Archive for the ‘business’ category


How we fixed ‘Missing a temporary folder’ on Wordpress when the usual methods failed

18.01.2022

We’re in the middle of migrating the main Lucire site to a new server, thanks to a very dear and generous friend who’s spending his free time helping me. One error I came across on the new box was the ‘Missing a temporary folder’ error on Wordpress, and finding the usual solutions (creating a temporary folder, adding a line into the wp-config.php, doing a chmod on files in the wflogs folder) didn’t work. They may have helped, as I didn’t reverse them, but the big one, after having studied the error logs, was this, since we host using Nginx and Plesk.
   I headed to the PHP settings for the domain on the new box, then found the open_basedir setting. I changed /vol to none—after that, the uploads were fine.
   Hopefully this will help others in the same boat as it’s not immediately obvious on the web that this is a potential solution. It’s drawing two disparate strands together.

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Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

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Posted in business, China, culture, design, globalization, interests, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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Don’t put your events on just Facebook—they won’t be seen

31.12.2021

We’re probably far enough along from the event for people not to know which one I am referring to, as I’ve no wish to embarrass the organizers.
   Earlier in 2021, we saw a weekend event that would take place at the ‘Johnsonville Community Hub’. No address was given other than that. Both Duck Duck Go and Google seemed to think this meant Waitohi, the new library and swimming pool complex.
   We arrived there to find that no one knew of this event, but maybe we could try the community hall next door?
   No joy.
   There was the Collective Community Hub on Johnsonville Road but their website made it clear that it wasn’t open at the weekend.
   We hung round Johnsonville for a bit and decided we would check out the Collective place, just to see it up close.
   Sure enough, that’s where the event was—it was open at the weekend—and we got there after everyone had packed up.
   They were very apologetic and we told them the above. They had noted, however, that there had been more information on Facebook.
   To me, that’s a big mistake, because I don’t know what their Facebook page is, and even if I did, there was no guarantee I would see it for a variety of reasons. (Try loading any fan page on Facebook on mobile: the posts take unbearably long and few people would have the patience.) A search for the event on both Duck Duck Go and Google never showed a Facebook page, either.
   A similar event posted its cancellation on Facebook exclusively, something which we didn’t know till we got there, and after getting puzzled looks from the party that had booked the venue, I randomly found one organizer’s page and clicked on his Facebook link. Again, nothing about the event itself came up on Duck Duck Go or on Google.
   In the latter case, the organizer had the skills to make a web page, a normal one, so was it so hard to put the cancellation there?
   You just can’t find things on Facebook. They don’t appear to be indexed. And if they are, they’re probably so far down the results’ pages that they won’t be seen. If you’re organizing an event, by all means, post there to those who use Facebook keenly (a much smaller number than you think, with engagement decreasing year after year), but it is no substitute for getting it into properly indexed event calendars or on to the web, where regular people will put in search terms and look for it.
   Facebook is not the internet. Thank God.

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Instagram scammers are next-level lazy (and greedy)

22.12.2021

This was somewhat disappointing.
   This chap contacts me, seemingly wanting permission to repost our Instagram images. His personal info has been removed.

Hello there,

We have reviewed your page and we truly loved your work!
   We’d like to repost your pictures on our profile. Our account is [redacted] and we have over 200.000 followers. If our followers see your work a large number of them are extremely likely to follow you.
   I hope this sounds great to you since we are convinced you are going to receive a lot of new fans from this.
   Would you like to be published on our page?

All the best,

   I realize this was a form email but I thought: how courteous that they ask permission first. So many just steal your work. I felt they should be complimented on doing the right thing.

Dear [redacted]:

Thank you for reaching out but we must decline your offer. Our work is licensed for our use only, and we cannot permit it to be reposted. We truly appreciate your asking us first and for doing the right thing.

Kind regards,

Jack Yan
Publisher, Lucire

   Seems their email system is set up assuming that all replies are positive, because I next get this:

I appreciate you getting back to us!
   We have delivered many sponsored shoutouts and the results were always terrific. When we saw your Instagram profile we were confident you would get the same results. You can choose the photos for the promotion yourself or we can help you out with that.
   We guarantee at least 500 new followers with just one picture. With 3 published photos you will get at least 1500 new followers, and with 7 – more than 3500 new followers! If we don’t deliver these results, we will issue a full refund.

Packages:
1 shoutout – $39
3 shoutouts – $79
7 shoutouts – $159

And it goes on.
   This doesn’t deserve much more than:

Dear [redacted]:

I don’t know if you read my reply at 11.31 a.m. UTC—it seems like you haven’t. It’s a no.

Regards,

Jack

And a block of the schmuck’s domain on our server, plus two reports from us on Instagram for spamming.
   I know you’re thinking: why did you even bother replying in the first place?
   Well, usually when people send me unsolicited emails, they’re not so stupid as to not read the replies. This Instagram scammer, whose followers are probably all fake anyway, had automated everything, and took things to the next level of laziness. And he’s a greedy bugger as well, wanting to use your work and charge you for their using it!
   This is a sure way to ruin your reputation, and if you feel public policy would be served by my revealing their identity, I’m very happy to do so.

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Ingredients of leadership

17.12.2021

My friend Sarah Jane Adams is undertaking research on leadership and asked for what people thought being a good leader meant. Here are 10 that I gave her on her Linkedin. They are in no order and are the first 10 things that popped into my head. Not saying I’ve managed to do all of them consistently, but I try.

Recognize every individual for who they are and what they bring to the table.

Acknowledge your own limitations.

Don’t assign someone something you aren’t prepared to do yourself if you were in their shoes.

Work with people who can think beyond themselves and who can look at the bigger picture.

Communicate clearly and succinctly. Jargon is for losers.

If you have a good team, being transparent with them is a good thing.

Do not put up with anyone who thinks they can hold you to ransom or to hold up your work. Replace the buggers.

Are you instilling love or fear? If it’s the latter, you haven’t led.

Do what you love. It’s easier to lead when you do.

And don’t be a dick.

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Lucire’s Twitter account is back

17.12.2021

I can’t yet reveal why, but I’ve come across the work of Hong Kong-trained and based designer Caroline Li, and it’s really good. She’s done a lot of book covers, and I know first-hand how hard it is to have a small canvas to work from. Maybe I’m just used to magazines. Check out her work here.

After nearly two months, Lucire’s Twitter account has been restored.
   Earlier in the week, they had requested—again—that I upload my ID to prove that I was who I said I was, despite this having been done countless times already in the past two months.
   Today, I received another ‘it appears that this issue may have been resolved.’ I had my doubts and was about to send them a reply giving them a piece of my mind, but I checked, and sure enough, Lucire’s account was back.
   I don’t know if my letter to Twitter New Zealand Ltd.’s directors, via their lawyers, did the trick, or whether my private information finally reached someone literate with reasonable intelligence.
   I gave the lawyers till today (the 17th) to respond, though the timing of the resolution could be a coincidence.
   It showed just how terrible Twitter’s systems have been and how right I was to call the entire process farcical.
   To think that Facebook did better when Lucire’s Instagram was deactivated, and we were only out for a week. And I have had plenty to say about Facebook over the years, as you all know.
   It’s a shame that we never got to play with Zoho Social’s premium version trial with all our social media accounts intact. I just hope that now that we’ve reactivated all our gadgets (IFTTT, Dlvr.it, etc.), that they work as they once did. (As they certainly didn’t when we used our temporary @luciremagazine account on Twitter.)

When I was waiting for my new phone to arrive, I didn’t know what all the DHL status updates meant. I looked online to see if I could get a clue as to how long each stage took, especially the “last mile” delivery. There were very few screenshots or public traces. Here’s the trace from my package in case it helps someone else the same boat. (Vivaldi put the DHL website header near the bottom when I made the screenshot.)

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Posted in business, China, design, Hong Kong, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


On Lucire’s locked Twitter account: they’re still doing sweet F. A.

03.12.2021


Pixabay

Twitter, after having done sweet F. A. about Lucire’s locked account, and failing to provide any response since the last lot of evidence was sent to them on the 4th ult., wrote this to me today:

After reviewing the reported account, it appears that this issue may have been resolved. Please reply to this email if you still need assistance, or to let us know if the situation has changed in any way.

   You just have to wonder if they hire morons at that level, or do they hire regular people and train them down?

Dear Twitter Support:

This most certainly has not been resolved. Quite the opposite.
   Your company still refuses to examine the evidence, despite our sending it numerous times.
   We have heard nothing from you at all over the actions you say you will take. In fact, your latest response of pretending all is well is the only thing we have heard from Twitter since the 4th [ult.]
   It has been referred to your internal support team by your UK head of planning, David Wilding (whom I know) to no avail.
   I’m not sure that you could call it resolved as a quick check of the handle shows it ‘doesn’t exist’.
   We ask again that @Lucire be unlocked as we have done nothing wrong, and we hold a USPTO trade mark registration for all online publishing usage. (Your own link in your autoresponse to locked accounts results in a 404.)
   We have to come to your department as the “proper channels” for locked accounts claim that I cannot be confirmed as the owner of Lucire, and a USPTO certificate is apparently not the sort of evidence they will entertain.
   Attached is a letter to your executives Winston Foo and John Pegg outlining the whole matter to date. It would be fair to label your responses farcical … I have also attached the same items of evidence that have been sent earlier. They more than satisfy your requirements.
   I should note that Instagram took a week to resolve an accidental deactivation caused by its AI, not a month and a half. This entire matter can sensibly be resolved in minutes, not months.
   We put the ball back in your court.

Sincerely,

Jack Yan

   The saga continues.

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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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Posted in business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


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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