01 July 2008
No Phones, no net
Don't take things for granted
Since yesterday noon our company's office is left without phone and
Internet service. We have a setup with two phone providers, so we have
some kind of fail over capability. But yesterday the regional telecoms
center "Ippodromos" in southern Athens went down and now both phone
providers are unable to provide service. As for Internet: we have a 3G
USB modem, which serves as a minimal life line.
It's quite strange for a company to be left off the Internet, especially
for a company like ours, where almost all customer communication is done
via the Internet. The proofs that normally get commented upon by the
customers in our extranet approvals system either have to wait, or else
I have to send them manually through that tiny 3G keyhole. Customers
then call us on our mobile numbers to discuss things.
The result is that I spend half my time sending mail for other people.
Interesting enough, I still manage to write some code in between. (Technical aside: The ability of darcs to work without all kind of net access - e.g. small things like relying on name servers - is a major advantage right now.)
How long will the failure persist? We don't know. ΟΤΕ tells us "it
could be fixed in one hour, but it could also be tomorrow". Oh yeah,
same thing they told us yesterday. The name of the installation, "Ippodromos" (ιππόδρομος), means "horse racing track"... thinking of it, the "customer support rep" at OTE should have told us: "Hey if you didn't have good luck betting on the ippodromos today, maybe tomorrow you win!"
at the sea
Open Coffee Athens is currently under way here in Kalamaki (a part of Athens right next to the sea. The presentations started late due to some audio hardware problems, so I had time to chat with some interesting people here.
Right now we're going through the first presentations. Mixed impressions so fare. You can guess that I'm not fixated enough on the presentations, that's why I'm writing this :-).
02 July 2008
PNG, Transparency, IE6, AlphaImageLoader, and SSL
Well, you did not expect to get away without problems here, did you?
In case you try to run one of the AlphaImageLoader fixes out there in order to teach Internet Explorer 6 to handle PNG images with transparent alpha channel information somehow gracefully... and in case you try to run this over SSL (https), you might or might not have run into problems where your images all disappeared. One moment, while you where still testing over unencrypted http, everything was there, then you go the the HTTPS site and all you see is your images blinking up before disappearing.
Been there, done that. It's the same problem with IE6 and SSL over and over. What you have to do is give those images a header that allows them to be cached. In Zope it will be enough to associate them with an "Accelerated HTTP Cache Manager". It's still not very nice and there are lots of caveats. We didn't expect better from IE though, did we?
Forgot to mention what got me to the solution:
This problem is happening because Internet Explorer requires that any content retrieved by the browser that is to be opened by a plugin must be cached. In this case, the ImageBundle .png file is opened by AlphaImageLoader, which qualifies as a plugin.
(From this google-web-toolkit issue page.)
Back in the world of communication
After 36 hours ΟΤΕ (OTE, the quasi-monopolist state telecoms giant here in Greece) managed to restore service in the telecoms center in the area of my employers office. Somewhere after midnight this morning our servers were reachable again and our phones could have been ringing. Until then, for one and a half business days we were functioning on a very minimal communications set.
06 July 2008
What to do in Athens when it's hot
... and it get's really hot here
It gets hot in Athens. The sky is blue, the water is wet, the Pope is
catholic, you can't really doubt it. With many Athens summers
under my belt, I've assembled a few tips. They go from the interesting
to the banal, obvious and boring. Let's see what you can and should do
when it's hot in Athens.
Continue reading "What to do in Athens when it's hot"
Stuff that goes without saying:
Drink a lot of water, carry water at all times with you. You can buy 1/2
liter bottles of water at regulated prices at kiosks if you run out of
what you have with you. Regulated prices means 50cents per bottle.
Continuing with the obvious stuff (maybe I can bore you away): If you
really have a medical problem with the heat, stay away or stay in a
place with a/c - listen to your body, when you collapse it's too late
to react. In general even if you're tough and healthy, take it slowly,
avoid too much movement, stop to rest in the shade. The heat won't kill you, but it will try. Don't walk in the
sun, see how the locals try to always walk in the shade. Wear a hat.
OK, that did it for the obvious category, you can find that kind of
tips everywhere. Let's go for something more interesting. Except
avoiding bad stuff, is there anything you can actually do?
09 July 2008
Zope Incremental Backup Script
What I use now
With your Zope installation comes the repozo.py script, that allows you to do incremental backups of the ZODB (the Data.fs file). Around that script most people build a shell script and run it through a cron job. Since I just did a new installation (yeah, that's rare for me), I brushed up what I use so far. I'm now automatically keeping 2 generations of backups, whenever a "generation switch" is done, all the moving, deleting etc. is done by the script. The resulting main folder I rsync to a remote machine. Here comes the script...
Continue reading "Zope Incremental Backup Script"
12 July 2008
Grüsse aus der Antike
Hier sitze ich mit Freunden, im antiken Theater von Epidaurus. Auf dem Weg aus Athen waren wir baden, haben gegessen, jetzt sitzen wir auf den 2500 Jahre alten Rängen und warten, dass die Sonne untergeht und die Vorstellung anfängt.
Die Sitzreihen sind aus Stein, ohne Kissen wohlgemerkt. Geübte Festivalgäste bringen Kissen mit. Ich werde mir mit dem Badetuch behelfen.
Gegeben werden die "Frösche" von Aristophanes, allerdings in moderner Ausgabe Βατρα-Χ, sozusagen die "Frog-X".
15 July 2008
Small stuff that just works
"Distributed Version Control" systems are just so sweet to work with. They make a lot of tasks in a dynamic work environment easier. So I fixed a bug on the copy of my new app on my workstation. Pushed the patch to the demo server, working there, but... bum!
I had one line wrong in my fix, which got me an ugly error message on the demo server. Now I switched to the shell on the demo server and "unpulled" the bugfix patch (something like rolling back to the previous version, but without any tagging, branches, etc. etc. involved). An instant later the demo server was back in the state right before the bug fix, so people at least got their demos back.
Went back to the workstation, fixed that line that was so obviously wrong. (How did I miss that?) Then I did a "darcs amend" on the bugfix patch. This includes the bugfix-of-the-bugfix into the real bugfix, so there is now only one nice patch in the history. (If lots of people already got that patch this isn't such a good idea, but in a situation like this it's just what I need.) In the end I can "push" the amended patch again to the demo server and everybody is happy.
16 July 2008
Shell fun: take a vacation(1)
Nobody likes mail auto-responders, but...
Nobody likes auto-reply messages, but sometimes - and when used correctly - the Unix vacation(1) utility can be useful. There are a few steps to set it up. I'm taking this on my OpenBSD machine, other flavors of Unix might vary...
Continue reading "Shell fun: take a vacation(1)"
18 July 2008
On the boat again
My vacation has started. I am on the Παναγιά Σουμέλα(Panagia Soumela), due to leave for Limnos in a bit more than an hour.
Been on this ship before, two years ago, from Limnos to Samothraki.
As seen on the pic, it's a jolly sailor's life on board. There's no wind, I hope for a good night's sleep on deck, seeing some stars and a safe arrival tomorrow in Myrina.
21 July 2008
Lazy vacation days
It's the fresh air
It's really incredible how much I can sleep when I'm in the village on Limnos. It's so much quieter than Athens, the air is fresh and it's cooler.
The first days I've slept, eaten and went to the beach. Oh, and I've said hello to everyone. The sea is wonderful. The next days I'll be a bit more active I guess.
Not much has changed here The little house I used to live in has been sold. I'm staying in a rented room.
27 July 2008
+ nicht wirklich viel schreibend
Diese Ferien habe ich bis jetzt etwa 3 Seiten im mitgebrachten Buch gelesen. Das ist schon erstaunlich, gehöre ich doch sonst zu den Leseratten. Einerseits liegts wohl daran, dass ich nur ein Buch mitgenommen habe, auf Griechisch und auch nicht so toll (Μερά τη ζωή von Θ. Στεφανόπουλος). Andererseits hätt ich sonst auch mehr zu lesen mitgenommen. Stattdessen bin ich zufrieden mir am Strand das Meer anzuschauen, im Dorf und unterwegs durch die Insel die Felder, Gärten und die Wolken, und wenn ich bei Stratoula in der Taverne sitze, findet sich immer jemand zu einem Schwätzchen.
An dieser simplen Zufriedenheit liegt's auch, dass ich nicht viel schreibe. Unternehmen tun wir schon was, aber das Bedürfnis mit der Mini-Tastatur des Telefons ein Oevre drüber zu verfassen ist nicht da, angesichts eines kühlen Bads im klaren Wasser vom Zemata-Strand.
Fotos hab ich dafür einige gemacht. Ich werde wohl nach den Ferien einen "Limnos im Panorama"-Post machen können.
31 July 2008
Flying home from Limnos
Back in Athens
Returned back home from Limnos yesterday. This time by plane, which is much faster than coming back by boat. 4 hours door-to-door instead of something like 22 hours. The flight itself is very short (about 35 minutes), but of course there's lots of time spent getting to and from airports and going through all the formalities. The flight was interesting, we saw most of Limnos from above, later also Ai Strati. Since Aegean is flying to and from Limnos too now, it's much easier to get a ticket and the departure time is much more relaxed. (Olympic's flights are either at 6 in the morning or at midnight, Aegean had one flight at 13:25 noon.)
In Athens it's much warmer - maybe not the measured temperature, but there is less cooling down due to wind and all the buildings reflect the heat. I'm still dreaming of all the endless and wonderful beaches on the island, cooling down in the clear water. There were very few people on the island, so many times we had a huge beach all for a few people. Next neighbor two parasols to the left, not 1.5 meters. Also parasols installed by the municipality, together with small cabins for changing - and at no cost to the guests. Limnos is a different world than more "touristy" islands.
Oh, the picture... lots of fish and seafood to be eaten! I think I haven't ever eaten so much fish and sea food in so little time. It's so much different to eat that stuff there than in Athens.