Sick but not insane (yet)

Some people were troubled by my last posting about 'insanity'. And I have to admit it is justified. It isn't nice to pull internal issues of some company out into the public that way. But I just couldn't do differently anymore. FIC should think about providing a free corporate psychiatrist for us. ;-) I think I have a fairly big tolerance when it comes to mishaps, incompetence and cluelessness, but some of the things we're experiencing here are just not bearable. Especially not if they lack any kind of rational explanation.

So my latest outburst was mainly related to the fact that despite being with flu and fever in bed, I had to personally hack that embarrassing little online shop we now have at [my first perl CGI code in about ten years!!]. Can you believe it, we just did not have (and still don't have) anyone in this project who has ever done some real work on CGI's or 'technical web things' at all. And if this was not enough yet, the requirements kept constantly changing all the time, up to this day, more than one week after the webshop opened.

So for gods sake, how many months have we been knowing that at some point we need to ship? And then you have plenty of people who produce over many months three entirely different concepts on how to shop and distribute those devices. And in the end, you have something with a Chinese-only credit card processing page, no proper setup with regard to the carrier (UPS in our case), tons of people talking vapor, but from what I've heard drawing nice diagrams. And no working solution.

Some people might wonder why those shipping rates in the shop are so high. Shouldn't a large company like FIC get huge discounts? Yes, they do. But believe it or not, FIC does up to this day not know in advance how much a shipping costs. Only after it was made. UPS has something like a Rates and Service Selection API. UPS has also a nice and detailed manual on how this XML API reports those rebated 'negotiated rates' in addition to the standard rates.

But then till this very day, UPS keeps claiming that such an API does not exist. Despite the fact that off-the-shelf e-commerce applications _support_ this API, and despite the fact that UPS' very own API documentation goes into every detail describing how that information is XML-encoded. What comes to my mind is the O'Really: Distributing Clue to users in a slightly modified version: Distributing clue to UPS' own sales representatives. How on earth can you get or keep a job there if you haven't even read the company's own documentation on their products?

Then you have companies like WorldPay, who very broadly advertise the many different payment variants they accept, not only all the credit cards known to man, but even things like direct debit (Lastschrift) in Germany. But do you believe they are able to process American Express for us? No, obviously not. Customers located in Taiwan (like FIC/OpenMoko) cannot process AmEx. No explanation given. So much for the word WORLD in WorldPay.

Or would you believe that some large bank like Citibank (Taiwan) was able to charge credit cards (VISA/MasterCard) in USD? No, obviously, being in Taiwan they can only charge in NT$ (New Taiwan Dollars). WTF? It's the 21st century, and there are dozens of online credit card acceptance partners that allow you to bill in about any currency you want. But not a world-class bank like Citibank.

And now you might think that we're actually no longer working on development. That is wrong. Yet another funny story from the MokoUniverse is that one of the worlds largest semiconductor distributors just had a long meeting yesterday, with FAE's and tons of FIC hardware engineers to crack their heads about the question whether or not we can use a "new" silicon revision of a certain component, and where exactly the differences between the old and new revision might be. I refused to participate in such a meeting, indicating that I just want a document describing those differences. In writing. Soon after that, I find out that we have always been using that supposedly-new revision, for the better part of one year. Nobody actually bothered to look at a unit of hardware, or at all the high-res photographs of GTA01 that I posted on ages ago.

Then lets get to another of my favorites. Purchasing. I wrote an extensive list of networking gear that we desperately need in order to crate the internal IT environment for our fast growing new OpenMoko company. After many delays, today I finally got our two core switches. And what did they do? They "forgot" to order the transceivers, even though they were explicitly listed in the requirements/order list. God knows what happens in the heads of such people. So I'm now back to once again just mail-ordering things from Germany and then billing FIC for the expenses.

And to not bring up more embarrassing facts, and to at least preserve some level of confidentiality, I'm now going to stop. But believe me, there are _much_ more insane stories to be told. With some luck, at some distant point in the future, I'll get permission to publish them in my memoirs.

But that's basically the kind of thing that drives me close to insanity. Whether for that cause, or completely unrelated: My health is actually quite bad recently. Maybe the lack of regular sleeping hours, let aside regular intake of food and the tons of stress have contributed to the flu that lead to a severe fever attack today. You know there's something wrong if at 33 centigrade in the sun, you're shivering more than when riding your motorbike at -13 centigrade in German winter.

So I'm going to take it slowly for the time being, working much from what has now become my 2nd home (apartment in Taipei, provided gratuitously by FIC for people like Werner and myself, who are spending so much time over here).

My sincere apologies in advance. But given my multitude of roles/hats and functions in the OpenMoko project, I bet my health issues will now contribute to some further delays in about any area of the project. But there's little I can do. One day, we will get there. Let's hope you're still interested in our products at that point.