Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
So I downloaded that torrent that everyone seems to download, and attached the virtual disk to a VM under VirtualBox.
My feelings about this OS are mixed. It seems to accomplish its main goal: an OS which is capable of running a browser, and nothing but the browser. The browser is good (Chrome), and renders sites with flash and other complexities correctly. But Hebrew isn't rendered well, or even not at all. This would become a major drawback if I want to further test it, because I read mail and RSS feeds in Hebrew, and without those, the OS isn't useful at all.
The jail-ing mechanism of the OS works as expected. Although I did only a very short test, it seems to be impossible to break the jail. This is great in terms of security. But then again, if I had root access to the OS, I could've installed Hebrew support...
My bet is that soon more security researchers will dig for Chrome (the browser) bugs, and utilize it to gain local access (for whatever it's worth, as the OS isn't intended to run from a HDD).
While I agree that some netbooks users are using netbooks purely for browsing the web, I don't think Google has any advantage over the competitors. It is possible to create a stripped down disto of Linux that does just that (hey, that's what ChromeOS is all about), and I bet someone at Microsoft is playing with creating a stripped down version of Windows that does exactly the same. Boot time in both cases can be reduced considerably, and a security jail can be created as well. The advantage of such solution will be the support for a wider range of hardware and maybe even local storage, should it be necessary.
Finally, with the iPhone OS, maemo, Android, ChromeOS and the other new OSes from the past 3 years, it seems we're entering the age of ad-hoc OSes. I wonder how good the communication between those will be.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Other than that, Wubi is also perfect for people who cannot repartition their HDD for whatever reason it may be. Also, since it adds an entry to the "add/remove programs" control panel, it is easy to get rid of the installation if one finds it disappointing or want to proceed to the next level of installing Linux on a real partition.
When using Wubi, the installer will attempt to download the installation media using the bittorrent protocol. This might be a problem if you're using a network which doesn't allow torrents to be downloaded. This is the case with some corporate networks and with ISPs that block torrent traffic. In these cases, it is still possible to use Wubi, without having to download a torrent.
To do this, one needs to download the Ubuntu (again, any variant would do) installation media, or rip it from a CD/DVD, and have the ISO file in the same folder as the Wubi executable. Now, when running Wubi, it would recognize the ISO file, and skip the download all together. Since it is possible to download or rip the ISO without the bittorrent protocol, the problem is solved.
Enjoy your new Linux installation.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Besides the awesomeness of being able to stream everything to my TV, it is possible to configure the A110 to do other cool stuff. Here's a list of my recommendation:
1. Using the Community Software Installer for NMT, it is possible to install additional software on the A110. Since the OS is NMT (which is Unix-like) and it runs a PHP-enabled web server, almost everyone can write additional software for the A110. I recommend adding a SSH-server and the transmission bittorrent client. The torrent client can be managed remotely via port 9091. This means that once these services are installed, the A110 becomes a full fledged downloading machine, and not just a mere streamer.
2. Using a media jukebox software, such as YAMJ, gives the second power-boost to the device. It adds amazingly looking menus with movie posters, plot summaries and other information. Also, if configured correctly, it'll pull Hebrew subtitles automatically (!!!), which is a great bonus.
3. The A110 has a service which makes it a UPnP server. This means it can stream media to other devices at home, such as a gaming console or a laptop. So the streaming works both ways.
The setup in my house didn't give me the option of having an Ethernet cable between my router (which is in a different room, along with the PC) and the A110. Drilling or passing thru tunnels in the walls wasn't an option either. Since using the Wifi dongle isn't very much recommended, I decided to put a 802.11n access point in the living room. This tiny device does a great job, even when streaming HD content, and the A110 believes it is connected to a wired network, which is easier to manage. Initial configuration of the AP was a little annoying, though.
Should any of the reader be interested in further information of my setup, I'll be glad to share it.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
This weekend I finally found the time to upgrade one of my Ubuntu machines to 9.10. The upgrade went perfectly well, and the system indeed seem to boot way faster. Also, the enhanced look is great. Finally, this is the first release not giving me hard time with the 64bit flash player and Firefox. This means that sound can be played back simultaneously inside the browser and by external app without any issues.
Edit: while writing this post I noticed that the new version is way faster when it comes to filesystems and opening files. My pictures on an NTFS partition load considerably faster.
Things with 64bit Windows 7 are a little less stable. My HP DeskJet driver completely crashes the printer spooler whenever printed to. Disabling the spooler causes the entire desktop (explorer) to crash (!!!).
So to avoid replacing my printer just to use Windows, I thought I should give a shot to "XP Mode". Surprsingly - it worked. The funny thing is the "XP Mode" installation screen, which includes a funny typo (see below). For the English speakers, it says "The installation program will reduce Windows XP mode on your computer". Well, typos happen. Even for those with gigantic QA departments...
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
This time it is different, since Bruce Schneier has quoted us, which is something that's considered as a great respect in the security community.
The URLZone trojan is very sophisticated, since it fakes the displayed balance in the bank site, so the end user could never tell the money was stolen. Also, the trojan uses the current opened session to the bank, so it doesn't need to send the account credentials nowhere.
If you like to read a great technical analysis of this trojan, you can find it in our blog.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Some people, including me, are used to have problems when it comes to keyboard layout switching using this configuration. This means that under some circumstances (especially when remote controlling using Windows), you cannot switch between keyboard layouts, and thus cannot type in Hebrew or other languages.
Most solutions on the net include modifying some configuration files manually. Since I'm always looking for cleaner solutions, I continued digging, and found out that using the latest UltraVNC client solved this issue. You can use it and switch keyboard layouts freely.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
- If you're engaged with the FOSS community, and contribute in any way, even if it is testing or translations, you should brag about it in your C.V.
- If you're not engaged with the FOSS community, and looking for a hobby (which doesn't necessary takes a lot of time), you should look for a piece of software you like and use, be it a torrent client, chat client, the tiniest usability app - and see what you can do to improve it. Maybe start by reporting bugs and/or try to fix them, or simply add a translation to your native language.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
When running this over thousands of files at a time, this could be really annoying, especially if I go and do something else in the mean while, so there's no one to close the dialog.
After digging around, I found this gem. A tool called ClickOff that automatically responds for dialogs, and can fill up forms, etc. I configured it to close the Windows error dialog, and now everything works smoothly without me having to watch over it.
I guess Windows operations weren't made to be script-ed or automated, so one has to use 3rd party tools to overcome this. Maybe this is why Administrators hate Windows.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Method one: compute the MD5 sum using Python's APIs:
infile = open("filename", 'rb')Method two: using the OS command `md5` on Linux, or the Windows command line utility available for download:
content = infile.read()
m = hashlib.md5() # don't forget to "import hashlib"
md5 = m.hexdigest() # now the md5 variable contains the MD5 sum
p = subprocess.Popen("md5 " + "filename", shell = True, stdout=subprocess.PIPE) # don't forget to "import subprocess"That all folks.
md5 = p.stdout.readline().split() # now the md5 variable contains the MD5 sum
p.wait() # some clean up
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Anyway, the problem is like that: the network works fine with the PC connected to it via cable, and with our Nokia smartphones connected to it via WiFi. Also, a PS3 device is connected wirelessly.
The only device not working properly is a Dell laptop. The laptop was able to connect to the network after a long time, and then only web browsing worked. No instant messenger, no e-mail, no file-sharing. Only the web, and quite slow.
I eliminated the possibility the problem is around open ports and/or port forwarding, after messing with it for about an hour or so. I also noticed some things started working once I disabled the Windows firewall.
Also, everything worked perfectly when the firewall was on, and we used a neighbor's unsecured wireless network.
Then it hit me that the problem might be in the network security. After few minutes I had everything working perfectly: changed the security setting from WPA2 to WPA, and that's it!
I hate to think that some problems are voodoo problems, but this one had all the symptoms. Until today I found out this is a well known issue with Dell laptops. Someone I consider an expert explained:
- You can try and upgrade the driver. But it doesn't always work.
- You can reduce security to WPA, but that, as we all know, means the network is hack-able.
- You can use an external WiFi NIC.
Monday, July 20, 2009
So I bought a Bluetooth adapter, and decided to use the BT headset I used with my cell phone. Compare the installation process between different OSes:
Windows: Connected BT adapter. Windows driver automatically installed. Added BT software. Reboot. Upgraded BT software. Reboot. Paired BT headset. Launched Skype. Skype BT add-on installed. Reboot. Upgraded Nokia PC Suite. Reboot. Everything works.
OS X: Connected BT adapter. Paired BT headset. Launched Skype. Installed Nokia Mac software. Paired Nokia. Everything works.
All of those reboots took me a lot of time, so I didn't manage yet to test it on Linux. Rumor says I'll need some special software like in Windows (making the BT headset function as an audio I/O device), so I might update about it when done. Even though, I don't expect any reboots to take place.
Why on earth did I have to reboot that much?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Other believe that even if a virus hits a Linux machine, the impact would be little, as it runs without root privileges.
So the shocking news are: both wrong. Linux distros has bugs and vulnerabilities which can be exploited for malicious activities. Such can include remote-control trojans, rootkits, data-theft, and so on. Those viruses gains root access without the user's acknowledgment.
Recently I found at work a server hosting tons of Linux viruses, with the source code, which exploits recent kernels used in modern distros. Here are few examples.
I don't want to raise any panic. Linux is still way safer than Windows. So does OS X. This is mostly due to the fact those OSes are far less popular on the desktop. Also, updates are released faster, and thanks to package management, installed regardless which piece of software is vulnerable.
One side effect I noticed about social networks, facebook specifically, is the fact they encourage anti-social behavior. I'll explain. In the past few months two of my friends (which are not related to one another) got back from a long trip abroad, and found new jobs. Some mutual friends of mine were able to tell me the details about the pictures uploaded to facebook, and the job title of those that came back. But that's it. Nothing else. Most of them didn't consider calling or meeting and get the details about the trips or the jobs. In my opinion, this is what matter most. Seeing someone's pictures is one thing, but listening to the experience and the stories around the trip is entirely different.
So those who gets updated through somebody's profile might think they know the person in question, but in fact, they know nothing.
Other side effect is the fact some people are relying too much on those networks as the means of communication and the primary source of knowledge about those they are connected to. Others, rely on the network's updates about people's status, birthdays, couple-state (single, with a g/f or b/f, married, ...), etc. too much. No updates - no knowledge.
The sad ending of this post is the fact I don't think things are going to change for the better. We'll rely more and more on technology to do our tasks, including social tasks, and our brains will become degenerated.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Ireland is a great place for a trip, and I would highly recommend it. Perhaps I'll dedicate a post about things to do and things not to do there.
Second, starting from this post, I'm adding labels to the posts. "OpenSource" will naturally be about open-source software. "General" has nothing to do with anything else except my life and musings (such as a post about Ireland). "Technology" - well, enough said...
If I understand correctly, readers could choose to subscribe to specific labels only. I'd still prefer you'll read everything I write, but hey, that's up to you.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I noticed two interesting oddities with Mac OS X this week:
- When I used Skype, the call used to drop every few minutes. It seems that turning the automatic time synchronization (via NTP) off, solves the problem. Usually, this would have been called voodoo. Apparently OS X, just like MS Windows, became quite a bloated OS, so such bugs pop every once in a while, where a reasonable explanation isn't in the horizon.
- For downloading torrents under OS X, I use Transmission. I had good experience with the Linux version, so it was my first choice. Apparently, it is capable of reaching my full internet connection speed, even during the hours my ISP throttles traffic. I still don't know how this trick is achieved, so I'll dig into it once I'll get the chance.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Anyway, some of you, my readers, had asked me to link here to some of the more technical stuff we do, or explain how a full-blown over-the-internet-attack works. So here are two posts I published in the past few months, demonstrating malware toolkits. Should this post's responses include more specific questions about toolkits, I'll try to answer them in following posts.
- LuckySploit. This one describes one of the most sohpisticated attacks out there. It is very much oriented to avoid anti-virus products during the infection process. Moreover, the fact this toolkit uses encryption is really impressive.
- Unique Pack. The funny case with this one is the fact Firefox users weren't vulnerable to this specific attack (Firefox has some vulnerabilities, so keep it updated at all time).
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
This is not my first attempt to write a mobile application, as about a year ago I've written some Python apps for Symbian. Moreover, few weeks ago I've written a simple application for the iPhone. This puts me in a position where I've tried coding for most of the popular mobile platforms, except RIM and Windows Mobile.
Quite surprisingly, mobile development environment has reached maturitiy. This manifests in the existance of visual development tools (drag-n'-drop controls), debuggers, code completion, etc. Not having such tools as my day-to-day development (I mainly use vi and notepad++) isn't a big deal, but for mobile development this is a must. The complexity of creating an application is just too big, and reminds me of the first days of J2EE development - tons of XML files, source files, resources, etc.
This also means I got to try Objective-C, as this is the language for iPhone development. I really don't understand why would Apple insist on that language, with such great alternatives.
I expect we'll see even better ways to develop mobile applications, and such applications would take greater market share, as the lines between the desktop and the mobile starts fading away.
Addition: If I had the means, I would have written something for OpenMoko as well.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Yesterday, a friend of mine, who's using IE7 on Windows XP was infected with some virus. It's low detection rates by AV products, suggests it's a rather new one. Luckily enough, I recommend people (including this friend) which are using Windows for some reason, to install Avira AntiVirus, as my profession taught me it is better (most of the time) from the others.
Having used some useful tricks I learned at work, and the handy ThreatExpert, we were able to clean the infection and restore the computer to a healthy state.
After the virus issue was solved, we began quite a long conversation, which lasted today's entire morning and noon, about how the infection was done in the first place, how it could have been avoided, and what measures can be taken to prevent future cases. We both agreed that popular products, such as Windows, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and the likes, are much more prone to be trageted by attackers, and this is why much more exploits exists out there to these products. Firefox is no different, in the past few years it gained huge popularity, and to some estimates it controls over 30% of the browsers market - not a number that could be easily ignored. Firefox, as well, is targeted by cyber criminals, and we see many attempts to push malware through its holes. Nonetheless, Firefox's vulnerabilities, once discovered, are handled much quicker than IE's, a fact making it much less exposed to cyber attacks.
So after many persuasions, the friend agreed to install Firefox and use it exclusively for an entire week. Had Firefox failed to supply the goods, he'll try Google's Chrome or Opera.
Soon after he started browsing the web using Firefox, I started getting complaints:
- Firefox is slower than IE. I said he should remove any old Firefox remains he might have, and install it freshly.
- A web site isn't working properly. Not giving a clue why. After I checked the issue, it seemed he missed the Flash add-on. Awkward, as the browser was supposed to say something is wrong. New version of the Flash player was installed - and everything works.
- No apply button in the settings dialog.
It never occurred to me that the Windows version of Firefox differs from the one installed on my Ubuntu. Go and have a look at your settings dialog. If you're using Ubuntu (I guess this applies to other Linux-es as well), your settings dialog would include a Close button, and a Help button. Every modification you make, is immediately applied. If you're using Windows, You'd have a OK button, and a Cancel button, but indeed no Apply button. This means that if you make several modifications, you can't easily undo only the last of them. A bug regarding this issue exists ever since 2003, but it doesn't seem to go nowhere.
Maybe Windows users are used to lame UI.
I won't even start about arguing that using a different OS, and a different software stack would solve the entire issue on the first place. But what I heard is a professional user willing to live with virus threats, lame UI, the need to upgrade software manually, accept downtime, and tons of other issues, for reasons I don't fully understand.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I've known the term "Zero Inbox" for quite some time, and without really intending to do so, I used to follow that idea. Only recently I found myself flooded with email in my inbox, some of it sent by myself, and I really felt confused. What am I supposed to do now? With what shall I begin?
This can become quite a burden, until everything is back in order. E.g. This blog post was in my head for about two months, but only now I got to the draft I sent myself.
Conclusion: overwhelmed inbox reduces productivity.
I don't really understand in human physiology, but I noticed something strange about myself: I'm used to sleep between 7-8 hours at night, and this keeps my highly active during the entire day. But it really does depend on when these sleeping hours begin: the earlier, the better. This means sleeping between 00:00-08:00 feels much better than sleeping between 02:00-10:00.
Conclusion: sleeping 8 hours doesn't guarantee productivity. It is only a requirement.
I wish I had worked at Fog Creek, just because they have amazing office space. Instead, my workspace is a cubicle. I know for a fact it is bigger and better equipped than other cubicles out there, but still it holds most of the disadvantages of cubicles. It's like software companies aren't aware to the fact programmers productivity is directly affected by their ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
Different tasks and different moods require different music. Each task has its own music which helps getting into the zone. This is why I have various different genres in my deezer playlists. Music is one tool to solve issues caused due to working in cubicles.
Many things has effect on our productivity, and it is difficult to manage them all. Sometimes we're more productive than in other times, but it is always impotant to be aware of that, and they to improve.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I must admit it - I consider myself as a PC gamer (the only real reason to have Windows installed). Generally, computer and console games in Israel are expensive. Too expensive. A while ago I became familiar with a cool service from Valve: steam. I believe this service is the right direction of gaming companies, so they could survive the on-going piracy in the field.
Now check out this forum question in steam. You read it right, 012 is known to be blocking steam and games traffic. I checked it, and it is true. Without firewall or anything else to disturb steam, it simply can't connect steam servers to update itself.
Whether this is done on purpose or by ignorance doesn't matter. 012's customers are left without the option to use steam. So a customer which wouldn't afford itself the 3x price of the store, might turn to the less legal option... everybody loses.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Sorry for the short post, I hope I'll get back to blogging soon.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I've been trying the 1.9 beta of uTorrent (available for Windows, runs perfectly under Wine on Linux), since I heard it supports uTP. The reason uTP is important, is because it is believed that ISPs aren't "shaping" this sort of traffic. The experiment seems to be progressing well, as download speeds increased, but still not perfect - not everyone uses uTP-enabled torrent client. But still, now my computer downloads from other computers accross the world, at high speeds, using the new protocol.
So there are few problems which still keeps me from getting my full bendwidth:
- No open-source implementation of the protocol - slower adoptation.
- Few closed clients are implementing the protocol, and are still in beta - slower adoptation.
- ISP still "shapes" other protocols. Annoying.
- Future problem: will the ISP "shape" uTP?
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
It seems ISPs in Israel (and probably world wide) are playing a double-game. Their first interest is to sell us as much bandwidth as possible. Only recently a new commercial went on-air telling us how much more music and movies can be downloaded if one would double their bandwidth. On the other hand - it seems some ISPs are doing traffic shaping.
Me and a friend of mine are both subscribers of a large ISP, which has the word "gold" in its name, and we are quite sick and tired of this. After doing some thorough tests, we came to a conclusion that torrent traffic is being limited during most of the day. In those hours, the torrent would download at full throttle only from clients subscribed to the same (our) ISP. As for the rest - download rate was roughly 1KBPS. At about 2AM, the limitation is removed, and all of a sudden those same clients started sending data at blazingly fast rates, which lasted until morning.
What bothers me more is the fact there's no transparency regarding traffic shaping. If I'm being limited - I want to know about it. Some uses are legitimate, and consumers must be aware for those limitations. Moreover, what if other services are "shaped" as well, such as the bandwidth-consuming youtube? I like watching youtube videos at HD, and don't want those to be choppy (and I noticed they sometimes do).
So what do you think? Is your ISP shaping your traffic? Also - what can be done about it?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Today I've installed Safari 4 beta. What can I say, the Apple dudes delivered what they had promised - a blazingly fast browser, slick UI, and it has the coolness atmosphere that surrounds Apple products. Actually, it feels like the fastest browser I've ever used. Moreover, Hebrew support is great, and many problematic Israeli websites are loaded as perfect as they load on MS's browser - only way faster.
So I played with the cover-flow interface, browsed some heavy websites - and closed it. I don't think I'll get back to it anytime soon (unless for finding some vulnerabilities within). Why?
It seems that since its 0.9 version, I always got back to Firefox after trying different browsers. Chrome was the only browser that stole me for an entire week. Why?
I know the answer. Although it is not the prettiest, not the fastest, nor the best supported browser - it has a HUGE community. And what does this community bring? Free (as in freedom and as in beer) add-ons. Without my ad-block, foxmarks, Firebug, proxy-switcher, screengrab, themes, etc. I'm totally lost. Those add-ons really make the difference! The Internet looks and behaves differently (in a bad manner) without them. So no matter what the other company will bring out the the factory - that browser doesn't stand a chance until it starts supporting FF's add-ons. This reminds a little the hold MS has on the desktop applications - one is so familiar and comfortable with them, that making a switch could be a hard decision.
So what add-ons do you have on your fox?
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
When a DB compiles a SQL query in order to execute it, it also decides about the best way to execute that query: which data to fetch first, which indexes are to be used, how to perform joins, how many rows to retrieve, etc. The quality of these decisions has major impact over the performance of the query.
As part of this process, a component usually known as the optimizer is running. This component is required for the construction of the execution plan, and sometimes it takes "drastic" measures, such as rewriting the query so that WHERE conditions would be executed in a different order.
Over the years RDBMS providers had put a lot of effort in order to achieve the best possible optimizer. In the course of time it started using statistics (based on ranking mechanisms and previous queries). But before that happened, each RDBMS provided an extension to the query syntax (SQL) so the developer could provide some hint to the optimizer about how he thinks the query should be executed. As the years went by, providers started recommending to avoid those hints, as the optimizer usually did a better job.
I hadn't seen a good optimizer hint for some years now, until this week. I was trying to improve some query in MS SQL Server which lasted forever, and involved an external data source. After I was about to give up and rewrite the code, I decided to give it one last chance. Digging in the execution plans I realized MS's optimizer did awful job in executing the query, so I check their hint syntax. My addition to the code was "OPTION (hash join)", and viola, the query completed within few seconds. Impressive improvement.
Improving the query (by better building it) will always be better than adding a hint, but when all else fails, this might be the only solution.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
- I like playing "Need for speed: Undercover". I think it's a good game, which reminds me "Most Wanted" very much. Every single review I read about this game, and EA's strategy of the entire series, is very negative. I do agree the previous game (ProStreet) was a complete waste of money (yeah, I have an original DVD), but the new one is pure fun.
- Since I'm talking about games - I hate "Dead Space" and "Fallout 3". These were considered some of the top games of 2008 by most gaming-review sites. What can I say? I think they're horrible.
- I like KDE 4.2. I noticed that every time Linus' is switching his desktop, I switch the other way around. And not by purpose.
Good thing that in all of those fields we are not bound to some monopoly corporation, so we can choose what we like according to our personal taste.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In the last year I was tricked by at least three media and telco. providers in Israel. In our little market, no one wants to be the "fra'yer", and it's a matter of principle. This is why I'm disposing my experience here, so some of you might avoid it. I know that using this blog would bring me more audience then I could reach otherwise.
This is still the largest phone company in Israel, and it used to be considered a monopoly until not many years ago. Seems like they have a habit of forcing users to upgrade their Internet connection speed, unwillingly, or the user would have to face a huge bureaucracy blockade. I know this trick was pulled on some friends as well, so it has to be systematic. Here's how it goes:
- Happy user gets a phone call from a Bezeq's sales representative, offering him to upgrade his Internet connection speed at price of 10 NIS. Cheap, right?
- User agrees, and as directed, calls to the ISP in order to upgrade the speed it provides. Such upgrades usually require 12-18 months commitments, otherwise, higher (unreasonable) price will be charged.
- User is doing a speed test and discovers the speed remains as it was before - no upgrade was done. 2 phone calls are required (first to ISP, second to Bezeq) just to discover that Bezeq hadn't upgrade the speed. Support guy (or girl) says (quote): "It's impossible we offered you such price, as we don't have such offering at the moment. I can upgrade your speed at X NIS, though" (X >> 10).
- Case a: user agrees, and now he has upgraded Internet connection at a price higher then he was willing to pay in the first place. -> Bezeq wins.
Case b: user disagrees. The support guy interprets the "disagree" to "agree" and starts charging the user with the higher price, without any user conformation (such as 4 last digits of credit card, or ID number). This the user will discover only at the next month's bill. Canceling that will cost the user a lot of time and phone calls. -> Bezeq wins.
Case c: user argues with support guy, and gets a new price, Y NIS(Y < X, Y >> 10). -> Bezeq wins.
If you get such upgrade call from Bezeq, beware. It's gonna cost you alot more then you think.
Also, this proves another lesson: always record support phone calls. This might prove useful.
Last year I moved to Orange as part of a consolidation of my cell phones providers (had too many). With my private bill I am very satisfied, and all is OK. But with my parents' bill (which moved to Orange along with me), I'm very upset.
When signing with Orange, we asked them to block all paid content (3G Internet, international calls, etc.), since my parents don't want those, and never intend to use those. Just for the record, my parents barely know how to dial a number, and doesn't even know how to send SMS.
On the first bill they got, we had our first surprise - 2 SMS were sent to Denmark. The support guy (or girl...) insisted these SMS were indeed sent, and only after quite a while they convinced there's no way my parents would send such messages, and gave the money back.
One month later, a new bill came, this time we found out my parents were watching 20 minutes of streaming TV in their cell phones (these costs more than a few NIS). Again a call to support, which insisted the media was indeed watched. It took me over 30 minutes of arguing and insisting some technician who has access to antenna logs, would check those - just to prove my point: the antenna which allegedly sent the streaming media, never hosted my parent's phones.
Few months ago, another extra charge - this time, some ringtones were downloaded.
If you read carefully, you would know that such services were completely blocked in the service agreement. Again, 20 minutes phone call, and the charge is cancelled.
The most annoying thing in Israel is the fact that "the competition is no better". The Hot incident is not as complicated as those above, but yet very annoying.
I admit it, I download TV serieses which doesn't show in Israel, or shows in a long delay (what's the point in the delay, when all of the Internet is filled with spoilers, right?). When I heard Hot will broadcast the new Lost season in a 3 day delay I said to myself (and to some of my friends) I will pay for the cable company, and watch it on TV, instead of downloading it.
The Hot web site mentioned that if I missed the chapter, I will be able to watch it on VOD. Since I'm paying 10 NIS for the VOD service, I was happy with the thought I'll be able to watch it whenever I want, right on my TV.
Wrong. I started watching the first chapter 30 minutes late, so I used the cool Start-Over trick they provide. Half-way through the chapter, I got a message saying "Too many people are trying to watch the chapter, please try again later.". Later? I cannot Start-Over a chapter which already ended? What kind of service is that?
So I opted for the VOD option later that night, and to my surprise I found out that I will have to pay 5 NIS for each chapter. WTF? Why didn't you say that in the first place? Did you drop my Start-Over session just so you could extra-charge me for the VOD? Grrr...
Good thing they provide fast Internet (if you know what I mean)...
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Today I saw this "commercial fail" for Microsoft Songsmith. Such a long promo, so much effort in finding this little girl and the father, writing them some lyrics, and one couldn't find a PC laptop which looks good enough to be in a commercial? You gotta be joking.
I guess the next commercial will feature a Windows application running under Wine or something...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
You all know this situation: you're developing or installing something, testing it, giving its URL (or other method of access) to other developers, and all of a sudden - it's production.
Normally, this is the time the product would be installed on a production-worthy server, with DRP procedures and the rest of the things that are must-have for production. But from time to time such things are missed. I know this, because I was in this situation before, and because I'm in this situation right now. I'm maintaining production code on my workstation, and I cannot turn it off for a few days because of that. Moreover, in order to avoid the need of changing the scheduled task's password (when my password expires) which is involved with this code, I used this scheduling trick. At least I have everything under source control, so when a disaster happens, I'm only half-screwed.
So it might be a good thing that such things happen, as long as they happen to someone else, to it reminds us to put our production stuff on production.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
- run cables from the computer to the TV.
- buy a divx-capable dvd player, and burn the movie.
- ... or buy one with a USB slot.
- use a laptop connected to the TV.
- buy/build HTPC.
- buy a steamer.
- use a gaming console (playstation, xbox, etc.).
- buy a TV which is capable of playing divx movies which are loaded on SD cards or some USB device.
- buy a divx-capable protable dvd player.
- use multimedia-enable mobile phone, such as Nokia's N95.
- convert to movie to another format and play with appropriate device (e.g old-fashioned dvd player).
Maybe next time: how to play your MP3 files everywhere.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I was planning for some time now to write my thought about those tools, and perhaps provide some recommendations which are based on my personal experience.
In the meanwhile, as I was doing some research about the topic, I found a really nice book about SCM, which I want to quote:
Our universities often don't teach people how to do source control. We graduate with Computer Science degrees. We know more than we'll ever need to know about discrete math, artificial intelligence and the design of virtual memory systems. But many of us enter the workforce with no knowledge of how to use any of the basic tools of software development, including bug-tracking, unit testing, code coverage, source control, or even IDEs.
Our employers don't teach people how to do source control. In fact, many employers provide their developers with no training at all.
SCM tool vendors don't teach people how to do source control. We provide documentation on our products, but the help and the manuals usually amount to simple explanations of the program's menus and dialogs. We sort of assume that our customers come to us with a basic background.
I think this says it all about the lack of human knowledge about source-control and the importance of it. I recall how once a graduate of a popular programming course told me that the experience given in that course, when it comes to source-control, is worth much more than the knowledge provided in the entire CS degree.
And for those who think that bug-tracking systems are meant for bugs only - here's a correction: I was using such systems even when I was an Oracle Applications DBA, in order to manage the workflow required to get a patch installed, tested and moved-to-production.
Possibilities are endless, and the long term benefits of having such systems in place are priceless.
Not managing your code (sources, scripts, documentation, configuration) and bugs yet? Go and start doing so now.
Friday, January 9, 2009
When KDE 4.0 came out, I gave it a try, but I didn't like it, so I removed it altogether. Now, with KDE 4.2 coming up, and me developing a taste in UI, I thought I should go for another round.
Thanks to this and this, I got the ultimate test environment - a chroot-ed KDE, which even supports the desktop special effects. No virtualization and without messing the host.
So what do I think so far? Overall, the OS looks great, and is very functional. The effects are smooth and nice, Hebrew works perfectly, and applications seems ready for the public. Didn't find anything yet to report a bug on, but that might take some time.
Two disappointing things:
- Couldn't make Kopete connect to Google Talk.
Bottom line, the kde4daily over chroot is highly recommended for all of you out there who aren't afraid of technology. While KDE 4.2 is not ready as a complete desktop environment, I think that with the right additions (OpenOffice, Firefox) it would be good enough to set the higher standards for all of the rest of the desktops (regardless the OS).
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
This morning I got sick and tired from the RSS reader I used at work - Outlook 2007. Quite frankly, this is the worst RSS reader I've ever used. The straw that broke the camel's back was when Outlook stopped syncing feeds, and lost my stuff. So I moved to another RSS reader, and used my exported OPML file in order to keep my entire reading list. After the import completed successfully I realized I have too much stuff to read; my reading list is composed from way over 50 blogs, most of which are important to read. So sorting them and reading them consumes a considerable amount of time (before I even start with mailing lists...).
When I come home, I have a different reading list, which in turn is composed from about 50 blogs or so. It has been quite a while since I last added a blog to that list, as I don't think I can spare the time to read more. I prefer to stay productive and do other stuff.
As a result, I read blogs like I used to read newspapers when I read them: browse swiftly through the headlines, and read deeply only stuff that other people recommend (like when people share posts in Google Reader). There's a small (2-5) list of blogs which I read no matter what.
If anyone has a better idea to keep consuming huge amounts of information and stay productive, I'll be happy to hear.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I suggested he should report to Oracle about the bug and about the fix, not only because it's a nice thing to do, but also because having a patch with your name on it has some value of honor.
Personally, when I stumble upon bugs in the open-source products I use, I report a bug (if possible). If it's something I have knowledge in or interest in, I'll even try to fix the bug.
As I already wrote, I decided to install Windows 7 and see what the future holds. This raises two dilemmas for me:
- Should I report MS about the bugs I find (such as IE 8 beta crashing when browsing to Google Analytics)? There is really nothing for me in it. I really don't care if some of these products gets fixed or not, I'll probably won't get any gratitude, nor paid (hey, they're making money from this, so why don't I get my share?).
- Should I open bug/feature-request to my favorite desktop environments to mimic features I like in Windows 7 (like the ability to reorganize tasks in the taskbar)? I think innovation is much more important than copying from the competition, and since I hate GUI programming, I know I won't be the one imlpementing those features, so it's just creating work for other people.
What do you think?
Friday, January 2, 2009
The latest version of Windows beta is very much blogged about these days, so I'll try not to give "yet another review". Instead, my insights and though would be given.
Until 2001, I've been installing MS's OSes while they were in beta stages. This includes XP. About the same time I discovered Slackware, and ever since I found something much more exciting to play with. But the passion remains, and in the last few years I've been installing on VMs other OSes such as OS X 10.4 and 10.5 (which gave me very hard time on the VM) and Vista.
Installing Windows 7 on VirtualBox, my favorite virtualization product, is quite easy actually. Configure it for Windows Vista, don't forget to turn on ACPI, and you're good to go. After the installation, install the guest additions. Guess you'll get some error messages here, so set the guest additions executable to work in Vista compatibility mode, and all should be fine.
I still hadn't managed to get the sound to work, though I don't understand why. Hope to overcome that soon.
UPDATE: installing AC97 audio drivers (such as RealTek's) solves this issue as well - sound is working!
One of the things one will notice is the extremely reduced memory consumption of the OS. While writing this post I have few Firefox windows with few tabs each, and some other applications, and about 400MB of memory is in use. Quite similar to XP SP3. I suspect turning on all of the effects would consume some RAM as well, but over all the reduced resources consumption results in a very responsive UI.
Since Windows 7 is basically a better Vista, the only thing that comes in mind is that this is the first time I see a product in the scale of an OS which starts as a bloatware (and slowware) and upgrades to something more reasonable.
Since there isn't much to say about the underlying OS (don't know which features will be included in the final version, and Vista's experience teaches it's good not to make any promises), the only thing that can be judged is the UI.
It is very clearly shown that MS's engineers have been using OS X and Linux (both gnome and KDE) for quite a while. The new taskbar really does look like a merge between AWN, OS X dock and the previous Windows taskbar. No more annoying huge buttons with text labels. No more overly crowded quick launch area. Instead, nice icons which represents both "launchable" applications and running applications. If it works for the other guys for quite some years, it could work for MS as well.
Some new features added to the taskbar are Aero Peek and Color Hovering. One of the features allows the user to preview the tabs of open windows in the taskbar thumbnails previews. This sounds very promising, but turned out to be a bit of disappointment, as the tabs of the Firefox windows I'm using right now aren't previewed. Only MS's products does that in the mean while.
Last, but not least, some applications such as paint and wordpad, got a face lift, and now carry the Office 2007 interface. As this is really a matter of taste, I cannot really judge whether it was a good idea or not. e.g, people are using OpenOffice just to have the old Office interface back.
Bottom line: I think MS looked at the competition and got back to the right track. Don't know what Apple has in its sleeve, but I truly hope KDE 4.2 or 4.3 would set higher standards again, so all of us would benefit from a better desktop.
Not long ago, my team leader mentioned to me how important this is for us to stay ahead on the producers side, and not to fall back to the "consumers" status. In my previous team I did the same myself, as I (almost-) forced teammates to generate masses of information in many forms: documents, wiki notes, blog posts, frontal lectures, presentations and the likes. This is what keeps us as leaders.
I came to think about it this week, as I realized I've been posting a blog post virtually in each day of the week. I wish I had more time so I could write longer posts, but blitz-posts are better than nothing. Also, using information created by other people in order to create more information, is better than not creating information at all.
As I wrote in this year's blog day, one of my favorite blogs in my reading list is StackOverflow. This week's post reminded me of two topics I wanted to write about:
- Joel writes about how important this is to test your RAID failover scenarios before going on-line. I'm really all into it. This is one of the most important things you can do before going production. Moreover, the thing they didn't talk about, is how often do you put your DRP to test? Do you exercise disasters at all?
This is more important than most people can imagine, and still few are the people who really care about this or can handle real time catastrophe. Recent disasters in banks, voting systems and sites which were taken down (due to the war situation in Israel) only proves that even the largest organizations aren't prepared, or have only a semi-complete DRP. Go now, and write one. If Jeff and Joel can do this in their spare time, so could everybody else.
- Jeff and Joel say about themselves they are broad generalists. Only after reading their definition for it, I realize that I'm such as well.
Lately I hear many people worried about their future in our industry. Some think they'll become obsolete, so think it'll be impossible to find a good job in a good workplace. What's common to all of them is the fact they don't realize they are (or could be) generalists as well. If you love software, and think you're meant to do it for the rest of your life - finding a job would be (relatively) easy for you, regardless any crisis. But if you don't like what you're doing, or every day you wish this day to end so you could go home - go find another field, you really won't survive for an entire career.
FYI, software companies are still looking for people. Especially those who master many fields - DBs, OOP, Security, etc. I know this because some HR recruiters still ask me if I have friends for specific roles. So if you're talented, and fear about your future in the industry - don't.
Good weekend you all.
Unfortunately, the malicious code was online for far too long, and possibly many users were infected.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
- In a notebook.
- On a whiteboard.
- Sticky-Notes (PostIt)
- Text files and other documents.
- guess the list could go on...
- Ability to search.
- Long-Term archiving.
- Ease of use.
- Ability to share.
- Organization vs. Chaos.
- again, the list could go on...
Until not long ago, my preferred tool was MS's OneNote. It is capable for quite about everything, and I was very happy with it. But my needs has changed. Now I need something which doesn't cost money, able to work on many platforms, works via a web interface and then some.
Today I found out TiddlyWiki. Although I have very little experience with it, I can tell I'm going to love it. Basically, this is a private wiki, which runs locally from a browser. No server required, no further installations required. It is fast, and manages information in a non-linear manner (stuff can be interlinked). Notebook solutions (such as Google Notebook) are considered linear when compared to TiddlyWiki.
Their concept is great - a single HTML file that does everything. Easy to backup, easy to edit, easy. Can't wait to see how will it face the time-trial.