Tag Archives: rage

The worst day I’ve had in a while

Otherwise known as the narrative of 15 Feb 2014. I don’t really know who’ll give a crap, but I just need to get this out of my system.

Having lived in South Africa all my life (thus far), the thing about crime has often come up. And, for the most part, I’ve been pretty damned fortunate to not have had to deal with it at all. Until last night, that is. Which is the worst time it could possibly have hit me at. I’ve been in a bit of a dark spell the last couple of weeks, due to a variety of factors, but things were finally starting to feel a bit better last night. I actually went as far as to comment to someone “I think I’m finally through it all!” around 10~11pm. But hey…apparently it wasn’t quite time yet.

Around 2am (which I guess is technically Sunday?), I left a friend’s house, going homewards via Andiccio 24 (which is a regular habit when I’ve been up all night). I’d been sick since last weekend, too, and was feeling pretty damn drained by this point. After getting my pizza and starting to drive home, somewhere along the route my scooter just failed on me. I don’t know why yet, haven’t exactly had the headspace to look. Sounds electrical-ish, but w/e. And to start the bad, my pizza had fallen onto the ground. This annoyed me, but was just a slight taste of what was to come. At this point, I phone the AA, who give me an estimate of 60 to 90 minutes as pickup time. Now I only live a couple of blocks from where I broke down (albeit uphill), so while I wait for their confirmatory call I start trying to push it as far as I can go. Which isn’t very far, because I’m exhausted as hell. As I got a little bit up the one hill, a white car with two occupants comes driving past, as best as I can tell seeming to be some kind of neighbourhood patrol. And as I mention my difficulties and issues there, the guy claims that he might be able to help me with getting the AA to hurry up. And, hell, I’m tired (had been awake since 05h40 on the Saturday), hungry, stuck in the middle of uselessville at 3am, and I decide to trust the guy. Why not? Not like I ever really do trust strangers. I can’t tell you why I did it.

But I phone the AA up, mention to the callcentre person that this other individual wants to speak to them, and hand my phone over to the guy in the car. After they speak for about 10~15 seconds, I hear the guy mention that he’s with SAPS (which I think is probably illegal to impersonate), and at this point they start driving off, go around the corner, and gone. Now I’ve got no comms. No ETA on getting home. No ability to confirm the pickup. I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m stressed, and I snap. The last few weeks’ worth of bad just hit me like a ton of bricks dislodged from a cargo carrier, and I am /fucked/. I try to ring a few doorbells, don’t really get anywhere. Finally I see an actual Beagle Security (local patrol crowd) driving past, and after I literally begged the driver, I managed to get home. From where I then started trying to get Prey and such installed on my phone. Which doesn’t help, you need to do it in advance. So I try android remote wipe. Nope, that needs to be set up in advance too. And just a couple of days ago I’d turned off location reporting on my tablet, and forgotten to check if it was account wide. So I couldn’t trace the handset either.

I start pulling out whatever tricks I can try manage. I even try to get my FNB Connect voice thing back up. But I couldn’t find the details saved, and thus couldn’t get any calls done. I need to phone the police. I didn’t even have a plate number for the car. But fuckit, what do you do instead? I post on facebook, asking for help, which is something I do so rarely I don’t even know how to do it. It’s at this point that I ask around, see if anyone has some voip I could use. It’s at this point where some guys over at sonic.net helped me out, and I am extremely thankful for that. The teams who run that place I could solidly count as A+ people. Technically, and for reasons such as this. I manage to phone the police, I get as far as I can manage. I start changing account passwords, dissociating things from my phone, making it as useless as I could possibly hope (ie. no posts showing up when notifications come through, etc). It didn’t have much battery life left, either, so it would’ve died on the people soon afterwards anyway.

But at this point I’ve hit a low. Being without comms is a major hit, for multiple reasons, and being unable to contact (because of this) the one or two people who could’ve actually helped me through it…well, yeah. I hit a low I haven’t hit about since the time I realized I need to cut myself off from my family in totality. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried a bit. I was feeling so utterly helpless in the face of everything, and I just didn’t know what to do.

Positive things! A couple:

  • thank you very much to the person who helped me with the ability to call (I’m finding out if I can name them here)
  • thanks to Tristan for helping me get around in the morning, breakfast (to deal with the fact that I’m starved and getting a migraine), helping get to police, and sitting patiently through multiple stages of trying to get my handset blacklisted (the IMEI shown on the network HLR doesn’t match the IMEI on the box I have)
  • there were a fair handful of people who responded to my FB post (each of you have been noted, and I will make sure to pay you back whenever I can one day)
  • thank you to the people on Shadowfire who let me rage and rant and vent
  • fortunately I had handset insurance from my provider, so this should not make much of a knock on my finances (which was a related fear)

Speculation: maybe…just maaaaybe…the guys in the car were legit. As I said, the battery would’ve died soon. But I don’t feel so. I ran down to the traffic light after they bolted, and I couldn’t see the car by the time I’d gotten there (about 40~50m down the road).

And now it’s Sunday evening. It took a day to get some stuff sorted (prepaid SIM, ability to phone, arranged transport to get to my Monday meeting), and I had the maximum indicated dose of Migril to try counteract my migraine. I still haven’t eaten properly, and don’t feel I can easily. re:hidrat it is, then, for getting myself feeling a slight bit better. My cat is sleeping next to me (she annexed a whole pillow on my couch), there’s good music playing, and I’m clutching my way back to feeling better. Slowly, bit by bit. But this one will hurt for a while.

edit: I know many of these things sound tiny. With perspective, they are. But they added up in just the right set of flavours. Here’s to getting some perspective again, though!

edit 2: did eventually get the scooter back home. The original call with AA had been closed, apparently the guys claimed that they’d done a pickup. I hope to open some kind of case and maybe get my hands on that recording. Or something. I don’t know. But did get home, and after a minor freakout for a while (of not being able to find the right keys to get the scooter movable (steering lock)), all roughly ended up “okay”

This is a rage post.

Seriously, if you don’t care about rage (or politics, or beyond-fucked-in-the-head idiots, or …), don’t read this post.

Hey FPB, fuck you. Yes, I said fuck. That’s a swearword. Stick it up your ass.

Here’s a copy of Brett Murray’s ‘The Spear':

The Spear, Brett Murray

Here’s a copy of it when it became more expensive. You know, after some mouth-fuming idiots splashed more paint on it:

hey look, moar monies

And guess what, you can’t do shit. Censor it for age 16? Require measures barring underage people from accessing it? Fuck that. You people need your world adjusted, it’s a little bit closed off at the moment.

Screw you, Mikrotik

Particularly, your shitty scripting interface.

Using a lot of Mikrotik routers in various places, I’ve grown accustomed to the platform, and it really is quite flexible. However, it has its idiosyncracies. Among them are bugs and regressions between versions (c’mon guys, can you at least get some functional testing in place?), inconsistencies/inabilities in how some things are done at protocol level (unable to forward a default route in BGP), those sort of things. Now before I continue, let me say that I understand how such things can happen, but I do feel annoyed that they can take that long to get resolved. The lack of automated functional testing is also a major bugbear.

So, you have a router, and you probably care about its config. Most people who do this are familiar with the tool rancid (for better or worse – maybe at some point ranrod will be usable), and there are a set of patches to support mikrotik devices over here. As a side effect of this toolchain, I have a set of method that I can use to log in on many devices with a relatively low-effort command method. Consider the following scenario: someone leaves a company, and you wish to update passwords (in the case where you don’t have don’t have tacacs or radius backing auth). On a unix-like system, you have a few options, but in router-/switch-land you’re limited to some other things. Not to worry, we have shell loops, clogin/mtlogin, and a bit of ingenuity! Leading us to make this:

for location in list some locations here; do
  grep 'mikrotik.*up$' "$location/router.db"; done | cut -d':' -f 1 | while read line; do
  mtlogin -c ':global users;
              :foreach i in=[/user find where name="userinquestion"] do={:set users ($users . "," $i);};
              /user set numbers=$users password=shinymoonbicycles; quit' $line;

Seems sane enough. Start a for loop, parse our router.db files for a list of routers we care about, loop through those and run the following automated command sequence. Low-effort, quick, gets it all done. Except it runs into this issue:

[automation@Brain] > can't read "users": no such variable

Argh. Apparently we can’t declare or use variables in this fashion. Even though I can do that perfectly okay when I’m logged into an interactive session (…how is this determined?). “But hold on,” I think, “rancid uses +ct in the username to skip colour and terminal detection; maybe I can disable that to get it done”. And no, you can’t. QQ

In my mind, this sort of thing, on top of the earlier listed problems, the utter silliness of the scripting language (really, go look at the way I have to construct a list of users, or, well, anything), and other things such as no clear equivalent of the cisco-alike “no” command that can be used to negate/remove any statement in the config, are among the things that stand in the way of Mikrotik being taken more seriously.

Mikrotik, you have a product with pretty good potential. It wouldn’t hurt to improve these things a bit. You can sell craploads of non-wifi CPE equipment if you could win over the Cisco-hearts. Please, fix this crap.

*publishes post and mails the link to Mikrotik support*

Billing Failure

Alternative post title: No, really, I’m not kidding. I *really* want to give you money.

Part of the software stack/services that we have at my employer is a billing system for ISP environments. Given this, the typical features you would imagine to have in your billing system for such an environment would include the ability to bill for physical connections as well as services rendered over those connections. Possibly even just having the services without the connection. Do we have all of those? Check. Other things you might want? Hmm, let’s see, online management of your products and services? Check. Ability to pay online using credit card etc? Check. Fault logging? Check. The reason I list all these things? Because I want to show that I’m not completely unfamiliar with billing systems and/or the challenges associated with them.

With that all in mind, let’s go over to the Telkom SA billing site to pay our DSL connection bill (check out all the options you have for doing this over here).

So I do all the things required for getting my bill online [edit: I've actually done this a few months ago, this post is just coming up now because the issue is causing me problems now] and then open it here, as the page says I should. Hey great, it shows me some stuff!

Not too bad so far. Let me click on that View bill online link on the side.

Well, uh, that’s nice. No listed invoices. And the My Accounts page linked to from the first paragraph takes me to the page I just navigated from. Can’t view past invoices or search for any with success either. So I have no option for immediately paying my bill and get to go with any of the other options that range from mildly to highly inconvenient for me. Great, thanks.

I’m attempting to contact the Telkom Online Billing department, and will be using this URL as the summary of the complaint; mostly because I’ve gotten so damned tired with having to spend 5 minutes repeating the issue to every new person in the callcenter that I get redirected to each time I phone in an attempt to sort this crap out. Who knows, with any luck I might even be able to get some useful information about how other people could solve this if they also run into it.