OK, now we might be OK again

I thought everything was back under control but it appears that there was a misunderstanding between myself and my web hosting provider.  My provider went way above expectations in trying to help me out when Dili-gence disappeared off the TL internet map but somewhere along the line, he got the DNS messed up.

It is normal for there to be 2 DNS servers for a domain which provide the translation from “wombathole.com” to an IP address.  Somewhere along the line, he had one pointing to the old server and one to the new.  So sometimes I could post (to the new) and sometimes I couldn’t – depended on whichever server I got.

When a reader pointed this out to me, I asked the provider to fix it and clearly asked him to shift the web site to the new server where my posts were going.  I really meant point both DNS servers to the new server.  So he copied the contents of the old server to the new and I lost quite a few posts.  I have put them back but lost a few readers comments along the way.

It has been a bad 2 or 3 weeks for the technical background stuff.

“I’m back” says the Bloginator

Yesterday may have been “Restoration of Independence Day” here but for Dili-gence, it was Restoration of Internet Day.  Dili-gence is now visible in TL again after about 2 weeks in the barbed-wire canoe.  It sometimes pays to be a surly curmudgeon or at least know someone who is.

Prepare for a brain-dump of the last 2 weeks of interrupted activity.  I know there must be something in there.

The bad week has now ended

I believe I have almost recovered from the expired credit card saga.  Not that a credit card is particularly useful here, but if you have a few automatic deductions going through your card and it expires and due to a delivery error, the replacement card is returned and destroyed, and you start getting notifications suggesting that automatic payments are failing, well …

And then you have all this trouble re. this website not being visible to local internet users – need I say more in this post.  I think I am making headway on this one.

And you cop a bad prawn at a local restaurant on the weekend thus resulting in “enjoying oneself in reverse”, mercifully in the ablution facilities at home.

And you also hurt your back by tripping over while running thus making lying down an ineffective vector for cutting edge relaxation.  Well, its over.

I am popping an ibuprofen and am going to stack a few zeds tonight prior to tomorrow’s cultural extravaganza in front of the Palacio do Governo.  Military parade and flag raising at 9am.  Cultural activities during the day.  More military parade and flag lowering at 5pm and fireworks at 8:30pm down at Cristo Rei.   Monty Python here we come.

Open letter to dorks at Timor Telecom

One of my readers has brought this issue to my attention and it possibly explains why Dili-gence is invisible to Timor Telecom customers.  Apparently, this issue is not uncommon but it just requires “keeping up-to-date” with the state of play on internet IP address allocation.  Not surprisingly, this is what ISPs are meant to be good at.

In plain English, all visible computers on the internet have a unique number (ie IP address) which identifies that computer.  The hardware that shovels around messages on the internet (called routers) generally know where they need to send stuff based on these numbers.   When the numbering system was first set-up years ago, no-one could have predicted the massive growth in demand for numbers.  However, the people that defined the numbers had left a block of numbers as “reserved” for other uses.

Once the available numbers became scarce, the boys decided to release some of the reserved numbers.  Before then, the routers only needed to know about shovelling around data for the known available set of numbers.  When the “reserved” numbers were released, routers needed to be re-configured to recognise these additional numbers.  If you don’t do that, those new numbers remain unknown and internet traffic for those addresses goes nowhere.

Please refer to the following web sites :

For a general technical commentary, http://www.team-cymru.org/Services/Bogons/
For the timeline of release of new numbers, http://www.cymru.com/Documents/bogon-list.html

TT, could you please refer to the list of numbers in the “Bogon List” and re-configure your routers accordingly.  The IP address of Dili-gence was changed to an address in a range released on 27 March 2007.  I am happy to come over and do it for you.  A slab of Sagres Preta will do fine.

If you do not do so, you may be breaking a contractual obligation with your customers.

Is this OK, JH ?

Dili-gence down – Timor only

I have had a very confusing week.  Dili-gence is not visible through any customer connected through Timor Telecom.  But for everyone else, it is fine.  A series of coincidences certainly confused me.

Firstly, my regular credit card payments to my hosting provider ceased because my credit card has expired.  So when the first problems started, I put them down to the provider shafting me.  Then I discover that coincidentally, my provider had shifted dili-gence to a new server at around the same time, so assumed that must be the problem.  Then I have an email trade with the provider and resolve the credit card issue but I am told there has been no downgrading in my service at all and as far as they are concerned, my site is running fine.

I check with people out of the country.  Yep all is well out there.  I still get people constantly telling me they can’t see dili-gence from here in Dili.  I check IP addresses in case it is an IP address issue.  No, both TT customers and others report the same IP address.  If the IP address had changed a week ago (with the server change), it should have filtered through the DNS system within 24 hours and obviously did.

What can I conclude but either TT is blocking the site,  or their web page caching server is stuffed and needs re-starting.  I can’t think of anything else.  I can’t believe the first option is the case as I doubt TT have the skills to do it.  Stuffing up a caching server configuration makes more sense to me.

So if you are wondering how some people can access it here, there are a number of organisations who are permitted to bypass TT, such as the UN, World Bank,  ADB, embassies, country-based aid organisations and the odd grey market connection is being in slipped in.  I even recall the government office that had internet supplied via an informal cable strung over a fence from a rather large organisation.

Web hosting problems

I am not sure how long Dili-gence will be alive on the web as I have a problem with making payments to my web hosting provider.  I am a bit out of the loop with regard to just how one gets a new credit card delivered these days.

My credit card expires May 2008 and I am waiting for the new one.  About 3 weeks ago, I faxed a confirmation to OZ confirming that I do indeed live out of the country and yes, it is OK to deliver it overseas.  Since then, nothing.  I am not sure what I am meant to do next but nothing has happened and until I get my credit card with the magical numbers on the back, I can’t make my web hosting provider payment.

I have now received an email saying my web hosting subscription is cancelled but Dili-gence is still there/here.  I have emailed a grovelling reply but am stuck until Monday when I guess I will have to call OZ to work it all out.

These are just some of the things that can make life quite frustrating living here.  Boy, am I looking forward to the $50 worth of phone calls to sort it out.

On top of all that, I have been having trouble posting most of this week and my theory is that the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 via Windows Update on Tuesday has meant any PCs connected to the internet with Automatic Updates set to on, will be downloading furiously.  Thus grinding some parts of the internet to a halt.  Well, its my theory.

Kazakhstan here we come

Actually, Borat had it good. Reading the Timor Telecom phone book cover to cover reminded me about internet charges here.

There is no unlimited dial-up plan here so it is difficult to make a dial-up comparison between TL and Kazakhstan. I figured that a modest low-end permanent 256kbps connection would still be something that people in western countries could at least comprehend. Fortunately this comparison was easy. I even added in Afghanistan and Australia to the mix. The results (which may not include some other charges like installation fee) follow :

Monthly charge for 256kbps permanent connection (unlimited traffic)
Timor-Leste $1750
Kazakhstan $1057
Afghanistan $350
Australia $35 to 40

I struggled to find a figure for unlimited dial-up in Kazakhstan but an article from mid-2007 suggested USD111 per month (ie 720 hours). If you are on the heavy-user dial-up plan here, you will get about 40 hours for your USD111.

On a related matter, I cringe every time I see or hear someone refer to “broadband” internet in reference to internet access here and when I do, I nearly always correct them to say “permanent internet connection”. A 128 kbps connection shared between even 5 users in an internet cafe is not broadband. These days, most of the internet cafes have moved to 256kbps but unless there is no more than a handful of users, it is often pathetic particularly when compared to the modestly priced home internet connection I had before coming here (ie factor of 10).

I know I am being a pedant, but a simple search of online “TV” re-broadcasting over the internet shows streaming speeds of over 256kbps are the most common. I refer you to JLC’s Internet TV free internet TV listing.

A look back at a post I did nearly 2 years ago suggests that Timor Telecom tariffs have not moved 1 cent since then. I guess I should “churn” to a competitor. Hey, wait a minute … there isn’t one.

Bedtime reading – the telephone directory

I managed to get my hands on the new Timor-Leste telephone directory for 2007-2008. It was released on 4 December 2007. There was a previous one but I only occasionally got my hands on it. The new one is slightly smaller than B5 size (170×240 mm) and is about 5 mm thick. It is in both Portuguese and English and runs to 156 pages. I read it as bedtime reading in one go.

The breakdown is :

  • Commercial yellow pages section organised by business type … 34 pages
  • White pages section organised alphabetically (and repeating many of the yellow page entries) … 30 pages, including 4 pages of government phone numbers at the start and repeated again in the alphabetic section
  • Preliminary guff on Timor Telecom services, how to make phone calls, tariffs, international phone number prefixes etc. … runs to 94 pages
  • The Dili section of the white pages runs to 20 pages and seems to include every number assigned to large organisations who probably pump most of them into their pabx systems. Other numbers associated with these larger entities are probably staff houses. Its all there.

I am not sure if unlisted numbers are an option and I suspect a number of people will be clamouring to get rid of their listing.

Rather than do a sudoku puzzle, I counted the number of unique organisations/people in the Dili white pages section and it came to 848. If one takes into account the total number of phone lines, the figure is probably around 1200. Most people use mobile phones and I would think the number of mobiles is at least a couple of thousand.

There are no entries for any of the major political figures here.

This is probably the only time in my life I will have read and summarised the entire phone book as bedtime reading in one hit. Yes I know … get a life.

Phillip Adams on TL via Radio OZ

A well-known and sometimes polarising OZ journo, Phillip Adams, has spent 2 weeks here in TL doing research and interviews for a forthcoming radio documentary on his “Late Night Live” program on OZ Radio National. This will also be broadcast on Radio Australia and no doubt will be downloadable from the Radio National or Radio Australia websites.

For those in Dili, listen in to local Radio OZ FM at 8pm on Monday 22 October.
As a teaser, you might like to read the blog of his 2 week experience which can be found at www.latenightlivetimor.net

Phil has a long career which includes being a producer of one of the Barry McKenzie movies in the 70s – a big tick from me.  I suppose he would see himself as a social commentator these days.

Being an ex-resident of the Hotel Dili, I pooh-pooh his 1-star hotel rating. OK, he got one of the smaller rooms and not one with a spa bath but he must be living high on the hog these days.