The Whine List: Cold Weather, Cold Food and Cold Apps

Note: This is one of my travelog posts with little OpenNMS content.

I like Chicago. I think it gets a bad rep in comparisons with New York and San Francisco, but I almost always enjoy my trips here. This may come as a surprise to many, since this is the eighth year in a row I’ve spent a week in Chicago in December, and I must admit the fact I like the city has a lot to do with being here other times during the year (we have a large number of clients in the area).

It’s cold here. As I write this it is 2F (-17C). This is actually an improvement over earlier this week where, while it was warmer, there was constant sleet/snow/rain. On Tuesday when I was walking back to the hotel, the 40 mph winds coming off the lake combined with pellets of sleet that could quite literally flay the skin off your face. Luckily, I have the world’s best travel umbrella, which acquitted itself quite well. Since the wind caused the sleet to hit you horizontally, I just held the umbrella up in front of my face to block most of it, with the occasional peek around it to make sure I didn’t walk into anything or anybody. The wind was so strong that it reduced the umbrella into a cone with a base about 10 inches wide, but it didn’t fail or invert and it got me back to the hotel with my face intact.

Compared to yesterday, that was a pleasant experience.

As my three readers know, I recently bought an iPhone. This trip has been my first chance to really use it and I am quite pleased. While the voice quality is just okay and the camera isn’t very good at all, as an overall communications device it works quite well. I am at a long time customer that happens to be a bank and as such their network is very locked down. Usually I am completely cut off from e-mail and IM, but with the iPhone I can easily keep in touch. The AT&T 3G network has been very responsive (I’m on the third floor of the building next to a window) and the intuitive interface of the phone makes using it a breeze. Battery life has been good – lasting the entire day even with a Woot-Off in progress.

And at least it hasn’t driven me to run over it with a truck, like my friend with the Droid. (grin)

One thing I didn’t understand about the phone were these new “push” notifications, and I’m still not sure I understand them completely. On the iPhone OS, third-party apps are not allowed to run in the background. Thus when using, say, an instant messenger application, you have to keep it in the foreground in order to know that someone has sent you a message. I was using an app called “IM+ lite” by Shape Services and I was bragging that I could stay connected even with it in the background since it supports push notifications and a little pop-up would appear when there was a new message for me to read.

It didn’t dawn on me that the only way that could work is if some third party server was acting as the client by connecting to my Jabber server as me. Since the IM+ app wasn’t in the foreground, there is no way for it to maintain a connection to the server to know that new messages were waiting, so there had to be another method for it to “know” there was a message waiting.

This really pissed me off.

As I have mentioned many times before, I am somewhat of a security nut. We have a Jabber server just for internal communication that a) we control and b) we require SSL connections throughout. Thus I feel really safe when using IM.

What pissed me off was that nowhere in the documentation for IM+ does it mention that some company in Germany is going to receive your credentials in the clear and then masquerade as you on your server – giving them access to your contact list as well as being able to log your conversations. I verified that, indeed, a server using the IP address (which puts it in Berlin) was connected to my Jabber instance.

I was more pissed at myself for not being more careful, but still – I was under the impression that German law required companies to be quite clear about the information they collect over the Internet and how that information is used, but apparently that doesn’t apply to Shape Services. I am paranoid enough not to use my Jabber login as the admin login, so all I had to do was change my password, but still I was angry.

Be very careful when using push notifications on the iPhone.

I have since switched to the Jabber app from OneTeam, and I hope that push support comes to Openfire soon.

But no worries – I figured last night would make me forget all about it since that was our annual pilgrimage to Shaw’s Crab House. I have always loved Shaw’s – nice atmosphere, great service and good food.

To quote the Princess Bride, I have got to get used to disappointment.

To start with we ended up getting seated very close to a large round table full of about eight men and, oddly enough, just one woman. The guy closest to me must have been six and a half feet tall and over 300 pounds, and he was very drunk. This caused him to repeatedly get out of his chair, and since we were about an inch apart it would slam into mine. He would slur an apology but manage to do it again later.

Now the restaurant really doesn’t have too much control over that, but they do have control over the wait staff, which seemed uninformed and not very responsive. Our order of a dozen oysters took over 40 minutes to arrive. This was followed by our main courses, even though two of us had ordered a cup of lobster bisque that should have been served before the mains.

I love the bisque, but it was not to be.

Perhaps because of the delay on the oysters my scallops came out at room temperature. They were perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of caramelization, but just not hot. I ate about half of them before complaining to the table, and my dinnermates suggested that I mention it to the waitress. I did, and she offered to take them back and heat them up, but I resisted. Heck, this is a nice, expensive restaurant and they should be able to deliver food right the first time, and “heating things up” is what I do with leftovers when I get home.

When I said “no, that’s okay”, she got real snippy and said “well, why did you bring it up if you didn’t want me to do anything about it?” So like a punk I let her take my plate and 20 minutes later my scallops returned on a different, heated plate, ever so slightly warmer. By this time I wasn’t hungry anymore.

I blame myself – I should have asked to have our table moved away from the large, drunk guy. I should have replied to the waitress “well, I was hoping you could have suggested something other than heating up my poorly delivered meal, perhaps the manager can suggest something? Will you get him for me?” but I didn’t do any of these things.

I’ve noticed that a lot of unhappiness in this world doesn’t come from bad things happening to people, but from unmet expectations. I was expecting the excellent service and great food I have experienced at Shaw’s in the past, and they under-delivered (in all fairness I should point out that they did comp two desserts because of the missed bisque). I might have been able to mitigate the situation by talking with the manager, but I didn’t, which just deepened my mood even more.

Whenever I experience a bad service situation, I do try to learn from it. I’m going to have to think of ways within our own business when dealing with OpenNMS support to make sure expectations are properly set, and to encourage people to complain to management (i.e. me) if they aren’t. If I have an unhappy client I will do my best to set things right, but I have to know they are unhappy first.

Next time I’m in Chicago I’m eating at Vong’s due to this experience at Shaw’s.

I hope none of our OpenNMS clients feel the same way about us.

3 thoughts on “The Whine List: Cold Weather, Cold Food and Cold Apps

  1. Hey Tarus,
    Reader #2 here. Moving from a windows mobile device to the Droid has been nothing but sunshine for me. No experience with the iphone so I can’t compare, but I’m really digging it. We moved from LA to Asheville and I have no att connectivity at the house so the Droid is really my only choice. In any case presumably you wouldn’t have proxy issues on the Droid cause it will multi task…

    Keep up the blog entries. Sorry your scallops were cold!


  2. Asheville?!? w00t! You’ll have to come visit us in Pittsboro, or perhaps we can meet halfway.

    I had to get the AT&T microcell for it to work at my house, but so far so good.

    And I was just whining about the scallops. It was obviously much more than just lukewarm food. I’m ready for the holiday break.

    Good to see you in God’s Own Earth (North Carolina)

  3. “I’ve noticed that a lot of unhappiness in this world doesn’t come from bad things happening to people, but from unmet expectations” – Well said.

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