Fritzbox

Fritzbox 7490

The building I live in was probably built around the late sixties, the ground in the basement is just some gravel, with some structure to store potatoes, and there is a space under the roof to hang laundry. This also means that the phone installation is not exactly top-notch. Maybe because of that, I always had trouble with my internet connection, it would work well for some time, and then I would get more and more disconnections. In the end I would call the support from Swisscom.

They would ask the usual set of useless questions, trying to put the blame on my wi-fi or something, and would send a technician to my place, the guy of course would typically come sometimes between 9 and 12 in the morning. Of course, working from home when the internet connection is falling down all the time is not really an option, but Swisscom’s mentality is still shaped by the idea that each and every household has a housewife ready to welcome their technicians.

Fritzbox DSL Line Statistics

The technicians would do measurements, and be generally baffled, typically the problems occurs early in the morning or late in the evening, I suspect when many people use the internet and the rate of interference is high, of course, this is exactly not the time when the technicians do measurements.

You would think that Swisscom would somehow monitor their lines, but they don’t seem to do this, makes sense, if they acknowledged that their line is crapping out most of the time, the question of a refund who pop-up, inconceivable. Sometimes a technician would look at past logs and say something like wow you had a lot of disconnects. Eventually by replacing my router and futzing the line parameters, the connection would work again for a few months.

A few weeks ago, the circus started again and the technician solved the problem by changing the router, the line worked for a few weeks, and then the problems started again. The last technician who came mumbled stuff about billing me, so it seems that besides wasting my time, Swisscom wants to start billing me for this… Geeks around me often told me that the routers Swisscom bundles are crap, the Netopia I had certainly had a confusing interface.

So I had the choice between contacting Swisscom, wait for a Technician to come, loose half a day waiting for him to solve the problem by exchanging my router with an exact copy which would certainly exhibit the same problem, or buy a router myself. As I’m quite busy these days, and fed up with the Swisscom’s service. I opted for the later.

I decided to buy a Fritzbox 3490. Fritzboxes have very good reviews and are interesting devices, that incorporate many functionalities into the router, in this case it can act as a NAS and a DEC phone adapter. More importantly, the interface lets me monitor and adjust my DSL parameters, so I could make Swisscom’s bad phone line do its job.

I had to configure the settings to not try to get the maximum performance, but I now have a stable line. I have yet to fully use all the features of the box, and there seems to be some issue updating the firmware because of some Swisscom idiosyncrasy (again) but at least internet works properly.

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The Devil wears Prada

The Devil wears Prada

The Devil wears Prada

I have been quite busy these days with little time to write on this blog, still yesterday we managed to watch a movie: I had an old DVD of The Devil wears Prada. While the plot is pretty straightforward, it is a fun comedy to watch, and Meryl Streep is really giving life to the main character. What annoyed me is taking Anne Hathaway as a plain journalist, taking an über-cute actress who is very thin, and then pretend that her metamorphosis is an unexpected surprise is ridiculous. The other annoyance is her explanation at the end of the movie that it was all about shoes, it was not. She was driven by her need to get things done, and her relationship with her boss, not the shoes. She is supposed to be smart, how can she not realise what she is doing? Reducing the whole experience to shoes is very self-demeaning…

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Continuity…

facetime_10_10

Yesterday I used Apple’s continuity feature, it was not something I intended, I just received a phone call while using my laptop, and my phone was somewhere else in the flat: the Mac offered me to answer the call. Using a feature, not because you intend to, but because it is the natural thing to do is the sign of a good design. While the sound quality was not perfect (I was asked if I was on the move), it was enough for a call.

I really hope that more applications adopt this model, an applications that triggers notifications on many devices, regardless of the device you are using is very annoying. Skype is pretty bad in this respect: an incoming call will make all devices ring, even after I picked up with one of them. There is a certain irony of having a call disturbed by the noise of the ringing of said call.

It is interesting to see that routing a classical phone call through my local area network is a new feature in 2014. While IP telephony is widely used, it is mostly deployed in corporate network, with a separate network infrastructure to support it, reliability and integration are still pain points. Most chat and video conference system run on proprietary protocols. In that respect, Apple’s approach of building improved services on top of the telephony network instead of trying to replace is interesting: you can see it as a political move to not anger operators, or a way to use a reliable infrastructure for voice.

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Scales…

Tanita scale

After more than eight years of service, my old Tanita scale, which I bought in Japan, stopped working properly. I used to use various applications to track my weight, so having the scale send the data to my mobile phone was a tempting idea, so I bought a Withings WS-50 body analyser.

The hardware specifications are pretty impressive: the scale supports Bluetooth and Wifi, can measure weight, body fat, heart-rate, but also the room temperature and the oxygen level (again in the room). I don’t really see the point of the two later measurements, but I suppose the sensors were cheap, so why not.

withings_ws_50_white

The official Withings app support Apple’s new Healthkit API, so everything should be fine. The app has some graphical concept with a butterfly, where each wing is one aspect of your health, clearly Withing’s programmers are artists: their app is useless.

Despite the fact that the scale has wifi access and sends data to the cloud each time I weight myself, any synchronisation between the iOS app and the device requires to flip the scale, push a button, reopen the Bluetooth connection. Can the scale pair with multiple phones? It’s a mystery.

Withings App – Profile view

The app’s structure was clearly selected under the influence of drugs: there is a timeline view, with more irrelevant data than a Facebook feed when all your friends are playing stupid games, there is a dashboard, where 30% of my screen estate is used to display the stupid butterfly and my name (for when I forget, I suppose). There is a leaderboard, for when I want to challenge my friends (which I don’t) and with which I can’t seem to be able to share the scale. Then, there is the profile view, which contains the largest screen estate waste I have seen in an App, with around 10% of screen showing useful data. Of course the App asks for a lot of information when it is set up, including the weight, which is pretty stupid for an App that comes with a scale, it also means I ended up with a wrong measurement with the default weight.

view of the Withings Web application, with language problems

Of course, there is also a web interface, which is somehow convinced that I want Japanese as my primary language, I think it inferred this because my mobile phone app is set to display dates in Japanese format, or something. So to use the interface in English, I needed to select another language and then switch back to English. I suspect I’ll need to do this each time I log in. Of course the web interface does not use the butterfly metaphor and has a completely different structure, consistency was clearly not a priority, if you need more confusion don’t worry, there are two web interfaces the new and the old, and you sometimes get switched to the old one. The old one got stuck in the generating curve for the whole time it took me to write this blog entry. There is also a menu entry advertising their new web interface, which is just a gallery of screenshots (tilted for better effect).

Clearly a few Withings product managers need to be taken out and shot, twice. Thankfully, the App exports the data to Healthkit, so you can just ignore all the Withings applications and use Apple’s interface, which is much more reasonable.

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