Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh, Germans

Walked 90 minutes today, from store to store, to find a pre-pay SIM in Germany whose price-plan for data was not pure extortion. And then couldn't buy it because all phone numbers in Germany have to be registered to a German address, so a SIM cannot be sold unless I showed ID and gave a german address. I had none, nor enough knowledge of how to make one up. Which is why I am typing this on a keyboard where the z and y are in the wrong place in a skeezz Internet cafe, in the evening, at €1,- an hour. At least it is cheap.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


The reason why I like being a Strategic Designer, Concept Designer, UX Designer, Technical Analyst, and maybe Prototype Creator1, 2 is because I get to leave the nuts and bolts of software architecture and programming behind. As in, I did it, I was pretty good at it, I managed to create non-hacky maintainable software systems where it is non-obvious one can3 and now I have built a certain sense of inner pride around it. Which means I can no longer just hack something together and throw it into the world, it has to be Up To My Standards. And the problem is that making something to my standards is just tedious. After the great flash of idea I just don't feel like programming every line, every library -- boooring -- and my new titles allow me to not have to.

Which is why I am having issues with turning AutoPostBot into a finished general service for everyone. Ok, so the survey shows that AuroPostBot will not tear apart the fabric of LJ blogging, but will just be a mixed blessing, trending to the manageable side, for most people.4 So I am looking at the code for this little service and I know exactly what I need to do to make it a robust general service that should be able to easily scale to at least 1000 users, and to do it semi-right. And I think, ugh, coding. Write, debug, write, debug, write, debug, whatever.

I'll also have hosting issues. I'd find it more interesting if the project would be a way to explore Google or Amazon's new platforms, but AutoPostBot is just a continuous (blocking) loop waiting for input either by polling an RSS stream or waiting for an IM from Twitter to come in. So far it just polls a specific Twitter RSS stream because Twitter can't get IMs to work reliably from my POV, even though having Twitter instant-message AutoPostBot would be far preferable to me over having it check a website every minute to either find out what somebody just Tweeted or to get a private message from a new user to ask to be followed. Still, it ain't a webservice, so Google Application hosting is not interesting, and Amazon will just be expensive and overblown since AutoPostBot needs to always run. Plus there is the very thorny issue that AutoPostBot would have to store people's LJ passwords, and that squicks me. Responsability, ouch!

I could easily just have it running on my print server as it does now. But there's nothing in it for me but kudos, and whiny scorn from people who want more features. You can't monetize an ancillary service to a free service really, especially one as ephemeral as Twitter. So, part of me wants to do this just to see an idea through to the end because I hate dangling projects, and to have my name out there, and part of me has just no motivation to do this. I finally have the time, tools, and experience, but the geek fire is out, people.

Well, except my desire to keep happy, of course. Which, as we all agree, should be enough.

1Oh ok, alright, if a gig needs to call me Information Architect I'll do that too, but having gotten my minor in UI design before 1995 means I have an instinctual dislike for the term because, to my thinking, either an IA is a UI Designer who has been asked to wear one technical hat too many, which is problematic, or an IA is not a UI designer so then what the hell is that person doing designing user interfaces? I know, I know, it is now an established term so it will be used and people have to call themselves that to short-hand what they do, but I do not have to like it on an aesthetic level any more than I have to like the word 'hottie'. I loathe 'hottie' as a word.
2Add the word 'Mobile' in front of any as required.
3Pervasive right-click context-dependent menus in Swing 1.4, mofos, and the programmers working with me could add their actions for their custom views without fuss by implementing just one interface, and the system would pick the actions up automatically and show them in the right place. And that was just one of the things I made JAVA do for me.
4Around 250 followers but only around 40 people found the time to check a box and click a button? You passed up a chance here to shape the web, people. Or I am off more default filters than I want to consider.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tech Updates

  • I thought the reason my phone was running out of juice two minutes into a call was because it never got to fully charge at home since I was also using it constantly as a 3G modem. Turns out it is the battery that can no longer hold a charge. 2 months of continuous duty as a modem while being charged have fried it. I bought a new one and suddenly I have a normal phone again.

  • "So how would you rank the actual work done to connect your phone line?" the man of the survey firm for British Telecom asks.
    -- "So what's the worst you got?"
    "Very unsatisfied."
    -- "Yeah that."
    "Next question: how many people did you tell about the experience?"
    -- "About 12. No, wait. About 250."
    "That's the highest I have ever filled out."
    -- "Internet, man."

  • Ok, so I have a built-in iSight. Now what do I do with it? Seems that since the meta-chat client Adium doesn't support it, I can't actually chat over all the systems with it unless I install 4 different chat clients and skype. Nuh-uh.

  • I can has DEL key? SRSLY, where is it?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

And That Makes 3 In My Flat

FJ!!: BTW, so Ian and I went into the Apple store on Regent street, where I grabbed one of those plastic price stands, walked to a worker, and pointed at the entry on the little price list for 2.5 duo anti-glare 15" and said, I want one of these, please
FJ!!: He seemed flabbergasted that I just walked in and wanted a laptop. He had them in stock. I also asked for a 1GB silver shuffle
FJ!!: so he prints my receipt, right, with the handhels, and goes to get me my stuff, and I look at the receipt and ask "Did you just give me the shuffle for free?"
FJ!!: and he's like "No" and looks at the receipt and sees it is not on there, and Ian starts laughing and says that he would have walked out with it and I say that I have friends in Apple stores all over the world and I couldn't do that because I am sure there'd be issues
FJ!!: so I paid for the shuffle at the til because the wireless stopped working on my card
FJ!!: and the guy also told me Elle McPherson had come in for a private shopping with paperazzi in front of the store
FJ!!: and we talked a little about how everyone likes working at Apple, which Ian didn't believe
FJ!!: and outside Ian wondered if Elle was a publicity stut by Apple and I am like Apple doesn't need that
FJ!!: So did I do a good deed or was I a chump for not taking my free shuffle?
J.: still eating a sandwich, one moment
J.: I think it makes you a better person in my eyes.
J.: Which is important, because I may ascend to Godhood someday.
J.: Also because it was the right thing to do. Thank you!
J.: OGMOGMGOGMOGM fuck the paps
J.: I would kick them in the teeth if they blocked the flow of money.
J.: And does this mean you are now the new owner of a magnificent new macbook pro?
FJ!!: 15"
FJ!!: not unpacked yet
J.: God bless you.
FJ!!: I am sure I am the owner of a very slim box. I hope it contains an MBP or else it is also a very expensive box
J.: It's filled with ripoff, lies, and Apple fucking sucks and sold out.
J.: Or whatever they're guilty of this week.
J.: Eco ignunce or something.
J.: Dolphin unsafe benzyl plastics.
FJ!!: I amost do not want to open it. It would make the expense so real
J.: This may be the last good experience of your entire life.
J.: With that perspective, any course of action seems like a good idea.
J.: Have you played with 10.5 yet?
FJ!!: Very very briefly
J.: I think you'll like it. Most of the true ignorance has been hammered out by 10.5.2
FJ!!: I cannot believe how much this thing cost in dollars
J.: and OMG multitouch. take a photobooth, drag the jpeg to the desktop, open it in Preview, and play with the gestures. They're all listed in System Preferences -> Trackpad
J.: What price elitism?
J.: $pend $pend $pend
J.: (how much?_
FJ!!: I can't my week's work barely covered 2/3s of this alone
FJ!!: 1599 pnds
J.: HURK. that includes vat?
FJ!!: yes, 17.5%
J.: 1.9766
J.: doot doot
J.: (as of 100ms ago)
J.: Good fucking god.
J.: $3,160
J.: Whew.
J.: They have income tax there, don't they?
J.: Or does VAT cover it all
FJ!!: 20% over the first 20K
J.: So being dumb-math, $3,800 of income.
J.: That is outrageous. Fuck Apple. Fuck them in their dirty shitholes.
FJ!!: No, no need to blog it
FJ!!: I actually don't want one. I need it for work
J.: 26% of the BOM is showoffitanium
FJ!!: it doesn't satisfy a craving. Buying this tech... it is the first time that dropping this much cash on comp didn't do anything for me
J.: Then we're not doing our job correctly.
FJ!!: it is the form factror. I like small tech
J.: eat some pretzels so your fat hands make it look smaller
FJ!!: :))
FJ!!: I love you
J.: About time.
FJ!!: I have loved you before
J.: The next step is wiring me money.
J.: I have to build my polygamist rape compound somehow.
FJ!!: get some commision at Apple
J.: Open that laptop. It's got 5GB of patches waiting to bless it.
FJ!!: later
FJ!!: first finish reunion of C Rehab
FJ!!: a screen cleaner? How nice of you!
FJ!!: (That is what that blak thing is, right?)
J.: yessir
J.: it's in everything glossy now
FJ!!: I swear irt aid the word "English"
J.: lollers
J.: voiceover is turned on by default
FJ!!: why does it not say any of the other languages I scroll to?
J.: ummmmmmmmmmmmmmz
J.: idk
J.: because english is awesome?
J.: :3 fibar optic
FJ!!: it just glowed up!
J.: which is a pretty way of saying replacement keyboard assemblies cost $160
FJ!!: cute space animation, music is too hip
J.: it's cute
J.: dootydoot dwee doo dwee
FJ!!: I guess I don't want to transfer my information now
FJ!!: found my network
FJ!!: you guys should include airsnort so I do not even have to type in the WEP key. Oh wait...
FJ!!: it is so... shiny
J.: wtf is airsnort
FJ!!: it's wrong because I moved, but ok
J.: Magical!
J.: It's all keyed into your Apple ID
J.: mine always gets the telephone number wrong but that's okay. autocomplete is good enough
FJ!!: yes, it got that wrong too
FJ!!: Honey, my short name will not be fjvanwingerde
J.: lollers
J.: don't fight unix
J.: it has ideas
FJ!!: fj will do
J.: (it is AMAZING how many things blow up hideously when people change the shortname after the fact by whatever mechanism. i really sincerely wish it wasn't possible)
FJ!!: it's so.... shiny
J.: what the case? or the screen? or the entire everything
J.: LAWL OMG picture setup
J.: so the best.
FJ!!: and that is a horrible angle, and it is dark in here
FJ!!: can I do this later?
J.: yes
J.: there's an imagewell for your account picture. just drag any image in.
J.: (later. in sysprefs)
FJ!!: have I purchased a .Mac box?
FJ!!: the everything is so shiny and smells of solvents
J.: if they guilt tripped you into .MAC then i guess you did
J.: There's a free trial. It's still a mess.
FJ!!: this is the prettiest machine I ever owned and it intimidates me. I am used to moulded plastics that do not mind if they have smeared food from my fingers all over it because it is just a laptop
FJ!!: No, he was too flabbergasted to guilt trip me into anything
FJ!!: wait, did I look poor?
J.: if the store was packed they probably just wanted you to go
J.: and more likely you looked like you knew what you wanted.
FJ!!: no, he seemed genuinly surprised at me walking up to him with a price stand and pointing at an item and asking if he had them in stock
FJ!!: oh god, too much stuff on this desktop

Monday, April 07, 2008

Some Get It Together, Some Already Had It Ready

The repairman called to say that he had knocked on the door and my doorbell didn't work. In the last weeks at least 4, um, visitors seem to have found the doorbell working just fine. Anyway, he showed up again, attached an oscilloscope, and then left, that is when I snapped the pic. Got a call from him whether I could test for dialtone now, and I did and had it. When he came back to get his stuff I asked what was wrong. Wrong line had been hooked up at the switch. (In fact, I suspect the whole order had been done for the wrong address initially.)

I plugged in the extension cord I had laid down for the DSL modem, and switched it on. I had already configured it with my wireless settings, but wanted to confirm them now so it would be ready to be the wireless access point when O2 started my DSL. I attached my print server laptop with a cable, and started a browser to change settings when the Google search page showed up on the brower as a home page? Huh? This was not supposed to happen without a connection. Fast too. Seems O2 has indeed already provisioned my line with DSL but just not confirmed it to me.

I can YouTube again. And not abuse my mobile phone anymore, allowing it to charge properly. Using it continually as a 3G modem meant it would never charge fully. And now I can send updates to Twitter from my phone, and they will be updated on LJ since AutoPostBot, running on my print server, doesn't need my phone to be home for its connection anymore.

ThinkBroadBand's speed test reports 7.2 Upload / 1 Download Mbps. 15 pounds a month, and I may even get on a cheaper plan because that is supposed to be for higher than 8Mbps. Comcast couldn't give me this fast a connection for almost double the money. AT&T gave me less than a third for half.

I Can Has Dialtone?

I Can Has Dialtone?
"I Can Has Dialtone?", Nokia N73, London, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Oh, Look

Technician Dispatch Structure of British Telecom

Lead time to dispatch a tech Cost to me
New line connection 1 month 125.-
Repair fault on exisiting line 2 days 161.- if it was my equipment that was faulty
99.- per hour to fix the resulting failure
0 otherwise (implied, unconfirmed)

Seems like a certain company is far more interested in sending people if they can charge me an arm and a leg than if I just want to pay a standard fee for service. Meanwhile, the reason I don't say "Fuck BT" and still insist on renting a line with them is because I want O2 broadband. I signed up for them when BT confirmed to me my line was connected. O2 sent me text confirmations every step of provisioning me, sent me their wireless router box overnight, and will have DSL patched at the local switch by Wednesday, all for 15 pounds a month for 16Mb, no download cap. It would be less if I was also a mobile customer of O2, but as a newbie to the UK I can't pass their credit check for a monthly plan, and they charge to much for data on their Pay As You Go Plan.

BTW, the previous tenant seems to have had cable VoIP / broadband from Virgin Media, and no BT at all. I can't fault her, but Virgin Media is expensive if you do not want Super Cable TV as well, so I want to wrangle BT a bit more first before I give up. They're coming by Monday afternoon, between 1 and 6 PM. Oddly enough, there's a BT repair van in front of my house right now. I overcame my aprehension to go off-script to strangers and took my cheap-ass landline all-cable phone to the Box and Storage shop across the street and asked them to plug it in, just to make sure that the handset worked lest I end up having to pay 161 pounds because it being broken and I having had service all along. Dialtone was emitted by its speaker.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


British Telecom, as far as I can tell, has two major call-centers: one up north in the UK, and one on the Indian sub-continent. While it seems the Asian workers do indeed get some accent-reduction training, their supervisors have not gone all the way and tried to make them get, say, BBC accents or something in the same way it was fashionable to train these poor people to sound very American for clients based in North America when outsourced customer support in India really took off in the early millennium. The people on the phone do insist, upon seeing my account data, that my first name is 'Van' until corrected, and have all the same 'repeat everything and apologize every second word until the word sorry sounds meaningless' mannerisms as every other call-center in the region seems to have acquired.

I had to have a conversation with one of those chaps today, because at 13:45 no BT repairperson had rung my doorbell to hook up my line, which was due to happen today after a month's wait. I am a little anxious, yes, I would like some broadband now, please. I keep abusing my terms of service with T-Mobile's Pay As You Go mobile service by using my phone as a modem on their data network, while I am only supposed to use the data network on this plan for browsing with the phone itself and maybe checking some email. I can choose between rock-solid and very slow EDGE, or faster 3G that stops working every 5 minutes for 5 minutes. It costs me a pound a day maximum, which is actually the best data plan for a Pay As You Go mobile plan.

So, dialtone please, and no installer dude(tte) between 8AM and 1PM today. I even got up at 7.30 for it. The guy at the call center put me on hold for two minutes -- no problem since it is a free call, but oh wait, I am on my mobile so it is not -- and tells me that his system says that I have been hooked up, and some time tonight my line will start working. I wish someone would atually have done some quality control inside the house to check that everything was indeed installed correctly, because it is now 10.30 PM and guess what: no dialtone from any of the 3 jacks in the apartment.