Armenistis Camp, Greece: A Great Place to Rest (for the Offline People)

Armenistis 1Two years ago we visited Thalatta Camp, a very nice camping grounds in Chalkidiki, Greece. This year we also tried there, but unfortunately it was already full for the time, which we needed. Our second choice of camping was Armenistis (Google plus), located 30 km from Thalatta Camp in the same geographic region.Armenistis 2

Armenistis Camp has in general everything, which a general camper will need. Shop, electricity for each camp spot, hot and cold water in public bathrooms and toilets. If you go for a bit more, there’s a restaurant, coffee and a beach bar.

If you, like us, prefer more stable accommodation, they also have mobile houses and caravans, which you can rent, so you can sleep on a (comfortable, to a degree) bed.

All the facilities are a bit worn out (more than they were at Thalatta two years ago), but still in a good, usable condition. The beach is a dream: calm, blue, water, clean and neat, and just 100m from our mobile house there.

The restaurant served excellent food, with a great, Greek moussaka and fresh fish.

Sounds like a great vacation, you’ll say? Unfortunately, not for me. The above is only half of all my requirements for a good vacation. What I was missing (and what I find very important, forming about 50% of my comfort) is the online connection to the world. Yes, they claim at their site that they have wireless. And they do, they even have 3 wireless networks: one (barely) visible in the mobile house, one at the restaurant and one at the coffee place.

However, someone has greatly misunderstood the meaning and purpose of the wireless network, i.e. the wireless network is meant to connect you to the Internet and provide you with stable access to it. Armenistis wireless is there, but after the gateway there’s the nightmare of the Internet connection quality from the last century:

  • Ping times vary from 500 to 2500 ms in average;
  • Speed is actually slower then if you had taken your bits on USB drive, went to Nikkiti, used a facility there and go back to the camping (Dropbox sync speed ~1.3KB/s, a bit slower than a 14.4 modem in 1995). Ping response, by the way, is also close to that…
  • Constantly dropping out connections, constantly going haywire (until they reboot it)

…or in short: Internet quality for “marketing purposes only”, good to put on the web site that you “have Internet connection”, so they can get people like me on your hook. Because once you pay and get here… you have to “do your time”!

Expecting something like that, I decided to be prepared and I pre-purchased a Vodafone.gr prepaid card with 500MB Internet included. Guess what? Vodefone was even worse! And what can be worse than almost-non-existing quality in a connection? Yes, you got that right: no connection at all! When I was connected through that Vodefone card, I’ve got approx 95% ping loss, with survived ping responses varying from 5000-12000 ms (yes, 12 sec ping response, isn’t that great?). Of course, that made the local wireless look like shiny, gold quality provider, compared to the Vodafone…

So I ended up stuck for 5 days with one of the worst online experiences for the past years. But that actually tough me a good lesson: I’ll most probably never (ever!) go to any Greek camp, unless I get 100% confirmation by myself or a trustworthy person that the connection there is working. That automatically puts Armenistis out of future scope. Today we’ll drive to friends in Thalatta, so I’ll have the chance to check how it’s there. If it’s the same, Thlatta will also be out.

I believe it’s the Great Greek Crisis, which caused this misery. Of course, I’m not talking only about the economy crisis. It’s crisis everywhere: in the economy, in the mind, in the expectations and in the way you delivery on your job. Similar crisis to the one we’re experiencing in Bulgaria, but with much greater (by default) expectations. And of course, again with an “external enemy” :).

I find hard to believe that in normal circumstances Vodafone would live with such 80% signal coverage quality and 0% Internet connectivity over it.

Maybe the same “crisis” lame reason could be used as an excuse for the camp management… I do not know. But also, honestly, I do not care. For long time I’ve decided for myself that I won’t spend a vacation at “offline places”, and Armenistis looks like one of those.

BTW, as I started to speak about bad management, it’s worthy to note that the restaurant got out of local beer the first evening we arrived. No one there cared about supplying more, because they were expecting to close in a week, so their customers were not important for them – it was much more important to sell all the remaining beer… Of course, their wireless network was only “local access only”, so its quality matched the lack of beer :).

So, if you want a calm (in the beginning of September), pleasant, acceptable for camp standards environment, with excellent seaside and acceptable prices, then Armenistis is a good camp for you.

If you’re an online person like me, then by all means try to avoid that place, or you’ll get screwed badly by their “online facilities”.

If you still decide to risk it and come, here’re some logistics (as of today, September 12th):

Good luck!

Бисквитиера

Когато преди няколко седмици едва ли не бях абсолютно, твърдо убеден че отношенията ми с Макс Телеком са приключили, въобще не предполагах, че чантата ми практически ще се превърне в “бисквитиера”. Причината: имах късмет правилния човек от новото ръководство на Макс Телеком да попадне на моя текст и с разговор и взаимни усилия да намерим начин отново да стана доволен клиент!

Развитието по въпроса, общо-взето, може да се види от коментарите под предишната статия. Г-жа Тойчева беше така любезна лично да се ангажира с проблема ми, причината за който в крайна сметка се оказа многопластов:

  • Човекът, на който попаднах, когато се обадих, не е бил наясно за новите програми на Макс Телеком
  • …и това не е случайно, защото и аз не съм успял да ги открия на сайта им (т.е., те точно в този момент са били “вътрешни”)

С г-жа Тойчева си направихме среща, която за мен беше много, много интересна. Не само, че успях да си подновя успешно договора на план и  цена, която е по-изгодна за мен, но и се сдобих с мини-Бисквитката, която да мога да сравня спрямо по-старата Бисквита и да си направя извода коя от двете искам да запазя. Въобще, в момента чантата ми е като една бисквитиера, добре че бисквитите в нея не мухлясват с времето…

Поговорихме също така и за бъдещето и какво Макс Телеком ще предложи съвсем скоро, но не съм сигурен, че мога да говоря публично за това, така че го оставям за себе си. Мога само да кажа, че очаквам с нетърпение и се надявам да бъда един от “бета тестерите” на новите неща.

Бисквитите, сравнени с други "стандартни" големиниСравнението между двете бисквити все още не е напълно приключило, но вече имам достатъчно данни, за да реша за себе си: категорично сменям голямата с малка бисквита, защото:

  • По-малката влиза по-лесно по джобове, дори ми влиза в по-големия “портфейл”, в който лятно време си нося нещата. Голямата е поне два-три пъти повече като обем и носенето ѝ в моя “летен несесер” е практически невъзможно. И голямата, съответно, е по-тежка.
    • По-малката е с micro USB порт, голямата е с mini USB. Това, от моя гледна точка, прави малката много по-лесна за зареждане, защото почти всичко около мен е micro USB зарядни.
  • Опасенията ми за качеството на приемане не се оправдаха. От тестовете (които май трябва да оформя в някакъв online spreadsheet, че не ми се пишат тук сега) се убедих, че малката има със сигурност поне същото покритие като голямата, ако не и по-добро. Малката, също така, показва повече зъбки откъм бързина на свързване към мрежата, или поне това е моето субективно усещане.
  • Разбира се, голямата си върши също перфектно работата. Нейни плюсове остават 10-те устройства, които може да “храни” (малката може само осем), както и по-големия живот на батерията. За батерията не трябва да забравяме обаче, че малката все още не е “разработена”, докато батерията на голямата в момента е в “разцвета на силите си” след повече от година ползване (аз почти винаги изхабявам докрай и зареждам докрай, макар че за съвременните литиево-йонни или полимерни батерии това не е чак от такова, да не кажа никакво, значение).
  • Софтуерът на новата бисквита е много по-добър от старата, вкл. и с това, че има мобилна версия (т.е., ако ползвате бисквитата с мобилно устройство с малък екран, ще виждате статус страницата много добре форматирана като за него).

Тази дни трябва да мина през офиса на Макс Телеком, за да върна голямата бисквита и да си остана само с малкото устройство. Голямата служи добре тези години, но определено малката е моя избор засега.

Един от добрите тестове за скорост с БисквитатаПреди време Йовко ме попита защо се обвързвам с Макс Телеком за цели две години, при положение че Vivacom например имат доста добро и доста по-мобилно решение. Тъй-като и други хора може би се чудят, ето моите причини:

  1. Макс Телеком действително покриват само (повечето) от по-големите градове. Виваком – почти цялата страна. Бисквитата обаче дава скорост, съизмерима със скоростта на добър доставчик на стационарен интернет, бърз ping и лесно постижими средни скорости от поне 6 (средно 8-10Mbps) където и да е в града. Това определено ме е разглезило.
  2. Ако сте на село, GSM интернетът определено остава единствена алтернатива, затова освен стандартния tethering през смартфона ми, имам и един МТел-ски модем на повече от 3 години, който с много зор и малко връзки беше отключен и сега работи с всяка карта. Та има вътре една Vivacom-ска карта… за зор-заман!
  3. Аз в Пловдив нямам “домашен интернет”. Е, ползвам Змейския като един тлъст паразит, но от време на време, като ме досрамее, си включвам Бисквита. Работи перфектно, свалял съм си от нас “данни” по 3-6GB със скорости от порядъка на 500KB/sec (при “червена” бисквита).

Така че, това е, накратко! Макс Телеком успяха да ме “обърнат”, колкото и трудно това да ми се струваше преди около месец.

DHCP nightmares at Kamelija hotel

It’s your first hours after arriving at a (questionable) quality 2* hotel. You look around a bit scared, but at least there’s hope in you: there’s (some) free wireless Internet access in (some) designated areas around the bar.

You see happy people using it and also your friend’s phone (HTC Desire S) is doing more than fine. You think: now it’s the right time to go and complain (or brag, depending on your state) that I’m finally on vacation!

Alas…

When you try to connect with your Samsung Galaxy Tab 7, you see that it finds correctly your wireless network, authenticates without any problem, but hangs on “Acquiring IP address…” state. And it never finishes connecting.

You think “well, it’s because the wireless router is quite busy, I’ll wait”. You keep waiting for some time, and retry. And you get the same. Then you restart your tablet, hoping that it’ll fix the issue. It doesn’t.

Shit!

You now think “Yes, but I have my top-notch Samsung Galaxy S II phone, which will save the day! You try the same with you phone and… you get the same result. The phone “performs” (if that can be named “performance”) the same like the tablet, hanging at “Acquiring IP address…” message, and giving up after some time. You even discover (and that’s for another anti-Samsung rant!) that your phone after restarts allows itself to auto-enable your roaming data access, so it can check for its shitty Samsung updates. Bad, bad, BAD! It’s good I captured that on time and completely disabled mobile data access (they made it sane enough not to auto-enable that as well)!

And then you start getting desperate. Internet abstinence starts building up and you no longer enjoy your time here!

Luckily, you have also your notebook. You pull it out, and it works like a charm. Since the beginning. All great and smooth!

You think “well, at least my PC is OK”, but you’re not one of the people, who get comfortable with such compromise. After all, your Foursquare mayorship on this hotel depends on the ability of your Android devices to get some bits from this damn wireless router (otherwise, your overpriced roaming internet fees will enslave you for ages). Plus, you use you mobile devices more often than your notebook and they (logically) have more battery juice for you!

So you start looking for solutions. 

Firstly, you scream to all your Facebook and Twitter friends, hoping that someone will help.

Secondly (until you wait for the help), you go to XDA Developers. You build up your best search query and dig. Then you dig more. Then you dig even more, until you find this forum post archive. Inside there you read that:

  • It’s an existing issue with the DHCP client of (some) devices. Obviously, Samsung’s devices you have are part of the problem;
  • And also that if you delete “/data/misc/dhcp/dhcp_list” from your device, you might get it working.

However, both your devices are not rooted and obviously the forum post is too old, because even if they were, you cannot find such file, residing at this place. Not to speak that this is “too much of a Linux way of solving things”.

Although you’ve no problem resolving things “like in Linux”, you prefer to make it in a saner way. That’s why you kept reading, until you discover WiFi Static: the soluiton of Android DHCP issues. This great application allows you to specify static IP addresses for given wireless networks, already in your wireless network list.

Why this works?

The problem, as it manifests itself, is with the fact that your device (or your router, since it could be a router issue too, and I think that’s what is in this case) cannot get (or give) an IP address correctly. Your authentication and MAC-address-level communication works, but you can’t get to TCP/IP, since you can’t get the precious address (sorry, my TCP/IP guru friends, that’s how a developer explains TCP/IP Smile). By default you’ve no way to specify “fixed IP address” in Android, and you’re screwed!

This app fixes that deadly case. Once you add the setting for the given Access Point, after you connect to this access point, the “Acquiring IP address…” is skipped or cancelled and the parameters, which you specify, are set instead. This simply means that if you set the parameters correctly, it works. If, however, you specify the parameters incorrectly, you can get screwed even worse Smile. But we all hope that once you decide to mangle with such things, you know what you’re doing. Not “Linux way” of resolving things, but still requires some advanced user magic there.

The router at the hotel had standard “192.168.1.xx” setup, which means:

  • IP Address is any address you luckily guess (I user 192.168.1.111-192.168.1.114, since I saw that the router gives 192.168.1.50 and above for the “legal” devices that can get it)
  • Gateway is, of course, your router at 192.168.1.1
  • Network mask is the default 255.255.255.0
  • DNS1 is your gateway 192.168.1.1, and for DNS 2 I set the Google DNS server at 8.8.8.8

Conclusion!

  1. My friends at Facebook did not fail me. They pointed to the same solution, just at the same time when I was reading about it in XDA Developers. Which made me feel great, because first my friends care for my pain and second, because it proved that Facebook can be of some help sometimes Smile.
    Thank you all!
  2. The same problem manifests itself on the following devices:
    1. My friend’s Windows 7 notebook. She could not connect unless I set her up with static IP configuration (and reminded her to tell me to remove that setting at the end of our holiday).
    2. My both Android devices (fixed with WiFi Static already).
    3. My wife’s HTC 7 Trophy Windows Phone 7 phone. Unfortunately, this is the only device which I could not fix and I doubt someone would. Microsoft decided to cut our arms in this direction, wisely knowing that no one can configure a router that stupidly, so their mighty OS would not work with it. Wrong!

My final conclusion is that the router at this hotel sucks! Like most of the things here, it’s not configured correctly (or it just sucks as a device) and its DHCP server works quite selectively. I do not know how many other people have the same problem, but my egoistic nature pushes my hopes high. The more people have the issue, more bandwidth will be free for my holiday needs Smile.

Photo (cc) ETC@USC