I have been having problems with Yamato – the box that runs the tinderbox – for the past weeks. The main issue seem to be the system deadlocking, with in-kernel flush processes for the RAID1 devices stuck in D-state (blocking I/O operation). Among the reasons for this I didn’t exclude (yet) either problems with the hardware or with the PSU; but while experimenting I found one thing was definitely the case: it’s easier if I don’t use Yamato as the system for chat/mail/browse while it runs the tinderbox.
As a partial solution to that, I decided to order a new system to act as a frontend; since I was (and am) actually short of money, I decided to get a system that I could recycle in the future as a replacement for the AppleTV (that is bothering me to have around more and more, I wanted to write about it before, but I haven’t had the chance yet), so I ordered an ION board, with 4GB RAM, and decided to re-use an old HDD of mine (since I have replaced my main work disks last month trying to see if they were the cause of the lockups).
Altogether, the new frontend would have costed me around €300, shipment with UPS included, from the Alternate B2B store (which gives me VAT invoices I need). I ordered it on the second week of December, asking if they could please send it before the holidays, via UPS (since I know UPS usually takes no more than three days to deliver it here; they did a mess last time with the cash-on-delivery payment, but that’s not the point here). They did send it on the 21st, but not via UPS, but with DHL postal service (i.e. not the express courier). I was a bit upset, but it is also true that it costs €25 rather than €50.
On the 28th I call the Italian Post that should deliver the package to know the status of it; standing to the DHL tracking, it arrived fine in Italy on the 24th. The Italian service couldn’t even recognize the tracking number as valid or managed by their service, even though the code from an homologue shipment back in October could still be tracked fine. So they open a report and ask em to call the day after.
On the 29th I call, and I’m told that the shipment arrived in Italy the day before; they keep on stating that it is impossible for DHL to say it arrived on the 24th. I have to call the storage and processing plant in Milan to actually learn what’s going on. Luckily there they have a bit of clue on what’s going on, and they inform me that the package was left in storage at the Malpensa airport since it arrived on the 24th, as their processing only received it on the 28th, at 10pm. The time is indeed strange even for the person I’m talking with. My suspect here is that the package was “lost” in Malpensa, and they started looking for it after my phone call the day before. On the other hand, they ensure me that it was on his way to Venice and it would be delivered the day after.
You guessed right, on the 30th no package arrived; I call again their main call center, and there they tell me that the package is now stopped at a post office; they have no idea as to which, even whether it is a post office in Mestre (the mainland city of Venice) or not, and they cannot tell me why. Uh? Are you freaking kidding me? Okay I start calling the local post offices, or at least try to. The only one actually answering is the one of the town where I live; the woman at the other side of the phone ensures me that no package is ever delivered to post offices unless it was so asked by the receiver, that if anywhere, the package would have been delivered at a given post office in Mestre (the number for which is not published on the phonebook), and provide me with the number of the switchboard for Mestre.
No other post office answered the phone for the whole day; I also tried to call the courier that does the delivery for Poste Italiane here in Italy (SDA, that they bought a few years ago), but there, after the usual hold music, I could hear the phone being picked up, and then hung again. Lovely! I send a disgruntled mail to Alternate and forget about receiving the package before the 3rd.
Fast forward to today (the 8th); the package didn’t reach my house, but today the postman brought a card (that was supposed to be brought on the 3rd, but let’s ignore that for now) that the package is ready to be picked up in Mestre, at the post office that is not on the phonebook, since the 30th. This means that they didn’t even try to deliver it, isn’t it nice when you pay to get something delivered and then they ask you to pick it up the other side of town? No? No, I guess not.
The most ludicrous thing is that on the card, there is the amount to pay for cash on delivery; but added to the €283 of the Alternate invoice, they wrote €10,33 for customs duties. From Germany! There are no customs! I’m paying VAT on the order already, and it’s invoiced to my VAT ID. I also pay extra taxes with Intrastat and they add me customs duties on a parcel coming from within the EU?
So right now I’m still without a frontend system, I have yet to read an answer from Alternate, but I guess they were closed till Monday; I hope they can send me a new shipment for the same order via UPS so that I don’t have to wait another month for it, and while I could use the laptop to work from my bedroom (since I got a cold), I have to keep it here to monitor whether Yamato deadlocks again.
The day the Italian Post (which are private) will go bankrupt, I’ll be happy.