aware off).
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