Wed, 27 Oct 2004

Softcatalà wins the National Internet Prize of the Catalan Government

The people at Softcatalà have been awarded one of this year's National Prizes for Television, Radio Broadcast, Internet and Telecomunications of the Generalitat de Catalunya, for the Internet category.

Softcatalà is a non-profit, volunteer organization that has been working since 1997 to bring Catalan to the IT world and normalizing its usage. These people have been translating software for many years, and need to take most of the credit for the current situation of Catalan in the software world. While Softcatalà ocassionaly works on non-free software translations, with the rise of Free Software the focus of their work has clearly shifted towards it. They are responsible for the widely distributed Catalan translations of OpenOffice, Mozilla products, GNOME and even books like Stallman's Free as in Freedom. Besides the translations, one of the big achievements, in my eyes, is that their Style Guide and Wordlist are the de-facto standard policy documents when translating software into Catalan. Maybe involuntarily or as a secondary goal, they are bringing many, many people to GNU/Linux just because currently it's the only way that people have to use their computers integrally in their mother tongue.

I officially joined Softcatalà when I started working on GNOME 1.5 translations, and today's announcement has filled me, like the rest of the team, with a nice, warm feeling for this unexpected reward for many hours banging at Emacs po-mode.

Today is a big day for the Catalan Free Software communities. Congratulations, everyone!

Mon, 11 Oct 2004

Defeated by the wind

Yesterday I took the decision to abandon the group and get back early to València, after having completed 200 kilometres of the cycling trip.

The first day was very tough, as we started nearly at sea level and went up to 1.400 metres at some points. Most of Saturday's journey was climbing up, sometimes during 15 kilometres without a single small rest in the road, and when the bicycle bags were heavy and full of food. We should have tried to find a lighter route for the first day, but it's quite difficult in that area. We already changed it slightly to avoid climbing the road to Fredes and went to Boxar, discovering that the route to Boxar wasn't easy either. After lunch and a few more hours of steep roads, we arrived at Morella, which was packed with tourists... we had to open our way through the crowded streets on our way to the square where we wanted to rest. Not long after, we set off for our final destination, Iglesuelas del Cid, and found that the road from Morella to Cinctorres was a lot harder than we imagined. We stopped in Cinctorres for a few minutes to eat some chocolate cookies, which are the secret to keep on pushing the pedals, and continued our way up, after being warned by the people in the town that we had some 6 or 7 bad kilometres ahead until Portell.

After the first 3 or so it was clear we wouldn't make it to Iglesuelas, as the Sun was quite low already. When we were mostly there, the real problems started for me, as it seems I had too many cookies and my stomach didn't like it. Also, given the lack of real cycling training in the last too many months, my left quadricep started to get annoyed by the constant activity, and hurted quite a bit. In Portell de Morella, we had dinner and looked for some shelter where to sleep, and found a nice place with a roof in the main square of the town.

At 11 or so the three of us were inside the sleeping bags, but we were too near the town's bar, and there was a lot of sound. Also, we discovered that the square was used by the young people to meet before going to other towns spend the night, so we couldn't sleep until they all were gone. At 4AM or so, two girls came back from their night, one of them crying loudly because some boy had been bad to her. They didn't notice us, so they kept talking loudly and crying, until I kindly asked them to go away, which luckily they did.

A few hours later, at dawn, we got up, packed again and set off to Iglesuelas without having much breakfast. The landscape in this area was beautiful, and after climbing up a mountain, we could enjoy the sight as we descended. I didn't know Iglesuelas is so cool, it's full of small palaces, streets made of stone and cool buildings. We had breakfast there and continued our way towards Gúdar and Rubielos de Mora. In the middle of this was Linares de Mora, which we couldn't imagine would be so terrible.

An hour or so after leaving Iglesuelas, we finally met with Kiko, who joined the group, and started to climb the Puerto de Linares. We started to have strong wind against us, and my quadricep said "enough" after 1 hour of cycling on the steep roads with very cold wind.

When we finally made it, going down to Linares was nearly worse than the climbing, as the wind literally blew us from one side of the road to the other one. I have never ridden a bicycle I had so little control over, it was really scary, but luckily the heavy bags behind us probably made less difficult to stay on top of the bicycles.

At that point, I was completely out of fuel, with a very bad cold and muscular problems in my legs, but above all, my morale was at minimum. I started thinking about the possibility of abandoning, as Kiko's parents were near the area and could easily pick me up at some point in the road. When we stopped in Rubielos to have lunch and I thought how much I had suffered, I took the decision to end the adventure there, not being too sure of how my legs would react to the third day.

Once I was back at home I've realized I took the correct decision because the cold is quite bad and my stomach isn't getting any better. Too bad I'll have to deal with some mockery when the rest come back, but I already knew that when I took the decision...

Next year, I hope we retake our plan to do the trip to Mallorca, which will be quite plain and nice...

Fri, 08 Oct 2004

Crazy cycling trip

Early on Saturday we'll set off for what will probably be the craziest and biggest adventure ever. Kike, Kiko, Raúl and I will start a cycling trip during all of the long weekend we have in Spain, travelling through four Spanish provinces in just four days.

Last year, we did something similar (Catalan) when we followed part of the route El Cid Campeador took while he conquered all of this land, centuries ago. The experience marked me a lot, because I had never travelled without knowing where I would sleep, or if we'd find something to eat that night. During 4 days and nights, we crossed the provinces of Teruel and Castelló, carrying all we needed on our bikes. In total, we completed something like 420 kms, after sleeping three nights under the stars.

This year, it's the same story, with a few major differences. The route is different, of course. We'll go to Vinaròs by car, kindly lifted by Raúl's dad, and from there, we'll travel to Ulldecona, Fredes, Morella, Camarilla, Alcalá de la Selva, Javalambre, Ademúz and Requena, where we'll fetch a train to València. In total, that's over 510 kms to complete in less than four days, which is pretty crazy.

If this isn't enough, Raúl is talking about not carrying a camping tent, to save some kilograms in our "luggage". Normally we wouldn't use it anyway, but it's good to know you have it behind you just in case you come across a storm.

And this takes us to the worst part. The weather forecasts say we're going to be soaking wet pretty soon after we start, and rain will be a constant all over the four days. I can imagine the cold getting inside my wet maillot already and not being able to change clothes... or getting to a village and not finding some dry place where we can sleep.

We're prepared to do it, anyway. It's going to be tough, but I'm very looking forward to my first computer-free vacation in the last many months.

Thu, 07 Oct 2004

Season 2004/2005 starting

Last Monday was the official start of the new triathlon season for the team. Some of the team people had started way before, early in September, but I decided to wait for the first official day.

This year we've got quite a few newcomers, including two Italians and two very young athletes (a 17 y/o boy and a 18 y/o girl), and they seem to like the team. Probably this is because the training is very easy right now: no swimming yet (we're looking for a suitable new swimming pool) and no cycling yet for many as they lack road bicycles. I'm pretty unmotivated to train right now, for a number of reasons, but attended the first to days to more or less welcome them and to see if I got thrilled to start a new season. But not really... I guess the reasons for this lack of motivation are not easy to ignore.

During the two years I've been on the team I've mostly subtituted my friends with new ones, all related to the triathlon world. I mostly didn't find time to visit or do things with my other friends, even if I kept thinking about phoning them or going to their places to see what they were up to. Most of the time I never did, because I just forgot, having too many things in my head, or no time at all to do it. I want to change this, and the only solution is to focus triathlon in some other way that doesn't require most of my free time for trainings. After all, I'm not going to win races or feel better with myself even if I train 10 hours each day, so there's no need to...

Also, my schedule is going to be a lot tighter this year, with work and uni getting quite intense, so that means less free time. My closer teammates progressed a lot last year, and they have grand training plans for this new season. One day we met to talk about these plans and I couldn't help feeling completely out of the group, as the objectives were completely different.

But on the other hand, my flatmates are triathletes, so that might help me going out to train every now and then. We'll see soon, when the training starts getting serious. For now, I'll just try to go out for a run when I feel like it, and avoid it when it feels like an obligation.

Andrew, good luck with your new sport!

Tue, 05 Oct 2004

ADSL upgrade

Yesterday I wasn't able to log into my home server from the office, and I assumed the load had skyrocketed again, as it happens every now and then. Timing was quite bad because I'm very busy in the evenings these days, but I went to my father's house to see what was going on, and when I got there I saw the server was mostly idling. WTF? Shortly after I noticed my local named wouldn't resolve barely anything, and I couldn't ssh out, as the connection would hang in the middle of the handshakes. I started looking at my 3com router configuration, seemed ok; rebooted the box, nothing changed; started cursing, which changed nothing either... until I realized it was probably a telco thing. I told my father "it'll probably be fixed automagically" and left the house.

When I came back from training, I managed to ssh in and quickly tested the downstream speed. As I suspected, the downtime was caused by Telefónica tweaking our stuff to upgrade the ADSL's of the area from 256/128 to 512/128. Uplink still sucks, but oh well, we got this for "free" (ie, we still pay way to much for crappy connections in Spain, but we're slowly getting what the rest of Europe seems to have).

Moreover, today the cable company finally opened up the street and installed their stuff to offer their service. 5 or 6 years late...

Mon, 04 Oct 2004

Niños de la guerra

This evening I went with Kiko and Kike to see an exposition about the thousands of children from the areas loyal to the Spanish Republic who were evacuated to different destinations outside of Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

I'm passionate about anything regarding this war, and I really don't know why. At the time of the uprising of the fascists led, the National Labour Confederation, of libertarian socialist ideals had a lot of support in Spain, and led much of the resistance against Franco's forces in Madrid, Barcelona and València. That's probably one reason that makes the Civil War so fascinating to me, but there are others, like the stories of things that happened in Catalunya during those hard years, as told by my grandmother, or the awful life the defeated had after Franco won the war and the long dictatorship started.

The exposition has a lot of material regarding the fate of all these children who's parents sent outside so they could avoid the bombings, hunger and horror of the war. Of the 32.000 children that were evacuated, 20.000 went to France, some other few thousands to England, Wales and Scotland, Belgium, USSR and Mexico. Denmark and Norway didn't recieve any, but funded a few colonies in France. Other non-official initiatives from Switzerland, USA and other countries also sent money in to help them. Of course, this doesn't count the many which crossed the French border to exile with their families, which probably would add a few 300.000 more.

You can see American and English stamps and postcards with "Help the Spanish children" messages for fundraising, and assorted objects like dresses, shoes, dolls, etc. which people kept from the day they crossed the border. The exposition is divided into different areas which explain the details of how things went for these children depending on the different destinations.

The kids sent to Mexico and the USSR probably had a very tough time, because it took a long while for them to return to Spain, if they ever did, as Mexico and the USSR didn't recognize the new Spanish government. Those sent to Russia quickly faced the siege of Leningrad, and those in Mexico lost the government support when their president was replaced. In France, many had to live in refugee camps which were quite bad, and many who were old enough to carry a gun soon went out to fight against the nazis.

Every now and then you could find a letter or two written by a child to their parents in Spain, telling them how well they were being treated, how quick they were learning French, or that they were 10kgs heavier than when they arrived. There was one letter, though, that moved me so much that I was very close to burst in tears. It's a farewell letter of a man in prison, a few hours before being shot by the fascists. He tells her daugher and wife that he's innocent and has nothing to be sorry for, and asks them to redo their lives after his death. The letter ends with a "I will die thinking about you", which made me feel my eyes a bit wet.

There's a nice website with nice pictures and information about the Spanish exile, if you're interested. If you're in València, this is a must see, though.

Sun, 03 Oct 2004

Moving to Benimaclet

Getting a job meant a few things for me: getting up early, having to do a few things that go against my political views, dealing with cigarrette smoke, a severe cut in your time to do fun stuff, and a lot more. But of course, it had to happen some day, right? Not everything is bad, though. The income has helped me to finally go to live with a few friends, something I really was looking forward to, but couldn't afford at all.

We looked for a flat in Benimaclet, a neighbourhood which is in the North limit of the city and which had been an independent small town until a few decades ago, when València finally grew enough to make it part of itself. My father lived there for a few good years when I was 8 years old, and now most of my friends, triathletes and non-triathletes, live there, so I really wanted to find some house there.

We were very lucky, and found a nice flat in the area which had renewed bathrooms and kitchen, and enough room for 3 persons and 6 bicycles. I got a bit unlucky in the drawing to assign rooms and got the smaller one. It is really small, and I'll have to squeeze my brain to get all my stuff in it. I'm already considering buying a TFT monitor because the CRT will just take up too much space (and it's showing some signs of dying sometime soon anyway), and anything I want to add to the room will have to be screwed to the wall, as just the bed, wardrobe and desk fill up the floor surface.

My flatmates are two of my triathlon club teammates, Kiko and Rubén, which have moved already. I've been a bit too busy lately, but will start living there this week. We'll see how it goes... last Thursday we held an inauguration dinner with different friends, which was quite cool. Hopefully there'll be pics up on our site soonish.