Archive for January 2012


Microsoft: if IE9 displays blank pages, it’s your own fault, so format your hard drive

30.01.2012

You’ve got to hand it to some folks for discovering words in their “word-a-day” calendars and they feel compelled to use it.
   If you go to Microsoft Answers, there are dozens of people wondering why their Internet Explorer 9s don’t display anything. So, I decided to report the bug I have had since March, and which I have found exists again in Windows 7 on a brand-new machine.
   Here’s the dialogue with Microsoft:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/ie/forum/ie9-windows_7/internet-explorer-9-only-displays-blank-pages-on/3c844c46-3b22-4530-abc4-6e22f6ed2a6f

   Injudicious isn’t the right word here. But he gets a real kick out of using it.
   There are some very basic things the chap missed. (1) Before any System Restores were done, the product didn’t work. And they don’t work on two out of two machines here, one of which has never had a Restore. (2) If those security patches were released mid-December and mid-January, they should have been among the updates done the first time, before the System Restore. (3) The essential advice here seems to be: how dare you use a feature that we supplied. You should never use it.
   Once he seized upon that and a rival product, that was it. We here at Microsoft are perfect. You should not use anyone else’s products. Bing is better than Google.
   And there’s the usual power-trip of needing to have the last word even when the customer has said he wishes to end the dialogue. I see he has discovered italics now, too.
   The strategy is to blame the customer, but, if you hunt around the web, this is a major fault with Internet Explorer 9—which explains, as usual, why the other browsers are getting larger and larger shares. Microsoft’s failure to acknowledge it means that folks will simply abandon a browser that, certainly before this latest version, is widely regarded as poor. I haven’t used it regularly since v. 5, when it had a noticeable advantage over Netscape.
   I don’t actually use IE in any case. But McAfee uses it for its HTML-based displays, and one Windows Gadget I use also employs it. The latter always will, but I can’t see the former remaining in this situation if already some people are reporting that they cannot see their McAfee anti-virus program.
   I decided to end the conversation because the issues being raised were irrelevant, he was dodging all the real questions about a faulty product, and there’s no point in telling someone where he messed up if the whole aim is to be unhelpful. Go through the Microsoft forums and there’s not one tech in any position who can go beyond the routine: it’s either deliver the stock answers, or play the blame game.
   Bit like Google, then.
   At the end of the day, it’s not even a product I use. Otherwise, as in the above link, I’d be quite prepared to fight on for half a year.

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Posted in business, internet, USA | 12 Comments »


Fighting the politics of division

27.01.2012

Loving this excerpt from Nancy J. Adler’s ‘Leading Beautifully: the Creative Economy and Beyond’ in the Journal of Management Inquiry, vol. 20, pp. 208–22, at p. 211, which my fellow Medinge Group director Nicholas Ind referred to me:

McGill University strategy professor Henry Mintzberg asked the people in his native Quebec to see the world as artists view it, rather than as normal consumers of the public media. Immediately prior to the last referendum that would decide whether the Province of Quebec would separate from the rest of Canada, Mintzberg challenged the electorate to turn off their radios and TVs, look out their windows, and ask themselves: Do our French- and English-speaking children play together? Do we invite each other into our homes? Do we work well together? Mintzberg was asking his neighbors to view Quebec society through their own eyes and to not let themselves be blinded by politicians who were insisting that people from different cultural and linguistic groups so dislike each other that they cannot live together. He encouraged his neighbors to vote based on their own data. Mintzberg was particularly effective in getting the people of Quebec to see the beauty in their well-functioning, multicultural society, a beauty that had been obfuscated by a profusion of political myths that were broadly perpetrated and perpetuated by politicians and the media alike.

   A few points:

  • in many countries, politicians engage in the politics of hate and division;
  • by extension, the worse things get for people, the more extreme they can be pushed toward the political fringes;
  • recognizing the good in our society can reignite our collective purpose—and help make things better.
  •    I’ve heard some of the arguments in the Republican primaries, and to a non-American, the time wasted by PACs on attack ads seems a waste. They also seem rather foreign to a New Zealander. Sure, we attack the opposition, too, but not with the sort of negative undertone exhibited there.
       The more time spent on attacks, the less time spent on solutions.
       Though you wonder if the institutionalization and the deals done behind closed doors can ever be undone, and I don’t mean just the Americans.
       I’ve also been reading Michael Lewis’s latest book, Boomerang: the Meltdown Tour—and can happily report to Mr Lewis that I have bought three copies (the one in New Zealand at twice the price of what I paid in India). While most of it covers the global financial crisis, he spends some time with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (original emphasis):

    
 “When you want to do pension reform for the prison guards,” he says, “and all of a sudden the Republicans are all lined up against you. It was really incredible and it happened over and over: people would say to me, ‘Yes, this is the best idea! I would love to vote for it! But if I vote for it some interest group is going to be angry with me, so I won’t do it.’ I couldn’t believe people could actually say that. You have soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they didn’t want to risk their political lives by doing the right thing.”
       He came into office with boundless faith in the American people—after all, they had elected him—and figured he could always appeal directly to them. That was his trump card, and he played it. In November 2005 he called a special election that sought votes on four reforms: limiting state spending, putting an end to the gerrymandering of legislative districts, limiting public employee union spending on elections, and lengthening the time it took for public school teachers to get tenure. All four propositions addressed, directly or indirectly, the state’s large and growing financial mess. All four were defeated; the votes weren’t even close. From then until the end of his time in office he was effectively gelded: the legislators now knew that the people who had elected them to behave exactly the way they were already behaving were not going to undermine them when appealed to directly. The people of California might be irresponsible, but at least they were consistent.

       This is just at state level. It’s a lot worse at the national level there. And yet certain politicians here have a hankering to emulate this behaviour.
       Let’s hope that when we next get a chance to elect our officials, we’ll keep these scenarios at the back of our minds—and stay away from them. Let us, instead, look at all the good we can do—and find ways to unite, rather than divide, people. And also, let us ensure that democracy continues to be accountable to the people, rather than the same old, same old “business as usual”.

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    Posted in culture, leadership, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


    Adobe Acrobat and Reader print gibberish—a three-year-old bug continues

    26.01.2012

    This is an Adobe Acrobat and Reader bug that has been around for years. As far as I can make out, it began happening with version 8 of Reader. It’s largely why we kept a copy of Acrobat 7 Professional around, just to print PDFs.
       Of course, with the new machine, 7’s too old. I have to get with the latest Readers—but the bug that plagued them in 2008 remains today.
       Here’s how it prints:

    This is meant to be a numerical table from the IRD, but there aren’t any numbers. However, the footer on the page, set in Tahoma (not shown here), does print correctly.
       I’ve been online today to find a fix, to no avail. I’m putting it on here as yet another example of someone messing up somewhere. Bit like Facebook not knowing there are time zones outside California for its Timeline updates each month.
       I have tried the usual tricks: selecting ‘Print as image’ and deselecting the system fonts’ option for the PDF printer. Neither has fixed the problem. And you’ll see the characters have not advanced by one ASCII slot: they are gibberish. Or garbage, depending on where you’re from.
       Not that going to Adobe helps, either:

    I know that username is taken. It’s taken by me. I’ve had it since the turn of the century. In fact, I logged in to the main Adobe site with it, and the top of the page says, ‘Welcome, Jack,’ even in the forums.
       But if I want to post anything in the forums, I am forced to enter a screen name. And it tells me something I already know.
       Anyone in cyberspace with a clue? I’m on the verge of either trialling PDF XChange Viewer, and seeing if that prints, or putting 7 into the virtual machine, which is about as practical as buying alloy wheels for an engine-less car.

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    Posted in internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


    Thoughts from a thoroughly modern machine

    25.01.2012

    After I got back from India, my desktop computer went into meltdown. This was Nigel Dunn’s old machine, which I took over after he went to Australia, and it gave me excellent service for over two years.
       I wasn’t prepared to go and buy a brand-new machine, but having made the plunge, I’m glad I did. The installation went rather well and the only major problem was Wubi and Ubuntu, which, sadly, did not do what was promised. The installer failed, the boot sequence either revealed Linux code or a deep purple screen, and the time I spent downloading a few programs to sample was wasted (not to mention the two hours of trying to get Ubuntu to work). Shame: on principle, I really wanted to like it.
       Funnily enough, everything on the Microsoft end went quite well apart from Internet Explorer 9 (the same error I reported last year), which then seemed to have taken out Firefox 9 with the same error (solved by changing the compatibility mode to Windows XP). Eudora 7.1 had some funny changes and would not load this morning without fiddling with the shortcut, Windows 7 forgot to show me the hidden files despite my changing the setting thrice, and there were some other tiny issues not worth mentioning. But, I am operating in 64-bit land with a lot of RAM, DDR5s on the graphics’ card, and more computing power than I could have imagined when, in 1984, my father brought home a Commodore 64, disk drive, printer and monitor, having paid around NZ$100 more than I did on Tuesday.

    I could have gone out and bought the computer last week, after the old machine died. But there’s the whole thing about New Year. The focus was family time, preparing food and pigging out for New Year’s Eve (January 22 this time around), and New Year’s Day is definitely not one for popping out and spending money.
       Which brings me to my next thought about how immigrant communities always keep traditions alive. You do have to wonder whether it’s still as big a deal “back home”: I was in Hong Kong briefly en route back to Wellington, and you didn’t really feel New Year in the air. There was the odd decoration here and there, but not what you’d imagine.
       It’s the Big Fat Greek Wedding syndrome: when the film was shown in Greece, many Greeks found it insulting, portraying their culture as behind the times and anachronistic, while they had moved on back in the old country. The reality was a lot more European, the complainants noted.
       And you see the same thing with the Chinese community. People who would never have given a toss about the traditions in the old country suddenly making them out to be sacrosanct in the new one. Maybe it’s motivated by a desire to transmit a sense of self to the next generation: in a multicultural society, you would hope that youngsters have the chance to pick and choose from the best traditions from both their heritage and their new nation, and carry them forward.

    Windows XP VM

    A retro note: I love Fontographer 3.5. So I put it on a virtual machine running XP. Fun times, courtesy of Conrad Johnston, who told me about Oracle VM Virtual Box.
       I also found a great viewer, XnView, to replace the very ancient ACDSee 3.1 that I had been using as a de facto file manager. (Subsequent versions were bloatware; XnView is freeware and does nearly the same thing.) I’ve ticked almost all the boxes when it comes to software.
       Because of the thoroughly modern set-up, I haven’t been able to put in a 3Âœ-inch floppy as threatened on Twitter. Fontographer was transferred on to a USB stick, though I have yet to play with it properly inside the virtual machine. Both the Windows 7 and virtual machines are, in typical fashion, Arial-free.
       Although I have seen VMs before, I am still getting a buzz out of the computer-within-a-computer phenomenon.

    To those who expected me to Tweet doom and gloom from my computing experience last night, I’m sorry I disappointed you. My posts about technology, whether written on this blog or on Twitter, are not to do with some belief in a computing industry conspiracy, as someone thought. The reason: to show that even this oh-so-logical profession is as human as the next. Never, ever feel daunted because of someone’s profession: we are all human, and we are all fallible. Sometimes I like reminding all of us of that: in fact, the more self-righteous the mob, the more I seem to enjoy bringing them down to a more realistic level, where the rest of us live. We’re all a lot more equal in intellect than some would like to think, and that assessment goes right to the top of the political world.

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    Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, internet, technology, typography | 7 Comments »


    Optimism marks out the Indian decade

    17.01.2012

    Jack Yan at SIMCUG
    Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication

    I’ve had a wonderful time in Pune and Mumbai, two cities to which I had wanted to go for some years. Like some New Agers say: be careful what you put out into the universe. It can come true.
       My main reason for going was to address the Knowledge Globalization Conference at FLAME in Pune. FLAME’s campus is remarkable: 1,000 acres, near a fancy golf course, and completely teetotal (which actually suits a social-only drinker like me). The scenery in the valley is stunning, and the sound of the water trickling down the mountain during the winter was particularly relaxing.
       But as with any place one visits, it’s never the scenery that makes it: it’s the people. And in Pune I found a sense of optimism from all people from all walks of life, one which I hadn’t seen for quite some time.
       I also ran into Deo Sharma from Sweden, whom I first met in 2002 in KĂžbenhavn. When there are coincidences like that, you know you’re on to a good thing.
       Equally inspirational was addressing the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication. This talk, arranged through my friend Nishit Kumar—who learned I got a bigger buzz sharing knowledge than sitting on a beach relaxing—was attended by 600 students at different year levels. When you see a school like that, and students prepared to ask tough questions (both in person and later on Twitter), you feel encouraged that Pune has an incredible future ahead.
       And before I advance to my next point, Mumbai was just as fantastic, and I need to acknowledge my old friend Parmesh Shahani, who let me stay with him in a home that beats some of the art galleries I have seen.
       Everywhere you go in Pune, you see schools. A lot of tertiary institutions. Like so many Asian families, Indians place education highly. I had two parents who never seemed to go out on the town because we weren’t made of money, and everything they had went to my private schooling. I can well comprehend this mentality.
       Which, of course, begs the question: why isn’t our country doing more in this sector with India?
       I realize things are gradually changing as we incorporate more air routes directly to India and the government begins focusing on our fellow Commonwealth nation, but, as with capitalizing on the wave of Hong Kong emigration in the 1990s, I fear we might be too slow. Again.
       This is nothing new. I’ve been saying it since the mid-2000s, on this blog and elsewhere. Privately I’ve probably been uttering it for even longer, before we nominated Infosys of Bangalore as one of our Brands with a Conscience at the Medinge Group.
       And yet in the quest to get a free-trade deal with Beijing, we brushed aside India, a country with whom we have a shared heritage, a lingua franca, and a lot of games of cricket.
       When I first went to India in 2008, one Indore businessman asked me: why on earth did New Zealand pursue the Chinese deal ahead of the Indian deal?
       â€˜Follow the money,’ I swiftly answered, a response to which I got a round of applause.
       I know the numbers may well have been in China’s favour, but sometimes, there is something to be said for understanding what is behind those numbers. And there is also something to be said for looking at old friendships and valuing them.
       We can’t turn the clock back, nor might we want to, but it seems greater tie-ups with Indian education could be a great way to expose the next generation to more cultural sharing.
       While in Pune, there was news of two Indian student murders in Manchester, which won’t have done the British national image a great deal of good. Australia already suffers from a tarnished image of racism toward Indian students, one which the Gillard government is hurriedly addressing with advertising campaigns featuring Indian Australians. It strikes me that there is an opportunity here in New Zealand, now that I have apologized for Paul Henry. Only kidding. I don’t think that I had much influence doing so unofficially, but I felt I had to get it off my chest, and I did apologize.
       I was frank about it. I was frank about Henry, and I don’t mean Benny Hawkins off Crossroads. I was frank about the Indian immigrant who had to change his Christian name to something sounding more occidental before he got job interviews—prior to that he did not get a single response. But, I also noted, none of this would be out in the open in the mainstream media if New Zealanders, deep down, were not caring, decent people. The incidents would have been covered up.
       Despite what we might think, most folks didn’t realize that we had a decent high-tech industry, that we are the home of Weta, and that Tintin, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong were local efforts. Although Players had only been out for three days by that point—and not to particularly good reviews, either—few realized a third of it was filmed in New Zealand.
       They still think of sheep.
       But there is a generation which, despite a huge domestic market and the optimism in their own country, wants an overseas experience, and the occident is still regarded as the place to do it in.
       When they heard there was the possibility of high-tech jobs in a beautiful land, ears pricked up.
       I realize the OECD stats say we’re average when it comes to innovation, but I know it’s there, under the radar, growing. People like Prof Sir Paul Callaghan reckon it’s the realistic way forward for our nation. Interestingly, this message sounds an awful lot like the one I communicated during my 2010 mayoral campaign.
       And if we are to grow it, then maybe working with our Indian brothers and sisters is the exactly the direction we need to follow.

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    Posted in branding, business, China, culture, India, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


    Less Tumblring, less Facebooking—are email and blogging back?

    03.01.2012

    I’ve been noticing my Tumblr usage drop, and judging by the count here, my updates to this blog have fallen to a bit of a low this year. But, as Tumblr drops, this blog seems to be rising. I imagine 2012 will bring with it another change in how we all share our thoughts online.
       I can’t say for sure why we change from one medium to another. Maybe it’s boredom, maybe it’s due to the things we want to share, maybe the technology has provided us something new. Maybe it’s the need to get back to business after a bit of a lull during the recession: our 2011 billings were up over a relatively quiet 2010, and success breeds success.
       Novelty was the case with Facebook Timeline when I switched over to it in September, but with all its changes recently—such as the nearly endless scrolling we have to do before we get to the month’s summary—the cleverness has worn off.
       To me, what was ingenious was seeing how Timeline chose its selection for the month. I didn’t need to scroll back eight days to see what I wrote just after Christmas. But, someone at Facebook decided we needed that function—as well as a second friends’ box that duplicates the first, but with people’s names next to their photos. Facebook: they are my friends. I know their names.
       In other words, it’s turned into the old Facebook wall, but an untidy version of it. No wonder some people hate Timeline (to the point of Facebook shutting down its own Timeline fan page?): they never got to see the ingenuity of it.
       I made this analogy before, but it’s like the first Oldsmobile Toronado: a pure design in its first year, getting more ornamented with each model year, so much so that the purity is lost. So why even bother changing?
       And, of course, there was Facebook’s predictable failure to recognize any time zone outside the US for the fourth time. In fact, as with October 1 and November 1, Facebook once again thought that its entire 800 million-strong user base resides in California. With Timeline now open to the general public, you would think that they would have remedied this very old bug, but, remember, 11 months ago you couldn’t even restrict your friend search to Paris, France. Paris, Texas, Paris, Arkansas, and Paris, Illinois, sure. Since for a while those pommes frites were called freedom fries, the geographical geniuses at Facebook saw fit to remove the French capital. Did they hire Kellie Pickler as a consultant?

    Or was there an edict inside Facebook that it isn’t 2012 till Mark Zuckerberg proclaims it is 2012?
       The difference was, this time, I wasn’t the only schmuck complaining about it on Get Satisfaction. Thanks to the larger audience affected over 21 time zones on the planet, Facebook received plenty of complaints. Once January 1, 2012 hit the US east coast, the number rose even more dramatically, if Twitter is to be believed.
       So if I’ve got tired of Tumblr, and I’m not happy with Facebook forever introducing bugs on to what was quite a clever concept in Timeline, then that leaves this place.
       I’ve grown accustomed to the look since I first created this template in the mid-2000s. I forget which year it was (which is unlike me) but I believe it was 2005. This blog dĂ©buted in 2006 after I stopped blogging at Beyond Branding, and at that stage, the template was already done.
       I mentioned that I felt it had dated in a Tweet last month, and found agreement. Friends, if you think it’s dated, you are allowed to tell me earlier! The whole personal site needs a rejig, and that might be something I work on in the New Year (my one, not Pope Gregory’s one).
       On that note, ideas are welcome. I already have a few for its look and feel, and I may simplify the structure to cover my key interest areas. And if I like the new look, then it may render the other places redundant as I toy with how my future posts appear.

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    Posted in design, humour, internet, marketing, USA | 5 Comments »


    The guide for New Zealand businesses looking at China

    03.01.2012

    New Zealand China Trade Guide

    I bumped into Chris Wilson, who edited NZT&E’s excellent periodical Bright some years ago, recently. Sadly, the government pulled the plug on Bright, though as I understand it, some colleagues at In Business wound up taking over the mailing list.
       But it’s wonderful to see the high standards of excellence that Chris was known for continue. He has served as managing editor of the New Zealand China Trade Guide, published by CommStrat. It’s a hefty 148 pp. bilingual guide with overviews, the usual well meaning quotes from government officials, and, importantly, case studies and sector-by-sector analyses.
       The publication, in full colour and retailing for under NZ$40, reads in an accessible style—forget those boring government documents that ape textbooks. It should help businesses explore opportunities in China—while also serving as a reminder that New Zealand is a very innovative nation and Kiwis set the bar very high. It has received an endorsement from the New Zealand–China Trade Association.
       Chris should be justifiably proud of his latest work and it’s a must for dealing with what has become New Zealand’s second biggest market.

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    Posted in business, China, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing | No Comments »