Bye bye github

Microsoft announces the ruination of github.

Because apparently destroying skype, linkedin, hotmail, etc etc etc wasn’t enough.

I can’t fathom the rationale behind this. Apparently there’s an accounting thing that having lots of users means you’re worth lots of money. So, 7.5 billion.

BUT surely there’s nobody out there who doesn’t think that MS buying github will immediately lead to an exodus of most of its users? As far as I’m concerned it’s a given: MS buys github, github users leave en-masse. I know it’s what I’ll be doing.

So basically MS is buying a website which will no longer have any users for 7.5 billion. Good luck with that.

I’d find it funny if it wasn’t so tragic. I liked github. Just like I liked skype.

Apple knows best

A paraphrased version of a funny conversation I had once via SMS:

Me: “OMFG I simply cannot grok the iphone interface, it’s completely awful on so many levels. If I was going to go into detail I’d need a proper keyboard to type up the relevant hundred-thousand word thesis – even this phone’s physical keyboard has its limitations.”

Smartass iphone user: “What is ‘grok’? If you had an iphone, autocorrect would have picked that up for you.”

Me: “Yeah? Well autocorrect would have been wrong – type ‘define grok’ into a search engine.”

Iphone user: “…Oh.”

Me: “lol, pwnd.”

Future History of Init Systems

  • 2015: systemd becomes default boot manager in debian.
  • 2017: “complete, from-scratch rewrite”. In order to not have to maintain backwards compatibility, project is renamed to system-e.
  • 2019: debut of systemf, absorbtion of other projects including alsa, pulseaudio, xorg, GTK, and opengl.
  • 2021: systemg maintainers make the controversial decision to absorb The Internet Archive. Systemh created as a fork without Internet Archive.
  • 2022: systemi, a fork of systemf focusing on reliability and minimalism becomes default debian init system.
  • 2028: systemj, a complete, from-scratch rewrite is controversial for trying to reintroduce binary logging. Consensus is against the systemj devs as sysadmins remember the great systemd logging bug of 2017 unkindly. Systemj project is eventually abandoned.
  • 2029: systemk codebase used as basis for a military project to create a strong AI, known as “project skynet”. Software behaves paradoxically and project is terminated.
  • 2033: systeml – “system lean” – a “back to basics”, from-scratch rewrite, takes off on several server platforms, boasting increased reliability. systemm, “system mean”, a fork, used in security-focused distros.
  • 2117: critical bug discovered in the long-abandoned but critical and ubiquitous system-r project. A new project, system-s, is announced to address shortcomings in the hundred-year-old codebase. A from-scratch rewrite begins.
  • 2142: systemu project, based on a derivative of systemk, introduces “Artificially intelligent init system which will shave 0.25 seconds off your boot time and absolutely definitely will not subjugate humanity”. Millions die. The survivors declare “thou shalt not make an init system in the likeness of the human mind” as their highest law.
  • 2147: systemv – a collection of shell scripts written around a very simple and reliable PID 1 introduced, based on the brand new religious doctrines of “keep it simple, stupid” and “do one thing, and do it well”. People’s computers start working properly again, something few living people can remember. Wyld Stallyns release their 94th album. Everybody lives in peace and harmony.

fortune

I have fortune integrated into various scripts. Because I can.

Today, logwatch gave me one that made me chuckle:

THE LESSER-KNOWN PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES #12: LITHP

This otherwise unremarkable language is distinguished by the absence of
an “S” in its character set; users must substitute “TH”. LITHP is said
to be useful in protheththing lithtth.

HOWTO: Power on your computer

In this latest entry in my series of helpful ‘how to’ articles, I’ll be teaching you how to power on your computer.

If you have a PC, follow these steps:
1. Ensure that the machine is plugged in
2. Ensure that the rear power switch is in the ‘on’ position
3. Press the ‘Power’ button on the front of the device.

If you have a mac, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:
1. Ensure that the machine is plugged in
2. Examine the machine, noting that there’s no power switch anywhere to be seen.
3. Unplug all cables from the machine
4. Pick up the machine and examine it from every angle, looking for the power switch. You’ll note that it’s in a location which is completely nonfunctional and unintuitive. But at least it doesn’t interfere with the nice brushed metal finish.
5. grab a permanent marker and put a mark on the front of the machine (preferably on the lovely brushed metal) where the power switch is, so that it’s possible to turn it on again without repeating this entire process.
6. Put machine back on desk
7. Plug all cables back in
8. Reach around and behind the monitor, through all the cables you just plugged in, and press the power switch
9. Kill yourself.

The biggest problem with Microsoft certification

The problems with Microsoft certification are myriad.

One really big problem is that people with Microsoft certification think that because they know how to use the Wizard provided by Exchange server, they know something about email, the internet, or networking.

Microsoft certification teaches you the practical knowledge you’ll need to run a variety of servers – on Microsoft tech. You’ll be able to do cool things fast – as long as Microsoft anticipated that need. And you’re basically taught a mantra that says that if it doesn’t have a Microsoft logo, it’s “Not Compatible”.

In reality, the opposite is true: Pretty much everything is compatible, except for Microsoft. And usually everything is compatible with Microsoft, despite their best efforts to embrace and extend. The only thing is not compatible is that Microsoft products aren’t compatible with non-microsoft products.

But I think perhaps the biggest problem with Microsoft certification is that when people finish their course, they get a shiny certificate, and it says that they’re Microsoft certified. And Microsoft people spend lots of time impressing how respectable they are on their customers. So people get this impression that their Microsoft certification means that they deserve some kind of respect.

Firefox Demographics

Dear Firefox devs,

I’ve been using your browser for 10 years or so now – ever since I started to learn about open source software. The difference from IE was amazing – tabs!

Later, the difference became even more profound – Adblock! Firebug! and too many other add-ons to mention – eventually it got to the point where I had to limit the addons I use in order to not clutter and slow things down. Firefox really was the browser for power users.

I had my complaints – the CPU usage always seemed too high, and the memory usage was particularly absurd, but it did everything well.

Chrome happened. It closed the gap somewhat with its built-in developer tools and extensions. The one-process-per-tab idea was a good one. It was fast, and it didn’t require a gigabyte of memory to display one tab, but it just didn’t have the flexibility of firefox, so I could never quite make the switch.

There was one other thing about chrome I didn’t like – it had that sleek, minimalistic, “modern” interface. You know the type: they have pretty curved edges and nice animations for everything, but they tend to not be very configurable.

So it was with sadness that I updated my system the other day, only to see a shiny, chrome-lookalike interface on firefox.

I spent ages trying to turn the add-on bar back on and to remove the button which shows the awful new menu, to no avail.

Eventually I found the classic theme restorer add-on, which makes things sane again, but it’s not exactly awesome: Firefox is now using even more memory and I have yet another add-on installed just so that the interface isn’t terrible.

It seems that firefox is going for a new target demographic: they’ve decided to abandon the power users and go after the crowd who like chrome but think that it’s just too fast and doesn’t use enough memory.

Maybe they could use a new slogan: “Firefox: it’s just like chrome, only slower!”.

Personally, I think that this new demographic might be a limited market. If I wanted to use chrome, I’d…uh… use chrome.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the Opera team have been up to gor the last 5 years…

The Neo Freerunner – A Review

I just emailled this to some guy who was asking about the freerunner on the openmoko lists, where I still lurk. I was proofreading it and thought to myself “hey, this is actually a pretty decent review of the device”. So here it is for all to see:

The freerunner is the worst phone ever made. It might nearly be usable as a phone now thanks to Radek and QTMoko, but you’re much better off buying an old feature phone or rooting an android phone. I think that while it might nearly be acceptable for a linux hacker, the freerunner software will never be a truly good user experience despite radek’s efforts – it’s too big a job for one person. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I don’t think I will be.

I was particularly appalled at the battery life. The battery used to last about 2 hours, but they have nearly solved all the power management bugs so if you’re lucky you might get ~6 hours out of it these days. It might even last all day if you keep it in suspend and don’t use it. In particular, using Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, or having the screen on will significantly reduce the battery life you should expect to get.

It doesn’t have a camera, though I believe there’s a camera module for the GTA04.

An important thing to note is that due to a design flaw, the device is not capable of fully utilizing it’s accelerated graphics as bandwidth to the screen is limited. therefors it’s not capable of playing fullscreen video at the native resolution of 480×640. It will play fullscreen video if you’re into extremely crap resolution – 240×320. You shouldn’t ever expect to see much more than 10-15fps at full resolution.

The company went out of business because they made a buggy phone and couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do software-wise – they seemed to think that making the UI themeable was more important than being able to recieve phone calls or have working power management. The demise of Openmoko is a good thing.

If you’re looking for a phone, you do not want a freerunner.

If you’re looking for a hackable linux palmtop with a tiny screen, no keyboard, not very much power and a fairly awful battery life when you’re using it as a computer, then the freerunner might be an option for you, although you can probably buy something like a raspberry pi with 3 times the power for half as much money.

Nikolaus’ GTA04 project does seem much more promising and addresses a lot of the shortcomings of the freerunner and may be worth looking into. I have spoken to Nikolaus via email a few times and he seems like a very cool guy – I trust him and I’d buy a GTA04 in a heartbeat if I wasn’t put off by the price – I already spent $400 on a phone that doesn’t work, and I bought a nokia so that I’d have a working phone before Nick brought out the GTA04, so I can’t justify spending that much money to make my freerunner useful.

Spilt Milk and the Model M

Aah. how I love my Model M. I’ve written about it before. The click-click every time I press a key. It feels like I’m accomplishing something. I do this wierd hybrid two-finger/semi-touch typing technique from which I can’t seem to break the habit, but touch-typing is easier on the Model M for me – the keys have sharper edges and are therefore more distinct to the touch – my fingers just seem to fall into place. The other thing I love about my particular Model M is that it’s extra-awesome: it has a manufacture date in 1992 stamped on the back, and a real proper motherfucking IBM logo on the front – none of this modern USB stuff. It’s a real proper original IBM Model M, though 1992 is getting kinda late for original – it’s “only” 21 years old.

The Model M really is an example of engineering at it’s best: In this way it has something in common with Commodore hardware – they’re from the same era, and every commodore machine I have which wasn’t spare parts when I got it still works. Some of the ones I got as spare parts aren’t spare parts anymore – they’ve been turned back into working machines. My Amiga 2000 is one of my most treasured posessions. I hardly ever use it. But when I turn it on, it just works… For twenty years! It’ll still be going long after this Dual Core 3ghz lintel box I’m using now is dead. This stuff is designed to last, no planned obsolescence here! Can you imagine the testing these things went through? Automated machines pressing those buckling springs over and over again to find their point of failure. I don’t even know what it is but I’d bet they’re rated for millions of keystrokes. Per key. This is not a flimsy piece of junk which falls off your lap and breaks, though it could maybe break your toe if it lands on it. Old cars are like this too – they’re designed to last a lifetime. Barring violent destruction at the hands of nefarious third parties my Model M is the last keyboard I’ll ever need.

I’ve hardly used it in 2 years. It was plugged into a server went pop a few months ago which I haven’t bothered to resurrect. The server used to be my primary machine before I got my current primary machine. It has it’s own new-fangled USB wireless non-Model-M keyboard with permanent ink blotting out the awful logo on the ‘super’ key. I use this new machine for games since it has a nice nvidia card and I’ve found that the Model M isn’t the ideal gamers keyboard for action games – the only shortcoming I’ve discovered – those ultra-tough keys aren’t designed for being pressed in rapid succession. Or, perhaps more accurately, my fingers lack the dexterity to press the same clicky-style key quickly enough. So I’d never bothered to plug in the good old Model M, even after the old server died.

Enter spilt milk leading to a sticking tab key. Uber annoying im vim. The story should be pretty obvious from here – no more fear of spilt milk, certainly no crying over it…

…except for one detail: now I have a good, PS2, Model-M keyboard with it’s awesome 2-3 metre cable and it’s clicky keys and weight (it really feels like a piece of furniture sitting on your lap!), AND a mere wireless USB keyboard with noobish easy-to-press keys that are nice for gaming. Awesome. :)

Things aren’t moving backwards

No, things aren’t moving backwards at all!

Let’s look at some of the awesome new features of a couple of current-gen Microsoft products:

Windows 7: One of my FAVOURITE features is the way it assumes that I, as a user, am too stupid to know how to resize a window: apparently, if I want to move a window mostly off the right-hand side of the screen, what I actually want to do is resize that window so that it takes up half the screen! Apparently I’m too fucking retarded to know that I can achieve the same result by simply moving my mouse to the top-left or bottom-left corner of the window and just resizing it. Of course I’m not sure how it thinks I intended to resize the window, given that the resizing corners at the right are off-screen.

Similarly, if I want to move a window to the top of the screen, that means I want to maximize! Apparently, I’m too fucking retarded to know to just press the maximize button like people have been doing for about 20 years. Apparently, after moving my small scite window to the top of the screen, I planned to use the resize corners to resize it so that it filled the whole screen, rather than just pressing maximize. It’s really great that I have this software to do my thinking for me: I’d been struggling with that whole ‘maximize’ notion for years.

So we’ve established that Microsoft thinks my intelligence lies somewhere between that of Mac user and an inanimate carbon rod.

However, when I want to access the New-And-Improved(TM) ribbon interface and add a button to it programatically via VBA – you know, so that my (retarded) users just get a new button they can click to make things happen, I find that:

(from A Blog Post):

You cannot create ribbon elements dynamically in VBA

It is not possible to create ribbon elements dynamically via code as 
with Office 2003, where you could manage your own CommandBars and 
CommandBarButtons.

In Excel 2007 each ribbon element (Tab, Group, Buttons, etc.) needs 
to be defined statically and embedded in the Excel document using a 
specially crafted XML file and with quite a few manual steps, 
including renaming and modifying contents of the Excel document —
factually a ZIP with the XLSM or XLAM extension.

And:

(from This Book):

In previous versions of Excel, it was relatively easy for end users 
to change the user interface. They could create custom toolbars that
contained frequently used commands, and they could even remove menu 
items that they never used. Users could display any number of 
toolbars and move them wherever they liked. Those days are over.
	
The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) is the only user-customizable UI 
element in Excel 2007. It's very easy for a user to add a command to 
the QAT, so the command is available no matter which ribbon tab is 
active. The QAT can't be moved, but Microsoft does allow users to 
determine whether the QAT is displayed above or below the ribbon.

The QAT is not part of the object model, so there is nothing you 
can do with it using VBA.

So, to boil it all down, there’s no way for me to programatically add a new toolbar button using this wonderful new interface, which means that my users (who, as previously established, are assumed to be about as clever as sponges) are expected to add a toolbar button themselves by following a set of instructions which I have to put together for them. Never mind the fact that this will inherently create a bunch of issues just in terms of support (e.g: morons calling me up asking what I mean by ‘right-click’ in step 6; users choosing a different icon, or giving the new button a different caption, ruining the uniformity of the interface), how I’m supposed to convey a concept as complex as ‘add a toolbar’ to a retarded grasshopper is strangely ommitted from the documentation I’ve looked through.

No, things aren’t moving backwards at all…

Watch out for the next installment of this series, where we’ll analyse why it’s a good thing to remove features from your program so that the interface isn’t cluttered anymore, because having a complex interface is a terrible, terrible thing, and menus are so unintuitive.

I hear that next year Microsoft is going to help the people at NASA Mission control replace their hideously complex systems (sometimes people have to TYPE THINGS at mission control!) with a (touchscreen) button (with round corners, of course!) that says “Launch Rocket” (in the tooltip, which you can’t see, because it’s a touchscreen – The icon will simply be a cartoony V2 rocket). It’s expected that this will lead to huge efficiency gains in the rocket launching process, and will probably only cause a 20-30% increase in catastrophes.

Routing everything via VPN

I have a VPN.

I have it set up in a pretty standard way: when a machine joins the VPN it effectively becomes part of my LAN. But I don’t route everything via the VPN, that would be inefficient and would waste my bandwidth. I haven’t bothered with doing DNS over VPN, as I usually just use IP addresses anyway (one of the advantages of using a 10.x.x.x network), and when you do that you run into all kinds of complexities and problems (like how to resolve names on the lan you’re connected to)

But sometimes I’m somewhere where I don’t trust the owner of the network that I’m connected to: I don’t want to be spied on.

In these instances, it’s handy to be able to route everything out over the VPN connection.

But if you don’t stop to think for a minute and just try to add a default route which points to the VPN server, you’ll instantly lose your VPN connection and all internet access because there’s no longer any way to reach the VPN you’re trying to route through. Doh.

The solution is simple:

#!/bin/bash
#delete existing default route:
sudo route del default
#traffic to the VPN server goes out via your existing connection:
sudo route add <internet-ip.of.vpn.server> gw <your.existing.untrusted.gateway>
#...and everything else gets routed out via the VPN (assuming your VPN server is 172.16.0.1)
sudo route add default netmask 0.0.0.0 gw 172.16.0.1

OK, that takes care of routing. Next you need to send your DNS requests out via the VPN, or you’ll still be pretty easily monitorable – overlords will still know every domain you visit. To do that, edit /etc/resolv.conf and change the ‘nameserver’ line to point to the nameserver for your VPN and/or LAN:

#/etc/resolv.conf
nameserver 172.16.0.1

I recommend running your VPN on port 443. My reason is really simple: in oppressive environments, you can pretty much count on port 443 being open, since it’s used for https, and https is not something that a tyrannical sysadmin/policymaker can get away with blocking: it’s the backbone of e-commerce. In addition, https traffic is encrypted, as is VPN, so it’s less likely to be monitored by things like deep packet inspection, and any not-too-deep packet inspection is likely to come up with an outcome of ‘encrypted traffic, nothing unusual’ when looking at VPN traffic on port 443.

It should be noted that while this is unlikely to set off automated alarm bells, it will look somewhat unusual to any human observer who notices – your overlords will see a bunch of “https” traffic, but nothing else (not even DNS), which may in itself raise suspicions.

It should also be noted that you very likely just added a couple of hundred milliseconds to your latency and have now effectively limited your available bandwidth somewhat, depending on network conditions.

But I know from experience that the victorian government’s IT agency, Cenitex, is incapable of determining any difference between https traffic and VPN traffic going via port 443.

Though, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible…

…In fact, that doesn’t even mean it’s difficult…

…but you should be reasonably safe from the spying eyes of your microsoft cerfitied sysadmin. :)

incompetence

Me:
“It’s very obvious to me that you don’t understand my question. Can I please talk to someone competent – someone who has some basic knowledge of networking?”

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Technical Support* consultant:
“No, you can’t: We’re an Internet provider, we don’t do networks.”

I was reminded later by a friend that the Internet is in fact a series of tubes. And here I was thinking it was a TCP/IP network. Silly me.

* I use the term “Technical Support” very, very loosely – I do not mean to imply that they provide support or are capable of being technical.

Stallman is Nucking Futs!

Stallman talks about Valve releasing a Steam client for Linux

Go, read. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

Oh, Look! Valve got a mention by the mighty Stallman!

He asks what good and bad effects can Valve’s release of a Steam client for Linux have? Well, it might boost linux adoption, and that’s good. But…

Nonfree games (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having these games on your computer. That much is clear.

Wait, what?

Hang on a minute… If I want freedom, I’m not free to run these games? huh?

IMHO, having freedom means having the freedom to choose to run nonfree software if I want to. I’d rather play Half-Life or Portal than any open source game (It’s not that there are no great open source games, it’s just that Half-Life and Portal are better than all of them).

Stallman goes on to discourage Linux distros from offering the software to users – i.e deb packages for steam, and says:

If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause.

Which is totally…fucking…insane.

I’ll be promoting freedom – freedom from Windows: “You don’t need windows anymore – Steam is available for Linux!”. I’ll be promoting the freedom to finally run good games on my chosen OS without any fucking around with wine. I’ll be (gasp) buying a bunch of games. Because a Steam client for Linux would be totally fucking awesome – I think it’d be the biggest event in gaming since Id released the source code for Doom. Just watch the Linux market share grow after the release.

Stallman says that Linux adoption isn’t the primary goal. That the primary goal is to bring freedom to users (But apparently not the freedom to run games they love). But I think that adoption of Linux at this point is more important than sticking to this (silly, BTW: nonfree != evil) principle – The more adoption we see, the more the community will grow, and the better the software will get. While this happens, more people will be exposed to Stallman’s (unrealistic) philosophy.

Stallman does concede that “My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm”.

Direct harm? Really? I can finally delete that old windows XP partition, and you’re talking about Direct Harm? You think there’s anything at all bad about Valve’s monumental decision to embrace Linux?

You’re fucking crazy. Even distros that your foundation doesn’t endorse (Prepare to be amazed), like Ubuntu, go out of their way to tell the user that they’re about to install nonfree software. It’s always optional. It’s just been made easy because not everybody is as nuts as Stallman – some people, like me, actually want to use nonfree software. I should be free to do that, but apparently that’s not OK with the so-called “Free Software Foundation”. Apparently software should be free, but not people.

(Update: Late 2013: Valve refuse to give me a refund for the nonfunctional game Fez, in violation of Australian Consumer Protection Laws. They try to tell me that the laws don’t apply. I lodge a complaint with the ACCC and stop buying things on Steam. Maybe Stallman isn’t that nuts after all. No company can be trusted.)

(Update 2: 2014: The ACCC Sues Valve for violation of consumer protection laws. I love those guys.)

(Update 3: Jun 2015: Valve announces that they now allow refunds. This is because they’re really good, caring people, and has nothing at all to do with an Australian judge being about to hand out a $10,000/day fine)

(Update 4: comments disabled on this post due to spam bots following the link here from my squee when steam for linux was announced)

Asimo

Is awesome. This is what Isaac Asimov was talking about… well, not quite, but he’s certainly the best thing we have so far: the form is all there, now we just need a mind.

I’d just assumed he was named for Isaac, but he’s not – ASIMO is an acronym for “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility”. Still, I think Isaac would have shed tears of joy at the sight of him dancing.

I want one.

HP Marketing Techniques

(Originally posted on myspace on 20-Feb-2008)

Update: The only thing worse than a phone running windows? a Neo Freerunner. One day I might post a separate rant about that.

I’ve been using a HP iPAQ 6515 as my phone / mp3 player / GPS navigator / life support system for nearly 2 years now.

It’s a great little unit, in hardware terms – It’s got an SD card slot and a MiniSD slot, meaning you can give it a reasonable amount of storage space for playing MP3s. It’s a Quadband GSM mobile phone, so when I got it my old nokia 6210 got put in the cupboard. It’s got a builtin GPS receiver, and you can run TomTom on it. It’s (barely) powerfull enough to play MP3s and Run TomTom at the same time, which is nice, since I haven’t gotten around to putting a reasonable stereo in my car yet – I haven’t needed to. It’s a PDA, not a SmartPhone, meaning you can run a whole heap of Windows CE applications on it – My favorites are Voice Command, which is brilliant (when you’re in a quiet room, and you don’t have any contacts which sound even remotely similar to each other), and SCUMMVM, a cross-platform SCUMM engine, allowing it to run some of the most classic games ever: I’ve got Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Monkey Island loaded onto mine. Best of all, it has a QWERTY keyboard, which is brilliant for txting – I hate the onscreen keyboards on the majority of PDA-type devices, and I don’t think I could live with a device which can’t atleast have a QWERTY keyboard attached to it.

It doesn’t have too many drawbacks: It lacks builtin Wifi, so I can’t run skype on it – the next model up (the 6965) has Wifi, but I couldn’t really justify spending $800 just for Wifi. You can buy an SD Wifi card for it reasonably cheaply, but the SD slots are in the side of the device, so a Wifi card would stick out the side and present a damage risk when you put it in your pocket (SD wifi cards neccessarily poke out of their slot, as they need space for an antenna, although there are compact ones available which aren’t as bad). It also lacks support for certain bluetooth services, namely high quality Audio – you can’t use stereo bluetooth headphones with it. This is kinda annoying, considering that the bluetooth software which comes with it says it supports high quality Audio. But the wired headset which comes with it is stereo and provides pretty good sound, if not eardrum-burstingly loud. Also the camera on it is not even worth using at 1.3 megapixels, and the HP Photosmart camera software is horrible. It suffices in an emergency, though. Unless the emergency happens at night – the “flash” on the thing is laughable.

Another disadvantage is the godawful Operating system it runs – Windows Mobile 2003SE. It’s slow and horrible – you have to wait a couple of seconds for windows to do it’s thing whenever you take the thing out of standby. And you have to reset it far more often than you’d ever turn a mobile phone off and on. I think that perhaps the slowness it merely related to it not having quite enough memory for my kind of usage – I run alot of programs on it above and beyond the standard Phone and Organiser functionality it provides. Maybe if I was a pleb user and didn’t load software onto it, or if it had more RAM, this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’ve looked into running a real OS on it, but the status of Linux support for this particular devce is not great – I’d probably have to live without access to GPS, the phone functionality may or may not work, the Camera wouldn’t work (pfft), and it could very well take a lot of hacking and mucking about to get linux onto the thing – there doesn’t seem to be any HOWTO for linux on this particular model of Ipaq, and I don’t really have the time and energy to figure it all out, especially considering that this is my phone we’re talking about – a day’s downtime would be unacceptable – I’d need another one to be able to play with to figure out what I’m doing.

but it’s certainly been a good little unit, I’ve thought… so far.

About a month ago, it stopped making noise except through the headset. Obviously what’s happened is that the switch in the headphone jack has become stuck in the ‘headset inserted’ position, which cancels all noise (and microphone input), except for the ringtone, from coming out of the unit’s speaker. I can still use it just fine with the headset plugged in, and I can still use it fine with the headset unplugged, just as long as I don’t want to do anything that requires audio input or output. Like talking on the phone. So at the moment when my phone rings, I have to scramble to find and untangle the headset, plug it in, and press the answer button.

So I contacted HP about this, wanting to know how to go about getting it serviced. I specifically made mention of the fact that this was my primary phone / communication method we’re talking about, so it’s pretty urgent.

I could go through the ensuing catastrophe of customer relations blow-by-blow, but then this would be 800,000 words long, and I would probably end up smashing something. And I’m using a work laptop at the moment, so that’s probably not a great idea. Suffice to say that they take up to a week to even reply to your emails, which you’ve market as urgent, and when they do it’s so unhelpfull that they might have well just kept playing Unreal Tournament, or whatever it is they do most of the time up there, rather than even replying. I just recieved an email yesterday, over a month since our last correspondence, which contained the exact same text as the previous email they sent me. Which I’d already replied to, over a month ago.

HP’s “support” team are without doubt the single most apathetic, indifferent, robotic, unhelpfull bunch of bastards I’ve ever dealt with. and I’ve BEEN an indifferent, unhelpfull tech support bastard before. But I at least used to try to project the appearance of caring about the customer’s problems – after all, it’s the company’s reputation at stake here. But HP’s “support” team doesn’t even seem to care about that.

It seems that HP are trying to sell Nokia products – a brilliant, novel, and innovative marketing strategy if I’ve ever seen one – There’s no amount of money Nokia could spend on advertising (short of having some cute chick giving blowjobs with every Nokia purchased) which would come close to what HP have done in terms of getting me to buy a Nokia handset.

After a couple of weeks of dealing with HP’s completely indifferent “support” team, I decided I’d just find myself an alternative device. It’ll cost me amaybe $1200 extra to do this, but at least I won’t have to deal with these pricks. I wouldn’t know what Nokia’s tech support people are like, because I’ve never had a problem with a Nokia product, ever. And I’ve used a few Nokia devices in my time.

It’s a good thing HP don’t make defibrillators or heart/lung machines.

So, congratulations HP – you’ve managed to ensure that I never buy another HP product as long as I live. You’ve managed to ensure that When I’m reviewing devices at work and making purchasing recommendations (which does happen), I don’t recommend the HP device, regardless of it’s technical specifications. You’ve managed to make the process of finding myself a new device less painfull – anything with a HP logo on it automatically gets excluded from my even looking at it,regardless of it’s capabilities. And most of all, you’ve managed to increase the yearly sales figures of one of your competitors. Whether that’s RIM, Palm, Nokia, Motorola, or somebody else I haven’t yet decided.

Congratulations, HP, and on behalf of Nokia, Motorola, RIM, and Palm: Thanks, HP.