Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 08:28
Once again, I was invited by several different groups to be present at FLISOL, a quite interesting phenomenon: FLISOL (Latin-american Free Software Installation Festival) is s very large-scale, very loosely coordinated thing put together for five years already in over 200 cities in basically every Latin American country. Go to the FLISOL page, it is quite interesting to try to understand it!
Now, I don't like FLISOL. I managed to avoid it in 2005 and 2006; in 2007, I was present at a FLISOL, although I didn't know beforehand it was the reason for the conference I was invited to. In 2008 and 2009 I took part for reasons I should not go into right now. This year, again, I will not be part of any of its activities (regardless of rumors to the contrary – I was invited to be present at a panel on ACTA, but I have not followed the topic enough to be aware of anything besides the very basic aspects, I have no authority to speak about it; I told the organizers I would like to be there as part of the audience, but not present the topic. And I am quite work-stressed, so I doubt I'll make it). Why am I against FLISOL?
FLISOL itself, as I said, is a positive and interesting phenomenon, and I have enjoyed the conference cycles which often happen together with it. What I am against is installfests – In my opinion, in the stage we are at today, instead of promoting Free Software, an install-fest just works against it.
Free Software –Linux-based distributions at least– is widely known already, as a concept, even though most people dare not come anywhere close to it. Few people outside our already consolidated groups recognize programs such as the Mozilla and OpenOffice suites as being also Free Software, and valuable, quality alternatives for their everyday needs in the environments they currently use.
If we need to show how to install and understand the GNU/Linux ecosystem to people who have not got close, it is not IMHO to end users. Installing a GNU/Linux system is easy enough for anybody interested in doing it, or at least, for him to request a one-on-one help session, handholding and understanding the basic ideas. We need, in any case, for the computer corner shop technicians to be somewhat acquinted, at least with the basics, at least with one popular distribution (and with the fact that there are many, and that they are different).
People who have not had the curiosity and courage to try to install Linux by themselves do not need to be evangelized (a verb that should be out of our vocabularies by now, as that phase in our movement should be over by now) – End users have simple needs: Things should work, and be as surprise-free as possible. They don't want to depend on a specific time-starved person (or even on a small group of people, all of which have a sanctity delirium/aura). When they go to technical support, they expect the problem to be solved – Not even understanding what was wrong. End users are willing to pay a small fee to anybody to help them solve their problems.
The key word is anybody. If we (myself, or me and my 10 friends who were there at the gathering, or any sufficiently defined small group) are the only support point for the OS, it is no good. Online support forums are not good either, in my experience, as the end user will prefer just lugging the computer to the nearest technician and get it fixed. Even if fixed means just installing one more readily-available package (not to mention, of course, when an update breaks something).
I have witnessed, after an install fest, people walk very happy with their new system as a new toy. After a week or two, they cannot install the latest
On the other hand, some people prefer installing a dual-boot system – That guarantees the user will feel he is carrying some kind of moral superiority on his computer, and will often remember he has something Not Evil. This will often happen, of course, at boot time – When they see GRUB at boot time, and rush to select Windows before That Strange Thing starts up.
Anyway... Go ahead, install Free Software, enjoy the day. The conference cycles are usually interesting, and are the best part of it all — I'm not saying you should stop doing it. But I'd urge you to take the focus away from the mass-installs, which become often just lost work (even detrimental to furthering Free Software). Try to see things as a non-technically-interested user would. Try to design ways to get corner shop technicians interested. Maybe that can be useful in the long run.
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/16/2010 - 08:36
Thanks to Steve McIntyre for two long years of good work
And, of course, congratulations to Stefano Zacchirioli! I, for one, welcome our new Italian overlord.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 17:41
My blog is written in English, even though I sometimes post content relevant locally. Anyway, I want this to be as widely known as possible. We are about to launch a website/community for my University's cyclists, BiciUNAMonos. Please note the site I'm linking is still very preliminary in several ways. But that's the least relevant for now.
I am translating here a message written by fellow cyclist (and researcher in the Institute of Astronomy of my University) Sergio Mendoza.
Coincidentally, today I also had a freightening experience. Taking one of my usual routes to work, going up from the sporting area in the Western half of the campus (just before where the map lists the highest point in my ride), just by Investigaciones Biomédicas, I heard a car hitting the breaks behind me and passing me (on my right side) quite narrowly. I was, as always, driving towards the center of the lane, to be able to respond to unforseen events (as this one, precisely). The Universitary authorities had the great(?) idea of placing round, small bumps before the Pumabus stations to avoid drivers parking in front of them. I have seen a strong accident caused by them, and was close to suffering one myself some months ago. I know that just after Biomédicas there are some such bumps, so I never ride too much to the right – I don't know what was on this driver's head. Ciudad Universitaria has a 40 Km/h speed limit. Yes, it might seem too low - Circuits are wide and well planned. But there is a lot of cyclist and pedestrian transit, at all times, and I must recognize such a limit is well in place.
I often take a longer route to my Institute, bordering the University along Av. Delfín Madrigal. People tell me I'm crazy, as this is an avenue that's often taken at high speed - Usually, cars pass me by between 60 and 80 Km/h. However, I even feel safer going that way than going inside the University. Contrary to the popular belief, Universitary people do not have better driving habits than the bulk of the population. And it's often much easier to drive along a way where the traffic –even if it goes at three times my speed– runs only in one direction, unlike the swarming of people going in every possible direction inside the main campus.
Anyway, last Sunday we lost a University professor, we lost a cyclist. Some people lost a friend, a family member. We have to make this case well known, we have to speak with the authorities so they see the Bicipuma system is good, but not enough. Cycling is the only way to go for a city as complex as ours. A much needed first step is to allow proper vial connections linking the University and the many avenues that surround it. Another one is to make a campaign so the cyclists are not seen –as Sergio regards– as intruders in the streets — The street belongs to us all. Cyclists should never drive on walkways or among pedestrians. Drivers need to learn to share the streets with us.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 04/11/2010 - 16:26
There is no clear reason, but for many months already, I have almost given up running – Which is a shame, as I enjoy it so much. And yes, I can talk a lot about why not, but –outside of one seemingly stupid point– there is really no reason.
And yes, I have taken on cycling, although on a very different fashion: Cycling is by far not as good as an exercise as running – Yes, cycling for ~1h on average 3 times a week has kept my body from becoming sedentary again, but I do feel some increased clumsiness and a undeniable weight gain that I don't want to allow.
I said there is one seemingly stupid point: Shoes. My running shoes are around two year old, and they are an important factor on me not running. Why? Because they started giving me blisters at ~5Km. And my shoe size is beyond what is considered as normal by Mexican standards – European 44-45 (US 10½-11). Shoe-shopping is always frustrating and very off-putting for me, as instead of what most people do (go to one store, ask for their favorite n pairs on their size, test them on, pay, be happy), I follow almost the opposite process (go to n stores, ask for whatever they have on my size, test it on, pray, pay). Of course, for some people, entering many stores and checking what's offered at each is a thrill by itself. For me, that sounds as thrilling as visiting the dentist for an endodontic treatment.
Oh, and to make things even better, I am quite low on cash. Scarcity economics explain that if a given good is hard to find, it will probably be more expensive. So, while many people in Mexico buy ~US$30 shoes, I often get to pay ~US$90. Fun, hah?
Anyway, I had a short semi-vacation to Argentina. I decided to kill this excuse, and went shoe-shopping. Fearsome memories sprang in my mind when the first store said they didn't have anything right for me. But they pointed to a second store, one block away, where I found (I was even able to choose between several models!) a nice pair of Olimpikus.
In 2008, I was routinely running slightly over 10Km. Today I went out to get back the feeling, and made a not-so-great-but-still-satisfying 4Km. And upon arriving back home, I read Christian's chronicle on his Paris Marathon run — Well, only 10% of what my fellow DD achieved – But I am definitively back on track. I expect to make some time to get a run, at least three times a week, trying to push my limit at least back to the nice spot I was at two years ago.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 04/11/2010 - 13:54
Snail mail has become a despised media. While I still held long conversations at a distance written with ink on paper, with latency measured in weeks and not in milliseconds, that's basically history now. Snail mail is where invoices are received. Ocassionally, a joyous invitation finds its way into my mailbox… But its regular use has been almost completely abandoned.
Which probably makes it more striking and more of a surprise to receive a very short note of a good friend living far away just stating a very warm greeting.
(of course, the paper was not GPG-signed, but I'll have to believe it was sent by him ;-) )
(Oh, about the title: The card is a print of Don Nisbett's «Fly By», which recreates Ilwaco, Washington's panorama)
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:47
After being away from home for almost two weeks (and, due to unforseen circumstances, having the longest time away from my mailbox I can recall in almost 15 years), last Monday I met with Pooka and Caro, originally just for lunch, but it evolved into an evening-long work session on the SECO3 project (which I continued long into the night — But I'm drifting into offtopicness).
Caro is now living again in Costa Rica, and to prove it, she brought us two delicious-smelling bags of coffee. Now, I know my cats like the smell of coffee, I know specially Santa loves to completely put her head inside my coffee cup and lick what's left of my espresso's foam…
But this was really surprising. It was not until today, three days later, I had the heart of bringing my coffee to the office where I'll enjoy it.
It is so aromatic that Chupchic and Santa seemed to be taking turns to keep me from claiming the bag — At all times, either (or both!) of them layed on top of my precious. It was not until today, when I gave them their breakfast, I was able to take the (still warm) bag of coffee and bring it to work.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/23/2010 - 17:53
Help! Help! Help wanted! Please help!
As many among you know, I have spent a good portion of the last year (together, of course, with a great and interesting group of people) working on Seminario de Construcción Colaborativa del Conocimiento (Collaborative Construction of Knowledge Seminar, or SECO3), derived from the Encuentro en Línea de Educación y Software Libre (On-line Encounter of Education and Free Software, EDUSOL). We have been working on producing a book that illustrates several different aspects of knowledge-building communities – Among them, of course, the Free Software movement.
Now, we need some help: Although we do have the chapters from most of the authors, some did not manage to produce them. And we are very interested in having them as part of the book as well, even if only as an appendix (as, of course, the kind of work of a transcription is completely different than the ellaboration for a well-rounded and written chapter).
As the little academic I am, I have to request for your help: I have no students assigned to me. But I would love to have interested people on board.
We need to transcribe two of the videoconferences that were given as part of the seminar. Please, if you are interested, contact me so we can arrange (and have no work duplication!)
Thanks a lot,
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 03/21/2010 - 02:13
Sitting at my hotel room in Tijuana, about to hit the bed, quite tired because of a nice, long walk I will write more about tomorrow, I have been listening for at least five minutes to a long, stupid infomerciative spam in the History Channel: A fountain pen, a five-point pen, and three other pen-like implements (plus extra and extra and extra things... They are listing a case with 63 implements now!)
Now, what is the hook into getting somebody to call for a classy pen? Elegance, of course! Just for the sake of this exercise, the spam continues to be played. And yes, it's only been two short paragraphs. But believe me, I am very tired, and trying to get some coherent English out of my brain is not as easy as it could.
Elegance, I said, right? Good. How do you convey elegance to TV spam/infomercials? Well, what's more classy and refined than a 30 second sample of Haydn? Man, Haydn is *so* classy that the viewer will not even notice the snippets of blabber have incoherent redaction.
Anyway... Spam goes on. I cannot stand any more repetitions of this 30 Haydn seconds. They are stronger than me. And that old lady says that anybody is writing in their computer now… I will only write with my fountain pen from now on! — I will surely follow her wise advise!
(STOP IT WITH THE STUPID HORN!)
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 13:40
Several months ago, around the Central American Free Software Encounter (ECSL) in Estelí, Nicaragua, I started stirring the waters — The Central American regions have vibrant, beautiful Free Software communities, but have mostly (with some very notable examples, of course) shied away from being active participants in major development projects. What was I to do about it? Of course, try to get them to become Debian contributors!
During the following weeks, I talked about it with several friends from the region, and the result was an announcement and lots of arguments that followed it. Panamá was decided as the host country, and many people have put a lot of work into making the MiniDebConf happen.
Mauro Rosero and Anto Recio came up with what appears to be a wonderful local venue and a set of sponsored amenities, and the Debian project is sponsoring what is needed in terms of transportation for people from the whole region (spanning from Mexico to Ecuador and Venezuela IIRC).
I am very sorry, however, that I cannot attend this meeting. This very same weekend, I will fly three hours, but in the opposite direction: I will go to Tijuana, where fate decided I will present my first round of CENEVAL equivalence exams (Acuerdo 286 Licenciatura). I expect that to be the topic of another post, to come soon.
So, while my friends will be having a good time and talking about Debian and group work, I will sit through three periods of four hours, answering an exam for the first time in a very long time. Fun, hah? Anyway, I will meet Guillermo Amaral (thanks for hosting me! ;-) ), which ensures I will not miss all of the fun ;-)
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 03/11/2010 - 00:23
Today I took a break before my usual lunchtime to go to the movies — Boogie el Aceitoso was on at 13:00 (and not at the more usual, late screenings).
Oily Boogie is a great antihero drawn by the much beloved Roberto El Negro Fontanarrosa, a very widely known Argentinian humorist/cartoonist. I got acquinted with Boogie as during the 80s-90s my parents were asiduous readers of Proceso, a weekly political analysis magazine which included one of his cartoons at the last page.
Boogie is a pathological ex-Vietnam, ex-Laos ex-El Salvador, ex-Gulf War, ex-(whatever comes next) USA soldier, who deals with the local mafias whenever he is not active. Brutal, often seen as inhuman.
I remember reading it without really understanding its nonsensical violence at first. And, as I said, Fontanarrosa is a very loved cartoonist - In Mexico I think we were much more acquinted with Boogie than with Inodoro Pereyra, and still, Fontanarrosa's death in 2007 was very heartfelt here.
About the movie: I found it to be very good, of course, knowing what to expect. Most lines are short, screen adequations of various cartoons along Boogie's long life as a thug. I specially liked the animation technique — I know very little about the subject, but it mixed quite naturally and constantly obvious still, cartoony characters with vivid, photo-based items. It creates a completely believable atmosphere inside the absolute amoral, selfish and (fortunately!) grossly exagerated and impossible world of Boogie.
I sometimes feel somewhat stupid when writing in English for a mostly Spanish-speaking audience — Still, if you see Boogie in a movie theater, don't hesitate and go. As always, with non-top-selling, non-Hollywood movies, it is quite probable it will not be showing for long.
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/08/2010 - 12:32
One of my favorite tricks using ssh is what Ganneff named ssh jumphosts – Many (most?) of my machines are not directly accessible from across the firewall, so the ability to specify in the configuration files where to jump through is most welcome. Well, with this "netcat mode" it will be much clearer to read and less of a hack… Of course, it loses a bit of the hackish æsthetic value, but becomes easier!
(yes, this post is basically a marker so I remember about it — But others might find it interesting)
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 17:58
I must confess I don't remember who I got this invitation from. Anyway, if you are in the right geographic area, you might be interested. I will try to participate:
This is a year-long seminar that will be held the second Thursday every month at Fonoteca Nacional (a place I have wanted to visit for a long time!), in Barrio de Santa Catarina, Coyoacán. Among the organizers they have Creative Commons Mexico.
Free entrance (but limited space - so they ask interested people to confirm their presence by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org).
[update] I went with Pooka to the first session. We arrived almost 1hr late (due to me mistaking the schedule :-/ ) but it was interesting. Of course, quite biased towards the Google viewpoints, but interesting. We got the program for the next sessions — So, mostly for myself to keep handy, here it goes:
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 19:17
The ticket is ready, and the long trip is getting closer.
Long trip? Won't most Debianers have a longer trip than me this time? Nope, not by far – My University will be on vacations starting July 3, and it is three weeks before DebConf... So I will be travelling Southwards before :-)
Details will follow later. Suffice to say that I am more than happy to announce that... I am definitively going to DebConf10!
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/18/2010 - 20:09
I opened Slashdot's «Looking back from the 1980s at computers in education» article because I am quite convinced of the point some of the commenters argued before me, (and it's good to know others think as you do ;-) ) — When I got close to computers, learning computing for children basically meant learning programming in a fun way.
For years, my hobbies included Logo and BASIC. At age 7 (by 1983), typing TeX and using Emacs at the computer of the institute where my father worked, I started walking the path I took for my professional life. When I taught computing to high school students as my first paid job (which didn't last long, only a semester, as for an untrained 20 year old it is very hard to control a group of kids nearly his age), I tried to teach some basic BASIC programming (which was the best I knew then)... But no, both students and the school wanted me to focus on teaching MS Office applications. It seemed stupid for me 14 years ago, and it still seems stupid for me today.
Anyway, on Slashdot, I came across this beautiful way to explain what computer education should mean:
By the way, if you are interested in reading a bit of paleofuturism, to feel the joy and excitement with which computer-aided education was seen 30 years ago, be sure to get the Classroom Computer News issue for September-October 1980, linked from the Slashdot article (and copied over here for your convenience, of course!)
Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/03/2010 - 19:23
So I finally got off my lazy butt and started the paperwork to get a formal recognition of studies equivalence for a undergraduate studies (Licenciatura en ingeniería de software) via CENEVAL's Acuerdo 286 (licenciatura).
Part of the paperwork involves filling the form I photographed and attached to this node. This is the utmost example of über-redundant paperwork... Where it requires my personal data, some of the fields are:
Quite a nice catalog of redundancies. As a cherry on top of the cake, the phone number states I should write my long distance phone code (LADA – historically, Larga Distancia Automática, Automatic Long Distance) only if I am in any of the states. I can only ask myself why...
Anyway... Lets continue filling paperwork. Grah. Hopefully I will be able to get my papers... somewhen in the next half century.
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