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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Language, Another Take

Still about language, I feel that my language skill already starts to deteriorate.

Regarding the issues like KDE vs GNOME (these days, XGL vs AIGL), once I explained to somebody:

"Typically only the clueless ones, who do not contribute anything - let alone coding - are busy exaggerating the issues, thus fueling the flame wars".

"Hey! Just because you are a developer does not mean you can ignore the feedback from a Joe User..."

which surely prompted a big question mark in my head: did I say that I hate normal users? This guy apparently framed an impression in his brain that I did that, a total fallacy which either was entirely his imagination or possibly because I did not express my opinion clear enough.

In another occasion, with another guy we faced a circuit which needs explanation. After spending few minutes scribbling some diagrams, this guy was still confused:

"I don't understand this. The circuit should not behave like this. I expect it to be like this ...bla bla bla "

"Yeah fine, but how it works is not defined by you."

"Still, this kind of function is not what I need!"

Well, even RDF can not change the way hardware works, otherwise your iPod has no button at all. And if it is that easy, Matthias Ettrich surely already gave us focus-follows-mind a long time ago.

Forget about techie talk. Often in daily life this situation also arises.

Somebody shouted to me:

"Dude, our <insert typical home/office appliance here> does not work! It just keeps doing stupid thing like this!"

"OK, let me see....(few minutes later). I see, I think it's because bla bla bla... long explanation... ideas for workaround...."

(still shouting)"But that's not normal! It must not act like that!"

followed by a full lecture why it should not happen at all. Gee, he thought that because I was trying to explain the possible culprit in that particular madness, I also fully believed that the behavior is justified (and thus I need to be convinced about the annoyance). Good, except that it was all only in his mind.

Or, in a discussion with guys from many different countries:

"I'm not really impressed by my countrymen. There are few who successfully pushed themselves very hard and later on became decision makers for many big companies. But millions others are quite afraid to experience even just a simple change in their life."

"Maybe because they don't need it. Maybe they're already happy for what they have. Perhaps they don't like to go abroad. Or they love simple life..."

"But they deserve better! And we know that they are actually able to do it..."

and so the continued discussion became less interesting to follow. I never said that his countrymen don't deserve it, or are not capable to do such. I merely offered possible causes (OK, it's stupid analysis but still) and all of sudden, it was going on the wrong direction.

/me sucks

Postscript: Man, I started to write like jwz.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Check this interesting list of codenames of almost all known Microsoft products, from e.g. WfW (Snowball) to Dynamic HTML (Trident).

Now I know why clee named his Windows-2000-pixel-per-pixel-copy style as Asteroid.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Speaking of languages, recently I found two interesting sites.

Peribahasa Banjar lists (in alphabetical category) proverbs in Banjar. This is a language spoken in the southern part of Borneo. I do know how many millions people speak this language, but in all cases I am happy that I can still understand it (thought it starts to fade away with time). And proverbs are always interesting.

On the other hand, Guyonon Suroboyo collects funny (Warning: extremely funny) jokes, of course only if you can understand Suroboyoan, a strikingly marvelous dialect of Javanese (the human language, not that programming one) spoken mostly in West East Java. Pity that the site is not updated anymore. And I reckon that most of the jokes become less funny if they get translated :-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Check traces with WordLeaker

Madelman has created WordLeaker, a tool which display hidden information as well as revision logs in Microsoft Word documents. Although seems that it is not compiled in, WordLeaker can also be found in as plug-in in libextractor, a library to extra metadata and similar information from various types of file.

For me, the interesting thing is because WordLeaker uses POLE , a portable and lightweight C++ library to read Microsoft OLE Compound Document (used also in some KOffice filters), which is one of my dirty hacks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Deutsche Telekom Drama: Part I

Warning: this is a terrible rant!

Executive summary: Suddenly one fine digit is gone from Deutsche Telekom database. This caused a chain of annoying events. In the end, I must pay for the incurred extra cost, and some amount of precious time is definitely lost.

I have been a happy customer of Deutsche Telekom. For convenience, I let DT uses the debit entries (of my bank) for the telephone bill.

One time, I received a letter from DT saying that for that month, the bank rejected the request to cover my phone bill. In addition, since I also used the service from other providers (e.g. dial-up Internet etc), I also got some others invoices (with small amount of fine, because the payment is due). This is strange because for more than two years, automatically the bill is paid without problem and I always have enough amount of money to cover the bill.

From the call to the bank representative, I was told that there was never error to be found for the transactions. So, I called the hotline service of DT and explained the problem. A man in the call center informed me that if the account has no problem, then I should wait and let the transaction be repeated. Because I'm not a native speaker, I was careful to confirm whether I should do anything about this, the answer was a clear no, just wait.

In two weeks, another letter came. Bad sign. This means that the problem wasn't solved. So I called the hotline service again. This time, a woman checked the transaction and found that my account number was not correct. How this could be, I have no idea; but one initial digit was missing (if these digits are about money, I'll be poor in a second). So, she corrected it and said everything should be fine now. Also, I told her that I got these invoices from other providers and asked whether these can be handled automatically. I wanted to avoid double payment. So carefully I asked again whether I should do anything, the answer was also no, do not worry, we'll handle everything for you. Sounds good.

Another week passed by. I checked my balance and found out that DT has already taken some, so it looked good. But, then out of sudden I still received some letters from the service providers saying that I still do not pay the bill for them. Of course I did not pay it. Like I was informed, I believe that it should be handled by DT. Worse, my connection to the providers was blocked, means that in the mean time I could not use their particularly good services anymore.

The problem was now the bills came also with fine and extra cost for the lawyer. My goodness! I have done nothing wrong at all (who screw the payment for the first time), and then so easily I got letters from this lawyer. No wonder everybody goes to law school.

I made another call. This time, another woman handled it. I explained again the story, and I didn't forget to ask what I should actually do with those bills from other providers, to which she said that either I should pay it manually by myself or let DT process the payment (though they can't handle the fines because they do not have the information from these providers). The latter was exactly what I demanded from the second call, and yet it was not carried out.

Still in the third call to the hotline service, I asked whether she could checked what actually did happen which caused all this drama. Apparently, for whatever reason she had no full access to the system. I should call again later on. What a joy.

In the evening, I made my fourth call to DT hotline service (I started to remember my 10-digit customer id). A woman confirmed that all those extra bills not coming from DT better managed by myself manually, and they can't do anything about it. I got a moment to ask what has caused the failed payment weeks ago. She didn't give me anything new, it's just that the transaction has been rejected by the bank. It's not their fault and I should consult my bank.

I came to the bank in the next morning and desperately asked for help. A man checked my account and found out that in fact, DT never tried to charge the bill from my account for that particular month. He also spotted the wrong account number in the invoice, this confirmed what the hotline service person (on my second call) noticed. Of course the requested transaction was rejected because the account number was invalid. So, it's not the fault of the bank at all.

The madness did not just stop there.

I went to T-Punkt shop in the city. Here I explained again the situation. A woman said that they can't do anything about that, the best they can offer is only voucher/coupon. I was not interested in that, I wanted to find out how my bank information has been changed without my consent. Obviously, the shop can't do anything regarding that but she was willing to write a notice to some DT representative about this problem. I left also my mobile number (fortunately - pun intended - my mobile provider is not DT). She said that I can also try to call a number, which is unsurprisingly the hotline service number.

I called again and I was getting crazy. This call did not result in anything new. I was suggested to contact the invoice service department. Good, at least a new number. I made another call, but it was disconnected in the middle. I still repeated; a woman informed me that she can't answer my question, she does not know how the bank account was unintentionally changed. I was recommended to contact the address which is written in the invoice, it was DT office in Bielefeld.

Now, it's getting out of control. I was foolish to try calling this office number, my call was simply redirected to (surprise, surprise) the hotline service. For the billion times, I retold again my story and this time the answer was slightly different. I should not use other providers because if I do that, then I have to prepare for this kind of situation, where they have nothing to do with these providers. I gave him the benefit of doubt and took it as a friendly advice. I found what he said is quite true, likely also legally correct, although I personally think that it is not a good thing to say to a customer. That simply scares people away. If a company agrees to process invoices from other providers, but only as as courtesy (they won't be liable from any mistakes), then better not doing it at all. And I am completely dumb to believe in this. I'm sure some other competitors can do this kind of job better.

And what about that stupid and fatal change in my bank account number? Well, it's just a mistake. What a cool answer. This number is just an id, it is not a result from some scientific calculation. For more than two years, that wonderful number has been in their database and never been changed. Maybe this number is simply not mission-critical enough (it's not going to send some astronauts to the Mars)?

I went on to explain that I really really wanted to know what has caused this mistake, which costs me all these miserable hours. Some will think that I just exaggerate this. But for me, not knowing the cause of a bug is just scary. In fact, the bug itself might not be solved yet. And, who's going to pay that lawyers?

(If you have a pocket calculator which sometimes produce wrong last digit for simple operation like addition, are you going to rely on it? Who can ensure that later on the calculator would not falsify the most significant digit and causes you a big loss?)

This time one digit is gone. What's next? Where is the corresponding bugzilla, please?

So finally I was suggested to call fault service department. I did it, but nobody there can do something about this. Obviously this place only deals with problem such as when telephone connection is out of service. They have no customer information, in fact they do not know anything about invoice, let alone my bank account. Then, from there I was suggested to call - which surely everybody could guess already - the hotline service.

(I actually never expect that somebody will explain me the technical things in a hotline service. But at least, I hope, they can point me to someone, some manager, some big boss, or whoever, who knows what actually did happen)

I placed another call and up front asked not to be redirected to any other number again because that was the way I have landed there. I gave the 10-digit customer id (piece of cake by then) and asked the woman to check the call history to show that I was indeed in a stressful ping-pong game. She notified that my problem has been registered and I do not need to call again, I should just wait for the call-back.

The next day I got the expected call. The first few minutes were again wasted to explain the problem (nobody, even DT people themselves, can believe that my bank account number has been magically changed), just to prove that I was not the one who made the stupid mistake. So, apparently they can manage the due payment to other providers, only if I transfer them the money because they are not allowed to take it from my bank account in this special case. Finally, it is quite relaxing to obtain the correct information, although until reaching this point I have to suffer more ten phone calls. As for other fines and such cost, the best they can offer is only (guess what?) a voucher. Ironically the nominal value of this voucher won't even cover the lawyer's cost. I was tired, angry, upset so I just accepted it. Apology? Not that I expected it, but still not even one time I heard that word.

As for the missing digit, it is still not clear how it did happen. Maybe it's a software bug. Maybe someone just changed it, either mistakenly or only for the fun of it. Looks like nobody would be able to give me a satisfied answer at all. In fact, so far not even a dumb answer has been given. Heck, even if they said "it's ancient black magic", maybe I would have just accepted it.

Deutsche Telekom, I'm punked!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Computer vs Computer

I'm very bad at playing games. A high-school kid can beat me easily in almost any imaginable types of game. However, I'd like to enjoy the game itself, for the graphics, its gameplay, special effects, sound effects, etc. One way to do this is by watching the game while the player's role is taken the computer. In some games, many players can even be played by the computer, e.g. really fun to do this with combat games.

So when I read about Microsoft Anti-Spyware prompts user to remove Norton AntiVirus, I could only smile. This is just not new (e.g. main task of an antivirus is typically to combat the viruses), but apparently elimination of a real product (one could also argue whether NAV is that really useful) by another one, in this particular case is more highlighted because it is official tool from Microsoft, may become common in the future.

I would not be that surprised if this Anti-Spyware later on will also remove Internet Explorer :-P

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Munich and Geisha

These two movies did not really meet my expectations.

In Munich, Spielberg entered the controversial political foray with the adventure of Mossad agents taking revenge to what had happened in 1972 Olympic games. Due to its sensitive theme, I can imagine that in some countries (possibly also in my country, Indonesia), this Munich won't be perhaps available in the cinema.

Despite the good performance of Eric Bana, the characters did not seem to be portrayed "live" enough, which is sad because that was supposed to be the heart of the movie. In fact, this did not feel like typical Spielberg's movie at all.

And I also can't really understand why Munich is chosen as the title, it feels like a cheap shot to that tragic event (same case for view of the New York's twin towers in the final scene) as the whole thing is actually about Munich's aftermath. Even Lucasian "The Agency Strikes Back" sounds better.

The visual in Memoirs of a Geisha is without doubt truly superb (and vivid). However, I did not really like the story adaptation. Sure, it can't stick 100% to the book. But the book still reads like a memoirs while the movie feels like an expanded soap opera (you know, forbidden love thing). Some memorable and important moments are fast forwarded, while in other parts they are just long winded.

I don't know about other places, but here Geisha is not really well received. In the second running week, the cinema hall is unbelievably almost empty because so few people watched it. Maybe wrong place, wrong time.

As for Zhang Ziyi (I still believe if she's doing modelling only, she'd be the Chinese answer to Kate Moss), I like her better in Flying Dagger.

Hopefully they won't make a follow-up "Returns of a Geisha".