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01 February 2006

The Line Is Up

Yes, ADSL at home

Yes, everything worked. The technician from Vivodi came around at the specified time. He was delighted to find my two flatmate-grrls there. The installation seemed to have gone fine. I was already looking out to get a wireless kit or some other means to get the net to my room. But then I came home and discovered that the ADSL modem is also a router and wireless access point. Nice.

Even nicer was the setup of the wireless: It was wide open. At least there was a password on the admin account, but the network was open and unencrypted, and the built in firewall was off. So as a first measure I set up that stuff a bit, WEP 128, MAC address registration, and the firewall will at least deter the lazier script kiddies. Anything important will have to be encrypted anyway to go over the line. At least my paranoia is well developped enough that I use PGP/GPG daily, have the firewall on my personal machine on and use encrypted protocols for everything I can. It would be cool to have a Soekris with OpenBSD to secure the wireless, but that is currently out of the reach.

Oh, and the technician was really happy to have my flatmates around, he gave them his phone number and reminded them to call him if they have questions. "Any questions! Just call me!" Yeah, sure :-)

Posted by betabug at 19:38 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 February 2006

Μαθαίνοντας Zope στην Ελλάδα

Learning Zope in Greece - Weblog

Στην δουλειά είμαι προϊστάμενος τώρα. Η Μαίρη και ο Ανδρέας με βοηθάνε και μαθαίνουν το Zope. Ενδιαφέρουσα κατάσταση. Από την μια πλευρά δεν είχα πότε "μαθητευόμενο" στον προγραμματισμό, και είναι ωραία να βλέπω πως μαθαίνουν, κάθε μέρα προχωράνε. Από την άλλη πλευρά πολλές μέρες μου σπάνε λίγο τα νεύρα που ρωτάνε συνέχεια. Για να τους έχω απασχολημένους, τους έβαλα να κάνουν ένα weblog Learning Zope in Greece. Έτσι...

Κανονικά τους έχω πει να διαβάζουν καθημερινά την Zope mailing list, και να γράφουν κάτι για το τι διάβαζαν εκεί. Αυτό δεν έγινε (εκτός από μια φορά) δυστυχώς. Μήπως κάποια μέρα τους έρθει η όρεξη για κάτι τέτοιο. Χρήσιμο θα ήτανε σίγουρα. Άλλα και μέχρι τότε, το "blog" τους έχει πολύ ενδιαφέρον. Καλορίζικο!

Posted by betabug at 13:21 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
08 February 2006

Greece Moves Forward To the Past in Informatics

"Strategic" agreement of the greek state with Microsoft

It's bad enough that a few days ago statistics showed us that only about 1 in 5 Greeks ever used a computer, and that most of those use it only for entertainment. Now the government went for the total sell-out. In a new agreement, they ensured that the states software will be from Microsoft for the next years... likely till 2013. Everybody is now wondering if there was ever a public call for offers for this deal. Likely not, the way it came just out of the blue. For the country this is a problem, since a monoculture is the opposite of a healthy informatics society...

The problem is that computers over here means badly maintained grey boxes, with a monoculture of (often stolen) M$ software. Not what you need to get a well educated group of people that can help you "propel the country into the 21st century" (or whatever bloat the politicians blast at the moment, in a couple of years the line with the 21st century will get old fast). When we were looking for a junior programmer at the place where I work, we had tons of resumes of kids who came out of university with the basic skills to use Windows and not much more. That may be fine and dandy if you think that MS software is the greatest and shiniest thing, but it is no way to compete on an international scale. When was the last time you heard of any IT project that got moved to Greece?

One could argue that it's all MS already, be it on the informal level (prescribing "Pentium" processors for acquiring computers for public offices) or on smaller scale agreements (lots of greek universities have "deals" with Microsoft). But the fact that it's already bad as it is does not make this step better. The tag-line of the agreement is that Greece gets "preferential" financial terms. Which means they will still pay a big, big deal.

As a weblog from Bulgaria mentioned (How a government must deal with Microsoft), the Bulgarians possibly dealt even worse. That guy admires the Greek government for getting out so much. But he is wrong. Look at countries like Thailand, and cities like Munich in Germany. You just have to wave the flag of Open Source software in the general direction of Redmond and you suddenly get offered MS Office for $30 (in Thailand) or everything for free (in Munich). (And not to mention that you could still go the road of Open Source and as a result get an IT industry with a bit of a clue what they are doing.) The Greek government prefers to bend down and invite Mr. Gates over for a visit. Press release from the Greek embassy in Washington: Stone Age in Greece extended till 2013 and in Greek: το ξεπούλημα τον παιδιών μας μέχρι το 2013.

Posted by betabug at 22:22 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)
21 February 2006

First Glimpse of Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network

...and Wifi mucking around at home

In Athens there is an open wireless network. I knew as much and had visited the website of the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network. Apparently they use directed antennas to build "backbones" that at some point connect to the greater Internet. It follows that you need some equipment to find out if you have any connectivity. They have a map where you can look up access points and "connectors" in your area, but this won't tell you if you really have a signal. This morning, due to mucking around with my own miserable wireless connection, I catched a glimpse of an AWMN signal myself.

With my own wifi access point I'm having a bit of an interrupted love affair at times. Or rather it's my Titanium PowerBook that has a problem due to the (known) problem of the case shielding the Airport card and antennas. It has happened to me before that I was sitting next to someone with an iBook and the other guy got a signal just fine, while I was out myself. At home the result is short bursts of misery, trips to the access point to wiggle the antenna, and starting KisMac to see if the signal is really that low.

This morning I woke up early, cuz I had an idea: What if my problems were due to the channel setup being on "automatic" on the AP. One symptom was that KisMac reported good enough signal strength usually, but dropping to 0 for a second or a half a lot. So I went and tried it out. At first I got kicked off the net after switching the setting to a fixed channel. But then it worked reasonable enough. We'll see how well it will work in the long run. But then I noticed my version of KisMac to be grossly outdated. So I went to download a new version of KisMac.

And funny enough, this new KisMac showed me a glimpse of a wifi access point with an ID starting with AWMN-... Hello Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (site in Greek)! Unfortunately the reception wasn't good enough to actually try and connect: KisMac only gave it about 3-4 points, sometimes going back to 0. But with a proper antenna setup I likely would have gotten a useful connection out of it. So, "bummer, I could have gotten Internet for free"? Somehow yes, but on the other hand getting an antenna and hax0ring my PowerBook to use an external antenna would have cost money too. Having my own connection gives me another level of support and quality-of-service. Also we have telephone at home too now. But taking part in the wireless network is still an interesting option for the future, even if it is just for fun.

Posted by betabug at 11:10 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
26 February 2006

A Visit to Diomidis Spinellis

In class with the author of "Code Reading"

Greece is not exactly known as the navel of Open Source Software, but there is one author whose book stands out and became a success in that world. When Diomidis Spinellis wrote "Code Reading" he did not anticipate its success. The book was featured on slashdots frontpage for months, it received best reviews from several Open Source programming insiders and is on the "recommended reading" list for a couple of free OS's. Last Friday I went to visit Diomidis and got a chance to experience his teaching too...

For a long time I had thought about meeting Diomidis in his office hours at the Athens University for Economics and Business, my main idea being that I could get my copy of "Code Reading" signed. Greek university professors have a couple of "open" hours each week when students can meet them in the office. Last year his office hours did not suit me, so this did not work out. Then I linked to Diomidis blog and somehow we got in contact. The idea of meeting and getting the book signed, reappeared. This Friday I left earlier from work, took the subway to Victoria Square (my old neighbourhood) and took a walk through the park "Pedion tou Ares" to one of the smaller and furter of buildings of AUEB.

I was a bit early, but Diomidis was already in, helping a colleague (and former student of his) fix a bug in some code. We chatted a bit about me being in Greece as a swiss programmer, and him being a prof at a Greek university. He told me that when he settled on an open source theme for his course, the university did not object at all. In one of his courses students have to pick an existing open source project, fix some bugs and add a new feature. In the process they will obviously learn a lot about reading and understanding code. They get a real world impression of what programming is all about, way beyond the usual text book approach of "this is how you write a loop, now go out and build a new Photoshop".

After the smalltalk I got a chance to watch him have a stab at code reading and bug fixing. I saw him move concentrated through the code, jumping though levels of subroutines and following the flow of the program. In the end he was able to pinpoint a likely source of the problem with that piece of code, a value returned being different from what the program expected, a different version of an installed library likely being at fault. Unfortunately I wasn't able to see the screen well enough to have a closeup of the action, but I got the feel that Diomidis can back the theory up with action good enough, no problem.

After that action piece, Diomidis told me that he would have to concentrate to prepare his class. I surprised him by asking if he'd mind if I sat in to see him teach. So I got to read a magazine (which contained an article by him), while he went through his notes and printed out some documents.

Diomidis teaches a course for postgraduate students (from a couple of countries) who are doing their MBA (I hope I don't mix up the university slang here). The course is called "Computers for all" and is modelled after something that (I think) Kernighan teaches in Stanford (but not on that level, as Diomidis reminded me with a smile). These students are not programmers. When he heard that I wanted to sit in that course, Diomidis probably was afraid that I would get bored very fast. The course takes the students through all levels of computing, from having a look at HTML pages, passing by simple programming exercises, down to strategies of how raw data is stored in memory. Given the subject and the interests of business students, one could expect this to being a lost cause, with students that blank out after a couple of minutes.

But that is not the case in Diomidis class. He is a quiet talker, soft spoken, but he uses a lot of student involvement, starting with simple, but continuous asking of questions. Students have to offer ideas to store an array of values in memory, "what address will the next name start on now?" and "what is the downside of this method?" We also got to play a special game. We played Battleship on papers Diomidis had prepared for us. Each player had to find the other sides "marked" ship, at first with no hints given. In the second game, the hints allowed for a simple "binary tree" search strategy with much faster hits, and in the third game an arrangement of the ships in a hash table gave instant success. Makes the concept of search strategies sink in.

The students had eyed me interested when I got introduced as "a guest from Switzerland, living and working in Greece" at the beginning of the class. Then in the break someone pulled out a laptop and some students tried their luck at an exercise with Excel macros. Of course I wandered over, had a closer look and offered a suggestion or two. One of the students asked me wether I know this stuff, to which I replied that I am a programmer but have zero experience with Excel macros. But in the end I was able to help out a bit, leading to some of them understanding the concept of subroutines a bit better.

I enjoyed sitting in the class. With a good teacher hearing something that you know already isn't boring at all. Watching students get that look when "the light goes on" is always fun for me, the thing I enjoyed most when I gave seminars back in Switzerland. There were some short moments when I thought "now I'll get bored" when Diomidis dove into something, but then he had to pull an interesting turn on it, to keep his students alert. In the end I had spent 3 hours there as if it was a quarter of an hour. And btw, yes, I got my book signed too :-).

Posted by betabug at 23:40 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
23 March 2006

ADSL-Preise in Griechenland

Teuer, verwirrend

Aus der guten alten Schweiz erreichte mich eine Anfrage zum Thema "Preise für ADSL in Griechenland".

> Hast Du vielleicht einen Tipp welche ADSL-Verbindungen in Athen günstig
> sind?
Die Antwort ist vielleicht auch für andere Interessant, daher lege ich sie hier auf den Weblog...

Ahhhhhh... da wirst Du Dich auf einiges gefasst machen müssen. Hier sehen diese Dinge etwas anders aus als in der Schweiz. Günstig gibts schon gar nicht, Griechenland ist in ganz Europa das Land mit den höchsten ADSL-Preisen. Dabei ist der Preis ungefähr das doppelte zum nächsten. Irgendwo auf dem Netz gab es mal eine hübsche Grafik, finde sie grad nicht mehr.

Eine Übersicht über die Preise gibt's zum Beispiel hier: Preisliste (auf Griechisch, aber die Preise sind ersichtlich, ich weiss allerdings nicht wie zuverlässig und up-to-date diese Preise sind).

Die Preis-Struktur ist etwas seltsam, die Preise von den Anbietern her sind verwirrend. Der Grund ist, dass alle ADSL-Anbieter ausser einem über die Leitungen von OTE (der staatlichen Telefongesellschaft) funktionieren. Daher muss man einrechnen:

Auf dem Link oben sind angeblich die kompletten Kosten drauf (allerdings ohne die Kosten der normalen Telefonleitung).

Wenn Du irgendwo ein Angebot siehst im Stil von "ADSL für 17 Euro im Monat", dann ist da nur der Preis des ADSL-Providers gemeint (der dritte Punkt in der Liste), zuzüglich 19% MwSt.

Einzige Ausnahme ist hier die Firma Vivodi, die haben eigene Leitungen und gehen daher nicht über den OTE. Dafür ist deren Netzwerk nur in Athen verfügbar. Ich selber bin schlussendlich bei Vivodi gelandet, für mich lohnt es sich vor allem, weil ich nicht schon eine Telefonleitung zuhause hatte. Bis jetzt funktioniert alles bestens.

Posted by betabug at 10:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 April 2006

"Code Quality" Book Out Now

The new one from Diomidis Spinellis is definitely on my "buy list"

Finally Diomidis Spinellis' new book "Code Quality: The Open Source Perspective" is out, as he announced on his weblog. This book is definitely on my "buy list". Judging from his description, the book follows the same principle of the use of careful and real life code examples to explain principles. The book is already available for example from Amazon, but I'll likely go by a normal brick&mortar bookshop to pick up my copy.

His previous book "Code Reading" is one book I tend to go back to browse and read again and again. I also abuse it to look up things like "how should I properly implement an xy construct?" And it's not only me who liked it, the book was quite well received in the market place.

Posted by betabug at 10:48 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
08 June 2006

Unexpected abuse@ Reply

Got spammed, wrote to abuse@ of the proxy, and... got a reply

This morning when I opened mutt to see my mails, I saw the result of another trackback spam run on my weblog, 30 or so trackback notification mails, all alike. I'm all set up, so I deleted the turds in a second (trackbacks are moderated anyway, so nothing was shown online). Then I looked up the originating IPs and added them to the blocklist on the firewall. Most were open relays or zombie machines in Asia or South America. But two of them looked like more "western" addresses. I assembled some data, and fired off two quick mails to the abuse@ accounts at those domains. Something unexpected happened...

...I actually got a real reply on one of them. This is a first for me. I've had mails to providers abuse@ addresses bounce (which should never happen), vanish into a black hole, vanish into a black hole after receiving a boilerplate from an auto-reply script, or being replied by someone who doesn't know a mail server from a washing machine. This reply came from an admin who actually thanked me for pointing out the problem, and seemed to hint at getting things fixed.

Posted by betabug at 23:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
22 June 2006

Using RCS for Config Files

But I didn't change anything!

Using rcs to keep track of changes in configuration files is a great idea... that sometimes helps me to recover from my own stupid mistakes mucho faster. I must admit to my own shame that I managed to kill my employers web site for a day or so - it was noticed today. To my defense I should say that I immediately suspected myself and went on to solve the problem right away. "What have I changed at the config?", I asked myself. And the answer would be "Nothing" - as usual. Which of course is the wrong answer, as bit rot doesn't kill a web server so fast...

Fix one, break another

I remembered I had solved another problem where a regular expression for the "Learning Zope in Greece" blog was slightly wrong. Now in normal circumstances I'd start to dig around that change and try to find what I had trampled on. But I had a quicker way to figure it out, I just looked at my changes with rcsdiff. After a short look I figured out that I had mistakenly erased one line after the fix.

A habit of looking back

It's been many years now that I have started the habit to follow changes to configuration files with rcs. I've heard other people use cvs for that, but with cvs the problem is the creation of the "module" of sources, cvs doesn't really like this stuff to remain in place. There are some workarounds for that, but I never felt confident enough to let them play with all of /etc. On the other hand the ability of keeping all of /etc in one cvs module would be nice, so I could compare all changes in there at once. For now I'm adding files to rcs whenever I change them.

Details of use

With rcs the procedure is simple: Make sure there is a directory called "RCS" in the directory where the config lives. Then (preferably before changing a config file), I check it into the rcs repository with the command ci -l filename, which also "locks" it. rcs needs locking (unlike cvs), which sometimes complicates things. But especially with config files that are always edited by the same user account, it's never a problem, just keep the file always locked. When there are more changes, I can check what I did with rcsdiff filename, then add those changes again with ci -l filename. That's basically all I do to get my safety net. rlog filename gives me a list of changes (with my comments) and rcsdiff -r1.4 -r1.5 filename lets me see the difference between some edits.

Posted by betabug at 22:13 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
23 June 2006

Note to People who follow RSS

Is your refresh time reasonable?

If you have a feed reader, please take a moment and think if your refresh / update interval is set reasonable. I'm doing at most a post every day, so is it really necessary to check back every 10-15 minutes (or - ugh - every 5 minutes like someone once did)? It's not like my stuff is that urgent or something, or like I'm such a celebrity :-). Setting the interval to once an hour should be good enough.

While you're at it maybe look at the settings for some other of your subscribed blogs too, maybe you can save someone some extra traffic. Thanks for listening!

Posted by betabug at 10:09 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
12 July 2006

Wondering About CVS branch Strategy for a Webapp

Back and forth on releases, branching, and merging

At work we have one main web application, that really runs in one instance on our production server. This is all based on Zope's filesystem based python products, so all our code is in cvs. (Yes, I'm too lame for svn or other more modern revision control systems). Now this is a bit different from normal software release cycles, since with a webapp, I can "upgrade" the application a couple of times a day when we get new features or bugfixes. No need to ship new releases to customers... but how could I handle code change management with this? I researched things, but I've still got some open questions, so come and see what I've been up to...

What we have so far is that we develop our new stuff on the trunk (cvs's HEAD branch), and we've got a branch for "production". For a while we had most of our work in a separate branch, which I would merge with the production and HEAD branches. Since I'm no real expert at cvs, this caused lots of mess and time lost each time.

New branch on each release

My current plan is to go forward on the trunk, then with each "release", we create a new production branch from the trunk. This is very clean and allows for bugfixes on production, but if there are a lot of "releases", we will get real loooooong lists of tags and branches on the files. So, is this a good choice?

Merge HEAD to branch?

Another strategy would be to use the trunk for development, and have only one branch for production. I would then merge the trunk to the production branch when we have "releases". Problem is, I don't know how to do this, my knowledge about the cvs up -j ... dance requires using branch names. Anyone of my readers know how to do this? (Yes, I'm looking at all 3 of you!) And I'm not sure I won't have to use lots of tags too. (Update: use HEAD as the branch name, as in cvs up -j HEAD, as I was told on #cvs. Duh!)

Tag, export, tar, release...?

Another one: Just tag releases, export the source and do code upgrades on the server without having a real cvs checkout there. Hmmm. It sounds inconvenient, but maybe is really clean. There won't be any "just check that in and cvs up on the server" any more, but maybe that's a good thing. Branches for the "production release" would only be done when they are really needed for bugfixes. This could maybe lower the number of tags and branches in cvs.

So, I'm all open for input! Use the comment form, mail me, or pester me on #bsdcow if you feel like.

Posted by betabug at 13:16 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
01 August 2006

Me and the Machine Get Hot

It's summer, it's hot in my room and because the vacation started I'm not in the air conditioned office any more. So the machines have to stand some more heat. Since I'm preparing some stuff and installing some programs on the old PowerBook from my boss, the machine temperature is rising. I noticed the small internal fan spinning on its highest speed, and the lower side of the 'book got really hot. Time for some remedies...

cooling down a powerbook

My first line of defense was to put two books underneath the 'puter, so the air can flow underneath and the heat could be transported off a bit better. There are a lot of people who recommend this path of action with a hot laptop.

I believe that giving the laptop a body of mass that carries off the heat more effectively than air would be preferrable. If I had a suitable flat peace of marble around, I'd put that into the fridge and put the laptop on top. (Putting it into the freezer would likely cause trouble because the temperature difference could be too much.)

What I did instead was to pull my air ventilator closer to the table. It's not very confortable to type with the air stream so strong, but it seems it helped the PowerBook to cool down quit a bit. As soon as the installation is finished, the heated up laptop will remind me to take breaks in my hacking projects.

Posted by betabug at 16:31 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
18 September 2006

Lining Up Form Elements and Labels with CSS

No tables, no floats!

Most forms have labeled fields in a simple pattern, each form element has a label next to it, usually on the same visual line to the left. Form elements should align horizontally on the same line. There are a couple of ways to do this...

  1. With a table, rows for each item of the form, one cell for the label, one for the form element.
  2. Some people use floats to "float" the label to the left of the form element.
  3. It's possible to do it without floats or tables, by using the principle that an absolute positioned element is positioned in relation to its parent element.

Even though we all despise the use of tables for layout purposes, tables still have a valid reason to exist: for tabular data. Forms and form labels are either very close to that, or (if for example we have another explanation column in the mix) they are right in there. I would argue that we could use a table for this purpose without guilt and we definitely should use a table, once extra columns come into play.

I have my own little fight against the abuse of floats in making page layouts with CSS. I believe that the abuse of floats for layout purposes is coming close to what we did with tables a few years ago. Floats were made to float text around images, not to make columns of text go side by side.

The way I have lately been solving the problem of "hanging indents" is to give the form element and its label an outer box (e.g. a div). Then we give the form element a margin-left and use absolute positioning for the label itself. The "content" is pushed to the right, the "label" takes position in relation to the outer box. With some elements for the content (e.g. a <p>), we have to make adjustments to get rid of an eventual margin-top.

Here is an example of how it's done.

CSS is commented and included in the HTML source. The HTML itself is not properly done, form elements and labels miss necessary attributes, but you'll likely get the drift. The use of "label" in the last line together with a paragraph is likely plain wrong, a p, div, or span with a class should better take it's place.

Posted by betabug at 16:22 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
27 September 2006

betaBUMM... so, what happened?

Hard Disk failure

If you visited this site between Saturday and Tuesday evening, you may have noticed a friendly but unhelpful outage notice. The server was down. What has happened? The server has moved to a proper server housing. That was the reason for a couple of hours offline time from Saturday morning till noon. But when the server was started up at the new location it wouldn't boot. The machine output something about disk consistency failure, always a bad sign. On Tuesday evening with a lot of help from friends, I was finally able to diagnose the problem further and to bring the machine up.

One of the hard disks in the Apple PowerMac G3 B&W failed. Either due to coincidence or due to the physical movement, this happened during the move. I'm lucky to have multiple disks in there, and the disk which failed wasn't the one with the main operating system partition.

What I've lost are the /home partitions and the partition for /var/mail, which is where incoming mail is stored. That's pretty bad. I'm again lucky (or I was wise, depending on point of view) to have made nightly backups of /home. I didn't do this for /var/mail. Myself I'm moving mails to my mail directory in /home once I read them, but some other people on the machine don't do that. For them it is very important to make local copies of their mail in their mail client before reconnecting. Otherwise their mail client will delete the local copies once it finds they are gone from the server. This is the way IMAP works, it assumes that when a message is gone from the server that you deleted it.

Future outlook

The server started a fun project with no direct reason and no professional service attitude. But after some time it turned out that I like what it's doing so much, that I would miss it if it was gone. That was the reason for moving it to proper housing when the current location wasn't feasible any more. For the near future I will have to find a suitable replacement SCSI hard disk. I will then revise my backup strategy to cover more possibilities. But in any case, the machine is a hobby server and failures may happen again, that's just life. As they say, with hard disks it's not the question "if" they fail, but "when".

Big thanks go to Charlott, Peter, Martin, and Jerome for all their help!

Posted by betabug at 07:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
01 October 2006

Skinning a ZWiki

Coding at home for the "nautica" ZWiki project

This weekend I wasn't content with relaxing and enjoying going out with friends for coffee and with the HelMUG guys for... eh... coffee too. I worked on a little coding project with ZWiki. Hacking in my spare time today was fun. Even though I did nearly the same stuff I do at work, I feel relaxed. It seems that because I did something new, was on a "discovery" tour, there was something playful to it, like playing a game. Now, what was it all about, this ZWiki and Skins thing?...

Screenshot nautica05 design on ZWiki

You know, I have had this idea that a ZWiki (or any Wiki for that matter) is really a simple little Content Management System, in fact I wrote once about the easiest CMS on Zope. But to make good use of a CMS, the result has to look good and people don't want to spend weeks to restyle the basic ZWiki look. That's what templates are for. At, lot's of free and good looking web templates are available. My little project was to pick one of those and make it "dynamic" with a ZWiki.

I'm not going into the details here, that will have to wait for a How-To somewhere on But basically the work consisted of dropping the HTML files, images, and CSS files into the ZWiki folder. Then adapting some of the ZWiki templates to produce HTML that "fits" with the openwebdesign template. Even allowing for some time where I had to orientate myself in the ZWiki code base and template system, it took just a couple of hours. There are still some rough corners and some things not yet done. But the intermediary result at is pretty nice (if I may say so myself, and I didn't do the design anyway :-). Motivation enough to write out the procedure in more detail soon.

Posted by betabug at 21:00 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
11 October 2006

Mobile Internet in Greece

Some thoughts on getting online with a GSM phone

Updated: As of 2008/2009, the information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 instead!

I have written before about Internet in Greece, ADSL-Preise in Griechenland (in German) and SMTP on the Go with CosmOTE, and the result is that sometimes people email me with further questions. Dave from England wrote me asking about getting online from a mobile phone:

I'm in the UK now but planning to spend a lot of time sailing in Greece over the next couple of years. I want a Greek prepaid SIM, with good coverage on the Islands near Turkey, that allows GPRS internet access... which point I stopped him cold. No Internet on prepaid mobile phones.

That's a political decision, not a technicality. As you can buy a prepaid card everywhere in Greece completely anonymous (sometimes they are given away for free to students), if they would offer Internet access, you could be on the Internet completely *anonymous*. What would happen to the children? What if the terrorists started to use that? [insert scare of the day] - so the cops and the politicians can of course not let that happen.

If you really want to get access to the Internet over a GSM phone (or a GSM PCMCIA card in a laptop, same thing), then you need a real subscription, paid on a monthly basis. Some providers (e.g. CosmOTE) will let you switch on a service called "GPRS", but that's a fake, it's meant to provide WAP over GPRS. And as they say in Greek, "not even its mother knows what WAP is..." For a full, monthly paid CosmOTE account for example, the name of the real GPRS/Internet service is "Wireless Internet Easy".

To get a full subscription mobile phone account is another story. It involves a lot of paperwork, amongst which you will have to deliver the form "E9" from the Greek tax office, which proves that you are paying taxes. Obviously you get that form only after you've been working in Greece for a while, not really practicable for visitors.

The alternatives aren't always so good looking: Many foreigners use GPRS through their "home" provider and roaming, which may come a bit pricey. In some areas (like Athens) you might get by with hunting down a wireless connection (like on Syntagma square) or even setting up with something like the Athens Metropolitan Wireless Network. No play like that in the Aegean though. There isn't much else I can suggest right now, ideas welcome.

Updated: As of 2008/2009, the information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 instead!

Posted by betabug at 23:30 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)
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