Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cups printing problem solved!

Some weeks ago I mentioned Ubuntu's Feisty was having a weird printing problem that I and many other people reported. It was unclear what was the triggering action and where the fault might be. And it seems it was for a a reason: While everybody thought the problem was in cups code, in the end it turned out the error was on another package.

D-Bus is a library that offers a high-level interprocess communication. This library might be used by cups if available. There was a bug on the last version on the library (used by both Debian and Ubuntu) that eventually caused pipes not to be closed properly. The net result was that the cups process was gathering more and more file descriptors till a limit was reached.

Thanks to the joint work of many users, Martin Pitt provided a fix for Ubuntu.

Your printing blues is over.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wifi friends

I've got a call from a friend who was desperately trying to get Wi-fi working at home. The brand new PlayStation 3 was not able to use the home network as the broadband router was not configured as a DHCP server. The WiFi access point they had did not show up on any menu.

When I get there I realized the WiFi access point was either dead or the power supply was not fully operational, so the whole thing was actually dead. As I was trying to be of some help and because my friend did have two wireless cards I suggested he could use the so called ad-hoc mode to network wirelessly his two computers while the Playstation was connected using and Ethernet cable to the broadband router.

To get this working you need to connect one of the computers to an Ethernet port of the broadband router and then you share this connection so a second computer can use it too while it connects wirelessly to the first computer (no access point is involved here, so that is what this mode is called ad-hoc mode).

When I left my friend's home everything was up and running (we have to provide a suitable IP address to the Playstation) and the three systems. One traffic jam and several hours later, my friend told me the existing setup was barely operation as the computer using the wireless connection was getting intermittent Internet access.

I suggested him to get a new access point, then I told him to borrow my old one. After some fiddling with each computer configuration, everything now runs rock solid for him.

I have had not much experience with WiFi ad-hoc mode, but it seems you should not expect rock solid operation, at least not if you mix products from different vendors. I guess that Windows XP network sharing might not be as good as a regular broadband router NATP software.

Ah, yes, I got a nice bottle of wine :-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A painful lesson

I bought some cheap airline tickets over the weekend for a family trip. I was asked to provide not only the names of the passengers but also their ID number,gender,title and birth-date. Quite annoying but I guess that might be of some use.

This morning I've got the tickets delivered from the online company and my son discovers there is an error in his lastname. I email the the seller to ask for a fix as, though there is yet enough time left, I do not want to procastinate about this.

My email gets answered quite fast but the directions given are somehow confusing: I should cancel the ticket and I should buy a new one. This approach in itself has two problems: On one hand being the tickets non-refundable cancelling means losing all the money (so I do no see any advantage for cancelling such a ticket) and paying, again, for the same ticket just to get your lastname fixed. But secondly, there is a chance of not getting the same schedule on sale in this second attempt of buying the ticket.

The fact that all the data provided, ID number, birth-date, first name and gender the same should be quite a proof that we are not requesting a name change but only fixing an error yet it seemed not be a point good enough for them.

On the other hand, if we fail to get a new ticket with the same schedule we will be forced to cancel our three other tickets (getting nothing in return too).

So here is the lesson, triple check the names on the ticket reservation before clicking Ok. Failing to do this can cost you your holidays (besides enriching some bastards).

Quite frustrated I moved on and I bought a new ticket for my son. Now the deal is 25% more expensive and my mood has decreased several notches.

Update: Among other things I did, I contacted with the customer service department of the airline I was flying with (Swiss). In an unexpected twist of events (it should not be that rare customer service is actually doing something for the client) the airline sided with me, understood my point and, even better, decided to do something about it. Next morning I got a call from the online company I bought the tickets from asking me to return the wrong ticket for a refund (as I have bought a second ticket just to clear a mistake on the lastname).

I am yet waiting for the new ticket to arrive but now I feel that at least some companies still have some moral grounds.

Update2: I've got the fixed ticket, but no news about my refund yet.

I've got my money back!!! Though this whole thing should never happened I still felt it like a small achievement. I think this company is yet missing a revenue opportunity, as consumers are going to be willing to pay some money to get their problem fixed. At least I was. While their current approach is generating no revenue and real bad publicity, so bad I prevented myself to even mention what company I dealt with (yeah, you guess it right, "bastards" is not the company name). However, you already know that Swiss company did the right thing for me.