Gray Flannel Dwarf


Mobile phone service is nothing but a shell game.

I’ve been looking, on and off, at changing our mobile phone service. I don’t really have that much of a problem with our current one, except for the fact that we no longer live in the area for which our phones have area codes. AT&T won’t let us change those unless we get off our current plan and choose a new one.

And therein lays the rub.

We’ve had our current plan for something like… four years. With a corporate discount, we pay around 90 bucks a month (including taxes) for two phones, 1200 minutes a month, pay-as-you-go web and messaging. We also have a long-since-extinct “North America Package” which gives us free LD to, and coverage in, Canada.

One would think that, several years later, the greater proliferation and uptake of mobile services would lower the prices for everyone, right? Not the case.

Playing with options six ways from sunday on the ATT website, or anywhere else, I can’t find anything that turns out to be any cheaper than what I am currently paying — nevermind the fact that we have the North America package — no longer offered by ATT Wireless, I mean, Cingular, I mean, ATT… and nevermind the fact that we have 7PM nights standard — again, no longer standard, but rather I’d have to pay nearly $20/mo more for this.

Part of me is stymied, but none of me is at all surprised, I guess, especially when one looks at how the industry has, once again, consolidated over the years.

Early on in my mobile phone adventures — probably about five to six years ago — I had a Nextel phone. I could take it to Canada, whereupon it would be usable like a local (Canadian) phone on the Telus network. A while back I went into a Sprint/Nextel store and inquired about it. Sure enough, one can’t do this anymore.

Fast forward a few years, to ATT. Four-ish years ago when I was looking to get a new plan, Cingular was about to consume ATT Wireless. Despite the assurances by the salesmen that the new Cingular would continue to offer something similar to the North America package, I didn’t believe it for a minute and thus signed up for a new contract w/ the NA package while it still existed.

Turned out the be a good decision in the end, I guess.

Now, obviously, the “Canadian” bits of this entry aren’t going to be of much interest to most people — but they’re not intended to be the main concern — they’re symptoms of the larger issue at hand. That I can have a plan from several years ago, with a la carte features, and in fact more expensive ones — I am still paying $20/mo for an extra line these days when the industry standard seems to be $10 — seems startlingly out of whack. Costs haven’t really shifted though — it’s a shell game. Mobile providers have transferred the costs from the a la carte tray straight to the core services.

I’m sure there are some out there who are wondering why I’m complaining. “You should be happy that you got, what you got, when you did — rather than whine about it now while the rest of us have to deal with what’s offered”. To those who may not see the forest for the trees, I can only suggest that you take a look at the hands you’ve been dealt, and wonder who’s stacking the cards.

…and why do I get the nagging (and perhaps overly-paranoid) feeling that this is going to filter up to ATT, whereupon having been a customer for over five years, I find my service contract terminated?

Tags: , , , , , , — cswiii @ 11:53 am


fedora 8, compiz-fusion and x86_64

Well, I never used desktop effects a whole lot in Fedora 7, but when I did, they worked nearly flawlessly. I decided to check ‘em out again in F8, though, and, well, they were bustificated again.

Well, to be more accurate — if i run compiz-manager, everything comes up just roses. However, if I try to use gnome-compiz-preferences to enable them, i get no desktop decorations.

Running the gnome prefs app in a window, I started noticing messages akin to

[corey@ramen compiz]$ gnome-compiz-preferences
** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin decoration isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin place isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin scale isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin switcher isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin water isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): CRITICAL **: gcm_gl_plugin_get_option: assertion `self != NULL' failed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): CRITICAL **: gcm_gl_option_set_string: assertion `self != NULL' failed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin decoration isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin png isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin svg isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin annotate isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin scale isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin cube isn't installed

** (gnome-compiz-preferences:12673): WARNING **: plugin decoration isn't installed

I thought that was interesting. Looking for the location of, say, crashhandler, I found it:


I found this even more interesting. Testing a theory, I created a directory (noting it didn’t exist), /usr/lib/compiz. From within this directory, I ran the following command:

for i in `ls /usr/lib64/compiz/*`; do ln -s $i `basename $i`; done

At this point, I re-ran gnome-compiz-preferences, and voila, I had window decorations.

Note that some things still seem busted – for example, I know I have wobbly windows enabled, and I am not seeing those. However, other indications let me know that compiz is indeed running, not least of all, ps:

13143 pts/1 S 0:00 /usr/bin/compiz-tray-icon
13190 ? S 0:03 /usr/bin/python /usr/bin/ccsm
13290 pts/1 S 0:00 /usr/bin/gtk-window-decorator --replace
13322 pts/1 S 0:03 /usr/bin/compiz --indirect-rendering --replace gconf

Basically, however, what we now know is that there’s a bug in gnome-compiz-preferences that isn’t taking into account the /lib vs. /lib64 differentiation on x86_64/multilib systems. I’ll bug it if it hasn’t been done already.

Also note that the full bash command above isn’t necessary — one can just as easily symlink /usr/lib64/compiz to /usr/lib/compiz

[root@ramen ~]# cd /usr/lib
[root@ramen lib]# ln -s /usr/lib64/compiz compiz

bz #388511. Also, I realised although I did have the wobbly windows plugin loaded, I missed it in the most obvious place — in the gnome-compiz-preferences UI itself. Seems just fine now.

Tags: , , , , , , — cswiii @ 11:29 am


New Direction Home*

I am considering changing the name, look, and/or focus of my weblog. Hopefully it will allow me regain some of that ability to write that has atrophied over the last 5-7 years or so.

Besides, “It’ll Hurt if I Swallow” was funny then, but that, bundled with the Cibo Matto food quote, and the infamous habanero, is just too much a complex-yet-bland pun.

Alternately, I may start a new instance of WordPress and archive this one, or kind of partition my writing amongst them. Not sure yet. Nonetheless, my primary audience will still be myself.

* No, that won’t be the title.

Tags: , — cswiii @ 12:21 am


Tempting the F8s

I’m usually kind of hesitant to upgrade Fedora releases immediately after the come out… I like to make sure most of the bugs are ironed out so that I don’t hose something. However, I simply couldn’t resist this time, and over a span of 24 hours, I upgraded both my home-built desktop and T43 laptop from F7 to F8.

Now, being an Xfce user (for the time being anyway), I don’t get to experience a lot of the bells and whistles arriving in F8, such as pulseaudio and the neato changing background stuff that Máirín worked on. However, I was interested in doing the install from a pure usability standpoint. A linux user since 1996, a jack of all trades but master of none, I am always interested to see how thing improve/regress from the perspective of someone who’s neither n00b nor r00t..

As always, there is good, bad and ugly. Generally speaking, the upgrade went quite well — albeit i took a path slightly less traveled, opting to take a stab at it with smart, versus yum. But anyway, I did run into the same --noscripts (resolvable) issue as dgoodwin, as well as some other packages — so that’s something that definitely should be added to the FedoraFaq wiki. Also, it seems that the f8 kernel gets installed, but never makes its way into grub.conf — odd, and I now know I’m not the only one to have seen this. Anyway uninstalling it and reinstalling seems to be the easiest fix.

Generally speaking though, it didn’t seem like I had a lot of problems… home system upgraded like a champ… then hit the laptop… rebooted…

… and then I was stymied and still am. After rebooting, my monitor begins to display a message about the frequencies being out of range. WTF? Worse still, it seems that to get any working resolutions at all on my laptop display that are above 1024×768, i have no options other than widescreen-esque ratios. Attempting to fix these issues with system-config-display was a futile effort for two reasons — one, because every time I tried to change the monitor setting, it would say it was saved, but actually wouldn’t… and then when I jerry-rigged the xorg.conf to give me the resolution i wanted, X still wouldn’t cooperate — either causing my monitor to display the frequency error again, or popping up in the right resolution — say, 1280×1024 — for a brief moment before resetting to something odd like 1280×768.

I still don’t know what is/was causing it, but later on I noticed that I didn’t get it in GNOME, or KDE… only in Xfce — but I don’t know WTF the window manager would have to do with changing the resolution.

Anyway, after seeing that, I went kamikaze on my dot-setting directories, figuring I could just wipe everything out and get it to work — and that did indeed do the trick, albeit at the expense of some of my desktop settings. That said, I’m still not at all convinced that things are quite right with my Xserver.

Oh, and due in part to all of this — and in part to all the cool new GNOME stuff — i considered switching back to GNOME, if only for a time, as an alternative to a busted resolution. However, trying to make my first changes or two and getting segfaults all over the place with gnome-appearance-properties, i changed my mind pretty quickly. Maybe this will get cleared up (out there|on my box) eventually and I can reevaluate.

Generally speaking, though, I was pretty happy with the install experience — I just for the life of me can’t figure out what the hell is/was going wrong on the X end of things.

Update: Well, I noticed that livna once again (and most conveniently) has fglrx drivers. I know there had been issues in the past few months, and I am not sure when they finally fixed that — but in any case, i installed them, and my issue seems to have resolved itself. The plot thickens…

Tags: , , , , , , , — cswiii @ 1:36 am