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promees.es — a weekend’s experiment October 15, 2013

Posted by CK in Networking, Research, Software.
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There is this concept I have been thinking about for quite some time now, and this weekend I got around to kicking off its development. There are additional things I want to implement for it, but in its current form it is probably ok to publicize. So here’s the idea: People make promises constantly. “I’ll fix this for you”; “Sure, I’ll review your work”; “I’ll take you on a holiday”; you get the drill. People are judged by how good they are keeping their promises. Abiding to your promises is, in real life, one of the main reasons why others respect you.

Another thing happening in real life is that this respect is communicated in private conversations. But what would happen if people were able to advertise an index of their capability to hold on their promises? Would this be of value to their peers? This site is an experiment to figure out such questions, using Facebook as a platform.


Feel free to give it a try at promees.es and get back to me with thoughts/comments you may have (keeping in mind that it was built in 3 days or so, so dont’ be harsh!).


Vodafone Germany wrap-up May 14, 2010

Posted by CK in Networking, Personal.
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Update: Today I found out that they charged me ~112 euros for early contract cancellation. I don’t know how to react and remain politically correct.

First things first: AVOID THIS COMPANY AT ALL COSTS. I received notoriously bad service, and eventually a disconnection that wasn’t my fault, at the most critical time for me — when I’m writing my doctoral thesis.

First, it was their incompetence providing me with a working phone, until I solved the problem for them.

Then, I asked them in writing to cancel my contract on August, and they replied they will cancel it in November, although their salesmen had told me I can quit whenever I wanted.

Then I wrote them that I am a university student leaving the country, and therefore I want them to cancel it in August, not November. They replied they will cancel it in May, in a week’s time after their notification.

I spoke to their customer care this last Monday, the guy said he’d try to roll it back because it was clearly a Vodafone mistake, and we should check back on Wednesday about the status of the rollback request. These requests go to Deutsche Telekom and once in, you never know if you can do something about it.

On Wednesday, the lady I (well, my German-speaking colleague) spoke to said she couldn’t see anything about such a request, and I should send a fax to describe the problem. I did, then someone called me (which is really a rare thing), said again he would try to roll back the cancellation request and call me back to notify me what is the status of things. Needless to say, he never called me back.

An hour ago, my connection disappeared. I have no ADSL anymore, it’s not my fault, and according to the latest Vodafone representative I spoke to today, there is nothing I can do about it. Her advice was to buy a 3G USB stick.

If anyone knows what I can do to kick them, please tell me. This is disaster. I was disconnected 3 months before the time I asked, and they pretend it’s my fault.

Should I laugh or should I cry? May 10, 2010

Posted by CK in Networking, Personal.
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Readers of this blog are already familiar with my bitter experience with Vodafone Germany (details here and here). Long story short, in the latest episode of this series I asked for my connection to be interrupted at the end of the summer, giving them a good lead time for that (typically, contracts require a 3-month notice). On Friday, I got a letter from Vodafone stating that my phone/internet connection will be cancelled at the end of this week. At this point in time, this would be pure disaster, my thesis’ Titanic. Calling them on the phone, they recognized their mistake, apologized, and said they don’t know if they can do something because they have already asked Deutsche Telecom to disconnect me on Friday.

Seriously, Vodafone, how difficult is it to get your act together and be professional? Are you really amateurs? I really wish I had never made that contract.

Top 10 reasons you should leave Facebook May 6, 2010

Posted by CK in Funny, IT, Networking.
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A wonderful, wonderful article over here explaining all the important reasons why you should leave Facebook. Highly recommended, as is also this video linked from the article. Enjoy.

Registrar January 20, 2010

Posted by CK in Miscellaneous, Networking.
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I recently decided to register a couple of .EU domains, and thought it may be a chance to consolidate my domains under one registrar. I have a .NAME, a .GR, plus these new ones — and you never know what else may come up. So I had to find a registrar who would support these three TLDs at the very least. As the list of Greek registrars is too long to search for .NAME capacity, it was much easier to check out the ones from abroad. Eventually I ended up subscribing to Netim, a French registrar with the service of whom I have been very happy so far. They offer a number of free and low-cost extras, plus a very sufficient management interface.

On another note, I really like how .EU domains are ridiculously cheap, and you get them in minutes. Not much to compare with the process (and price) of getting a .GR domain, which may last up to 20 days AFAIU.

Twitter January 10, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Networking.
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I just joined, to see what all the fuss is about. Looking for a Mac OS desktop client, after some evaluation, I ended up with Socialite. It would be great if its RSS reading facilities were as good as NetNewsWire‘s, I’d just buy it and remove one icon from my dock. Not yet, unfortunately.

I also checked FriendFeed, mostly because I saw it in George‘s tweet list. Can’t figure it out, and in any case, one step at a time.

If you wish to follow, my ID is ckotso.

Update: I now switched to Echofon; Socialite is very cool but I only need a Twitter client, and I prefer Echofon’s interface. I only miss the quick-tweet shortcut…

WiFi @ IND December 16, 2008

Posted by CK in Mobility, Networking, Travel.
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Yesterday I flied out of the US, starting from the airport of Indianapolis. IND is brand new (or at least the terminal where I was), spacious, clean, efficient. It’s one of those airports that you like as soon as you set foot on them, not because of some fancy design or its shopping area, but rather because it does very well what it is supposed to do: route you to your flight with minimal strain (US airline companies’ inefficiency and how they manage to destroy your day in the end, is a whole different story).

What I liked the most, however, was their business model for offering wifi access. Instead of providing pre-pay internet connectivity, as is the case in all airports I have been at before, they give it for free. The catch (hardly one…) is that they first take you through a page where they have a bunch of movies and music that you can buy, to entertain you during the flight. If you don’t want to, you can immediately skip it and go to the AUP, and from there to free public internet.

I don’t know if it’s working from a business perspective, but I’d love to see something like this taking off. Operating an internet link is not *that* expensive in the western world anymore, and the fees they charge are usually outrageous. 8 euros for 60 minutes in Frankfurt? Yeah, right.

Dopplr November 15, 2008

Posted by CK in IT, Networking, Travel.
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This may be old news for many people, but I just found out about Dopplr. Way cool service that lets you synchronise with fellow frequent travellers and, who knows, maybe meet up at an airport or a city pub for a beer or three. It’s funny, I was thinking of building this kind of service a couple of years back, I’m happy that someone else did it for me — and it’s quite a good job. I’m sure it will get better and better.

Vodafone service in Germany August 19, 2008

Posted by CK in Miscellaneous, Networking, Personal.
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25/08/2008 update: At long last, just a few hours before I go and cancel my contract, I found someone in the customer care who could understand I know what I am talking about, would not try to take me through the “check your cables, check your settings, reset your router” process, and just translated to an engineer. They reset my SIP password according to my likings, and voila! I have a working telephone at home, with my own router.

To the unknown customer care representative @Vodafone, thank you.

Now if only I could make it work with Eyebeam… (PEBKAC)

Everything written below is real.

When I moved to Germany, one of the first things I did was to get a DSL/phone contract. I did a lot of searching before I chose a provider, and eventually I ended up with Vodafone on the following grounds:

  1. In two different Vodafone stores they told that their telephone service is not VoIP. This, however, is not true (they are using SIP on their DSL routers). Funnily enough, last Saturday that I went to at the store where I signed the contract, the salesman still insisted that they sell normal (i.e. not VoIP) telephony connections, because I don’t need a computer to use my phone. I was not amused by his ignorance.
  2. I can cancel my contract at any point without penalties (I expect to find out in the next couple of days if it’s true or not).

My connection was delivered in time, and I was quite enthusiastic about that. Having Internet connectivity so fast, when all colleagues were telling me that delivering the service takes a long time, was really great. I had already bought a different router which I attached and had Internet available immediately. Sweet.

Then I tried to use the phone. It was dead. I tried various “festnetz” configurations, nothing. I started wondering if my router has a problem. Then I connected a typical, old, analog telephone to the wall socket. Nothing. It wasn’t working. At that point, I got suspicious about it. Could they have misinformed me about the TDM-basis of their telephony solution? Could it be VoIP, contrary to their reassurances that “my phone will work without electrical power, with a broken router, or by just plugging my analogue telephone onto the wall socket”? I connected the Vodafone (Arcor, really) router provided with the contract. Still, no phone. I logged into it from the web interface and provided the “modem installation code”. It went through, to an interface which informed me (among other things) that SIP registration had failed. It was VoIP, after all.

The story with this service goes like this: They provide you with this “modem installation code”, which you enter by phone or through the web interface. Then the router automatically gets the necessary credentials (apparently, the ADSL username/password is somehow encoded within this installation code), registers for ADSL, then retrieves SIP credentials over the internet (I guess), and connects to the SIP service. Somewhere along the path, this fails for me.

Ever since, I am trying to resolve it and eventually get telephone working. In the last two months:

  • Two times they arranged an appointment and asked me to be at home to check the problem. They never called me back on my mobile.
  • One time they did. The polite and otherwise smart english-speaking lady at the other end promised me that if I enter the installation code through the attached phone (not the web interface) everything would work like a charm. I did, and when she heard the automated voice coming from my analogue phone and saying in German “there has been a problem, please try again later” she was convinced and opened a ticket. My many requests for my SIP credentials were not fulfilled, she insisted that I do not need them and that technicians will check the problem for me.
  • One or two days later, engineers from T-Com came by my house to check the wires. Of course this was totally unnecessary, as ADSL works (as I told her multiple times). Not surprisingly, they found no problem whatsoever. Someone then called me from Vodafone and said that when I return from my vacation (I was leaving on the next day), a Vodafone technician would come by to check my (otherwise working) router. I provided them with my vacation schedule. Noone ever called back since I returned.
  • Last Saturday I went to a Vodafone store. The salesman insisted that they do not sell VoIP, but rather “normal telephony service”. I went to another store, where the salesman was clearly more knowledgeable. He admitted it’s VoIP, and patiently listened to my problem and complaints. He made a note on their CRM so that someone calls me about this (noone did so far, it’s Tuesday evening).
  • Today I called again, and without talking about any telephony problems, I just asked for my telephony credentials. The kind gentleman on the other end opened (one more) case, and said they will call me back about this. At least he was straightforward from the beginning, saying he’s providing tech support for mobile telephony so he wasn’t aware of how he could help me about this.

In total, I must have 4 open tickets for my problem in Vodafone. After 2+ months, I still have no phone. Maybe if I was speaking German I would be able to eventually speak to someone from the Arcor IP telephony section who would actually understand what I’m talking about (Arcor was bought by Vodafone and is practically providing all technical services for DSL+telephony). If I wasn’t thinking of the 15+ days without Internet, I would have cancelled already and moved to one of the other guys.

Fritz!Fon 7150 woes (and how they were solved) July 8, 2008

Posted by CK in IT, Networking.
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After having my DSL connection activated, I went for a router and a phone. I wanted to use a VoIP provider who would allow some cheap calls to Greece, so SIP capabilities on the router were absolutely necessary. WiFi was also a requirement. I was familiar with AVM‘s Fritz!Box, a really cool box which included by default lots of useful functionality. For those who are not aware of AVM, they have something like 50% of the DSL router market in Germany, and they really are pioneers in the domain.

Looking around, I stumbled across Fritz!Fon: A real gem, unfortunately only sold in Germany. Less ports, but a great added feature: Integrated DECT phone. Not only was I saving money (well, it is quite expensive so I needed an excuse), but I was also saving space and wires (more excuses). Anyway, I bought it, brought it home and happily connected. 1st shock: The interface was German only. Thankfully, with some online translation and my experience with their administrative interface, it was ok and I was online in no time. Then I registered with my SIP service, and tried to make a phone call. 2nd shock: Sound quality was really poor unacceptable. I switched on the laptop, fired up SJPhone, sound was great. I wasn’t downloading anything, so it couldn’t be congestion (plus, on the other end they could hear me perfectly). I fiddled through all settings I could possibly think off: Codecs, traffic shaping, you name it. The only interesting diagnostic was jitter ~= 10ms, and some evident packet drops (although the box doesn’t account for them).

Yesterday, I was going through the settings I can modify on my SIP account, on the provider’s side. I noted this setting with 4 levels on RTP packet size. It was on “level 1”, and the provider recommended increasing it if there were audio problems/gaps. I increased it, no changes. Then it hit me: What if the packets are too big? What if they are fragmented somewhere along the path, and Fritz!Fon doesn’t have big enough buffers for that? Changing it to the lowest level, I immediately enjoyed perfect audio quality for my VoIP-based phone calls. I’ll try to decode this further if I can in the next days, and get back with updates to this post.

So now if you experience interrupts and breaking sound on your Fritz!* product, you know what to try first!