Archive for November 2021


What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

29.11.2021

My Meizu M6 Note has had to be retired, due to an expanding battery, something which I probably shouldn’t have tolerated for so long (it began happening months ago). I only made the call to stop using it last week after the volume buttons could no longer function, and I probably should have stopped earlier still* as it would have been easier to get the SIM and micro SD cards out!
   My original plan was to go slightly newer and opt for a Note 9, and I had located a vendor on Aliexpress who was prepared to send it to me with the Chinese Flyme OS installed. But my sense is that Meizu is now past its prime, and everything seems to be shutting down.
   I had been logging into the app store daily for over a year to earn points, but Meizu informed us that it would cease to record log-ins, and we had to redeem what we could by January. Its now-useless default music app I’ve already blogged about. No one answers international queries any more and from what I can tell, official Meizu reps seldom frequent the Chinese forums—while the international forums consist of frustrated users talking among themselves.
   And this is coming from a self-confessed Meizu fan. I chose the M2 Note back in 2015–16 and if it weren’t for the damaged screen, I might never have bought the M6 Note. For now, I’m back to using the M2, which is slower, and the battery doesn’t hold its charge quite as well any more, but at least everything from the M6 Note has synced to it. With my app usage lower than it was in 2012, I don’t notice any real lags in performance within the programs I do use, something that I couldn’t say even two years ago when I was still popping into Instagram daily. Only the camera gets annoying with its slowness. I have gone away from the Swype keyboard though, as Swype no longer sends verification codes to your email to sync your custom word dictionary. I’m muddling my way through Microsoft’s Swiftkey, which has proved a tolerable successor (the chief gains are the ability to access en and em dashes and ellipses from the keyboard without switching languages). It seems to forget that you’ve pressed shift in order to write a proper noun (you have to do this twice for it to stick!) but it is learning words like Lucire and Autocade as well as my email address.
   Readers may recall that after I had the M2 Note’s screen repaired, it would no longer charge, except at the store in Johnsonville (Repair Plus) that fixed it! The lads there would never tell me why they could charge it and I couldn’t and just grinned, while I told them how patently ridiculous the situation was, that even a new charging cable could not work; in fact none of my chargers did. They didn’t seem to care that this was the predicament they put me in. The issue—and I don’t know if they are to blame—is that the charging port is looser than it was, and it needs a very decent micro USB connector. That was thanks to PB Tech for telling me the truth—and a thumbs-down to Repair Plus for not even trying to sell me a better cable! Moral of the story: use people for the one thing that can do, but don’t expect much more from them, not even basic after-sales service.
   With its “fault” remedied about a year and a half ago, I had a phone to use once I put the micro SD and SIM cards back in, though Amanda isn’t able to hear me that clearly on it when I’m at the office, and I’m sure I’ve missed calls and SMSs probably due to limits with the frequencies it uses (though I had checked six years ago it would handle the Vodafone 3G and 4G frequencies).
   So a new phone is needed because the “phone” function of the M2 isn’t up to par. I don’t need the latest and greatest, and thanks to the pace of development, a phone launched in 2020 is already obsolete in China. It seems that if Meizu is on the way down that I should go to its arch-rival, Xiaomi, and get the Note 9’s competitor, which roughly has the same name: the Redmi Note 9.
   The Xiaomi names are all confusing and the Indian market has different phones with the same names, to add to the confusion already out there. I don’t profess to know where the S, T, Note, Pro, and the rest fit, but let’s just say I’ve been led to get a Redmi Note 9.
   PB had first dibs but as the sales’ rep could not tell me whether I could easily put the Chinese version of MIUI on it, in order to rid myself of the Google bloatware, then I couldn’t safely buy one. I wasted enough time on the M6 Note on that front, and my installation of its Chinese OS could well have been down to a fluke. He also refused to tell me the price difference between the sale units and the shop-soiled demo ones other than it was small, and, ‘You may as well buy a new one.’
   There’s no irony here with privacy: Chinese apps at least tell you what legislation covers their usage, unlike western apps which don’t mention US Government snooping yet Google passes on stuff anyway. In all the years I’ve used the Meizus there has been nothing dodgy in terms of the data received and sent, as far as I know, and there’s nothing questionable constantly running such as Google Services that transmits and drains your battery.
   There are some great sites, a number of which are in India, that teach you how to turn off some of Xiaomi’s bloatware’s notifications, but they seldom annoyed me on the Meizu. I’ll soon find out first-hand how good they are.
   Why the Redmi Note 9? It was one of the few on Aliexpress that I could find with the Chinese ROM installed, saving me a lot of effort. I won’t have to root it, for a start. When your choice is down to about half a dozen phones—Aliexpress and Ebay vendors are so keen to get export sales they make it a point not to sell Chinese—you’re guided on price and your daily usage. I’m a firm believer that a phone should not cost the same as a used car. Bonuses: the big battery and the fact it isn’t too bright (that’s just me); detriments: 199 g in weight and a humongous screen.
   The vendor (YouGeek) was conscientious enough to send me a message (along the lines of ‘Are you absolutely sure you want the Chinese version?’) which cost me a couple of days since I don’t always pop back to the site (and you can’t read messages on the phone browser version anyway). Now we’re on the same page, they’ve dispatched the phone. We’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks. There’s no turning back now.

* PS.: From How to Geek: ‘Once you notice the battery is swollen or compromised in any way, you should immediately stop using the device. Turn the power off, and above all else, do not charge the device. Once the battery has reached such a point of failure that the battery is swollen, you must assume that all safety mechanisms in the battery are offline. Charging a swollen battery is literally asking for it to turn into an exploding ball of noxious flammable gas right in your living room.’ I wish I was told this when I first went to PB months ago when the battery began expanding and I enquired about phones.

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My tribute to David MacGregor

28.11.2021


Digital art by David MacGregor

I hope the media will say more because David MacGregor had packed so much into his 50-something years on this planet. Here is my tribute on Lucire. Not everyone can claim to have discovered Rachel Hunter, created the Family Health Diary TV commercial format (and others), founded the first online men’s lifestyle magazine in New Zealand (Emale, or to give it its official form, eMALE), conceived and co-founded Idealog, and won a heap of advertising, marketing, and magazine publishing awards in the process. A brilliant man who never stopped creating.

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Amazon: as dodgy as the rest of them

28.11.2021

Jane Pendry in the UK Tweeted this in response to a Tweet about Amazon, and I had to reply:

   Jane helpfully elaborated:

   You read correctly: Amazon is just as dodgy as the others I’ve criticized publicly. Just that I hadn’t got around to them on this blog, because there had been a lengthy dialogue and I wanted to get more facts. But above is where I’ve got to so far, and it seems I’m not alone.

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Life in the capital

21.11.2021

Amazing what sort of press releases come in. I had no idea that Auckland is our capital, and I was surprised to find that Toronto and Antwerp are as well in the same release.
   Essential Living is a British firm, from the looks of it, and no, we won’t be publishing this in Lucire.

   You’d think the PR firm might check as well, but maybe post-Brexit they don’t really care about other countries any more?

Meanwhile, on Twitter. It’s getting nutty toward the end of the year. Just today we saw a motorcyclist come off his Suzuki in Johnsonville, and a Toyota van almost losing control altogether in Tawa. ‘Driving to the conditions’ doesn’t seem to be a thing any more. On Friday, it was this:

Usual story on Facebook. I had better report this fake account with a fake name!

   Facebook says: it’s fine, nothing to see here.

   Why do people continue to believe their user number claims? They’re rubbish.

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The post-Panel podcast

16.11.2021

Taking some of the themes today on RNZ’s The Panel with Wallace Chapman (pre-Panel here, part one of the show here, and part two here), I offer a bit more commentary. Today’s topics: the COVID-19 mandate for schools; quitting drinking; Finland planning to let people see others’ salaries; the level of spending above New Zealand Superannuation; Countdown’s toy gifts; and the multi-modal commuter.

   Big thanks to Amelia, Wallace and Julia today for a very enjoyable hour and 15 minutes!
   Please note that this podcast is not affiliated with Radio New Zealand—this has been done of my own volition and from my own inspiration.

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November 2021 gallery

06.11.2021

Here are November 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Nice to see BoConcept advertise on Lucire’s website (they were an early print advertiser).
   Triumph 1300, Hillman Avenger Super and Range Rover advertisements via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   More on the Ford Sierra at Autocade.
   Mindfood advertisement on the Lucire website: it might not be worth a lot but I’m still happy to take some money off my colleagues.
   Aston Martin Rapide, photographed by me.
   Audi R8 Typ 42, more at Autocade.
   More on the 1968–70 Dodge Charger at Autocade.
   Mercedes-Benz 280SL pagoda and Fart via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   Renault 15 via the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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RIP Lionel Blair

05.11.2021

It’s not Harp Lager. It’s much funnier.

   Mind you, I watched this to remember Lionel today.

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Twitter continues playing silly buggers—are they illiterate?

04.11.2021


Pixabay

It’s hard to believe, but Twitter is far, far worse than Facebook when it comes to straightening things out.
   They’ve now asked for my ‘government-issued ID’ thrice and I’ve provided it thrice. It meets all their criteria.
   This is the latest bollocks:

Hello,

We’re writing to let you know that we’re unable to verify you as the account owner. We know this is disappointing to hear, but we can’t assist you further with accessing your account.
   If you know which email address is associated with the account, and you no longer have access to that email, please contact your email provider for assistance.
   For privacy reasons, we can’t provide any information about this account’s email address.
   You’re more than welcome to create a new account to get back onto Twitter.
   Please do not respond to this email as replies to this account are not monitored.

Thanks,

Twitter

   I didn’t need to be verified as the account owner. I need the account to be unlocked and you needed me to prove my age. I’ve done that. And I know which email is used, I set it up.
   So that’s 12-plus years and thousands of followers gone?
   I really had expected Facebook to screw up somewhere and we’d lose our accounts there, but not Twitter.
   I’ve now gone to their IP department and lodged a complaint against myself (as the owner of the @lucire handle) to see if it can be assigned to me. Convoluted? You bet.
   And instead of sending them my ID again (I’ve tried passport and driver’s licence), I’m going to send in my USPTO registration. What’s the bet they won’t accept something issued by their own government?

PS.: Maybe their ad department is smarter. Let’s see if they respond to this.

Hi folks:

This is very unorthodox but in practice, the ad department tends to be the best at troubleshooting.
   Last month, our business account @lucire was locked. Now, before you refer me to the locked account people, this is the only one where I’m likely to do any advertising from.
   We were locked for being honest. Twitter asked us to fill in the date of birth, and that it applied even to businesses. At no point did it ask for my DOB, but the company’s.
   That was October 20, 1997.
   The AI came crashing down on us. Turns out that made us underage when the account was opened. Now, I’m 49, so I know I wasn’t underage.
   I went through the process of sending in ID, which met all your criteria.
   Now they’re saying that they can’t verify me as the owner, which wasn’t even the issue to begin with.
   I’ve sent in driver’s licence, passport, even a USPTO trade mark certificate (surely that’ll show I’m the owner?).
   Here’s an account that dates back to the 2000s with thousands of followers that we’d like reinstated.
   We’d really like you to help, as the locked-account process is going around in circles, and we are making no progress. On Facebook, it was the ad “concierges” who sorted us out, and I wonder if Twitter will be just as effective.

Sincerely,

Jack Yan

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Let’s do some maths on Facebook’s user numbers

03.11.2021

Bear with me on some maths here.
   Facebook says it will delete a milliard ‘faceprints’. In The Guardian: ‘Facebook will delete the “faceprints” of more than a[n American] billion people after announcing that it is shutting down its facial recognition system due to the “many concerns” about using the technology.’
   We know that you can turn on (and off) facial recognition in Facebook, to enable tagging. This came pretty suddenly, if I recall correctly. I turned it off immediately.
   The fact it came suddenly suggests that Facebook had already compiled these faceprints, because we all had the feature if we wanted to keep it. They must have been working on it behind the scenes for a while, before introducing it to every user.
   Now Facebook says it holds over an American billion, i.e. a milliard, of them.
   If we all had them, as we could turn them on and off at will, then it follows that Facebook only has just over a milliard users.
   This gels with their own research into new accounts, where they found that up to 56 per cent of them were owned by existing users. I’ve taken the higher figure here but, frankly, I think they’re underestimating.
   Now, Facebook claims it has 2·9 milliard users. Once again, just ask yourself: know anyone who’s recently joined? Exactly. Most of us don’t. So the user base shouldn’t be rising at the rate they claim. (We all know there are tons of bots on there.)
   On the assumption (you may think it’s a wild one) that their research is representative across all of Facebook, that 44 per cent of all accounts are legitimate and the remainder are owned by the 44 per cent, then:

2,900,000,000 × 0·44 = 1,276,000,000

   Remember not long ago I posited that Facebook’s actual user numbers were closer to a milliard?
   I don’t believe I’m far off, and this latest news might, if the logic holds up, suggest I’m right.

PS.: Thanks to Ton Zylstra for inspiring more maths on this. If Facebook finished 2020 on just under 2,000 million users, and now claims 2,900 million, yet the number of social media users increased last year by 400 million, you can pretty easily see their numbers do not add up.

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John Shaft beats Luke Skywalker hands down

03.11.2021

I always had decent pencil cases at kindergarten in Hong Kong and then when I started school in New Zealand. Usually they were car-themed but the pièce de résistance was this one, far nicer than what my classmates in my new home country had.
   While other kids were into Star Wars and things I had no interest in at that age, I could at least show off my badass side with my Shaft’s Big Score pencil case. John Shaft isn’t going to muck around with pussy stuff like the force.


 
I was thinking earlier tonight how cars were the one thing that helped me navigate Aotearoa when I got here with my parents. I might not have understood the culture immediately, and very little outside the faces of my family was familiar to me. But I saw Toyota Corollas (the E20s) and Honda Civics outside. And BMC ADO16s. These at least were an external source of familiarity, since they were commonplace in Hong Kong. A neighbour had a four-door Civic back in Homantin, the first car whose steering wheel I ever sat behind as a child.
   The cars here in New Zealand were much older generally, since there was more of a DIY fix-it culture, and Hong Kong prospered later, resulting in a newer fleet. Those early days were like a history lesson on what had gone before in the 1950s and 1960s, filling in the gaps. But my eyes still went to those newer 1970s shapes. Curves? Who wants curves when you can have boxy shapes and those groovy vinyl roofs?!
   I didn’t say I had taste at age four.

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