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SCHESTOWITZ.COM Turns 18 (or 20)

This site, SCHESTOWITZ.COM, started in 2001 or in 2002. It used to be hosted on another domain before I registered SCHESTOWITZ.COM and moved everything over to it. As I remember it, I started developing just an academic-style profile page while I was at work and it developed a lot over time. I was about 20 at the time. SCHESTOWITZ.COM turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and later this year — in June — TUXMACHINES.ORG will also turn 18.

My first Web site was in Geocities. I was 15 or 16 at the time and I still have a copy, which might be partial/incomplete. That does not matter much as the original content in there was small and barely significant.

This domain became more active in recent weeks because I abandoned all social control media and decided to just blog more, instead. We need to bring back some of the older “web culture”, which includes simpler Web pages and RSS feeds. The corporations may not like that, governments find it harder to censor that, but that’s actually a badge of endorsement for the way things used to be.

20 Days After Leaving Twitter It’s All Nice and Quiet

Goodbye, Twitter

I’ve underestimated how nice it is not to be bothered by notifications. Yes, I’ve quit more than just Twitter and things are a lot more pleasant now. WOULD RECOMMEND.

The Diaspora of JoinDiaspora

Export of joindiaspora

AS per this account, about 7 hours ago JoinDiapora was taken offline. To quote: “As announced in our announcement, the server migration is currently underway. Given the size of JoinDiaspora’s filesystem and database, this might take a couple of hours to complete. We’ll post an update when we’re done!”

The data transfer was far faster than I had anticipated. Only a few hours passed before they posted:

And JoinDiaspora is “back”! As we’ve announced, the pod will be available in a limited mode only from now on. As such, all features are disabled, including the ability to post new content. However, you still can:

Export your data and initiate the account migration as soon as it’s done.
Send and receive private messages.
Delete your account.
Manage your profile and account details.

You can try and request an export of your profile data now. However, if the export fails for you, please hesitate the urge to try it over and over again. If it fails once, it will not work on subsequent tries. If you request an export and it looks like it never completes, that’s also fine. We will look into why the exports are failing for some users, and we have to fix those issues on a case-by-case basis. This will take time.

So what’s expected to happen now, based on this page, which I quote in part:

I am currently not able to export my data. What will happen to my profile?

Some of you are currently unable to export your profile data. You might either see an error message, or it might look like nothing is happening at all. We are aware of this.

After the infrastructure migration is completed, we will start investigating the issues with account exports. Everyone who wants a data export will get one.

If you’re currently facing issues, please do not keep retrying the export over and over again. Please don’t use automated tools like scrapers to manually acquire a copy of your data. Doing so will only cause exessive server load, which only makes our work even harder.

As we don’t know what’s actually causing the export issues and how we can best fix them, this work will take some time. For each export, we have to observe its progress and intervene manually if errors arise.

We don’t know how long it will take, but everyone will get their account data exported.

There’s no ETA.

My plan isn’t to make a real comeback to social control media but to just set up bots that link to posts in Techrights and TuxMachines. No extra overhead that way. I very much doubt there’s an intention to configure the JoinDiaspora domain and change the code to preserve existing connections between accounts. This means that even a diaspora (mind the pun) from JoinDiaspora will be very much lossy.

Many thanks go out to the various people involved in this. It’s understandable that technical debt added up to the point where a ‘lifeboat’ approach is required. At least they try to offer us lifeboats.

Export of joindiaspora

Social Control Media Isn’t Social Because You Don’t Lose Real Friends (or Social Life) Just Because Some Site/Instance/Pod Shuts Down

I will soon make changes to my microblogging routine. Probably some time next month. Here’s the alta vista of it.

“Social Control Media” is a term I coined many years ago; many people, even Wikileaks, have adopted the term since then. When I say “Social Control Media” I don’t limit myself to Twitter and Facebook; it also applies to LinkedIn (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your identity), GitHub (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your work/code), YouTube (video), and TikTok (crap). More importantly, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out in Techrights, Free software- and freedom-based sites aren’t robust to many of the same issues (volatility, misinformation) and even if they’re self-hosted, decentralised, federated etc. their existence is transient. Some sites or software will cease to be maintained within 5 years or less (in the case of self-hosting, a new version of PHP, for instance, can break the software you self-host).

Static sites with simple files are generally a good idea if you intend to keep your data, not only through the Web but whatever protocols will exist and get popularised in the future. More importantly, never rely on making “connections” online; make them “in real life” as real friends don’t need the Internet to keep in touch. I’ve hardly used the Internet at all to keep in touch with real friends.

Next Friday JoinDiaspora will go offline after more than a decade. When it comes back online it’ll be “read-only”, available temporarily only for users to be able to export their data and move it elsewhere (to another pod). All the connections will be lost, even if posts and comments are going to be preserved, according to the promises from the project’s core team.

Maybe I’ll fondly remember those 3,000+ “followers” I gained in JoinDiaspora.

schestowitz joindiaspora connections

What about the 2,000+ “followers” of Linux (TuxMachines)? I hardly ever knew them.

linux joindiaspora connections

After thinking about it for over a month and having spoken to another person who has posted heavily to JoinDiaspora for over a decade (with many “followers”, too) I am pretty certain I’ll migrate both accounts to another domain, another pod. I’ve not decided which one yet, but it needs to be something that can last and keep alive for at least another decade. As I explained here a few days ago, I’ve already lost more accounts than I can remember. I don’t want to jump from one dying pod to another soon-to-die pod. As for self-hosting, it’s out of the question due to complexity (Diaspora became bloated; I tried installing it almost 8 years ago and it was already very heavy and complicated to manage).

For me, IRC provides a more reliable means of communication and it’s vastly easier — not to mention a lot cheaper — to maintain.

27 Minutes to Cancel BT Order (Even Though I Was Very Clear It Needs to be Done as Soon as Possible), But Still Not Done on Compensation

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

IT has been confirmed that my order is now canceled. I’ve had enough! I was so patient and forthcoming; I was willing to wait and forgive, but everybody has limits and this is well past the “third strike”…

I phoned BT at 8AM when the lines opened. I spoke to a guy to whom I made very clear it needs to get done as soon as possible and I don’t want delays and obstruction; he attempted to pass me to the “customer retention” team (cancellation team; they use other euphemisms) and I made it clear to him it would need to take less than 5 minutes.

As advised, he said he would speak to them about it first.

I waited on the line for 7 minutes before giving up and hanging up.

I phoned the number again.

It did not go through to an advisor.

I phone the number again (third time).

Once again, it did not go through to an advisor.

Weird. Is that like some ‘DDOS protection’ or something?

I phoned a fourth time and finally got through to a lady, who after further questions said that the order has been canceled. But then we proceeded to cancellations and finally, after 27 minutes, she said she would need to speak to a manager.

I said she would need to settle that and would phone me back when it’s all confirmed.

So, in summary, it took half an hour, even in a rush (I made it clear several time it needs to be done quickly) just to cancel an already-problematic order. That’s not even counting the compensation.

They make it really hard for people to cancel things like impending orders, even if they are assertive yet polite. I kept apologising to the lady in case that seemed tone-dead, knowing it was not her fault and nothing for her to take personally. I know they’re subjected to tough working standards. Here’s a new article about it. They’re human beings, unlike the corporations.

I kept my manners and composure and went through it as fast as I can. I knew they would probably try to slow things down, tire me, and so on. As I type this she has phoned me back to confirm the compensation, assuring I will hear nothing more about this case and won’t be bothered by it. Time will tell if that promise is kept. I want to spend not a moment more on this. I never even asked for this service. BT pushed it onto me. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Don’t become an early adopter or an experiment of corporations. They’d lie to people for their consent.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part VI (I’m Canceling my Order and Why You Should Never Make the Mistake I Made)

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V

IN Part V some correspondence from BT has been shown/shared (with sensible redaction; no names and addresses included), basically explaining what a rollercoaster ride it can become when you get things wired up for fibre in 2021. In many regions/areas you become their experiment. The sales people, who try to compel you to move to fibre, make it sound like a quick and painless job (even when you challenge them on such a claim, as I did). After arguing for almost an hour on the phone (there would be more hour-long conversations with BT after that) they managed to fool me into accepting the offer by giving discounts*. Little did I know what I was truly getting myself into…

Unfulfilled promises of calls, requests that I call them, waiting at home for a person to show up at unspecified times (this limits what you can do on the day), several entirely pointless scheduled downtimes, not counting all the time spent corresponding, the hole in the wall, and strangers inside the house at a time of a major pandemic. Yes, pandemic. Which then means having to clean things up afterwards (sanitising).

People showing up without the required (and promised) equipment, contradictory advice (they cannot even keep a consistent story), lousy compensation that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what I pay, and still no end in sight. The last thing one needs during a heatwave. I could, instead, write dozens of articles or record videos — the type of stuff I really want to do instead of making calls to phantoms and ghosts with their false promises. Closing complaints without resolutions (or without addressing the underlying issue) was the cream on the cake and serves to show a certain degree of arrogance (as if it’s for them to decide if the customer is satisfied or not).

After further considerations, taking into account the inability to reach anyone over the phone (details below in the footnote), I seriously consider just canceling the entire order. But that won’t stop there; I will actively discourage other people from falling into the trap of potentially empty promises and remorse/regret. Maybe it’s a BT problem, maybe British Internet issue (maybe Openreach), but whatever it is, I very much doubt we’re truly prepared for a smooth transition to fibre. We’re no South Korea; declaring “freedom day” (mass infection) and “independence day” (brexit for racist reasons) isn’t the same as technical excellence. And heck, even from a customer support perspective there are many failures all along the way, as hopefully documented already in Parts 1-5. If cancellation of my order goes through, this will hopefully be my last post in the series, which can instead be summed up in long video form. This 7-part series wasn’t pre-planned or anything; I sincerely hoped things would work out and go smoothly (the tone in earlier parts was a lot more understanding too; I was being very patient). As for the price of compensation, it’s not negotiable from my point of view and the level of compensation was stated very clearly over the phone (they record all the calls) by the person who assured me things would work out. They didn’t. Strike three; you’re the weakest link, goodbye.

* Technically speaking, copper works well enough for me and for many others. It’s not a great technology, but as many people still depend on it the support for it can be better. Sure, it can be expensive/hard to the ISP, but that’s their problem, not ours. I never asked for an upgrade and didn’t even petition for it to become available here (it only very recently got extended to our part of town and they hand-picked me). Someone told me that “no one makes the switching equipment for copper anymore” and so even though they market fibre as ultimate benefit to clients the reality is that those ISPs look after their own interests. Judging by the way it went on so far, “they sound like they are being run by Americans,” one person told me. I told them on July 6th (on the phone) that I would be first in my area — a claim that they decline to comment on but later turned out to be true, based on what Openreach told me. I asked them, what if there’s an issue and it affects only fibre (i.e. me)? I said something along the lines us, would you fix that within minutes? I am safer with “the herd” (copper users). Sure, it’s more economic for them, not for me, to put me on a new kind of service. After speaking to the managers, oddly in the background (caused awkwardness), the sales representative said copper would be more expensive than me moving to fibre, basically convincing me to judge and decide against my intuition/gut feeling only after a discount (they said it would save me about 80 pounds in 2 years). It’s funny how fast they are to make/secure sales, but after that it goes downhill (“our advisors are available 8AM,” said an automated message/voice when I tried phoning at 5AM; I guess the sales team they have not yet sent to call centres in Asia because when it comes to money, not technical issues, they want better spokespeople/reps). Red flags all over this! What if fibre breaks down? Or the wiring has issues? I can phone any time, 24/7, and get a useless kind of technical help (person who follows a template/manual and solves nothing). Remember that a faster connection does not imply it is also more reliable. Speed and reliability aren’t opposites, but choosing something just for speed doesn’t somehow (magically) ensure it’s stable and available 100% of the time. Each time we move or transition from one generation of technology to the next there’s a period of flux with retraining, tuning, and addition of failsafe/redundancy to ameliorate/prevent future recurrence. The trade-offs may be elusive in this case (lack of data at early phases of adoption), but there’s risk associated with changes. As the saying goes, don’t try to fix what’s not broken (many sayings along those lines). From a customer service perspective, it already seems apparent that there’s a considerable gap and poor handling of a situation that’s likely to recur (e.g. if any of my neighbours tried the same, it’s guaranteed they’d go through the same pains). I wish they hadn’t picked me; make sure they don’t pick you, either. It was “planned” or “designed” to fail.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part V

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV

BT has failed, after 16 days, to deliver what it promised would be a trivial job. It was BT pushing me to accept the offer, which I wish I never accepted (their sales people were super-eager for me to move to fibre; I never asked for it!). In this part I want to show segments of communications, excluding addresses but not reference numbers (which BT has anyway and only BT can make sense of).

My hope is that for the many people who are going to have similarly bad experiences there will be more information available online. Yesterday even Openreach took note of my complaint and sought to intervene:

Openreach tweet

Openreach in an ‘outreach’ (PR-ish)? This is only a day old.

In part 4 I explained that there was poor communication with the client. BT was supposed to get back to me later in the day. That never happened. Instead, the following day (as before) I was asked to phone them, probably for a very long call.

BT reply
BT: Just phone us because we’re too busy to phone you and please speak to a machine until you get through to an actual person (who likely knows nothing about your case, so wait on the line some more and get ready to tell us stories)

The prior message to the same effect (a week earlier):

BT first reach
I’ve already had to explain my case to about 5 different members of staff (BT and Openreach)

This is quite telling:

BT complaint
They keep closing complaints without actually solving the problem and without asking for the client’s consent to do so

They think dozens of hours of my time (and two scheduled downtimes, in vain) are worth a couple dozen quid:

Nowhere near enough to compensate for loss of time, nuisance, and many other things. Bear in mind I’ve paid BT about 5,000 pounds this past decade.

They have sent several such messages already:

BT engineer
It’s tiring to have appointments in vain (waiting for up to 5 hours for a person to show up and get nothing done)

BT install
As if it’ll get done this time around

As noted before, they didn’t even bother sending the bag/envelope for this until I phoned them to request one (we finally got it only a couple of days ago or about a week late).

The message caused confusion on numerous levels; in fact, it contradicts what the sales people from BT said (they don’t like disclosing the less convenient facts that allude to future hassle)

Then there’s this:

BT feedback
Oh, trust me, you don’t really want me to do this

It has now been 16 days (mind date of this E-mail). I’m still waiting.

16 days and counting

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