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A very nice side-project that has come to fruition: Fresh from the 1960s, my father's travel memories

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/16/2018 - 19:03

So... Everybody I've interacted with along the last couple of weeks knows I'm basically just too busy. If I'm not tied up with stuff regarding my privacy/anonymity project at the university, I am trying to get the DebConf scheduling, or trying to catch up with my perpetual enemy, mail backlog. Of course, there's also my dayjob — Yes, it's vacation time, but I'm a sysadmin, and it's not like I want to give software updates much of a vacation! Of course, my family goes to Argentina for a couple of weeks while I go to DebConf, so there's quite a bit of work in that sphere as well, and... And... And... Meh, many other things better left unaccounted for ☺
But there's one big extra I was working on, somewhat secretly, over the last two months. I didn't want to openly spill the beans on it until it was delivered in hand to its recipient.
Which happened this last weekend. So, here it is!

During the late 1960s, my father studied his PhD in Israel and had a posdoctoral stay in Sweden. During that time, he traveled through the world during his vacations as much as he could — This book collects his travels through Ethiopia (including what today is Eritrea), Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and India. As he took those trips, he wrote chronicles about them, and sent them to Mexico's then-most-important newspaper (Excélsior), which published each of them in four to six parts (except for the Czechoslovakia one, which is a single page, devoted to understanding Prague two years after the Soviet repression and occupation).

I did this work starting from the yellow-to-brown and quite brittle copies of the newspaper he kept stored in a set of folders. I had the help of a digitalization professional that often works for the University, but still did a couple of cleanup and QA reads (and still, found typos... In the first printed page, in the first title! :-/ ). The text? Amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. He wrote the chronicles being between 23 and 27 years old, but the text flows quick and easy, delightful, as if coming from a professional writer. If you can read Spanish, I am sure you will enjoy the read:

Chronicles of a backpacker in a more naïve world

Why am I publishing this now, amid the work craze I've run into? Because my father is turning 75 year old next weekend. We rushed the mini-party for him (including the book-as-a-present) as we wanted my kids to deliver the present, and they are now in a plane to South America.

The book run I did was quite limited — Just 30 items, to give away to family and close friends. I can, of course, print more on demand. But I want to take this work to a publisher — There are many reasons I believe these youth chronicles are of general interest.

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Yes! I am going to...

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/24/2018 - 18:44

Having followed through some paperwork I was still missing...

I can finally say...


I’m going to DebCamp18! I should arrive at NCTU in the afternoon/evening of Tuesday, 2018-07-24.

I will spend a day prior to that in Tokio, visiting a friend and probably making micro-tourism.

My Agenda

Of course, DebCamp is not a vacation, so we expect people that take part of DebCamp to have at least a rough sketch of activities. There are many, many things I want to tackle, and experience shows there's only time for a fraction of what's planned. But lets try:

keyring-maint training
We want to add one more member to the keyring-maint group. There is a lot to prepare before any announcements, but I expect a good chunk of DebCamp to be spent explaining the details to a new team member.
DebConf organizing
While I'm no longer a core orga-team member, I am still quite attached to helping out during the conference. This year, I took the Content Team lead, and we will surely be ironing out details such as fixing schedule bugs.
Raspberry Pi images
I replied to Michael Stapelberg's call for adoption of the unofficial-but-blessed Raspberry Pi 3 disk images. I will surely be spending some time on that.
Key Signing Party Coordination
I just sent out the Call for keys for keysigning in Hsinchu, Taiwan. At that point, I expect very little work to be needed, but it will surely be on my radar.

Of course... I *do* want to spend some minutes outside NCTU and get to know a bit of Taiwan. This is my first time in East Asia, and don't know when, if ever, I will have the opportunity to be there again. So, I will try to have at least the time to enjoy a little bit of Taiwan!

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Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/19/2018 - 23:10

Gregor's post made me think...

And yes! On April 15, I passed the 15-year-mark as a Debian Developer.

So, today I am 15.010958904109589041 years old in the project, give or take some seconds.

And, quoting my dear and admired friend, I deeply feel I belong to this community. Being part of Debian has defined the way I have shaped my career, has brought me beautiful friendships I will surely keep for many many more years, has helped me decide in which direction I should push to improve the world. I feel welcome and very recognized among people I highly value and admire, and that's the best collective present I could get.

Debian has grown and matured tremendously since the time I decided to join, and I'm very proud to be a part of that process.

Thanks, and lets keep it going for the next decade.

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DRM, DRM, oh how I hate DRM...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/10/2018 - 23:43

I love flexibility. I love when the rules of engagement are not set in stone and allow us to lead a full, happy, simple life. (Apologies to Felipe and Marianne for using their very nice sculpture for this rant. At least I am not desperately carrying a brick! ☺)

I have been very, very happy after I switched to a Thinkpad X230. This is the first computer I have with an option for a cellular modem, so after thinking it a bit, I got myself one:

After waiting for a couple of weeks, it arrived in a nonexciting little envelope straight from Hong Kong. If you look closely, you can even appreciate there's a line (just below the smaller barcode) that reads "Lenovo"). I soon found how to open this laptop (kudos to Lenovo for a very sensible and easy opening process, great documentation... So far, it's the "openest" computer I have had!) and installed my new card!

The process was decently easy, and after patting myself in the back, I eagerly turned on my computer... Only to find the BIOS to halt with the following message:

1802: Unauthorized network card is plugged in - Power off and remove the miniPCI network card (1199/6813).

System is halted

So... Got everything back to its original state. Stupid DRM in what I felt the openest laptop I have ever had. Gah.

Anyway... As you can see, I have a brand new cellular modem. I am willing to give it to the first person that offers me a nice beer in exchange, here in Mexico or wherever you happen to cross my path (just tell me so I bring the little bugger along!)

Of course, I even tried to get one of the nice volunteers to install Libreboot in my computer now that I was to Libreplanet, which would have solved the issue. But they informed me that Libreboot is supported only in the (quite a bit older) X200 machines, not in the X230.

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Things that really matter

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:34

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Is it an upgrade, or a sidegrade?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 14:43

I first bought a netbook shortly after the term was coined, in 2008. I got one of the original 8.9" Acer Aspire One. Around 2010, my Dell laptop was stolen, so the AAO ended up being my main computer at home — And my favorite computer for convenience, not just for when I needed to travel light. Back then, Regina used to work in a national park and had to cross her province (~6hr by a combination of buses) twice a week, so she had one as well. When she came to Mexico, she surely brought it along. Over the years, we bought new batteries and chargers, as they died over time...

Five years later, it started feeling too slow, and I remember to start having keyboard issues. Time to change.

Sadly, 9" computers were no longer to be found. Even though I am a touch typist, and a big person, I miss several things about the Acer's tiny keyboard (such as being able to cover the diagonal with a single hand, something useful when you are typing while standing). But, anyway, I got the closest I could to it — In July 2013, I bought the successor to the Acer Aspire One: An 10.5" Acer Aspire One Nowadays, the name that used to identify just the smallest of the Acer Family brethen covers at least up to 15.6" (which is not exactly helpful IMO).

Anyway, for close to five years I was also very happy with it. A light laptop that didn't mean a burden to me. Also, very important: A computer I could take with me without ever thinking twice. I often tell people I use a computer I got at a supermarket, and that, bought as new, costed me under US$300. That way, were I to lose it (say, if it falls from my bike, if somebody steals it, if it gets in any way damaged, whatever), it's not a big blow. Quite a difference from my two former laptops, both over US$1000.

I enjoyed this computer a lot. So much, I ended up buying four of them (mine, Regina's, and two for her family members).

Over the last few months, I have started being nagged by unresponsivity, mainly in the browser (blame me, as I typically keep ~40 tabs open). Some keyboard issues... I had started thinking about changing my trusty laptop. Would I want a newfangle laptop-and-tablet-in-one? Just thinking about fiddling with the OS to recognize stuff was a sort-of-turnoff...

This weekend we had an incident with spilled water. After opening and carefully ensuring the computer was dry, it would not turn on. Waited an hour or two, and no changes. Clear sign, a new computer is needed ☹

I went to a nearby store, looked at the offers... And, in part due to the attitude of the salesguy, I decided not to (installing Linux will void any warranty, WTF‽ In 2018‽). Came back home, and... My Acer works again!

But, I know five years are enough. I decided to keep looking for a replacement. After some hesitation, I decided to join what seems to be the elite group in Debian, and go for a refurbished Thinkpad X230.

And that's why I feel this is some sort of "sidegrade" — I am replacing a five year old computer with another five year old computer. Of course, a much sturdier one, built to last, originally sold as an "Ultrabook" (that means, meant for a higher user segment) much more expandable... I'm paying ~US$250, which I'm comfortable with. Looking at several online forums, it is a model quite popular with "knowledgeable" people AFAICT even now. I was hoping, just for the sake of it, to find a X230t (foldable and usable as tablet)... But I won't put too much time into looking for it.

The Thinkpad is 12", which I expect will still fit in my smallish satchel I take to my classes. The machine looks as tweakable as I can expect. Spare parts for replacement are readily available. I have 4GB I bought for the Acer I will probably be able to carry on to this machine, so I'm ready with 8GB. I'm eager to feel the keyboard, as it's often repeated it's the best in the laptop world (although it's not the classic one anymore) I'm just considering to pop ~US$100 more and buy an SSD drive, and... Well, lets see how much does this new sidegrade make me smile!

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Call to Mexicans: Open up your wifi #sismo

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/19/2017 - 16:52

Hi friends,

~3hr ago, we just had a big earthquake, quite close to Mexico City. Fortunately, we are fine, as are (at least) most of our friends and family. Hopefully, all of them. But there are many (as in, tens) damaged or destroyed buildings; there have been over 50 deceased people, and numbers will surely rise until a good understanding of the event's strength are evaluated.

Mainly in these early hours after the quake, many people need to get in touch with their families and friends. There is a little help we can all provide: Provide communication.

Open up your wireless network. Set it up unencrypted, for anybody to use.

Refrain from over-sharing graphical content — Your social network groups don't need to see every video and every photo of the shaking moments and of broken buildings. Download of all those images takes up valuable time-space for the saturated cellular networks.

This advice might be slow to flow... The important moment to act is two or three hours ago, even now... But we are likely to have replicas; we are likely to have panic moments again. Do a little bit to help others in need!

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It was thirty years ago today... (and a bit more): My first ever public speech!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:35

I came across a folder with the most unexpected treasure trove: The text for my first ever public speech! (and some related materials)
In 1985, being nine years old, I went to the IDESE school, to learn Logo. I found my diploma over ten years ago and blogged about it in this same space. Of course, I don't expect any of you to remember what I wrote twelve years ago about a (then) twenty years old piece of paper!

I add to this very old stuff about Gunnar the four pages describing my game, Evitamono ("Avoid the monkey", approximately). I still remember the game quite vividly, including traumatic issues which were quite common back then; I wrote that «the sprites were accidentally deleted twice and the game once». I remember several of my peers telling about such experiences. Well, that is good if you account for the second system syndrome!

I also found the amazing course material for how to program sound and graphics in the C64 BASIC. That was a course taken by ten year old kids. Kids that understood that you had to write [255,129,165,244,219,165,0,102] (see pages 3-5) into a memory location starting at 53248 to redefine a character so it looked as the graphic element you wanted. Of course, it was done with a set of POKEs, as everything in C64. Or that you could program sound by setting the seven SID registers for each of the three voices containing low frequency, high frequency, low pulse, high pulse, wave control, wave length, wave amplitude in memory locations 54272 through 54292... And so on and on and on...

And as a proof that I did take the course:

...I don't think I could make most of my current BSc students make sense out of what is in the manual. But, being a kid in the 1980s, that was the only way to get a computer to do what you wanted. Yay for primitivity! :-D

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Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:54


I have recently started to serve as a Feature Editor for the ACM XRDS magazine. As such, I was also invited to post some general blog posts on XRDS blog — And I just started yesterday by posting about DebConf.

I'm not going to pull (or mention) each of my posts in my main blog, nor will I syndicate it to Planet Debian (where most of my readership comes from), although I did add it to my account (that relays my posts to Twitter and Facebook, for those of you that care about said services). This mention is a one-off thing.

So, if you want to see yet another post explaining what is DebConf and what is Debian to the wider public, well... Thate's what I came up with :)

[Update]: Of course, I wanted to thank Aigars Mahinovs for the photos I used on that post. Have you looked at them all? I spent a moste enjoyable time going through them :-]

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#DebConf17, Montreal • An evening out

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 06:49

I have been in Montreal only for a day. Yesterday night, I left DebConf just after I finished presenting the Continuous Key-Signing Party introduction to go out with a long-time friend from Mexico and his family. We went to the Mont Royal park, from where you can have a beautiful city view:

What I was most amazed of as a Mexico City dweller is of the sky, of the air... Not just in this picture, but as we arrived, or later when a full moon rose. This city has beautiful air, and a very beautiful view. We later went for dinner to a place I heartfully recommend to other non-vegetarian attendees:

Portuguese-style grill. Delicious. Of course, were I to go past it, I'd just drive on (as it had a very long queue waiting to enter). The secret: Do your request on the phone. Make a short queue to pick it up. Have somebody in the group wait for a table, or eat at the nearby Parc Lafontaine. And... Thoroughly enjoy :-)

Anyway, I'm leaving for the venue, about to use the Bixi service for the first time. See you guys soon! (if you are at DebConf17, of course. And you should all be here!)

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Getting ready for DebConf17 in Montreal!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/24/2017 - 22:56

(image shamelessly copied from Noodles' Emptiness)

This year I will only make it to DebConf, not to DebCamp. But, still, I am very very happy and excited as the travel date looms nearer! I have ordered some of the delicacies for the Cheese and Wine party, signed up for the public bicycle system of Montreal, and done a fair share of work with the Content Team; finally today we sent out the announcement for the schedule of talks. Of course, there are several issues yet to fix, and a lot of things to do before traveling... But, no doubt about this: It will be an intense week!

Oh, one more thing while we are at it: The schedule as it was published today does not really look like we have organized stuff into tracks — But we have! This will be soon fixed, adding some color-coding to make tracks clearer on the schedule.

This year, I pushed for the Content Team to recover the notion of tracks as an organizative measure, and as something that delivers value to DebConf as a whole. Several months ago, I created a Wiki page for the DebConf tracks, asking interested people to sign up for them. We currently have the following tracks registered:

Andreas Tille
Debian Science
Michael Banck
Cloud and containers
Luca Filipozzi
Systems administration, automation and orchestation
Gunnar Wolf

We have two tracks still needing a track coordinator. Do note that most of the tasks mentioned by the Wiki have already been carried out; what a track coordinator will now do is to serve as some sort of moderator, maybe a recurring talkmeister, ensuring continuity and probably providing for some commentary, giving some unity to its sessions. So, the responsibilities for a track coordinator right now are quite similar to what is expected for video team volunteers — but to a set of contiguous sessions.

If you are interested in being the track coordinator/moderator for Embedded or for Systems administration, automation and orchestation or even to share the job with any of the other, registered, coordinators, please speak up! Mail and update the table in the Wiki page.

See you very soon in Montreal!

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Started getting ads for ransomware. Coincidence?

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/24/2017 - 14:06

Very strange. Verrrry strange.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on spam stuff that has been hitting my mailbox. Nothing too deep, just me scratching my head.

Coincidentally (I guess/hope), I have been getting messages via my Bitlbee to one of my Jabber accounts, offering me ransomware services. I am reproducing it here, omitting of course everything I can recognize as their brand names related URLs (as I'm not going to promote the 3vi1-doers). I'm reproducing this whole as I'm sure the information will be interesting for some.

*BRAND* Ransomware - The Most Advanced and Customisable you've Ever Seen
Conquer your Independence with *BRAND* Ransomware Full Lifetime License!
* NO DEPENDENCIES (.net or whatever)!!!
* Edit file Icon and UAC - Works on All Windows Versions
* Set Folders and Extensions to Encrypt, Deadline and Russian Roulette
* Edit the Text, speak with voice (multilang) and Colors for Ransom Window
* Enable/disable USB infect, network spread & file melt
* Set Process Name, sleep time, update ransom amount, Give mercy button
* Full-featured headquarter (for Windows) with unlimited builds, PDF reports, charts and maps, totally autonomous operation
* PHP Bridges instead of expensive C&C servers!
* Automatic Bitcoin payment detection (impossible to bypass/crack - we challege who says the contrary to prove what they say!)
* Totally/Mathematically IMPOSSIBLE to DECRYPT! Period.
* Award-Winning Five-Stars support and constant updates!
* We Have lot vouchs in *BRAND* Market, can check!
Watch the promo video: *URL*
Screenshots: *URL*
Website: *URL*
Price: $389
Promo: just $309 - 20% OFF! until 25th Feb 2017
Jabber: *JID*

I think I can comment on this with my students. Hopefully, this is interesting to others.
Now... I had never received Jabber-spam before. This message has been sent to me 14 times in the last 24 hours (all from different JIDs, all unknown to me). I hope this does not last forever :-/ Otherwise, I will have to learn more on how to configure Bitlbee to ignore contacts not known to me. Grrr...

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Book presentation by @arenitasoria: Hacker ethics, security and surveillance

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/17/2016 - 14:24

At the beginning of this year, Irene Soria invited me to start a series of talks on the topic of hacker ethics, security and surveillance. I presented a talk titled Cryptography and identity: Not everything is anonymity.

The talk itself is recorded and available in (sidenote: I find it amazing that Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana uses as their main multimedia publishing platform!)

But as part of this excercise, Irene invited me to write a chapter for a book covering the series. And, yes, she delivered!

So, finally, we will have the book presentation:

I know, not everybody following my posts (that means... Only those at or near Mexico City) will be able to join. But the good news: The book, as soon as it is presented, will be published under a CC BY-SA license. Of course, I will notify when it is ready.

Talking about the Debian keyring in Investigaciones Nucleares, UNAM

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/17/2016 - 13:47

For the readers of my blog that happen to be in Mexico City, I was invited to give a talk at Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares, Ciudad Universitaria, UNAM.

I will be at Auditorio Marcos Moshinsky, on August 26 starting at 13:00. Auditorio Marcos Moshinsky is where we met for the early (~1996-1997) Mexico Linux User Group meetings. And... Wow. I'm amazed to realize it's been twenty years that I arrived there, young and innocent, the newest of what looked like a sect obsessed with world domination and a penguin fetish.

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Relax and breathe...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 06/21/2016 - 14:30

Time passes. I had left several (too many?) pending things to be done un the quiet weeks between the end of the lective semestre and the beginning of muy Summer trip to Winter. But Saturday gets closer every moment... And our long trip to the South begins.

Among many other things, I wanted to avance with some Debían stuff - both packaging and WRT keyring analysis. I want to contacto some people I left pending interactions with, but honestly, that will only come face to face un Capetown.

As to "real life", I hace too many pending issues at work to even begin with; I hope to get some time at South África todo do some decent UNAM sysadmining. Also, I want to play the idea of using Git for my students' workflow (handing in projects and assignments, at least)... This can be interesting to talk with the Debían colleagues about, actually.

As a Masters student, I'm making good advances, and will probably finish muy class work next semester, six months ahead of schedule, but muy thesis work so far has progressed way slower than what I'd like. I have at least a better defined topic and approach, so I'll start the writing phase soon.

And the personal life? Family? I am more complete and happy than ever before. My life su completely different from two years ago. Yes, that was obvious. But it's also the only thing I can come up with. Having twin babies (when will they make the transition from "babies" to "kids"? No idea... We will find out as it comes) is more than beautiful, more than great. Our life has changed in every possible aspect. And yes, I admire my loved Regina for all of the energy and love she puts on the babies... Life is asymetric, I am out for most of the day... Mommy is always there.

As I said, happier than ever before.

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