Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{November 19, 2014}   Awesome Bullying Lesson

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

( Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/awesome-bullying-lesson-from-a-new-york-teacher )

{October 25, 2014}   Video game players and Gamers are different things

Even though the Wikipedia defines “gamer” as “someone who partakes in interactive gaming, such as (predominantly) video games or board games”, this doesn’t really gets close to that term means socially at the moment. Going back to Wikipedia, we find that the video game subculture is “a form of new media subculture that has been influenced by video games”, so it might be quite accurate to define gamers as members of that subculture. You will find that most of the uses of the term “gamer” in the social networks and in the blogosphere refer to that. Please notice that, even though it is quite likely that most of the gamers play video games, the other way round does not need to be true and, in fact, it isn’t. Not everyone who plays video games belongs to the video game subculture, shares their point of view, their values and aesthetics, or even know about it. Kind of like what happens with the word “hacker”. Not everyone who hacks around with a computer belongs to the hacker subculture.

Mostly everyone who has access to the technology plays video games now. From babies and kids to grandparents. And people play them in every possible technological system around, not only on video game consoles or personal computers, but alse on mobile phones, tablets, web browsers. And many of those people who use different kind of technologies to play video games are not gamers. Not in the sense of belonging to the video game subculture. It is important to acknowledge that: that the video game subculture does not have the monopoly over video games or the video game developing industry anymore.

As you can imagine, all this rand doesn’t come from nowhere. During the last months, we have been witnessing a fight between some conservative core members of the video game subculture and people who want to bring some fresh air into the sociocultural elements of that subculture. Namely, that women shouldn’t be discriminated inside it. As every time that a women raises her voice to complain about anything in the Internet, they have been subjected to insults, attacks, rape and death threats, etc. I’m talking about something called #GamerGate, and even though I’m not going to get into it, I will provide some URLs in case someone might be interested. Please acknowledge that not all the points of view might be represented in this list (in fact, they are not, as I won’t be promoting in my blog things that I severely disagree with), so search the web for more information if you want to get that.

I’ve never been a gamer myself, meaning part of the subculture I mentioned. At some point I was probably closer tho the core values they had then than I am now. In any case, video games have already consolidated themselves as an important part of current culture, entertainment, education and socialization, and are definitely here to stay. That will probably mean that the percentage of gamers (members of the video game subculture) will become smaller. as the number of non-gamer video game players keeps raising.

{January 18, 2014}   Löve is a changing project



I have just uploaded a newer version of Löve to Debian, 0.9.0. As usual, this version breaks compatibility with the API of previous versions. Literally: “LÖVE 0.9.0 breaks compatibility with nearly every 0.8.0 game“. It’s a hard to fix situation from a package maintainer’s point of view, at least until they agree on a stable API, hopefully in a 1.0 version sometime. Löve has been in Debian official repositories since 2008.

As major changes, we can see that it’s using SDL2 and LuaJIT now. Depending on where the bottlenecks were in some of the demos and games, the performance might have improved a lot. The improvements have been a lot, and the structure of the API is more consistent and clean. Congratulations to everyone that has made it possible.

On the bitter part, well, most of the previous games and demos will most likely not work any more without some changes in the code. As we don’t have any reverse dependencies in the archive (yet), this won’t cause any severe problems. But, of course, Debian is not an isolated island, and people might need to execute some old code without being able to migrate it.

I have prepared some packages for older versions of Löve that might make the situation more bearable for some, until code is migrated to the new API. These versions can be co-installed with the latest version in the archive (0.9.0). I’m not sure if it will be needed, but if it was, I might consider putting previous 0.8 version in the official repositories. I would prefer not to do it, though, as that would make me the de facto maintainer of the upstream code, as Löve community is moving forwards with newer versions.

{November 13, 2013}   How to encode a video file for an Energy Sistem 6500 MP5 device

With mencoder:

mencoder "FILE.EXT" -ofps 25 -vf-add scale=320:240 -vf-add expand=320:240:-1:-1:1 -srate 44100 -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=600:max_bframes=0:quant_type=h263:me_quality=4 -oac lavc -lavcopts acodec=mp2:abitrate=128 -o "FILE.avi"

With ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i "FILE.EXT" -f avi -c:v mpeg4 -vtag xvid -s 320:240 -b:v 600k -r:v 25 -c:a mp2 -b:a 128k -r:a 44100 "FILE.avi"

{September 13, 2013}   Pink Pony: a 3D multiplayer Tron-like racing game, with ponies

The first time I found this cute game, was around 2009, but for a bunch of reasons I haven’t been able to get it into the archive until now. Pink Pony is a cute game in which you have to control a pink pony who’s main goal is to last in the game more time than the other ponies. You might remember the game Tron, or the film, in which there were light cycles who left a trace behind, with which the other cycles crashed. Well, this is the similar game concept, only with cute ponies instead of light cycles. You can see a video of the game in action, if you want to get a feeling of how it is.

Thomas Weber (Ginko), has published a newer version of the game (1.3.1) a couple of days ago, and that is the one that has entered Debian repositories (sid) today. Thanks, Ginko, for this lovely game!

Even though the game might not seem too appealing for some of the adult users of Debian or Ubuntu, maybe some of their kids will like it as much as I do. The game is quite quick, though, so very young kids might have trouble controlling the pony. I would suspect it might be all right for kids above 9 years old, but I haven’t been able to test my hypothesis, so if you find out, please tell me :)

{September 03, 2013}   pySioGame: Educational activities and games for kids

I discovered pySioGame for the first time in the first half of 2012, and even though it was still in a beta state, I liked it a lot. pySioGame is essentially a set of educational activities and games for kids.

pySioGame was initially developed by its author -Ireneusz Imiolek- for his son, but he soon decided to make it Free Software. And I’m glad that he did, because it’s a very cute application.

Even though -in it’s author’s own words- it’s hard to put age range on this kind of games, it is primarily targeted to children from as young as 3 years old, up to about 10 years old. The activities included, many of which are grid based, cover topics like maths, reading, writing, painting, and memory activities, among others.

I was finally able to upload pySioGame to Debian during the DebConf, and it has very recently hit the archive. I’m convinced that pySioGame is soon going to be one of the references among the free programs for small kids, among titles such as GCompris, ChildsPlay, PySyCache, or Bouncy. Or, even though it’s not in the archives, Omnitux.

Finally, to whet your appetite, here is the link to a video, and there go some screenshots:



{April 02, 2013}   Adria Richards, Donglegate or however you want to call it. Same shit, different name.

A woman has spoken up against misogyny in Free Software. And, as always, a bunch of bullies have mercilessly jumped onto her to destroy her and let us all know who is in charge. There’s not a single woman I know in the Free Software world that has dared to complain about something sexist and hasn’t experienced this, me included. This is often enough to make us shut down, essentially because we don’t want to add more problems to our lifes, and also because we don’t want to be excluded from our development teams. If we decide to still keep complaining even after the initial backslash, then harassment keeps increasing until we just can’t cope with it and we decide to retreat, or until they destroy us completely. It usually doesn’t get to that point, because we decide to retreat from the fight after receiving all the damage we are willing to accept, and generally without having been able to get anything good in exchange. That usually burns us out and makes us retreat from the first line of fight, at least for a while.

That woman happens to be also from a different race than the privileged one, and that has definitely added fuel to the attacks. Double discrimination. When I first read about what happened, I never took into consideration that race could have played a relevant role in all this events. But, after reconsidering it for a while, I thought that of course I wouldn’t think that it was important, because privileges work that way. It is enough to see the public comments of the bullies about her to see how not being a white person played an important part in the harassment.

There is really not much to say about the incident in PyCon 2013 that hasn’t been already said. It is simply another official confirmation of what we all know, and an exemplary punishment against those of us who dare to speak up in those situations. Of course, a lot of things have been said, and will be said, about this incident. And, as it happens in every case of bullying or harassment, Adria Richards will be blamed for everything. Because there’s nothing that she could really have done, except being a good girl and keeping quiet, that wouldn’t have blackslashed. And the blackslash is always proportional to how high the complains have gone.

So there go some links, for those who might not know what I’m talking about:


{July 19, 2012}   Preludio de la Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos de América (1776)

Encuentro que estas palabras tan bellas y conmovedoras pueden ser una importante fuente de inspiración en las que apoyarnos en la situación tan compleja en la que estamos viviendo en España y en Europa:

«Sostenemos como evidentes por sí mismas dichas verdades: que todos los hombres son creados iguales; que son dotados por su Creador de ciertos derechos inalienables; que entre éstos están la Vida, la Libertad y la búsqueda de la Felicidad. Que para garantizar estos derechos se instituyen entre los hombres los gobiernos, que derivan sus poderes legítimos del consentimiento de los gobernados; que cuando quiera que una forma de gobierno se haga destructora de estos principios, el pueblo tiene el derecho a reformarla, o abolirla, e instituir un nuevo gobierno que se funde en dichos principios, y a organizar sus poderes en la forma que a su juicio ofrecerá las mayores probabilidades de alcanzar su seguridad y felicidad. La prudencia, claro está, aconsejará que no se cambie por motivos leves y transitorios gobiernos de antiguo establecidos; y, en efecto, toda la experiencia ha demostrado que la humanidad está más dispuesta a padecer, mientras los males sean tolerables, que a hacerse justicia aboliendo las formas a que está acostumbrada. Pero cuando una larga serie de abusos y usurpaciones, dirigida invariablemente al mismo objetivo, evidencia el designio de someter al pueblo a un despotismo absoluto, es su derecho, es su deber, derrocar ese gobierno y proveer de nuevas salvaguardas para su futura seguridad y su felicidad.»

Thomas Jefferson

{July 04, 2012}   Scratch in Debian

Scratch has finally reached Debian repositories. Scratch is a programming learning environment created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab designed to be accessible by young learners (over 8 years old). Scratch makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art through a visual interface based on blocks. Thus, beginners can get results without having to learn to write syntactically correct code first. It is powerful enough to have even been adopted as an entry-level computer language in computer science programs at different universities.

Scratch makes use of pieces of code embedded in different blocks that are shaped like puzzle pieces. That way, programming consists on putting different blocks together, which gives immediate visual feedback to the programmer about the correctness of the syntax: If the pieces fit together, then the expression is valid. Scratch programming system is so nice and easy that has been the inspiration of other systems such as MIT App Inventor or Google Blocky.

Scratch animations consist of sprites that are animated by dragging the corresponent blocks into the Scripts area of the Scratch interface. Multiple sprites can be created and interact with one another. Each of the sprites can have different looks (called “costumes” in Scratch). You can use built-in sprites, load them from files, or draw your own using a drawing tool integrated in the environment.

Scratch itself is coded in Squeak, a Smalltalk implementation derived from Smalltalk-80.

The Scratch 1.4 source went GPLv2 on March, but there were some incompatibilites with the Squeak Virtual Machine currently in Wheezy that had to be resolved first. Luckily we were able to solve them, with the help of the Scratch and the Squeak guys, so I’m happy to say that Scrach is finally available from Debian repositories.

Note: If any Scratch derivatives (such as BYOB or Panther) also need to be ported to the current version of Squeak, they should have a look at the comments in the Scratch ITP, and especially to the script uploaded by Bert Freudenberg, that replaces 90 indexed primitive declarations (removed in later versions of Squeak VM) with their named counterpart.

Note 2: This wouldn’t have been possible without all the great work and effort made by Amos Blanton and many others. Lots of thanks!

{February 23, 2012}   Yo también ejerzo la desobediencia civil contra la Ley Sinde-Wert

Este blog también se une a la iniciativa Wertdeenlaces.net de Hacktivistas. A partir del 1 de marzo (día en que entra en vigor la Ley llamada Sinde-Wert), el autor (un socio de la SGAE, de quien se ha enlazado su obra -protegida con Copyright- sin su permiso) presentará una denuncia a la comisión incluyendo a todas las páginas que hayamos enlazado su obra. Para más información, la página de preguntas frecuentes de la iniciativa. El enlace: Aquí mismo.


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