Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 20:54
During DebConf, I managed to squeeze out of the middle of everything for long enough to write a column, a short article for a participation I have every three months, for Mexican Software Gurú magazine. All in all, I liked the resulting text — The current number's main topic is alternative user interfaces.
I find it sometimes hard to define what Software Gurú's audience is — Probably, project leaders in software development; not the actual developers, but people who actually understand about coding... but care more about The Big Picture, Processes, Architecture Engineering and Buzzword Compliance. It is an interesting magazine, all in all, but with a focus and viewpoint I often feel myself not precisely comfortable with.
So, if this trimester's topic was alternative user interfaces, I decided to write on the history and future of the man-machine interface (Spanish only) (version in the magazine's site). My viewpoint comes from the fact that I do not believe we are in a state of so great, innovative changes that everybody is trumpeting, and I'd rather get others to really think on whether user interfaces have gone different in the last decades. Yes, there are many changes, but in form rather than essence.
Anyway, I shared this text with some friends. Some days later, when I was back in Mexico, Pooka/Alejandro Miranda lent me a very interesting book: Hacer clic: Hacia Una Sociosemiotica De Las Interacciones Digitales (Do click: Towards a Socio-semiotics of Digital Interaction (Cibercultura)), by Carlos Scolari. I am not yet even halfway through it, but I am enjoying it — This book speaks, so far, about the meanings of interfaces, and of the history of interfaces themselves, even forgetting that nowadays we (mostly) refer to interfaces as what we have between the man and the machine.
Sadly, I cannot find this book in English, as it is very well worth a read. But if the topic sounds interesting and you can understand the language, don't hesitate and pick up the book. It gives an interesting insight on the topic, for a group of people (us techies) used to looking at things in a much more human-cognitive-process-oriented way.
[update] I found this nice overview of the "Hacer clic" book, written as a presentation for the book. It explains precisely the part I am currently reading - The four metafora for interaction: Conversational, instrumental, superficial and spatial.
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 10:26
Online translators are not hot news anymore. Not by a long, long shot. Still, today I wanted to get a couple of words in Latin. And was amazed that Google's translation service does not (yet?) offer Latin as an option, so I turned to Translation Guide's free online translators.
And, as it always happens, I thought, hmmm... and what about the random ramblings on my site?
So on I went to Gunnar Lupus alio domus. Of course, several funny things popped up, many of which I don't think are proper Latin, but still, among lotsa' nonsense, I found that Planet Debian gets translated to Plagiarius Debian — Which possibly explains why many people have complained about other unauthorized planetoids plagarizing their posts!
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 08:00
This Monday, Debian celebrated its 17th birthday. Yay!
I was invited to celebrate the birthday at HacklabZAM, but could not make it due to the time (17:00-19:00, and I was just leaving work by 19:00), but still, had some beers with long-time geekish friends Iván Chavero, Rolando Cedillo, Manuel Rabade and Odín Mojica. Nice hanging around, good beer+pizza time, and explicit congratulations to Debian.
On the Debian front, Margarita Manterola, Maximiliano Curia, Valessio Brito and Raphael Geissert came up with a very fun Debian appreciation day page. It even included a (slight) hijacking of the bug tracking system's Web interface, showing happy fun balloons! Guys, thanks for a good laugh, and thanks for providing a vehicle for getting the users' thanks to the project!
All in all, that was a great reminder to what we have been repeating as a mantram throughout the last years: Lets keep Debian fun!
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/10/2010 - 00:44
So, DebConf time is over once again. The two weeks worth of fifty weeks waiting are left behind once again, and it's back to get back to normal. DebConf was great — Yes, it always is, and that's what we are all saying, but hey - Seriously! Being in the same building than 300 crazed developers is always fun, and it's always better than last year's fun. A good highlight this year is that, given the number of Free Software and Free Culture groups that exist in USA's north-eastern coast, we had the opportunity to join a large crowd which has never been part of DebConf. Also, I must agree that the USA bid for DebConf was aiming to attract as many Debian people (developers, maintainers, or just happy users) which had not yet been to a DebConf before as possible. And it was a great success! I finally met several people I have long read in the mailing lists, in blogs or in IRC. A much higher proportion than usual, I'd venture to say. Another interesting phenomenon /methinks is that this year's DebCamp started much more staffed than usual: I arrived on the first day, Sunday 25, and there were ~40 people there already; I don't have the actual numbers, but we quickly grew, and the number started to stabilize past mid-week, only to (sharply) rise in the weekend, in time for DebianDay and DebConf start. Great time!
But, they say, nobody can go to the USA without buying some sweet toys, right?
Well, being the proud owner of six very hairy cats, I have thought into entering the looming and weaving industry... But cat hair, while abundant, I have heard is untreadable... Maybe due to the indisciplined, natural and independent personality of the cats (catonality should I say?)...
So I had two choices: Clean up my home quite often, or live in a –literally– hairy mess.
Enter choice #3: The Roomba!
I had been waiting to buy this thing for several years, as they refuse to send to Mexico or charge Mexican cards. So, I walked across Manhattan and got my very own robot cleaner!
For my further surprise, although I have not yet tried it (I don't even have a suitable cable yet), I found this:
Yay, the Roomba is actually hackable (via a 7 pin miniDIN serial port)! Wikipedia says that:
My first impressions? Well, the Roomba lazily charged its battery throughout the day today, and was hungry and ready when I arrived home. It is a but louder than what I expected, and –of course– my cats were not thrilled by the presence of a eighth animated and apparently sentient being at home. Their initial reaction was –of course– to be verrry alert of the thing. Twelve eyes were constantly pointing at the Roomba while mine alternated between them. As they measured the thing's speed and (I guess) inferred its movement patterns, they started escaping upstairs – A flat, round thing with no legs to be seen will not likely be able to climb the stairs. And they were completely right. At first, only Chupchic remained downstairs. After a bit, I went up to show them the Roomba didn't jump on us to eat our brains, and after a bit, Santa and Macusa joined. The Roomba roombed for maybe 90 minutes (this space is large, and decided it was enough... And slowly, the rest of them started coming down.
I would not say Roomba's cleaning is perfect, of course. Its room discovery algorithm is funny, and it even seems it's based on the mere chance of covering most (never all) of the space it has to clean. I had, of course, not fully studied it (after a single run, how could I?). It does make a honestly good attempt at cleaning under coaches, chairs and tables. It collected a fair amount of dust (on a house that seemed quite clean to me, I cannot imagine what would happen on a messy one). I have not yet played with the virtual walls (infrared transmitters which limit rooms as if a door was closed), but given the size of this house (and that I don't want it to clean around the cats' designated bathroom area), I guess I will end up using them regularly.
During DebConf, I heard one bad (stupid useless noisy thing) and two very good (it has radically changed my life) comments on the Roomba. I hope to shift the balance towards 3/4 and not towards 2/2!
Anyways... Thanks to each and every one of you. DebConf is great. Always great. Always a success. I cannot even thank specific teams. Debian Rules, and DebConf Rocks!
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/02/2010 - 14:25
If you have seen me anywhere near my computer at DebConf, you probably have seen the face of a hurried, worried developer. Still, if you monitor my Debian-related activity, you will notice it is still quite low, even given my (much needed and very much enjoyed) vacations pre-DebConf. Yes, orga-team work is very time consuming, even if my role is far from central this year. And yes, DebCamp+DebConf are known for sucking time into social interaction, which is great but not so (formally) productive. And yes, I even took 1.5 days off to visit my family and a friend who live in the area...
Still, I managed to release! \☺/
I have been working with Pooka for the last ~2 years on the Seminary on Collaborative Knowledge Construction. We assembled a group of ~10 speakers/authors, each of whom prepared a chapter for a book meant for publication. Pooka and me coordinated the work, which took a long time because it was also an interaction experiment (and because we both did it only in our free time).
After the coordination work started fading, I took up the task of coming up with a way to translate it all into LaTeX (and fix a host of conversion bugs, and play with the available packages, and... Hey, I'm after all just a LaTeX newbie, and had to learn to tame the beast!), I stumbled upon that precious fact that makes so many projects release.
I stumbled upon a deadline.
We want to publish the book under the seal of IIEc-UNAM. Besides my workplace, it is a very well regarded university, and having its seal in our work is definitively a big plus. And the Publications Committee of my Institute is meeting this week - So I had to send our final manuscript by today.
Having a deadline overlapping with DebConf sucks. But somehow, I managed to do the needed work to my complete satisfaction. The work is now in the Committee's hands, and I expect to have more news soon(ish).
Oh, and where can you get our work? Well, if you register in our site, you will be able to read the whole contents. And once the book is approved and published, the whole work will be published online under a free (CC-BY-SA) license.
BTW, that probably means I will have more time to fix my Debian bugs and pending stuff! \☻/
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/27/2010 - 19:53
If Tim can report his movements around New York, so can I! ;-) Sadly, due to Nokia deprecating my still-quite-new N95 phone by not allowing me to use their service anymore, I won't be able to share my routes with you – But anyway…
This morning I decided to take a quick run to start off the day on Riverside Park (the park where we had dinner yesterday). I went South for about 3Km and headed back (for, you guessed right, a grand total of 6Km), and decided that 45 minutes of exercising are enough to declare my day started - As I started at ~8:15, it was getting warm (specially when running under the sun). I am quite heath-intolerant; it's not unpleasant at all, but I will try to run earlier on future days.
Riverside is a long and narrow park. I ran Southwards by the lower trail, in the park itself, but ran Northwards by the upper trail, in the wide sidewalk between the street and the park. The way South was also way flatter, while the way back goes up and down repeatedly.
I don't think I will run on a daily basis, but that will be determined by my mood when I open my eyes in the morning ;-) Anyway, riverside is a very nice run, and I expect to head North. I still am not back to running ~10Km, so I won't do the Central Park trail Tim did - But I'll surely go run there as well a bit. And rent a bike one of this days for a ~2hr morning ride, of course!
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/26/2010 - 13:36
I spent the past three weeks away from basically any kind of usual contact. I took a three week vacation in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy, Córdoba), got my first snow experience and enjoyed a real lot... But got completely disconnected from all of my usual activities... and responsabilities :-}
Anyway, yesterday afternoon I landed in New York. Arrived to Columbia around 2PM, and spent most of the day zombying around with the Debian crew. And today it starts feeling like the real job is starting.
As always, there is a lot of excitement when DebConf starts. I have many items I want to work on, and most are even Debian related ;-) So, lets get work flowing!
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 14:24
At keyring-maint, we got a request by our DPL, querying for the evolution of the number of keys per keyring – This can be almost-mapped to the number of Debian Developers, Debian Maintainers, retired and deleted accounts over time since the keyrings are maintained over version control.
Stefano insisted this was more out of curiosity than anything else, but given the task seemed easy enough, I came up with the following dirty thingy. I'm sure there are better ways than cruising through the whole Bazaar history, but anyway - In case you want to play, you can clone an almost-up-to-date copy of the tree: bzr clone http://bzr.debian.org/keyring/debian-keyring/
And as a result... Yes, I fired up OpenOffice instead of graphing from within Perl, which could even have been less painful ;-) I had intended to leave graphing the data raw (also attached here) as an excercise to the [rl]eader... But anyway, the result is here (click to view it in full resolution, I don't want to mess your reading experience with a >1000px wide image):
A couple of notes:
Anyway, have fun with this. Graphics are always fun!
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 21:44
With due apologies and thanks to my dear and crazy friend UCH:
The bad translation is completely my fault.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/14/2010 - 08:38
I have been recently approached by several friends, from different countries. Mexico and the violence seems to be a frequent news topic all over the world.
I live in Mexico City, as ~25% of the country's population does. This is not an easy city, of course, and I won't deny it has tons of problems of its own. However, Mexico City (and even more so the approximately ⅓ of it that is politically located in Distrito Federal, the formal country capital) is very lucky in this regard. Still, in most of the country, the violence is mostly in the news, mostly a worrying perception that is every day more insistent.
My parents live in Cuernavaca, Morelos, ~80Km south from us. Morelos has been known for decades for being the druglords' getaway and safe haven, so it remained a mostly peaceful state for most of this time. This has changed, and at some points during this year, militarization feels quite creepy... Fortunately, just for a couple of weeks, and then back to what seems like normal. The real problems in Morelos is the undeniable corruption of its successive governments, the lack of regard for the population, the inexistent urban planning...
However, I know from several friends living in the North of the country (and all along the very long border - The most drug-related violent states nowadays are Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, with only two states in the South — Michoacán and Guerrero) that violence is really felt by local population on the streets. Some friends say they have grown used to hearing shootings (Durango), others say that it is now usual that the cartels openly strangle the city's vial system with the express purpose of showing off their strength (Monterrey, Nuevo León, one of Mexico's most important cities and taken in the past as a token of industrialization and first-world-like life conditions... Just don't look towards the poor areas). About Chihuahua, I'd rather not even talk, as by all accounts (official even) it rivals Iraq in the lack of control the government has of its territory.
Still, with all that as background... I am afraid of what I read today in the news. I know a single declaration is not enough to worry about (as said in El Quijote, «una golondrina sola no hace verano», a single swallow does not mean it's summer), but those things always start small... Until they explode. La Jornada reports that The retired general Luis Garfias Magaña recommends suspending constitutional guarantees in the country to be able to properly fight violence.
The last century we had a sad and long history of cases where the military took over civilian power and suspended the constitutional rights in basically every nation in Latin America — Except for Mexico. Not one of those cases was overall successful. Not one of them went by without raging abuses, without terrible consequences. I don't see imminent we will go over to a military rule nor anything close to it, but the environment is getting each time closer to how it was like before said rights suspension. We should learn that it is just not the way, it leads nowhere.
I am convinced, and will keep insisting on it at every ocassion, that the only possible way to fight violence is by reducing the social distance, and that should be achieved most importantly by reducing poverty, but also by making it harder to become incredibly rich. Mexico's percentage of poor people has grown over the last decades, but at the same time, the amount of wealth concentrated in very few hands has grown much faster. A society with terribly rich and terribly poor people leads to hatred, leads to desperation, leads to violence. A flatter society, even if the overall standard was to be somewhat lower, tends to a better equilibrium. And yes, I know the original problem with drugs is that Mexico is a great transit area for drugs to reach the USA (and I could also rant about drug legalization — I won't, it's late and I must go to work), but the main fuel for young people to leave everything behind and take the risk of starting a life of open ilegality is the lack of future they face all life long. That leads many to risk their lives attempting to cross the border to the USA (Mexico "exports" 500,000 people every year), but also lures them to jobs where they will have easy money... In exchange for their lifes, ultimately.
Anyway... Just to repeat and round off: The answer to this problem is not repression, is not policial or military strength. Our only way out is through social justice.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 23:24
I got my current phone (a Nokia N95) back in January 2008. It was the first phone I ever paid for, and I don't expect that to change - The feature set I need from a phone is extremely basic, but I wanted to have a GPS unit on me, without needing to plan for it beforehand. As I recently blogged, I just got over the 5000Km mark (5269 as of last Friday), with almost daily usage since I registered.
A couple of days ago (although please note I don't log in often to the web page, I just upload my , I was greeted by this gem:
In my case, instead of Thank you they could have just said Fuck off. They are directing me to a new application available in Nokia's Ovi store. Of course, this application is linked to a new 100% Flash-powered website. That would be a big turnoff for me, yes, although there are many ways around it (after all, I don't need the website functionality every day). However, I find the list of supported phones does not include the N95 (any version). This means, my two year old phone (which I bought as soon as the model arrived in Mexico) is obsolete now and they want me to (spend more money and) switch to a new one. Am I going to do that? Hell no!
The N95 phone is quite good. The only gripes I have is with the (slow, buggy and memory leak and phone crash prone) Symbian S60 operating system. I will probably keep using the SportsTracker application, although I won't be able to link my tracks as easily as I do today.
So... Dear lazyweb, do you know of any similar program? The feature set I use in Sports Tracker is:
There are probably more things I'd want. But I am a geek, and I basically enjoy tracking myself, and sharing my tracks with $world.
Thanks, dear lazyweb. I am confident you won't let me down.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 15:15
For the second time (First time was in 2008; I didn't join in 2009 as I travelled to Nicaragua on that date), I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride. The WNBR is a global effort, where people in ~150 cities all over the world go cycling nude on the streets of our towns, with varied demands, including:
One of the things I most like about WNBR is its diversity. Not everybody goes for the same reasons. As people who read me often will know, I took part because I believe (and act accordingly!) that the bicycle is the best, most efficient vehicle in –by far– most of the situations we face day to day, but we need to raise awareness in everybody that the bicycle is just one more vehicle: On one side, we have the right to safely ride on the streets, like any other vehicle. On the other side, we must be responsible, safe drivers, just as we want car drivers to be.
Ok, and I will recognize it before anybody complains that I sound too idealistic: I took part of the WNBR because it is _tons_ of fun. This year, we were between 300 and 500 people (depending on whom you ask). Compared to 2008, I felt less tension, more integration, more respect within the group. Of course, it is only natural in the society I live in that most of the participants were men, but the proportion of women really tends to even out. Also, many more people joined fully or partially in the nude (as nudity is not required, it is just an invitation). There was a great display of creativity, people painted with all kinds of interesting phrases and designs, some really beautiful.
Oh, one more point, important to me: This is one of the best ways to show that we bikers are not athletes or anything like that. We were people ranging from very thin to quite fat, from very young to quite old. And that is even more striking when we show our whole equipment. If we can all bike around... So can you!
Some links, with obvious nudity warnings in case you are offended by looking at innocent butts and similar stuff:
As for the sad, stupid note: 19 cyclists were placed under arrest in Morelia, Michoacán because of faltas a la moral (trasgressions against morality), an ill-defined and often abused concept.
Also, by far, most of the comments I have read from people on the media, as well a most questions we had by reporters before or after the ride were either why are you going nude‽ (because that's the only way I'll get your attention!) or But many people were not nude! (nudity is not a requirement but only an option.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/06/2010 - 12:05
Left: British Petroleum's logo. British Petroleum gained international notoriety last April because of the catastrophic oil spill it is still unable to contain in the North of the Gulf of Mexico; so far, the oil has reached the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and keeps growing and spreading, as probably the worst-ever oil spill. So far, the sea surface covered by oil is larger than several countries in the world. Some sites have very interesting maps that might help understand the importance and size of the spill: BP Gulf Oil Spill Maps in The Daily Green, Deepwater Horizon Incident, Office of Response and Restoration, USA National Ocean Service, Article on Slashdot about quantifying and dealing with the deepwater spill.
Right: Mexico's de facto government's logo. One of the most pushed projects of Felipe Calderón's government (that was fortunately canceled) was to pursue the tesorito de las aguas profundas (little treasure that lies deep in the water); they strongly pushed for a reform in the oil legislation, which is 100% government-funded since 1938, to allow for private investment in orded to build platforms reaching oil deposits 3000m below the Gulf's surface. Yup, precisely like the one that produced this massive spill, although most would probably be bound to much less strict regulation and controls to what they have in the US.
Is the similarity between the two logos just a strange coincidence?
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/30/2010 - 22:48
And just to round off my last post (and of course, following a completely non-technical thematic), what is the logical consequence of feeling introspective and blogging just before preparing dinner? Of course — Dinner gets prepared with sharing it in mind. The dish ends up even looking as if meant to be served!
So this was it: One of my simplest and still favorite dishes: Tostadas. But, yes, these are heterodox tostadas, as they share the basic tostadiness (a hard, roasted and cracky toasted corn tortilla with a soft leguminous layer to give it some consistency, and with... stuff on top. Yes, stuff is sometimes too generic, but that's the beauty of it). What did I come up with? In the strict order with which they were approached at feeding time, and described bottom to top:
[update] On a completely unrelated notice, but not worth opening a third post in a row... Some minutes after I published the earlier post, I got a visit to http://gwolf.org/blog/pleasant-perception-changes?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter. Now, it beats me: I don't use twitter. I don't even care about twitter. And were my message so deep somebody just twitted (twat it?) right away, I still find the time lapse too short. Who's auto-twitting me? Maybe a planet or other such aggregator?
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/30/2010 - 21:36
My day started late, although I didn't scratch the plan: Enjoy 40Km cycling, as –as every last Sunday of the month– we have the delicious Ciclotón — 32Km, plus ~10km from and to my house. Approximately 12:00-14:20, including stopping at a service station to patch my rear tire. Yes, I was pressing my way up the last bridge (Circuito Interior over Coyoacán and Universidad) when the road was opened to motorized traffic. Two hours of cycling are enough to make me a happy person.
However, I have been downish lately, and during the afternoon (which I spent doing some home maintenance, as I usually do on weekends), I felt this downness grow somewhat. Nothing terrible, just I guess the processes that I have to live through.
Then, after ~1hr reading a somewhat tough book, I closed it thinking, "this was a good day". And surprised myself with the reflection.
So, while I don't think this can put me back into the activity/productivity status I have held and would love to regain... Is certainly a very nice push forward.
Time to get something for dinner, as my body also reminded me it is not exempt of such needs (as it faithfully reminds me, often more frequently than it should)
Random Acidfree items
Talks, papers and documents by category
Blog posts by category