Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 18:02
I will sound monothematic, but I have been devoting quite a bit of work to this topic lately: Trying to stop the advance of e-voting in Mexico, Latin America and the world.
Why trying to stop it? Isn't technology supposed to help us, to get trustable processes? Yes, it's supposed to... but it just cannot achieve it, no matter how hard it is tried — I won't get into explanations in this blog post, but there is plenty of information. Feel free to ask me for further details.
Anyway — Yesterday (Sunday, 2012-06-17) was the fifth simulated voting that will lead to the first wide-scale deployment of electronic voting booths in my country: About 10% of the population of the state of Jalisco (that means, ~500,000 people) will cast their votes on July 1st electronically.
This particular case illustrates how simulated votings can be used to forge a lie: Pounce Consulting, the company that won the e-voting project for IEPC (Jalisco's voting authority), delivered their booths over 40 days late, just before the deadline for the project to be canceled. Oh, and by the way, it's the same company that just failed to deliver on time for another planned local authority (10% of the booths in the Federal District, where I live, where fortunately 100% of the votes will be cast on traditional, auditable and cheap paper).
After this delay, five voting simulations were programmed, to get the local population acquinted with them. The first ones just failed to get the population's interest and had close to 40% failure rates (mainly regarding transmission). Several other "minor details" were reported, including mechanical details that allowed subsequent voters to see the vote of who had just left.
Anyway, making long story short: The fifth and last simulation was held yesterday. Officially, it was finally successful (about time). As these booths include the "facilities" to communicate the results via the cellular network, but the populations where they are to be deployed do not yet have cellular coverage, 10% of the booths will have to be carried back to the Districtal Header (that can be a ~10hr trip) to be counted. Also, in all places, traditional paper stationery and paraphernalia will be printed just in case it is needed (and when will they now? When half of the votes are cast and lost?)
Anyway... e-voting is still in its first stage in Mexico. Right now, I'm sure, no attempts to rig the election will be made (centrally). But every effort will be made (as it has been made) to dismiss the obviously big and nontrivial ways it has failed and will fail, and any problems will be labeled as "minor". And probably by 2018 we will be facing many more states (even nationwide) deployments.
But propaganda fails to see the obvious: E-voting is more expensive, more complicated, leads to more possible failure states. E-voting should not be deployed in large-scale (i.e. more than a couple of hundred voters) elections. Electronic voting is insecure, violates secrecy, allows for fraud. No matter how many locks are put into it.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/22/2012 - 10:18
I have been following the development of the different e-vote modalities in Mexico for several years already, although I have only managed to do so methodically in the last half year or so. If you are interested in my line of reasoning as to why I completely oppose e-voting, you can look at the short article I published in 2010 or the slightly longer and more updated version published in our book in 2011.
Currently, in Mexico there are two different venues of e-vote that are being pushed: Bad and worse. The bad one will be carried out for about 10% of the population of the state of Jalisco and somewhat less for the state of Coahuila (Distrito Federal was also to be in this list, but the contract was cancelled due to the provider company delivering booths with too many problems and unable to deliver in the due time). The worse one is, fortunately, likely to have the least impact. Why? Because it regards votes cast by Distrito Federal residents (the capital entity, where part of Mexico City is located) living abroad. And it will have less impact because of the amount of the population registered for it: We are about 9 million residents in DF, and in the last election (first time IIRC there was the right to vote from abroad) there were only about 10,000 people registered for casting a (enveloped and sent by post) vote. Even if this year we the campaign for this was better (and I'm not yet sure about it), the number of voters will not be enough to make a dent on the results.
I'm not going into details as to why it is bad in this post — I requested information from the DF Electoral Institute (IEDF) with academic interest, to try to find more information about it, and I want to share my results with you — and, of course, to request for your input on how to continue with this. On May 3rd, I sent the following request (this I am translating to English :) You can look at the receipt for the request for the original redaction) to the official contact address, email@example.com:
Of course, I wasn't very optimistic when receiving this information. Still, I have to share my results: My information request was largely denied:
In case some other person is interested in following this information, the other two points were answered, and I'll try to get some relevant information from it:
So, I don't have any real conclusions yet. I'm just reporting how work is unfolding.
Tomorrow evening (Wednesday May 23) I'll give a talk on the "e-voting in Mexico 2012" subject in Congreso Internacional de Software Libre in Zacatecas, Mexico. I'll talk on the situation on this and the other topics I have been able to work on.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:25
As stated in the 2012-04-30 edition of the Debian Project News, this weekend I will be meeting Holger Levsen (who has been there for over a week now) in Managua, Nicaragua, as part of the Debian Tour 2012, a set of talks meant to raise awareness and interest on Debian between the Nicaraguan (+Central American) user groups, university students, companies and government.
Not all of the planned activities are present in the Debian Tour webpage. I know I will be giving my talk on Debian in the Free Software projects' universe, this Saturday at Universidad Centro Americana (UCA). Besides this, we will be meeting on Monday with the UCA staff to discuss some DebConf-specific issues. Sunday? Well, I hope^Wfully trust we will have interesting activities as well :)
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:10
April 15 2012, my friend Alberto and I took on a difficult mission: Cross the –allegedly– biggest city in the world and conquer Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, one of its populous and famous districts. Alberto had been to Cd. Neza a couple of times, as he is one of the providers for a physical rehabilitation center built in it, but I had never set foot in it.
My friend Al and me started cycling in col. Escandón, in Mexico's Center-West, followed roughly along Metrobús' line 2 until its terminal, and at Cabeza de Juárez entered Cd. Neza. We went along the main avenue "Adolfo López Mateos" until Bordo de Xochiaca, then all straight until Vía Tapo, almost all around the airport, got lost a couple of times in the way, then back to the heart of the city.
I took only a couple of quick shots, which I have uploaded to this album — We saw so much, so huge, so surreal things, but the main goal we set for this was just to enjoy cycling. I can just complain about one thing: We cycled for maybe 10Km following the main open sewage line in Mexico City. I had never breathed so much shit in my life — take it as literally as you want. But, all in all, an interesting little trip.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 04/08/2012 - 20:49
On this Semana Santa (holy/major week), Regina and I took a little vacation: We went ~400Km North, to the magical Xilitla, in the Eastern part of San Luis Potosí state. To get there, we went by the Sierra Gorda de Querétaro route: A beautiful but quite hard to drive road, crossing desert, forest and jungle through a very steep mountain ridge. What does hard to drive mean? It means that for ~200Km we had a speed average of 40-50Km/h. The road is in very good conditions, and traffic was quite light. And although our plans were to come back via the other ridge road (crossing Hidalgo state instead of Querétaro), we were persuaded to go the long way instead: We came back via San Luis Potosí city, making ~700Km instead of ~400, but –I'll concede– it was a much easier drive.
But although I take the road as an important part of the vacation, and although it was a very quick vacation, what is it we went to see there? Xilitla is a town at the beginning of the huasteca potosina region, with really exuberant vegetation, that captured Sir Edward James' heart back in the 1940s. Sir Edward, a noble Englishman, was good friends with several surrealist artists, and became one himself. After moving to Xilitla and buying an impressive chunk of jungle, in the 1960s he started building a surrealist garden in the middle of the jungle, which he continued to work on until his death, in 1984. We took some pictures, but of course, they pay very little tribute to the magic and beauty of the place.
And going to the huasteca means going to places of nature, of many crystaline rivers. Yes, only three days (two of them spent getting there and back) are far too little to enjoy it. But even so, we went to the birth of river Huichihuayán (~45 minutes North of Xilitla) and to the Los Micos waterfalls (~20 minutes West of Ciudad Valles). Very nice places to visit, among so many others. We should go back to the huasteca soon!
I uploaded many of the pictures here. They will not be syndicated on the planets that follow my blog on RSS (or for individuals following RSS, FWIW), but you will find them following the relevant links.
And of course: I pay for a very cheap package on my hosting provider. Drupal often answers with an error page when the server is (even mildly) overloaded. So, feel free to hit reload if something appears unavailable.
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 18:07
Around two years ago, the OECD presented a study on residential bandwitdth available per country that triggered quite a bit of debate all over the world — I have seen at least criticism to it in Mexico, in the USA and in Australia. It's very easy to take a simplified view of a statistic and bitch on how sorry the state of our country is. In our case, the outcry was that Mexico was the lowest of all of the OECD countries, and I have seen this repeated on so many topics that it what surprises me is that people keep getting surprised at it! OECD does not represent the ≥200 countries in this world (only the top 30, and the meaning of "top" is not unambiguous).
I found this graph that helps me illustrate this point:
While that graphic is part of a report illustrating how sorry the USA should be for their low position, it shows the OECD member countries. And yes, the only country Mexico could be compared in general terms from those in the list is Turkey. Coherently, they are located at positions 28 and 30.
But what prompted me into writing this post? That some weeks ago I was reading a viewpoint article at the Communications of the ACM magazine: What gets measured gets done: Stop focusing on irrelevant broadband metrics, by Scott Wallsten (might be behind a paywall for you — If you are interested, I can share a copy with you, just ask me by email). Wallsten's article contains the following graph:
I found it pretty telling that, although Mexico sits at the extreme of the graph (and the height of our bar makes it very hard to get a real value out of this particular rendering), our ISPs join a very select group of countries (Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Ireland, in my very subjective measure) by delivering what they promise.
In 2010, the dominant broadband offering was 1Mbps, although higher options have long existed. I always got basically the 100% of what my ISP (Telmex) has promised, even though I have always had the cheapest package available. Some months ago, I got a call announcing we were being pushed 5x into the future, and starting right then, I had a 5Mbps connection. And although I didn't really expect it to be true, I have had a clean 6Mbps (yes, 6 instead of 5) connection.
So, that's it. This post contains no hidden truths, but just what grabbed my attention from a series of data points :-)
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 17:10
I have just bought our plane tickets to Managua, so I can finally say this:
Yes, many of you will ask what happened, I was bragging everywhere I wanted to go by land, driving from Mexico City to Managua. I'd love to, and I'm sure it's completely doable... But we have family issues to attend on July 21, in Argentina. So we will have a beautiful flight schedule (and carbon footprint) for this July:
Several people have asked me on the best airline options for this trip. In our case, to Managua, it was with TACA, US$518 total. You can get tickets for ~US$30 less, but the flight goes through Panama instead of San Salvador, for an extra 1000Km – And instead of ~3hr it makes slightly over 6. Yes, on our way back we will be routed a bit South to San José, but it's not as bad, and it's for a very short layover.
For Argentina? Well, we have always found LAN to be the cheapest and most convenient. This time, TACA/Avianca was a very close second, which lost due to almost doubling the flight+layover time
Why aren't we taking a Mexico→Managua→Buenos Aires flight instead? Because it's ~US$150 more expensive per person. Not *that* much, but still some money. And by returning to Mexico and having a night at home, we will save us the hassle of carrying Winter clothes to Nicaragua and Summer clothes to Argentina.
Oh, and if you are planning on dropping by home while we are away and robbing all of our stuff: There's not that much to take from there, and we have already arranged for somebody to be there while we are away. But thanks for thinking about us, anyway!
[update] And what about DebConf12 registration? When is the system opening for us all to register? Soon, dear friends, we are talking about some related issues, and you will have your registrationi open soon.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/20/2012 - 01:48
Ben mentions he left Google Reader and went back to Liferea, but mentions a series of bugs that keep him from being happy. After pondering it a bit, a couple of months ago I also left Google Reader, but I turned to a free webapp: rssLounge aggregator. Although it does not fully cover Ben's wishlist (I'll get to it now), I am happy using it as it covers my main need: Being able to read my stuff from just about everywhere, without installing even a ssh client (that would make public Windows machines a liability for me, as they could sniff my keystrokes while authenticating to my ssh server). So, for me, a webapp is basically a must.
Well, as for Ben's list:
So, Ben, with only one (big) fail, it might be a good candidate for you.
PS- And hard as it might seem, I am leading an almost-Google-free life now! :) But don't let them hear this, as we want them to keep sponsoring Summer of Code and DebConf.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/13/2012 - 00:13
Some days ago, reading my local Couchsurfing groups, I stumbled across an announcement by Australian Peter Davies to go to each of the 148 stations in the Mexico City Metro system, take some photos of the environment, and document on his impressions.
I have followed and enjoyed the Mexico City Metro blog since I learnt of it, and have grown used to looking forward to the daily post-or-two. Peter writes each of his entries both in English and Spanish (you can tell it's not a native Spanish, but it's a good effort). He has been doing the stations in a very well distributed order (I cannot say it's completely random, but it's surely not lineal or methodical).
I connected wiht his project as I love discovering the city more or less the same way, but with a different system: I try to have at least one long bike ride every two weeks (being "long" something over 40Km). I usually go either to the North or to downtown and to the East by the good old route I always take, and on my way back, at some point I decide just to turn right or left and discover yet another village slurped by the city. I don't usually take pictures, as I'm too much into the cycling thrill, left-right-left-right... But cycling has led me to appropriate my city (I don't know if that's proper English), to make my city really mine, to get to know parts of it I'd never otherwise go to.
Anyway, Peter's is a great way to document urban life. I'm in love with my city, and with expressions of urban appropriation. I loved his project, and if you are interested by what I say, go take a look at his wanderings in the city. I have suggested him two bits to check, but the work is very much an artist's — He accepts my input, but quite probably he will do whatever he pleases ;-) In case any of you is interested in contacting him, I can tell you for a fact he replies :-)
[*] And what is CouchSurfing? Oh, a great community where you can offer a space to crash at your house for unknown people from all around the world. I have never requested a couch, as the Free Software community is much more tightly knit, but I have offered it to several interesting people.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:11
You are scaring away much more than that.
I just came across an invitation for BugCon 2012.
BugCon is a Mexican conference devoted to computer security — I cannot comment on its level or value because, although it's a topic that has long interested me, I must recognize each day I feel less of an expert, nowadays finding myself at the level of a "sysadmin who tries not to be too dumb for his own job security". Oh, and also because it would be completely off-topic for this post.
If you look at Vendetta's (the main organizer) blog post, it will probably give you the impression that the conference is just an excuse for the afterparty: Lets go see some b00bs! Do you think your fellow female hackers will have any interest in joining a bunch of sex-starved, hormone-infested teenagers who only want to pwn a website and grab more pr0n? Do you think females will feel welcome (or even mildly safe) between you? I would not think so. And I also think you are alienating any professional who might have any interest in joining your community, be it as a member, as a mentor, or whatnot.
I cannot right now do a coherent post on this topic, but I can reference you to what I have seen (and read) over the last almost 10 years, when the issue was first brought up to our attention. I am very glad to see that, at least in the Free Software area, there has been a real change of mindset. I hope you are in time to think about it and rectify.
Oh, and not the description of an incident, but a very interesting and thoughtful take on this: [pdf] Interesting analysis by Hannah Wallach on the numbers and motivations of women in Free Software groups. I don't know if Hannah has published this in article form, but many interesting points can be understood by looking at the presentation.
My good friend Vendetta: I don't mean this post (longer than what I originally intended) as a way to say you and the conference you are organizing for the third year (IIRC) already is unprofessional or targetted to pimply teenagers. I know the work you have put in it. I hope you see the points I'm trying to drive — You are of course free to have whatever afterparty you have. But, if as the main organizer, you are giving the images of nice chicks at Hooters more weight and relevance than to the conference itself... you are doing yourself a disservice. I hope you can rectify it, and make BugCon attractive to hacker women as well.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/02/2012 - 08:44
Every year, on January 1st, new material ceases to be protected by copyright and enters the public domain. This means, every year, more knowledge, literature, paintings, music, movies and a long etcetera becomes collective property, instead of being artificially held by the current holders of their rights.
As this image shows (source: http://publicdomainday.org/node/39 ), I have the honor(?) to live in the country with the longest copyright protection term in the world. Copyright in Mexico does not only last for 100 years — It lasts for the natural life of the author plus 100 years. This means that the popular corridos that tell the stories of the 1910 revolution are still not in the public domain. La sucesión presidencial, the book which Francisco I. Madero wrote to justify that a peaceful political change was needed for the 1910 elections, will not enter the public domain until 2014 (president Madero was killed during 1913). Does it make any sense to kidnap cultural, political or artistic works for over a century?
Not only that: Material that is legally sold as public domain in other countries is illegal in ours. Take as an example the recordings of Enrico Carusso, the great Italian tenor who died in 1921. Over 15 years ago, I bought a couple of CDs with his recordings (even if the sources were quite low-quality, as they had been copied over from wax cylinders to magnetic tapes to optical media). I bought them surprisingly cheap, as they were genuine public domain. But they are still protected in my country. That means, I ilegally have some stolen(!) works of art which I lawfully bought outside my country.
Copyright law needs to be revised to match reality. Technological advances have strongly changed reality since 1717's promulgation of the first copyright laws. The solution is not to extend the terms, but to rethink the whole process.
(yes, this rant was mainly made as an excuse for me to copy this image and put it in a location I can easily refer to later. But I hope it is interesting to you!)
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/01/2012 - 14:21
I came to Argentina with my girlfriend to visit her family and friends, and to spend here some disconnected days during my winter^Wsummer vacations. And so it was, we had some very nice, relaxing days, with everything running smooth and with infrequent but enough sessions of mail access to withstand the disconnection without pain.
Of course, I didn't anticipate that the Network Operations Center of my university would break my institute's connectivity while performing their planned maintenance on December 23. After some days, I was able to talk with one person in the university, but connectivity was not restored. Nobody with knowledge to look at the firewall's screen is available.
So, as of today (happy new year 2012!), I have been mail-less for over a week. I will be back in my office soon now, so I'll get mail connectivity within the upcoming week.
Meanwhile, everybody who mailed me for any reason (job, Debian, holiday greetings, whatever)... Well, I'm sad to tell you that the mails were lost. But worry not, I will act as if nothing like that happened and I received all of your best wishes.
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 12:55
I recently started getting mails from firstname.lastname@example.org. Usually, a mail from no-reply@whatever is enough to make me believe that the admins of said whatever are clueless regarding what e-mail means and how should it work. And in this case, it really amazes me — If I get an invite to Diaspora*, right, I should not pester a hypothetical email@example.com to get me off his list, but I should be able to reply to the person mailing me — Maybe requesting extra details on what he is inviting me to, or allowing me to tell him why I'm not interested. But yes, Diaspora* has fallen to the ease of requiring me to join their network to be able to communicate back with the "friend" who invited me.
Some of the (three?) readers of this site might not be familiar with the Diaspora* project. It is a free reimplementation (as far as I know) of something similar to Facebook — Free not only in the sense that it runs free software, but also because it is federated — Your data will not belong to a specific company (that is, you are not the value object they sell and make money with), but you can choose and switch (or become) the provider for your information. A very interesting proposal, socially and technically.
I find that a gross violation of netiquette. I should be able to reply to the mail - Even if in this case it were to (and sorry – As you are spreading my name/mail, you will excuse me if I spread your name ;-) ) firstname.lastname@example.org. Such an (fictional FWIW) address would allow for mail to reach back the submitter by the same medium it was sent, without allowing open spamming into the network.
Now, what prompted me to write this mail (just before adding email@example.com to my blacklist) is the message I got (in an ugly HTML-only mail which erroneously promised to be text/plain, sigh...) is that Fernando sent me as the inviting message, «So, at least are you going to give Diaspora a chance?»
The answer is: No..
But not because of being a fundamentalist. Right, I am among what many people qualify as Free Software zealots, but many of my choices (as this one is) is in no way related to the software's freeness. I use non-free Web services, as much as many of you do. Yes, I tend to use them less, rather than more (as the tendency goes).
But the main reason I don't use Twitter is the same reason I don't use Identi.ca, its free counterpart — And the reason I'm not interested in Facebook is the same reason I will not join Diaspora* — Because I lack time for yet another stream of activity, of information, of things to do and think about.
Yes, even if I care about you and I want to follow what's going on in your life: The best way to do it is to sit over a cup of coffee, or have some dinner, or to meet once a year in the most amazing conference ever. Or we can be part of distributed projects together, and we will really interact lots. Or you can write a blog! I do follow the blogs of many of my friends (plus several planets), even if they have fallen out of fashion — A blog post pulls me to read it as it is a unit of information, not too much depending on context (a problem when I read somebody's Twitter/Identica lines: You have to hunt a lot of conversations to understand what's going on), gives a true dump of (at least one aspect of) your state of (mind|life|work), and is a referenceable unit I can forward to other people, or quote if needed.
So, yes, I might look old-fashioned, clinging to the tools of the last-decade for my Social Web presence. I will never be a Social Media Expert. I accept it — But please, don't think it is a Stallmanesque posture from me. It is just that of a person who can lose too much time, and needs to get some work done in the meantime.
(oh, of course: Blog posts also don't have to make much sense or be logically complete. But at least they allow me to post a full argument!)
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 10:41
This is an update to my last post regarding the «Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento» book.
But holding a printed book in your hands is just a different experience, isn't it? :-) Anyway, I said I would give here an update on how to get your hands on it. The main venue would be through my University's e-store. I recommend it to anybody interested in buying the book in Mexico. The book's list price is MX$300 (around US$27), but it is currently sold at half price — I don't know how long will that price be offered.
On the other hand, we also uploaded it to the lulu.com self-publishing service. Of course, given I have not seen the printed results, I cannot assure you the resulting product will be of the same quality as the one we got here, but I have a couple of books I have bought at lulu, and their quality is quite acceptable. So, you can also buy it from lulu.com. Note the 20% discount it shows will be permanent — That's what I would get as an author, a payment I decided to forefit given we are 11 authors and it would be unfair to collect it all myself. So, the price at lulu.com is US$12.64 plus shipping — Very similar to the price at UNAM.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 10/25/2011 - 19:25
Last Friday, after two years worth of work, I finally got the first box of books for the Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento (Collaborative Knowledge Construction) project I worked on as a coordinator together with Alejandro Miranda (pooka), and together with a large group of 11 authors:
Translating over from the back cover text (and this is just a quick translation from me — It reads better in Spanish ;-) ):
We will soon have the book ready in IIEc's e-store (which is mostly meant for national requests). I am also uploading the book to the lulu.com self-publishing service, and we are working on a epub-like edition. Right now it is still not available, but it should be there in some days. I will keep you posted.
Meanwhile, the full contents can be read online at http://seminario.edusol.info/seco3
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