Older blog entries for Jordi (starting at number 129)

A tale of Tristània and its Quadrennial Royal Ball

In one of the corners of what is now know as Europa, there was a rich, prosperous and beautiful kingdom known as Tristània. In the past, not that long ago, it had been a number of smaller kingdoms and caliphates, all with their own cultures, religions and ways of life. Wars, and series of marriages of convenience eventually configured what ended up being the united kingdom of Tristània. Throughout the years, some of the unified cultures grew and flourished, while others struggled to survive in their ever-shrinking areas of influence.

A required introduction

Sometimes, the minor cultures would suffer due to oppression coming from the delegates of the King, who would ban any expression of these cultures, as they were seen as a potential threat to the kingdom's stability and unity. For example, just a few decades before the main subject of this tale, the predecessor of the incumbent King took power by force, after crushing everyone who opposed his uprise during a bloody and hard civil war. His reign was ruthless and he imposed draconian laws uppon his people: usage and teaching of the minor languages was banned, and everyone was forced to use the language of the Centràlia region, in public or private.

After four decades, the majority of the Tristanian people were sick enough of the situation to consider standing against their fear of the regime and demand freedom, but repression prevailed until the old general died. His place was taken by the King's grandson even if the people had expressed, just before the Great War, that they had had enough kings and demanded a ruler they could choose directly. Of course, the new King seemed a lot nicer than who they had been suffering for ages, so when asked if they accepted the new situation, an overwhelming majority said “yes”.

However, there was a region, Verdàlia, where the majority said “no”. Things were actually more complicated. Verdalians formed a traditional, proud society, and while the years of oppression had undoubtedly weakened it, they had managed to preserve their very unique culture, language and traditions healthy. The Verdal language was really weird to the ears of Centràlians and even other minor cultures of the Kingdom, and erudites struggled to find its real origins, not being able to reach plausible conclusions.

Verdanians, as we already know, were a traditional society, living in a land of deep and poorly connected valleys. Little they knew or cared about the complicated matters of Centràlia and other regions. What made them happy was to take care their sheep and cows, keep a good fire in their living room and, every now and then, enjoy one of their log cutting contests. The impositions of the former dictator were too much for them, and some of them started sabotaging, assaulting and killing some of the dictator's soldiers, agents and officers. This was a huge risk at the time; getting caught meant death penalty for sure, and at first, even people from other regions were in favour of these actions. However, this popular support greatly diminished when the new King took the throne, as these minority continued with the killings, while most of the people saw it was no longer justified.

The Royal Ball

One of the very first measures the young King introduced was to organise the “Royal Ball of Tristània”, a major event through which the people of the different regions would be able to elect their delegates to the Crown. Every four years, a Great Ball contest would happen in Centràlia, and the winners would be able to decide by their own on some of the matters that affected their region. Verdanians would send a few teams of dancers, each of which came from different towns or areas. Some Verdanian teams were happy about the King and the new political situation, but other teams weren't so much. And some others, while being simple non-violent dancers, were known to be supporters of the violent minority who kept on harassing, assaulting and even killing in their struggle for “freedom of Verdània”.

The Verdanian groups aligned with the “different” culture of Verdània (including those who were said to support the violent) tended to get a lot more points in the dancing contest, and a majority of the elected delegates were appointed by them, making it easier to pass laws and edicts that favoured protection of their ways, traditions and language.

No matter how hard they tried, the dancing groups closer to Centràlia kept losing to the majority. After many years of dance contests, these groups used their closeness to the King's court to pass the Ball Law of Tristanian, that would ban any dancing group which didn't condemn the assaults and killings that kept happening in Verdània. The unsurprising result was that, with less dancing groups participating in the following Royal Ball, the Verdanian majority was broken and new delegates, friendly of the Centralian officers, were elected.

Many people who had been in favour of assaults and killings began to question this strategy, and this political movement's unity started to break. In the end, the dancers decided to part ways with the violent; they wanted to dance in the next ball, and to do so, they wrote a letter to the King, in which they explicitly expressed their rejection of violent ways, and their embracing of dancing as the only means to drive their political agenda. An objective reading of the new Ball Law clearly showed that this was enough: the text only said the requisite for a dancing group was to disavow all kinds of violence.

This wasn't really expected in Centràlia, so they started to add new requirements in an attempt to keep this group from the contest: their decisive majority in Verdània was at stake.

The Royal Ball was nearing and registrations for the contest would soon close. The Centralian government first argued that the dancing group should reject the violence coming from the Verdanian extremists in particular. The dancers did it. Then they argued that the dancers were the same people who had been supporting violence in Verdània for years, and “obviously” their violence rejection statement was a lie. The dancers struggled to find new dancers who had not been involved in past dances. But it was not enough. They then claimed that this dance group should be quarantined for four years, until they could prove they really were serious about their new non-violent ideas.

The dance group made a plea to the Tristànian Supreme Counsel, a group of sixteen experts in law of the Kingdom, and argued that all of these draconian requirements were not part of the law that was being enforced by the King. Their appeal to the elder counselors was in vain, though. They ruled this dancing group was as criminal as the violent minority they had once supported, and should by no means take part in the Royal Ball.

As a last, desperate measure, the dancing group reached an agreement with other Verdanian dancers to join forces. They would adopt a new name and new dancing costume colours. Many feared this would only end up in the ban of the other dancing group.

Unfortunately, the end of this story has not been written yet, but it will be completed very soon. Only time will tell if things continue being very sad and unfair in Tristània, or if the dance contest will once again be impartial, with legitimate results.

Syndicated 2011-03-31 23:40:00 from I still don't have a title


This past weekend I've had the pleasure to join our friends from Valls, in the Camp de Tarragona, for our annual Calçotada in Picamoixon's countryside. This was the fourth time in a row I attend, and as always, it's been a blast, even if Enric and Clara weren't there, and the Valencian group was reduced to just 5 of us.

Unfortunately I had my share of alcohol on Friday evening/night while partying with my workmates so when we got to Tarragona I was basically wasted. This made me not want to take a single sip of any kind of beverage not consisting of a 100% of water during the two days, but that didn't, of course, spoil a single moment of fun.

Again, we've had the full traditional pack: prepare, cook and enjoy the delicious calçots; our share of mayhem just after eating them, during the calçot war, which this time resulted in a really filthy face and hair; our little walk around the area, including a visit to the “chapel of the altar boy”; play in the metres tall mountains of gravel in the quarry and a brief visit to the ruins of an abandoned house, to discovered none of the floors have colapsed yet.

A great finish for a great weekend is getting to visit Jordi and Anna, after 3 years of no luck, and finally meeting their lovely 2.5 years old daughter Martina.

This weekend just rocks, and I'm already looking forward to next year's!

Syndicated 2011-02-28 23:22:00 from I still don't have a title


When I returned from the first FOSDEM edition I attended, I wrote that I had liked and enjoyed that weekend in Brussels so much, that this conference had probably become a “must”.

It seems I was right. Five years later, I'm delighted to say

I'm going to FOSDEM 2011

I'm happy to meet so many friends from the Debian, GNOME or GNU projects, and enjoy the kindness of our hosts in Brussels, Raül and Virginia. And I'm looking forward to the awesome beer, the excellent talks and discussions, and that unique FOSDEM atmosphere that makes this so special. See you there!

Syndicated 2011-02-03 22:45:00 from I still don't have a title

New project to discuss

Reading Scott's recent announcement on his move to Google was both surprising and a pleasure. Surprising, because it'll take time to stop associating his name to Ubuntu, Canonical, and the nice experiences I had while I worked with them. A pleasure, because his blog post was full of reminiscences of the very early days of a project that ended up being way more successful in just a few years than probably anyone in the Oxford conference could imagine. Scott, best of luck for this new adventure!

Scott's write-up includes a sentence that made me remember I had been wanting to write a blog post related to all of this, but was pending Mark Shuttleworth's permission for posting:

Ok, Mark wasn’t really a Nigerian 419 scammer, but some people did discard his e-mail as spam!

― Scott James Remnant

Many know the story of how I ended not being part of the “Super-Secret-Debian-Startup” Scott mentions. I even wrote about it in a blog post, 3 years ago:

[...] nothing beats the next email which sat for some dramatic 6 months in my messy inbox until I found out in the worst of the possible scenarios. Let's go back to late February, 2004, when I had no job, and I didn't have a clue on what to do with my life.

From: Mark Shuttleworth <mark@hbd.com>
Subject: New project to discuss
To: Jordi Mallach <jordi@debian.org>
Date: Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:33:51 +0000

I'm hiring a team of debian developers to work full time on a new
distribution based on Debian. We're making internationalisation a prime
focus, together with Python and regular release management. I've discussed
it with a number of Debian leaders and they're all very positive about it.

I'm not sure if I totally missed it as it came in, or I skimmed through it and thought “WTF?! Dude on crack” or I just forgot “I need to reply to this email”, but I'd swear it was the former. Not long after, no-name-yet.com popped up, the rumours started spreading around Debian channels. Luckily, I got a job at LliureX two months later, where I worked during the following 2½ years, but that's another story. I guess it was July or so when Ubuntu was made public, and Mark and his secret team organised a conference (blog entries [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]), just before the Warty release, and I was invited to it, for the same reasons I got that email.

During that conference, probably because Mark sent me some email and I applied a filter to get to it, I found the lost email, and felt like digging a hole to hide for a LONG while. I couldn't believe the incredible opportunity I had missed. I went to Mark and said "hey, you're not going to believe this", and he did look quite surprised about someone being such an idiot.

I wonder if I should reply to his email today...

When the usual suspects in the secret Spanish Debian Cabal channel read this blog post, they decided Mark deserved a reply, even if it would hit his inbox more than three and a half years late. :)

With great care, we crafted an email that would look genuinely stupid in late 2007, but just arrogant and idiotic in 2004, when “Ubuntu” was just an African word, and the GNU/Linux distribution landscape was quickly evolving ―at the time, Gentoo Linux had the “posh distribution” crown, that Debian had held for quite a few years. I even took enough care to forge the X-Operating-System and User-Agent headers so they matched whatever was current in Debian in February 2004, and of course, top-posting seemed most appropriate.

So Mark woke up that Monday, fired up his email client, and got... this:

Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 09:47:55 +0100
From: Jordi Mallach <jordi@sindominio.net>
To: Mark Shuttleworth <mark@hbd.com>
Subject: Re: New project to discuss
Organization: SinDominio
X-Operating-System: Debian GNU/Linux sid (Linux 2.6.3 i686)
User-Agent: Mutt/

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your email. I nearly deleted this e-mail because for some
reason I thought it was targetted spam.

Your project looks very interesting, almost like a dream come true.
However, I feel a bit uneasy about your proposal. Something just doesn't

Why would someone start a company to work on /yet another/ Debian
derivative? Have you heard about Progeny's sad story? I think it's a
great example to show that Debian users don't want Debian-based distros,
they want people to work on the "real thing". Besides, I don't think
there's much more place for successful commercial distros, with Red Hat
and SuSE having well-established niches in the US and Europe.

Also, why focus on Debian specifically, Why not, for example, Gentoo,
which has a lot of buzz these days, and looks poised to be the next big

To be honest, I think only a few people have the stamina or financial
stability to undertake a project like this, so I'd like to know
a bit more about you, and details on how you plan to sustain the

Those are the main issues that worry me about your project. Other than
that, I would be interested in taking part in it, as I'm currently
unemployed and working on something Debian-based would be just too good
to miss.

You can reach me at +34 123 45 67 89, or if you feel like flying people
around Europe, I probably can be in the UK whenever it fits you.

Thanks, and hoping to hear from you again,

On Sun, Feb 29, 2004 at 06:33:51PM +0000, Mark Shuttleworth wrote:
> Hi Jordi
> We haven't met, but both Jeff Waugh and Martin Michelmayr recommended that
> I get in touch with you in connection with a new project that I'm starting.
> I'm hiring a team of debian developers to work full time on a new
> distribution based on Debian. We're making internationalisation a prime
> focus, together with Python and regular release management. I've discussed
> it with a number of Debian leaders and they're all very positive about it.
> Would you be available to discuss it by telephone? I'm in the UK, so we
> could probably find a good timezoine easily enough ;-) Let me knof if
> you're keen to discuss it, when and what number to call.
> Cheers,
> Mark
> --
> Try Debian GNU/Linux. Software freedom for the bold, at www.debian.org
> http://www.markshuttleworth.com/

As you can imagine, his reaction was immediate:

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 11:13:54 +0100
From: Mark Shuttleworth <mark@hbd.com>
To: Jordi Mallach <jordi@sindominio.net>
Subject: Re: New project to discuss

Jordi! I just got this now! Did you recently flush an old mail queue?

With thanks to all the Spanish Cabal members who were involved!

Syndicated 2011-01-14 20:19:00 from I still don't have a title


Last night was the last time I came back from a pub with my clothes stinking due to tobacco smoke. The Spanish congress has finally approved a real anti-smoking law which will ban smoking on public areas, with no exceptions or ways to workaround the ban. Starting on January 2nd, the Spanish state will be a smoke-free region (or mostly, it seems it'll be permitted in open-air events like football stadiums or bullrings, and I don't think that will be a great problem for me, specially the latter).

For years, my intolerance to smoke has been increasing and I'm really expectant to see the benefits of this law in my habits. After more than 30 years dealing with smoke around us, it's our turn now. I've been speaking to a few barmans. In general they seem worried this will affect their business, but I can't see how it will. Spain has a big culture for having mid-morning almuerzos in bars, and people are not going to give that up due to not being able to smoke. They will just do it after they get out, not during the coffee, and that's it. The barmans of the two bars I visit most are non-smokers, but have to breath the smoke of hundreds of cigarretes every day, and can't do anything about it. Until tomorrow, when this will end and everyone will have a right to breath better air. I hope this kind of legislation continues to be adopted throughout Europe, because the FOSDEM welcome party is probably the next smoke horror I'll have to face soonish. :)

Syndicated 2010-12-31 15:47:00 from I still don't have a title

The unforeseen consequences of our GR 11 Summer walk

I knew walking all over the Pyrenees during a whole month would come with some side effects. I could imagine having a few muscular issues in my legs and some back pain for a while after getting back; after all we did over 7 hours of exercise every single day during a month. What I got after our hike was totally unexpected...

I should have run a half marathon in Gandia on the 21st, and instead I stayed at home doing some assignments. When we came back, I was in a really good condition, and wanted to keep the good shape we had built the month before. Given I haven't been able to swim for nearly a year now, due to the Misterious Shoulder Injury™ and I don't have enough time to go out cycling regularly, I centered my efforts in running, with the idea of starting to get prepared for cross/mountain races this season.

Training had to wait a little because some days after getting back, I got a sudden pain on both knees, which even made climbing stairs difficult. It stuck for a while, and when it finally went away, more or less, I went ahead and tried going out for a run. I haven't been training for over two years, so I indended to increase the distances proggressively. The first day I went out, I ran really nicely for the first 25 minutes, and suddenly I started getting an intense pain in the outer side of my right knee, to the point I could barely walk back home.

I've tried letting them rest for weeks, and every time I try them, the pain comes back. My physiotherapist says my body has developed quite a few asymmetries, probably caused by the many days I had to walk crippled by a big blister in my right foot. As time passes, I feel I'm losing all the physical improvements I had developed during the summer, and I can't do anything about it.

The new approach to tackle this is yoga. I know my body isn't too elastic, and the lack of stretching during the walk made it even worse, so I'll try to forget about “real” traning during some time and focus on healing my muscles. Hopefully, this will help me resolve the nastiest physical problem I've ever come across.

Syndicated 2010-11-30 23:47:00 from I still don't have a title

Recipe Manager meets arròs a banda

Two weeks ago, nekohayo posted a blog entry on Recipe Manager, a (you guessed it) cooking recipe manager for GNOME. Looking good, I fetched the bzr tree from Launchpad and played a bit with it, and soon discovered it had no internationalisation support.

I've tried to add i18n properly, but I've not had enough time to do it. Before tackling that, the authors need to give it some bootstrapping love so the app can actually install, look for its files in /usr/share, etc.

My fugly, unpostable current patch does allow for a preview of how Recipe Manager will teach the world about the best rice dish ever, arròs a banda. Yum!

Recipe Manager, showing off the zenith of Valencian culture

Syndicated 2010-10-25 00:12:00 from I still don't have a title

GNOME 2.32

Once again, the GNOME project has released a major release on time, to the day. Congrats! While it doesn't feel like a major release, due to the pushing back of GNOME 3.0 another 6 months in the middle of the cycle and the limited changes included, I believe it'll be a good one because it just adds on top of the really solid GNOME 2.30.

GNOME 2.32 is out a bit too late for Debian squeeze, but the Debian GNOME team has a plan™ to incorporate new 2.32 versions for modules which don't include big, intrussive changes like migrations to dconf, or any other dependency on the new versions of GTK or GLib. The result is that Debian 6.0 will ship with most of GNOME 2.30, plus some cherrypicked new versions of 2.32 modules.

Syndicated 2010-09-30 23:49:00 from I still don't have a title

De mar a mar, hiking across the Pyrenees

Two weeks ago, Maria and I completed one of our dreams when we arrived in Cap de Creus, where the Pyrenean range sinks in the Mediterranean. To get there, we walked hundreds of kilometres during a month, crossed dozens of steep valleys and enjoyed one of the richest experiences of our lives.

We managed to complete this challenge without facing major problems or pains, and after the first five our six days, our legs seemed to have gotten used to the daily effort and it started to be easier and easier. Our morale kept growing as days passed and we advanced east. When I started walking on a cold and rainy morning in Hondarribia, after barely no rest in the night bus to Irún, I thought for myself that it was improbable that we'd manage to get anywhere near Catalunya, that one of us would get injuried way before, or we'd just give up and go for the easy beach vacation in the Basque Country.

Biadós refuge, under Posets

But we didn't, and after a somewhat painful start, with our boots soaking wet during the stages that crossed the enchanting Selva de Irati which ended up with me getting the biggest blister I've ever seen, we started to walk farther every day, extending the stages when we felt strong after reaching their official end. When we crossed from Nafarroa to Aragonese territory, the mental wall that I had built over the toughest stages in our quest started to fall apart. Days later, we found ourselves climbing down to Pineta, leaving Ordesa behind and enjoying a feeling that our adventure could not go better. The weather had been perfect for over a week and our legs and back were strong to go all over the way to the sea.

Cañón de Añisclo, on our way to Pineta

When we finally saw that huge blue stain on the horizon, the day before getting to the last mark, we got really excited. We had made it, but as we walked towards the cape, happiness slowly got mixed with melancholy. An unforgettable adventure was about to end, and we didn't want to face our return to the city and our routines. It had been many days surrounded only by awesome landscapes, and living without watches, with only sunlight and weariness marking the time to get in our sleeping bags.

At the very last red and white mark of our journey

We've had plenty of time to meet great people. Starting with the Navarrian brothers we met in the early stage, which provided us with a good pace to follow while our leg muscles were still building up; or Kike and Ana, who drove from Pamplona to visit us during the first Aragonese stages (thanks for the supplies!). Tomàs and Roger, young hikers from Mataró, surprised us with their maturity and experience as mountaineers; we had the pleasure to join forces during four days, walking a really cool variant through the Infiernos and Collado del Letrero which avoided going through the ghost city of Panticosa. Roger and Tomàs, we really hope to meet you soon! Andreu, Manel, Ghandi and Gaŀla visited us at the Vall de Núria and were unlucky to suffer a frightening hail and thunder storm when they left our shelter on their way back to their car. Thanks! All of you have been a very special part of our experience!

This adventure through GR 11 has been incredibly positive for us for several reasons. We've learned a lot about ourselves and strengthened our relation, and now I know how powerful drive can be; to get somewhere, no matter how far, it's really easy if you just believe you can do it and desire to get there.

Maria and I are proud of what we've done, and no wonder we're looking for new challenges. An obvious one would be repeating this experience, going through the French side of the Pyrenees, but for now, the Corsican GR 20 seems the most apealing. We'll see, next summer!

Syndicated 2010-08-31 23:40:00 from I still don't have a title

Hiking through the Pyrenean GR 11

Tomorrow, at this time, I'll probably be unsuccessfully trying to find a comfortable position on a seat of the Bilmanbus to Irun. Very early on Saturday, as soon as we get off the bus, Maria and I will quickly head to Hondarribia's beach in Cape Higer to symbolically wet our feet in the waters of the Cantabrian Sea.

We won't have much time to enjoy the cold waters of the ocean, though. Soon after that, we'll have to take a deep breath, look East, and start walking if we want to achieve our utmost objective: take a bath in the beautiful beaches of the Cap de Creus, in the Mediterranean sea. In between, 30 days and 840 kilometres of thick woods, deep valleys, high peaks and cold waters, all of which shape incredible landscapes.

The Portella de Baiau, during our 2008 trip

For a whole month, we'll be mostly disconnected from everything else that isn't our knee ache, our blisters, the Sun over our heads or where to get food. It's the first time I leave on a hiking trip as long and tough as this one, and I feel both uncertainty and eagerness. We've been so busy during the last few months that we've been unable to train at all for this, and I'm probably in the worst physical condition in a decade. It's too late to take care of that now, so we'll try to take good care of our legs and spine.

In order to get back home in the Mediterranean, we'll have to be fast, some days joining two stages and skipping a few that we know are not that interesting (sections over asphalt, etc.). It's hard to make it in just one month, but we'll try our best. The plan is going to sleep not long after sunset, getting up at dawn, to be able to walk for a decent time before the heat starts being a handicap and just resting at midday, when the Sun is

Of course, this means that I'm missing, yet again, this year's edition of DebConf in New York City, which is really sad because I was looking forward hanging around with Mako, Mika, Biella, micah, Clint and the rest of the NYC/ Boston gang, but when the idea of doing a long trip this summer popped up around January, it was clear DebConf seemed unlikely this year. I hope all of you have a lot of fun, and see you in a few weeks!

Syndicated 2010-07-16 00:14:00 from I still don't have a title

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