Freitag, 25. Mai 2018,

This blog is mostly kept as an archive, for the time being. My main output now goes through my microblog site - which might be a slight misnomer because it sometimes also contains long form articles.

Mainly I've switched from this static site generator (""), that nobody except myself seems to use (not even its original author, which is a bad place to be as a user) to something jekyll based. I'm quite happy with it. I've detailed how I use it here and here.


Dienstag, 01. März 2016,

So. One and a half years have passed since the last woes entry. What has changed? Why did I not continue writing them? What is my thinking now?


Basically, I have given up.

Or rather: it turns out that anyone of my acquaintances that I can still reach via xmpp, I can reach via IRC just as easily. All the others have retreated to the silos (there is actually an interesting article behind that link, not just a definition). Now of course, some silos are less bad than others. But they're still silos. In the case of Signal, federation is apparently possible but the Open Whispersystems team currently doesn't allow it. I'm sure, they have a blog post somewhere where they explain that it's better for their users not to have it enabled. And to tell the truth, if we look at the history of Whisperpush (i.e. the effor to integrate the Textsecure (i.e. Signal) protocol directly into Cyanogenmod), which was in essence a second Signal server, it looks as they've been proven right since that was a bit of a clusterfuck, which, in the end, left its users stranded AFAIK.

So, where do we go from here? Nowhere, I think. For those friends who I can easily talk to via IRC, I do that. Others, I talk to via Signal or Threema because it's really not my thing to evangelize at them at length about how they're not being ideologically pure. So far, I've managed to avoid being a member of any team or group that uses Slack. I'm told it's more or less "IRC with like buttons and pictures". Hooray, I guess. Also luckily, I don't seem to know anyone who wants to talk to me via Facebook Messenger. Which I would flat out refuse.

This future sucks. I want a different one, please.

Addendum: What I kind of wanted to say but actually forgot to write down is: I can't really fault people for preferring one of the silo-driven apps mentioned above given the state of client software and protocol. I mean maybe we're slowly getting there with conversations, but IMO it's too little, too late.


Mittwoch, 22. Juli 2015,

The question of how to keep all my (important) data mostly in sync across my devices (appointments, contacts, tasks, notes, pictures) while not transferring said data across the computers of untrusted third parties (aka "the cloud") is one that I worry about again and again.

My current solution for pictures is just to use rsync since

  • the number of pictures only grows, never gets smaller,
  • there is a somewhat decent rsync app for Android.

Currently I'm using kolab for all the groupware-y stuff (appointments, tasks, notes). I've used owncloud before but somehow, I lost trust in that project .. it seemed like its developers were more interested in adding new features than in fixing old problems, plus the web interface got slower and slower and slower.

On my phone, things are straightforward. I use caldav and carddav to access my data via well known Android apps and everything is peachy.

But, the more interesting part (to me) is: I use mutt as my main mail client. How to get the email-addresses from kolab into mutt? Enter pycarddav. It downloads data from a carddav server and puts them in an sqlite file/db and then also provides a query-tool that can generate output in a mutt-compatible way. So far so straightforward and according to the help-files and the findable documentation and so forth.

In order to find the exact address-book url a kolab-installation provides via carddav, I was advised to "talk to my admin", since apparently it is possible to activate an option somewhere in the admin interface for kolab/roundcube that will allow users to have that url displayed to them. There is an easier way, though. Just connect your webbrowser to the url your kolab uses for carddav in general, enter your credentials and then click around until you are in your address book .. there, there's your url.

The only real problem that needed some trial-and-error to get around was then actually using that url in pycardsyncer (part of pycarddav). The error message I kept getting wasn't very helpful ("resource missing" or something to that effect, even though the resource line was present in my config file). Turns out, if there is a percent-sign in your carddav-url (which there is if your username contains an @-sign), said percent-sign has to be escaped in the config file by putting a second percent sign in front of it (making it %%).

After that, pycardsyncer ran smoothly for me.

If it still breaks for you, there's advise out there to run it in debug mode (-d) and this might shed some light on how/where it breaks (candidates are e.g. problematic characters in a field in a vcard somewhere).

HTH. HAND. As they say.


Dienstag, 21. Juli 2015,

So. After much too long I've gotten off my butt and managed to enable https on this here very webserver. The software in use is gatling by fefe. Still using a CAcert certificate, I'm afraid, but at this point I'm just waiting until let's encrypt is operational.

I've used gatling since for-fucking-ever but never really looked at the tlsgatling part because I was too lazy. Turns out, the instructions on how to build it aren't actually part of gatling because you need to start earlier, you need to have openssl built with dietlibc in order for this to work. If you have that, the instructions in the README.tls of gatling do work.

Now I just need to figure out a policy on http vs https and whether to redirect all http connects to https or not. Probably better to do that when I'm no longer on CAcert, though.


Donnerstag, 10. Juli 2014,

It has recently come to my attention that ejabberd has now seen the light and included XEP-0198: Stream Management into its XMPP daemon.

Given this and the fact that is running the version in question, things are looking good for mobile XMPP. At least in theory. I will do some testing and report back afterwards ..


Donnerstag, 30. Januar 2014,

Also, adding to my last post, yaxim is now officially updated to support XEP-0198.

Mittwoch, 29. Januar 2014,

Over at, the author of the yaxim messenger does a much more complete analysis of the current situation of mobile XMPP.

TLDR: it's even worse. Enjoy ;)


Dienstag, 21. Januar 2014,

So. Another day, another entry.

This is a further point in my ongoing quest to get to the bottom of XMPP on mobile devices and why it sucks and how to make it better. This saga started here.

sending clients

I've looked at some more client software for the sending side (i.e. Linux based, not for Android).


libpurple is the basis of pidgin, which I've already talked about in the first entry of this series. There are some other clients that use libpurple for communication, among them finch (also by the pidgin developers) or centerim.

Since libpurple neither shows the error messages described in the first entry nor supports XEP-0184 (message delivery receipts), none of the clients based on libpurple do either.

There is an unofficial plugin for XEP-0184 on the pidgin bugtracker, with no word on whether it'll ever be officially included into pidgin.


mcabber is a console client and is, as far as I can tell, the bestest greatest coolest most awesome. It shows the error messages. It supports XEP-0184. It supports OTR. And, in contrast to some other clients, not just as a list on a webpage but this shit actually works. Wow. Mcabber is great, w00h00 .. and so forth. If you need a console client, use this one.

more servers

This time, I'm looking at "the other" xmpp daemons out there. So what have we got:

(also I'm sure I forgot some).


openfire is Java based and Open Source (Apache License). It does not support XEP-0198. There is a feature request about it on the openfire bugtracker which received attention from users but will, apparently, not be implemented soon due to manpower issues.


jabberd does, to the best of my knowledge, not implement XEP-0198. I haven't found a clean list of "here are the standards we support", but there is a list of files with explanations that contains some XEPs but no this one. The bugtracker seems to be unreachable.


jabberd2 is a separate project from jabberd. They do list XEP-0198 on their "supported protocols" page but they mean version 0.3 of the XEP (see here) which is from 2007 and quite out of date and from what I know not compatible with modern implementations and didn't implement most of the features that this standard does nowadays.


metronome is a fork of prosody and claims to support XEP-0198. Since it works in prosody, I kinda assume it also works in metronome.

isode m-link

isode m-link is, apparently, commercial software and I don't know and can't test (cf "commercial") whether it supports XEP-0198 and if yes how well it does. Does anyone know? Please tell me, I'll amend this section.

an eagle-eyed reader (dx on #bitlbee) pointed me to a feature list on its webpage, which does include XEP-0198.


Montag, 20. Januar 2014,

A quick note: I am currently slightly leisure-time-challenged so it'll take at least untill Tuesday evening for the next post in the xmpp-series to show up. Working on a test of the new version of Chatsecure, more sending client software (mcabber) as well as a look at the other server software out there. Plus, a different kind of network problem than the one analyzed so far.


Samstag, 18. Januar 2014,

A continuation of this and that.

I've now also tried out gajim as the sending client. In contrast to psi and pidgin, this one works nicely in that it informs users of problems with delivery and also of the final error message from the server. So well done gajim!


Samstag, 18. Januar 2014,

This is a followup to my previous post here.

Things that happened since writing the post:

  • Pidgin have now acknowledged their "not showing error stanzas" bug and basically replied with it's complicated. The main problem seems to be that, like BitlBee as well, Pidgin doesn't keep a list of stanzas that were already sent, so the information that a certain message ID had an error doesn't really carry meaningful information. We can hope.
  • Chatsecure have expressed dismay about the timing of my post since they think they have fixed most of the issues I complained about in an update that was released right after I published my post. I'll certainly give the new version a trial run and share my thoughts on it in a few days.
  • Also there were some reactions and discussions on twitter. (including reference to yet another ejabberd annoyance)

So that's that for now. More as the story develops.

Update: I've now also looked at gajim as the sending client


Donnerstag, 16. Januar 2014,

Update 7: ejabberd has seen the light
Update 6: the author of yaxim does a much more complete analysis
Update 5: I've looked at more sending clients and more servers here
Update 4: Added another sending client to the list of tested software here
Update 3: I've written a new post linking to a few reactions here
Update 2: this post has gotten a few reactions. There will be a followup-post soon-ish
Update: made some more inline links to the bug reports

Intro (what is this about)

So for a long time I've had an XMPP (historically also known as Jabber) account on There are a lot of reasons for preferring xmpp over other protocols for instant messaging but I don't really feel like repeating stuff that has been said a million times.

Anyway, long after most other people I got myself a smartphone 3 years ago and ever since have struggled with the fact that even though in theory, xmpp should be much greater than all the closed alternatives, in reality and for mobile use it often isn't, which is why one can evangelise all one wants, people will continue using e.g. WhatsApp not just because of ignorance but because, sadly, it just works.

Now what do I mean by "it just works": It is well known that security-wise, WhatsApp is a nightmare, but, and this is an important point, messages reach their destination most of the time, and if they don't, there is some way the user finds out about that.

The problem with the open version of mobile xmpp (I presume WhatsApp is just some kind of modified xmpp internally) is that this isn't the case here.

A scenario. Alice wants to talk to Bob. Alice might be sitting in front of her computer or use her mobile phone, it doesn't matter, what matters is Bob is using his mobile phone. Now if Alice sends a message and Bob loses his network connectivity for a few seconds before receiving this message, the message is just lost when using xmpp. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, since after all, xmpp is TCP/IP based, but it is still the case, since xmpp doesn't use any confirmation mechanism. This is, afaict, because the standard was written at a time when it was thought that the main use would be users that are all connected to the server via short, high-speed LANs, probably in the same building or so. Also, it takes a while for an xmpp server to realise that one of its users has dropped off the net, so Alice might see a that Bob has logged off .. but that will happen up to 15 minutes after he actually lost connectivity.

Bob might come back online after a few seconds, but, this is the awful part, neither the server nor Alice will ever know that he never received the message that was sent while he was away (because neither even saw that he was away). And if Bob has his mobile phone in his pocket he will also not notice. So there might be messages before and after the lost message that he does receive. It can become quite confusing.

There are extensions to the XMPP protocol which are labelled "XEP-something" where "something" is a number. Those extensions (there are quite a lot of them) are listed at this link. Some of those were created explicitly with the goal of solving the problem I describe above. The first interesting one here is XEP-0184: Message Delivery Receipts which allows clients to tell each other "yep, got that message". But the most important one is XEP-0198: Stream Management, which allows a client to tell the server "oh hey, I was gone for a few seconds/minutes there, got any messages for me?"

Overview of the current situation

So, case closed, right? Everybody implements XEP-0198 in their software and things are peachy!

Well no. Because they don't. Implement it, that is.

For this to work, the client (the app on the mobile phone) as well as the server have to support XEP-0198.

daemon software

In the server world, the situation is:

  • ejabberd, written in Erlang claims to be the "worlds most popular XMPP application server". Offers its own version of "mobile support", but only in the non-free "Enterprise Edition". The Open Source "Community Edition" has neither that proprietory implementation nor XEP-0198. A full breakdown of the XEPs that are supported is here. There is a longstanding bug in the ejabberd issue tracker that quite clearly shows that the developers are not interested in implementing this.
    Note that uses ejabberd.
  • There is a fork of ejabberd (presumably of the community edition) on github, with the explicit purpose of adding XEP-0198 to ejabberd. The last development on this fork seems to have happened three years ago.
  • prosody, written in Lua, has support for XEP-0198 in a plugin which implements part of the spec (namely, what is still missing is the possibility for the server to commit lost messages to offline storage, currently it only implements the "send an error if receiver is offline for a time longer than timeout").

There are of course other jabber daemons but those are the ones I looked at.

client software

mobile clients for Android

I mainly looked at clients for Android since an Android phone is what I have access to.

Popular clients include

  • xabber. Does not support XEP-0198. There is a bug in the xabber-bugtracker that doesn't have any comments from developers and isn't assigned to anyone.
  • beem. Does not support XEP-0198. There is a bug in the beem bugtracker which was opened two years ago and has no activity beyond being changed from "bug" to "feature request" 9 months ago.
  • chatsecure, formerly known as Gibberbot, is probably the most feature-complete xmpp-app for Android, at least according to its specs. Supports OTR as well as XEP-0198.
  • yaxim supports XEP-0198 as well as XEP-0184.

linux clients

There isn't really any necessity for a client that doesn't use mobile networking or is stationary to implement XEP-0198, but that doesn't mean that we can ignore those clients. According to XEP-0198, if a server detects that a client is gone for good, it may react "by either returning an error to the sender or committing the stanza to offline storage."

That "error to the sender" is a stanza with the same message-ID as the original message, no content and is of type="error". One would presume that a client receiving such an error message would endeavour to inform its user but alas, this is not the case. I looked at the following clients:

  • BitlBee is a gateway that translates various chat protocols (including XMPP) to IRC, thereby allowing the user to have them all in his/her favourite IRC client.
  • psi pure XMPP client, graphical.
  • pidgin Multi-IM client, graphical.

my findings

I used my own ARCH Linux server and installed prosody and the XEP-0198 plugin on it. It has to be noted that the mod_smacks-plugin currently in AUR is not the current one and therefore doesn't work. Installing it by hand is easy, since it's just one file. Then I used one account for the desktop clients and one for the mobile clients to test scenarios of loss of connectivity for different lengths of time, as well as mobile to mobile chats.

I simulated loss of connectivity on the phone by first deactivating mobile networking (to take away the fallback option) and then turning off the wifi. What should happen is that when one re-enables wifi after a short time, the client should tell the server that he's back from an outage and should receive queued messages. A remote chat party shouldn't see the disconnect/reconnect. When the outage goes on for longer (in my tests at least 10 minutes, up to 15 minutes), the server realises something is amiss and starts his countdown. After the countdown is over (5 minutes default), the sender receives an error message from the server.

sending side

Of the senders tested (Bitlbee, Psi, Pidgin, Yaxim for mobile to mobile), initially none showed the error message to the user (see bug reports below).

Yaxim fixed that bug on the same day and now shows a red cross over the message concerned as well as an extra message in the chat stream that reads "recipient-unavailable(-1)" and has a red background.

BitlBee acknowledged the bug on IRC and discussed how they might fix it. Bitlbee has the problem that up untill now it doesn't generate message IDs and it is (AFAIK) not easy to change the way a line that has already been written to the IRC client is displayed after the fact. The discussion went in the direction of basically putting a timestamp into the message-ID, thereby allowing a message of the type "your message from 'time' could not be delivered" to be generated upon error. Since at least one developer has tested the problem together with me I presume the bug is being worked upon.

Psi have so far not reacted to the bug report.

Pidgin have so far not reacted to the bug report.

server side

Prosody implements XEP-0198 correctly, as far as I can see. Nevertheless, I would prefer if the second option ("or committing the stanza to offline storage") were available as well since that would increase comfort for the user (no need to resend messages). After discussion in the chat with Prosody developers, I filed a wishlist-bug for this.

receiving side

Yaxim works as advertised (after fixing the bug ). The version that incorporates these bug fixes should make its way to the Play Store "later this week".

Chatsecure works as advertised some of the time. And then it doesn't. And then it has trouble reconnecting. And then it takes 5 minutes to reconnect. And then it sometimes doesn't see contacts as online even though they clearly are and nothing can make it see the error of its ways. So even though on paper it should be the best client out there, it made my blood boil with anger ...

Xabber just plain doesn't support XEP-0198 so no point complaining about it losing messages. At least it quickly reconnects after connection loss.

Beem is extremely bad in that it not only fails to support XEP-0198, a loss of connectivity also causes it to display an error message and quit, not reconnecting automatically. So unless the user intervenes every single time that connectivity is lost, it won't work at all.


For now, Yaxim seems to be the best client out there (but be very aware that it doesn't encrypt your messages end-to-end, so unless you trust all the servers in between yourself and the recipient to correctly implement encryption and not store your messages, treat it as unsafe for sensitive content!). If it supported OTR as well, it would be perfect. The yaxim bugtracker has a bug about OTR and another one about AGP.

Prosody as server works as advertised. If you don't want to install one yourself, Yaxim offers an open Prosody server that supports XEP-0198 at

Chatsecure could be great if they manage to fix all the annoyances detailed above.

Xabber is no contender unless it implements XEP-0198. Same for Beem.

I did not investigate the situation for iPhones since I don't own or have access to an iPhone. I would be happy to hear about it though.

bugs found and reported during this investigation

texts and people that had an influence on this post

  • Here is a great explanation on why XEP-0198 is needed.
  • people in the #yaxim channel on freenode were very responsive and helpful.
  • people in the #bitlbee channel on oftc were very responsive and helpful as well as delightfully snarky.
  • people in the prosody community chat (see here) were very responsive and helpful.
  • Peter Schwindt, on Twitter as @vautee, admin of, has been discussing this issue with me for quite some time now and had great influence on me finally deciding to sit down and actually do some real tests besides complaining that "things don't work".


Dienstag, 07. Januar 2014,

An Update to the saga that started here and continued here.

Now, the phone (a Motorola Droid 4) is running Cyanogenmod, to be precise the "stable" version for this phone, which is 10.1.3, meaning Android 4.2.2.

And I am still seeing the problem described in my earlier posts, namely that an arp entry for a host that can be reached locally is not removed from the arp table when the phone leaves the network for which this is true.

Again, the scenario:

Phone is online in wifi A, host X is in the same network and can be reached without passing through a router.

Phone is moved to another location, where wifi B (no relation with A) is available, so phone connects to that. Phone is now unable to reach host X as phone believes host X to still be a locally reachable host but offline or invalid or whatever. When turning off the wifi (i.e. using 3G instead), the host becomes reachable (as the arp table is specific for each network interface). A reboot clears the arp table and makes normal networking possible again.

As far as I understand the issue, this is not correct behaviour.


Samstag, 28. September 2013,

[Blog owners note: Hosting an essay about Finnegans Wake by best friend @weird_prophet, who also blogs at but felt that it didn't really fit in with her regular content there. I said anything fits here. A pdf of this essay can be downloaded here. For your online reading pleasure, it is also included below. Note that the formatting of the References section might be a bit wonky, I didn't find a good way to do that in markdown. Anyway, here goes:]

Finnegans Wake: "The Ant and the Grasshopper"

A (Divine) Journey into Day (and Out of Time)

Christina Scholz

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is very much a novel about language, and about what language can perform. It is at the same time representing reality and presenting language (and the various functions of language). If you take a look at Joyce’s books in a chronological order from Dubliners over A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses to Finnegans Wake, there is a distinct shift from a realist world-making to a language-oriented text-making. Joyce achieves this by use of generators (cf. Mahler 2010: 109) - recombining elements or even words from different languages, resulting in words that, when being read, through certain patterns, similarities and free association, produce other words (cf. Freudian slips, or, as discussed later on, so-called ‘mondegreens’).

Through the medium of (highly programmatic) language and text-making, Joyce produces (rather than reproduces) the world, the city of Dublin, a set of archetypical (and thus constantly shifting, metamorphosing) characters – including allusions to, and connections with, the whole of Western culture (at least up to the time of his writing), and possibly even transcending it. The text creates and re-creates itself endlessly, not even having a conventional beginning and ending. Similarly (maybe even consequentially), there is no ‘solution’ or ‘ideal’ reading, no assumed “only way” it could have been intended by the author. This way a ‘heretical’ text is created (cf. possible allusions to Milton in the following interpretation of a selected passage).

Thus, the reader’s task is not to ‘solve’ it, but to surrender to the ‘game’ (cf. Mahler 2010: 111) and find more and more possibilities of ‘what to do with the text’, and perhaps even in what ways the text will affect the reader (and their approach, their ways of reading and interpreting a certain passage). Since the language used in Finnegans Wake is clearly distinct from an ordinary, everyday use of language, it is in a way related to poetry (even where the text appears to be prose, or at least related to prose), which allows for the assumption that the author is playing with language, and that the readers might decode more and more of the text by playing with it as well. They are encouraged to bring in more than just the semiotic meaning, more than just the signified(s), to track down the constantly shifting meanings (as in metaphor, as opposed to allegory, cf. Miéville 2011), the seemingly endless possibilities.

The first effect this unusual use of language has on the reader is disturbing - bringing to the readers’ attention that this is not an everyday text, shifting their focus to the use and function of language rather than content, and guiding them away from a conventional (maybe habitual) interpretation, and method of interpretation. Klaus Reichert aptly compares this effect to Šklovskij’s concept of estrangement or defamiliarization (Reichert 1989: 184). The readers’ impulse is then to ‘make sense’ of the text. Any unusual text, and especially one that seemingly opaque, containing so many neologisms, intertextuality, etc. demands additional work (and possibly creativity) from its readers. So what to do with this self-generating text?

Our usual approach in decoding a text is to translate it from the sign, the language to its meaning: interpretation, making meaning. If we reverse this ‘game’ (cf. Mahler 2010: 111ff) and, as suggested by Joyce’s creative wordplay, go back again from the meaning to the code, to focus on language itself, meaning is presented as material that seems to be there as material only (i.e. language as such is foregrounded). If we as readers surrender to this game, we are forced to consider the way language works and to think about the (usually) hidden aspects of language that are not transparent in everyday language use. Joyce’s use of language throws us back from a first (easy) interpretative reading to a self-referential level of language, which slows down the reading process (very much like reading poetry, which almost suggests itself considering his use of alliteration, homonyms, homophones, etc), intensifies the focus on the elements and uses of language, and in the end helps attain an increasingly wide range of possible interpretations as more and more associations manifest themselves.

In addition, it’s helpful to look for similar words in other languages, similar names in literature, etc. Every possible layer of our culture until (at least) Joyce’s time is referred to throughout the book – thus a never-ending text, and an encyclopaedia of culture, a ‘lexicon of life’ (Füger 1994: 259), is produced. Language is revealed as a construct that at the same time creates other (cultural, societal) constructs on a world-level. And finally, among other things, the book is also a treatment of our concept of time. Already the title suggests two opposite concepts of time in one space: Linear time vs. cyclical time.

The following is one possible reading of a passage from Finnegans Wake, i.e. the Grasshopper’s ballad from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” in Book III (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418f).

1. Some preliminary questions

Why the ballad from "The Ant and the Grasshopper"? What kind of reading?

The ballad of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a piece of poetry contained in a longer prose chapter. This makes it one of many breaks in form and style, and it also shows the necessity of a different reading approach. When reading poetry, one has to slow down and pay more attention to elements that feature in prose texts to a lesser degree, if at all, e.g. sounds, alliteration, rhythm / metre, alternative meanings (through the use of generators, but also through literary, historical or cultural context, or free association). Atmosphere seems to be as important as context. Besides, the passage is a ballad, recited or probably sung by the character of the Grasshopper (or Gracehoper, another transformation of Shem the penman) to the character of the Ant (alternatively Ondt, referring to Shaun the postman), so it is very closely related to any kind of song – and once again reminiscent of the ballad of “Finnegan's Wake” and the whole topic of birth and re-birth and cycles within cycles.

Why is this passage worthwhile? Where is it?

The fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper is contained in what is known as Book III of Finnegans Wake: The Book of the People. The material of Book III is largely the dream of Mr. Earwicker between the late hour of his arrival in bed and the first crack of dawn (Campbell 1959: 256). Its main figure is Shawn the Postman, who is envisioned as a great man of the future, carrying forward the tradition of his ancestors and winning with ease the battles lost by his father (ibid). But despite his heroic deeds, Shawn is not depicted as a hero: he is only reluctantly accepted by the people, who after his moment of fruitless triumph sit over him in judgement (Campbell 1959: 256f).

In Chapter I (“Shaun before the People”), he gives a speech in front of ‘the people’ (i.e. the 29 maidens already encountered in an earlier chapter) to convince them that he is more meritorious than his brother Shem. In the course of his speech he tells them the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, transformed here to the Ondt and the Gracehoper, to illustrate his arguments.

Chapter II (“Jaun [Don Juan] & Iseult”) and Chapter III (“Yawn Recumbent” [the inquest]) are also part of HCE’s dreams, and Chapter IV (“HCE and ALP in their bed”) leads back to HCE and ALP in their bed leading up to the dawn of a new day.

The constant transformations of characters and situations and the underlying dream logic provide an interesting starting-point for various readings that differ from everyday prose interpretations. One could argue that they even justify going off on a tangent and following up ‘clues’ provided by misreadings or associations that might seem far-fetched at first.

What happens? What mechanisms are at work?

The fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper (Joyce, Finnegans Wake: 263ff) is based on Aesop's fable of the same title. The metrical foot used in the Grasshopper's (or Gracehoper's) song is an anapaest, a Greek metre, which brings the original fable to mind. Simultaneously it is reminiscent of the ballad of “Finnegan’s Wake”, especially since it takes up the theme of death and life (or death and rebirth, according to whether it is seen from a perspective using the concept of linear time, or one using the concept of cyclical time – both of which are repeatedly referred to in the text). Other recurring motives are: Egyptian mythology, insects, Biblical themes, rebellion of the son against his father (including a possible association with Milton's Lucifer), order vs. chaos, literature, philosophy, self-references to Joyce (and his work), and possibly even a suggestion of mysticism, the decoding of messages, initiation.

Switching from an interpretative reading to one in which language itself is foregrounded whenever the use of language suggests it brings out playful new versions of the fable as well as an encyclopaedia of cultural and historical references, and a seemingly never-ending scope as to possible meanings. In addition, each re-reading of the passage will necessarily change the text and its functions, thus re-making Finnegans Wake over and over again (in accordance with its major themes, and the story of its hero, HCE).

2. Reading the Gracehoper's Ballad

The paragraph preceding the ballad serves as a sort of introduction and sets the scene:

A darkener of the threshold. Haru? Orimis, capsizer of his ant-boat, sekketh rede from Evil-it-is, lord of loaves in Amongded. Be it! So be it! (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

What is to follow seems to be a (rite of) passage, an in-between, a transition. Possibly even an initiation. Even though haru means spring (the season, which is also a sort of beginning, a transition) in Japanese, it is simultaneously reminiscent of the Egyptian god Horus (or Heru), who is among other things god of the sky, god of war and god of protection and appears in various forms that might even be different deities subsumed under one name. As HerusaAset (Heru, son of Isis), he is responsible for the pharaoh and represents both the royal heir and the newborn sun (cf. Hill 2010). “Orimis”, with its possible reference to Osiris (lord of the underworld, master over life and death) strengthens this interpretation, together with the “ant-boat” and “Evil-it-is”, the name of the rudder (cf. Ito 2002). His position as lord of the underworld is reflected again in “Amongded”, phonetically evoking an image of this dark realm across cultures: “among the dead”. And of course the implied father-son relationship brings us back to HCE (Earwicker, whose name comes up as an additional association to the insect theme that dominates this passage) and Shaun (the narrator), the rebellious son.

The threshold is darkened, but at the same time, we are following HCE’s dreams through the night towards morning, transitioning various states of order and chaos, passing thresholds and moments that again dissolve into a fluid stream of time. The ant-boat inevitably evokes another boat, the sun-boat, and, in accordance with the omnipresent theme of death and rebirth, the linear journey into night becomes a cyclical journey back into day. Finally, the invocation “so be it!” tells us that it is starting, and we realize that we are already on our way. The Gracehoper begins his song.

At the same time it is also an ending of sorts (which implies the crossing of another threshold): “so be it” is, among other things, a translation of ainsi-soît-il, the French for amen.

The thing pleased him andt, and andt, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

“The thing pleased him” immediately reminds us of the book of Genesis in the Bible. A world is created, which is also an ongoing process (“and and and”). ´Through repetition, this ongoing process also names and re-names the character to whom this ballad is addressed, the transformed ant: identity is assigned, but it is always different (cf. Finnegan/HCE).

He larved and he larved on he merd such a nauses (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

What is repeated this time? The insect’s (the ant’s but also the grasshopper’s) first stage of development (right after its creation in the previous line): the larva (McHugh 1980: 418). Another beginning establishes the insect theme. (Note here that the earwick, as in Earwicker, is also an insect [cf. Ito 2002]. Even the shifting symbols “stay in the family”.) In addition there is reference to its origin on a meta-textual level: if we read “merd” as merde (McHugh 1980: 418), not only nauseating (ibid), ad nauseam (referring to the repetitions), but also reminding us of Shem the penman and the ink he made from his excretions.

The Gracehoper feared he would mixplace his fauces. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

For the first time, the alternative name Gracehoper is used, which suggests that our narrator is a believer in God, and also a repentant sinner. “Mixplace” tells us that things are not in their proper places; we find ourselves in a place of chaos rather than order. “Fauces”, which according to McHugh (1980: 418) suggests the almost homonymous “forces”, might provide an additional layer of meaning by showing us what it is that’s out of place. If the order of things is reversed, this could refer to the rebellion of the son, or – if we go along with the established biblical theme, the Fall of Lucifer (either in the Bible or in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, making the Adversary more of a hero).

I forgive you, grondt Ondt, said the Gracehoper, weeping, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

The Gracehoper, trying to re-establish harmony between himself and the Ondt, offers forgiveness. Simultaneously, through divine forgiveness, order is (for the moment) re-established. Meanwhile, the ant has morphed into the Ondt, which means “bad”, “painful” in Danish: the Gracehoper’s opposite.

For their sukes of the sakes you are safe in whose keeping. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Here Joyce uses alliterative repetition in the way of Old English ballads (three same stresses followed by one different repetition). Sukes means assistance, according to McHugh (1980: 418). At the same time “whose keeping” could also shift to “housekeeping” in an alternative reading (ibid). Of course, in accordance with the biblical theme, “safe in whose keeping” is also automatically connected with God (who forgives and protects).

Teach Floh and Luse polkas, show Bienie where’s sweet (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

The insect theme continues with Floh (“flea”), Luse (almost homophonous with “louse”) and Bienie (Biene meaning “bee”; also connected with sweetness – honey). There is also a hidden musical reference: “Luisa’s Polka” by Smetana (McHugh 1980: 418).

And be sure Vespatilla fines fat ones to heat. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

The insect in this line is the wasp (“Vespa”; “Vespatilla”). “Be sure Vespatilla fines fat ones to heat” completes what the previous line has begun: everyone gets their just desserts. Everyone is judged (at the end). “Fining” somebody (who deserves it) “to heat” also suggests the threat of hell(fire).

As I once played the piper I must now pay the count (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Again, something seems to be out of order: Of course the proverb that comes to mind is “who pays the piper calls the tune”. But “play” and “pay” are too easily confused in this line, especially since one would expect the text to say “pay the piper”, not “play”. In fact, in my first reading of this passage, I accidentally thought it went on, “I must now play the count” (as in The Prince and the Pauper), which at first made perfect sense in the context of order reversed. I only realized my mistake when I read it a second time. But that does not mean that the additional meaning generated by such a misreading has to be immediately rejected. Hugo Keiper explains this in his 2008 essay on another, related kind of misinterpretation, the so-called mondegreen (a mis-hearing of song lyrics):

[M]ondegreens apparently used to be seen for a long time as some sort of social semiotic taboo that most people left untouched (Keiper 2008: 34).

If you reject those misinterpretations as unfounded, you might miss another crucial aspect, i.e. what they might reveal about listener’s minds (Keiper 2008: 34). What happens in these instances is that new text is produced by the listener. Since many song lyrics (and literary texts) play with textual ambiguities, these mondegreens may be a deliberately evoked result - with a lot of different outcomes, depending on the listeners’, or readers’, backgrounds (cf. Keiper 2008:39).

[M]ondegreens can be seen as a marvellous empirical source of actual and everyday interpretations, or rather misinterpretations, of lyric poetry – ‘readings’ that come about quite spontaneously, that is, without the interference of situational factors that may be artificial and distorting, such as filling in questionnaires or answering a researcher’s questions. […] Viewed from this perspective, mondegreens may tell us a great deal about real-life decoding or ‘reading’ of oral texts […], with reference perhaps to some of the mechanisms and constraints affecting the reading of poetry, and of other kinds of literary texts. Keiper 2008:42)

Keiper stresses that the range of possible (and possibly valid) interpretations is very wide, and that through the study of mondegreens priority is shifting away from concepts like the ‘ideal’ listener or reader (cf. Keiper 2008: 42f).

[They] provide strong evidence against mainstream models of lit. crit. featuring ideal(ized) readers, who read a text exactly as it is supposedly ‘intended’ or ‘meant’ (or in any case as it 'should be ideally read’ according to a particular critic, or following so-called critical opinion, consensus, etc), and which claim that such readers do so availing themselves of the full context and semiotic potential inscribed in a text. Keiper 2008:43)

Especially an ‘open’ text (cf. Eco 1977) like Finnegans Wake with its many portmanteau words (cf. Füger 194: 274) and neologisms strongly suggests a wider perspective concerning possible ‘readings’ or interpretations, as indicated above. Thus, even misreadings can provide valuable additional insights not only into how the text is constructed and the implicit possibilities of reading and “decoding” it, but also into the mechanisms of the reading process itself and the workings of the readers’ minds. In this context, my (mis)interpretation pointing to the recurring motive of reversed order might again justify bringing back the theme of the rebellious son, or Milton’s Lucifer – who deems it “[b]etter to reign in Hell, then [sic] serve in Heav'n“ (Milton. „Paradise Lost“ 1:263). Alternatively (or additionally), the line about paying “the count” might suggest paying one’s due – which brings back the notion of order re-established.

So saida to Moyhammlet and marhaba to your Mount! (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Mohammed (McHugh 1980: 418), together with Zaida, forms another couple. Together with the prophet comes the reference to the mountain (also suggested by McHugh 1980: 418). Again the order is reversed (“to your Mount”); there is a shift in power. Saida in Portuguese means an exit, a way out. Another possibility of interpretation is reading “Moyhammlet” as Hamlet (McHugh 1980: 418), and again we enter a whole subtext of conflict between a (step)son and (step)father. On the biblical level of interpretation we have marhaba, which is Arabic with Aramaic roots. Incidentally, Aramaic is the original language of several sections of the Bible, and also the language supposedly spoken by Jesus. Mar means “God”; haba means “love”.

Let who likes lump above so what flies be a full’un; (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Flies continue the insect theme; simultaneously there is reference to a universal order of things: as above, so below; to each his own.

I could not feel moregruggy if this was prompollen. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Here, “moregruggy” again refers to an ant (McHugh 1980: 418), “prompollen” to a beetle (ibid).

I pick up your reproof, the horsegift of a friend, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

On the plot level, read literally, the grasshopper takes the ant’s rebuke, probably graciously (as the preceding and following lines suggest). Additionally, this line evokes the proverb “never look a gift horse in the mouth” (McHugh 1980: 418), and is also suggestive of the Trojan horse:

Equo ne credite, Teucri! Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis. – “Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Danaans (Greeks), even when they bring gifts”. (Virgil. “Aeneid II” 49)

Joyce also alludes to Virgil in other parts of Finnegans Wake, and he is a fitting travel companion here in the night and the underworld of HCE’s dreams, since he is also Dante’s guide into hell in the Inferno.

For the prize of your save is the price of my spend. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

This line gives us a sense of order and justice. Literally read, it also brings us back to the morale of “The Ant and the Grasshopper”.

Can castwhores pulladeftkiss if oldpollocks forsake’em (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Another couple of twin brothers is alluded to here: Castor & Pollux (McHugh 1980: 418), who remind us of the twins Shaun and Shem. “Forsake’em” continues the biblical theme: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (The King James Bible 2011: Matthew 27:46) are the last words of Jesus on the cross to his father, and again they are in Aramaic.

Thus, also the father/son theme is continued (on another level: Shaun vs. HCE).

Literally, rhetorically, the grasshopper is defending himself, as continued in the following line:

Or Culex feel etchy if Pulex don’t wake him? (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

More insects: Culex is a gnat, pulex a flea; “etchy” can be read as “itchy” (McHugh 1980: 418).

The Gracehoper continues his defence (using a rhetorical question, its meaning along the lines of “I can’t help it; it's in my nature”) and implicitly appeals to the Ondt for mercy (as in the fable).

A locus to loue, a term it t’embarrass, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

The Grasshopper’s plea: “A locust” (McHugh 1980: 418) - referring to himself - “to love; a termite to embrace” (ibid). The abbreviated “t’” in “t’embarrass” is suggestive of a different abbreviation in French: (je) t’embrace. At the same time, “a term it t’embarrass” is very close to “(even) a termite would be embarrassed”, again an appeal to the Ant.

These twain are the twins that tick Homo Vulgaris. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

The twins are mentioned again, as if he was saying that brothers belong together.

“Tick” can refer to both the animal (McHugh 1980: 418) and time (another theme which is going to be continued).

The Gracehoper’s entreaty: all insects are equal; difference is not the way out.

All of the following rhetorical questions also reinforce the point the Grasshopper is making:

Has Aquileone nort winged to go syf Since the Gwyffyn we were in his farthest drewbryf And that Accident Man not beseeched where his story ends Since longsephyring sighs sought heartseast for their orience? (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

In addition we have a sense of direction, spanning the whole world: north, south, occident, orient.

“Gwyffin” denotes a griffin, “drewbryf” a drawbridge (McHugh1980: 418).

(Not) besiegt literally means (not!) conquered (McHugh 1980: 418), but (with the drawbridge up) can also be “besieged” (cf. the Trojan war and the “horsegift”). If we read “beseeched”, though, as literally in the text, we remain with the Gracehoper’s plea. This also fits the “longsephyring” that can be picked apart into “longsuffering” and “zephyrs” (McHugh 1980: 418).

Finally, there is the theme of time and death again: “where his story ends”; and “heartseast“, homophonous with ”heart ceased”.

We are Wastenot with Want, precondamned, two and true, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Another idiom: “Waste not, want not” (McHugh 1980: 418), and also some of the recurring religious motives: “(pre-)condemned” and “damned” allude to hell again, and also to original sin and to the Fall of Lucifer (Milton again, and the uprising against a tyrannical father figure).

Till Nolans go volants and Bruneyes come blue. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

Nolens volens means “willy nilly” (McHugh 1980: 418). In accordance with the preceding line, order has again changed to chaos. There is also a notion of time: “Till Nolans go volants” (possibly French for “flying”) “and Bruneyes come blue” sounds nonsensical (especially if you read “brown eyes” for “Bruneyes”), which could mean something like “till the end of the world / doomsday”. It is also reminiscent of the (seemingly nonsensical, or at least wildly improbable) prophecy in Macbeth: Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane (Shakespeare. The Tragedy of Macbeth I:III:2).

An additional meta-reference is evoked, too: The “Nolans” in combination with the “Bruneyes” remind one of Giordano Bruno (of Nola) whose theories, together with those of Giambattista Vico, support a lot of the structure of Finnegans Wake (cf. Füger 1994: 267f). In this case it might reinforce the Grasshopper’s plea for confraternity: every power in nature must evolve an opposite in order to realize itself and opposition brings reunion (Bruno, quoted in Füger 1994: 268).

Ere those gidflirts now gadding you quit your mocks for my gropes (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

More insects: “Gidflirts” shifts to gadflies (McHugh 1980: 418). There is also an allusion to the Mookse and the Gripes (ibid), another passage in Finnegans Wake (Joyce: Finnegans Wake 152ff), which opens up a whole new level of meta- and subtext, since it contains overt references to Joyce himself and his writing of Finnegans Wake.

“[…] you quit your mocks for my gropes”: Is the Gracehoper still pleading, or is he now threatening the Ondt? He seems to be mentioning a deadline, too, but that could also refer to the approach of winter.

An extense must impull, an elapse must elopes, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

One more reference to order and dependency: “an elapse” (time) “must elopes” (not time; an exit) – either “time flies” (if we are talking about linear time), or not at all (“elopes”, cyclical / non-linear time).

Of my tectucs takestock, tinktact, and ail’s weal; (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

“Of my tactics take stock” (McHugh 1980: 418); “tic tac”, “all’s well” (ibid) – which can be continued with “that ends well”, another Shakespeare reference, and again an end.

“Ail” (pain) becomes “weal” (happiness, prosperity, welfare) – if the Ondt gives in.

The rhythm and alliterative repetitions mimic the ticking of a clock as well.

As I view by your farlook hale yourself to my heal. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 418)

“Hale” and “heal” go well with the “all’s well” from above; while “to my heel” suggests another plea: “follow me; we belong together” (cf. the twins). This notion of sharing is also illustrated in the following lines:

Partiprise my thinwhins whiles my blink points unbroken on Your whole’s whereabroads with Tout’s trightyright token on. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

In addition, “whiles” can also mean time (linear as well as non-linear: an expanse of time, or simultaneity). A tout is a solicitor or barker.

My in risible universe youdly haud find Sulch oxtrabeeforeness meat soveal behind. (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

“In risible” contains “invisible” and, simultaneously, laughter (McHugh 1980: 419) - but separated, thus already implying a possible negation. There is also a reference to Aristotle and Aquinas’ “visible universe” (McHugh 1980: 419) – but at the same time “invisible” suggests things behind things (cf. mysticism). The next line contains “ox”, “beef”, “meat”, “veal” (McHugh 1980: 419), but also “mit soviel”+”behind” – s. above.

Your feats end enormous, your volumes immense, (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

Again, an “end” of sorts, and in “your volumes immense” a possible allusion to all the cultural/literary references in the text (and possible hidden meanings alluded to in the previous line).

(May the Graces I hoped for sing your Ondtship song sense!), (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

Again, the Gracehoper is referring to himself and his name. The Graces he hopes for are obviously personified in this line, referring to the Greek Graces, the goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity. “Sing your song sense” might mean that the seemingly opaque text needs to be decoded in order to make sense, to give up its hidden meaning(s), as mentioned above.

Your genus its worldwide, your spacest sublime! (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

Here, “spacest” might (also) translate to “species” (McHugh 1980: 419).

But, Holy Saltmartin, why can’t you beat time? (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419)

“Saltmartin” can mean both St Martin and another insect (McHugh 1980: 419).

The imploring “why can’t you beat time?” might (among other things) be a reference to the song (the ballad) and its rhythm. Re-establishing the theme of time, it might also imply that the Ondt can’t “beat time”, can’t escape linear time. It is always planning ahead (cf. the fable), remaining in linear time; it symbolizes the worker and also stands in for the postman. The Gracehoper on the other hand, the penman, the artist, spends his life outside linear time (in elysium, in cyclical time). As in the original fable, the ant is slave to time, while the grasshopper is simply not concerned.

Finally, in the following paragraph, Joyce uses a (version of a) formula that not only symbolizes another ending but also adds a sort of morale, like a fable should have:

In the name of the former and of the latter and of their holocaust. Allmen (Joyce. Finnegans Wake: 419).

The terms “former” and “latter” (apart from referring to the father as the one who came before and the son as the one to later take his place, also cf. Shaun & HCE) only make sense in relation to time.

“Holocaust” means: an end to that. There is also the obvious allusion to death.

In this context, apart from the obvious amen, “all men” might mean: may all men be liberated from linear time (and “saved” in the religious sense: attain grace).

Finnegans Wake doesn’t have a beginning or end. It begins and ends in mid-sentence, thus forming an endless cycle. Every re-reading will inevitably be different, both because of the previous knowledge of the text as such, and because of a difference in background knowledge and a multitude of personal factors that might have changed since the last reading. This, together with Joyce’s abundant use of generators, of portmanteau words and neologisms (as shown above), makes the novel an interesting and fecund text for possible interpretation, and also for finding out more about different processes of reading and interpretation and about the readers’ minds. It is therefore necessary not to stipulate a concept of an “ideal reader” or of a “right way” to interpret anything about it, but rather to approach it with an open mind, and to engage in playful interaction with the text.

My interpretation of the Gracehoper’s ballad from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is and can only be one of a seemingly endless number of possible readings, a recording of a moment in time. The next time I read this passage, it will already have shifted, maybe acquired new meanings, maybe lost a few of the ones I saw before. It has already expanded since the first time I read the text, and I expect it to undergo many more transformations.

In this way, I hope I have succeeded in providing a plausible example of how Finnegans Wake works, what it does to the reader, and what results from creative interaction with the text. I think the best way to describe it in only a couple of words is - like the novel, and even the title itself - because of its inherent ambiguity more than the seeming paradox one might see, and hopefully transcending it: Constant / Change.


Primary Sources

Anonymous (19th Century). “Finnegan’s Wake”. [Online] Western Michigan University. [2011, April 20].

Jacobs, Joseph (ed, 1894). The Fables of Aesop. London: Macmillan.

Joyce, James (1992/2000). Finnegans Wake [1939]. Introd. S. Deane. Modern Classics. London: Penguin.

Milton, John (1674). “Paradise Lost”. [Online] Dartmouth Milton Reading Room. [2011, April 20].

Shakespeare, William (1997). The Tragedy of Macbeth [1606]. In: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. [Online] Project Gutenberg. [2011, April 20].

“The Gospel According to Saint Matthew” (2011).The King James Bible [1611]. [Online] Project Gutenberg. [2011, April 20].

Virgil (2008). “Aeneidos. Liber II”.[Online] Project Gutenberg. [2011, April 20].

Secondary Sources

Campbell, Joseph and Henry M. Robinson (1944/1959). A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. London: Faber & Faber.

Eco, Umberto (1973/1977). Das offene Kunstwerk. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.

Füger, Wilhelm (1994). James Joyce. Epoche – Werk – Wirkung. München: C.H. Beck.

Hill, J. (2010). “Horus the child”. [Online] Ancient Egypt Online. [2011, April 20].

Ito, Eishiro (2002). “In the buginning is the woid”. [Online] Atelier Aterui. [2011, April 26].

Keiper, Hugo (2008).”’It's a hard egg’: Mondegreens and other (mis)construals of pop lyrics – and what they can teach us” [2008]. In: Nada Šabec. Literature and Culture in a Global Context. Ed. English Language. Zora 57. Maribor: 32-45.

McHugh, Roland (1980). Annotations to Finnegans Wake. London: Routledge.

Miéville, China (2011). “The Weird: a discussion of fiction and politics with China Miéville”. [Online] Backdoor Broadcasting Company. [2011, March 5].

Reichert, Klaus (1989). Vielfacher Schriftsinn. Zu Finnegans Wake. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.


Mittwoch, 03. Juli 2013,

I've recently returned from a one week vacation in Imperia, Italy. While the vacation in total was very nice, I want to highlight one particular experience, namely a bar that I've decided to put on my personal list-of-coolest-bars.

It is called The Dreamers (warning, link goes to Facebook) and is located in Borgo Foce, Porto Maurizio, Imperia.

Why is it cool?

  • it is directly by the sea
  • drinks are cheap(ish)
  • there is a free(!) buffet of good food
  • the barkeeper looks like Robert Downey Jr (no really) (no I didn't take a picture)


Dienstag, 11. Juni 2013,


The problem is reproducible. Was online in the wifi where server is reachable directly, server went into arp cache. Disconnected from said wifi, connected to other wifi. Server still in arp cache, now as

<incomplete> on wlan0

and therefore, again, unreachable under that IP address.

So at least on this Droid4, arp cache handling is definitely b0rken.

Note: if anyone else can reproduce this, I'd be happy to hear about it.


Montag, 10. Juni 2013,

So I've stumbled across this weird networking issue while using my Android phone (a rooted Droid 4). What I was seeing was this:

I had gone to our club hangout and had used the wifi there. After coming back home again, and using my wifi at home, my phone wouldn't connect to my server, neither via SSH nor via IMAPS nor any other protocol. Fearing something had caused my server to go offline, I tried to reach it in other ways (i.e. by connecting through other hosts).

I then discovered something weird.

  • my server was online
  • I could connect to it via some other remote host that took a different path into the server network
  • oh wait, I could connect to it via a different host that was in the same network as my server? (Meaning the network as such was reachable)
  • oh wait, other computers inside my wifi can connect to the server? Uh .. what?
  • oh wait, when I disconnect from my wifi and use the 3G connection instead, I can connect to the server

So, next, I looked at the shell on my phone again and tried to see if maybe the routing was broken, but

$ ip route show

gave a completely normal output (i.e. there was only the default route to my wifi router plus the local netmask). Next, I tried to see whether there was a pattern to to the IP addresses I could reach and the ones I couldn't. There was. It was only the IP address of my server that was unreachable. I tried connecting to the IP addresses of some VMs that run on that server (i.e. behind the same bridging interface) and they were reachable.

Just for laughs, I used another IP address from the same server network that was unused at that time and added that one to the interface, and my server was instantly reachable via that address. So it really was that one, specific, IP address that was unreachable.

At which point a colleague of mine (I had thrown my story out to some people I know to aid in brainstorming) said "Have you looked at the arp cache?"

I hadn't.

So I did.

$ arp ( at <incomplete> on wlan0

So. A full two days earlier, my phone had been connected to a wifi in which said server can be reached without going through a router and therefore had added the servers address to its arp cache. If I read the arp(7) manpage correctly, the lifetime of an entry in the arp cache should be around the 30 seconds mark, but at this point it was already 48 hours that it had been there. Another way to see that the phone thought the server should be in the same network:

$ ip neigh show dev wlan0 FAILED


$ ip route show cache | grep

showed it as a local address that was offline. At this point I was pondering whether I should flush the cache and just be done with it or whether I wanted to find out more about this. But then my parents came over to visit and we went out to have dinner. When we came back and my phone reconnected to my wifi, the issue was gone.

Well, I'll be back in the wifi that caused the whole problem tomorrow evening. I'm curious whether it'll happen again.


Sonntag, 09. Juni 2013,

This is the story of how I met a member of the Band Defrage (warning: link goes to Facebook).

I was at a petrol station near Innsbruck, Austria, filling up the tank of my car, when a young man carrying a plastic bag approached me and asked me whether I spoke English. Assuming he wanted to ask for directions, I said yes. He then wanted to know whether I liked music (a quite generic question, but whatever). A bit unsure where that conversation was heading, I answered yes again.

He then proceeded to tell me that he was in a band from Estonia and wanted to know what kind of music I liked. Since I wanted to give the shortest possible answer I said "Metal". At which point he pulled a cardboard cd-sleeve out of his plastic bag, turned it around and pointed at a track-title marked there which said "We Are Metal" and explained that, in fact, his band was a Metal band. He then told me that his band was right now on tour through Europe and was going to play at Nova Rock in a short while, but since they were a young band without big resources, they were trying to finance their touring by selling CDs to people and hey, would I maybe be interested in purchasing a CD from him? Only EUR 15!

Now, on the one hand, stories that start with "I met this guy at a petrol station/highway rest area, and he sold me X" are usually tales of how somebody was conned into buying something utterly worthless or maybe even an empty package. On the other hand, I liked his main argument ("if we ever become famous, you'll be able to sell it on ebay for a million!"). So I thought what the hell, gave him EUR 15 and received a shrink-wrapped cardboard CD sleeve. He thanked me and then turned his attention onto another prospective customer (and I saw that a colleague of his was busy trying the same approach on a young lady at the next pump).

Getting into my car, I remarked to my wife that I was curious to find out whether there actually was a CD in the sleeve at all.

And there was.

And bloody hell does it sound great!

I would describe the sound as sortof Fear Factory during the Obsolete era (which, to me, equals "brilliant!"). Apparently, the CDs are not available for sale through normal channels but the band seems to be quite busy using their unique sales approach in parking lots/fastfood restaurants/pedestrian areas in Austria/Bavaria/Switzerland. So if you happen to meet them, definitely buy that CD!

5 out of 5 stars!

first post on the new klo.

Sonntag, 09. Juni 2013,

Ich gebe zu, den Titel kapieren jetzt hoechstens 10 Leute, und maximal 2 von denen werden das hier lesen, aber SCNR.

Jedenfalls: hin und wieder kann es vorkommen, dass ich der Welt was mitteilen will, was nicht ins Kinderblog passt, und was ausserdem zu viel Text fuer Twitter ist. Dafuer soll jetzt dieses Theater hier gut sein.