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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Good experience with VoIP service: Metrotel

Try­ing to cre­ate a more se­ri­ous look­ing in­fra­struc­ture for my con­sult­ing busi­ness, I de­cid­ed I need­ed a non-­mo­bile phone num­ber, and a way to re­ceive Fax­es 1. While I would use this as a sec­ondary busi­ness num­ber, it's just my home phone.

Since the costs for old-­fash­ioned phone ser­vice in Ar­genti­na are stupid 2 I start­ed in­ves­ti­gat­ing VoIP al­ter­na­tives.

On a sub­way tick­et, I found an ad for Metro­tel which is quite in­ter­est­ing.

First, there is the num­ber­s:

  • No in­­stal­la­­tion fee

  • $35 for 1000 min­utes

  • Cheap­­er long dis­­­tance ser­vice

What they do is pro­vide you a sim­ple Handy­tone 486 box, and you plug it to your In­ter­net-­con­nect­ed LAN on one side, and a phone on the oth­er.

You can al­so plug in your land line and use the phone to call on ei­ther one, and an­oth­er eth­er­net de­vice (ex­am­ple, a com­put­er o switch). If you have on­ly one com­put­er, you just stack it on­to your ca­ble­mo­dem or what­ev­er.

Ab­so­lute­ly triv­ial in­stal­la­tion... un­less they ship you the wrong gad­get, as they did to me, send­ing me one that was dis­abled. But that's ok, they fixed it in a cou­ple of days.

I have three small is­sues:

You have to sign a 12-­month con­trac­t. How­ev­er, if you take the small­est plan, the 12-­month con­tract is cheap­er than the con­nec­tion fee for Tele­fóni­ca de Ar­genti­na! And you still get 1200 free min­utes in that year!

You must use the gad­get. While it's a sim­ple SIP de­vice, they won't give you the us­er and pass­word, so you can't use a soft­phone or a re­al VoIP phone with this ser­vice (un­less you hack it, but why both­er).

Be­cause of that, it's kin­da tricky that the ads say you can use this phone line "ev­ery­where". I mean, it's true... if you have broad­band in­ter­net con­nec­tions with eth­er­net con­nec­tions "ev­ery­where".

How­ev­er, if you do your due dil­li­gence and fig­ure out what you are get­ting in­to, it's a very nice ser­vice, which works well, and has great cost ad­van­tages over the tra­di­tion­al al­ter­na­tive.

It's spe­cial­ly great if you want to have a Buenos Aires phone num­ber and work from some­where else (for ex­am­ple, labour costs in oth­er prov­inces are usu­al­ly be­low 75% of those in Buenos Aires).

1

Al­though Fax­es make no sense what­so­ev­er in 2007, some com­pa­nies still ask me for a fax num­ber.

2

How about $181.50 to in­stall and $36.50 month­ly with no min­utes in­clud­ed? And that's for home ser­vice. Com­mer­cial ser­vice is more ex­pen­sive stil­l. Those are pe­sos, but trust me, they look just as high to me as dol­lars would for you. The beau­ties of lo­cal monopoly!

Be afraid, young pumpkins!

Al­low me to en­ter trash-talk­ing mod­e...

Be very afraid be­cause this year, my mighty skills are en­ter­ing Py­Week for the first time.

Just to make it in­ter­est­ing and some­what chal­leng­ing:

  • I will be en­ter­ing as an in­­di­vid­u­al, not in a team.

  • I have not writ­ten a line of PyGame code in my life.

  • I have writ­ten bare­­ly any game code at al­l.

  • I will sub­­mit my fi­­nal code one day ear­lier, just be­­cause I can.

Nonethe­less, I in­tend to kick ass­es and ask no ques­tion­s. I in­tend to over­whelm you all with a game of such awe­some­ness you will all whith­er like let­tuce in La­p­land. I will write code of such in­ge­nu­ity you will try to steal it and fail.

...ex­it­ing mod­e.

Should be fun and my en­try will prob­a­bly suck. But we'll see...

Me and FLOSS in the late '90s

I have no idea how, but I ran in­to this in Lin­ux­to­day:

KDE Pro­gram­ming Tu­to­ri­al 0.2 (Dec 22nd 1998, 00:09:36 )

Rober­to Alsi­na an­nounced that he up­load­ed to ft­p.kde.org the ver­sion 0.2 of his ex­cel­lent pro­gram­ming tu­to­ri­al. It is al­so avail­able here. Hope­ful­ly, this must-have ma­te­ri­al will be soon in­clud­ed in the kdes­dk pack­age and in CVS.

Now, this was pret­ty shock­ing be­cause I don't re­mem­ber writ­ing it (any­one knows where a copy may be?). I have no idea what was in it, and in fac­t, the idea of peo­ple learn­ing C++ from me in 1998 is so stupid it's shock­ing, since I knew very lit­tle.

Then it hit me, the URL! Ul­tra­7? That was my 486 at col­lege 1.

It had a web­server? What on earth had I been drink­ing back then? Why can't I re­mem­ber this???

Way­back ma­chine, come here! Fetch!

Here's my first home page. I must say it's pret­ty good. It's not gar­ish. Very We­b2.0 in the abun­dant white space.

First in­ter­est­ing thing: there is at least one ex­tant copy of PyX­Forms, my first free soft­ware pro­jec­t, used by ab­so­lute­ly noone.

And there are even two cool screen­shot of a func­tion­al pro­gram noone ev­er used 2:

im1im2

In fac­t, I have no idea how I did that high­light­ed mes­sage dis­play.

Then all that pro­to-­good taste goes away when you reach the page for my most "pop­u­lar" project ev­er... Krn in my 1999 home page 4. It' so 1999 free soft­ware style. All that's miss­ing is an elec­tric blue back­ground.

It seems I had dis­cov­ered The Gimp and it's ban­ner script­s!

BTW: I won­der what's Mag­nus Ref­tel do­ing nowa­days? We used to ex­change dozens of mails a day and for some rea­son we lost con­tac­t.

There was al­so a mail­ing list ar­chive for the very very very first posts of our pro­to LUG (which would lat­er be­come LUGLI)

And here's the best part, and the one that makes me kin­da sad... Themes for Qt1.

You can read a lit­tle about them in this thread.

I have writ­ten about them once or twice be­fore but here's the short ver­sion:

Raster­man was start­ing to hack themes for Gtk. I de­cid­ed they could­n't be the on­ly ones with this cool new tech­nol­o­gy but I had the big dis­ad­van­tage of not be­ing able to touch Qt's code be­cause of li­cens­ing is­sues. So I in­ter­cept­ed the draw­ing events us­ing a LD_PRELOAD hack and im­ple­ment­ed a theme full of gra­di­ents with­out mod­i­fy­ing or re­com­pil­ing Qt or KDE.

Now that's one of the most im­pres­sive hacks I have ev­er per­formed, even if it was a hack done with the most evil code ev­er, and... there seems to be no ex­tant copy of the code or the screen­shots.

Which is kin­da sad, in­deed.

1

UN­L, where ev­ery com­put­er had a pub­lic IP ad­dress!

2

The idea was a sort of GUI Pine, all han­dled with sin­gle key strokes. I still pine for that pro­gram! 3

3

And for the fjord­s.

4

AKA the bug­gi­est pro­gram ev­er to be part of KDE prop­er.

Fixing old tutorials

I got a mail from a read­er telling me that he could­n't down­load the sources for Not­ty, the toy app I de­vel­oped in my Rapid Ap­pli­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment us­ing PyQt and Er­ic3 ... in re­al­time! tu­to­ri­al.

So, I checked and was shocked at just how much the serv­er moves had wrecked that ar­ti­cle, which is one of my favourites!

No im­ages, bro­ken link to the sources, no syn­tax high­light­s!

So, I re­jig­gered the thing quick­ly with some search and re­place (thanks re­struc­tured tex­t!) and now it should be up to stan­dard­s, ex­cept that... it's still about Qt3 and I am not even sure it works nowa­days.

Nor­mal­ly that would be sim­ple to fix: change the code as need­ed, make it work, and be hap­py.

But the fun thing about that ar­ti­cle was that it was writ­ten in 3 hours, and it talks about how it was writ­ten in 3 hours. So, I think I may have to do keep that and add a note with a link to a cor­rect­ed/up­dat­ed one, some­day.

If you try to use quotactl on Linux...

Al­ways re­mem­ber to do this:

#define _LINUX_QUOTA_VERSION 2

Or else, your code will break in mis­te­ri­ous ways.

That's be­cause sys/quo­ta.h has this:

/*
 * Select between different incompatible quota versions.
 * Default to the version used by Linux kernel version 2.4.21
 * or earlier (in RHEL version 1 is AS2.1, version 2 is RHEL3 and later).  */
#ifndef _LINUX_QUOTA_VERSION
# define _LINUX_QUOTA_VERSION 1
#endif

Why? I have no idea. But this is true at least on Cen­tos4, I have no clue of this is al­so true for your dis­tro, but it is sooooo wrong :-(