Category Archives: Weird Stuff

Conversation with Bluehost

This blog – as of this writing – is on Bluehost. Which I do NOT recommend. Things fail periodically and tier one tech-support is not helpful in either identifying causes or deciding what to do about them. But today it took the cake – the whole server disappeared with 404 – empty web root. And not just for my account – my whole box. And not just my own box, but for multiple people frantically pinging Bluehost support with questions (including myself).

Continue reading Conversation with Bluehost

Hello (again) Virgin Mobile. Good bye Virgin Mobile?

After nearly a week of wasting my time with Virgin Mobile Canada, I am giving it my best last try using hard-learned customer support skills:

….Follow up to the phone call on Thursday and lack of returned call.

I am unable to activate my new HTC Wildfire S phone on a pre-paid plan. I enter SIM card and IMEA number, confirm the phone model and the next screen says “Oh no”.

I called and spoke to the service representative on Thursday and they escalated the issue to the technical team and promised to call back within two days. I was not given a tracking number despite asking for one.

I have just tried activation again and the problem is still there.

Unless this problem is solved by tomorrow (Tuesday) 12pm, I will be returning the phone and using a different provider.

The sim card’s number is 8….., IMEA number is: 3…..

I have another pre-paid phone with Virgin that I gave to my spouse. Unless this is resolved, I will be switching that number to another provider as well, as it will simplify plan and Credit Card management.

If you do manage the solve the problem, please email me, as I am hard to reach by land line.


As an aside, HTC Wildfire S is a very nice portable internet/Android device. Can’t comment on the phone quality, I am afraid. 🙂


And now for the idiotic and absolutely irrelevant response two days later:

Good day to you Alexandre,

Thank you for sending us your concern and we hope that you are doing fine.  You got Jericho from Virgin Mobile Canada prepaid email department and we can definitely tell you what to do to activate your new HTC Wildfire S phone.  Let me go ahead and tell you what you need to know.

We’re sorry to hear that you are having a hard time activating your new HTC Wildfire S phone.  You must ensure your phone is compatible:

o       Must be HSPA (or UMTS)
o       850 MHz and 1900 MHz compatible
o       You can check compatibility here;

If your phone is compatible then all you have to do is to purchase a Virgin Mobile SIM!  Just follow the regular activation online or through Care.

·  When it comes to grey market phones, we only support voice & text.
·  Data may work, but we cannot guarantee it.
·  Unlocked Smartphones must have the browser & messaging settings manually configured if you are to be used for browsing or picture messaging, call Customer Service for assitance.
·  A compatible BlackBerry or Talk & Text Phone will configure itself.

As nice as it would be, any balance that you have on your old service provider will not be transfered to our network.  Sorry about that.

If you need further assistance, feel free to give us a call at 1.888.999.2321 and a friendly Customer Service representative will be more than happy to assist you live.

We¿re only a phone call away.

Monday – Saturday: 8am to Midnight (EST)
Sunday: 9am to 10pm (EST)

I believe that you can definitely activate that phone by yourself.  Take care and have a good day!


VMC Team

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Why is it irrelevant:

  • I have provided both SIM card and IMEI numbers. It is easy to verify that they both came from Virgin Mobile. Therefore the whole section about gray market phone, etc is not relevant
  • I gave the phone model which was bought from them, they know it is compatible
  • I mentioned that there is already an internal investigation related to the case and they obviously did not bother to look it up
  • They did not give a single step that is not already on the website (I just love I believe that you can definitely activate that phone by yourself.  Take care and have a good day!)

In the end, I called the semi-secret activation-troubles number (1 888 847 4465) and had them do the activation manually and put in the internal request to give me online self-activation bonus, since their website was the one at fault. We will see how it goes.

I had reasonable experience with Virgin Mobile USA, but the Canadian subsidiary is starting to look like the Village Idiot. I wonder what the experience is in the other countries.

Arabic numerals’ non-WYSIWYG

I made this photo myself. Its now in the Publi...
Image via Wikipedia

For my other project, I needed to process some Arabic text that was in HTML file derived from MSWord document.

Everything was going reasonably well, except my regular expressions were not picking section name/numbers sequences in all of the cases, which was causing a problem with the 6-language alignment algorithm.

Normally, I just examine the text visually, determine a new regular expression pattern and that particular problem is solved. This time it was not to be.

When I looked at the text what I saw was the phrase “Section 1٣” with the word Section written in Arabic (right-to-left of course). The problem here is which means 13, but with first digit 1 coming from Arabic Numerals set (which is what we use in English language) and the second digit ٣ (3) coming from Arabic-Indic Numerals set (which is what at least some Arab countries use). Confusing, I know. We use their numbers and

they already use somebody else’s. What do they know that we haven’t yet figured out?

Of course this juxtaposition makes no sense. Why would somebody mix the two alphabets, especially in an official document. I contacted the authoring departments and – unbelievably to me – they looked at the document and it was looking correct to them.

I had nothing to go on with, so I left that puzzle unsolved for a couple of weeks. That is until it hit me – they were looking at it in the MSWord, while I was looking at it on the codepoint character level. They had WYSIWYG on and I did not. So that was the difference.

I went looking around the MSWord interface with Arabic enabled and sure enough there was a whole collection of options for Arabic fonts, numbers and other options. And one of them was to display all numbers as Arabic-Indic. So, when that mode is enabled, MSWord will display any digits as Arabic-Indic ones. That answered half of the puzzle of why the original authors could not see the difference. But how did that happen in first place?

My guess is that the original section was copied from somewhere else in the document. The person who worked on that original had the keyboard (not MSWord display) configured to use Arabic numbers and was actually entering all too familiar 1,2,3 but displaying them as ١,٢,٣. Then, the person who copied the section title had a keyboard configured to use Arabic-Indic characters and he/she replaced or added to the section number using her keyboard. It still displayed cohesively, but now had numbers from different numeric systems.

Of course since the documents were designed for printing nobody noticed and really had no reason to care. This issue only becomes important when those documents are used as input for bitext alignment or some other computational processing. Then, and only then, it bites the person trying to make sense out of it.

The lesson here is. WYSIWYG might be good if all you are doing is looking or printing. But if your documents serve as input to other processes as well, WYSIWYG can cause some very non-obvious issues.

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