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20 November 2008

Server is back

Wasn't really *that* long, right?

Yesterday this server wasn't accessible. The machine was running fine, but the network interface had locked up. This has happened before, a couple of months ago. I'm finally planning an OS upgrade on the box (Real Soon Now™), hopefully that will help. Otherwise maybe I should try with the 2nd network port on the box. In the end I managed to resolve the problem by connecting through the serial port. Things should be back to normal now.

Posted by betabug at 09:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
16 January 2009

Camera Shopping

Anti-materialist materialism

During my vacation my wonderful Samsung Digimax Cyber 530 broke down. The camera has one of those zoom lenses that get extruded from the camera body by a little motor. The mechanism had already been stuck some months ago, back then a little push had fixed things. Now in the Bretagne it was probably just a tiny little bit too cold for the mechanism. It's stuck for good it seems and this kind of "cheap" digital object is hard to get repaired.

So, I'm looking around for a replacement. Something a little bit more robust would be nice. Without a protruding lens, even if that means a little bit less optical quality. Basically there are two "rough" compact cameras around: The Olympus line (currently at the Olympus Mju 1050 SW) and the Pentax line (right now at the Pentax Optio W60). I've looked at the Olympus in a shop and in reviews, didn't like it too much. I'll probably go for the Pentax.

Posted by betabug at 15:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 January 2009

New Work-Phone: Nokia e71

Or "New Toy", whichever really
Nokia e71 running mutt (in a putty ssh session)

Yesterday, I received my new phone from the company (thanx folks, the Graphics Garage is really a great workplace!), a replacement for my time honored P910i. I've already installed the most important thing on it: PuTTY, an SSH client. This phone is really much, much more comfortable to use with PuTTY (or SSH in general) than the P910. The picture shows mutt running in an ssh-session on my server. You could even go to "full screen mode" to get a tiny little bit more screen real estate.

This morning on the way to work I already had occasion to use the phone in an "emergency": One of "my" servers had restarted itself in the night and Zope did not get auto-started as expected. I was just passing through a little park and sat down on a bench to fix things. Logging in to a pre-defined connection with putty, starting up Zope, all very easy with this phone. SSH on the P910 was much more clunky in comparison, always poking around to get a certain special character to be sent. Putty on the Nokia e71 even sets up the navi-button to act as cursor keys.

Apart from that techy stuff: It seems to be a nice enough phone. It looks and feels sturdy, all metal and stuff. The keys are good enough to use, but since I have the version with Greek keyboard, the printing on the keys is really crowded, sometimes I get a bit lost. Switching from Greek to English input and back could be easier, but it really isn't that bad too (press and hold "Shift", press "Chr", then use the navi-button to select the other language in the menu and press the center button to select. Maybe it could be possible to write a python script to do that and assign it to a button).

The SMS application, the contacts and phone handling and all that seems to be reasonable. Settings are a bit spread out all over the place. I think the P910 with the stylus interface and a central "control panel" for the settings had a bit of an advantage there. Web browsing works, I think I'll only ever use it in emergencies. The connectivity is a bit of a mess - as I have a bandwidth restriction on 3G connectivity, I'm trying to use wifi connections as much as possible, but somehow the phone has a tendency to jump back to the 3G connection. It feels as if I have to select the proper connection again and again. Oh and the connection indicator is tiny, tiny in some applications - good deal of squinting there.

The phone also has GPS and a "Maps" application. I have no experience with GPS, but it seems to have found more or less where I am. The GPS seems to be a bit handicapped by all the buildings obscuring the sky here in Athens, the position jumping around a bit. Nonetheless it calculated the speed and average speed of my bus ride home yesterday evening. It also managed to find me and the bus on the map anytime. If you want to use "driving instructions" ("turn left on the next corner, fast! the traffic cop is watching us!") or even "walking instructions" (the same for pedestrians) you'll have to pay for a license. I got a 90 day demo license, but didn't manage to try it yet.

I managed to get my contacts moved over from the Mac: Nokia has made an iSync plugin and it works fine. Syncs calendar stuff too, but I don't really have much there. No idea yet how backup and archiving of messages will work, but I'm sure I'll find out. So, overall I'm happy with this phone for now.

Posted by betabug at 10:04 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
24 January 2009

Taking my Phone out for Wardriving

Which means: Find out what wifi networks exist someplace
screen shot of wifi positions obtained through wardriving, in Google Earth

"Wardriving" is a catchy name which means mapping the availability of wifi networks in an area. Usually it involves a laptop, a wifi card, a GPS receiver, and driving all that equipment around (e.g. in a car, you could also "warwalk" if you can carry it all). Wardriving does not actually mean accessing those networks you found, though some people mix these things up too. Time and technology move forward, so yesterday I discovered that with a little piece of software I have everything I need to go wardriving right in my new Nokia e71 mobile phone.

On the web I found this howto for wardriving the N95 (which seems to have been copied a couple of times on the web, so I have no idea if this is really the original author there). Basically it's using two pieces of software from - GPSd and Barbelo (mobile codes for phone access: GPSd and Barbelo) - to connect to the phone's GPS and do the actual scanning and logging.

The resulting logfiles are then transferred into the computer, converted to "Google earth format" and imported into "Google earth" to see them on a satellite map of the city, as pictured. Looks funny.

There are some small problems with all this: The "Barbelo" program is crashy as hell, it's "use at your own risk" software (so don't blame me when it messes up your phone, I warned you just now). It also does not handle Greek characters in the wifi Station IDs, I had to manually edit the "null characters" it inserts there and that would block the xml conversion. In the xml conversion somehow the stations signal strength disappeared. The last problem: Apparently the searching for wifi networks happens only punctually, not continually, there's always a bunch of stations lumped together on one position.

One result was not really surprising: There are still a lot of "open", unencrypted wireless networks around. Here in Athens there are some providers who deliver wifi-routers "open" to their customers and those customers don't care / do not know how to secure their network.

Posted by betabug at 12:53 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
27 January 2009

e-shopped Camera

New toy arrived this morning
Pentax Optio W60, waterproof compact camera.

Yesterday I had finally kicked my own butt, finished deciding on my camera shopping decision, taken the plunge and ordered a new camera. I still miss the old camera. I do know that the new one is not perfect, I will discover its good and bad sides.

I've ordered the camera at, a Greek web shop with a little twist: Since package delivery is not the most reliable of all things in Greece, you can order online and pick up the goods at their "outlets". And since not everybody has a credit card (or wants to use it that much) you can pay cash.

So, yesterday I ordered a Pentax Optia W60, a waterproof point+shoot camera. It's a tough little badass camera, but it does not have manual exposure control - snif. I'll have to learn to live with that. Probably will post more about the camera itself some day.

The funny thing with was that they listed the availability as 1-2 days, but managed to have the thing ready for pickup in the local outlet in 1 day (actually less, but I was already in the bus when I got the SMS that I could pick up my stuff). Nice. Picked the thing up this morning, took this pic with the Nokia e71 phone... total toy rush here.

They also have an online order tracking page, where you can follow how the order is processed in stages like "checking address data", "assembling order", etc. with date and time on each. I must have clicked on that poor web application a thousand times, just for fun and to see if those guys were having their coffee or what or finally finishing my order?! ahem.

Looks like they start late in the morning and rush to finish before lunch... or else they did have other orders to fulfill along with mine:

Following order progress at

Posted by betabug at 23:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 February 2009

Και το όνομά μου θα είναι...

Μερικοί έχουν χιούμορ λέμε
Funny wifi-name found in Exarheia

Την περασμένη εβδομάδα πήγαμε με φίλους για φαΐ στα Εξάρχεια (μετά από πολύ καιρό... άλλη ιστορία). Τώρα που έχω το καινούριο μου τηλέφωνο έχω πάντα κάτι να παίζω (έχει built in κομπολόι να πούμε), π. χ. παίζω με το wifi, να δω τι δίκτυα υπάρχουν κοντά και αν έχει ανοικτά δύκτια. Γελάγαμε πολύ με αυτό το "POUSTARAS" που βλέπετε στην φώτο. Τουλάχιστον ανοικτό δεν ήτανε.

Posted by betabug at 12:49 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
16 February 2009

IRC and Bluetooth Keyboard on e71

Take that, iPhone! (... or "another lame mobile phone post")
Nokia e71 paired with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard

Before I got my phone I was considering getting an iPhone. I had played around with friends' iPhones and wasn't really that impressed, so I searched around and finally got what I got, this Nokia e71 thing. Now the more I hack around on it, the better I seem to like it. Last week I went looking for an IRC client. The first I found was phIRC, which stated that it's beta and apparently just a fun project that didn't go much anywhere. It connected and somehow "worked", but really didn't work. Next I found mIRGGI. mIRGGI appears to be a fun project too, but it's polished, it works, it has a well thought out user interface that is a joy to use.

Now the nice thing about IRC is that the data volume is incredibly low, there really isn't much overhead to the text you're reading and writing. That means it's very nice to use even over a limited data plan, for when I have no wifi network around. Have to wait somewhere half an hour for the bus? Go and chat a while with the homies on IRC!

Besides, Symbian powered phones do multitasking (in difference to the iPhone), which means that you can chat, listen to the radio, take a phone call, and look up something on the web at the same time. Beats me why the iPhone, which is based on a Unix based OS, doesn't do background processes.

While I'm bashing the iPhone: Right after I got IRC to work, I went and fetched the Apple Bluetooth keyboard we have in the office. I had tried once to hook it up to my phone but had no luck. A few days ago though, I had spotted a little "Wlss. keybd" application with a bluetooth icon on my phone. This time I tried to pair the keyboard using this application and it worked in no time at all! The app lead me through the setup: Enter a code on the keyboard, enter same code on the phone, again on the keyboard... done.

Clickety-click, typing on the real keyboard, text appears on phone. Next step: search the web for iPhone and bluetooth keyboard pairing... all you'll find is people frantically looking for it, but no solutions, it just doesn't work.

Posted by betabug at 10:13 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
21 February 2009

Métro - Public Transport on Smartphone

Nice, but limited usefulness for Athens
Exit of the Metro station Megaro Mousikis in Athens

There is a clever "little" program for PDAs and smartphones that lets you orientate yourself in the public transport networks of many cities. It's called Métro and is available for free. You install the program and then install the databases for the cities you need it for. I've installed it on my phone (Nokia e71) and played around with it. Basically it tells you how to get from point A to point B in the maze of an unknown city's public transport net.

The program itself works fine, even though some of the user interface is a bit counter intuitive to what I got used to on this Symbian phone. The Athens Public Transport information is limited to the Metro/Treno lines, the tram, the "suburban railway" (προαστιακός) and the trolley lines. Missing are all the bus lines - which constitute probably 80-90% of the public transport network in Athens.

This limitation is probably due to the stated limitation of the Métro software, which on their site is given as "when a database contains more than 80 to 120 lines, trouble is looming". This is quite understandable, since many variations of the software have to run on limited hardware.

So, is the software still useful for visitors to Athens? If you're a tourist, probably yes. Most tourists are overwhelmed with the Athenian bus system anyway (ok, the "Métro" software could well change that with bus line info) and stick to the Metro and tram lines. In that case Métro might save you some studying of line diagrams and help you plan your tours to visit the tourist spots. Or it might help you reschedule your excursions on the spot when you feel like it. If on the other hand you want to explore Athens in depth, the ΟΑΣΑ site and pdf transport maps will be a better, but much more tiresome resource.

Posted by betabug at 13:17 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
28 February 2009

Crazy Mobile Guy

Rather anti-social

This evening I went out with friends... and played with my mobile phone while doing so. First we needed some driving directions when we had to reschedule due to a closed café... the e71's GPS and map program came to the rescue. I don't have the paid service to speak the driving directions, but since we were enough people in the car, the "co-pilot" improvised that part.

Next in the cafeteria we looked up when the Akropolis is accessible for free (in this season each Sunday). Then I started to play around with IRC. It's of course highly in-polite (or should I say anti-social) to IRC while in a cafe with other people, but it really was more of an experiment. So, 2 hours 13 minutes of IRC and aGPS access resultet in 34kByte download, 14kByte upload. Even if you have to pay full for your data, that's not so much. I kept IRC open in the cafe, while we were driving to a restaurant, during dinner and on the way home.

In that time I received a phone call, wrote an SMS, gave driving directions with the help of the GPS/maps app. The data connection didn't drop and IRC stayed connected in the background - with me checking and leaving a message from time to time. I don't think I'll let this get a habit, but it was a nice experiment: be "crazy mobile guy" for an evening.

Posted by betabug at 23:53 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
05 March 2009

Easier locking of keypad on e71

One long click

Nokia phones have traditionally always been locking their keypads by hitting the top left key ("left softkey") and then the bottom left key (on the e71 "function key"). Which is nice and dandy, but once you had a phone with a real lock button or even hardware switch, it's just clumsy. Especially since those buttons have other jobs too, so it's easy to e.g. go into the applications menu by mistake.

There is a much better solution: Download the little freeware program mLock, assign it for example to a "long press" on the calendar key - where you can find it easily by touch. The funny thing is that this will work from any application, so now I can lock the keypad while I'm in IRC... locked keys but I can still follow what's happening online.

Now if I only could get the default auto-capitalization (aka auto-shift) to be turned off totally. I hate that stuff.

Posted by betabug at 11:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 March 2009

apache and reverse DNS hostname lookups

No, no, no, it ain't me babe!

Doing reverse DNS hostname lookups on every request in apache (to have those domain names in the log file) is a bad idea as it will slow your server down, everybody seems to agree on that. Yesterday I noticed one of our servers doing just that, despite me not having remembered turning that feature on. Took me a bit of searching and cursing to find the culprit.

There are a few reasons why Apache (or Apache 2) will start looking up hostnames:

... and now please don't ask me why Apple (or is it Apache 2 at fault?) has the LogFormat with %h in their config on Mac OS X 10.5.

Posted by betabug at 10:42 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
23 March 2009

got earphones (again)

Earphones Nokia HS40... not HS47

I admit, I treated my earphones mean. They came with my phone (Nokia e71), they sounded ok, so I used them a lot. One day I pulled hard on the cord and they started to play only intermittently. I shouldn't have done that. I ordered a new pair from Last Wednesday I took my delivery. Half an hour later I opened the box and to my surprise they were stereo headphones with only one earpiece.

At first I thought I had ripped off one earpiece while opening the blister. But no, there were no dangling cables. A closer look revealed that the box contained a headset Nokia HS40. Which is not a stereo headset. The box clearly wrote HS47 - Stereo. Someone in China had put the wrong thing into the wrong box. Next morning I went back to the outlet. Patiently I explained a couple of times what had happened. I left the HS40 with them (had snapped a pic before) and they told me they would have to send it over to their technician "who will look up some serial numbers and such stuff". Right. Good luck to me and no music so far.

Saturday I received an SMS: "Your product has been replaced, you can come to pick it up." Good again, so this morning I went and indeed received a replacement. Going through the complaints moves wasn't the nicest experience ever, it took some time, but it wasn't that bad and in the end I got the product I had wanted.

Posted by betabug at 09:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 May 2009

Το γιατί δεν έχει mobile έκδοση;

Πιο κομψό

Με το καινούριο κινητό μου αρχίζει και παίζει το κινητό Internet πολύ παραπάνω από παλαιά. Το να τσεκάρω τα νέα (NZZ online έκδοση) και τα "μέλια" μου στο λεωφορείο είναι πια νορμάλ. Πολύ χρήσιμο θα ήταν και αν έπαιξε το σε πιο "κομψή", πιο "λεπτή" online έκδοση. Η σελίδες τους είναι πολύ "βαριές" (700kB) και για mobile το μόνο που έχουν είναι υπηρεσία μέσον SMS.

Προς το παρόν το έβαλα μέσων Google mobile site converter, και πολύ καλύτερα φαίνεται. Για παράδειγμα η πρόγνωση για την Αθήνα σε μορφή "mobile".

Posted by betabug at 12:31 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
13 May 2009

Working on Naxos

An old dream comes true
betabug looking on the Naxos landscape

Since last Sunday I'm on the island of Naxos. I live in an old two-story stone house, in the middle of the island. The sea is not near, from the terrace I can barely spot a glimmer of it, but I can see the mountain of the neighboring Paros island.

Having the sea nearby isn't so important, I'm here to work. I brough my MacBook, a bit of paper, and a little device to get Internet over a 3G mobile connection. When I'm sketching out plans, I can sit on the terrace in the sun, otherwise I'm inside on the computer, with a view on the trees and the still green landscape. I hear mostly the birds chirping, with a truck or tractor passing in the distance now and then.

It's a nice setting to think things through and to concentrate on writing code. Working on the Zope on my local machine is fast as usual, but when I connect somewhere over the Internet, results vary. Sometimes the connection is speedy and slick, other times I get a lot of lag. Clearly following Murphy's law, the signal is worst on the nice desk little where I like to work, much better in the middle of the house. Sitting in the middle of the house, I can even talk on Skype with clear and non-laggy sound. I always wanted to try and work like this. Modern technology with 3G Internet connections finally made things possible.

There are a lot of cows on Naxos, the place is famous for butter and cheese. It tempts me to cook swiss style, with a lot of butter. I went to run twice in the evenings, greeting cows and farmers alike. I love that: wind up work, then change into shorts and go for a run, right outside the door. I'll stay here this week, then head back to Athens.

Posted by betabug at 10:46 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
19 May 2009

The Day of the Backups (Oh yeah!)

Good to have them, good to have them working

Today was something like a "Day of the Backups". It started a few days ago already actually, when HelMUG (the Greek Mac user group) had a break in at their PHP site. Probably SQL injection, but that kind of stupidity aside, it's another story I wanted to tell. The story there is that I had set that machine up a long time ago to make a backup of the SQL database every morning, then encrypt that backup with PGP and transfer it to my server with rsync. Sure came in handy just now. Even if the vandals had gained access to the drive they wouldn't have been able to tamper with the encrypted remote backups.

The second case was when this I started this morning with the last preparations to replace an aging (and acting up) server at work. There is a lot of data on it (as in "many gigabytes") and the fastest way to transfer the current set of data to the new machine was to unhook the backup drive and hook it up to the new server. Except the daily backup on that backup drive wasn't readable. Everything appeared to be there, but the files couldn't be read. Moved the drive to another computer and now it wouldn't even mount, with the directory structure shot. Luckily nothing bad had happened, as the data on the main drive was ok and I was able to move it over using another drive. Lesson learned: It's good to have a backup, but make sure it's working too!

Posted by betabug at 20:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
24 May 2009

Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009

An update to "Internet for Visitors" - prepaid mobile phone Internet access

Things have changed a lot since my often read post Internet for Visitors in Greece. That post was from February 2005. In the meantime we have mobile Internet solutions from all three Greek mobile phone providers. Only two of them have solutions for prepaid customers though. Also much more available are wifi connections, both in the form of accidentally left open wireless networks (use according to your own ethical standards), and in the form of "free wifi" in cafes and hotels. Read on for some more information especially about the prepaid mobile solutions.

Free wifi is great to have. If you stay in a hotel that offers the service and presuming that it's really free, it's the best you can get. If you want or have to be more independent, it might be because you're staying in a rented house, you move from hotel to hotel, or you're staying with friends or family who are not Internet aware. In my experience using a USB modem for a 3G / UMTS or even a GPRS connection allows you to do your important stuff on the net, without having to depend on others.

For those mobile connections, there are only a few options. For one thing, subscription plans are not really an option for you as a tourist, as in Greece to sign up for a subscription mobile plan you still need to provide official papers showing that you pay taxes here. You might get a friend sign up on their name with their papers, but it would have to be a really, really good friend for you to jump through these bureaucratic hoops and take the risk.

Prepaid Mobile phone Internet access

The next option is a prepaid phone card, together with something like a Huawei USB 3G modem.

First there is this 30MB a month plan offer from Vodafone. Vodafone shows an option here that works for prepaid cards, but it's only 30MB a month, with charges of almost 1 Euro per megabyte after that.

I've used a similar setup for quite a while in the past for keeping in touch by mail, but I worked on a really reduced to the minimum setup. It's not really for everybody or a "nice choice". Keep in mind that 30 MegaByte is really, really little stuff on todays web.

... a bit bigger?

There is also this thing, which one reader mentioned: The Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G Prepaid Plans (scroll down on the linked page to find that plan). If you have a modem already (or a mobile phone that could serve as a modem), you'd probably need only the "Connection pack 3G Broadband Prepay" for 43 Euro. I didn't quite grasp what (or how much) you get with those 43 Euros, i.e. how much download bandwidth it buys you. I guess one would have a difficult time finding out what this means, as the people at the Vodafone shops are almost guaranteed to be totally clueless.

The other 2 mobile providers (CosmOTE and Wind) have probably similar programs. CosmOTE is going to be more complicated to find out, it's a government owned outfit. Excuse me if I won't bother with their website.

All you can eat... err, download

Wind seems to have those Prepaid ADSM tariff plans: It probably results to the same price range (~60 Euros per month), but at least you have an idea what you pay for. You get "unlimited" downloads (actually 7GB, but you can't download that much in that time over this type of connection anyway). You pay 15 Euros for 7 days, which sounds like a lot, but factor in the convenience of the prepaid connection and compare with prices in an Internet cafe... and it might just be the ticket if you use the net more or less regularly.

Personally I'd be something for someone like me, who want to really use the net (myself I have mobile Internet through Vodafone on the phone provided by my employer, so I'm not "endorsing" this plan really). What's mising is a plan that is somewhere in between the "all you can eat" and the "30MB a month ascetic diet", something for the casual mail checker + online news reader. Maybe the Vodafone offer (which lacks some information) is it, maybe it's just missing from the market.

The more or less state owned CosmOTE provider does not seem to have a prepaid data plan. They have something called "i-mode" access, over which presumably you can read your mails. Please excuse me if I won't bother to try to simmer that information out of their website.

Coverage, hardware: no problems really

As for the coverage: All three Greek mobile phone providers are bound to have about the same coverage area. Mobile telephony in Greece is extremely popular, with the number of mobile phone subscriptions surpassing the number of people living in Greece. You might not have 3G coverage everywhere, but slower GPRS for fallback will quite likely work. I've actually been chatting on irc from my phone on the boat back from Mykonos :-).

About the hardware: The Huawei USB 3G modems seem to be common. There is software support. Our company's thing was supplied by Vodafone and had the driver for Macs on the built in thumb drive. The Vodafone software is a bit stupid interface wise in my humble oppinion. Wind seems to supply Mac software too, but according to graffic it's easier and nicer to download the Mac driver from Huawei's site.

Posted by betabug at 16:47 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
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