Monday, March 28, 2005

User support at Mobifon/Connex

I was home yesterday and I wanted to read my e-mail. As usual I dialed my crappy Clicknet connection but I couldn't hook up to the ISP. It kept giving me busy tone.

So I decided to ask my mobile operator - Connex/Mobifon future Vodafone Romania - to provide me GPRS internet access.
I have a pretty good phone, a Siemens S65 that is GPRS Class 10 capable, and I wanted to use it.
I called the technical support and ... asked them the settings for my phone. The girl activated my data account and gave me the settings.
I made the connection but somehow the nameserver ceased to respond.
I started to verify the settings and I found out that "Extra initialization commands" for the GPRS modem were somehow wrong. I called the support again.
This time I found an angry girl. She talked with in a very upset tone. I told her my problem and what I thought the solution was. Again in a very upset tone she started to dictate me the code AT+GCDCONT="1","ip","".
I was quite frustrating that she spoke fast and I couldn't hear everything she said. I asked her to repeat. The tone of her voice became more and more uppset and repeated in a disgusted manner the string.
I started the connection while I was talking to her and told her that. She said that it was impossible for me to use GPRS and voice in the same time. I got irritated and told her that as GPRS and voice are not on the same timeslot of the air interface it is possible and I was right. The connection was done while talking to her.

I thanked her politely for the precious help she gave me and hung up the phone.

I cannot understand why do they hire such persons for this kind of position. She seemed both aggresive and incompetent.


Deactivate Windows updates when you are on GPRS. It will make lots of traffic which is VERY expensive.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hiding things from final users

Yesterday I had a surprise. Part of the application I was working on suddenly changed its aspect.
It was because some "smart" figured out what are those .jpg and .xml files that were dongling in a directory called res. So he modified them in a almost funny way.
It is nice for an application to offer some sknins or look&feels, but when those can be so easily modified and the whole application is messed up you start to think about it.
An obvious solution was to hide the resources in a container that can be sealed and distributed safely. So I did. I have made a whole archive with the resource files and modified the sources to ask for a certain resource not from the filesystem but from the archive instead by the means of a ResorceProvider class.
Another good thing happened as a result of this. Now my application is made only from jar files and is quite easy to distribute it to the users by the means of Java Webstart/JNLP.

Hourray !

Solaris scripts debuging

I have startted to work today on Solaris.
I felt quite excited of the event. It was always one of my desires to work with Solaris and Sun hardware. Today I looked on a strange behaviour on a Korn shell script.
I could't have some variable set. I made various tests and finally I found out why.
I have setted the variable to a custom value at the beginning of the script:


Several lines later the original author did something like:

if [ -f ~/.profile ]; then
. ~/.profile

No need to say that FOO was resetted to its defaults in .profile.

Anyway Solaris seems nice. Except for the fact that the console works awfull and the version of vi is antique. Unfortunatelly I cannot install software on the machine...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Javahelp 2.0 issues

I had to write some "help" file using Javahelp 2.0.
I used a DOCBOOK source and XSLT to generate the HTML files needed by Javahelp.
The output was not so nice. So I decided to attach a stylesheet to it.
Bad idea placing the <link> tag and the css inside the jar made Javahelp crash.
Placing the css inside a <style> tag yelded to a blank output.

Any ideas how to accomplish that ?

Aqua LNF from Birosoft crashes horribly when used with JDK 1.5.0

Hmmm, interesting.
I will give it a shot today. It seems tasty... Subversion, Python...

Awesome Python

I am totally impressed by Python. Yesterday I suceeded to make a quick and dirty application to talk to Excel via win32com.client and perform some ccomputations inside Python and put the results back in Excel. It worked like a bliss. In less than 120 lines of code I did much of the job it would have taken me more than two days otherwise.

I have recently tried to work with COM objects in Java and I must say it was a painful job. From this point of view I think Python is excellent.
I am also thinking to use PsyCo to improve the speed of the code and maybe to make a small wrapping GUI over the application.

Bonus for me: - a cool wrapper over the excellent fmod library (

Because I was talking about Python I must say that I have also seen a nice Ruby project called RubyOnRails. I is very nice indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Beer inside - St. Patrick's Gift

Beer inside. After yesterday...

St. Patrick's Day

Yesterday I won a Guiness hat in Artclub. It was a promotional item on the occasion.
Sadly I lost it almost immediately in a subsequent bet.
The night was a mix of Heineken and Guiness.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Alex is very happy. He sits between two girls.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I went today at Dan and Vera. Vera found a nice Karaoke program am ve started to make a fool of ourselves singing on some very aproximative midi tunes. We sang from "Pink Floyd - Hey you". Unbelievable.! Not to mention Ugly Kid Joe, A-Ha, GNR, Lisa Loeb Alanis Morisette ...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Lunch with Alina, Nick and Cipri

I went today at "Pont d'Eiffel" Taverna in Timisoara. I was a little confused by the name. The place was called "Italian Taverna" then "Romanian Taverna" and now "Pont d'Eiffel". Maybe to confuse the customers.

Although it seemed quite creepy at first sight as a small window on the front door was broken, the food was good enough. We ate some grilled trout with potatoes and drank some Murfatlar Pinot Gris.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Today I have almost finished the tool I was working on. Some software engineering thing proved to be magnificent while refactoring some code written before. I never believed that I would forget so fast what I had written two month ago. Now I'll have to prepare the documentation for the code.

I am also preparing to fight with my team leader. The conflict has been around for too long and I have to do it. The sooner the better.

Plans for tonight: Beer with some friends and maybe a pool game.

Is our university education good ?

(DISCLAIMER: This is appliable only to my knowledge. It might sound a little too general but this is the way I see things.)

These days in Romania is a big fuss about how the educational system will change.

Mainly the 4 ears universities will become 3 years undergraduated studies and an additional 2 years master courses.
For technical universities the 5 years of studies will become 4 years as undergraduated and 2 years as graduated studies.

This is not the problem though. The main problem is the superficiality of the entire romanian educational system. I have recently looked for "the best" universities in the world and I found that no romanian university is among the first 500.

The explanation for this is the terrible superficiality. This comes both from the teachers that are underpayed and in order to earn enough money they have to teach more than one or two courses. In extreme cases they are teaching about 5 to 7 courses in the same university, not to mention the other, smaller universities around.

In these conditions there is a slight probability that the teacher will ever have vtime to take care of his subjects, to go into research or update his knowledge. A very few of them are doing research these days and if they are doing research it means that they are on some external funding or they have a second very well payed job.

The students on the other hand come to the universities just for fun. They have no interest in learning and they try to cheat on every occasion. Sad but true. In Romania this is a very common practice.
After graduation they are employed at some companies where the fail to do their jobs.
They are even trying to bribe the but most of them are realising that they don't belong here and tjhey leave abroad teachers and the often succeed into it.
There are also very capable students but most of them are leaving for foreign universities. The rest of capable persons are very rare... Almost a dying breed...

The result of those facts is taht fresh graduates are mostly submediocre.

I am still amazed how can foreign companies employ so many mediocre guys in Romania.
Up to some extent in major multinational companies I have seen many of my worst students. Are we so cheap that even with this bubmediocre individuals we are appealing to them ?

Does it worth to employ seven stupids to do a good man's job ?

I still do not know...


Yes !

I have decided to write in English. My latest blog was in Romanian and I almost sure that nobody bothered to read it.
The idea came to my mind after I did something similar with another blog I am writing in.
I am intending to keep this one more thechnical and the othes more personal.