Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Año Nuevo, vida nueva

Last saturday I went to a wedding. It had been a long time since I last attended such an event. About 15 years, to be more accurate. It is the first time I see a friend of mine as one of the main parties involved in this wedding business. It got me thinking: How does one take such an step? How do you know?

As far as steps are concerned, I have taken some myself. Starting next week I'll be working with my current employer only half time, on a per hour basis and will start working towards the construction of my own chuzo on the other half of my time. Right now I am on the optimistic phase of the endeavour; it will mean a lot of work, but right now, from where I am standing it seems like the right choice, and the right step to take, at the right time. Only time will tell.

On other news, as a part of my new agreement, from next week on I am only "A man in a suit" when need arises, instead of "on a daily basis" as it was until know. Let's hope the increased amount of red blood cells that can now flow upwards, free from the knot of the tie help the creativity, that has been rather dull lately.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

ProFUCKduction Server

It all began humbly. It was just a rutinary upgrade, you call on the all-powerfull debian, do a simple apt-get update, say yes, get on with your life. Five minutes, tops. But it all went wrong.
apt-get did it's job perfectly, updated the thing and configured, but the ever present libc got updated, and that's where it all went berserk. The pop3 server decided that it would put a message through it's standar error stream telling everybody who would dare to listen, that somebody had used errno without including errno.h, thus producing a dependency. Applications that reference errno without including (usually by doing ``unsigned int errno'') now generate a runtime warning. Well, fucking kill me if I didn't check every bug present with every piece of software on the box I was runnning.
A full hour after the devilish ap-get I had to call the real experts to devise a clever hack that would cool of things and allow the president to read his e-mail via Outlook. A clever redirection of stderr into /dev/null cleared the problem and mail could de read. It just had a little issue: Whenever somebody sent an e-mail it got send, but an error message went back to the receiver telling him that the mail could not be delivered, altough it had been. This just HAD TO BE FIXED.
THen the guy who actually handles the machine came in and tried to fix the wreck, in the process he downgraded libc, thus rendering alll of the machines services unusable.
With the machine already down, the best solution was to install the whole thing into another box, and to pass about 17GB of data from one to the other. So the very small process that was meant to take 5 minutes, actually took 17 hours, and banned me from ever using a root console on a production server. One has to admire sysadmins.

You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. (Tyler Durden, who else?), and to comment on somebody
Stereotypes are lousy. You are not better because you have a degree, and you are not worse because you lack it. You are not wiser because you are older, or foolish because you are young.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

FISLC and other demons

Last saturday the FISLC took place. The weather was an awfull mess and not a lot of people came. All in all, most of the time there were more people helping organize than people receiving help. It helped me realize how little I know about Linux. I liked specially the show of Pequelin, a meta distro built for kids, in Spanish.

A few weeks ago I finally came around and replaced my aging Mandrake 8.1 for a Morphix. I have to say I fell for apt-get almost instantly, it is indeed a very nice thing. I still have to restart my network by hand every time I turn the machine on, but I'll come around and fix it pretty soon. I also have to say I have become a huge fan of the mailing list archive, everything one could ever ask for has already been answered there.

Maldito Turo, actualice su blog

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Futbol, futbol futbol

The last time I played soccer I was in high school. People say that playing soccer is like riding a bike; you never forget once you've learned. The problem is when, like me, you never learned the first time. I played in this forty people matches, with three simultaneous games going on on the same field, so there wasn't a lot of ball handling involved. Seven years from that, I accepted, for the first time, to go to a soccer match.
I have to say I had a great time. I played as the palomero, whose mission was to wait deep behind the opponents field, and run around the ball.
I did not think I would be this tired afterwards. 36 hours after the match finished my legs have kept their decision to give me a long dose of pain every time I move them. I did not know that playing soccer hurts your (!!) shoulders. I hope that by tomorrow I will have recovered. And will definitively play again.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

A chuzo of my own?

It has always been my idea that, as a choice for a living, I would create a company of my own, a compny that build software, to be excat. Be it because of all that was said back in college or because of what I see around, this has been my idea for quite a while. I say it might be a school related illness because of Zarpa and Pepux Labs.

Upon graduation all wise old people around said: Young grasshopper: You should wait for a while, work a little, see what it's like, then you can go and start your own.

Being, as I was and still am, rather inexperienced on these matters, I followed their advice. But when is it a good time to jump ship and start? As one grows older the amount of responsabily increases. It is probably easier to jump ship now, being single and without children, than in the future, where the situation may change.

Anyways, the tought has been seriously crossing my mind lately. Perhaps I have a distorted view of what staring up is like, but as I see it, is the only way I conceive the future, at least in the long term. I don't know If I'll be able to say "yes, boss" when I'm 35, or when I'm 25 for that matter

Monday, September 15, 2003

I've lost my principles and am writing this from a Win2K box I had to install in order to get the software from the office working on my PC. I haven't even installed vi in it.
The age of the chulo

Lately I have been noting the emergence of a phase in life called "the age of the chulo". Like adolescence and old age, it seems to be a phase in life whose frontiers cannot be clearly defined, but that appears to happen in the early twenties. It is supposed to eventually fade out but there have been cases of people remaining in the chulo ages for years.

People suffering from this syndrom can experiment the following sympthoms:

  • The expression "Darle a lo que sea" becoms frequent in their speeches

  • Aguardiente and vallenatos are more likely to become the companions of a night out, than suicidal rock and Coca Cola

  • Suddenly 4AM is not so late, and a half a bottle is not so much

This phase is also known as "Perdición"

I have not seen a Colombian World Cup match since USA94 and I have to say I haven't missed much. Are we eternally condemned to a mediocre performance? Looks like the colombian Soccer team is like a snapshot of the country: Great talent, with poor team skills and unable to cope with either failure or sucess.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

23 and counting

When Alexander the Great was 18 he commanded the macedonian cavalry in the battle of Cheronea. When he was 20 he became king of Macedonia. When he turned 23 he was well inside Persia, had already won at Halicarnassus and had already solved the Gordian Knot Riddle.

By the age of 20, Charles XII, of Sweden had already defeated both Denmark and Rusia

At age 21 Mozart had already traveled all of the european courts at least twice as a gifted musician

I became 23 last sunday and the only thing I could do was throw a party. It was very nice tough. A few open-listers attended, and some of them stayed until sunrise.

It was very nice to see a lot of people I had not seen in a while. As an ode to getting old I received news that a friend of mine is getting married next july with his 4 year girlfriend. The thing is, this guy is exactly my age. We graduated from the same school in the same class, yet I don't see myself getting married in the near or far future. Not because I don't want to eventually be married, but because I don't see it as a part of my right now. Will I ever?, let's hope so

Expect pictures to be posted here soon

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Run, Forrest, run

Today, after Montoya's unidisputed victory in the F1, I had a race of my own to run.
In Bogota's very own Maratón. The starting point was on Plaza de Bolívar, and the day was rather rainy, not a downpour, but a small shower, but it kept on during the whole race.

I ran the 21Km marathon which is the big one, by Bogotan standards (A marathon is 42Km long, but none are held in Colombia). It was very well organized, with poles marking every kilometer and water or gatorade every two or three kilometers.

Right at the start the race was a huge croud of people and there was no possibility of advancing at any speed that was duifferent from that of the whole group. It wasn't until Parque Nacional, a kilometer and a half ahead, that the mass of people got sparser and some breathing room was possible. I had run the same race last year, and I felt better this time. The rain was not an annoyance, but an aid for not dehydratating, except for the occasional poodle of muddy water that got splashed and went into one's own tennis shoes.

Jogging is a masochistic sport. Right in the end I only wished for the race to end, from kilometer 17 up to the end, my legs were killing me. I could breath fine and I had enough energy to go at a faster pace, but my legs were unable to keep the rythm. I finished in 1:54:07, which is not really good but it beat my previous mark of 1:59:53. Yee Hay

The best part of the whole event was to see all of the people, both participants and public. Despite the continuous rain, troughout the whole race, a lot of people was shouting and cheering, and a lot of car drivers were angry at the race, which closed the roads for them and made the wait for several hours for the whole croud to pass, and I cannot describe the feeling when a little difference of height in the terrain (such as going down 72nd avenue) permitted the view of a huge river of people as far as the eye could see on both directions. That is really overwhelming.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


Pues me quedé con las ganas de escuchar a 4AM en vivo. Eso me pasa por llegar a las nueve y cuarto a un concierto que comienza a las ocho y treinta (y que en realidad sólo comenzó hasta como las diez y treinta). En fin, me tocará conformarme con oir las canciones bajadas por MP3. Igual, terminé metido en "La tienda del Café" en Usaquén dónde, entre otras cosas, no venden café.

Ya casi cumplo seis meses en el trabajo. Eso es muuuuuucho tiempo. Hasta ahora, haciendo un balance:

Cosas Buenas:

  • He conocido una cantidad de gente, y visto una cantidad de maneras de ver el mundo

  • Definitivamente hacer software si es lo mio

  • He podido estar involucrado, de manera relativamente cercana en un proceso de negociación del estilo de "cuánto vale esto", "cuánto nos demoramos haciendo aquello"

  • He tenido la oportunidad de jugar con gran cantidad de software y hardware(todo de La misma gente, pero que mas da

Cosas Malas:

  • Corbata los lunes, martes, miércoles y jueves !!!!!!

  • Tener que contarle a una maquinita que es lo que uno ha estado haciendo

Según eso las cosas buenas son "profundas" y las malas puramente operativas, por lo que el balance, teniendo todo en cuenta, es muy bueno.

El domingo es la Maratón de Bogotá. No he podido entrenar, por circunstancias diversas, pero igual la voy a correr. Espero hacer menos de dos horas en los 21km.

Raro escribir en español, mejor sigo haciéndolo en inglés

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Compilation at last Several random thoughts

  • I wanted to write a very long rant about what I've been doing at work, but found it is not easy to do so, without going into specifics that I'd rather not have published on the Internet, so I'll just have to say we made a bold move that forced a great change, and that now there is a great challenge ahead for me/us and that I'm very happy about it.
    I have the opportunity of playing the role of architect - implementor - maker of policy - dirty coder - etc. And it is just great.

  • It look like vacation time makes bloggers very busy, and entries have been rather poor lately. However I have to comment on svigle's life threatening experience: It is weird, when I started driving I thought the worst thing that could happen to me in a car was that I crashed it and got into trouble (as in, trouble paying the reparation). It wasn't until a few years later when a friend of mine died on a car crash, thanks to large doses of alcohol on the driver of a large SUV who crashed the car he rode in, that I realized that driving, and cars can actually kill people, and can actually make one who is behing the wheel, a murderer. That is one of those things that have to happen close to you, for you to realize.

  • It would look much cooler on geek meetings if one said "Debian" when answering the perennial what's your distro question. It is more hackish, to say it some way. However I like my machine to be configurable only when I want to configure it. I want for the tools I use to be configurable. I like to configure my apache, or my version of mysql server, but I do not want to configure the X server. I know I use X, but I don't care about the number of Hz the screen runs on. The nice newbie like installation interface made those choices for me, and made them right. There's nothing worst than having to spend a whole week figuring out what makes X crash, because of installing it by hand (or from a bleeding edge testing branch). For me, Mandrake has done the job perfectly, I configured my system carefully where I wanted it carefully configured, but didn't configure it where I wasn't interested. I think that's the beauty of Linux and all it's wide spectrum of choices. You can decide what you want to control and what you want to leave as is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


As One of the best hackers I know notes in his blog, I had the pleasure of being invited to a Geek-fest. As awful as I might look in the pictures (I tend to do that, look awful in pictures) I had a great time. I got to meet the now very famous Juan Luis, and Arhuaco, in the costeñan flesh

Aside from that I got a fresh copy of knoppix. The next day I found out I hadd 11 gigs of wasted disk lying around, so I tried to install it. However, Alejo's CD seems to have become physically damaged on it's trip from his home to mine. Still curious, I downloaded the whole thing all over again. 36 hours later I had yet another knoppix CD. I have to admire the guys, that LiveCD runs like a charm. When installing, it asks almost nothing, which is perfectly good for newbies. After the installation finished and it allegedly installed LILO I rebooted and tested. The thing was nowhere to e found among the other four options in my boot. No problem, I just redid LILO, and up I went. One reboot later I was looking at a screen that said Debian and asked for my login.

All is well, the thing loaded KDE, no problems at all, all the hardware was correctly detected. However.... when I tried to logout, the thing just died, the screen started blinking (as a message telling me no info was coming from the CPU) and it did nothing. When I rebooted I expected e2fsck to make me wait, but nothing major, However, e2fsck quit on me and told me I had to manually rerun it. I did, and after correcting some 20 mistakes in the drives I entered again. Again very nice KDE3, again, on logout, the thing died, and again it sends the hard drive to hell. Being a little faint of heart when it comes to IDE disks I decided to leave knoppix's pretty KDE interfaces to the LiveCD, and remain with my very old, very graphic, very mine, very configured Mandrake 8.1.

Saturday, June 21, 2003


Last sunday I participated in a 12 KM run help by Bogota's very own, Clinica Palermo. The race started at the Clinic (Calle 47, Cra 22), went down Calle 26 up to Cra 68, and came back.

  • 00:00 Cesar Augusto Londoño calls the departure, and the race starts as a human mass of about 2500 people crawls slowly, like a huge white snail.

  • 03:25 The route takes us up Carrera 28's bridge, from there I can see a dense mass of people as far as my eyes get me

  • 05:00 The sun starts heating up and everybody seems to have obtained their position in the race, surpasses are less frequent

  • 12:00 The race really starts, I forget I'm running

  • 15:35 I am about to pass carrera 50's bridge and the leaders of the race are already coming back from carrera 68. They run in a "pique'e choro" kind of way, all the time.

  • 20:45I reach carrera 68, that marks the turning point

  • 35:00By now there is no huge mass of people, just a few runners scatterd here and there. On the other side of Calle 26 all the people that were walking the race started jumping to the side I was in

  • 47:05 We finally get out of carrera 26 and head into the parkway

  • 56:12 Yee hay. I'm glad it's over

  • finish + 15:00 It was a good race, we should do it again. Yeah, it was really great

Thursday, June 12, 2003

So I'm not me

UP until this day I was a believer. I belived in electronical transference, in working coperatively through IM/chat/mail, in coding remotely through the use of internet; in being able to exist in a virtual world, where you didn't have to be physically present in order to be a part of something. However, this approach has it's dangers, as I noticed today.

I admit it, I'm some kind of mentally retracted moron that can remember ascii codes for ñ, > and < (and it's entity representation for HTML), but that is unable to retain the moronic four number PIN for his savings account. So, as one might imagine, I forgot the darned number for the third time and the card got blocked. Since it was far too late to do anything about it, I went to the Internet, and found out what I had to do. The answer was simple: "Go to any of our offices with your Citizenship Card (what the hell, Cédula de Ciudadanía) and the card and we will fix your ordeal in no time.
I effectively went to one of their offices, the lady who I spoke to made me fill a form, with the number of the account and my signature, and faxed it to the office my account was residenced in (which was about 1 hour away by any means of transportation). The fax had to be returned from this office, accepting the change and telling me the new PIN (or the old one, I don't even know). Fifteen minutes later, the fax was not yet there so I decided to leave and come back later.
About two hours later the fax came back: It said the signature didn't match the one they had in their files. To put it in simple terms: I was not me.
So tomorrow, I'll have to go directly to see if me, in the flesh, is really me.
Luckily (or unluckily) the thing is stored by physical means, which allows the physical me to receive the new code, no matter what (or so I hope). But what about electronical stuff?
What happens when we forget the password because SSH automatically introduced it for us in our key? May God help us then

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I just remembered....
My kindashrink said I had no soul. Can you imagine? All the posibities that opens? I thing she meant for it to be a turning point in my life or some shit, but it hasn't been. I'll have to figure what to do in order to take advantage of not having a soul.
So what have you been doing?

I tought I had posted just a few days ago, but it wound up being about two weeks from my last post. But, what have I been up to? Geez. Looks like homo corporativus is taking his residence inside me. It seems like a million years ago when I was in school. Reading bluhelmet (whoever that guy is) reminded me of the time I was burning circuits, going to the novena in a hurry to buy that dammned PAL memory that would refuse to burn on the crappy PAL burner in labelec.

Problem with the job: You are always in the same place and your issues last longer. You have more time to solve them (the whole day, instead of the few mins you get), but they don't just die after a deadline. In school you either turned the paper in or didn't, but after the deadline it was gone. You knew that by may 14th all of it would be history.

Bored of meetings (most of the time I sleep through them), tool vendors telling developers that tools will do the job for them, wearing a tie

Happy with meeting a lot of interesting people, developing software, jogging in the mornings when I make it, not wearing a tie on fridays Salir a rumbiar sin pensar en la cuenta

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Making software and talking about making software

I know everybody is going to say they knew it. I have to confess I was rather naive. I used to think that the process of building software was about building software.

I used to thing that, in good old fashioned hackerish style, good code should speak for itself, or, to put it in a broader canvas, a good work should need no other help than that of it's contents to be known. Turns out that twisted mixture of influences, known as reality, is not like that. If no other influences existed over the software process, probably it would be about making software, and not much else, just like painting should be about painting. However, when making software one has to think about the software being useful for somebody (which is a good thing) and, in a lot of cases, profitable (as in built on time and under budget), which is not a good thing from the purely theoretical point of view. To add to this already messy melting pot of interests, it is probable that software has to live with existing infraestructure (existing machines, existing software or existing user habits).

As a result of this too much time is spent on talking, talking to other developers, talking to software users, talking to vendors, talking to bosses, talking about the best way of doing things. When compiling a 52 line COBOL program meant punching a whole deck of cards and running it through a machine that only allowed two programs a day per individual, it was right to talk a lot about the software, to actually build it in paper before really building it. But right now, when the length of the cycle has shortened so much.... Is it still necessary to lay out all of the thing that are to be done before actually doing it? Is it even possible? Is it possible to think in advance about all the possible things that might be needed in a devolpment process, and to do so even before the development starts? Furthermore, is it even wise to try to do this?

I think not. I thing that we should use the fact that 90% of a program's functionality is built in 10% of the time (or 80-20, or whatever, numbers can be found to back up any division of those two figures) to our advantage, to let the code talk, because, what's better to demonstrate how a piece of software will work than the piece of software herself?

Talking about talking, today Colibri had 30 messages of people ranting, I don't even know about what. discussing if discussing was a good thing to do. That's our problem. If that time that was spent ranting or back ranting, was spent coding, or translating, or thinking, we would advance faster.

Software building doesn't work by consensus. A lot of very succesfull projects (GNU, Linux, Matanza, etc) work by dictatorship. Everybody can contribute, but there is a reduced core of technically skilled people that has the absolute truth on what goes in and what doesn't. You don't like it, you can fork it.

The amount of caffeine inside my veins will have to be rised as I head into another talk about talking about making software. Yee-hay

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Oh my God, he understands!!!!!!!

If I had to quote every paragraph of Paul Graham's latest release that I agree with I'd have to just transcript the whole thing here.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003

On a political note, shame on The guerrillas responsible for these. How can they say it was the military's fault. They look like that nutcase that says "they made me do it" in front of the still warm body of his victim. A weblogish minute of silence for the victims, and a cry of war for the slaughterers.

I've been rather busy these days, between work, extra work, family matters and everything I hadn't had the time to review the blogs in quite a while. In the meantime, a holy war has formed between Some and then some. With the outcome of.... increased functionality for us, lazy users.

On my continuing meetings with that abstractuos entity called the client, today I went to a major bank like institution, to talk shop. Up until now the jobs I undertook where ones where I "had the ball", to say it in soccer terms. This means I was the dummy selecting the platform, developing the technology, choosing the framework, etc etc. With this one It has not been like that. It means a lot of requierements come from high above. What amazes me the most is the apparent lack of care, on behalf of the client, for the financial side of the thing. Back in small-website-made-from-scratch days the client was a tough sell, you had to take away every penny from him, and he would expect the delivered program to do everything from rocket science to calculating the net worth of the whole company with a single keystroke. Here it was different, they knew the thing was hard and were not concerned with the tab. They only wanted to know the size of the check they had to sign. The money stopped mattering, and it was the flux of information that became important, knowing what to expect and when to expect it, and having someone to blame if something happened (could this be what "software business" is about?).

Monday, April 28, 2003

We see the rise of agile software-development methods. Agile methods are a good thing because they address the social dynamics of small teams, for which the Rational unified method is silent. [Booch]

Good movies, bad movies and life going on

Good movies: Not movies, concerts really. Last friday I went to Alejo's to watch his recently acquired DVD from a David Gilmour concert. For those unfamiliar with him, David Gilmour is (was) Pinkfloyd's guitar, bass and one of the voices. Since I have the same hearing sensibility as a retired gunman I had failed to notice how many instruments were involved. It was amazing for me to see that a great piece like "shine on you crazy diamond" is indeed a one man show 75% of the time. Floyd rules, or, as Sergio likes to put it; manda.
Bad Movies: Saturday I got dragged into a film theather to see by far the worst movie I have spent my money on: A piece of shit called "The Dream Catcher". It is a mixture of "Alien", "Breakout", "The sixth sense" and "Independence Day". I cannot conceive how somebody could even try to mix aliens, farts and paranormal abilities. Please don't go see that.
Life goes on: Today I witnessed that invention organizational fellows like to call an audit. It was a mixture of medieval terror, quiet resignation and theather, all in one place, all in one day. Luckily my mortal soul was spared this time. On other news, tomorrow, for the first time, I'll get to meet face to face that multiple headed creature called "the client".

I want to study here

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Carpe diem?
Pon amor en las cosas que haces, y las cosas tendrán sentido. Retírales el amor y se tornarán vacias. San Agustín
After about two months on the workforce I have to say that I've learned a lot, not only on the technical side, but on the personal one, and several things puzzle me right now:

  • Since I work at a relatively big company (on colombian standards) there is people from almost all age groups. Most of them have been with the company for about two years, but there are some of them that have been there since the dawn of times. Most of them see their jobs as something boring you have to do during the office hours so that friday can come and you can go drink, or you can pay the bills to sustain your wife/husband and kid/s. I don't want to think about work in this way. It is true, there are certain things that are a pain, but on average is a challenge and it is fun., and in the moment it starts not being it, it is time to move on to something else.

  • I don't know how you can live without hopes, or with extrinsecal ones, when all you have to expect is for the years to pass and for you to obtain your jubilation, so that you can go and enjoy all that you lost because you were working. I don't want to find myself just waiting for that, so that life is just an infinite sequence of boring days, where day n+1 is just like day n, and I'd rather be anywhere else.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Unix Zen

  • Rule of Modularity: Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces.

  • Rule of Composition: Design programs to be connected to other programs.

  • Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.

  • Rule of Simplicity: Design for simplicity; add complexity only where you must.

  • Rule of Transparency: Design for visibility to make inspection and debugging easier.

  • Rule of Robustness: Robustness is the child of transparency and simplicity.

  • Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.

  • Rule of Repair: When you must fail, fail noisily and as soon as possible.

  • Rule of Economy: Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time.

  • Rule of Generation: Avoid hand-hacking; write programs to write programs when you can.

  • Rule of Representation: Fold knowledge into data so program logic can be stupid and robust.

  • Rule of Separation: Separate policy from mechanism; separate interfaces from engines.

  • Rule of Optimization: Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimize it.

  • Rule of Diversity: Distrust all claims for “one true way”.

  • Rule of Extensibility: Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think.

And shame on me, for reading Raymond. taken from here

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

A few quotes to go around with
(Taken from here)

Q: What's the difference between a terrorist and a methodologist?
A: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Software should produce a tool to solve a genuine problem. Software is not an end in itself.
An elegant design is great but if the system doesn't achieve anything worthwhile then that's not really success.

Monday, March 31, 2003

The passage ritual
Ever since graduation day, two weeks ago, we (as in my fellow engineers and me) had planned to attend a large slaughtered pig ceremony with large quantities of alcohol, also known to the world as lechona de sábado en la tarde. It was a twelve hour celebration, featuring 388 beers, 7 bottles of aguardiente, a box of whisky (as in a box of bottles) and several runaway rums. Like every celebration of this nature, by 1:00AM half of the people was gone, and the half that remained was drunk. Several scenes that involved fighting took place, both men showing each other the fists and boyfriends and girlfriends giving each other the bird. Kind of makes you wonder about the future of civilization, if those who are said to be their "finest members" (yeah, right) are (first person, plural form, aka "we" ) involved in such celebrations.

I believe I had not said this befoire so here goes: My ex-kinda-shrink said I was "exogenic", which is a term that means that I seek for causes of bad things in the exterior, instead of looking towards the inside. She also said I was hollow on the inside. But hey, she also said computers are going to suck the living out of human beings, in such a way that coexistance of both humans and machines is not possible. However she did not say this in a "2001 Space Oddysey" kind of way, like something that is going to happen in the future. She said it like something that is going to happen right now. I tried to tell her that the apparent "randomness" of computer behavior (evident seeing the apparent unexplainability of Windows' Blue Screen Of Death) was not the result of an evil mind leaving inside the computer, but that of an evil mind living outside it, also known to the world as "the programmer".

Random unsolicited note:As time passes I see that I enjoy programming computers (or machines, for that matter) more and more, and that I like Beethoven more and more.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Cries of war

Unavoidably so, the topic that comes to mind the easiest these days is war. However, I don't think that what is happening in Irak deserves to be labeled as war. Slaughter or killing frenzy seems more like it. No superpower in history had ever accumulated such a global influence in all fields as the US has today. Up until now, however the exercise of that power had to be, at least diplomatically, backed up by a set of values like "democracy" or "freedom" that where perceived as the founding values of the US society. After this, however, nothing stops a redneck texan, who had never gone abroad before his election as president from doing whatever he wants. Since US's military budget exceeds, by much, that of the next top five defense spenders, it is safe to say that no one in the planet can stand against the US war machine. Today it is Irak, because of it's oil or its euros or it's location. As Jorge Baron put it: "Y mañana desde cualquier lugar del mundo". Who knows? french wine is too expensive, german beer is taking a cut into the US market, colombian drugs are draining US dollars out of the US economy, Indian software programmers are working too much, the government in China is using too much non Microsoft software, the japanese are not opening their eyes when they talk to uncle Sam, the russians have too cold a weather. Anything can be a reason for war, so sit back and relax, the next one might be you

Friday, March 07, 2003

On commercial software

One of the consequences of industrial revolution was the conversion of town artisans into city workers. In medieval times craftsmen were respected and seen as an important part of a community. This was such an institution, that entire regions of countries were (and still are) known for their crafts. Such is the case with Nimes, in France, that is still known for it's clothing industry, altough most of the actual production is nowadays performed abroad, or with toledan steel works or Murano's cristalry. Craftsmen performed all of the work involved on their craft: They knew how to design it, how to build it, how to decorate it, and were responsible for selling it to the final costumer.
With industrial revolution, however, all of this changed. Craftsmen were not seen as an efficient mean of producing money and delivering goods an services in a resource efficient way, and labor was split among several workers, who didn't own whatever they made anymore. It was not a craft, but a mere job of repetition, that brought no pride to it's performer. The good being produced was not his, but belonged to whomever owned the factory.
This was good from a capitalist point of view: More goods were being produced, at a cheaper price, maybe even, of a better quality (debatable point). But the pride derived from making it was gone.
But this was not the result the capitalist aimed for, just a minor subproduct. What the capitalist wanted to do was to make labor cheaper. Instead of needing a genius craftsmen, that costed $1000, he could do ten times the work with 100 monkeys that costed $5 each. The craftsmen had to know it's craft, the monkeys, with help from machines could be almost brainless.
Software might be on the same path. Technology is slowly stabilizing. Right now it is not imperative to change computer every two years, as it might have been when significant breaktroughs in usability were being achieved. Changing from monochrome to color, or from no mouse to mouse, or from no sound to sound is far more exciting than just adding memory to be able to run the lates game. Besides, other than the gaming community, processor hungry genetic coders and freaks, most people use PCs for word processing (writing letters), spreadsheets (adding columns of numbers), e-mail and internet, which are more than covered (despite what latest windows sales people might say) by today's machines.
This non obsolescence that is just starting to attack (or benefit) PCs has been a companion for a while for bigger commercial applications, because of increasing power of machines, and high costs of migration. Companies can't afford to be changing their technological infrastructure every two years. Maybe not because of the cost of development itself, but because of the cost of teaching their monkeys how to use their new tool, with the learning curve that it involves.
Thanks to this, commercial applications have been done in the same way for a while now (and, in some market niches, will still be done in the same way for a while). The problems the programmers of such applications have to face are the same as three, four, ten years ago, so they know how to deal with them. The problem is not about "what to do" or "how to do it", that is already known. The problem is how to do it faster, cheaper, more productive. So, the solutions are the same as the ones that the industrial revolution brought: bring machines to help you and specialize labor, so that you can use a cheaper workforce to perform tasks.
In this case, however, machines are already there. You need to make programming faster and cheaper, so that a graduated rocket technician is not needed to program. The solution is simple: Bring hyperspecialized tools, that make programming code generation simple for the group of tasks you perform, and start churning out software like a madman.
Under these scheme of things, the strain is on resources and communication, instead of being on the technical side, so it becomes an issue of logistics and business administration, instead of being an issue of technical management of technology boundaries. You will still beed rocket scientists, to make the hyper specialized tools, but then maybe, you might cut a deal with a company of rocket scientists ( or one that has taken this "divide and conquer" technique one step further and can make hyper specialized tools with baboons, instead of monkeys) and buy the technology.
This might produce money, but it doesn't really produce knowledge, in the same way that fabricating bottle caps does not really produce knowledge. This is not bad, it is just a way of doing things but, are the aims of "producing knowledge" and "producing money" (in that order) contradictory? Let me pray they are not.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

yee hay

Last friday I received great news: I've been awarded a "magna cum laude" degree, to be received on march 15th. The selection process included an interview with four deans from school, where I was asked wheter or not I watched TV, and what was that thing called "Linux Day" that was t be held at the school (shamefully I couldn't atted, but that gave mean opportunity to talk to such an important audience about open source, and even to give them pointers to "Free as in Freedom")

So far I've been working for about ten days, so it is to soon to say anything, but, up until now, it's been great. I have been working with the AS/400 and for me, mostly a PC kind of guy, the whole concept of interface on the AS/400 has come as a complete surprise.

Whatever is said here might be completely wrong, as I have only started to grasp the ways and uses of the machine, so this is just a preliminar opinion
From what I've seen these machines have a shell that can accomplish, through a command, any task that can be performed by choosing things in text menus and selecting options, which is the normal interface used to interact with the machine. There is a batch like language, called CL, but I have not yet seen pipes or redirections, or the concept of standard output (it looks like it is a sequential spool, instead of a stream).

From where I'm standing the homo corporativus is a very different species from the homo universitarius, in some aspects it is more evolved, while on others it has just emerged from the primal soup. The main difference, however, is the driving force; for the homo universitarius it is the sense of "finishing"; ending the career, ending the semester, ending the current job, finishing reading or whatever. The homo corporativus, however, seems to have lost this characteristic through a series of mutations, so whatever is not done today, will be done tomorrow, or the next day. In a way, corporativus has more time, and consequently, lives in less of a hurry.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Canta oh Diosa la cólera del pélida Aquiles

cólera funesta que causó infinitas muertes entre los aqueos

Following on vulpecula's approach to the Illiad. I have to say that for me the most interesting character, by far, is that of Achilles and the inner conflict he has:
The whole book protrays the decision he has to take: he has to choose between a long life on his land, with his family, and a short life in the battlefield in exchange for glory, and he chooses the later.
This shows us how, for the greeks, the greatest form of success was "to be the subject of poetry", that is, to be remembered by others, which is what we would call "fame" nowadays.

If the story took place in present time heroes wouldn't be those who seek glory, but those who seek (and find) money, but, would I really chooose a ton of money in exchange of, let's say, a mentally challenging ocupation? I think not

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Monday, February 17, 2003

Welcome to the Jungle

Today I realized that I have just become what seven year old boys call "a grownup". That is, a person that works at an office. What a terryfying tought. I had always believed that by that time my life should have been figured out, but it is very far from being so.
Following the spirit of a recent Galactus post, I'll do a little recount on my journey:
5:57 Wake up magically three minutes before the alarm clock said it was time.
6:05 Went jogging
6:16 Reached 11th street
6:24 Finished jogging
6:35 Took a shower, hot water for the first time in months, advantages of waking up early
7:19 Took the Transmilenio, to get to the office
7:31 Arrived at Los Heroes station
7:38 Arrived at the office
7:45 Left paperwork for admittance at the correct office
8:02 Met with a guy that was giving courses on a 4G language and started talking with the guy
9:02 The boss is here (should have arrived at 8:00)
9:10 Walk through the office, about 45 names of people I have already forgotten
9:30 Turn on the computer, start reading quality assurance forms
13:30 Went to lunch
14:00 Came back from lunch, the infamous "5 harinas" at $2.500, reading again
15:10 Went to meet some more people, followed by more reading
18:00 Started installing a mysql server in several PCs, fixed a lightbulb
18:40 Went home
19:03 Arrived home
19:05 Went to the store to pick up some clothes
19:30 Arrived home again
20:00 Had dinner
21:20 Checked e-mail, phone, etc
22:00 Wrote blog

Saturday, February 15, 2003

It looks like the hosting's ultimatum was full of BS, the evil ring may still survive on prohosting for a while


These last few days I have been dedicating myself to that useless spending of time known to men as "vueltas". In order to start working I've had to produce an incredible amount of documents, from a 3x4 picture, to a medical examination, to several recomendation letters. That thing of writing recomendation letters is, from my point of view, a useless exercise. Most of the time the people would be willing to endorse the letter, but not willing to spend the time required in making it, so, they ask the demanding party (which in this case was me) to produce the letter so that they can then sign it. This leads the letter-seeker (again, me) to a very stupid exercise of self flattering where one has to say how perfect and nice, and gentle, and good with people and whatever, one is. I don't actually think they would read the letters, or use them for anything. For instance, if I decide to turn evil and run away with money or clients, what can anybody do? blame the person who signed the recommendation letter?
After reading my blog my kinda-shrink (the person that's using me as a Guinea Pig for a psychological project) told me that the psycho part was a joke, but that her diagnosis would be one of "lack of inner reflection" and "fear of failiure". Oh, my God I have seen the light. (Yeah, right)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


When the peace conversations where about to start, back in 98, when Tirofijo left our beloved (?) president, Mr Patraña standing like the moron he was, alone, one of his messenger boys (I think it was Raul Reyes) read his speech.
In it he justified thirty five years of blood, thirty five years of fighting because back in the beginning of the sixties the army went and stole his chickens. (I'm not lying, his speech did talk about stolen chickens).
No terrorist organization ever has defeated an stablished government, if that government has the support of the people it rules over. We are one of the best examples of that. I still remember with fear those days back in 88-89 or 92-93, when bombs exploded all over. It was bad, but we survived, even Pablo Escobar, with his endless amount of money, wasn't able to defeat the country.
There are two ways of handling this thing: Win the war and then bring the opportunities and development to the rural regions the war started on or, kill the war at it's source, at the lack of opportunities for the poor, and then expect it to end from it's own weight.
I think #2 might have been feasible fifteen years ago, but now it is not. You can not bring progress if you can't get there, and you can get there if armed men control rivers and roads.
So it is war. It is war that has no winners tough. The people that will die will be colombians, every way you look at it. Most of the time it will be 16 or 17 year old boys who had no other choice. I think that a "kill them all" strategy is not only bloodier than any possible bomb threat (we kill more than the people that die on the Twin Towers every year, without a declared war), but futile. We have to attack the means of financing and of obtaining weapons. If they have no money, they can't fight, and soldiers don't have to die.
Tehre is only one business that produces more money than drug traffic: weapon sale. However, this is not as punished and as prosecuted as narcotics for a simple reason: It brings money from third world countries into first world ones, from third world pockets into first world banks. Acting on rage one could say that with just the sheer desire of "killing them all" it would be as good as done (with a little bit of pain and suffering in the middle, but a done deal). It is not true. Angola has been devastating itself on a civil war, even bloodier than ours for 25 years, and it wasn't until the leader of the rebel party, Jonas Savimbi died that the two parts could start discusing the end of the bloodshed. However, such a long bloodshed was only possible because the governement financed itself by exporting petroleum and the rebels did so with diamonds, both had money to throw on russian, european and american weapons to kill each other.
The point is: It is war, but the way of defeating it is not by creating a half a million men army. We have to attack the visible heads, those sons of bitches that appear on the news informing us that "the rich are going to pay" or that "nos vemos el siete a las seis". I think it is time to play it fair: to throw this sons of bithces rights down the drain, like they have thrown ours and to hit them, but hit them on the head, because the rest of the body can reproduce, but headless they are just a group of kids that happen to have a gun.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Was this guy drunk when he posted?

I'm psycho (yeah, right)

Psychotic disorders include severe mental disorders which are characterized by extreme impairment of a person's ability to think clearly, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality, and behave appropriately.(stolen from here)
Last friday I sort of went to the shrink. A friend of mine, who ahappens to be studying psychology asked me to be her lab rat. I said yes, and so we wound up drinking juguito at Bulevar Niza. One of her conclussions was that I was psychotic (I cannot actually tell when these people are joking and when they are telling the truth, they say it all with a real straight face, that makes it hard to tell). I have to say that, reading the definition, if I understood reality then I would have to become suicidal, but since I don't, and ignorance is bliss, I can stay alive.

I still don't seem to grasp why some twisted mind would like to make a living out of fleshing out everybody elses mind. The thing is that it got me thinking a lot about what we call "normal". Most people would say "normal" is good. I would ask WTF is normal? Is it conforming? is it "sold to the system"? is it "unable to diverge"?, continuing the saga of ignorance being bliss, is normal a state of confortable numbness where you have ceased to interrogate, and trouble yourself with questions?

I have no doubt that the state of confortable numbness is by far easier than restless doubting, but is it convenient? is it desirable just to let doubts, and tought fall asleep for the sake of normality?

If it is I'd rather not be labeled with such a tag

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Mamá, mamá, voy a manejar volqueta!!

It looks like soon enough I'll become a suit. Which means I'll wear a tie, not an administrative role. As have several other bloggers done before, I will start working at Heinsohn Software House. I will be working on both Java-ish stuff an AS/400ish. Since I don't have the slightest idea of what an AS/400 is (ohh, yeah I have seen a couple on a computing room somewhere) it will be a nice learning experience. (What the f. is a mainframe, how do you work with that? do you program that? how do you script in that? what is it? how do you multithread it? whuy don't you people like it?).

In order to enter school you only have to pay (hell, I got accepted and they hadn't even seen my picture, I might as well be green, for all they knew), but to get out you have to produce an enormous amount of paper (high school certificate, three copies of your name, as if they didn't have it already, english tests, in triplicate and the like), but so be it, for the sake of graduating.

I swear, I have tried, but coming back to windows after being in Linux is like going back to ride on an SUV after riding a tank (stolen from Neal Stephenson's "In the beginning there was the command line")

I finally got time and read "Cryptonomicon, thanks to a birthday loan present from Alejo. I liked it, but think that several of the stories don't really add to the plot. It is like the guy eanted to make it longer, so started making up stories to fill blank spaces of time, but gave those stories no relevance. Like writing the beginning and the end, first and then writing whatever is in the middle (specially part of Goto Dengo's tale and the story stolen accross the wall from Cantrell)

Monday, January 27, 2003

The Average Chibchombian

An article published by El Tiempo here says that the average chibchombian knows that incurring in a certain behavior (i.e. bribing a police officer to scape a ticket) is wrong, but nevertheless a good percentage of the population says they would do it, when presented with the dilemma. A grandmother would call it "the dismemberment of the moral fiber that holds the nation together", and would only see it as a sign of the forth coming apocalypse.

I myself, am no stranger to this kinds of conduct. I have not bribed a police officer, but presented with the perspective of a 350K fine, plus two days of wandering through bureaucracy to recover a vehicle from the patios (or paying a middle man to do it) I would probably do it. The question is, then, where to stop? I know I wouldn't kill somebody on cold blood. The problem is that the threshold that morally (in the latin, personal sense of the word) restricts our actions is no longer given by religion, but as a consequence of a personal choice. I think religion lost this power because of the imposibly high threshold it set. Shamefully, since almost everything was outlawed (from saying the earth revolves around the sun, to premarital sexual relationships, to cursing, to thinking bad thoughts) so there was no clear boundary between being "a little outside" and being "totally fucked up".

That looks like an anticlerical rant that might belong somewhere else, but as this blogs states it is print $self so these are just the toughts of the day

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Boys: You didn't make it

After being rejected by these guys and the IEEE in our (Alejo and I) kernelish patches for security improvements (here and here) on the same day i have to say:
The IEEE thing had been far fetched from day one, that is, it was really hard for it to make it. The comments of the guys on the rejection note, tough, show that they actually read the paper and make some interesting sugestions. I really like that, it shows they took the time to read the whole paper and make constructive criticism.

On other news, the place where the evil list was hosted has given me an ultimatum: Pay US$10 or surrender your site. Since the only allowed form of payment involves using a chibchombian credit card to pay in US dollars (which in itself involves a fee of US$30 and an exchange rate that makes a US dollar cost about 3500 colombian pesos) I am not going to hold on to the site much longer. Anybody willing to host the poor perlish scripts before their death about ten days from now will be more than welcome to have them.

I have been looking for a job. It is tough business. It is like selling meat, only you are the meat, damn.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

One day foxtrot woke up and realized that, for the first time in his life, he actually had to make a decision that wasn't obvious to him or that the environment in which he was inmerse did not make obvious, and it scared the hell out of him.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Academicus Infinitus?

"as time passes, you have more and more things "over there" and less and less things right here...
Why does one engage in as big an endeavour as a postgraduate study abroad?
The ivy league brochure reason (higher earnings) doesn't quite cut it, not at least in Chibchombia, where a degree is a reason to turn you down, because of perceived earnings expectance (what they think you would charge). Of the other reasons that I can think of, the most plausible one is "the intellectual challenge". Having so many bloggers currently living the experience I have to ask: Is the challenge that cool a thrill, as to justify all of the effort that must go into it?
Is that really the reason?

I have to confess that when reading LOTR, I almost throw the book out the window after 20 pages of moronic Tom Bombadillic singing and chanting, and so I think it is a good move, from the film's point of view, to dissapear the character entirely.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The Evil Ring

Let's face it, hackers are lazy. Lazy in a good way, tough. In a way that would make you spend two hours scripting away a task that takes ten minutes so that the next hundred times it will take only one second and would be performed by the computer, all on his own. Wheter or not this saves time on the long run is a matter that has yet to be discused, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.
Me being a hacker wannabe myself, have found me looking repeatedly at the Evil List for the latest in blogging inspiration. I tought it would be nice to have a ring, just like the freak ring, but dynamical, that is, you cicle trought the blogs in the same order that they are on the evil list at that moment (or some 14 minutes before). To achieve that I put together a perlish script, that can do the trick, by looking at the evil list, finding the next or previous entry to yours and sending you there.
This infamous script takes two arguments:

  • name: An indication of the blog you want to place yourself in, to go to the previous or next. The name has to contain a unique part of your blog's URL as it appears on the list (examples of valid names are foxtrot, binaryx, bachue, and any piece of the url that identifies the blog univocally

  • position: Either previous or next to indicate if you want the blog that is a little younger or the one that is a little older that the one indicated by name

For example, for foxtrot's blog the url would be:

<a href="">Previous</a>
<a href="">Next</a>

Monday, January 06, 2003

Arriados down the mountain

When foreigners talk about their trips to Colombia, most of the time they say that the people is very welcoming. I have to say that being a life long Homo bogotanisuntil this weekend I had not understood why they said such a thing. But it all changed this weekend,as I went my brother and some friends to Armenia, to visit the Parque Nacional del Café. I have to say they make you feel welcome all the time, all people, the taxi drivers, people in the hotel, even people in the middle of the street.

PD:Praise to the Evil graph, and Hackerus Enormus Galactus. He's done it again. To answer Binaryx; having been the monitor of Teoría de Lenguajes, several times I have to say that grading huge unintelegible graphs is indeed fun, just like documenting somebody else's code and drinking varsol

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Le Seigneur des anneaux : les deux tours

After trying several times, and going to Unicentro and finding no available seats in any of the six possible screenings of the movie I finally managed to see Lord of the Rings II. I have to say it was awesome. When compared to it the first one looks like a children's tale.
I have to see that after reading the book I had no idea of how they would manage to portray the ents, but after seeing what they did I have nothing to do but applaud, same goes to the word done with Gollum; precioussss.
The Two Towers is the kind of movie after which one needs to take a breath, I mean, the battle of Helm was one of the greatest screenings of a battle I have ever seen. It's a remainder of how battle were not so long ago, where two armies would fight in the open against each other to decide, rather quickly which was the course of action to be taken. You always knew your enemy. "If the guy has a red uniform, he's one of yours, don't kill him", unlike almost all wars right now, where the enemy is invisible, and will not risk combat out in the open.