Thursday, February 26 2015

Samsung's SmartHub
[15:55:31] matt []/Trip Two nights ago, my wife went to bed, and I tried to watch some Columbo on Netflix (I was up to the Great Santini, who sets up his own alibi through a fragile, technical, contrivance). We've only recently subscribed to Netflix since I've always been leary of the reliability of cloud services and rental subscriptions like this in general. It turns out the flakey Samsung implementation was more to blame.

This isn't abnormal. First off, the Samsung equipment (we own two of their TVs and one DVD player, all with essentially the same software) seem to arbitrarily forget WiFi passwords, which makes supporting them frustrating if not useless (they're all on the unsecured network now). Sometimes it fails to connect for a short period, and I need to just wait; that wasn't happening.

Obviously, there was a larger problem. I gave up and watched TopGear on my MythTV box instead, expecting whatever issue Samsung was having to resolve itself the next day. Why a box can't trust that it's on the Internet, or at least be optimistic about it once it's gotten an IP address, and a DNS server that resolves what it needs is an open question that I've tried to ask Samsung support (like the TV's software, I'm not optimistic for a response).

Yesterday while I was at work, I­ got a message from my wife, complaining about the DVD player not thinking it had Internet access. Obviously, she wanted to think it was a problem with our network—which is reasonable, given that's what the software said—but it turns out Samsung still didn't have their system up. It seems that there was some DNS hokeyness with their Akamai DSA settings. After a chain of CNAMEs (some of which included "china-" prefixes for some reason) eventually we got very short TTL addresses, which were not returning appropriate answers for the TV.

A Web search found somebody who *had* found an IP address that worked, also being served through Akamai DSA:

The resulting IP for was; while you're setting-up your own DNS for your Samsung devices, I also suggest making and either fail or point to localhost since these are what send and track impressions for the annoying little piece of real estate in the top right corner.

I strongly discourage anyone from buying one of these devices (and apparently Sony devices) for these features, since they seem to be fragile. As I­ was trying to find information on the current outage (Samsung was not forthcoming and even mentioned on their support page of no known issues), I found references and news articles for outages regularly going back to 2013. It's clear Samsung doesn't treat this as production functionality.

More coverage today, after a couple days of this:

Tuesday, January 27 2015

Debian Jessie
[02:19:21] matt []/Psi+ I recently switched my home boot image from an ever-out-of-date Ubuntu installation to Debian Jessie, which was at one point "almost stable" or "almost frozen" or something like that. Then SystemD broke loose and it's still clearly testing.

Things that don't work:

NFS doesn't mount on boot. I give-up. I can't get it to mount anything from the init scripts. The Internet suggests this is because of something left in /var/run/network, but since /var/run is tmpfs this is clearly out (also, I checked, the directory isn't there).

Running sudo clears afs tokens. I've seen one other reported issue, but no solution. cf.

I can no longer get a gnome-session or gnome-settings-daemon running on top of spectrwm. I also can't figure out how to change the window manager for gnome, so it seems like I'm stuck with all of gnome, or none of it now. Why do I care? colord/colormgr is really the only reason why. The rest of the gnome environment is an exercise in frustration.

The most surprising thing that works? Qt now doesn't look like vomit when running in a 30-bit X display.

Friday, March 15 2013

Customer: You Will Hold
[02:16:30] matt []/Psi.generay After dealing with multi-hour gaps in Internet service from Comcast and spotty HD channels since last year, we've finally scheduled a tech to come visit. The video service was quite quick to schedule (it only required to phone calls and an hour wait inbetween) but they couldn't include the Internet connection in the same service call without sending us over to that department first even though the logical conclusion is that both failures were related.

While the television department representitive appeared in under three minutes (including phone tree), there was about five minutes of hold time once transferred to the network department which included a startling command of "Customer: Please hold for a representatve." followed shortly by a reminder that our call was very important. Finally, after reaching a person and convincing him to look at the existing ticket just placed there he ran some diagnostics (apparently the script referrs to the coaxial cable as the "cable plugged into the wall", despite in my situation that best describes the power cable, and even then only through a lose definition of "inside"). After sufficient reassurances that he was convinced that my service was all out to my premise—apparently that's a magic encantation to short circuit further diagnosing, since I assured him that while the Internet and broadcast/live television was out Comcast's On-Demand functionality worked—he added the Internet service to the work order.

Meanwhile, and while I type this, our Verizon FTTH service hasn't had any loss of service in the two months it's been here.

Thursday, September 27 2012

RFC Ignorant
[22:26:20] matt []/Trip RFC Ignorant, a real-time blacklist clearinghouse for domains which feel they don't need to be good citizens on the Internet in order to operate eMail, has decided to quit the game. has been providing a black list service for domains who though they were too good to to accept mail from other users on the Ineternet for some time now, so it seemed natural to expand and start accepting requests for the lists formerly run by RFC Ignorant. To ease transition, we've imported the final zone files from RFC Ignorant, and they can now be queried directly by removing the hyphen from the old domains, e.g. now becomes; although for future use I'd ask that you use the domain rather than, as we don't have any directly relation with the old service other than serving the same purpose they previously did.

Sunday, July 8 2012

Comcast Installation
[17:59:56] matt []/Psi.dementia We just transferred Comcast to a new address. Initially, we scheduled a move of an existing account, and they configured us for a self-installation, and when we called to explain there wasn't actually a coaxial connection coming into the house they got confused and it proved quicker and possibly cheaper to just cancel and schedule a new service.

After some initial issues scheduling the service, we got a weekday afternoon scheduled installation, and had Internet and television, for two hours or so. After this, the Internet dropped-out. Calling Comcast, the scheduled someone to come out the next day (Saturday), which was actually very convenient.

Apparently, the most economical option was the Comcast Tripple Play, which included Television, Internet, and Telephony hook-ups. This cost the same as just Television, but had the discounted rate for a full year; our Comcast representative woudn't sell us Television and Internet without the Telephony. The issue we appeared to be having, as explained when the service agent came out Saturday, is that the contracted installer who came on Friday hadn't completed the telephony set-up which confused (either the Comcast system or) the provided modem, and reset the service.

Following this correction, I had some issues with the Arris Touchstone DOCIS 2.0 modem. Apparently, after several minutes of running (somewhere between fifteen minutes and ninety minutes) the Arris modem will refuse to respond to DHCP offer requests (it might actually be that it'll only do this once per session, even when the same device requests a renewal). This has caused my Internet connection to routinely drop until I restart the modem. I've fixed this by adding static routes to the gateway device based on the initial response from the modem so that it won't try to renew and drop the connection because the modem doesn't respond.

Another thing I noted is that Comcast provided a DOCIS 2.0 modem. This was surprising on two levels, a) they were supposed to use my provided modem: the installer who came on Saturday said that they would have to charge me a *higher* tariff to use my own modem; and b) the modem they provided was a DOCIS 2.0 modem ("Our best modem!" said the Saturday installer), although this should be sufficient for the maximal bandwidth in the plan sold to me, 30Mbps down. It turns out it's definitely able to handle the 10Mbps down, 2Mbps up that I'm actually seeing between Comcast-based hosts.

Monday, May 14 2012

[07:26:32] matt []/Amabel I am still not quite happy with the Internet access provided by the Hotel Granvia Kyoto: UDP seems to be being dropped, or at least SIP (VoIP/phone) blocked, and DNS was just acting screwy making me think my mail server had disappeared.

Sunday, May 13 2012

[08:00:58] matt []/Amabel I am quite annoyed that a hotel would advertise free Internet but then block outgoing SIP.

Thursday, September 29 2011

[04:14:45] matt []/Merch I finally get to Internet that can log into the ekit management portal for my prepaid SIM-it doesn't seem to like Opera--and there is an unannounced outage. Horrible fail for a telecommunication company that explicitly targets travelling customers, many of whom only have sporadic access to the Internet. Ok, with cafés it might not be so bad, as this isn't a sat phone. Still, there appears no excuse for a telecommunication company that is selling mobile phone access not to announce scheduled downtime.

Monday, March 28 2011

[20:44:36] matt []/Merch Nokia had the right strategy before: Maemo on the smart-devices (mobile Internet devices/mobile computers) and Symbian on its phones (which should have filled the gap S40 is currently in).

Thursday, February 3 2011

[13:19:06] matt []/Merch Oddly, I just recieived a message from T-Mobile US saying my phone wasn't configured for Internet access. If you're reading this message it was wrong.

Tuesday, April 13 2010

Fancy Small Computers
[19:49:41] matt []/kerberos I remember a time, not so long ago, that it was difficult to find a small computer that was portable and had a long battery. The OQO looked intriguing, but it would continue to be vaporware for several years. The only thing I could find was the Fujitsu Lifebook P-series, which at the time was using the exciting new Transmeta Crusoe chips designed for energy efficiency. Unfortunately, even compared to the computers of the day, that laptop was slow.

These days "netbooks", much to the shagrin of Psion, are bountiful--often running on Intel's x86-compatible Atom processor, although increasingly running on ARM Snapdragons (supported by Maemo, Android, and Ubuntu Linux distributions among countless other variants). Jamie just got an Assus EeePC that's running Ubuntu; my mother has an Acer Aspire One running some MicroSoft version. I borrowed the EeePC and didn't want to give it back, it's really well done given a single-use mentality (the Netbook Remix variation of Ubuntu is very Mac-like).

The question I find myself pondering is what do I really want? I recently picked-up the Nokia N900 which runs at a decent clip, the Maemo 5 (Fremantle) interface is pretty snappy, and I've really gotten used to the touch interface for anything non-productive ("consumptive") tasks. It's actually a very amazing machine that in practice is very much like that P-2110 but smaller.

In the end there's a lot of small options, and they each have a different niche to fill--but I'm not sure how much overlap they all have. It could be that one covers too much of another's niche, making two distinct devices redundant. I can carry the N900 instead of the E61; but it doesn't replace the Neo when I need a small pocketable phone. I could carry the EeePC on trips where it would take-up less space than the MacBook, and still have a phenominal-for-a-laptop keyboard to compose messages or configure machines, or even do work albeit on a small screen. But what does that really get me? A slightly bigger screen (2") and a bigger keyboard, at the cost of another device--and one that doesn't have a ubiquitous Internet access at that.

If more areas had converted to municipal WiFi, it might be a different situation.