Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{May 29, 2007}   Yay! DebConf!

Ryanair flight 755, Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN) – London Stansted (STN)

easyJet flight 237, London Stansted (STN) – Edinburgh (EDI)

easyJet flight 232, Edinburgh (EDI) – London Stansted (STN)

Ryanair flight 756, London Stansted (STN) – Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN)

{May 28, 2007}   FoF in Debian!

Frets on Fire is, according to the Wikipedia, a music video game, a clone of the Guitar Hero video games, in which the player emulates playing a guitar with the keyboard of their computer. The keyboard is also meant to be picked up like a guitar in order to play, with one hand pressing the fret buttons and another pressing the pick buttons. There is support for joysticks however, meaning that the Guitar Hero controllers can be used as well. The game also includes a tutorial and a built-in song editor. The source code written for the game is written in Python, and released under the GNU General Public License.

The game included some non-DFSG-free song files and some internal fonts which needed to be replaced in order for the game to enter Debian repositories. There’s a pack of new songs made by Carlos Viola Iborra and released under a free license. Thanks Carlos! This package of songs has entered the repositories too and is called fretsonfire-songs-sectoid. The original songs that were included in the game, made by Tommi Inkilä, will probably be included in the non-free repositories soon, as a package called fretsonfire-songs-inkila.

I’d like to thank the developers of FoF, Sami Kyöstilä, Joonas Kerttula and Tommi Inkilä, for their full cooperation during all this process. You’re great, guys! :)

{May 27, 2007}   Debian multiple binary packages: example 2

Some days ago I wrote a small example of creating multiple binary packages from a source where the program was built and installed with autotools. Now I’ve remade the example, starting from a system built directly using a make script, and which doesn’t provide an install target. Even more, it is supposed to get the data from a directory relative to the working directory. This is, in fact, a scheme often found when packaging games. The debian/rules script uses quilt to apply the necessary patches, so that absolute directories are used for the data file.

{May 26, 2007}   Ordenar los archivos alfabéticamente en un reproductor MP3

Muchos reproductores de MP3 basados en memorias flash no permiten organizar los archivos en el orden en el que te gustaría escucharlos, sino que van siendo reproducidos en el orden en el que el dispositivo los encuentra en su sistema de archivos, normalmente VFAT. En los tiempos del DOS, había un programa de las Norton Utilities llamado DS que permitía reordenar los archivos en una estructura de directorio de tipo FAT (File Allocation Table). No soy la única que se ha encontrado con este mismo problema, al parecer.

Normalmente, el orden en el que los archivos aparecen en el directorio es el mismo en el que se han copiado, y en el que serán reproducidos, así que la solución más sencilla que he encontrado para reordenarlos, es ejecutar algo del estilo, para un solo nivel de profundidad de directorios:

$ mkdir t
$ mv * t
$ cd t
$ for i in *; do echo $i; mkdir "../$i"; done
$ for i in */*; do echo $i; mv "$i" "../$i"; done;
$ cd ..
$ rmdir t/* t

Al menos a mí parece funcionarme bien.

{May 25, 2007}   3rd anniversary of Debian Women

It’s 3 years since Debian-Women’s mailing list was created. Time for celebration!

{May 25, 2007}   What’s a Theory? What’s an Hypothesis?

Evolution, then, is a theory, one of the most influential, farreaching and important theories ever devised. In this context, it’s worth pointing out that the word `theory’ is often used in a quite different sense, to mean an idea that is proposed in order to be tested. Strictly speaking, the word that should be used here is `hypothesis’, but that’s such a fussy, pedantic-sounding word that people tend to avoid it. Even scientists, who should know better. `I have a theory,’ they say. No, you have a hypothesis. It will take years, possibly centuries, of stringent tests, to turn it into a theory.

The theory of evolution was once a hypothesis. Now it is a theory. Detractors seize on the word and forget its dual use. `Only a theory,’ they say dismissively. But a true theory cannot be so easily dismissed, because it has survived so much rigorous testing. In this respect there is far more reason to take the theory of evolution seriously than any explanation of life that depends on, say, religious faith, because falsification is not high on the religious agenda. Theories, in that sense, are the best established, most credible parts of science. They are, by and large, considerably more credible than most other products of the human mind. So what these people are thinking of when they chant their dismissive slogan should actually be `only a hypothesis’.

That was a defensible position in the early days of the theory of evolution, but today it is merely ignorant. If anything can be a fact, evolution is. It may have to be inferred from clues deposited in the rocks, and more recently by comparing the DNA codes of different creatures, rather than being seen directly with the naked eye in real time, but you don’t need an eyewitness account to make logical deductions from evidence. The evidence, from several independent sources (such as fossils and DNA), is overwhelming. Evolution has been established so firmly that our planet makes no sense at all without it. Living creatures can, and do, change over time. The fossil record shows that they have changed substantially over long periods of time, to the extent that entirely new species have arisen. Smaller changes can be observed today, over periods as short as a year, or mere days in bacteria.

Evolution happens.

What remains open to dispute, especially among scientists, is how evolution happens. Scientific theories themselves evolve, adapting to fit new observations, new discoveries, and new interpretations of old discoveries. Theories are not carved in tablets of stone. The greatest strength of science is that when faced with sufficient evidence, scientists change their minds. Not all of them, for scientists are human and have the same failings as the rest of us, but enough of them to allow science to improve.

The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

{May 21, 2007}   LinuxConf Europe 2007

LinuxConf Europe is a new conference for linux developers organised as a collaboration between the UK Unix User Group and the German Unix User Group. It will take place at the University Arms Hotel in Cambridge from Sunday 2nd September to Tuesday 4th September 2007, immediately preceding the invitation-only Kernel Summit (organised by USENIX) at the same venue. LinuxConf Europe will consist of two or more streams of talks and tutorials alongside a small exhibition.

{May 17, 2007}   Ren’Py Visual Novel Engine in Debian

Ren’Py is an engine that supports the creation of visual novels and storytelling. I fell in love with it since I first saw it, almost two years ago, and some of my friends know how much work I’ve devoted to that package so that it’s finally in Debian in a proper state, including submitting many patches to upstream. Lots of thanks go to Ana for all her help and support with this package.

Ren’Py is designed to make writing complete visual novels as easy as possible. The engine supports, of course, conversations between the two characters, but also images, different transitions between pictures, music and sound, so playing a game can be a complete multimedia experience. The engine itself is based in Python and SDL (in fact, it is based in python-pygame). Anyway, ccording to the manual, you don’t need to know any programming, or be able to program, to use Ren’Py.

Even though right now there are a lot of games made with Ren’Py available for downloading, most of them are released pre-compiled (for a certain version of python, including the whole interpreter and libraries in the release), and usually targeted towards Windows (even though Ren’Py is supported on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and can be made to run on other platforms). Of course all the authors of the games are welcome if they want to publish them as Free Software, anyway my plans go towards using the engine for developing educative applications.

My only problem is that I need to draw the characters I’ll use throughout the tutorias, which is something I’m not especially good at. I’ve got myself a book on how to draw manga and anime characters, but it’s probably taking a while until I’m proficient enough at that. I’ll try to find someone to help me with that. In fact, it would be great to release a free set of characters that newbie creators of stories could use as a starting point. Lets see if I can find an artist for that.

The main drawback I see is that the dependencies might be too much to put the engine in a small embedded portable gadget to be able to play a visual novel anywhere. Who knows, maybe in the future.

{May 14, 2007}   Chaos Communication Camp 2007

The Chaos Communication Camp is an international, five-day open-air event for hackers and associated life-forms. The Camp features two conference tracks with interesting lectures, workshops and other stuff. It will take place from August 8th to 12th 2007 in Finowfurt near Berlin. You can participate! Bring your tent and join our villages. The Camp has everything you need: power, internet, food and fun.

{May 13, 2007}   Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers

An article published by the Washington Post titled “Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers” and written by Ellen Nakashima has made me worry about what’s happening in the blogosphere.

Here go some extracts:

A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males. A 2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the proportion of Internet users who took part in chats and discussion groups plunged from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2005, entirely because of the exodus of women. The study attributed the trend to “sensitivity to worrisome behavior in chat rooms.”

Sierra, whose recent case has attracted international attention, has suspended blogging. Other women have censored themselves, turned to private forums or closed comments on blogs. Many use gender-neutral pseudonyms. Some just gut it out. But the effect of repeated harassment, bloggers and experts interviewed said, is to make women reluctant to participate online — undercutting the promise of the Internet as an egalitarian forum.

The same way that, throught history, women have been thrown out of the public life and shut in domestic life due to the violence associated to patriarchy, and that being still exacly what happens in many countries all across the world, it seems that some people are trying to make that also a reality in cyberspace, making us go away from the public spaces and hiding in some safe refuges, kind of locking us up in domestic life again. Thankfully the harassers are no more than a bunch of mentally disturbed ones, and most of the people I know, male and female, are strongly against this, but as long as we are responsive to these threats and hide ourselves out of the public life to be safe, we’re gonna have a problem.


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