Category Archives: Computing

Hardware, software, computer science and the rest

Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please.

A few month ago I discovered that Cisco broke IPv6 support in the IOS (Cisco’s operating system) that is running on my Cisco 877W router. This was quite annoying as IPv6 support was the only reason that I bought such an expensive router in the first place.

As my support contract doesn’t allow me to submit bug reports I had to open a service request. It took Cisco’s support organisation four weeks to reproduce the problem and another two month to submit a bug report. I wasn’t too impressed by these delays especially as I didn’t get any status updates for extended periods of time. When the bug had finally been reported to their engineering department I got an experimental firmware build with working IPv6 support within two weeks.

Considering that Cisco is a huge company I should probably be happy that they fixed the problem within three month. But I guess I’m still annoyed that they didn’t find such a fundamental problem before they released the software. A ping, one ping only, would have been enough.

Costly Ip Six Connectivity Obstable

More than two years ago I bought a Cisco 877W for using it as my home router. It has worked reasonably well so far. But as almost every other complex software Cisco’s operating system IOS has bugs, some of them are even security vulnerabilities. The usual procedure in such a case is to download an update provided by the software vendor, install it and reboot the system. Unfortunately it is not that easy with Cisco, they don’t allow people to just download software updates, not even security fixes.

The only way to get access to software updates is purchasing a Cisco support contract. Buying such a support contract is not an easy task. You need to figure out the right type of support contract (unless you want to spend more than a thousand pounds on it), find a Cisco reseller and then fight with the bureaucrats at Cisco who struggle to deal with customers that don’t have a business address. They apparently don’t want home users to use their products.

When I finally got my support contract I thought all was well now. I was able to download the latest IOS image available back then, installed it on my Cisco router and didn’t encouter any problems. But in September Cisco published a new security advisory. I went to their support website, looked for a firmware update and did not find one. I checked the advisory again and found out that the update for the firmware version that I am using wouldn’t be available before October, the 23th.

Last Thursday (a day ahead of schedule … hurray) the update was finally available on Cisco’s website. I downloaded it, installed it and found out that IPv6 doesn’t work properly in this release. Cisco broke support for the Neighbor Discovery Protocol (which is as essential to IPv6 as ARP is to IPv4) without even noticing it. I had to downgrade the IOS on my Cisco router to the previous version to get IPv6 working again. I tried to submit a bug report via their support website but it doesn’t provide me with that option. I guess I need to buy a more expensive support contract to be entitled to inform Cisco about bugs in their software.

All together I can see a very clever business scheme in there:

  1. You sell expensive hardware and software which inevitably contains bugs.
  2. You let customers pay for fixing these bugs via expensive support contracts.
  3. You ask customers for even more money before you allow them to actually submit bugs.

With that strategy you can generate a lot of revenue. You don’t even have to invest in software quality because that would only reduce your earnings. And your customers will think twice before troubling you about software bugs.

Can somebody please release an affordable and reliable A-DSL home router with fully functional IPv6 support? Pretty, pretty please? 🙁

Home And Real life

Silke and I had a really good time at HAR2009. Except for the freezing temperatures during the first night the weather was marvellous: a lot of sunshine, a cool breeze and not a single drop of rain. Our cunning plan to get warmer nights by investing in an additional cozy sleeping bag paid off nicely by the way 😉

I attended a presentation about the Native IPv6 deployment at XS4ALL and Silke learned how to brew beer. We even found time to leave the camping site and visited the nearby towns Vierhouten and Nunspeet. We especially liked the Pannkoekehuis Likkepot in Vierhouten where you can get an astonishing wide range of sweet and savoury pancakes. Those we tried were delicious. The rest of time we mostly hung out in the BSD tent, …

BSD Tent at the HAR 2009

… talked to people and even got a bit of hacking done.

The four days spun away and on Sunday morning it was time to take down our tent and carry all our belongings back to the car. After a final meal of tasty pancakes we drove back to Hoek van Holland to catch the ferry back to England. We arrived in Cambridge the next morning, a bit tired but relaxed and in good humour.

Unfortunately the daily grind caught up us with very quickly. We had a rough week and were very happy when we made it to the weekend. But after a refreshing sunday afternoon tea at Peacocks Tearoom and a nice walk along the river Great Ouse things look much better now.