Monday, August 29, 2005

ADSL - the saga continues

Well after my previous hassles (here and here), I was at my wits end. I had pretty much eliminated most variables before I’d even rang my ISP, but after they insisted I had my modem double checked by plugging it into a friends ADSL line and watching it work, the only variable was the alarm system. When we moved in, there were no instructions on the alarm system, and to be honest, it wasn’t high on my priority list, but the tech support person at my ISP insisted that I get it checked out because it may still be plugged in to the phone line and causing interference. Well, I checked the alarm myself and couldn’t find any connection to the phone line, but then again, I’m not a trained alarm system technician so what would I know, and as the tech support person at my ISP kindly informed me, "If Telstra send a technician out and they find out that it’s your fault, they’ll charge you $99". So I had an alarm technician come around and verify ($75 later) what I already knew, the alarm was not plugged in to the phone line. So finally the coast was clear and I could insist on them sending a Telstra technician out… still with the warning of being charged if Telstra concluded that the issue was anything to do with my setup. Like all service companies these days Telstra would only give a 4 hour window, during which they would be performing the work, this meant that I was required to stay home from work during this time. Fortunately the technician called me fairly early in that period to tell me “yeah mate, it should be right now, there was a problem at the exchange”. And sure enough I now have ADSL internet access again.

Having ascertained that it was Telstra’s fault, and having been threatened with being charged if it was my fault, I am just wondering if I should send Telstra a bill for my time and the expenses I’ve had to incur to determine that Telstra didn’t do a proper job in the first place. Another thing that has crossed my mind is would I have got the same run around had I been a bigpond customer, ie is this Telstra’s way of using their monopoly on the network to make it difficult for other ISP’s to compete on an even footing. Maybe that’s a bit too much of a conspiracy theory, and Occam’s razor dictates that possibly a mixture of incompetence and/or apathy may be a better explanation, which essentially reduces to Hanlon’s Razor "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Friday, August 26, 2005

Quality on the web

I recently was asked to review some changes to a corporate website, and it got me thinking about what I expect for web sites from a quality perspective.

One thing that I think should go without saying, (but obviously doesn’t) is validation. I would say at least the 2 biggies xhtml and css validation are a must. These validators check through either your xhtml or css code and verify it against the generally accepted standard. Now if your designing a site that you know is ONLY going to be run with Internet Explorer, or whatever browser happens to be the flavour of the month for you target audience then fine, code to that browser if you really must, however, if your website is public facing you have no such control, and with mobile devices becoming more and more popular, you can never guarantee what your web site will be viewed under. I challenge anyone reading this blog to validate their corporate website, you’ll probably be very surprised what you’ll find, I know I was surprised just doing a minimal amount of research for this article.

I actually made the suggestion in the review that anyone doing web development should have every browser known to mankind and a few others installed on their machine, NOT JUST INTERNET EXPLORER. I am always frustrated when I’m using firefox, and I come across something that doesn’t look quite right, and have to exit and view it in ie.

Another big thing for me is that tables should NEVER be used for formatting. Tables are great... For tabular data. Nothing else in xhtml renders tabular data more elegantly and describes it more precisely than tables. But when it comes to formatting they suck. I know in the dark ages of web development there was little other choice and I myself used them prolifically before I stumbled upon the css zengarden. This is one of my favourite sites ever, and gave me the impetuous I required to sit down and learn css properly. I can also recommend a book "HTML Utopia : Design Without Tables Using Css". The other advantage as can be seen by css zengarden is that if you write your page properly, when marketing come down and say "we want to change our corporate look" as marketing are want to do (they have to justify their existence during the quiet periods somehow), it is a matter of replacing a few css files and putting up the new corporate logo, and suddenly the entire website looks completely different. You can then spend the rest of the month it would take for someone who formatted their website with tables doing something far more productive like getting your site up to accessibility standards like 508 or WCAG 1.0.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More hassles

I can't believe what has happened over the past few days.
After my previous hassles, I patiently waited til Friday. According to my ISP's web site they would notify me on a designated phone number I provided when I filled out the online form requesting my change of phone line. I guess I was expecting an actual human (of some description) to call me and pleasantly inform me that I was once again connected to the information super highway, but why pay someone to talk when a simple automated SMS will do. OK I can handle the SMS, but what I find completely unacceptable is after my previous argument with them over them not divulging information to me because I wasn't the person who set up the phone line with Telstra, they have the ordacity to send an SMS with my user name and...... PASSWORD in plain text. I am seriously concerned now that they have no real idea about security.
To add further to my problems, I hadn't actually unpacked my ADSL modem from the move, and of course we've got boxes every where, so I spent most of Saturday trying to find my modem, and when I finally got it unpacked..... I couldn't get things working. I've been pretty busy this weekend looking at furniture for the new place so I haven't had a great deal of time, so I decided to wait til I came home tonight to go through all the different possibilities and test all my cabling etc.... before I call my ISP and spend 30 mins waiting in the phone queue to maybe find an answer. Well the good news is I didn't spend 30 mins in the queue, the bad news is that the reason for this was the call centre closed at 6pm. So til tomorrow after work, I'm still on dial up.

This is getting beyond a joke.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Winge about ADSL hassles

I haven’t blogged in a while, and there is a damn good reason why. I have been in the middle of moving house. My partner and I have recently purchased a fantastic place in Fitzroy (inner city Melbourne).
The moving process is quite stressful, but I must confess I wasn’t expecting so much hassle with my ADSL line. We needed to get a new phone line at our new place, and so of course we had to switch our ADSL plan to that new line. We made this request on Monday the 8th of august, and waited…. Now I was under the impression that this would take up to a week. I have to confess that I think this is a particularly ridiculous amount of time considering that there is not really all that much work involved. They have to test the line, and then re-route my connection to my ISP. Sounds like all of about half an hour to me, and the fact that I had paid $99 for the work to be done, I would think that Telstra would be able to afford to resource this role fairly well….. We are still waiting for this to happen. On calling my ISP, he gave me the standard response of “Telstra say that it will take between 5 and 10 working days”. This is completely ridiculous, I’m an IT professional and because I move I can’t have an ADSL connection for 2 weeks. I do have dial up access, but that’s not a real internet connection…. Ever tried downloading webcasts and podcasts over dial up, it’s plain infuriating. To make matters worse, they actually wouldn’t give me any specific details of the status of my request because the my previous phone line was registered under my partners name. This I was told was for security reasons…. Lets see now, the guy at the help desk of my ISP had already asked me my address, the account name and my phone number, he then proceeded to ask me if I was Androniki Papapetrou, my partner (obviously not realizing that Androniki is a greek girls name (the male equivalent being Andronicus)). If at this point Id’ve said “Yes that’s me” he would have proceeded to divulge the information I required, but stupid honest me said “No that’s my partner”. So after he insisted that he wouldn’t tell me for security reasons, I got my partner to ring. I had to tell her our account name as she didn’t know that, and when she rang the questions they asked to verify that she was who she said she was….. account name, address and telephone number. Hmmmm top notch security there guys, if this information was genuinely sensitive, then we’re in a lot of trouble here. I think this incident raises a lot of questions about security. I am a firm believer in privacy, but if you really need to identify which pieces of information should be secure and then secure them appropriately, the rest can just be broadcast on your website…. It’ll save people so much frustration.
The latest on our ADSL connection is that it should be ready by Friday….. thanks Telstra.