by Miguel de Icaza

Today I was invited to do a talk to a group of people at one of the banks in Porto Alegre, Banrisul. I did the same Gnome presentation that I had done the day before. After the presentation was over, I saw some of the work that the bank has been doing with free software.

The ATM machines that they started rolling out in 2000 are all Linux-based systems, and I had a chance to see the ATM machine boot: the traditional Linux boot sequence is shown, followed by the X startup and finally the ATM application runs.

Not only is the bank rolling out ATM machines with Linux-based systems and their own software, but the terminals that are being deployed are running Linux systems as well.


Marcelo and I later on went to meet with some of the Debian developers from Porto Alegre in a Churrasquer�a, the food was most excellent. First you begin by getting some salads from the salad bar and some rice and beans, and then you wait for your choice of meat to arrive. The waiters bring different kinds of cuts to the table, and you pick the pieces you like the most.

We created an interest group: Gnome-RS (Rio Grande do Sul) to start developing and contributing to the Gnome effort.

Yerba Mate in the central market in Porto Alegre.

Remembering Arturo, I ordered a Guaran� drink (people remember Arturo fondly, not only for his passion for the Guaran�, but also for his crazy pupilo-adventures in town).

Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre is the home for the World Social Forum. Whose motto is: "Another World is Possible". They have taken this principle to practice with the Participative Budget.

Basically, the people decide what the budget should be spent on and the government just executes on the decisions from the people (Unesco report)

Posted on 28 Jun 2002

Gnome 2.0

by Miguel de Icaza

As GNOME 2.0 was being announced in Ottawa, we did our own introduction of Gnome at the UERGS. The State University of Rio Grande do Sul. This university is has deployed in all the desktops Gnome.

They want us to change the default in Gnumeric, Abiword and OpenOffice to store the files in Office 95 format. This is important because not everyone uses the same spreadsheet all the time: some people prefer Gnumeric and Abiword for quick documents, and some other prefer the larger OpenOffice applications.

They are using a customized version of the Conectiva Linux distribution that includes the Ximian Gnome.

I met with Vagner from Conectiva, and hoped that Conectiva would include more support for Gnome in their distribution. We are interested to work with them.

Porto Alegre Government

Marcelo had arranged a meeting with the vice-governor of Porto Alegre to discuss the impact of free software and Gnome. Marcelo reports directly to the vice governor office and he is a liason with the UERGS.


That afternoon I did a talk on Mono, and some bits about Gnome at the Federal University. The talk went pretty well, it was mostly a technical presentation on Mono: the history behind it, and the reasons to develop it.

I was exhausted at this point.


The last stop of the day was a meeting with Marcos Manzoni and other representatives of Procergs the state software development company. They have a very nice piece of software called Direto GNU which is a web-based groupware solution written in Java.

The question of building a protocol handler for calendars to Evolution came up. We have to research what is the status of the CAP protocol, because the last time we looked at that at Ximian, it was still a protocol either in flux or broken.

Later that night, we went for a traditional dinner at a churrasco restaurant. Here you can see me dressed as a RS Gaucho

Posted on 27 Jun 2002


by Miguel de Icaza

After catching up some sleep (very little) Haroldo and Rodolfo showed up at my hotel with some Mate to drink and took me to our next destination: Unesco.

I met with Cl�udio Menezes at the Unesco offices in Montevideo which is a Regional Adviser in the Communication and Information Sector.


Before departing to the next city, we had lunch at the downtown market. Here you can see some of the delicious food we were about to have.

Porto Alegre

My next destination was Puerto Alegre. Pretty tired at this point after all these meetings, but I had a lot of fun.

Puerto Alegre was the last destination of my trip.

At my next destination Marcelo would pick me up at the airport. I almost do not make it into Porto Alegre, as there was no time to get a visa for Brasil, but various guys in Puerto Alegre managed to expedite my visa application.

Arturo had been in Puerto Alegre before, when he was working on the Red Escolar project in M�xico. The people from Procergs in Porto Alegre had taken some of the ideas from Arturo's work and continued it. One of the major changes from Arturo's project to the one being deployed in Rio Grande do Sul is that they have switched to Debian as the distribution for their own Scholar Network project.

Marcelo had also arranged a pretty active agenda in Puerto Alegre, but for now, it was time to sleep some.

Posted on 26 Jun 2002

Buenos Aires

by Miguel de Icaza

I arrived to Buenos Aires from Santiago de Chile early in the morning with very little sleep. But turns out that even if American Airlines and Lan Chile are partners of the One World alliance, American Airlines forces you to go through immigration and customs even if you are a passenger in transit.

Forms had to be filled, immigration cleared, and customs cleared. Only to find out that I lost my airplane by five minutes. Thank you American Airlines.

Loosing this plane was particularly annoying, because there are no more flights from the Buenos Aires international airport to Montevideo that day. I had to go to the Aeroparque airport (40 minutes away) to catch a different airplane.

Cultural note: when you make changes to your airline tickets, airlines feel the need to charge you a hundred dollars for the change. This is a pressing need that they can not avoid, but when it is the airlines fault (like, say, this time), they do not reimburse you anything, or give you a hundred dollars.

Of course the employees that you deal with are not the ones to blame for the company policies, but I wish I was not completely at mercy of the airlines will. Worth reading: `Plane Insanity'.

If I had known that I would be for so long in Buenos Aires, I would have set something up with the local users group.

The one good thing about missing the airplane was a small restaurant in the airport that was cooking `Lomitos' in the airport. I ordered a `Lomito Completo' which is a sandwitch with two steaks of Lomito, ham, cheese, and a egg on top with french fries on the side.

It is not only the best food I ever had in an airport, but one of the most delicious sandwitches ever.

I could not believe an airport could have such delicious food. The restaurant also had wine, which I did not want to have to avoid further dehydration.


Rodolfo and Haroldo picked me up at the Carrasco airport in Montevideo, Uruguay. I was at this point completely exhausted by the lack of sleep from the trip from Lima.

I had a meeting with the founders of a company called Genexus and I got to see their product.

They produce software to ease the development of database applications. A developer only defines the schema of the database, and hooks up the rules, the user interface and the reports they want. What is particularly interesting about this tool, its that it provides an evolution path to evolve the databases: as you make changes and introduce new relationships the software moves the information from the existing tables to new tables and creates and populates them for you.

The software is a multi-plaform software, it is not free software, but it is genuinely interesting.


I did a presentation of GNOME 2 in the University in Uruguay shortly after the previous meeting, this was in what used to be an old church inside a convent. The talk was well attended and we discussed issues of free software, Gnome, and Mono. If people are interested in my OpenOffice slides, I can mail those.

I got to meet my friend Pablo that I have met a few times at previous Usenix events.

After the talk, a group of people went for dinner to a vegetarian restaurant. But being in Uruguay and eating vegetarian food was not ideal, so we split off and went to eat some traditional food from Uruguay. This picture was taken late that night.

Posted on 25 Jun 2002


by Miguel de Icaza

In the morning I met with Federico Heinz (from Via Libre) and Enrique Chaparro, both representing the FSF and the GNU project. We had breakfast (and I spilled coffee all over my brand new IBM Thinkpad) and headed over to the Peruvian Congress.

Federico and Enrique are part of the group in Argentina that drafted the law that is being discussed in Argentina, and is the foundation for the law that was submitted by Edgar Villanueva and is being discussed by the Peruvian Congress.
Here I am with Congressman Edgar Villanueva in the Congress meeting, he has introduced the free software project of law. He became internationally famous after his reply to Microsoft's comments on the law (the text is available in Spanish and English).


After the meeting in the Congress with the congressman and the commission evaluating the project of law we went for lunch in Lima and got to try the ceviche from Peru. Different style, but just as tasty as the mexican version.

Linux and Free Software in the State

In the afternoon I participated in the `Linux and Free Software in the State' conference. There were six hundred registered people for the conference. It was inaugurated by Edgar Villanueva.
During this trip, I arrived to an interesting conclussion, nothing really new, but it finally "clicked" for me. It is interesting to note that different groups of people have very different reasons for adopting free software/open source software. Not everyone agrees on the needs for it.

For instance, recently we learned that the US administration is interested mostly in free software for its reliability and security. Third world countries and US corporations want to reduce their licensing costs. Other countries consider the use for free software a matter of national security; others a matter of technological independence.

Some groups want to have the four freedoms promoted by the free software foundation; some others only care about the particular technical benefits, others want to use it as a vehicle to distribute their software.

We all converge on the licensing and the basic guidelines for what constitutes free software/open source software and we agree to cooperate, because open source/free software has the pieces required to have multiple parties participate. But the different parties might not necessarily agree on the objectives.

And I do bring this up, because I was asked a few times whether I was an `Open Source' person or a `Free Software' person and what was mi position on the debate.

I personally think that the distinction is silly and a complete waste of time. I do have many different reasons for using and developing Linux, Gnome and Mono, and they are not the same as everyone else. Sometimes I care about freedom, sometimes about security, sometimes about innovation, sometimes about the gadget factor, sometimes it is nice to be part of a community.

A group of Ximian users greeted me at the entrance of the conference.


The next step in the Gnome en el Sur was Montevideo. To go from Lima to Montevideo I had to take a number of planes: Lima to Santiago de Chile (2am); Santiago de Chile to Buenos Aires (5am) and then Buenos Aires to Montevideo.

I did not get a lot of sleep that night, but being very tired from the activities in Lima helped me get to sleep for a few hours.

I traveled with Enrique's wife which happened to be heading to Buenos Aires on the first two airplanes. She researches Asian cultures. Since I had been reading Saramago's Gospel according to Jesus Christ and pondering who exactly are the Palestinians in Israel, I had developed a theory of mine: the Palestinians are the same people that populated the area two thousand years ago, but have switched religions as invasions came and went.

She confirmed my theory: both palestinians and israeli decendants are semites (surprise!) and gave me some details on the origins of words that both populations use. Very interesting.

Posted on 24 Jun 2002

trip intro

by Miguel de Icaza

Today I start my trip to South America to promote free software, GNOME and Mono. Three cities, five days, nine airplanes.

Of special importance is the meeting with the Congressman Edgar Villanueva and the team creating the law for the use of free software in the state. The Congressman became famous for his reply to the objections that Microsoft sent about the proposed law.

Coverage on Slashdot took a few weeks after the actual reply; The Associated Press is running a story with an update as well.


The trip begun at 12:30 Boston time, I was as usual late for the airplane, I only had time to get a bottle of water and get into my emergency exit row on time.
Eating before going into an American Airlines flight has become rather important. You would think that when American Airlines acquired TWA, they will bring the good features of AA to TWA. For instance, that you would finally get decent food in TWA.

Instead the opposite happened: Now American Airlines gives either terrible food, or none at all.


Over the Ecuador.


I was received by some members of the Lima Linux Users Group at the airport. We went for a tour of the city.

While looking for a place to have dinner, we did a stop and found some ponchos. I took this opportunity to purchase a few souvenirs. I will be using them on the next winter in Boston.

Posted on 23 Jun 2002

This is a personal web page. Things said here do not represent the position of my employer. (C) 2001-2017.