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01 March 2005

Das Wesen der Computerleute

Schwierige Antworten auf journalistische Fragen

Im Interview für den Artikel über mich im St.Galler Tagblatt wurde ich gefragt, wie ich Computerleute, Hacker, Geeks beschreiben würde, von ihrem Wesen her. Gerade lese ich wieder mal "The Soul of a New Machine" von Tracy Kidder und dabei sind mir einige gute Beispiele für typisches Verhalten aufgefallen.

"He doesn't waste time listening to people who arent't making good, relevant sense to him, just in order to be polite."
(describing Ken Holberger, one of the hardware engineers)

Mehr gute Zitate im Buch. Das Buch selber ist für nicht allzu technisch geschulte Leser stellenweise schwer zu verstehen. Ich hatte den Eindruck, dass der Autor schwierige Zusammenhänge gut erklärt, aber scheints ist es doch nicht so einfach. Jedenfalls hatte mein Freund Michalis etwas Probleme mit dem Verständnis. Mir jedenfalls macht das Buch grossen Spass. Es beschreibt die Entstehung eines 32bit Microcomputers bei Data General Anfang der 80er Jahre.

Posted by betabug at 09:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 March 2005

Ping-Zeiten für Pakete

Nicht alles ist so wie es scheint bei der griechischen Post

Heute erreichte mich ein Paket, dass in der Schweiz vor mehr als 2 Monaten abgeschickt wurde. Zwei Monate lang fluchte ich über die griechische Post. Heute rief jemand von der Post hier an. Ziemlich verzweifelt hatten die Pöstler versucht das Paket auszuliefern. Die Adresse auf dem Paket hatte die falsche Hausnummer.

Athener Briefträger verschwenden keine Zeit darauf auf die Namen an den Klingelbrettern mit den Adressen zu vergleichen. Briefe und Paketzettel werden im Hausgang deponiert.Ein System das gut funktioniert wenn der Name auf der Adresse nicht korrekt ist, aber das versagt, wenn die Hausnummer nicht stimmt.

Posted by betabug at 23:33 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 March 2005

Telephone Malady

Yes, it happened to me too

This morning the hinge on my Treo 270c broke. The Treo is a mobile phone / palm combo device. It had a useable keyboard for me, no number pad phonedial typing. And also it offered an ssh client TopGun ssh and pilOTP (which is a "one time password" generator).

The reason for the broken hinge is the same as with all of those little machines: That hinge is just not built to last. The problem was recognized for a long time by Handspring, the maker of the Treos. Now that Handspring was bought up by PalmOne, all such support is gone. PalmOne does not even list the Treo 270 on their European website any more. Someone trying to forget?

I will try to fix the machine as best as I can. No parts to be found on the Internet, probably since everybodies Treo 270 broke at the same hinge. Buying a new fancy phone right now is also not in the question. The times when I had a good swiss salary are long gone. It's not so easy to buy new electrical toys for me now. On the other hand the support of greek characters on the Treo is nonexistant, but I could live with greeklish if I had pilOTP.

Posted by betabug at 20:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 March 2005

Museum Benaki

Pictures at an exhibition

The exhibition "Ο ελληνικός κόσμος μέσα από το βλέμμα των περιηγητών και των λογίων" ("The Greek world through the eyes of European travellers and scholars") at the Museum Benaki was quite interesting. I always get a kick out of old books and when a book dates back to 15hundredsomething I'm really impressed. The exhibition was not very big, just one large room with books behind glass on all the walls. Old books with accounts of travels through Greece from the 15th to the 20th century.

We went round and round and had a look at some of the exceptional typography and the prints included in the books. Maps, sketches, illustrations. Some are a bit crude, but most are phantastically deep and "alive". On the way to the special exhibit (and on the way out), we had a look at the general exhibition of traditional greek stuff, dresses, items of daily use, pictures. I will have to go there again.

The disappointing point of the exhibition is that there is very little content of the books accessible. I read whatever I could from the open pages. But the look of the books in exhibition is much more accessible than the contents. Descriptions are in Greek only, so I did not have the patience to decipher the pompous language of the historians. Other than that, the exhibition and museum are really recommended.

Posted by betabug at 17:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
10 March 2005

So, What Is That Thing Called a "Certificate"?

Abstract concepts

Yesterday a friendly lady from accounting asked me what this invoice really is. It said "SSL Certificate". Is it some kind of software? One could argue in some way that it is (as opposed to hardware), but really it isn't an executable software program.

A certificate is some kind of security device. But security devices are abstract concepts, hard to explain in 2 minutes. If you know the answer you could explain that the certificate is there to enable encrypted SSL connections to our webserver. But that can be had even with a self-signed certificate.

So we could say it is there to assure our customers that our site is really belonging to our company. But given the procedure of getting the certificate, I would say that all it proves is that our site is our site. The prove for the certification company was that they send mail to an "official" address (like hostmaster@ or webmaster@) and that their automatic confirmation system called a number I'd given them on a web form. Any number, does not have to match any company records.

In the end what it does is that the funny error message about "something with 'not secure' and 'a certificate' is wrong" goes away for our customers. I should have told her that the money was for debugging.

Posted by betabug at 09:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 March 2005

Roesti mit Feta

Heimat-Food in Griechenland

Eine "richtige" schweizer Rösti ist vor einigen Tagen aus meiner griechischen Bratpfanne gekommen. Ich bin nicht wirklich anfällig für Heimweh-Food-Attacken. Eher mal witzig etwas zu kochen, was die Leute hier nicht kennen. Und so nebenbei war das meine erste selbstgemachte Rösti seit sicher 20 Jahren.

Zur Rösti gab es griechischen Feta-Käse, Gurkensalat und Pouletschenkel. Was halt grad im Haus war. Eine Mixtur aus griechischen und schweizerischen Einflüssen sozusagen.

So als Nebenbemerkung: Das Bild sieht so schaurig aus, weil es mit der Kamera eines Mobiltelefons gemacht wurde. Ich habe immer noch keine Kamera, was wiederum etwas ist, was es ebenfalls seit vielen, vielen Jahren nicht gegeben hat.

Posted by betabug at 10:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Little Earthquake in Athens

This was just now

Just a minute ago the building shook. A small earthquake must have hit Athens. Nothing too unusual I guess. My chair, desk, the building moved distinctly sideways. Fun and adrenaline for all the company. Wonder if it will show up on the news.

Posted by betabug at 12:14 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
12 March 2005

Changing of the Guard

Greece and a dog saluted the old president

Just watching the changing of the president of the greek democracy, life on TV. Kostis Stefanopoulos is leaving the office after two terms of five years. From talking to greeks around me I had the impression that they had some trust in him. He was known for taking long tours with his bicycle.

The ceremony was the usual pomp and assortment of uniform showing off. The visual impression was much improved by the fancy uniforms of the "evzone" presidential guards. The new president Karolos Papoulias looks somewhat sypathic, but even older than Stefanopoulos.

When Stefanopoulos was sitting in a big limousine of german make, he was being driven out of the presidential building in a motorcade. Just as they turned on the street and were slowly moving away from the camera, a dog was running at the limousine, barking wild. Cops and presidential guards all around him, he running up and down, barking like wild at the car. As the motorcade was driving slow, we saw pictures of the dog continuing almost 100 meters after the cars. Finally it seemed that someone called the dog, he turned around and went back.

None of the policemen or guards took action against the dog, nobody tryed to hit him or drive him away. Of course the cameras were watching, maybe they did not want to risk ugly headlines. But I believe that just a few years ago someone would have driven the dog away with a stick. It seems that things are somehow improving.

Posted by betabug at 12:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 March 2005

Kite Up in the Blue

Quality of life on a day off

Today was "Clean Monday" in Greece, a national and religious holiday. People eat no meat, no milk, no fish (but shrimps, mussels, ...) and go out to picnic and let a kite up into the blue sky and wind. Went to the Akropolis and watched the kites high in the sky. There is something special about quality of life in this city.

Posted by betabug at 23:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 March 2005

Solutions to My Telephone Woes

Big thanks to my employer

My boss noticed my troubles with the lack of my Treo 270c (after the hinge on the flap broke). He had the company get me a Sony Eriscsson P910, which fits the bill. Big "Thank You!" to you George!

The funny part is that PalmOne could have sold a Treo 650 if they had managed to a.) list a dealer in Greece and b.) convince any Greek carriers to feature the Treo. Now I get to try out something new. At first look the P910 seems to be much more advanced in respect to software. Kind of logical, given the age of the Treo 270c. But the Treo's keyboard was nicer. I'll get used to the P910 though.

On another note, I'm trying to convince Greek provider "Cosmote" to sell me GRPS internet service on the number. Not an easy task. All information on their website is Greek only. And misleading. Following their instructions just gets them to activate WAP over GPRS, something I need as much as a wart on my behind. The current state of wisdom seems to be that I had to call customer service at 1212 and then have our company send a fax asking to activate "Wireless Internet Easy" service for that number. Not a recommended provider I would say, since all the others have that service on by default.

Posted by betabug at 15:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
18 March 2005

New Columns On The Old Temple

A small peek at restoration on the Acropolis
crane at the parthenon

Last weekends trip to the Acropolis also let me have a look at the restoration works. For a geek it's always exciting to see modern work equipment on so old a structure. When we went up I joked: "It's a long time since I've been here, maybe they put up some new columns." Looks like I was almost right.

There is a big crane on train tracks right next to the Parthenon temple. Looks like they do some heavy moving. Reading from a sign I found out that they are going to restore the columns in the center part of the Parthenon. Right now there are full columns only at the ends of the building.

One big part of the restoration seems to be correcting past restorations mistakes. Parts of the columns were misplaced and misassembled. Iron fittings rusted away, has to be replaced with titanium (I hope it lasts longer than my PowerBook Ti). Concrete that was used to fill up cracks will be replaced by proper marble. More information about the works can be found at the Acropolis Restoration Project.

Posted by betabug at 17:05 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
20 March 2005

Lass es klingeln

Müde Performance des öffentlichen Dienstes

Die moderne Technologie sollte es den Menschen ermöglichen, einige stupide, repetitive Tätigkeiten durch Maschinen erledigen zu lassen. Im Falle des griechischen Telefonmonopols OTE scheint das nicht immer zu funktionieren. Ein erleuchtendes Beispiel erlebe ich jedesmal, wenn ich die Nummer 807 11 22 anrufe. Diese Nummer gehört zu einer Prepaid-Telefonkarte. Das sind die Karten, mit denen man von jedem Telefon aus (öffentlich oder privat) wo anrufen kann und die Rechnung geht auf die Karte.

Nach Wahl der 807 11 22 wird man von einer Dame begrüsst, natürlich ab Band. Nur, die Stimme dieser Dame ist dermassen müde und generft, dass man davon ausgehen muss, dass die Arbeit in einer staatlichen Firma sogar ab Band langweilig und deprimierend ist. Ich habe jedesmal ein schlechtes Gewissen, weil sich diese Dame so über die vielen Anrufer ärgert. Eigentlich hätte sie wohl wichtigeres zu tun. Nach der ersten Ansage muss man die Nummer der Telefonkarte eingeben, um sich als legitimen Kunden auszuweisen. Danach ist die Dame vom Band spürbar freundlicher gelaunt, allerdings hätte sie immer noch was besseres zu tun. Das stützt meine Therie, denn nachdem man sich identifiziert hat weiss die Dame, dass man auf diesem Amt richtig ist. Was meiner Erfahrung mit griechischen Amtsstuben entspricht, sobald beide Seiten wissen, dass man im richtigen Büro ist, geht die Stimmung ein paar Grad nach oben.

Wenn Sie also das nächste Mal in Griechenland sind, rufen sie doch mal kostenlos und ohne Verpflichtung die 807 11 22 an. Sie werden erstaunt sein, welchen Tonfall sie da zu hören bekommen, ob Sie nun griechisch verstehen oder nicht. Das nächste Mal nehme ich eine Karte von der "privaten" Konkurrenz, vielleicht tönt es da freundlicher.

Posted by betabug at 20:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 March 2005

Setting Up Secure IMAP On the P910

The joys of STARTTLS and not of port 993

Finally I managed to setup IMAP mail on my Sony Ericsson P910. Apart from keying in all the parameters, it was necessary to get some insider information about the P910 and secure imap. The P910 can and will use STARTTLS on SMTP connections (nice), even asked for my self-signed server certificate. But it uses STARTTLS also on the imap connection exclusively. The IMAPS port 993 is not used, leave port on 143 and check the "secure" box. My standard so far was to allow only imaps on my server. Will have to think about changing that.

Also a bit stupid: It closes the GPRS connection after each action. Maybe there is a setting to change that. GPRS connections don't cost if left open.

Posted by betabug at 14:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
22 March 2005

Some Hints On Using a Bug Tracker / Issue Tracker:

And I'm using Roundup by the way

Working on a project for HelMUG (actually just helping a bit out, way too little time left for this), I came to the conclusion that some good tipps on using an Issue Tracker could be usefull for a lot of people, and not just those of HelMUG - the greek Mac User Group. Read on...

Continue reading "Some Hints On Using a Bug Tracker / Issue Tracker:"
Posted by betabug at 09:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 March 2005

mutt, ελληνικά, greeklish, OpenBSD and the Mac OS X Terminal

Teaching the dog fake greek

Just teached the mutt to autoconvert ISO-8859-7 Greek to "greeklish". On my Mac OS X PowerBook utf-8 works fine with and mutt, but when I use the mutt on my OpenBSD server (through ssh and I get a mess. Now I can have all this transliterated to (fake, ugly, but working) greeklish. Read on...

Continue reading "mutt, ελληνικά, greeklish, OpenBSD and the Mac OS X Terminal"
Posted by betabug at 16:00 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
29 March 2005

moblog post from p910

As mobile as it gets

This post comes from the P910, via TCP/IP, SMTP and COREBlogs moblog feature. Just for the heck of it I'm attaching a pic from last sunday's walk too (cropped a lot), a view on the green side of the acropolis.

Posted by betabug at 15:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 March 2005

Remote Upgrading OpenBSD Without Console Access

As if life wasn't exciting enough

Looking for the right way to upgrade my OpenBSD server... remote, without console access. See, I'm in Greece, server is in Switzerland. Not really what you need to drive by and log in on the console.

Definitely I will want to do a binary upgrade, not a source upgrade. I'll probably remount some of my backup partitions. Then untar the installation packages. Next will be to find out how to handle devices. Obviously I can't run MAKEDEV in single user. Have to read up on that one.

When that step is mastered, I will have to remap partitions, reboot and pray. If the box comes up all right, I can go on about doing the usual stuff like installing packages and recompiling manual compiled software. But obviously up to this point the whole operation is on the "one error sends you out" scale. Comments and ideas welcome!

Posted by betabug at 09:17 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
31 March 2005

The joys of small populations

The line just got shorter

Tor (a Norwegian in England) writes about The (small) pleasures in belonging to a small population. He wrote:

"And the queue was 5 people when I arrived - it took all of 5 minutes until I could walk out the door with his passport."

I can beat that, anytime I go to the Swiss embassy here in Athens I rarely see another visitor. Sometimes there is one person waiting or just finishing up. And the last time I went there, the lady at the office remembered my name even though it had been about 8 months since I've been there before.

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