Red Lipstick on White Fabric

Posted on Sun 11 November 2018 • Tagged with Memories

I let my thoughts drift. My mind wanders to an old memory. It is a piece of white cloth with a red stain on it. The stain is not fresh but slightly faded, someone has tried to remove it with washing powder but it didn’t entirely work.

It was the day before carnival at school and I spent the evening chatting with M who had been a friend for 2-3 years at this point. We exchanged messages via ICQ - which was the messaging service of choice in my circle of friends back then. I didn’t like the thought of dressing up and was generally grumpy. I have not been a fan of costumes since elementary school but I don’t remember what soured the fun in dressing up. Bets are either the feeling of carnival being childish and immature or the dislike of the drunk masses during the gatherings in town.

M mentioned that she would be going as a vampire. Truth be told I was probably into her back then. I certainly remember making advances towards her and being rejected at some point; but I cannot figure out if that was the same year. As much as it pains me to admit, the years from school are blurry and I’m having trouble remembering whom exactly I liked at which moment. It’s not always so clean cut during puberty, as you might have experienced yourself.

I sensed the opportunity to blend in a little easier with folks in school while not being entirely dressed up and suggest that, should she go as vampire I might be the victim of her bite, with some blood, stains and all.

I’m not sure whether I asked M to wear red lipstick that day. My mind might have added that detail in hindsight to make the memory livelier. I asked my mother in the morning to help me with some of her makeup, to make a more convincing vampire victim - the usual things but not going over the top. So we stick to the kiss mouth painted on with lipstick and use a little bit of eyeliner for a different colored red. We could’ve gone for some ghoulish smokey eyes effect, I realize now.

M and I had a lot of fun parading around at school, with all the usual jokes you do on carnival. At least that’s what I prefer to think, given that I lack any detailed memories here. I would be willing to bet there were krapfen at some point and I believe I messed up my white hoodie with the jam from the krapfen. When undressing I smeared some of the lipstick to the collar of the white hoodie. Mum was never able to get it perfectly white again and asked me multiple times to give it away or discard it but I kept it for years, the stain a reminder of a nice memory.


Scenes of music: Only My Railgun (Original Version)

Posted on Tue 30 October 2018 • Tagged with Scenes of music

Song: Only My Railgun

You arrive late to the concert. It’s not really your style, but nevertheless you look forward to enjoying it, having been handed free tickets from a friend. You enter the club located near the exterior hull of the space station, where rent is cheap and gravitation is low enough for many to feel uneasy. The unfamiliar music with synths and Japanese voiceovers is already playing. When you open the door, bright neon lights flash and you see the mob jumping in ecstasy. They cheer to the music filling their lives with joy apart from the dreary daily life. You’re a bit sad that the voice is from an android proxy performer. Certainly you didn’t expect them to show up personally on a mining station that remote?

You ease into the beat of the music and move with the rest of the crowd, forgetting your calling for the moment and focus on the beat driving you forward. You haven’t felt this energetic for the whole week and hope it lasts to get you through the rest of this assignment so you can return to your clan where you’ll be surrounded by familiar faces once more.


This is the first scene that I wrote to accompany a piece of music. The idea came up during a session of writing music recommendations that didn’t go as well as they usually do, so I tried to mix things up a bit. I asked the participants to give me one song each and I wrote a little flavor text to go with them. This one was inspired by The Expanse, both the novels and the TV series.

Requested by Xeha North.


Reading recommendations (2018-09-29)

Posted on Sat 29 September 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

I’m writing this while I’m still on sick leave, so not terribly talkative or inspired. I played a lot more Assassin’s Creed 3 since I blew through the most interesting content in the latest Final Fantasy XIV patch in just two evenings. I even got around to reading the next book from The Expanse, which - I now know thanks to iOS 12’s “Screen Time”, took me about 14 hours.


Reading recommendations (2018-09-05)

Posted on Wed 05 September 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

I’ve been very active in the Discord belonging to my MMO group lately, including hosting a choose-your-own-adventure style game that’s held regularly. It’s a very fun exercise for me to come up with entertaining texts fitting a scenario as well as the input of the players. I imagine this is a bit like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with close to no rules. It’s been a joyous experience so far and I want to keep this up to keep my writing in shape for a good while.

I might even consider asking the players if it is alright to publish the full story after it has come to a close.

On the tech side I find myself shifting more and more away from Vagrant and towards Docker, having gone so far as to remove the VirtualBox layer between my Windows instance and the Docker I’m using to publish this site. Using docker-compose has allowed this to be a lot more comfortable. I had not used docker-compose before but got into it recently.

I’m currently working with a rather complex Docker container at work and find myself needing to customize various things. Using docker-compose instead of listing dozens of command line parameters when starting the container has made this easier. I remembered the simplicity of docker-compose when I got annoyed by specifying and remembering all the options. A while ago, a colleague had showed me project using docker-compose but I didn’t see its usefulness - especially when moving between the different OSs - back then. Having worked with the tool myself now, I can definitely see how it’s going to simplify my setup.


Reading recommendations (2018-09-01)

Posted on Sat 01 September 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

I find that I want to spend more time writing and am inspired by Matt Gemmell to publish more personal piece as well as shorter articles as well. Quantity doesn’t mean quality after all. To start this I’ve polished up my notes from Rome and published them as an article. Aside from that, I’m still battling with my Internet provider, trying to find a good balance between sleeping, working and leisure time and finally getting some more things for the new apartment.


Rome 2018 (BSides Roma & Sightseeing)

Posted on Thu 30 August 2018 • Tagged with Journeys

Back when I was traveling to Rome with my dad in January I took some notes and sent them as an informal German newsletter to a couple of friends and family. Since I thought there are quite some good moments in there, mixed with scenes that I’m sure will make you chuckle, I thought I’d polish this up a bit and finally publish the piece. Additionally, I added some context where appropriate and some more humor for flavor.

From Roma. To Roma. In Roma. Doesn’t matter, really.

Day Zero

We’re going there by airplane via Vienna. Immediately when dad picks me up in Graz with his car, I get both an e-mail as well as a text message that our flight will be delayed. As we arrive at the airport, so arrives notification #2 about a further delay. We sit down for breakfast and another delay arises. Two hours pass. Nothing special to report from the flight. Eurowings has you pay even for snacks, but I’m not that starved. And I can’t see myself wasting money on something so terrible anyway, considering an experience from a previous flight.

After we arrive at Fuimicino, we wait for the bus - which is also delayed but that delay is not announced. Rather, we idle outside and I’m freezing and shivering. Not that it would surprise anyone, I’m cold all the time.

Then the bus takes us to the central train station. Dad wants to take a cab from there to the hotel. The driver intends to bill us 25€ for one kilometer and refuses to write a receipt (I wonder why…), so dad and me walk to the hotel. He’s a bit sick and has quite a heavy suitcase with him. I, uhm, well, I am reminded of walking with my (former) girlfriend, who also always seems slow to me. That is unexpected and I mention it to my dad. He replies: “well, I am getting old, you know”. I don’t reply since I’m not sure whether there’s a good answer to that.

It is evening when we arrive at the hotel. The room is tiny. No, not what you’re thinking. It’s still tinier. The electronic safe has a malfunction. We point that out and are relocated to another room. That one is - at least in my opinion - even smaller but the safe works. But we manage to damage the light switch which gets stuck in the socket. Our patience for pointing out issues has run dry for one day and by the next day the problem has resolved itself. I assume the cleaning crew noticed and got it fixed.

Dad wants to take a shower before bed. There’s no hot water - lukewarm is the best the shower gives you. Hot water is only available in the morning. This repeats on several evenings, leading me to suspect that the hotel is only heating the water in the night hours.

We have dinner, with tiramisu. I like tiramisu a lot.

On the way to bed I notice that Italy uses different power plugs than Austria and I get a really bad feeling since we’re planning to rely on Google Maps on my phone for navigating public transport thanks to @viticci‘s assurance that this works well for Rome. Later, I realize that I can use the plug of my iPhone but not the one of my iPad, which is bad because it dramatically reduces my potential maximum reading time. Read: I cannot charge and read at the same time.

Day One

The next morning I wake up after little sleep and a lot of reading. No, I’m not looking for your sympathy, that’s okay. I’m not looking for your understanding either.

Breakfast provided by the hotel has cake, toast with jam, orange juice, coffee and tea. I can’t talk about the toast but the rest was between okay and terrible. So much for “breakfast included”. Nah, thank you, I’m good. (For context: I had argued that we don’t need a hotel with breakfast included since I tend not to have breakfast and suggested grabbing something at food carts)

View of city walls, taking from a bus stop we frequently used, Rome

Since we have some time left before our scheduled visit of the coliseum (pre-booked online to save queuing time) we get ourselves public transport tickets which are valid for a whole week. Well, after discussions with the clerks of various minor shops on where to get such a ticket. The answer is, unsurprisingly: the vending machine. (For context: That’s not how it works in my hometown where the vending machines provide only shorter durations) Then we go - heavily reliant on Google Maps and its awesome feature for navigating public transport - to Terme di Caracalla and enjoy the scenery. I am strongly reminded of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood which is good and a prime reason I wanted to go to Rome. It’s constantly raining, but only lightly.

Next is the coliseum. We take the metro there but are wondering if our ticket is actually valid for the subway (at the point of taking the notes I didn’t know; at the point of typing this I still don’t know), but a friendly man waves us through after seeing our confusion. The moment we arrive the rainstorm CARROT warned me about started. Some minutes later though, everything around the coliseum is empty and only a few tourists stream back in. We are checking it out using an audio guide. Yes, one audio guide. My hearing is good enough that I can listen to the one that my dad wears without stepping closer and I opt to just ignore the one I’m wearing. It’s a strange feeling listening to the German guide after opting for English in just about everything for years due to excessive Internet usage and being scarred by bad video game translations.

The coliseum is indeed massive and extremely impressive. Due to the small amount of people who have not escaped the rain it’s possible to take lots of great pictures without being trampled or having to hurry. Where there is usually a waiting time of several hours, we manage to pass through in about ten minutes, for two queues.

View inside the coliseum, from one of the lower floors down into the basement area, Rome

Afterwards we’re looking for nourishment. I suggest #1 from the Tripadvisor suggestions (or was it #7?). Dad wants to sit though and not eat street food. Given this sounds smart, I stop arguing. The alternative restaurant is… okay. The chocolate cake is extremely chocolatey. They serve neither fruit tea nor mint tea and I’m annoyed. Nevertheless we sit down again and have a second serving to escape the second rain this day.

The rest of the evening consists of long conversations and reading time. In hindsight it’s likely I read until the iPad ran out of battery.

Day Two

I spare myself another disappointment and skip breakfast. Dad comments on how miraculous a skill it is to be able to burn coffee.

We spend the morning visiting Forum Romanum which is again, very impressive with all the ruins and temple structures. It is amazing that they are so well preserved. We are taking many, many pictures. Dad is mostly taking video scenes of a few seconds each which he will compose into a longer movie at home. I’m the photo guy, capturing everything with my phone’s camera. I’m a little disappointed by the garden on top of the Palatin but that’s to be expected when visiting in January. It’s a pity, really. I have seen many trees in and around Rome that are already bearing oranges and lemons. There are also birds chirping, something that happens much later in Austria.

Panorama of ruins on top of Palatin, Rome

We spend our lunchtime at the train station. It’s okay. There’s Fanta Lemon which is an exceedingly great find and suddenly my world is whole. Next we ~~hippity~~- hop over to the Hop On Hop Off bus, or at least we try. Despite my advanced mastery of Google Maps we’re not able to find the bus stop and go for the next one. (Since the Internet isn’t too great a medium for relaying tone: yes, that was indeed sarcasm.) We manage that and are taking the red line. We’re passing many sights, for example the Castel Sant’Angelo and I’m not sure which ones we want to visit next. The bus has an open roof with a panorama deck and - as expected - I am cold for 1.5 hours. I’d still recommend the tour with audio guide, though.

Dad mentions how well we’re finding our way around with Google Maps. I respond that would also be possible in Austria if the companies behind our public transportation weren’t so hard-headed about opening their routes and schedules. The keyword here is open data.

The following days were part 2 of the newsletter.

Day Three

Tiber Island. It’s not as spectacular as expected. Might be because that’s where my video game used a lot of creative freedom to make it more interesting to the players. In the game, the headquarters of the assassins is located here. The island itself is smaller than I remembered from the game - there’s only place for some buildings that make up a hospital, one larger church and one or two trattorias. I make photos of the currently used bridges as well as the damaged ancient one.

Pantheon. “That’s the big round thing with the hole”, I say. I explain the scene featuring the pantheon from the game where you’re climbing in through the hole in the roof. The conversion of the temple to a church is fascinating and the scale of the building is incredible. I am distracted and my thoughts revolve around tiramisu to come but I’m still taking a lot of pictures.

Mr. 100 Tiramisu. After delicious lunch at a baguette store with fresh bread - that happens not be part of a franchise like Subway - we’re finally getting to the main part of this day. This shop has 100 different variations of tiramisu. The ingredients for the one I wanted are both no longer in stock (mint, strawberry). They have a tiramisu template and that one is garnished with fresh ingredients before your eyes. I order one with orange zest and dark chocolate… and another one with lemon zest, rosemary and honey. Both are excellent. Dad complains that his one was too sweet. I look at him, puzzled and try to imagine how anything can be too sweet. Despite my best attempts I fail to integrate this view into my world view and give up. I neglect to take pictures of dad’s tiramisu but since it has nuts, I can’t have been good anyway.

Tiramisu with orange zest and dark chocolate, beautifully arranged on a clean plate with a silver spoon.

I praise the tiramisu and talk with Mr. Tiramisu about Tripadvisor (we’re sadly losing a joke due to the translation since “via Tripadavisor” and “about Tripadvisor” use the same words in German). Have I mentioned that I like tiramisu?

In the evening we’re eating at Tempio di Minerva again. I get a stew, dad goes for the delicious tomato soup I had the day before. That one was superb and most definitely one of the culinary highlights of this journey. The waitress smiles and laughs when I order a soup after the main course, stating “A nice dessert, yes”.

Day Four

Already in the morning there’s trouble brewing since ATAC (the public transport provider) is on strike (which is a regular thing on Fridays as I’ve learned later). Due to this a lot of the buses aren’t on their usual routes and if they are, they are packed. They are so filled that it’s literally impossible to fall down due to your fellow humans propping you up. In my hometown that’s when I just use the next line or go by foot…

Castel Sant’Angelo, outside. We spot a signpost detailing the changes made to the castel through the centuries. I am trying to figure out which of the pictures resembles the model I know from the game most.

We’re moving on to St. Peter’s Square but due to lack of faith we’re neither entering the unending queues to visit the Vatican nor the Sixtine Chapel. Instead, we head for the museum about Leonardo da Vinci. In their exposition, there are pieces known from the game like the parachute, the tank, the machine gun as well as multiple flying machines. Near St. Peter’s Square, we are having coffee and Coca Cola where the 0.5 liter bottle goes for 8€. Yes, there was actually a reason behind this. I think. Memory is a funny thing.

We walk into the Vatican’s area, though we are not strictly inside the walled off area. Technically we have a sandwich in the Vatican but it’s bland and I disagree with the decision of exchanging flavor for more sightseeing time.

Castel Sant’Angelo, inside. The whole building and the surrounding walls are extremely impressive. I remember a lot of stories from the whole Assassin’s Creed series and tell them to dad, whether he wants to hear them or not. We’re at the terrace on the roof and I take some panorama pictures. The place is awe-inspiring but we’re not going for the audio guide this time around.

View from the Castel Sant'Angelo down onto the Ponte Sant'Angelo, reminiscent of a famous scene from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

We have bad luck on the way back from the castel. Really bad luck. Due to the strike the bus is very late and extremely packed. I’m talking so packed that I cannot stand straight in there and I can only manage to grab something not to fall over while bending in pain. I would’ve exited immediately, that’s something I have to admit. Dad wants to go by bus. I would’ve preferred an eternity of walking to sharing basically no space at all with strangers. Especially when you’re pressed to each other already.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant (because that’s what you go to Italy for, right?). While the restaurant looks closed from the outside… it also looks kind of shady on the inside. It’s very dark, often black or purple with low ambient lighting. The food is awesome though. Ginger tea. Gumbo (also known as lady’s fingers). Despite my anger about the effects of the ATAC strike and going by bus I judge this a good day. It’s interesting how much effect the last impression of a day has on the overall impression of a day.

Upon returning to our hotel room I have to smile given that the cleaning crew has arranged my stuffed elephant I have with me on the pillow to look at everyone coming in through the door. I think that’s a cute gesture.

Stuffed elephant sitting on a pillow

The following sections are written for publication and not based on notes from the trip.

Day Five

I get up and use the mytaxi app to call a cab which works perfectly. I arrive quite a bit early and talk with some of the BSides Roma organizers. They are stumped that someone made the long trip from Austria as they expected mostly locals to show up. I ask which of their presentations will be held in English since I saw that one had an Italian title on the schedule. They aren’t entirely sure. They say they will talk to the speakers and let me know that the global BSides community told them not to expect too many internationals at the first event.

So, of the 8 sessions, only 2 are held in English. If you’re about to ask me if I didn’t expect this: No, I didn’t. This was my 3rd or 4th BSides and the first one that had any non-English talks.

Feel free to skip this part if you’re not here for the tech.

I Bootkit non sono morti, il ritorno di Pitou!

I have a vague idea of what is in this talk. That is because while the talk is in Italian, all the slides are in English. I don’t understand why the talk isn’t in English if the slides are. The topic isn’t that interesting to me but it has some nice refreshers on concepts I have forgotten.

JS Deobfuscation with JStillery

The JS deobfuscation impresses me a lot, as I have never seen such a thing before. Entirely unreadable structure are translated into code that can be reverse engineered for analysis and threat detection. The presentation is in Italian but easily followed due to good slides and demonstrations.

Red Team techniques, or how to expand your empire in Active Directory Environment

I spend the majority of this talk in a nearby café talking with, well, someone I cannot find anymore on Twitter. Or in another form. I was sure they had a blog too but I cannot find that either.

Network Hacks for Smart Attacks

This is the first talk held in English. The presenter only decided in the morning that he would hold the talk in EN. I really wish I had taken notes during this since the topic of routing protocols is fascinating and leads to some understanding of large scale attacks.

Routing: “Basically it’s broken at the protocol level.” All three times. (from the talk)

Supply Chain Attack Through CCleaner – Evidence Aurora Operation Still Active

I wish I took notes. According to my tweet this is the second talk held in English but I don’t remember it matching my interests too much.

Building an Effective Info Sharing Community

I leave because I don’t expect the following talks to be in English and it has been a long and exhausting day due to trying hard not to fall asleep when you can’t understand most of the content that’s being presented to you.

Day Five (after BSides)

I decide to walk to the hotel, taking a long detour and hoping my phone battery doesn’t die from all the tweeting at BSides since I need it to find back. I still take some pictures of the city walls in the gentle evening sun and pass by the Ministero Difesa Aeronautica. There’s a striking monument on top of the building shaped like a bird spreading its wings. Dad and I spend the evening with dinner, me with a lasagna and him with a risotto. I declare that I don’t have any inclination for long conversations on this evening, having had to listen to people talking all day.

Day Six

We visit the Pyramid of Cestius - another remarkable landmark that I remember from Assassin’s Creed. I am sad that we cannot get a tour. We meet people who are taking a tour despite arriving there on a day not listed for public tours. In a show of my brain not working, I don’t get the idea of asking to pay right there and then and joining. I really want to see the inside but that isn’t enough to try and be spontaneous. I take pictures, we talk a bit about the historical background of the pyramid and move on.

The Capitoline Hill has a nice view and some spectacular buildings. While the buildings are fine, I spend quite some time taking shots of seagulls who are okay with you walking as close as one meter, some even looking at the camera. I am half expecting one to ask me for food if I continue taking photos without asking for permission first. We have lunch in the vicinity and I eat the most disappointing lasagna I ever had, deep-frozen ones included.

Seagull sitting on a waist-high wall, looking into the camera

Towards the evening, we visit the Spanish Steps and walk down to the Piazza di Spagna which is incredibly crowded. If you were to try and take a shot of the fountain in its middle, you couldn’t see anything on the image due to the crowds. The view on the steps is very nice, with more orange trees already bearing fruit in a fenced off area on the steps.

Orange trees in a fenced off area at the Spanish Steps, Rome

I suggest stopping at the Mausoleo di Augusto on the way back, but that one is undergoing renovation and not open for public.

Day Seven

On the way back, I make the usual paranoid InfoSec jokes about public phone charging stations and their security implications. Dad looks at me confused and I go back to reading my next novel. I am very pleased with the diverse food offers at Fuimicino airport and the journey back to Graz is without any disturbances.


Nighttime excursions

Posted on Wed 15 August 2018 • Tagged with Graz

It was late. It usually is, given I’m much more comfortable at night than during the day, when there is less noise. I was listening to music with my headphones on, deciding on some ideas for songs I wanted to recommend to friends. I remember it being a hot day - that was contributing to me not wanting to go to bed earlier.

Between the music, I heard a noise as if metal was clanging to metal. Suddenly I was wide awake, taking off my headphones as I’m often enough a cautious person. As I heard the chuckling it was clear to me what was happening.

I switched off the lights and closed the open and tilted windows. Then I waited a bit, looking out of the center window. It didn’t take long for a young man - probably in his teens - to appear and look in.

And I was looking out. I didn’t say anything and neither did he. I don’t think he expected anyone to be looking out of the window at 01:30 AM, when he had just climbed the scaffolding some construction workers had put up a few days before and looked through the window into the third floor.

After a moment he left. I didn’t sleep well that night. I’m not sure what to think. I have an apartment that’s not on the ground floor in order to prevent exactly this kind of situation from ever happening, but it still did. I don’t think he’ll return, but given this is a large city, others might get the same idea. I reckon this was a more of a dare or a drunk stunt than an attempted burglary.

I’ve been asked if I wasn’t afraid. Afraid? No. The thought that I might be in danger never entered my mind. It might’ve been the giggling that made this seem so harmless. I was a bit annoyed that the situation I had gone to extra lengths to avoid had still occurred. I was also surprised how far people are willing to go for an adrenaline kick.

I wonder though how it would’ve played out, had I taken a strong flashlight and pointed it towards the man.


Nighttime excursions is part 2 of From the inner city:

  1. The A1 Internet Odyssey
  2. Nighttime excursions

Reading recommendations (2018-08-13)

Posted on Mon 13 August 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

It’s been a while since the last post because I’m still busy handling all the paperwork that comes with changes in lifestyle. Meanwhile I’ve watched some new anime on Crunchyroll: Caligula, Phantom in the Twilight, How not to summon a demon lord, Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World and Bungo Stray Dogs. Of these, BSD and PitT were the truly great ones, whereas C felt like a plagiarized version of The World Ends With You. Not a bad thing, it just leaves a strange aftertaste.

I’ve also checked out Stories: Path of Destinies since I got it for free a while back and it’s fun. There could be a little more depth to it since I unlocked the true ending in 8 hours while still missing more than 2/3 of the other dead ends.


The A1 Internet Odyssey

Posted on Sat 14 July 2018 • Tagged with Graz

Let’s start with some context. I have moved recently. After a period of searching I have found an apartment that I liked and that was within my budget. Fast forward a bit to the point after I had moved in and was in the process of organizing an Internet connection. That’s how I arrived at this post.

Update: 2018-08-07 - added new information, updated timeline, added table
Update: 2018-08-17 - added new information, updated timeline
Update: 2018-09-13 - added new information, updated timeline, added PDFs, added conversations with customer service (German), added table of contents

Table of Contents generated with DocToc

Intel gathering

I called UPC since I had a running contract there for the previous apartment. I was excited to order their 125Mb/s package for ~ €31/month. Sadly, the helpful operator told me that this is not available at the specified address. I was floored, but after a short time of sulking I was reconsidering my options.

A1 – a fusion of a mobile phone provider and one of our oldest Internet service providers in Austria – had a tempting offer. Theoretical 150Mb/s using both DSL (which goes to a maximum of about 40Mb/s via telephone cable) augmented by LTE, in the same box, using a technique called Bonding which is also used for servers. My first encounter with it was when reading about the networking that is done for the yearly CCC meetings in Germany. This offer is for ~ €60/month though. Considerably harder to argue, but still tempting.

Contract signing

It happens that I ventured to one of their stores on Saturday to sign the contract. For reasons I’ll explain later, that might not have been the best idea. I was told that I’ll receive a box with everything I need to set up the connection myself within 3 working days. With that said and the contract in my bag, I left. What was strange though was the employee’s reaction upon me asking the following question: “What do I do if I am not satisfied with the quality of the product? What do I do if it doesn’t work?” He looked at my as if I was an alien. Apparently their equipment and network not living up to the full expectation of the customer is not part of the training the shopkeepers receive. Or is it and I didn’t realize?

Installation

Of course, if a company says “It will be there after 3 working days” what they really mean is “There’s a slight chance that it will be there after 3 working days, but 5 is more likely”. After the postman woke me up in the morning I opened the package, connected everything, waited the recommended amount of time and nothing. So, I called the support hotline even though I strongly dislike calling support for any reason. After a bit of to and fro the person on the other side of the line said “but you had a technician connect the line for you”.
My answer: “No.”
Him: “But it says here that an appointment for the technician was arranged for [date 3 days in the past], that he was there and everything was handled properly.”
Me: “I assure you, I had no appointment and nobody was ever at my place. Your colleague in the shop also failed to mention that I need an appointment for a technician.”
Him: “Alright, please stay on the line, I need to clear this internally.”

After some waiting time, he assured me that a technician would contact me for an appointment. I got a call in the afternoon and we fixed an appointment for the morning of the next day.

The next day, the technician arrived, did their job in a few minutes and left. Again, I waited for a while and then tried if I had a connection. I had working Internet! However, I was far from the theoretical 150 Mb/s I paid for, getting only ~ 35 Mb/s. That is less than the physical limit of the DSL connection (that being around 40-42 Mb/s according to my research), never mind the possible augmentation through LTE.

Since I didn’t get the full speed I paid for even after an hour of waiting, I called support again. They told me that the modem needs about 24 hours of searching for cellphone towers to be properly configured. To be honest, this came with an immediate feeling of disbelief to me. I mean, this is based on cellphone technology and we surely don’t need to wait a full day before we can use our mobile Internet connection after moving a few kilometers. However, I was running out of time as well as patience and went to work. On the way there I checked my postbox and found an advertisement by UPC which offers great cheap Internet, except that they didn’t offer the product on the flyer at my address so I felt just a little taunted. Just a lil’.

However, I didn’t have time to look into this after 24 hours because by then I was traveling.

The Waiting Game

So, rather, I gave it more than 48 hours and checked upon returning on Sunday. Of course, no significant changes had happened. I called support and the technician ran tests, then acknowledged there was a problem. She understood that I would be paying too much for the performance provided and wanted to send me an antenna which functions as accessory for the device to improve cellphone reception. However, A1 had internal IT issues on that weekend. She asked me to call again the next day and ask to specifically be connected to her so I wouldn’t have to explain the issue another time. What she, for some reason, didn’t realize is that with their system it is technically impossible to reach a certain individual inside their support group.

The next day, I did as told and called support asking for the technician in question. I was told that it’s not possible to connect me directly and they would leave a note for her to call me back.

After some time, I received a call from another person saying the technician in question was sick on that day and they would take over. I was told that yes, I did need an antenna and they could send it to me. It would take several days – to which I replied that I could just pick it up at the store since it’s nearby. I would not need to pay the €35 for shipping.

I headed over to the store. The customer representative told me that they had an antenna, but they could only send them via mail, else I would have to buy one and that would be €60. I was told I should call support again.

I returned home and called support again. Support assured me that the treatment I received was very unfortunate and they were working on it. They would call me back.

I received another call from support. They were still working on the issue and just wanted to let me know that I had not been forgotten. I would receive another call.

Meanwhile I found out that I would’ve been able to cut down the minimum contract length from the brazen 24 months to a mere 6 months had I told them that I was a student. I swore and felt another pang of buyer’s remorse.

Later, I did in fact receive another call. They told me that the antenna has already been deducted from my bill and it would cost those €35 in the store. They would not be billed but deducted from the overall bill instead. I still needed to get the antenna. I got a more detailed description of what I was to ask for at the store.

I ventured to the store again, hopeful of finally getting what I need to achieve the Internet performance I paid for. Another clerk told me they knew what I needed but they sold the last one mere minutes ago. I was getting frustrated at that point and lost my cool in the shop. After some very cynical remarks, I left and went home. The clerk had told me that there was no delivery with new antennas until the coming week.

Having arrived at home, I was on the phone with support again. That time, they apologized even more sincerely. The technician checked every avenue he could think of, even checking the inventories of surrounding stores whether any had antennas left. He was also out of antennas in their warehouse. I was told that I would have to wait until Wednesday the following week until they received new antennas. Starting from then it would take three more business days for the antenna to arrive at my place.

Now, if I were a cynical man, I’d suggest that this company is playing the long game hoping that I’m willing to stick with their bullshit until I can’t cancel the contract. However, the joke’s already on me because I signed the contract at their store, which means I don’t have the usual 14 days of cancellation rights you get when ordering online.

I was assured that A1 would arrange for an antenna for me since I have one of their most expensive consumer products. They would decide whether my payments might be reduced due to reduced service, but really it didn’t make a difference. I mean, all their products of this line cost the same amount during the initial 3 months phase.

Research & more calls

Understandably, my patience was wearing extremely thin at that point. I vented my frustration via chat to a friend. She did a bit of research and found out that T-Mobile, another mobile service provider, had a similar offer with the same theoretical speed for €15 less per month. I was even more frustrated and checkout out the product page. I considered canceling right then and there, but opened the customer chat instead. I received the following information.

  • no technician is necessary to switch if there already is a working DSL connection
  • no antenna is shipped with the device
  • they offer a testing phase which starts with the DSL connection
  • their product retrieves its configuration via LTE (whereas the A1 modem does so via DSL and disables its LTE completely without DSL as I have seen during testing)
  • they can cancel my service with another company for me
  • when I cancel such a contract, the service ends immediately but one still needs to pay the full sum of all remaining payments. (remainining_months * monthly_payments). From a customer’s point of view, this is insane. From any ISPs point of view, this is standard procedure. Can you tell I dislike ISPs and MSPs?

Angrily, I called another friend who has a background in law and asked for her opinion. She replied that there was little I could do. I needed to give the company the chance to fulfill the contract and wait. Then, if things did still not improve I could talk to them again about either completely canceling it or working out a possible downgrade to an option which is technically possible at my address.

Now I know why the sales rep at the store looked at me as if I were mad when I asked what to do in case I’m not satisfied. If this is how everyone’s experience with A1 is, I’m not sure they even have satisfied customers.

By the time of me publishing this, I have given them ample time to send me an antenna and nothing happened. So I’ll pester A1 again. Until they fix my Internet or openly admit that they can’t give me what I pay them for.

Update: 2018-08-06, more calls and no changes

In the afternoon of the same day I initially published this article, I had yet another phone call with support. They agreed to send me the external antenna and some cables.

Four days later I picked up the boxes at my local post office, went home, installed them and nothing. It should not even be technically possible, but connecting the antenna changed nothing at all. So I called support again, had them provide instructions, checked the box. We did the remote measurements again, I took more notes and detailed measurements. At least in the second call, since the first one abruptly ended. Then, I was told that “yes, measuring via a WLAN device versus a cable connected device makes a difference” which annoys me since I had several dozen measurements that prove that it hardly makes one. However, I agreed and the difference in speed was negligible (around 5 Mb/s when I’m about ten times that amount).

Additionally, their competitor just so happened to mail me a survey about satisfaction with mobile phone providers the same day. I love how cynical all of this is without me twisting something to fit the narrative.

After which they told me that this is all they can do. Then they found out there’s a damaged cellphone tower in my vicinity and argue this might be the problem. I inquired since when the tower has been damaged and after I got a day, I informed them that my problem has been going back a lot longer, so that is not the issue.

I was enraged and the next day I called the Konsumentenschutz what to do. I’m still incapable of believing they can’t offer one of their flagship products in the city center of Austria’s second largest city. The nice lady told me that there might be a way to cancel the contract if they are clearly not able to offer the performance I’m paying for but I need to get that in writing.

Update: 2018-08-17: I finally filed the form

After dealing with many other bureaucratic hurdles over the last weeks, I finally sent a strongly worded letter asking what A1 is going to do about the situation and that I’ll consider the contract as not fulfilled on their part if they don’t do something about the under-performing connection.

Update: 2018-09-13: Cancellation denied

A1 suggested that I downgrade my connection. I called the Konsumentenschutz again and they argued for cancellation of the contract. I mail A1 asking for the contract cancellation but they refuse, referring me to the AGB, the description of their services etc. I downloaded and read them. I was infuriated. Money quote:

Die Hybrid-Technologie ermöglicht die Erhöhung der Internetbandbreite des fixen Breitband Internetanschlusses durch die mobile Übertragungstechnologie LTE von mindestens mehr als 20480/5120 kbit/s auf maximal bis zu 153600/20480 kbit/s (downstream/upstream). (emphasis theirs)

Effectively, A1 advertises up to 150Mbit/s of which they are only required to deliver 20Mbit/s. I am in contact with the Konsumentenschutz and will update this post with further developments.

I’ve added the conversations I had with A1 service team and the PDFs with their terms of service to the end of this post.

Appendix

Timeline

  • 2018-06-16, Saturday - signed contract
  • 2018-06-21, Thursday - received router, call #1, call #2
  • 2018-06-22, Friday - DSL enabled by technician, call #3; got shitty ad from competitor
  • 2018-06-24, Sunday - call #4, antenna is promised but not sent
  • 2018-06-25, Monday - call #5, call #6, store does not give out antenna, call #7, call #8, call #9, store does give out antenna but does not have any left, call #10
  • 2018-07-14, Saturday - article is published, no improvement, no antenna, call #11
  • 2018-07-18, Wednesday - call #12, call #13, got survey from competitor
  • 2018-07-19, Thursday - call to Konsumentenschutz
  • 2018-08-06, Monday - antenna received and no improvement
  • 2018-08-07, Tuesday - article updated.
  • 2018-08-16, Thursday - sent an annoyed mail to support asking for further directions
  • 2018-08-17, Friday - article updated.
  • 2018-08-21, Tuesday - response from A1 service team, suggesting downgrade
  • 2018-08-22, Wednesday - mail to A1 service team asking for cancellation due to extraordinary circumstances
  • 2018-08-27, Monday - response from A1 service team, cancellation due to extraordinary circumstances is denied, suggesting downgrade again
  • 2018-09-06, Tuesday - third call to Konsumentenschutz, am asked for a detailed mail including docs
  • 2018-09-13, Thursday - sent detailed mail to Konsumentenschutz
  • 2018-09-13, Thursday - article updated.

Documents

  • A1: AGB Access (terms of service), retrieved on 2018-08-27
  • A1: EB-A1-Internet-L (description of fees for package L), retrieved on 2018-08-27
  • A1: LB-A1-Internet-L (description of services for package L), retrieved on 2018-08-27

Correspondence

Mail 1

Ich habe vor einiger Zeit (2018-06-18) bei Ihnen das 150 MBit/s Hybridpaket unterzeichnet. Jetzt versuche ich, durch Auszenantenne, zahlreiche Telefonate mit Ihrem Kundendienst (wie Sie sicher meiner Kartei entnehmen koennen) und nachschlagen auf die von mir bezahlte Leistung zu kommen.

Dies hat allerdings trotz Ihren aeuszerst bemuehten Technikern kaum zu einer erkennbaren Besserung gefuehrt. Der hoechste jemals an meiner Leitung gemessene Wert liegt immer noch deutlich unter dem naechstniedrigerem Angebot dass Sie im Portfolio haben - naemlich bei ca. der Haelfte der Leistung deren Vertrag ich mit Ihnen abgeschlossen habe. Mir wurde am Telefon gesagt dass es trotz meiner zentralen Lage in Graz nicht moeglich ist eine bessere Leistung zur Verfuegung zu stellen.

Im Anhang befindet sich das CSV mit Geschwindigkeitsmessungen ueber speedtest.net. Ich moechte von Ihnen jetzt wissen was Sie gedenken zu unternehmen bzw. welche Optionen Sie mir anbieten um diese Situation zu beheben.

Falls Sie es tatsaechlich nicht schaffen die versprochene Leistung zur Verfuegung zu stellen sehe ich mich gezwungen den Vertrag als gegenstandslos zu betrachten.

Reply to mail 1

Guten Tag Herr Skiba,

danke für Ihr E-Mail.

Wir sind derzeit sehr gefragt. Bitte entschuldigen Sie unsere späte Antwort.

Natürlich ist eine stabile und schnelle Internetverbindung wichtig. Wir können jedoch nicht immer die maximale Geschwindigkeit garantieren.

Da uns Ihre Zufriedenheit aber wichtig ist, biete ich Ihnen gerne einen kostenlosen Tarifwechsel auf einen niedrigeren und somit auch günstigeren Tarif an, wie zum Beispiel A1 Internet S oder XS. Mehr Informationen zu unseren aktuellen Tarifen finden Sie hier: https://www.a1.net/internet/festnetz-internet/tarife/s/internet-pur

Sind Sie mit dieser Lösung einverstanden? Dann geben Sie mir bitte in den nächsten Tagen Ihren Wunschtarif bekannt. Antworten Sie einfach auf mein E-Mail, vielen Dank.

Mail 2

Nein, ein Tarifwechsel dieser Art ist für mich nicht akzeptabel - insbesondere da dies einen weiteren massiven Geschwindigkeitsverlust bedeuten würde. Von den theoretischen 150MBit/s aufgrund denen ich bei genau Ihrer Firma den Vertrag abgeschlossen habe bieten Sie mir jetzt als Ausweichmöglichkeit 40 bzw 20 an. Das ist keinesfalls ein realistisches Angebot.

Aufgrund dessen dass A1 es nicht schafft die von mir gewünschte und bezahlte Leistung zur Verfügung zu stellen, ist mein nächster Schritt die außerordentliche Kündigung des Vertrages. Unter Betrachtnahme der Tatsache dass ich im Besten Fall maximal die Hälfte der theoretischen Leistung erreicht habe, kann hier von einem erfüllten Vertrag nicht die Rede sein.

Ich kündige hiermit den Vertrag außerordentlich.

Bitte lassen Sie mich noch wissen ob ich ihr Equipment (Modem, Außenantenne, etc) zurücksenden muss oder in einem nahen A1 Shop abgeben kann.

Reply to mail 2

Lieber Herr Skiba, meine Kollegin hat Ihnen bereits einen kostenlosen Tarifwechsel in einen kleineren Tarif angeboten. Bei den Geschwindigkeiten handelt es sich um “bis zu” Werte.

Über die Standleitung erreichen Sie in etwa Werte zwischen 50 und 60 Mbit/s im Download. Der Rest wird über das LTE Netz A1 Hybrid Power ermöglicht. Sofern Sie mit dem Produkt zu wenig Bandbreite erhalten können Sie natürlich auf ein kleineres Produkt wechseln.

Die Errichtung einer Funkstation ist immer mit großem Aufwand und sehr hohen Investitionen verbunden. Daher müssen wir im Zuge der Funknetzplanung alle Rahmenbedingungen sorgfältig abwägen.

Eine außerordentliche Kündigung können wir jedoch nicht anbieten. Unsere Leistungsbeschreibungen finden Sie unter www.A1.net/agb

Es tut uns leid, dass wir Ihnen dieses Mal nichts Besseres mitteilen können.

Information gemäß Alternative-Streitbeilegung-Gesetz (AStG): Wenn Sie mit unserer Antwort nicht zufrieden sind, können Sie sich an die Schlichtungsstelle der RTR GmbH wenden. Alle Kontaktdaten sowie Informationen zum Verfahren finden Sie unter www.rtr.at. Kommt es zu einem Schlichtungsverfahren, wird A1 daran teilnehmen.

Measurements

IP_ADDRESS TEST_DATE TIME_ZONE DOWNLOAD_MEGABITS UPLOAD_MEGABITS LATENCY_MS SERVER_NAME DISTANCE_MILES
194.118.72.xxx 6/22/2018 8:03 AM GMT 36.76 9.12 13 Graz 100
194.118.82.xxx 6/22/2018 8:33 AM GMT 35.71 9.29 12 Graz 100
194.118.82.xxx 6/22/2018 8:42 AM GMT 35.17 9.49 12 Graz 100
194.118.120.xxx 6/22/2018 8:57 AM GMT 44.30 11.11 13 Graz 100
194.118.120.xxx 6/22/2018 9:00 AM GMT 35.17 9.56 12 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 9:07 AM GMT 36.57 9.64 13 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 9:10 AM GMT 37.94 9.72 12 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 9:12 AM GMT 35.59 9.51 14 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 9:15 AM GMT 34.23 9.91 13 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 9:23 AM GMT 33.17 9.68 15 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 10:00 AM GMT 33.33 9.09 14 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 1:01 PM GMT 17.12 12.17 14 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/22/2018 1:02 PM GMT 49.14 14.94 14 Graz 100
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 3:53 PM GMT 7.96 7.99 22 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 3:53 PM GMT 16.73 6.18 13 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 3:54 PM GMT 3.05 7.76 20 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 3:55 PM GMT 20.65 5.20 20 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 3:57 PM GMT 17.31 5.83 28 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 4:00 PM GMT 12.23 8.07 12 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 4:02 PM GMT 18.73 6.68 12 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 4:03 PM GMT 31.96 7.41 23 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/24/2018 4:04 PM GMT 33.91 9.51 9 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/25/2018 11:10 AM GMT 63.10 22.54 9 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/25/2018 11:50 AM GMT 65.69 23.26 10 Vienna 0
91.113.127.xxx 6/25/2018 12:13 PM GMT 62.78 24.52 10 Vienna 0
193.80.90.xxx 6/25/2018 3:53 PM GMT 35.24 9.08 11 Vienna 0
193.80.90.xxx 6/25/2018 3:55 PM GMT 55.65 24.46 12 Vienna 0
193.80.90.xxx 6/25/2018 4:06 PM GMT 55.07 21.74 10 Vienna 0
193.80.90.xxx 6/26/2018 8:35 PM GMT 60.55 24.92 10 Vienna 0
193.80.90.xxx 6/29/2018 6:53 AM GMT 55.18 23.65 12 Vienna 0
193.83.141.xxx 7/18/2018 4:09 PM GMT 35.41 9.63 8 Vienna 0
193.83.141.xxx 7/18/2018 4:11 PM GMT 34.28 9.35 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:18 PM GMT 35.15 9.70 11 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:20 PM GMT 35.42 9.67 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:22 PM GMT 57.43 25.04 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:23 PM GMT 62.88 23.82 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:24 PM GMT 64.72 25.53 11 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:26 PM GMT 64.06 24.64 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:30 PM GMT 56.46 24.93 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:32 PM GMT 61.14 22.91 10 Vienna 0
193.83.140.xxx 7/18/2018 4:33 PM GMT 35.44 9.61 8 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 4:37 PM GMT 56.96 24.67 9 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 4:38 PM GMT 18.65 17.02 17 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 4:45 PM GMT 17.96 17.27 16 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 5:16 PM GMT 20.98 16.14 18 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 5:48 PM GMT 31.39 25.36 10 Vienna 0
193.83.136.xxx 7/18/2018 5:49 PM GMT 46.84 24.70 10 Vienna 0
194.118.74.xxx 8/6/2018 10:54 PM GMT 72.98 24.79 13 Linz 100

The A1 Internet Odyssey is part 1 of From the inner city:

  1. The A1 Internet Odyssey
  2. Nighttime excursions

Reading recommendations (2018-05-18)

Posted on Fri 18 May 2018 • Tagged with Reading recommendations

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time playing Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom and some Tomb Raider, in addition to one of my classics, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2. I’ve also taken some time to revisit Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2: Grimoire of the Rift, my favorite title for the DS.

I’ve also discovered Crunchyroll which is an awesome service which lets you stream licensed anime for free, legally. I’ll happily disable my adblocker for that service — though I do find it curious that the ads I get are so strange. Sometimes they don’t load at all. Sometimes I get the same clip six times in a row. So far I’ve checked out Black Clover, Darling in the FRANXX, Restaurant to Another World and Interviews with Monster Girls. Sadly, some series are not available in my region.