2007-08-10 13:06

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!

2007-08-08 10:59

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...

2007-08-08 09:05

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]:


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.

2007-08-07 08:21

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.

2007-08-06 17:44

If you try to use quotactl on Linux...

Always remember to do this:


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).  */

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 :-(

2007-08-06 09:57

A bit sad about this

It seems that during the big SVN conversion some data were lost in commits.

So, if you check KDE's svn for the really old stuff, it has no author information.

For example, check this out:


I know I wrote pretty much everything there, but you are probably not going to notice it, and I spent a good couple of years working really hard on that thing.

Sure, it was crap, but it was hard-worked crap, and there is at least one thing I am slightly not ashamed of: TypeLayout, which is still nicer than most toolkits have, even if it was shamlessly copied from LinuxConf.

But what the heck, it's old stuff.

2007-08-06 09:42

Antisocial networking

I joined Orkut many moons ago. I hated it. It was boring, vapid, and useless. That was my whole experience in social networking sites [1].

A few days ago I was invited to LinkedIn. Since I had heard some good things about how it was useful and let you network your contacts and leads to business opportunities, I took care to fill in some data, start some links.

So far... if the Questions page (helpfully labelled Answers, of course) is a representative sample of the average LinkedIn fellow...

Here are a few examples (In the technology area):

Does anyone has a doc named stauto.pdf (SecurID API (SOFTID 2.0)) ?

I can make you one if you want it!

Has anyone else recently lost Sprint wireless coverage? Suddenly, our Sprint Moto-Q doesn't get coverage at home.


Sure, there are some that are interesting, even if most of those are just too vague or locale-specific or both (What's the future of digital media in India?)

I did find a few people I had lost track of, and am surprised it keeps on suggesting I know two people I actually do know but am not interested in re-finding.

But, all things considered: it is looking like a very slightly less useless Orkut.

Is it a problem with me, or would I find somthing like Ohloh more interesting?

[1] Unless you count how I met my wife.

2007-08-04 14:49

Coming ideas

Nowadays, the very little time I have for personal projects is spent doing things like fixing little things and adding little features to BartleBlog [1] and thinking how I could use GLE and mako templates to create a cool nerdy tool to create charts.

However, I will be having a little time for personal projects in a couple of weeks, and having stumbled onto chipmunk today really got me thinking.

It's a seriously nifty 2D physics library. Consider this demo video:

Now, what could possibly be done with it... I need to really think.

[1] What I use to post this.

2007-08-02 10:24

KDE 4.0 beta1 released!

Which is usually the point where I switch to new versions...

BTW: Cnuth? Best release name for KDE ... ever!

2007-08-02 08:42

More about the Asus eee, and random venting.

As I posted before I am pretty hyped about the Asus eee, the $199 laptop.

Ok, maybe the $250 laptop, according to latest rumours.

Then again, I am not the only one. Here's an interesting thread about what you could do with one of them.

Now, the random venting:

A fairly large portion of Linux users are very annoying. It's normal, since a very large portion of humanity is annoying too.

However, consider this post, which I will quote because I refuse to link to it, about my cron/at article:

GreyGeek - Subject: Another "I hate Linux" article.... ( Jul 31, 2007, 17:18:34 )

Oh, yeah. That's what the article looks like. A linux hater's rant. Sure, I spent three hours doing research and writing telling you half a dozen ways to make Linux better (IMNVHO) because I hate Linux.

as if we aren't getting a FLOOD of them these days. I often wonder if Microsoft has began "donating" Ferrari laptop to bloggers who rant on Linux.

At least the ferrari laptop matches my car! Accesorizing is important!

I wonder if it's because this guy didn't understand a word I wrote? Or is he just paranoid? I know he's not the author of cron (he once posted a comment here [1]) so it's not a wounded ego or something like that [2].

[1] At least I think that was him. Why would anyone pretend to be Paul Vixie? Now how's that for name dropping. Has anyone else with a Wikipedia entry left a comment in this blog?
[2] And I don't expect that article to be hurtful, really, or I wouldn't have written it.

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