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CreaBros Oy: Kalles blog

Sync(EGroupware, Nokia 5800) == feel like dumbass

Feb 17, 06:00 PM

It’s funny that when digital devices malfunction it is usually the user who feels inadequate. People react very differently some automatically think that they did something wrong, some give up and some think that these problems are some sort of divine inevitability. Problem is that usually there is no way of telling what actually went wrong.

My daily venture to inevitability of failure happened when I noticed that one of the contacts from my phone was missing. This of course was strange in itself, but instead of worrying about it I decided to solve it by synchronizing with the company EGroupware service. I had turned the contacts synchronizing off, because some reason there were a lot of duplicates. I never looked into why that was. Now I decided to enable synchronization, since I figured that I had deleted the contact by accident. Few clicks and crap, all of my contacts had disappeared from the contacts list. What now? Well, the contacts are probably still on the server and indeed that was the case, but how to get the contacts to move back to the phone? Well, EGroupware has method for transferring contacts between private, personal and group. I don’t know what the difference is between private and personal. So I figured maybe the contacts are in a wrong category. First I set the phone to transfer from server to phone only, no avail.
Then I do “Select All” on all contacts on server, which was stupid, should always experiment with a subset, click transfer to private, resync on the phone: nothing happens. Transfer to personal, resync and something happens. Phone says transferring to server. Catastrophe, all the contacts have disappeared from both, phone and server.

Moral of the story? Perhaps I should have known how to use the system before using it or was there actually a way to do it right? I really don’t know. Perhaps I’ll look into the source code and see how it actually decides when to transfer and when to delete contacts. But it seems that system is very fragile to user input. Difficult thing is to determine now where the problem actually is, was it me the user who was dumb. Was it the phone that made the mistake or did the server decide that the since the phone didn’t have the contacts it shouldn’t either. Why did the phone decide to delete the contacts in the first place? Had I done something earlier that caused the contacts to be deleted? Is there a fault in the protocol?

Quite often implementers don’t even themselves know exactly how a piece of software will work with other piece implemented by someone else. Protocol should usually define the expected outcome, but this doesn’t always mean we get the outcome we want, however. It is the job of implementation to make the protocol humane i.e. understandable to the user. If the implementation fails to convey what will be the result from users actions results can be like like above. This tends to be a problem especially with systems that try to be automatic and require very little user action. Should the system have prompted me and told me about 300 contacts will be deleted from the phone and the on next sync that about 300 contacts will be deleted from the server? Well perhaps, but then next time if I delete one contact do I want to see that message? Probably not. Maybe the sync button should have had a message below it that had said 300 messages will be deleted, but then the implementation would have had to do a “dry run” to determine that, but that would have increased the overhead of the application significantly, but in this case I would have been glad of that.

In the end I did get most of my contacts back. First I made a backup of current EGroupware for the whole company. Then I restored the EGroupware from backup, which I knew still contained my contacts. Then I changed the setting from “both ways” to “to server” on the phone and now I have the contacts back. Luckily Creabros is a small company, so nobody else was inconvenienced but me.

Kalle Kuismanen

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What do you do when fan is hit?

Feb 6, 06:03 AM

Last thirty hours went down the drain. Rootkit attack on the server. Mail not moving, customers calling and I just started another project that should take all my attention.
Well what can you do? Run down to the office pull the wire out, go to single user, unmount all that’s possible start going through the files.

Don’t know if it’s gone, but now the mail is moving again. Have to come back and redo the boot sector etc.

If somebody tells you that some system is safe from intrusion, laugh at their faces and call them a fool.

Lessons learned, when you think your system is running well, make sure you have a copy so you can write over the crap that intruders have installed.

Last read:
Linux Security and don’t be a sucker like me.

Kalle Kuismanen

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mobile toys

Feb 4, 08:14 AM

Over the years l’ve used many different mobile toys. Most have been bought for a specific project. Few just to test what the hype is all about. For last few years most of my projects have been for Symbian the Symbian devices clutter my desks. My latest purchase is a nokia 5800 touch screen phone. Funny thing is that using it is quite reminicent of iPaq PDAs from COMPAQ way back in the year 2000. The screens were bigger, batteries heavier, CPU slow, but still l think designers of present devices should pick one up for comparison. Like anyone who remembers how slow computers used to be and are dissapointed how clumsy and unresponsive they are l felt the same when l picked up iPhone and now this 5800, which l’m using to write this entry. It is painfully slow for i’m not very good with a pen.

Kalle Kuismanen

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On starting a new project

Feb 3, 01:34 AM

Just got started with a new project today. Luckily the first task was pretty simple, processing incoming text messages. I expect to have it finished by tomorrow. Decided not to look for example code on the net, because sometimes it’s good to explore the platform and improvise a bit. The project size is about 600+ hours, 592 hours to go.

Kalle Kuismanen

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Vacation

Jan 28, 12:01 PM

Last year we spent a week in a small cabin by a frozen lake in northern Finland. I recommend it to anybody who is stuck behind a computer screen every working day. To feel like vacation things should be different from the everyday life. Things like fishing from a hole in the ice, heating the cabin with wood and bathing in a sauna relax the mind in ways that a month in a hotel down south would never match. Also the physical workout reduces stress caused by too much mental work. I recommend it to all IT workers. I’m definitely going first chance I get.Skiing 2007
Timo Kinnunen, a friend of mine, once mentioned, after a work related trip to Lapland, that no matter how good the virtual reality experience is, he couldn’t imagine that the great feeling of standing on a snowy mountain side with sun shining over the snow after a hard climb can be topped.

Kalle Kuismanen

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