This weekend was fun, on Sunday some friends invited me to tag along on their weekend hike. All this happened because the company I work for decided to donate money to a charitable cause, the money amount was proportional to the distance logged by all its employees so that was motivation for us to run, walk or hike during the weekend.

The hike was long (11+ Km), it took us around 1.5 hrs. Some of the highlights were the peace and landscapes, like this one:

Quick picture taken during the 5 minutes of sun we had

With my bad luck of course it had to hail (yes, hail) only during lunch break but all in all this was a welcome change from my usual activities.

By the way, I am still sore.

Day 22 of

Context

For a while now I’ve been trying to find ways to convey the risks of social media and the importance of privacy to my non-tech savvy family members, in a previous entry I went over getting away from WhatsApp (Facebook really) and using element connected to my own self hosted synapse server.

The Social Dilemma

Two weeks ago I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, which I really enjoyed. To elaborate further these are my main take aways:

  • The people featured in the documentary explain things is easy to follow for non – tech oriented people, because, let’s be honest, sometimes people from technical backgrounds tend to make assumptions or loose patience while explaining (I know I have)
  • Some of the creators of some social media platforms or multiple of their functionalities (such as the like button for Facebook) were involved in the creation of this documentary and even willing to admit that they didn’t think of the negative uses of said functionalities! A couple examples that come to mind are people doing everything (varying degrees of ridiculousness) to go up in this like/views based system on YouTube or live streaming horrible deeds on < insert your video streaming platform of choice here > to spread fear/hate
  • The fact that Center for Humane Technology (featured in the documentary) was started by the same people that created or helped in the creation of diverse social media platforms and the fact that people that work for social media platforms go to great lengths to get their own kids to stay away from their own creations should both be huge red flags for “us, normal users”.
  • The “Brain hacking” algorithms work on you even if you’re highly educated or know how they work

Ongoing efforts

After watching the documentary and recommending it to my folks back home (English is a bit hard for them so I’m thankful for Netflix translations), a search for similar resources began and a pleasant exchange with @humanetech (Mastodon account that represents Humane Tech Community ) turned up some very good sites like Social Cooling – Big Data’s unintended side effect which was nice but I began thinking:

“Hey, most of the resources are in English , it doesn’t make sense to have/share them if most of the vulnerable population isn’t highly educated and speaks the language (at least in my country), maybe translation of such resources is a good idea”

After deciding to be a little proactive I offered this thought to @humanetech which was received with enthusiasm and after being pointed to one of their forum’s threads I discovered someone had already thought about this and even volunteered to translate to Italian, at this point I thought I could help translating to Spanish, so I joined the forum and officially volunteered as tribute well, which began another thread dedicated to gathering resources for possible translation.

So that’s all it took to take some action to help a little bit, a couple of toots and some forum posts, I really hope some translation effort happens, interest seems to be there as at the time of writing there are other people who volunteered to translate to Portuguese, German and Russian (this last one 2 hours before this entry was live).

If my thoughts resonate with you, you can join the forum, volunteer to translate or overall reach out to exchange ideas either on mastodon or on Humane Tech Community forum

Day 19 of

Context

I am writing this entry because today is September 15th, almost Mexican Independence day. Fun fact: The whole thing really started on September 16th, 210 years ago but to this day is celebrated on the night of the 15th because one of our presidents wanted to celebrate his birthday at the same time. See Porfirio Diaz for more details.

This entry is a bit of a rant about living abroad and what everyone calls “Mexican food”

My problem with “Mexican” food

It’s not a secret that my country is known for having the best a very rich cuisine, however I feel that it is very badly represented abroad thanks to our neighbors from the US (I am not trying to start a flame war here).

Since I started living abroad (almost 3 years ago now) I’ve seen many different representations, admittedly good food but not what I would call Mexican, I think the most common misconceptions are:

  • No Mexican uses cheddar cheese, that just doesn’t happen
  • The corn most people know in Mexico is neither sweet nor yellow (there are blue and red varieties but I won’t get into that)
  • No, we don’t really celebrate cinco de Mayo (although it is a very good excuse our friends from the US like to use to eat tons of avocado and drink tequila, but by all means go ahead 🙂 )
  • Chili con carne, most burritos and sweet chili sauce are what would be better described as “Tex-Mex”
  • I’ve seen interesting varieties, anything with corn chips, sliced, jalapeño peppers, tomato or beans slapped on top is called “Mexican” (I’ve seen this in the US and all over Europe)
  • Apparently Norway and Sweden have a long standing tradition of “Taco Friday”: lots of minced meat with cumin and other spices and taco shells

So there you go, weird moments whenever I hear “Oh, you’re Mexican? I love Mexican food!”, which is why I always ask if the person has ever been to Mexico (Come on, at least Cancun is a popular destination isn’t it?)

Hope this information is useful, at least it lets me blow off some steam and think about the food I love so much but can’t have on this day.

Day 18 of

A brief summary: I’ve been looking into privacy friendly alternatives to software most of us use or used in our everyday lives. To be more precise, an alternative to WhatsApp for communication within my family. Long story short: I lost this one…

A while back I switched from WhatsApp to Signal and kind of forced my family to switch as well, however:

Signal requires a phone number and depends on centralized servers. I know there are ways to have your own server but as far as I know the process can be difficult, there is no one-to-one video calls on desktop (yet) and there is no support for federation out of the box (If you, the reader, have more info on this point I’d love to know since I have only researched on the surface of the topic)

My current solution is a synapse installation and element client app on desktop, iOS and android device, which seems to meet all the requirements I had plus the installation process is fast and easy on a yunohost server

On the technical side of things everything is fine and works, we are able to communicate securely through a home server I own and manage but the thing is: My family only uses element to communicate with me and they keep relying on WhatsApp to communicate between them and others. It is a bit frustrating but at least our video calls are private so there is a silver lining here.

The arguments to use it have been many: “there are no customizable stickers”, “What do you have to hide? don’t be so paranoid”, “I don’t care if I am spied on, I’m not that interesting”, “all my friends are on WhatsApp and I like to have a single app for all my conversations”

I have been trying to explain the risks of thinking like this and after being frustrated for a while I realized that most people concerned with privacy have an electronic or computer engineering (or similar) backgrounds, we sometimes are a bit big-headed (at least I have been at times) and forget how it is to have no understanding of how apps and communication work.

I’d like to use this entry post to encourage people to be more understanding and patient while trying to explain privacy risks or persuading non-tech oriented people, after all, even when we’re right, no one likes an arrogant smart-ass and forcing everyone to be more privacy oriented is impossible.

Let’s keep it up, do and take what you can.

Day 17 of

Let me start by saying that the purpose of this entry is not to say “Look at how selfless I am for donating money to FOSS organizations or projects” so, with that in mind, I will not list any specific quantities because that is not the point I am trying to make. Having written the proper disclaimer, let’s get to it:

My preferences

In the past month I have written about my projects and experiences with FOSS, self hosting and even digital art. Here’s the list of organizations/projects I support and why I chose them:

  • Krita: I just loved how they’re working hard to include amazing brushes and textures by default. I didn’t try digital before because I’m used to traditional media (in particular watercolor).
  • Yunohost: Easy self-hosting solution, very nice people in the forums and even this blog runs on a Yunohost server!
  • ManjaroARM: I just love what they’re doing for the Pinebook, Pinephone and Raspberry Pi
  • Fosstodon.org: My mastodon instance and what started the whole “better/safer digital life” train I’m on
  • Matrix.org: I’m using my own Synapse server for encrypted communication with my family, thanks to Yunohost.

(there are many more I’d like to support but, you know, adulting and paying the bills…)

Why donate?

Aside from sharing my preferences I’d like to encourage you (my surely millions of readers that is 😛 ) to support any FOSS project you’ve found useful or interesting, either by donating a small amount of money or (even better) by contributing with time and coding expertise.

Day 16 of

I like to keep up to date with the latest news on the consumer electronics market (newest phones, laptops and processors) and lately I’ve found myself thinking: “That looks like a great phone/laptop, I should get it”.

Then the thought that usually follows is “Maybe I don’t really need it”

That’s the thing, media constantly bombards us with ads to get new things/gadgets when we already own perfectly working devices…

By the way, this blog entry was written from my still good Moto Z Play (2016), which still lasts for a whole working day with around 37% battery left.

Day 8 of

OK, I am guilty of scrolling through Facebook even though I am on the Fediverse… I simply keep it because everyone else I care about does, anyway, on to the important stuff:

Every once in a while I see something worthwhile there, this time I saw two very interesting posts close to each other (in my timeline at least), these were shared by two different people, both Mexican like me.

The first one came from a someone living in Germany and the other one came from someone living in Mexico.

The first post was about how Mexico is one of the easiest countries in the world to make friends with the locals. It may be biased because the cited article was written from the United States expat perspective, overall I agree with the content. We are friendly, perhaps a little too friendly.

Reference material came from internations.org

The second post was about how according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mexico is one of the worst countries in to live in and raise a family.

Reference material came from OECD – Mexico and the OECD – country ranking which provides a nice chart.

All this was of particular interest to me because two things are clear:

  1. We Mexicans have sub – optimal life conditions (some of the criteria are: safety, work – life balance, housing, income, jobs, education), yet we maintain a positive (naive?) attitude and stay friendly to each other

  2. Expats see a whole different country

It’s not like expats would frequent bad neighborhoods or have a life similar to the locals, probably enjoying that everything is cheaper given the fact that they earn(ed) money in US dollars but spend in Mexican pesos so they get to see only the nicest the country has to offer, and that’s ok

I just found the contrast interesting

Day 6 of

This entry is going to be a bit more personal, I usually avoid all the touchy – feely subjects but there is something to be said about how we go about balancing our professional careers and private life.

Long story short, I think I work with brilliant people and lately I’ve been anxious about catching up and feeling a bit guilty whenever I catch myself at home being a couch potato.

After getting the impulse of devoting insane hours or even weekends on “getting up to speed”, a conclusion I came to was: “That’s probably counterproductive”

Given how the world works and we are constantly bombarded with the idea that we have to work hard and then harder I think it is OK to make peace with some facts (at least I’m trying to):

  • Not everyone is the same, therefore it is understandable to work at different speeds
  • Not every team member has the same tasks, therefore it is not possible to compare progress between them
  • Not everyone has the same background or experience so it is understandable to need others to make progress

After all these thoughts I haven’t stopped feeling anxious completely but at least it is a step in the right way

If you’re reading this and you’ve felt something similar I want to let you know that it is OK to step back, rest and take your time, after all we are only human and all we can do is our best

Day 5 of

As mentioned in a previous entry, I started a new job in Norway last year, here are my thoughts so far:

First of all, a couple of interviews related to my position took place 3 weeks before my Master’s thesis was due, all that can be said about that is: lots of excitement, I remember getting results and figures the weekend before the final interview took place.

After a well deserved month of relaxation back home (Mexico), my first day on my new job was a week before the company’s Christmas party and it wasn’t long after that everything was slowing down and everyone was away from the office so not much time to get used to a new country and learn the ropes at the new workplace.

During January, February and the middle of March things slowly started to ramp up and I started to understand a bit more on how things worked around here, from using the printer (always a pain, don’t deny it) and meeting colleagues, to slightly more complicated tasks related to electronics and coding.

Then, in the middle of march disaster happened and COVID-19 started to spread, so I was left with doing a couple of tasks here and there (not complaining, still got paid and everything was more or less fine).

Ever since health regulations allowed for people to start going back to their offices with a few minor considerations, things have started to ramp up again but now I can’t help but feel like I haven’t been able to keep up and learn as fast as I should, blaming the pandemic is easy but still…

It is also important to note that my colleagues are really brilliant people and no one has mentioned anything about my performance, maybe anxiety got the best of me or I am just pushing myself too far… Or is it that people in Norway are just that chill and like to take their time? Only time will tell, in the meantime, gotta keep at it.

Having being abroad and back home 2 times in the last 3 years have taught me that living in Mexico makes you take some things for granted:

  1. Family
  2. Excellent food
  3. Friends

Let’s just say that personal interactions have been… different, but not in a bad way.

I was always a bit of an oddball, antisocial even (for Mexican standards), but after accepting a job offer in November that led to moving to Norway, knowing just a handful of people in the city (from my Masters program), living alone and COVID-19 lock down, even I started to feel anxious and a bit depressed.

Things here work a bit differently and, again, not a bad thing, but it has been hard to make new friends or keep in touch with old ones.

It’s the little things like talking, getting together and the like that start to seem more meaningful. Since lock down rules were relaxed, three recent events in particular come to mind, which basically made my day over the last month, all nice simple things:

  1. One of my Norwegian friends texted me:”I remember that you used to post all the time about your runs, are you up for a run this weekend? I need a running buddy“. We went for a long 9K-ish run the next day.
  2. After a barbecue we had with some other friends, last weekend, the same guy texted again saying: “It breaks my heart that you haven’t been to a proper Norwegian beach around here, the barbecue place was not the nicest, so come along with us to the beach tomorrow“. So I ended up going to the beach with him and his fiancée.
  3. Yesterday, after an outdoors activity day sponsored by our company, one of my team mates said: “By the way, we’re flipping some burgers for dinner today, I live pretty close by, wanna come over to our place? Since we work together I figured we should get to know each other“. I ended up coming back home at 22:00.

All these interactions have meant a lot because they were not initiated by me and gave me the feeling of starting to fit in here. Funnily enough that’s all it takes, nice gestures.