Saturday, May 9, 2015

on rtfm, from a manual reader

Sometimes you're reading and researching online and you get to a post where someone is asking something very basic, or is very misinformed, and a peanut gallery lurker will inevitably step forward and suggest that the poor sap "read the fucking manual", or rtfm.  When this happens, I cheer - manpages are the bedrock of unix; once you've consumed one, you should be 100% competent in the use of that tool.

But sometimes it doesn't work out like it should.  The ip and sudoers manpages are notorious disasters.  (At one point I remember reading an in-depth writeup about what went wrong with the creation of iproute2, but I can't find it now.  If anyone else has the link, please send it to me!)

Despite some gripes I have with the command interface - the primary operations are too dangerous, so there should be no short options - mdadm has a decent manpage.  But today I came across an insane, inscrutable gem:

These same layouts are available for RAID6.  There are also  4  layouts  that  will provide  an  intermediate stage for converting between RAID5 and RAID6.  These provide a layout which is identical to the corresponding RAID5 layout on the first N-1 devices,  and has the 'Q' syndrome (the second 'parity' block used by RAID6) on the last device.  These layouts are: left-symmetric-6, right-symmetric-6, left-asymmetric-6, right-asymmetric-6, and parity-first-6.

What is the "Q" syndrome??  What does it all mean??  Google came up empty.  The world may never know.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

a lovely chat with the great satan

There are some conversational topics that will make anyone squirm.  Try steering the watercooler talk towards "the big C," or drop "the C word" and watch your friends, family and coworkers' brains begin to shut down.  Yes, I'm talking about Comcast.

About the only thing worse than talking about them is talking to them, but as modern adults we are often burdened with both tasks.  The initial problem that led to my need to contact the big evil Internet machine was one that I don't really heap much blame on them for - they shipped me the wrong thing.

Last week I received a cold call.  The excellent Truecaller told me it was my wonderful ISP - since I give them a load of money each month, it seemed like it might be in my best interest to take the call.

On the phone, I was told that for $3 more a month I could get an Internet connection that was ~4x faster than my current service, plus TV with HBO, plus two cable boxes.  When I asked about shipping and setup fees, I was told that these would be waived, and two cable boxes would be shipped to my house free of charge.  About this I was ambivalent - I'd sort of rather not have TV service in my house, but since it was a requirement to get the faster Internet, I consented, thinking eventually I'd either hook it up or not.

(In my mind, this hard sales push is a direct response to Netflix's recent insane numbers and jubilant CEO.  But maybe they just like fucking with people, I don't really know.)

So the package arrived, large enough for two cable boxes but feeling empty.  Upon opening it up, I found two identical packets of cable TV information, but no cable boxes.  Chalking it up to standard Comcast fuckery, I waited, but the cable boxes never came.  For me, this shipping mixup is somewhat understandable - there's something about putting the right things in the right boxes that can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around.  Not saying that I don't want to put Comcast down as much as possible, but about this I'm not too peeved.

On the suggestion of a coworker, I decided to chat up Comcast online rather than deal with the known nightmare of a phone conversation with them.

But that chat was worse.  In it, Comcast:
  • Transferred me three times to three different departments.
  • Took one to ten minutes to respond after each message.
  • Informed me that I was only slated to receive one cable box.
  • Intimated that I would be charged for the box's delivery no matter what.
  • Informed me that I could not cancel my TV service over the chat system,
  • citing the insecurity of their chat system as the primary reason!
The most fucked up part is, I knew it was a trap when I agreed to the upgrade.  I guess I just wanted to see how much of a trap it was.

After most ISP encounters, people often find themselves in need of a cathartic retelling.  Comcast's depth of unscrupulousness and incompetence is known by all, but it still fairly boggles the mind to see it.  It's sort of like watching a video of a guy doing a backflip, or girl getting hit in the head with a shovel - you aren't surprised that it happened, but does get your sympathetic nervous system pumping.

For the brave, the bored, and the masochistic, the full text of our chat follows.  It took probably an hour from start to finish.  Writing this article took less time than my ineffectual chat.  Enjoy.