Congratulations / on giving FS talks to a non-technical audience

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/12/2005 - 10:00
Branden: Congratulations! :-D We were all waiting for the day you finally took over - Now enhanced with an official Cabal! For the non-Debian guys reading my blog, it can be interesting to take a look at the Condorcet voting system.
...Interesting to know that joeyh is exactly 16 days older than me. Congratulations as well :)
In ~1hr I will be giving a talk - its title can be roughly translated as Free Software: An alternate model for knowledge production. Now, why am I excited about this? I have grown quite used to giving this kind of talks, explaining what Free Software is and how its development works, in front of technical or quasi-technical audiences. This time it is very different: As I work at the UNAM Economical Research Institute, I am giving this talk to economists. I hope I can find someone interested in working this more thoroughly with me, to have a formal economical analysis of our way of working. At the very least, I hope not to be laughed at - my first sheet reads:
What is Free Software?
  • A social movement that wants to correct a historic aberration
  • Thousands of volunteers breaking every economic prediction
  • A new knowledge production model
  • A fair scheme of intelectual property licensing
...Lets see how it works ;-)
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Mexican politics - fraud before the elections coming up

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/05/2005 - 11:41
This is still not a fact... But it will soon be. We were so proud on July 2000 as we had finally beaten the eternal PRI and its perfect dictatorship. The hope, though, didn't last long. Our shiny new president made the most hilarious bunch of promises about what would happen in the Government of the Change - And as soon as he assumed the power (December 1, 2000), he started breaking them one after another. I remember particularly talking with a good friend of mine who went to study for six months in Spain. It was March 2001. I was telling him of the stupidity of the new government, when the Zapatista representatives started a march through various states until reaching the country's capital. My friend asked me how stupid could the Zapatistas be, by defying Mexico's most popular person - Well, my friend did not feel this as he was away, but we had only seen three months of his rule, but his approval rate had descended over 20%. The Zapatista movement has been waiting on the government to act, to honor his word, since the last official cease-fire (1995, IIRC). The government (quoting ex-president Salinas) does not see them, does not hear them. Well, this shiny new president Fox promised that he'd solve the Zapatista conflict in 15 minutes - He did nothing. He did not talk to them, he did not listen to them... But he says that Chiapas is now again peaceful and prosper. Of course it is, but thanks to the EZLN, which is not your everyday killing and kidnapping guerrilla, but a real national reivindication movement. ...But I will not talk more about the EZLN, as they are not the reason for me being angry. Fox's government has showed us over four years of ineptitude, of broken promises, of going back to the corruption and power abuse levels of the Echeverría-López Portillo docena trágica, the dirtiest 12 years of our country's politics (1970-1982) and the beginning of the continuous crisis we have faced since. Back in the day, the elections were seen as a simple joke. PRI politicians knew they could get whoever they wanted to power, they could remove anybody who fell from their grace, and did so with complete impunity. This changed radically in 1988, when the Frente Democrático Nacional (National Democratic Front) led by ex-PRI-member Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas challenged the most obvious fraud we had ever seen. After 1988, we had 12 years of slow but steady steps towards democracy - And we all thought that in 2000, when for the first time in over 70 years the PRI became opposition, we were already a democratic country. Our new government has, though, reinforced the almighty figure of the President, and has re-adopted the fraudulent techniques of the past, reaching a new level. By far, both Cárdenas and Mexico City's major, Andrés Manuel López Obrador are not my favourite people to run the country. They both (as many other important people in their party) were very prominent figures in the PRI until the mid-1980s. They display many sick attitudes that I do not want to see in a president - But then again, every single politician in this country seems, as we say, to have been cut using the same mold. Since early 2001, when López Obrador started appearing ahead in basically every popularity poll, all sorts of discredit has been tried against him. But, once the holders of the power found they could not undermine his popularity, things started becoming dirtier: As this guy will be tough to beat in the elections, it's much better not to allow them to run for president in 2006. A whole mess has been created around the very vague issue of Predio El Encino. It has been shown that the judge's resolution has been honored. It has been shown that the limits of El Encino are not clear - they are not even important!. However, this week we will witness the desafuero (removal of the privileges given by law to an elected authority) that PRI+PAN have seeked for long months. I do hate the victim personality that López Obrador has built thanks to this, I hate the way he has been showing himself as the savior of legality, I hate to see he might be no better than anybody else... But I cannot stand still while the rulers once again remove a legitimate candidate from their way for something that irrelevant, while the real lawbreakers (the first examples that come to my mind are Morelos' governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal has proven links to drug dealers and his state's congress has requested his removal from office, or the tens of PRI leaders involved in the Pemexgate affair. It seems we are stuck in our nice little banana republic. It seems we still have to fight to get back to the point we were at a couple of years ago. NO AL GOBIERNO FASCISTA NO AL DESAFUERO NO A LA CANALLADA
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New element found!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/30/2005 - 20:04
I tipically oppose reposting this kind of stuff... Today I won't ;-) The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major U.S. research university. The element, tentatively named Administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have 1 neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons, and 111 assistant vice neutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons. Since it has no electrons, Administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of Administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would have normally occurred in less than one second. Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years, at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which assistant neutrons, vice neutrons, and assistant vice neutrons exchange places. Some studies have shown that the atomic mass actually increases after each reorganization. Research at other laboratories indicates that Administratium occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It tends to concentrate at certain points such as government agencies, large corporations, and universities. If can usually be found in the newest, best appointed, and best maintained buildings. Scientists point out that Administratium is known to be toxic at any level of concentration and can easily destroy any productive reaction where it is allowed to accumulate. Attempts are being made to determine how Administratium can be controlled to prevent irreversible damage, but results to date are not promising.
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At least it is not slow anymore...

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/30/2005 - 15:36
Yesterday there was an electrical problem in the area where I live - We had between 40 and 60V for around four hours (Mexico's electricity is nominally supplied at 127V). I got home about halfway through this and, of course, switched everything down. We went out, and came back home around 11PM. It seemed everything was normal again, so I turned on my server - yes, the old P120 laptop. This morning, Nadezhda told me she couldn't see the network. It turns yesterday night out I turned on the laptop, but didn't turn on the regulator, and the battery died. Ok, turn on the damn regulator... And nothing. :-/ Of course, a regulator can be of great help in case of power fluctuation - But yesterday's episode was way over what my little and cheap regulator could handle. It seems my trusty laptop's power supply just went to the electrical heaven. Well... After switching the hard disk to my main laptop and going back to a stock kernel, we have network access at home. Not only that, my blog is finally usable (it is normal to wait over one minute for it to load with my old P120 - It seems that Apache/PHP/[term]jaws[/term] and MySQL are too big to fit together in RAM). But I don't have a laptop for myself... And I don't want to use a regular (big, noisy, high power consumption, no UPS) machine as a server. I must thank [friend]Alex[/friend] - He offered to give me his old PIII/500 laptop. Yes, I know that machine is in a proverbial bad shape as a laptop... But I am confident it will be a much better server than the old one. Anyway, lets see how this evolves by tomorrow :) [friend]vicm3[/friend] says that it is usual to have ~80V in Iztapalapa... Say... How do you manage to have your server at home without killing it? Even with a good, sturdy UPS, doesn't your UPS die too quickly?
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Not a finn / mother back in Sweden / Religion

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 13:48
Antti-Juhani, Martin-Éric: Just to see how I fared, I took the Finnish Test. I have never been to Finland, my only direct references about it are that I know some people living there and that my mother says that you talk like ewoks... Anyway, I'll find out in July ;-) But anyway:
Congratulations! You scored 86%!
You are a true Finn. Or an extremely good guesser. Or very lucky. Going to sauna naked with strangers is nothing to you, you happily even roll in the snow. Long winters are good for developing that depression and drinking. Your probable cause of death is suicide or alcohol.
Not bad, huh? :)
Yesterday night we took my mother to the airport. After one month visiting us in Mexico, she's heading back to Sweden, where she lives since mid-2003. It was quite nice to have her home. And... Well, I will see her again relatively soon, after Debconf in July... But it was nice to have her around at home.
Ok, so I am taking quizzes... Shoot me. Here I go with yet another one:
You scored as atheism. You are... an atheist, though you probably already knew this. Also, you probably have several people praying daily for your soul. Instead of simply being "nonreligious," atheists strongly believe in the lack of existence of a higher being, or God. atheism - 96% agnosticism - 83% Satanism - 75% Buddhism - 67% Paganism - 67% Islam - 54% Judaism - 25% Christianity - 21% Hinduism - 13% Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with
...I mostly agree... But being more a Satanist than a Buddhist? And being twice as Islamic than Jewish? Well, that does amaze me :) ...Yes, yes, I'll go back to work right away.
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Debconf5 flood

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/15/2005 - 18:28
WOW... The Debconf Comas system we set up had been running quite smoothly for already some months. People were registering in quite a nice, ordered way... We had around 30 registered proposals, and everything was fine. Well, mostly everything. You see, we had as a proposal submission deadline March 15 2005, 23:59 UTC. In order to allow only for timely new proposals, Comas checks this date - only that I was checking for the date, not for the time... Since March 15 2005 00:00 UTC until around 16:00 UTC when I fixed this, we were gratuitously rejecting the proposals. And I had done the math wrong when setting the local cutoff time, as the server is in UTC+2, but I am (as I live in UTC-6) used to adding instead of substracting, so we got another two more hours off the air. I even gasped when I saw the titles for #debconf and #debconf-team: website proposal form b0rken, mail proposals to debconf5-speakers@l.debconf.o, cc: gwolf@debian.o - WHATTHEFUCKDOYOUMEANBYB0RKEN?! My system is not b0rken (although my logic certainly is)! ;-) I have been receiving mails with proposals for the last couple of hours - add that to having a stupidly busy day, I was longing for 23:59UTC to finally arrive. And it has finally arrived - No new proposals for Debconf will be accepted (unless our academic committee (Stockholm+Jbailey+Amaya) strong-arm me into acceptance, of course). Well, anyway... Sadly I don't record proposal submission timestamps in Comas, it should be interesting to make a graph similar to the one about persons - During the first day, we got five registered proposals. Then, a long period of laziness... and today we got at least 10 (out of the current 42. And, yes, I am still missing two. Anyway, time to go back to UNAM work - Jordi, Juanjo, I'll upload your talks by tomorrow :)
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Among the best Linux distributions

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 03/10/2005 - 12:26
Debian has been often rated as a great distribution technically, ideologically and socially. Now, how about seeking objective perfection? What if we could say that our distribution is simply great according to standards that have been widely respected for centuries? I came across the Gematriculator, which uses gematria to objectivelly rate a site? The results for the analysis of This site is certified 11% EVIL by the Gematriculator This site is certified 89% GOOD by the Gematriculator Ok... And how do other Linux distributions rate? Mandrake: 37% evil - 63% good RedHat: 13% evil - 87% good. We need to watch out for these guys! Gentoo: 58% evil - 42% good. Does it surprise anybody? Novell Suse: 8% evil - 92% good. Ok, we _NEED_ to see what are they doing better than us! Slackware: 35% evil - 65% good FreeBSD: 33% evil - 67% good. What?! But... Their logo is a daemon! How can this be? NetBSD: 41% evil - 59% good OpenBSD: 23% evil - 77% good Ubuntu: 16% evil - 84% good. Sorry guys. You are in the right track, but you'd be much better off if you didn't stray away from Debian.
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Re-stating the obvious / Mozilla's trademark

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/09/2005 - 11:15
First of all: I have been asked why do I post my blog in English. I know it is syndicated in Planeta Linux en México, a mostly-Spanish-speaking planet (I am though not the only one posting in English, but there are few of us). It is also syndicated in Planet Debian, which is strictly in English. I don't have time to maintain two blogs. I want my Mexican friends to know what am I up to... So well, now you know. ;-)
Visor posted his opinions regarding Mozilla's and Firefox's trademarks. This is answering to a posting by Damog which I cannot find, but which referred to Gervase's mailing to debian-legal. Before anything else, Visor, please take a look at Mozilla's trademark policy as well. The problem, you are right, is not about patents - I am sure Damog slipped to the wrong term when making his post. The problem is about trademarks (marcas registradas). Mozilla's licensing is quite twisted, but generally conceived as free as well (and I will not go to that dark area). The problem is, the Mozilla Foundation wants to retain quality assurance control over any product which has their name on it. It _is_ fair, yes. Is it compatible to the way most Linux distributions work? No, sorry. And specially no for the distributions that most care about freedom. I had not previously read Gervase's message, in which he does offer an important advance over what we previously had... But lets limit our analysis first to Mozilla's official policy. A responsible distribution must take care of fixing as promptly as possible any important bug in its software. However, only software authorized by the Mozilla foundation can be called Mozilla Firefox and carry its logo (first case of the policy). Even if a distribution decided to call it Firefox Community Edition, there are many limitations imposed on them - The code itself is free, but you are still not free to add your modifications to it. Of course, you can take the code and rename it (as section 3 of its policy, Iceweasel, suggests). Of course, every distribution will make its best for the QA levels to be as high as possible, but we are always liable of including something the Mozilla Foundation does not approve. Even with Gervase's interesting mail, distributions that hold freedom as such a high value as Debian does would not be able to include the Mozilla trademark - Debian Free Software Guidelines define what we perceive as being Free Software. The eigth condition states that License Must Not Be Specific to Debian - And in Gervase mail, we can read:
7) The Foundation requests that Debian document, in a place where it might be seen by package modifiers, the potential need to acquire such a trademark licence.
...What is the end of this discussion? It has not been reached yet, as far as I can tell. There is good will on the part of the Mozilla people, but we have to recognize that, being Mozilla a Free Software project, it is one that most behaves as a propietary initiative. I am not for suggesting people to run away from Mozilla or Firefox. They are great products, and they _are_ free... But we must be able to be able to treat them by the same standards that we treat other software.
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It feels like Europe down here...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/08/2005 - 10:53
My country is slowly but steadily becoming more and more like Europe. No, it is not because Mexico suddenly became a free, democratic and advanced nation - it is because Europe is becoming more and more a banana republic. Europeans: Don't let the antidemocratic Council (not elected by you) get away with it. Don't let it overturn a decision made by the European Parliament, an elected and legitimate body. If this corrupt initiative does not pass, it will be thanks to the government and people of Denmark and Poland. Thank you very much!
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Bye bye, my oldest bug

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/07/2005 - 18:57
Wow... It is not every day that you have the chance of closing a bug that is over five years old. #41890 can now be crossed out, thanks to Julian Mehnle for his patch. No, no big trumpets, as it was quite an easy bug to fix... But at least is just a little step closer to world domination, just a little step closer to perfect code ;-)
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Ternary operators, conditionals in the middle

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/02/2005 - 11:54
Daniel Silverstone asked on our opinions on ternary operators, and as it seems his blog doesn't like comments (boo!). I just love them. I really like being as concise as possible, without being cryptic - I find it awful to say [code="C"]if (condition) var = val1; else var = val2;[/code] Not only it hides the real intention of your statement (you want to assign a value to var, not just to check for a condition), but it is much more error prone (when I typed the line the first time I did an assignment to var and one to val. Daniel says someone suggested the use of functions... Well, yes, sometimes a function would be fine, as in the classical example - I agree that [code="C"]var = max(val1, val2);[/code] is better than [code="C"]var = val1 > val2 ? val1 : val2;[/code] ...But that's hardly the most common case. Now, I know we Perl guys are seen by the rest of the world as bizarre creatures with the strangest sense of code grokking abilities... But I love how Perl allows us to show where emphasis is in our statements. For example, [code="Perl"]$result = 0 unless $success;[/code] shows the reader the important part in this statement is the assignment (which only happens if $success is true), while [code="Perl"]$success or $result = 0;[/code] is semantically equivalent, but puts the reader's attention on the fact we are checking for $success, and the assignment happens as a consequence of that. There is more to programming than letting the computer understand your intentions. Although it is often seen as a write-only language by speakers of other tongues, this level of expresiveness helps reading code. A lot. I happen to like Python quite a bit, but this limits it puts on the programmer always put me off while deciding on using it for a new project. BTW, back to ternary operators: It seems not many Perl programmers use them as often as I do, as for Perl6 there will be a language redesign involving operator Huffman-encoding (this means, the shortest and easiest-to-type operators will be the most common ones)... And the current ternary operator ( ? and : ) will be replaced by a more visible, more lengthy ones ( ?? and :: ) :-(
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Got my own office!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/28/2005 - 17:31
I formally started working at IIEc exactly two months ago (Jan 1 2005, although I have been showing up to work here since November 17), and finally today my workplace is no longer the lab - I have my very own seven square meters - a very strange office, 2x4 meters, with one square meter devoted to one of the building's pillars. I'll have to find a way to put my desk to be confortable (right now I am facing a corner). I have always admired the care my University gives to having nice, confortable places to work, with nice views - Well, this is the exception. I do get some natural light, although mostly obscured by my neighbour's stuff. But hey, I have some space of my own after exactly two years of being in a public place. It feels good. Update: Half an hour of Sokoban later, I feel this is good. There is still a dark spot in the usable square meter behind me, but anyway... I'll find a use for it sooner or later. Meanwhile, I have a much more ergonomic space than what I had in the morning. Joy! :)
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Finishing CONSOL 2005

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/25/2005 - 16:32
This is the last day of CONSOL, and I am quite happy with it. Tired as hell (have been spending my nights printing T-shirts for about a week), but happy. This is the fourth CONSOL, and it is the first time I am not at all involved in the organization, and... Well, it was smoother than ever. And it feels quite good not to be an organizer, to have time to enter any interesting talks, chat with my friends, to go out have a coffee, even go out in case something is needed back home. I don't have statistics for this year's CONSOL, but I heard there were somewhat less people than last year... I'll wait and see. I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted talking with people, as between finishing my presentation and printing T-shirts at night I lost lots of interaction time... But nothing too much, most of this was just good time. After many nights in a row sleeping 4 hours, I am falling asleep... And I am sure this post strongly lacks grammatical and style details - Forgive me :)
Wouter: Great graphs! Quite interesting and entertaining. Thanks!
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PHP segfaults, incomplete laptops

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/16/2005 - 19:22
Shit. I hate losing time due to someone else's faults. Yesterday, a client of mine told me his Horde is not working. Ok, set myself in debug mode. What do I see? Nothing, just a stupid blank webpage. What does the Apache log say? Not much, nothing too informative, and what's worse, nothing I expect from a PHP application: [code=""][Tue Feb 15 09:54:26 2005] [notice] child pid 2421 exit signal Segmentation fault (11)[/code] Over and over. I set in paranoid mode, as I had just upgraded the system. New Horde2 and Imp3 versions had just made it in Sarge, so there was no doubt: I was the culprit. Besides, being tired made everything worse - Two hours checking and rechecking that no files were different from the files I had on a working server. Today I gave it a shot again... Started stracing the Apache processes - I saw the segfault shortly after opening /usr/share/php/Log.php, but couldn't explain it nor relate it to anything else: [code=""](...) open("/usr/share/php/Log.php", O_RDONLY) = 5 fstat64(5, {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=8526, ...}) = 0 fstat64(5, {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=8526, ...}) = 0 lseek(5, 0, SEEK_CUR) = 0 lseek(5, 0, SEEK_SET) = 0 close(5) = 0 --- SIGSEGV (Segmentation fault) @ 0 (0) ---[/code] Ok, I spent some extra time grokking this, until I checked in order what was being opened and in what order (BTW, that helps a lot understand program flow, specially while diving through frameworks such as Horde in languages you don't really enjoy reading, such as PHP ;-) ). First thing I noticed: Silly me. I was looking for the error messages in the Apache log, while Horde sends them to its own log file... Just opening the Horde logfile made me understand the problem right away: [code=""]Feb 16 10:43:56 HORDE [error] [imp] Error retrieving session data (id = faea99bff4f2b114cde7f26e81818f7f) [on line 119 of "/usr/share/horde2/lib/SessionHandler/mysql.php"] [/code] Well... The thing is, my client modified the Horde code (yes, the code, not the configuration) to fit another system he developed - and the session-related columns simply had a different name. Gah. Now, fixing this queries got Horde back running... But I am not sure what to think about it: If Horde cannot find the sessions, should it complain visibly at least? Why just letting it die? Even more: Why the hell does it segfault? I am not sure on whether to file a bug for this... But it does annoy me.
Yesterday I called a friend of mine to check if my laptop was finally fixed (I have been laptopless for about a month already)... He told me he finally had it at home, he helped me send it and follow through the repair process with a vendor he trusts (trusted?)... But he wanted me to go with the power supply and battery just to test it. - But I gave them to you together with the machine! - You did?! This guy says you didn't! - I did... Why would I keep it? - To spare me carrying extra weight? Well... I do believe you, but... Well, I'll have to check with that guy... So... No power, no battery... Sounds like I am still laptopless. Have been working at home from my trusty, old and annoyingly too very slow laptop-server (P120, 48MB RAM, 800x600). I _need_ my laptop soon. He said he'd drop by today - I hope he does with good news...
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Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/15/2005 - 09:15
Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends. - Joseph Campbell, mythologist
Seen on the January 2005 edition of Scientific American, on Steve Mirsky's Captive Audience article.
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