Backblaze / Duplicity

I’m looking now to use an on-line backup.

I’ve selected Backblaze B2.

This is used from Linux with Duplicity, a command line tool.

I’ve been learning how to use it.

I just spent 20.5 hours uploading my collection of FLACs, ripped from my CDs.

Great!

So I then issued the next command, to upload the misc audo directory.

Wanna know what happened?

Turns out duplicity doesn’t *upload* what you tell it to upload; rather, it *syncs* between the backup destination and the backup you just specified.

So it just *automatically and without prompting deleted everything except the misc audio directory*, so it wiped the FLAC directory I just uploaded.

Seriously guys. Deleting data is a huge step and you never do it without prompting. This is as basic a mistake as sending passwords in clear in email.

But hey, open source. No quality pressure from paying customers. This is what you get. *Not* having profound and fundamental errors is almost unheard of.

Lycamobile top-up

I’ve recently had a lot of trouble because I lack a mobile phone number and so cannot receive SMS or calls.

A friend here has a spare phone, so I picked up a free burner Lycamobile SIM and bought 100 SEK of credit.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to give Lycamobile money.

I failed.

On the receipt there is a number you call – “*101*PIN#”.

I’m *guessing* my PIN is the “your CIP number is 3370” which arrived in a text after I inserted the SIM.

I try the number.

It doesn’t work.

It just doesn’t work. Nothing happens.

Okay.

There’s another number on the receipt, 3332, for help.

I call it.

It’s in Swedish, but the second option is “press 2 for English”.

I press 2.

I’m then told that one certain days at the end of December, and the beginning of January, customer service will be closed.

The line then hangs up.

I’m left staring at the phone, boggling.

I dial again.

This time I get a different menu system – all in Swedish, no option to go to English.

Swedish is close enough to English I can tell when they mean “for all other matters, press six” so I follow that path.

I get to a sub-menu, and accidentally hit three when I think I should have hit four – and I’m then asked if I want to change the language to English, press 1 for yes, 0 for no. Great! pure chance, but great.

I hit 1.

“Your language has changed to English and then next time you call Lycamobile, you will be able to use English.”

It then returns to the Swedish menu.

I hang up, redial.

It’s in Swedish.

Howewer, the second option is to change to English. I select this, and I’m then told that one certain days at the end of December, and the beginning of January, customer service will be closed.

The line then hangs up.

All in all, this gets back to a point I wrote about yesterday : absolutely every web-site is broken and I would say also absolutely every large company is broken. None of them work, and I mean is crazy, insane, drug-addicted-hallucinating-clowns-running-the-circus don’t work. Don’t use them, because they will fail, and then you will need to solve it by yourself anyway, which is what you will have to do anything.

It actually gets worse

I honestly don’t know whether to scream or cry.

So I deleted my Blocket account.

There’s an alternative, “Tradera”.

I go to make an account.

THEY WANT YOUR PERSONAL NUMBER.

This is your unique State identifer, central to all forms of identity fraud.

This is followed by “don’t worry, we keep it in a secure place and no one else will see it.”

Fucking christ.

Blocket

I’m in Stockholm, Sweden.

All my household effects have been here in storage for some years.

I’m finally here to dispose of them.

I’ve had them delivered, I’ve sorted through them all, figured out what I’ll try to sell, researched current prices and so how much I should charge and taken photos and I’m ready to post adverts.

There’s a site in Sweden, “Blocket”. Their Ebay.

So I do all the stuff, translate things into English to understand (drop down lists are the worst, you have to get the page source, and then it turns out Blocket have 560 blank lines at the beginning of their pages and lines which are over 16kb in length, and Firefox source viewer when you try to select one of these lines by clicking on it and dragging the selection down one line, instead selects the ENTIRE rest of the document, which you can’t see it’s done, because you’re way out on the right in a 16kb+ line – and then I have another problem, because the text editor I like isn’t written properly and can’t handle such long lines; so I need to paste into Mousepad, trim the text to something reasonable, THEN past into my editor – and I need to use my editor because the search/replace in Mousepad is appallingly bad), discover in their catagories of adverts they have nothing for “kitchen” (christ).

I then run into their assumption (everyone does it) that everyone has a mobile phone number. Actually in this case I think maybe I should get one, people will want to talk about these things they’re interested in, but it turns out my VOIP provider has fucked up, in two ways; first, they have a minimum rental period for number of six months (I want one month) and second, they’ve got the billing amount wrong for six months – it’s about a third higher than it should be.

(I add some credit to my account anyway, as it’s running low, and once again I’m offered by the payment provider a conversion performed by them at an extortionate rate – they want about 50 pence sterling to convert 10 CHF into 8 GBP. It disgusts me, and I am not happy with the VOIP provider for using them. So three marks down – no one month rental period, getting the pricing wrong for six months, and faciliating what is practically fraud upon their customer base.)

So I fake the number and then I hit submit and disocver the and the only payment mechanism they have is *you phoning them to pay*. It’s an 0900 number, I think the way it works is you call, enter a code, and you get a charge on your phone bill. (I say I think – the VOIP provider I use has no way to tell you how much a number you call will cost before you call it. I’ve talked to them about this, got nowhere. Black mark number four.)

That *ain’t* gonna work with a VOIP provider. It’ll be at least a euro a minute and I’m certain their billing mechanism will fail.

Their payment mechanism is totally broken for me.

I was thinking about this the other day. Actually, I don’t think I know of a single good web-site. They’re *ALL* fucked in various ways. UI design, functionality, doesn’t work with Firefox, you name it.

*None* of them work. The mean average quality of the web is “broken”, with exceptional quality peaks of “broken”.

The WWW is full of shit. The people who write web-sites are morons, and they produce garbage, and every site under the sun tracks you as closely as it possibly can, both on the site and off the site, where you go and what you do. Plenty of sites now record how you scroll and move your mouse around the site while you’re using it and replay your browser session at will.

As an aside, if you want help from Blocket, you have a link to their on-line support desk. As far as I can tell, it’s a collection of articles. There’s a link at the bottom, “contact us”. This takes you to… the page you’re already on, the collection of on-line articles.

Finally, I’ve just discovered Blocket opted me in, without asking, to their fucking mailing list. Fuck Blocket. Companies do well, then they become arrogant, and then they destroy themselves.

Alternatives to Linux?

Every now and then, when I’m using Linphone and I’m in a call, audio record stops working.

I have no idea why. There are no error messages. I’ve Googled, but there are so MANY different causes of this problem, and SO MANY different, bizzare “solutions”, many of which are wrong, some of which will fuck up your system, the rest of which just don’t work – either because they don’t work, or I didn’t have that problem.

The only solution seems to be a reboot.

Problems in Linux are obviously not what you want, but there is something excruciatingly frustrating about a random, totally inexplicable, totally message-free failure which occurs IN THE MIDDLE OF A PHONE CALL, which you then need to try to fix, because at any given time I have a lot of state open – multiple desktops, windows, code in development, etc – and you do NOT want to reboot.

I begin to wish there was an alternative to Linux. I felt that way about Windows originally of course, except there was always an alternative – Linux.

===

Addendum.

So, I worked it out.

It turns out that sometimes, something somewhere is thinking that I suddenly have a new microphone plugged in, and automatically uses this new microphone.

I fixed the problem by removing my headphones (from the headphone jack, be clear about this) which caused ALSA to revert to the real microphone.

So, we have a choice. There’s Windows, which is Microsoft’s spyware and corporate “we know what’s best for you” garbage, and there’s Linux, where removing a headphone from a headphone jack fixes the problem of a spurious phantom microphone.

Companies getting it wrong

I’ve given up now with Ryanair – I think forever.

I was looking to book a flight. The usual problems which I’d seen before – for example, if the card is declined twice, the booking is wiped and you need to start again, customer support being unreachable, etc.

However, this time, I was lucky Ryanair reject Revolut cards, because Rynair do their best, I would say, to hide from you they are performing a currency conversion (which I don’t need), and they perform this conversion at an appalling rate.

In other words, Ryanair crossed the line from incompetent to fraudulent.

Ryanair are doing well, but their arrogance will eventually be their undoing.

In other news, I bumped into another company doing everything wrong – this time a train line in the UK.

You’re forced to register to buy a ticket. I couldn’t actually buy the ticket – they rejected my normal UK card three times (and so it was locked, and I had to contact the bank to unlock it), they wouldn’t accept Revolut and they rejected my German card, telling me the number was wrong for a Mastercard Debit card.

So I’m registered with them despite wanting to buy as a gust and without actually getting a ticket for it.

Now I have a huge and appallingly formatted email from them, *thanking me for registering* (and asking me to download their app like I trust these jokers) and asking me to sign up for advertising emails… which I specifically opted out of when signing up.

Because, you know, customers are cattle. Mooooo! just keep telling them it’s all fine (thankyou for doing the thing we forced you to do! we love you! we’re great friends aren’t we!) and thanking them and squeezing monetization milk out of their udders. Customers don’t have opinions, and they don’t react, so just keep squeezing. Mooo!

To delete the account I’d have to go through the hassle of getting a password reminder (lord knows what the password was – I didn’t want to make the account in the first place) and, as is usual with idiots who do this kind of stuff, *you can’t reply to the email*, because it’s a “no-reply” email address.

This is of course why I use throw-away email addresses. It’s the least effort way of fending off the patronizing and (mildly) abusive businesses out there.

protonmail.ch

Protonmail is a web-based email provider, a la Gmail, based in Switzerland, on Swiss servers, run by a Swiss company, offering encrypted email – Protonmail themselves cannot decrypt your email.

Their web-app does not work in the Android browser for Android 4.4. You can log in, but there is no list of emails in whatever folder it is you select, so you cannot read email. Additionally, if you try to compose an email, adding an attachment causes you to be logged out (the email is not saved as a draft, so it is lost).

The web-app does not display *at all* in Orfox, or in Tor Browser on Linux.

They offer a .onion URL, but this does not load in Tor Browser on Linux.

The desktop versions of the site (on Android) also do not work.

I have just come home from the observation deck of The Shard, a skyscraper in London.

I booked at 6pm ticket, to see the city at night, and it is *incredible*, Breath-taking. Astounding.

After about fifteen minutes of walking around in a daze, I took a photo or two and wanted to email them a particular and very special friend.

The Shard offer wifi, but block port 587, so I could not use my normal email client.

I then spent 30 minutes trying to get Protonmail to work, and failed, and gave up.

On The Shard site, they say there is no time limit; you can spend as long as you like, once you’re in.

What they really mean is *until they close*, and they close at *7pm*, so if you have the 6pm ticket, you actually have *one hour*.

Just as I finally gave up with Protonmail, accepting – as I had to – that would not be able to share this moment as I dearly wished, the observation deck closed.

This is my last night in London – I leave tomorrow – and I will not be back for many years, if then.

I cannot really put in words my sense of disappointment and loss, both of being unable to share the moment and of my visit there instead of being a truly astounding memory, is rather the bitter taste of a idiotic struggle to try to make an on-line service work.

There are a couple of lessons from this. I think one of them is never to try to make something work; it never, or so infrequently it is absolutely not the worthwhile choice, works. Software is too complex. If it works first time, then fine, but if it does not, there are SO many ways it can be broken, and complexly broken, that it is a 99.5% loosing game to try to fix things. You WILL fail, and you will NOT be able to do as you wished, and you will ALSO have wasted a bunch of time and effort. It is better just to fail right away, and save the cost of the time and effort failing to fix the problem.

With regard to Protonmail, the problem is that email is a core facility, and if I use a service, I will be using it for important things, and so depend upon it working; and if then it in many cases does not work, I am most definitely taking a risk that my plans will be dislocated.

Good news

I’ve written the core functionality of a mailing list.

Python of course; I’ve completed the crontab scrpt – it reads email from a given user, looks at the email address it was sent to (using Postfix virtual addresses), checks the database for lists and who is subscribed to which list, and emails the incoming email on to the subscribers.

Also wrote two CGI scripts, one for subscribe/unsubscribe, the other is called from the confirmation email. Another day of work and it’ll be done.

Two days to write my own mailing list.

I think I must have spent two or three weeks all told experimenting with every mailing list available, and finding them all bad enough, in their different ways, that they were impossible to use.

I have really hopefully finally learned the lesson from this : use open source only if there is absolutely no other way for you to solve he problem. Write your own software if you possibly can, rather than use open source. Open source is *awful*. It does not work, in any way, at all, ever. Open source has no quality, configuration management, user experience or documentation. It is broken, out of the box, without any docs, and often without any logs or error messages (not to mention spurious and incorrect error messages). You must be a developer, and learn the application yourself, in all its unprofessional horror, and fix it, to make it work *at all*, and having done this, you will find it’s totally unfit for purpose anyway.

To say there’s a quality problem would be to somehow imply there was any quality *at all* to start with.

Do not use open source software.

Giving up on mailman 2

Ya, screw it.

I’m bailing on mailman 2.

I tried, I failed.

It doesn’t work out of the box, with virtual addresses on Postfix – the file permissions are wrong. After some Googling I found a post from many years ago where the poster detailed what the correct permissions should be.

Note there were no logs or error messages of *any* kind.

Now what I find is when I subscribe to a mailing list, the request turns up in the lists directory on disk, but when I through the UI ask to see pending requests, I get “there are no pending requests”.

Fuck himself know why. I certainly don’t. Googling doesn’t help, no docs relating to anything like this, no logs, no errors.

*You can’t do this*. This is not software development. People making food for a living don’t sell food which is poisonous. In exactly the same way, people making software should not publish software which doesn’t work.

As an aside, check out this URL;

“How to Create Announcement or “Read-Only” Lists in Mailman”

http://www.whoopis.com/howtos/mailman-readonly-list.php

Eye-popping.

Open source blues

Well, mailman 2 is going pretty much the way of all open source software.

It’s broken out of the box, and there are no logs.

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to debug some random, large application, which you’ve never touched before, purely from the source code, as there are no logs.”

I’ve spent two days on this now. I’m getting dem open source blues.

Basically it’s this : don’t use open source.

For some large projects, like a database or compiler, you have no choice, because you can’t write those yourself. For anything you *can* write yourself, for the love of God, write it yourself. It’s quicker, and the quality is infinitely higher, and it’s infinitely more flexible.