Why does wi-tribe connection shut off on the first of every month?

     I have been noticing that on the first of every month, the wi-tribe connection that I am using stops working as soon as I receive the invoice email. Browsing stops. Replies to ping requests stop. All Internet activity comes to a halt.

     When this happens, I get in touch with a customer support rep and describe my problem to them. After a while, they figure out what is wrong, tell me to try again after a brief moment, and take their leave. They never clearly explain the cause of the problem, beyond it being due to some glitch in their systems. But whatever it is that they do, works and makes me happy.

     In the early afternoon on the first of January, my connection stopped completely soon after I received the invoice over email. From that point on till an hour before midnight, I tried relentlessly to get some human to pick up the phone at the customer support site — I had the impression that the support staff got drunk and passed out over the new year’s eve, and didn’t come to work the next day. And when someone finally did, they were not able to fix my problem, promising me that a complaint was lodged and my problem will be resolved shortly.

     However, one question that they asked me during my brief conversation with them on the phone, gave me an idea about what could be wrong. Because I have come not to trust DNS resolvers that local ISPs use, I always use either OpenDNS or, recently, Google DNS resolvers. With that little detail in mind, I edited the network settings on my computer to not use any external DNS resolves but the local ones. My mail didn’t still work, nor did replies to ping requests show up. But what did half-work was any attempt to access any webpage on the browser. The browser redirected automatically to a wi-tribe internal page which told me that my invoice has been released, and this or that will happen if I don’t pay beyond the due-date. However, what caught my attention and also made me feel extremely silly was a big button in the middle of the page that read to the effect, ‘Click to continue browsing’. And clicking on that button did as advertised. I felt extremely stupid.

     So, what was the problem? The problem was that, since I was using external DNS resolvers, wi-tribe was not able to redirect me to their internal page on the first of the month when the invoice was generated. When I switched to their local DNS resolvers, I was able to see that page, click on the big button, and continue using the Internet.

     To think that I wasted a lot of money in calls to customer support, torture myself from being pissed at not being able to both use Internet and get someone at customer support to pick up, only due to a thing as silly as I’ve described, I feel an uncontrollable urge to curse out loud.

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The console that burns

In part on a friend’s insistence, I bought the Xbox 360 console a little less than six months ago. I knew before buying it that the Xbox 360 suffers from a scary problem that is notorious by the name of “the red ring of death.” If your Xbox console is unlucky to have the red ring, it will likely stop working forever. There are no fixes, none whatsoever from the console’s manufacturer, Microsoft, to this problem. There are also no reliable precautions to take to avoid having the problem.

A simple search for “xbox” and “the red ring” will lead the curious reader to finding, among other information, the cause of the problem. It is a design fault: a glitch in the hardware which results in desoldering of electrical joints on a particular chip inside the console in the face of persistent heat, heat that the console generates during its normal operation. When the console cools off enough for the solder to settle back, short circuits ensue. If you are lucky, your console may still work.

The red ring problem in the Xbox has caused distress to countless owners. It has single-handedly achieved the greatest console return rates (the return of faulty consoles back to manufacturer after purchase) to date (as I know of, but may likely be off base here). Microsoft acknowledge the problem and the surmounting dissatisfaction caused to its customers, but have done little to solve the problem. They have shipped subsequent models of the Xbox that they tout fix what is a design oversight, but in reality, they have only been able to dampen the problem slightly: the red rings are not gone, but are a tad bit infrequent — a dampening effect that is for the most part too small to notice. In other words, the problem persists by and large.

A precaution to dodge the problem from happening [sooner] that I read as suggested often, and that I follow myself, is to restrict continuous use of the console to less than three hours. This is preposterous. The Xbox is a hardcore gaming console, something that in contrast the Nintendo Wii is not as you are not likely to play games for a long stretch of time in one sitting, and as is characteristic of all hardcore gaming consoles and the hardcore games that are made to be run on them, players play for hours at ends. If you find this fact hard to believe, hunt down a serious gamer (an individual, mostly likely in their teens but not necessarily so, who is mad about playing console games), and spend a day with them, provided that they spend the day playing games and not sleeping through the day. It is not hard to understand how important prolonged gaming, despite the health hazards it carries with it, is to serious as well as mildly serious gamers. Even if this fact is set aside, to not be able to play games on a console for longer than roughly three or so hours from risk of blowing up the console is ludicrously absurd, for a severe lack of a better phrase to describe it. What sort of a console will that be, you may likely ask.

I winced when I heard about Project Natal. My immediate outburst at that was to the effect, “Shouldn’t Microsoft be focusing on fixing the catastrophic problem in their bloody console as their first priority, instead of on introducing, as they tout, revolutionary controller-free gaming to the Xbox?” It makes absolutely no sense to me why they would do that. The inner gamer inside me is crying for a longer, more involved and more persistent gaming experience, as are many, many other gamers who owned or have owned the Xbox. The Xbox is a great gaming platform, with popular game developers committing to releasing awesome games, with an almost robust mechanism for live community play — if only Microsoft would get serious, smack themselves on the back of the head, and set themselves to chasing out from the root the console burn-out issue.

Saved on a technicality

If your god is forever forgiving, provided that you bow only before him and consider him unparalleled, unchallenged, and single, would you indulge in petty (and non-trivial but non-cardinal) sins and deeds on the belief that at the end of your day you will be forgiven if you so seek forgiveness for your sins from your god?

Would you, then, intensify your indulgences as well as your acts of supplication in the holy month of Ramadan, a scared period of thirty (or more, or less) days where your god is known by you to be at his most merciful and forgiving demeanour?

Would you not think, on reflection, that what is a trivial lie, a dishonest dealing in trade, but a small mistake that your god will not only not mind but also exonerate you from if you spread your arms and submit to him with all your heart?

Of logic and conscience!

Inspired by The Value of Logic in Pratical Life, by JayWalker, I decided to rant about logic.

Logic, in practical life, is, more often than not, what we want it to be. As Taleb underlines repeatedly in his book, The Black Swan, people tend to only look for instances that corroborate what they want to believe in. They almost never look for instances that challenge or invalidate their reasoning. And as Taleb says, “these instances are always easy to find.

It is a natural tendency in humans. It is extremely difficult to, once you have come up with a theory for, say, doing something, go out and strenuously look for instances that prove your theory wrong. It is even difficult to continually be on a prowl for such instances. And when faced with such an instance that debunks our theory, we find it hard to accept the fact head-on, and tend to ignore it — after all, enough other instances have confirmed our theory. We also forget, or don’t want to accept, that all it takes to disprove a theory is a single instance that invalidates it. Do we know, at any point in our lives, about all such instances that invalidate something we have come to rigorously believe in? Do what we know, give us an edge over what we don’t know?

Is it, then, even conceivable to apply logic in its entirety to our day to day lives? For all we know, there may be that single instance hiding somewhere that will be discovered some day, shockingly so, that will debunk our reasoning. Can we even affirm with certainty what is conceivable and what is not? The strict principles of validity that form a crucial part of determining logic, could be invalidated at any point in time. That we do not know of any such argument or fact that does, does not mean that such an argument or fact does not exist. We really don’t know what we don’t know.

Conscience forms from having infused a fear, by religion perhaps, of the consequences of committing actions that do not comply with what is considered morally ethical, just, or right — I say, “by religion perhaps”, because atheists tend to exhibit a heavy conscience too. A person with a heavy conscience does not succumb to the reasoning that, “just because everyone else is doing it, so should I”. The resulting burden, if they did, is immensely unbearable. But can what is considered morally ethical, just, or right, be some day proven to not be morally ethical, just, or right? On a given day, you would be given to acknowledge that religious beliefs, perhaps some or perhaps a lot, are really similar in nature to logic: strict principles of validity applied to reasoning to come to some sort of a conclusion. They tend to be.

So, when confronted with an opportunity to break a traffic signal, I hesitate, perhaps not immediately because of fear of being accountable in front of the deity I believe in, but because of the risk of hastily causing an accident (or even causing someone to lose their life). Another individual may exploit the same opportunity without thinking as far ahead. For them, the surety that they would not end up in an accident and also get pulled over, is enough to convince them to do it. If the fear of being accountable to the deity is ignored for a while, the only difference between the two processes of applying logic is that of being sceptical and of not being sceptical. Sure, I may not run into an accident every time I break a signal, but I can, one day. And the more times I don’t run into an accident, does not minimise the probability that I will some day. For the other individual, it probably likely does minimise, or even, eradicate that possibility.

I will continue my rambling another time in another post. For all it is worth, what I have written may come across as nothing more than senseless to someone reading it — it probably is.

Of bubbles and bitter experiences!

When it comes to procrastination (and therefore exaggeration), I stand unparalleled among the many circles I am known to be a part of. It has been a little over a year since my writing about the procedure to follow to disconnect PTCL DSL service and my undeniably firm resolve to sever off the connection, and I have only very recently finally managed to get around to getting my act together.

The exchange building, where I found the DSL office, was anything but a pleasant sight. Dilapidated, the inordinate building worn down through constant neglect over the years recalled similar sights of government offices that I had had the misfortune of being an audience to. Every wall, every floor, every desk and chair, and every roof mounted fan that appeared to be dysfunctional, I could lay my gaze on was layered with dirt and gunge, but what startled me the most was the sight of the two staffers in the small DSL room sitting on chairs that could fall apart any minute and working on two dust-covered computers lying on an old, worn-out desk. My heart sank. I was sweating from the already sizzling weather outside. The room felt hellish. A dusty, half torn portable standing fan was as close as it got to having any hope of relief in the heat. Throughout the ten minutes I had to sit in that room, except for the few moments I spent answering what was asked of me, I kept looking about, reflecting thoroughly.

It is easier if one can phase out and shield oneself from unsavoury, unpleasant circumstances, by maintaining a bubble around oneself. It is an uphill struggle keeping that bubble intact alone, for there are many places and many moments where the frailness of it becomes perceptible.

I digress. The steps I described in the post before remain the same for applying for discontinuation of service, with the exception that I did not have to surrender the equipment as it had been well over a year. Folks from their call centre called me twice the next day to enquire into my reasons for cancelling the connection.

To toss a wrapper out the window

No matter how depressing a picture the newspaper paints every passing day without fail, despite to what alarming heights corruption in the country is reaching, notwithstanding the growing number of people who continue to die like cockroaches every day and fall pray to countless forms of acts of crimes and injustices, there is always a small fire of patriotism glowing somewhere deep within an individual. I know, and I admit, amidst all that has been happening, you can only do so much to make a difference.

It is pitifully sad to find that we live in times where the motivation to do a good deed comes from what if any personal gains can be achieved as a result in the end. This puts the phrase, the means to an end, in a shady light: if the means is ignored for a bit, what constitutes the end? The personal gains which ultimately drive the means to achieve the end, or the ideal end for which the pristine means were acted out?

Patriotism, even if a wee, is too much to ask for in the times we live. I give you that. But being responsible is not something you can opt out of. I staunchly believe that every individual should do their part in being responsible humans. But, then, I am repeatedly told that the ends do not justify the means?

Need they?

Change can only begin from within you. If you can bring yourself to justify a good deed when there is nothing in there for you in the end, that is where you start to become responsible. That is where you start to embrace change. Keeping that wrapper or empty pack of juice in your pocket and disposing off in a waste bin later on, instead of pulling down your window and throwing it out on the road, may not get you anything in return. But what you would be doing is playing your part, as a responsible citizen and good human. And playing your part is after all your moral responsibility.

I’ve long given up on talking this into people’s minds. It is almost completely hopeless. Even if I can get in, I can’t drive the point anywhere except out across the other side. However, I do have found little success in leading by example. By playing my part, and by hinting ever so slightly, I can get people to notice and to think about it. The end is marginally different from before, but even if it isn’t, I could not care less. I merely try to play my part alone, in my capacity and when and where ever I can. If only more people would think alike.

Whingingly yours

People who have worked with me know that I tend to whine a lot. I bitch about the smallest of things—not having a proper desk to work on, a comfortable chair to sit on, a powerful machine to work with, LCD to look at without straining my eyes, copious space to park my car, a peaceful ride to and from work, or even if ridiculously, continuous supply of power to do anything, etc.

I don’t complain for the heck of it, or because I am a disgruntled individual pissed at almost everything in life all the time. I want to be the best and most effective in what I do. To be that, I must somehow be productive. I can give way to productivity only when I am at peace with myself and everything around me to concentrate on the work at hand. And for that to be, I have to not worry about the desk on which I work being an inconvenience because perhaps it isn’t big enough to have half of what I need on it at any given time or wasn’t designed with ergonomics in mind, the chair on which I sit for the most part of the day to cause backache, the machine on which I work my finger to the bone to be sluggish and agonizing for that alone adds to your frustration more than any other single factor, the monitor to cause repeated headaches and eye-aches, circling the area outside round and round to find some place to park my car and finding subsequently that someone bumped your car at or the traffic police morons towed it away from the seemingly cramped up place you found to park it on because of lack of a proper parking spot, getting stuck in rush hour traffic for hours at ends amidst impatient idiot drivers honking and squeezing their cars where a bike won’t fit only to exacerbate the traffic jam thereby causing you to end up with almost no energy to do any work on top of carrying a frustrated mood, sitting in dark with no power, etc.

Did you lose track of what I started with?

Joel, in his article `The Development Abstraction Layer`, has it down an order of a magnitude more aptly and eloquently than I can ever myself.