Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{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.

{November 19, 2011}   3D Puzzle Game: Phlipple

You might remember the action puzzle game Zaz. Well, we now have a new puzzle game from the same author (Remigiusz ‘mal1ce’ Dybka), called Phlipple.  The goal of the game is to reduce a 3D shape to a single square in each level, removing squares by flipping edges around, like you would do in a cardboard box. The Free/Open source version of the game, including 50 levels, is now available in Debian, in case that you want to give it a chance. You can watch the promo video in Youtube if you want to have a better idea of what the game looks like. I hope that you like it, I do :)

Here are some screenshots of the game:

Screenshot of the gameScreenshot of the gameScreenshot of the game

{October 04, 2011}   Periodic Calendar in Debian

Periodic Calendar, a GPL’ed GUI application, coded in Java that helps keeping track of women menstrual cycles and predict fertility periods, has just entered Debian. This information can be used as supportive either for conception or contraception planning.

This program (pcalendar in Debian) is by far more complete than mencal (a simple menstruation calendar that can be run in the console) or cycle (a windowed calendar that can calculate stuff based on the length of the cycle or on statistics of previous periods), and provides support for BBT and sympto-thermal methods, which have the highest reliability in fertility periods prediction. User can thus choose any subset of the features to be used or even fall to the generic calendar method (which if used alone is very unreliable).


Screenshot of Periodic Calendar

Keep in mind, though, that -as the authors of the program insist on- Periodic Calendar is NOT an equal substitute to the fertility planning consultants or doctors, and methods used are not 100% effective. It’s a useful program, anyway.

I’ve also translated the program into Spanish, made some cute icons and added MIME support so that data files can be easily open from the desktop.

{August 30, 2011}   Fantastic Park 2011 is over

On the 26th of June I wrote that I wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere this summer (including DebConf 11), because I was going to be teaching lots of things related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to a bunch of kids. That was a bit more than two months ago. On the 27th of June we started the first edition of Fantastic Park with a lot of enthusiasm, and hoping that the kids participating could get in touch to the ICT world while having fun. After all, it was summer holidays.

The results have not only more than fulfilled our expectations but, from what their parents tell, we have also been able to overcome what the children were expecting. It was somehow encouraging to know that the kids were telling their parents to get up half an hour earlier (heh, sorry for them, but that’s what being a parent is about, isn’t it?), to be able to start as soon as they could, and also to make them wait until the last minute for going back home.

These four editions have involved more than two months of work (280 hours), and 82 kids have taken part on it (57 boys and 25 girls). There have also been visits to different companies that work on the field of ICT (32 in total), and there was an important number of other people collaborating (thanks to all of them). Finally, the last edition of the Park has ended yesterday.

Along these weeks, the kids have been able to get acquainted with a lot of different things, such as robotics (using Lego WeDo), digital photography and photo edition (using Pinta), Free Software, satellites, GPS or learning to code with Scratch. It has been very intensive and I’m almost exhausted, but I’m also quite sad that it’s over. Hopefully some of these children might have developed an interest in this field, and who knows what might come out of it.

If somebody is interested in the daily activities at the Park, we have been writing a blog with daily entries (in Spanish, sorry). We have also published quite a lot of photos of the activities. Of course, needless is to say that I’m really happy to have taken part on it, and that the kids participating were simply great. I’ll miss them.

{June 26, 2011}   I won’t be able to attend DebConf this year

I haven’t blogged for a while, because I’ve been doing so many things that I scarcely had time nor will for it. Among all those things, and during the weekends of the last few months, we have been teaching kids (8-12 y.o.) about computers, Free Software and technology. Those kids are great, very intelligent, very motivated, and very funny to be with. I miss them a bit after the program has ended. In any case, I’ve been given the chance to teach some more kids during summer weekdays, and I’m really looking forward to it. The downside of this is that I won’t have any summer holidays and, thus, I finally won’t be able to attend DebConf 11 in Banja Luka, which was something I was also looking forward too. But, even though that’s something  I’d really love to do, one cannot be in two places at the time, so this year I finally won’t be able to attend DebConf either. Have lots of fun! I’ll miss you! :)

In case you want to know more about all of this (sorry, links are in Spanish):

Oh, and to show you what I’m exchanging you for (nothing personal):

Photo of the official presentation, with the parents and the kidsPhoto of all the kids in Campus TICPhoto of all the kids in Yo ProgramoPhoto of the kids in my group of Campus TICKids in Campus TIC working with their computersTeam group of my kids in Campus TICGroup photo of the kids in my group, in Campus TICKids in Campus TIC working with Lego WeDo robots

I wouldn’t like to end this post without thanking all the kids from both Campus TIC and Yo Programo for being so cool, and also to welcome the kids from Fantastic Park, in case any of them -or their parents- are reading.

Oh, and all of you who attend DebConf this year, have a lot of fun! :)

{May 22, 2011}   Sobre #DemocraciaRealYA

Siento estar publicando ésto tal cual está, pero no tengo ni tiempo ni ganas ahora mismo de redactarlo de una forma más coherente y estructurada. Esencialmente son trozos de comentarios que he hecho en una red social sobre el tema de #DemocraciaRealYA (movimiento que apoyo plenamente), a raíz de los artículos en los blogs de Javier Cuchí y Enrique Dans (con los que estoy esencialmente de acuerdo, de todas formas):

La crítica que se está haciendo a la gente, alguna bastante joven, que se está movilizando choca frontalmente con lo que se les está pidiendo constantemente hacer: Acción, pasión, ilusión, proactividad, aportar las propias ideas, optimismo, utopía, etc. Se les está pidiendo salir a manifestarse y a acampar, porque las y los adultos «están demasiado viejos» para hacerlo, se les está diciendo que aporten sus propias ideas y que tengan espíritu crítico, se les está incitando a que diseñen cual es el futuro que les gustaría tener, y cuando lo hacen resulta que se les pone «a parir» por ello.

Es cierto que algunos de los planteamientos que están surgiendo en las asambleas son infantiles y fantasiosos, e incluso hay alguno de ellos que si se intentara aplicar en la realidad sería un grave error, pero me parece injusto el grito que se está lanzando ahora contra mucha de la gente que se ha movilizado -especialmente la más joven- incitándoles a que “venga, apártate a un lado y calla la boca, que ya estás viendo que no sabes hacer las cosas”. No se les/nos ha pedido un planteamiento político sólido y estructurado, sino perder el miedo a hablar y decir lo que pensamos y lo que opinamos, y abrir el debate público fuera de las organizaciones profesionales de la política (partidos, sindicatos, etc.). Y eso es lo que se esta haciendo.

Si pedimos a la gente que escriban un pequeño texto con una descripción de su mundo ideal, luego no podemos ponerles «a parir» porque no estén todos los cabos bien atados, porque no era eso lo que se les pedía. Que luego lleguen los partidos y los medios y -no teniendo ni idea del suelo que pisan, o por motivos más oscuros- lo interpreten así, no deben contagiárnoslo a nosotras y nosotros también: Ya se irán aclarando y definiendo más las posturas con nuestros tiempos y plazos, no con los suyos. Recordad que las elecciones significan mucho para ellos, y que se están convirtiendo de alguna forma en un símbolo, pero nunca han sido una meta crítica para nosotras y nosotros, y no tenemos un deadline en estas elecciones para, o conseguimos explicarlo todo bien antes de que acaben, o se termina el mundo. Calma, y constancia, que esto no es un sprint sino una maratón.

Es cierto que tenemos que criticar muchas de las cosas que se están haciendo, y felicitarnos por otras. Pero tened en cuenta que si ahora os pasáis al bando de la crítica destructiva, estaréis enviando un mensaje contradictorio a la juventud, que no tiene nada claro en general lo que se espera de ellas y ellos. No les/nos podéis pedir que tengamos un planteamiento político impoluto, y menos en una semana de concentraciones. Pero le estamos poniendo pasión, ilusión, estamos aportando nuestras ideas, nuestras ganas, nuestros valores, estamos saliendo a las plazas a luchar por los derechos de todos y todas, incluso de quienes ya están mayores para esos trotes. Estamos haciendo lo que se nos pide, ¿esperabais que de las asambleas saliera la receta perfecta para solucionar el mundo? Si es así, lo siento mucho, pero los más ingenuos lo seríais vosotros.

Es importante la crítica, lo es, pero intentad hacerla desde la comprensión de la situación, y no desde el enfado porque no se estén pudiendo hacer las propuestas perfectas. La lucha sigue. Una asamblea popular no es un órgano legislativo, no ha sido elegida por nadie, y no habla por nadie más que por ella misma. Pero sí que expone las inquietudes y las ideas de quienes participan en ella, desarrolla la comunidad, y nos acostumbra a compartir ideas.

Si se entienden las asambleas por lo que son realmente -no son un parlamento- se ve que tienen un lado positivo muy importante. No hay que darles más importancia que esa, sin embargo, ni sacarlas de contexto, ni enfadarse porque entre todas las cosas que propongan pueda haber grandes simplificaciones, utopías e incluso algunas tonterías. En Oviedo al menos el comportamiento de la gente ha sido impecable, ha habido un buen rollo increíble, mucho respeto, diversidad de ideas y ningún conflicto. En mi opinión la concentración de Oviedo está siendo realmente ejemplar. No sé si en otras concentraciones ha habido roces o conflictos más severos.

No caigáis en el error de pensar con el cortoplacismo de los políticos, esto no es una revolución explosiva, no es a corto plazo, no se quiere destruir el sistema y construir uno nuevo en 3 días. No se quiere nada de eso. La lucha ha de ser de fondo, y planteada a medio plazo. Es decir, hay que seguir con la lucha de fondo que se lleva manteniendo muchos años. No hay que planteárserlo como una revolución, sino como una evolución del sistema.

Vale, que ahora estamos en un momento muy visible y explosivo, y a la gente la empieza a mover la adrenalina, y se calienta, y salen todas las cosas de golpe. Eso es legítimo, y también positivo. Y sería muy positivo que consiguiéramos extenderlo más allá de estos días y que la gente empezara a cuestionarse las cosas el resto de los días del año, y que haya un debate abierto sobre qué mundo y qué sociedad queremos tener.

Pero la lucha de verdad no está sólo en estos días, no dejemos ni que la prensa ni que los partidos políticos os arrastren a esa inmediatez. Ni siquiera es una lucha que haya surgido ahora desde cero, sino que se lleva años luchando en la red por promover una democracia real, y cuando estos fuegos en la calle se apaguen, se seguirá haciendo. Los partidos políticos y los medios están a uvas, y seguirán a uvas, así que -al menos las cabezas pensantes de esta lucha- no os dejéis arrastrar por esta vorágine. Y no os dejéis arrastrar por las exigencias de que se planteen soluciones políticas concretas en estos pocos días: ni podemos, ni queremos, ni es deseable. Por mucho que los partidos lo exijan. Quieren llevarnos a su terreno, no. Este es nuestro terreno, marcamos nosotras y nosotros la agenda y los plazos. Calma.

Estoy agotada, así que no soy capaz de explicarlo mejor hoy. Pero me ha parecido importante publicarlo antes de que se acabe el día, antes de que den los resultados electorales de hoy (que, realmente, no me importan tanto). Cuando descanse un poco, ya contaré mi punto de vista con más calma. Que no hay tanta urgencia :)


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