The Vonage Saga

by Terry 6/12/2008 9:05:00 AM

I have been using Vonage for four years now, and have had few complaints. In fact probably fewer complaints than I have had with other phone companies, like Century Tel. On June 4th Vonage called my wife, I was in Atlanta, and asked how their service has been. Karen replied great, except for one issue that periodically occurs. After Karen confirmed it was in fact Vonage calling and not someone phishing for access the Vonage service people offered to send us a new router.

The issue is an intermittent ring-back after we hang up from random phone calls. We call, we talk, we hang up, our phone rings, and no one is on the other end. It comes in waves. Karen makes a lot of calls nationally, doing genealogy for her family, so the call backs can get mighty annoying when it happens after every call for two hours or so.

Vonage offered and sent a new router. Karen did not ask them to do that, she merely told them what the issue was, since they asked. Vonage compensated us the cost of the router, but charged us shipping. The shipping cost is the secondary problem. The new router is the primary problem. The new router was issued a new phone number. We do not want a new phone number; we just want the old number to work, since they asked.

I did not know Vonage assigned a new number to the router until I plugged it in last night. It did not take me long to figure it out; caller ID is a useful tool. I left the router plugged in and took a break to go work out and teach a class. When I returned home in the evening, around 9:00 PM, I got on the phone with Vonage technical service and spoke with ‘Garry’. He was clearly from India or nearby country, and not from North America. I was not surprised by this, but I was surprised that ‘Garry’ actually cottoned on to the problem in a reasonable time and got the router assignment sorted out – sort of.

‘Garry’ assigned my old phone number to the new router, but cannot remove the new, unwanted number from it. That has to be done the, apparently, more technical billing staff. I am to call back today and ask that billing remove the new number from my new router and bill. At that point I can ask that Vonage remove the shipping costs for the new router (which they offered for free).

Unfortunately, in calling Vonage this morning, I learned their billing system is undergoing an emergency update. I was politely asked if I could call back this afternoon. And so, the saga continues.

Despite the runaround, I would still recommend Vonage on a cost, quality and feature basis. It is truly a good deal. Unless this issue goes incredibly downhill quickly, I still can say I have been happy with Vonage.

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A CodeBehind error with User Controls

by Terry 6/11/2008 3:29:00 PM

I am updating a website for my project at work. It was a .Net 1.1 site converted to a .Net 2.0 site. We are adding some new user controls to the site. I implemented one of those controls on a new page and generated a runtime error like this:

"The base class includes the field 'WebUserControl1', but its type (common_WebUserControl) is not compatible with the type of control (ASP.common_webusercontrol_ascx)"

Hunting around with Google turned up several possibilities, but none helped until I found this link, http://forums.asp.net/t/960707.aspx. A post by ‘Maduka’ suggested changing the Codefile attribute of the page to CodeBehind. This worked in my case. It works the other way too. Change the control’s CodeBehind property to CodeFile.

Without digging deep, I would presume that CodeFile is the .Net 2.0+ code behind method, as this is the default value for the new user controls. So, in our implementation, we are changing pages that use the new controls to use the CodeFile attribute instead of CodeBehind. I am not sure which is best practice, but this is what works for me. Your mileage may vary.

And, it turns out I may have this backward. Reading the posts a bit more indicates that CodeBehind is the new model. I will need to look at this more closely. I am hoping to update the site to .Net 3.5 by the end of the year, and I would like to clean this stuff up.

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Coding Practices | computing

I may be going to Orlando again this year

by Terry 6/10/2008 1:49:00 PM

Yesterday the owners and instructors at DMW Martial Arts, Dan and Marcia, invited me to attend the Martial Arts Supper Show in Orlando, Florida, this July. I am genuinely surprised by this, and flattered. I think it is pretty cool to be included as a teaching instructor at the school. Another instructor and friend, Leni, was invited too. This is an opportunity to view martial arts as a business and get some specialized training. I have yet to discuss the details of the trip, what training my instructors wish me to attend and weather Karen can attend any of the events (I really hope she will come too). I am excited to see what is offered. I really would love to get some basics on weapons I have not studied yet, teaching techniques and meet some people.

I would also like to see what merchandise is available in the martial arts industry, particularly in the mid-range cost and quality. For example, many of the weapons I have seen in catalogs are either cheep in cost and quality or outrageously expensive and unknown quality (presumably high quality). What I would love access to is the ‘middle class’ product line; that is, the goods of fortune in moderation. I want, for example, a line of weapons, like a set of Kamas, which are durable and sturdy at a moderate cost. I want a practice and demo weapon that is not light as a feather and breaks easily like many I have used and seen. I do not want cool glitz that flakes of in practice.

This will be a fun trip. Depending on how much stuff I need to pack I may not bring my laptop, although I hope that I can so I can report items of interest daily. We shall see. First I need to work out the details and actually go on the trip.

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Martial Arts | Personal

Back from Atlanta, back to work and teaching

by Terry 6/6/2008 9:09:00 AM

I returned home Thursday afternoon from Atlanta. I caught a short nap before walking down to DMW Martial Arts to teach classes. The school owners and lead instructors, Dan and Marcia, left for a training seminar and Leni and I agreed to cover the classes for the rest of the week. This means Instructor Leni and I alternate teaching the six classes for the evening.

The first afternoon class is targeted at the newest four-year-old students. Man, this is a tough crowd. One boy who just started classes was having a hard time stepping away from his mother for the class. He would tear up and get say, "I don’t wanna play." So I tried to see if a joke would work.

"Do you want to hear a joke?" I asked.

"Uh huh." He sniffed.

"You know, I just flew in from Atlanta this afternoon," I said. "Boy, my arms are tired."

He looked at me, sniffing, and said, "That’s not funny!"

I admit I am not a good comedian. The parents laughed, however, which is a small consolation. While I was having this discussion with him, I slowly guided him into line with the rest of the class. He was all smiles until the last part of class. We sometimes play a game of Tae Kwon Do tag, where the kid who is 'it' runs about and kicks everyone to tag them. (Everyone is in sparring gear.) My young friend just did not want to play, so he would stand there and the other kids would play around him. Oh, well.

I finished the evening teaching the leadership class. This week was a mat-work class on self defense. I did a quick review of several different techniques. We had a short group discussion on the purpose of the techniques; namely how the same techniques can be used for evasion, escape, destruction or to subdue. We finished class by working refining techniques. Boy, my arms are tired.

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Martial Arts | Personal

Money bad, guns okay

by Terry 6/4/2008 1:51:00 PM

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080604/od_nm/brazil_prisoner_odd_dc_1
TV, guns, fridges - prisoner had it all

<snip>He said he was not surprised that kidnappings, murders, and drug trafficking were being directed from inside the jail. "The surprise was finding 280,000 reais ($172,000) inside a cell."</snip>

I guess finding money in a prison cell is a sign of bad management, but the guns…no big deal?

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Opinion | Personal

In Atlanta, Georgia, June 2008, Training Day 3

by Terry 6/4/2008 11:37:00 AM

Today is my last day of Opsware/HP training today. I am learning how to use Server Automation System (SAS) 6.5. At this point I now know enough to be dangerous. When I return home I will begin using the test environment which is being configured at the office at this time.

The challenge before me and my coworkers is taking what we have learned and what we know about our existing environment and making a first draft WAG at how to define our new system and processes. This is not an easy task and will likely cause more than one of use to have a meltdown.

Another challenge is remembering everything we know long enough to be useful. The successful implementation of change requires an understanding of what is new. Understanding the new takes time, practice and patience, and managing the expectation of instant answers. We will not have answers initially. When the answers do come, they will likely vomit forth in a sudden rush. Those waiting for the answers should have there shields up as the cycle of information processing begins anew with the receiving end of the flood of knowledge.

I look forward to returning home and starting into all this.

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In Atlanta, Georgia, June 2008, Day 3, Tang Soo Do

by Terry 6/4/2008 8:13:00 AM

Last Monday I met briefly with Grand Master Tong Mun Kim, of T.M. Kim’s Tang Soo Do Karate School, and asked his permission to watch class last night. Normally, I would have called well ahead of time before I left for Atlanta, but I did not expect to be able to visit any schools while on this trip. I turns out that Master Kim’s school is across the street from the hotel where I am staying. Once I saw the school, I introduced myself to Master Kim.

Last night I came and watched an evening class and talked briefly with a few students at the school. Master Kim told me Monday that his school is very traditional. Watching class and talking with the students, I would agree the school is traditional compared to most schools. In many respects his school is similar to mine in quality and teaching. The differences are mostly in the audience and technique.

The school I attend, DMW Martial Arts, is located in a dense community with a large population of children. The classes bear that in mind and incorporate some drills disguised as games. The differences in technique are largely style of the art; Tae Kwon Do vs. Tang Soo Do. We want the kids to sweat, smile and learn.

I enjoyed watching the class, noting the differences in style and technique. At the very least I have increased my viewpoint. Just the 90 minutes watching Master Kim’s classes gave me new variations to try in my own practice of the martial arts. I have watched other schools and walked away with much less. Thank you, Master Kim, for the opportunity to watch your class.

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Martial Arts | Personal

No, I am not making a Meth lab. I already have a day-job

by Terry 6/3/2008 1:10:00 PM

Naturally, when I tell people I am building a chemistry lab in my garage the first reaction people have, almost universally and without exception, is to say, "are you making Meth?" and, "dude, you’re going to get put on a government watch list."

Okay, they don’t always say "dude", but the affect is about the same.

So, to be clear, I am not building a Meth lab. I am not sure what the margins on Meth production are, but I am fairly certain that my day job, or any job at all, pays more than the risk is worth. I have no desire to, and this is not an exhaustive list, go to jail, kill or injure any family, friends, guests or associates, poison the neighborhood or blowup my house.

At a break in class today, one of my coworkers (friends really, as I have worked with all of these guys for years) suggested I go to Walmart and buy some blue tarps and propane tanks to leave around my yard. Apparently all meth-labs in the northwest are littered with blue tarps and propane cylinders. I added that I need to get a trailer in the back yard with a couple of flat tires. I am thinking I can get a good deal on a used FEMA trailer.

Joking aside, my reasons for building a lab in my garage are as follows.

  • I want to relearn, learn and practice lab sciences. Had my course in life been a little different, I would have been a scientist or engineer of some kind; physics being my favored branch when I was in college.
  • I like to teach and share knowledge. I think I have always been this way. I give or loan books to anyone who is interested. I teach martial arts and look for new ways to teach and I teach a class on leadership at a local martial arts school (DMW Martial Arts). I am often enlisted at work specifically because I balance teaching and learning software practices. Going back to my previous reason, I want to share my love of science; particularly with kids.
  • I have wanted a decent chemistry set since I was a kid. I am reliving my childhood dreams, now that I can afford it. Thankfully I have relatively inexpensive dreams. Robert Bruce Thompson made the dream a reality by doing much of the hard work and publishing the results in Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture.
  • My garage is the only place I can build a lab. Karen would not allow me to use the kitchen.

There are only a few things keeping me from starting the labs in Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture; time and money. I did not plan on building a lab (reading Robert Bruce Thompson’s journal, and the quality of his book is what added fuel to the spark) and it does take some money. Being a single income family I have to budget this kind of expense. So Karen and I are setting money aside with every paycheck and I will make purchases as I have the cash. While I wait to assemble the lab and supplies I will start managing my time. Now that the garage is clean I can work in the garage on nagging projects that need doing for the home. This will get the projects done and get me working in the garage regularly. I am hoping Karen and I can work together, both on the labs and on garage projects so we can spend the time together.

I also want to contribute back to other people. Kids in my neighborhood, for example; I can give to them almost directly. I cannot imagine where I would be today if someone when I was a youth in my neighborhood had mentored me in the sciences with access to a lab. I also like to experiment and write. I expect I will devise my own experiments once I get my skill back in order. I will post my efforts and results here and in the Home Chem Lab forum (http://forums.homechemlab.com) as appropriate.

If I do get on some government watch list, it will not be because of any intentionally illegal activity. I intend to be transparent on what I am doing. While I know ignorance of the law is not a defense of illegal activity, I will make efforts to avoid ignorance. I most certainly will not put myself on a list by making a Meth lab. Besides, my yard is too small for the white FEMA trailer.

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chemistry | Personal

In Atlanta, Georgia, June 2008, Training Day 2

by Terry 6/3/2008 8:23:00 AM

I continue more Opsware/HP training today. I am learning how to use Server Automation System (SAS) 6.5. I am part of a validation exercise at work, so this is training so I am capable of performing a real validation. Note, I say validation, not evaluation. My employer is committing to use the product, in a round-about way, I am part of a group of people to make sure we do it the best that we can.

What is amusing is that at work we are implementing SAS version 7.0, but training for the 7.0 product is not available. This is apparently because the HP training labs require new servers to support the 7.0 product suite, but the HP servers are on backorder.

Aside from this, the product and training are quite good.

I am not under any specific non-disclosure about implementing this product where I work. However, you may have noticed I do not explicitly say where I work. Basically this is job protection. There is no reason I cannot say who I work for, except by leaving my employer somewhat anonymous I can talk about what I do, to a certain degree. I do not work for Microsoft.

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In Atlanta, Georgia, June 2008, Day 2

by Terry 6/3/2008 7:29:00 AM

After the Opsware/HP class last night, I went back to the hotel and connected to the office to work on minor issue. Connecting to work was not a problem, but sending email from Outlook on my nerva.com accounts was blocked. I imagine the hotel network was blocking the SMTP ports to prevent spam zombies from using their network. It is a little annoying, but not crippling. I have web access to send email if needed, so I do not need to invest time in a workaround.

I took a two-mile walk last night from my hotel and the HP training site, exploring the local strip-mall, and stopping by a local martial arts school I saw the other night. I may go back there tonight, if the schedule with my co-workers will allow me to get away. About the time I finished my walk I started to get hungry. I met up with a couple of my co-workers and had a pleasant dinner, and then I was off to bed.

I rarely get great rest staying at hotels. This has been no exception. Mostly it is hotel air-conditioning. I live outside Seattle and the need for air conditioning is marginal at best in the Pacific Northwest. I am not used to air conditioning. It seams most hotels, even upscale facilities, have obnoxious air conditioning units. The unit in my room, and in the rooms of my co-workers as I hear, sounds like a freight train. Worse, the infernal device starts and stops about every two minutes. Finally, I shut the stupid thing off and pushed the window open as far as it would go; about two inches. Once I did that, I was able to get some sleep. I hope tonight I will get caught up on sleep, but otherwise the hotel is nice.

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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