Archive of July 2008

The FedEx site...

Posted on 2008-07-27 09:25:54

So I ordered my welcome kit/certificate/whatever from Microsoft, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the order status. Today, the thing said it “shipped” on the 24th of July (even though I checked a few days ago and it said no such thing), but okay…

The carrier is “FedEx International Mail Service”, no tracking because apparently they don’t do tracking on international packages. To get an idea whether the thing would arrive here before I went on holiday, I tried to find out what the average shipping time is for a package from the USA to the Netherlands.

Oh boy, what a mess is the FedEx site! First of all the menus on the site are making my computer slow down so much that it’s hardly possible to select anything from said menus. Secondly, I couldn’t find any nice table with shipping time to “the rest of the world” (nor within the US). What I did find was a big “transit time calculator”, where I had to fill in the postal code of the sender and the receiver (like I know where the Microsoft office is), what kind of package (um, envelope?), the customs value (what?), and the “service” (yes?), among others.

At the end of the road, I still don’t know how long it’s gonna take… estimate: some time next week?

Posted in: Work

Slow internet connection at work - solved.

Posted on 2008-07-27 09:15:20

Since September/October last year, I suffered from a very bad internet connection at work. My colleagues had a snappy connection, but mine was very slow, in particular when resolving DNS names, which could take up to half a minute. Interestingly, this problem didn’t occur when using the nslookup command line utility.

The service desk didn’t want to help me because I have IE7 and Firefox installed: the only supported browser is IE6. Even if I uninstall IE7 (and thus revert to IE6) they won’t support it, because IE7 might have left traces (not an unreasonable assumption). Still, not a good thing if the problem would actually be in the network rather than the PC.

Last week, I finally figured out what was causing the slowdowns: somehow a “microsoft proxy client” had managed to find its way onto my computer around 2006. And the period when I started having problems was exactly the period when I changed to my current computer. Anyway, after digging through the install files, I discovered that most of the proxy client files were dated 1997. That would’ve been around the time of Win98. I’m actually surprised that it “works” on XP.

Anyway, after uninstalling the thing (and confirming with a colleague that he didn’t have it on his PC), I’m enjoying a fast internet service at work again!

[edit] Addendum:
Two other colleagues also had the same problem, which was also solved by removing the proxy client. As it turns out, around October last year there was a change in proxy-land: the old proxy was turned off and everyone was supposed to be using the new one (which had already been in service for over a year). The proxy client tried to contact the old proxy, which led to timeouts and thus 30-second waits.

Posted in: Work

Microsoft certification, oh joy...

Posted on 2008-07-15 19:27:48

So yeah. Last week I took another Microsoft Certification exam. I have posted my opinion about them earlier.

The result?

  • I will be some 250 euros richer (exam bonus from the employer)
  • My employer will be 140 + 431 euros lighter (exam costs plus my bonus (gross: 431 minus 42% income tax is 250))
  • I get to order some junk from Microsoft (“welcome kit”, including officially printed certificate to hang on your wall!) because I’m now officially a certified “technology specialist” (wooo, I always wanted to be that, NOT!)

That last part was the most horrible of all: I tried to order it last Sunday using Firefox on my Linux PC, but it gave me a weird error: “Your session has timed out or some other error occurred, please try again later. If the problem persists, contact your regional support center.”

I thought, hey, temporary problem, let’s try it Monday morning at work. So I did. With Firefox. And it failed again. Then I tried it again, with IE. First it complained about my shipping address: there had to be a space between the numbers and the letters of the postal code. Weird… it didn’t complain about that when I used Firefox to update my address.

After I corrected the postal code, I tried again with Firefox: no luck, still the same error. Then I tried again with IE: “Thank you for your order, it will be processed”. What the fuck????

One might wonder: why go through the trouble to receive some junk I don’t want anyway? Because I can. And because it sets back Microsoft by, I dunno, $10?

Posted in: Work

Taking over system maintenance: a nightmare

Posted on 2008-07-10 22:07:42

Some time ago, one of our externally hired programmers was about to be leave, because we didn’t have enough work available to keep the external people and still turn a profit. This programmer had a few small systems under maintenance (on his own), and I was about to inherit one of them: a small-ish web application for registering change requests and problems.

It was currently in the last phase of some feature enhancements, including automatically reading a mailbox and adding the mails to the database. The programmer promised to finish his work, and on his last day, when we talked through the changes and the system in general, he assured me that everything was done for the new release, that it was currently in acceptation test and that I wouldn’t have to do anything about it.

I didn’t hear anything about the system for a while: no test comments, nothing. Near the end of June, someone decided that the new features should be released to production, and started to test the changes.

The results? My inbox was chock full of test comments: from features that were only half implemented or not implemented at all, to features that were now broken: some web pages didn’t even load properly.

What happened? The programmer thought the application architecture wasn’t quite optimal and had started to refactor it to an entirely different architecture. And he committed half-finished work to the versioning software, leading to pages throwing exceptions. On top of that, the mailbox was not working: the password had expired.

To be honest, the application’s architecture is flaky, but in my opinion that’s no reason to just change it because you can, meanwhile spending hours and hours on a rebuild that the customer didn’t want.

All in all, this meant that I had to fix just about every corner of the application, test through it again and ensure that everything worked according to specs. The result: an angry customer, an official inquiry into our work process, and a release that was delayed for a month.

In the end, I managed to fix it all, but it’s been a nightmare…

Posted in: Work