Max Romantschuk's weblog – April 2004 archive
A study in iconic design
Screw you Saunalahti Group Oyj
Up until yesterday I used an Internet connection provided by Saunalahti. The connection was a rather flaky one, and very complex to set up. My firewall box connects to a HomePNA switch in the basement through a 1 Mbps link. The switch has a 2 Mbps xDSL link to Saunalahti. My firewall box gets an IP through DHCP. Simple enough, right?
Not so fast... The IP is an internal IP in Saunalahti's network. In order to connect to the Internet I have to create a VPN tunnel using PPTP, through which I can finally connect to the Internet. In order to make things worse the PPTP implementation in question uses weird authentication protocols developed largely by Microsoft. My GNU/Linux based firewall does manage to connect, but it's not like anyone wanted to help me with the settings.
Adding insult to injury, they call this broadband...
This crazy ass configuration would not be so much of a problem if things actually worked after I got it all configured. But noooo... until very recently the VPN gateway kept crashing and dropping connections. Then they got a new gateway, and told me to use that one. It seemed to work for a while, apart from a weird HTTP problem.
In the beginning of this week the connection pretty much went dead. I was able to connect to the gateway, and pinging worked, but that was about it. I proceed to call Saunalahti's error reporting number. After queuing for ten minutes I gave up. Queuing to this number isn't free. The help desk is not an option, it's 1.34 euros per minute. No way am I going to pay in order to find out if they broke something.
The next day I take a look at the Saunalahti news page, no problems are mentioned. I try to call the error reporting number both during the day and in the evening, no luck. At work I mail the helpdesk and ask if there are any problems.
I try again at home the next day. No luck. I finally call their general customer service number, and explain that I would like to find out if there are any known problems with the gateway I'm using. They tell me to call the error reporting number. I explain I can't seem to get through the queue, and I don't wish to pay for finding out if they have their systems in order. I request they have the error reporting guys call me instead. Nope, not possible. I ask if they are in the same building, yes they are. I ask if it is totally impossible to write my name on a piece of paper and carry it over there. Yes it is indeed impossible. They suggest I call the help desk, then I shouldn't have to wait so long. I explain it is unreasonable that I pay for information, and explain I've tried looking at their news page. They still make no effort to provide a constructive solution. I ask them if the error reporting number is open 24/7. Yes it is. I request they make an effort to solve this problem, there needs to be a way to find out if everything is working right. They say something about employing more people maybe sometime perhaps... I give up and end the call.
I finally reached the error reporting number yesterday, at 0700 hours. This time I only had to queue for 5 minutes. I explain my problem and they confirm that a security update to the VPN gateway has caused problems for Win98 and Linux users. I ask them why there has been no mention of this at the news page, they say something about the news page not being their responsibility. They give me a few tips on what might work, but explain that there is no known sure-to-work fix at the moment. I ask them if there is a way to be notified when a fix eventually turns up, like information being posted on the news page perhaps? No, you have to call us. I ask them if they plan to continue to do updates without telling people anything. They think that it is unnecessary to tell people when systems are updated. I ask them if they plan to start telling people when they break stuff. This guy doesn't know. I give up.
In a nutshell it seems Saunalahti plans to keep making it next to impossible to find out when they break something. Given that my connection has been flaky for quite some time It's quite amazing I've put up with it at all. The reason is simple, the fee is included in my rent, regardless of if I use it or not.
But after this last episode I figured I'd rather pay for something which actually works than keep messing up my head by trying to fight virtual windmills.
I ended up fetching an HTV cable modem yesterday. I had my connection up and running in about ten minutes. That about 0.002% of the time it took to find out Saunalahti had broken my connection, not me.
What do you mean I'm not focused enough?
I've ran across a few interesting things today, rather unrelated amongst each other but computer-related none the less. Here goes:
Here's a little something on How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less by dive into mark. Not new, but rather amusing. Via Slashdot
Next up I've got a little something on the growing social impact blogs are having. It seems blogs are now interesting enough for intelligence officials to read. It seems I semi-predicted this a while back... check out the entry for November 1st in the November archive. Not the same thing, but still not far off either. Via Blogdex.
Last but not least, the vision game engine by Trinigy GmbH looks promising. Foto-realism should be commonplace in a few years time at this rate. the screenshots speak for themselves. Via the Inquirer.
Still rambling on about bikes... I'm able to access Shimano's site, so check out the PD-M324 pedals and SH-M038 shoes if you were interested. (Shimano's site isn't link-friendly, so for browsing go to the front page.) After about 30 Km of riding I do feel like I made a worthwhile purchase. Power gains will probably increase as I learn to pedal more efficiently and my leg muscles adapt to the bidirectional pedalling style.
On to the subject of a new bike for next summer. I'm dreaming of getting a Tunturi F600. Check out the high res pic.
If I had unlimited funds I'd probably add on a Rockshox GPS Metro front suspension, as well as a Brooks leather saddle. Leather saddles shape according to their rider, just like leather shoes.
Actually, if I had unlimited funds I'd get a custom designed titanium frame from Merlin, and assemble my bike from individual parts. Ooooh... Drool...
I'm sorry, I'll stop now.
Self-propelled until the snow falls
Last weeks I bought myself a few new toys: Shimano PD-M324 SPD pedals and SH-M038 shoes. That's jargon for cool bicycle equipment. (Sorry, no links, I can't seem to be able to access Shimano's site right now.) The shoes attach to the pedals using a clever locking mechanism, thanks to which one can pull upwards as well as pressing downwards while pedaling. You release your foot by twisting your heel to the side, something which is wise to practice before you start riding.
The whole sheebang cost me 133 euros, thanks to which I had to promise my wife to take the bike to work until winter hits. Actually I already did that last summer, so I should be good to go. I only hope my bike won't fall apart before fall... For summer 2005 I hope to get a new bike. Maybe. If we can afford it.
The whole bike upgrade procedure was rather eventful though. After getting the pedals I noticed that some arsehole had stolen part of my rear brake. Fortunately the bike shop let me dig their used parts box for spares free of charge. I eventually got my bike into riding condition yesterday. Unfortunately, while working on my wife's bike, I found that her bike is missing parts too. The worst part is that since our bikes are kept in a common storeroom which is in use by everyone in the building it's rather impossible to prevent these things. I couldn't even install a security camera if I paid for it myself, as the law doesn't allow them in common areas. Not that I'm a security camera fan, but it would be the only realistic way to prevent people from dismantling their neigbours' bikes in the privacy of the night.
Last week's announcement seems to have been anticipated by a few people. Antti/Geek Savant wrote an entry about my ascension into parenthood, and I got some congratulative mails too. It's sort of scary-cool that people actually read this stuff.
Acute readers of my blog can probably guess why I've been quiet for the past month. On Monday the 22th of March, at 02:13, my son was born. Eighteen minutes later, at 02:31, my daugter was born. I am pleased to announce that I have been blessed with the two most beatiful children in the universe. In a freak deviation from regular probability calculations it seems that almost every parent is just as blessed as I am...
As one can probably guess I've been quite busy fot the past month. In Finland we have the possibility for the father to take out three weeks of
father's leave, which I have. I combined this with my winter vacation for a grand total of one month, during which I've helped my wife take care of the babies.
I have now returned to work and can thus return to my regular routine of lunchtime blogging. The babies are still quite active at night, so for the time being I am slightly sleep-deprived. This might well result in a lower-than-usual blogging frequency, but I'd rather post good stuff seldom than mediocre crap all the time. Stay tuned!