Archive for the ‘China’ category


Going beyond a blacked-out image: thoughts on Black Lives Matter

04.06.2020

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#blackouttuesday in support of Black Lives Matter. It was the only blacked out media I found on the phone. Recorded in our conservatory one night.

A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan) on

Usually I find it easier to express myself in written form. For once, Black Lives Matter and the protests in the US prompted me to record another podcast entry. I’m not sure where the flat as and the mid-Atlantic vowels come from when I listened to this again—maybe I was channelling some of the passion I was seeing in the US, and I had watched the news prior to recording this.

   My Anchor summary is: ‘Personal thoughts in solidarity with my black friends in the US. Yes, I posted a blackout image on my Instagram but it didn’t seem to be enough. This is my small contribution, inspired by a Facebook post written by my white American friend Eddie Uken where he reflects on his perspective and privilege.’ Eddie’s Facebook post, which is public, is here.

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Cellphone saga update: back to the past

28.05.2020

Off to PB. The M6 Note was under warranty after all, so it’s now with PB Technologies’ service department in Wellington, after I explained it could have trouble doing read–write operations and the tech saw the camera and gallery hang (usually they just shut themselves down). I paid over NZ$400 for the phone including GST, and fortunately for me, I’m only 17 months in to my ownership. (You may think NZ$400 is cheap, but I don’t.)
   However, before I committed it to service, I had to find a way to get the old M2 Note going. I explained to one of the phone sales’ crew at PB my predicament: despite buying new chargers and cables, the only way to charge the phone was to drive to Johnsonville where it was last “serviced”. And, as usual, here’s the kicker: he plugged it in to his nearest micro USB charger and it fed it with juice, instantly. He said it was the cheapest charger they had in store. It also turned on immediately for him, whereas I’ve never been able to get it going—remember, there are only three buttons here, and I have tried them all. ‘You have 86 per cent charge,’ he said—back home it showed nil, refusing to turn on because the charge was non-existent. Your guess is as good as mine over this.
   The really great thing here is that everyone believed me. I guess these techs have been around enough to know that devices are illogical things, and that the customer isn’t bullshitting you, but more at a wit’s end when they come in with a fault. He sold me a new charger (NZ$18), which worked. Of course, charging it on the cable that fed the M6 Note doesn’t work: it says it’s charging, and the percentage keeps dropping. Again, your guess is as good as mine over this.
   Tonight it’s getting fed the new Adata cable, which took it to 100 per cent earlier tonight.
   Up side: how nice to have my old phone back, with Chinese apps that work and look good. Down side: my goodness, a four-year-old phone is slow. I didn’t think the M6 Note was that flash when I got it at the end of 2018, but after 17 months, I got used to it and find the M2’s processing lagging. The battery isn’t lasting anywhere near what it used to, either.
   I originally needed the M6 in a pinch, as at the time Dad was heading into hospital and I couldn’t risk being out of contact. The M2’s screen had vertical lines going through after a drop, rendering things difficult to read—and what if I couldn’t swipe to answer? The M6 wouldn’t have been my immediate choice: I would have preferred to have researched and found a Chinese-spec phone, even if every vendor online, even Chinese ones, touted their western-spec ones.
   If PB fixes the issue, great. But if not, then I may defect to Xiaomi at this rate. Meizu cares less and less about export sales these days, and there appear to be some vendors who can sell a Chinese-spec phone out there. The newer phone was also buggier: whether that was down to it being a western version, I don’t know. The M6 Note didn’t represent the rosiest of moments, certainly not for Dad, so I’m not wedded to it getting back to full health. Let’s see how they go next week, but at least I now have a cellphone that rings again—one’s only concern is how much charge it holds.

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The latest phone factory reset was good for eight days

24.05.2020

It looks like this latest phone reset lasted all of eight days, as today, all the bugs returned, all indicating to me that the M6 Note has some sort of read–write error. PB has offered a link to file a report and asked that I drop phone and form in to their Wellington store, but I may call to double check that it is under warranty.
   If I do, I need to figure out a way to charge my old phone, since that’s been impossible since its “repair”. Go in with a phone that works in most respects other than a busted screen, come back with a phone that has a fixed screen but doesn’t charge, regardless of charger, except, of course, the one at their shop. If I can get it going, then that saves a few hundred dollars buying a replacement, which I’m loathe to do.
   There’s also one further option, to buy a new SD card, in case that is the culprit, but considering the phone has difficulty deleting files on its internal storage, I doubt very much that the card is at fault.
   I’ve already been chatting to an Aliexpress vendor in Shenzhen to confirm that they can sell me a new Meizu with Chinese spec, since I have zero desire to get another western-spec one that I have to root in order to remove the Google spyware. And if this M6 is any sign of what a western-market phone is like, then no thanks. I also need to do a lot more reading about the Note 9, the potential replacement, to check the frequencies and capabilities. With Meizu doing less and less outside China, decent information is harder to come by.
   I’ve done factory resets twice already this month, each time wasting hours replacing all the apps and settings. Since the resets have put me right anywhere from a day to eight days, then I don’t relish having to do one a third time, with the very real possibility the phone will conk out again. Amanda and I are back to having half a phone each: hers rings but you can’t talk into it; mine doesn’t ring but you can make outgoing calls.

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


After you’ve gone through the brands you’ve heard of …

23.05.2020


The mouse quest continues. After going through all of PB’s listings and coming up short—nothing (at least with listed dimensions) matched or came close to the size and shape of the Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1—I returned to Aliexpress for another look.
   This Tecknet mouse might be the right one, but it’s hard to say till I try it out. For around NZ$20 we’ll soon know.
   I’ve bought mice from Guangdong vendors on Aliexpress before, and even have one I regularly take with me when I travel, but it doesn’t have the side buttons, which I’ve become accustomed to. When you’re spoiled, it’s hard to go back—even though I have three mice here without those extra buttons which might be totally adequate size- and shape-wise. I’ll report back when the new mouse arrives. Here’s hoping this will be large enough for my hands—and if it is, Tecknet could well get a lot of business from many of us in the same boat who don’t wish to subscribe to the current trend of tiny computer mice.

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Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse isn’t a successor to the old

17.05.2020


How I had such high hopes that the Microsoft Intellimouse Pro Special Edition bought at Noël Leeming would be a successor to my Intellimouse 1.1. The short version: it isn’t.
   It might be a successor to the Intellimouse Explorer 3 on which the shape is modelled, but for those of us who prefer symmetrical mice, because the higher right-hand side supports your hand better, it literally was a pain.
   There are only some counterfeit ones going for a decent price on Ebay, and I really should have snapped up more of the second-hand ones when I had a chance. The mice now at Recycling for Charity are, like all those reasonably priced ones in shops today, tiny. I imagine mice from the early 2000s aren’t even getting recycled any more, since it’s 2020 and the “old” stuff is from last decade—after the manufacturers began to shrink them.
   Asus did a good job with its ROG Strix Evolve which I bought three months ago, but I find that the absence of tapering at the front and the overall tightness of the buttons didn’t serve me that well.
   The Intellimouse 1.1 is back here as my reserve, and the Asus is on the mouse pad. It took all of a few seconds at my desk to know that Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse wasn’t right—and one wonders why they couldn’t just keep making something that worked so well for so many of us.
   I was lucky to get the similarly shaped Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 five years ago, a dead-stock mouse made in 2005 that had been sitting at Corporate Consumables. In between the properly sized Microsoft mice—three in total, including my first in 2002—I had all manner of other types but nothing was as comfortable.
   When you go to some websites selling mice, they tell you that you can hold their product like a ‘claw’, as if that is a positive attribute. Once again we see the need for humans to adapt to technology, rather than the other way round. I can see why one might need to do this given how mice have shrunk. If your hand’s like a claw, then you may be the modern equivalent of the Chinese women who had their feet bound in the 20th century. You may feel that is the fashion, but you need not live with it.

I did it. On Saturday night I reset my Meizu M6 Note again, the second time in eight days, taking it back to factory settings. Except this time I didn’t load Whatsapp or Signal. Two days later, my phone remains OK.
   I suggested to PB that it may have developed a read–write fault, as deleting photos from the internal memory takes minutes (if it ever completes), which the warranty should cover. It also would explain why the gallery, camera and the downloads’ folder wouldn’t load properly, since they each tried to access the internal storage. I also had difficulty restoring my SMSs with SMS Backup, with the operation crapping out before completing—though strangely, today, the SMSs are back without any intervention from me.
   But it also wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Whatsapp wasn’t compatible with Android 7 now—Instagram never was, not fully. To save a load of time I won’t be putting messaging apps back on there. I lost a second evening to this and I’m not keen on losing more.
   There are two up sides: I don’t need to get a new phone, and if I did, I finally found a vendor on Aliexpress who’ll sell a Chinese-spec Meizu. No more of these western editions: they are less reliable, with a less well stocked app store, and you can’t update the OS. You have to root them to get rid of the Google spyware. I may stick with Meizu but I really won’t be buying domestically again.

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Posted in business, China, design, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


The first world problems of the cellphone (lockdown edition)

09.05.2020


This Pukerua Bay Tardis was the last thing I shot before the cellphone’s camera and gallery failed

First world problems: the cellphone. Right now my partner and I have half a phone each, so between us, we have one phone. She can receive calls on hers but no one can hear her answer. Mine no longer rings but you can hear me speak. So I guess the way to communicate with us, while there are no repairers within easy reach during Level 3, is to call her, we note down the number, and one of us calls you back on my phone. Oh, and neither of us can take photos any more: hers has had an issue with SD cards from quite early on, and mine developed an inability to function as a camera last week.
   I’m not that bothered, really. I’ve no real desire to get a new one and while it’s a shame to lose a very good camera, one wonders whether I should just get a camera. After all, those last longer than a mere 18 months …
   The fault on my Meizu M6 Note isn’t easily explained. I’ve spotted similar errors online, solved by deleting the app cache or app data. That doesn’t work for me. The camera crashes on opening, as does the downloads’ folder. The gallery is a grey, translucent screen that does or doesn’t crash eventually. The stock music and video apps cannot find anything, though the stock file manager and ES File Explorer tell me that everything is there, and the music and video files play.
   I’ve not lost any important data—I’ve always backed up regularly—and I’ve transferred everything off the SD card, including all SMSs and contacts, as well as photos.
   PB (who sold my phone) says this is a software issue (avoiding a warranty claim) but I’m sensing that the phone is crapping out whenever it’s trying to write to one of its disks. That sounds like hardware to me. I can transfer files via ES File Explorer but it crashes immediately after the transfer. It doesn’t appear to be the SD card, as when I unmount it, it makes no difference.
   Meizu has been useless: no forum answers and no customer-service answers, though I did contact them during the CCP Workers’ Day holiday and mainland China was, it appears, shut.
   I’d go back to my old phone but the only way to charge it is to drive to Johnsonville and ask the repair shop to charge it—that’s been the only way since they repaired the screen last year. They claim they haven’t altered the charging mechanism, but since no charger in this house works, not even a new one, I can’t explain why this is. The techs there are mum because it would be giving away a trade secret, I suspect. It seems I need a special charger since the manufacturer’s one is no longer compatible, and, guess what? I bet you the repairer will sell me one at some ridiculous price.
   But for now it is rather inconvenient, making me wonder: just why on earth do we need a cellphone anyway, when we have perfectly adequate land lines, when they become this much of a nuisance? They are frightfully expensive for little, fragile trinkets that I now increasingly use for just calling and not apps. There is no utility to a phone that can only be charged at one location, and there is no utility to the newer phone to which no one has posted a ready solution.
   Last night, I reset the newer unit to factory settings, and, happily, none of the Google BS returned. Maybe it was software. I still can’t do any updating with Meizu’s official patches, which is annoying. But for that brief, glorious period, I could take photos again. The camera, gallery and downloads’ folder would open.
   I did have to find, with some difficulty, the Chinese version of the Meizu app store, since I never saved the APK separately. This at least allowed me to get some of the Chinese apps not available on Meizu’s western app store. It was a shame to see some of the apps I once had no longer in the catalogue; presumably, the licence had expired.
   And there I was, for about five or six hours reconfiguring everything, and I’m now suspecting that I should not have put the thing into developer mode or downloaded Whatsapp. Those were the last things I did, content that all was well, before waking up this morning to find myself back to square one, with the bugs all returned. The log files tell me nothing other than Meizu’s servers not responding properly (they’ve been getting progressively worse supporting people outside China).
   I never wanted Whatsapp but for one friend formerly in Germany, and one of Dad’s friends in Hong Kong. The former has moved back here and can be reached on Facebook, accessible via a basic browser. And sadly, I doubt I will hear much from the latter now that Dad has passed away. He knows my regular number anyway, and if I had a cellphone that rings, maybe he could call it.
   Since Whatsapp and Instagram are owned by Facebook, it would not surprise me if both were becoming less and less compatible with Android v. 7, and I’ve charted Instagram’s increasing, Facebook-era faults on this blog before. If Facebook can’t get its basics right on its flagship site, then why should I have their crap in my pocket?
   Generally, I could live without it. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll give the reset another go. I’ve saved most of the APKs from this round, and it was a good opportunity to do without some apps that I seldom used. But I already lost a day to it earlier in the week, a night to it last night, and I face the prospect of more hours to come. These things are not productive when they take up this much time. And I don’t like typing on tiny keyboards, I do absolutely zero work on them other than calls since it is impossible to compose a logical email (which you then have to somehow sync back to the desktop to maintain a full, professional record, wasting even more time), and they serve only a narrow range of purposes, photography being one. I’m still quicker looking at a paper map than relying on a device.
   However, I don’t like faulty gadgets that have cost me hundreds of dollars, and since a reset solved the problems for a few hours, it might be worth one more shot to at least bring things closer to normal, useful or not. Let’s at least have that camera and music back.

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Live from Level 3

03.05.2020

Finally, a podcast (or is it a blogcast, since it’s on my blog?) where I’m not “reacting” to something that Olivia St Redfern has put on her Leisure Lounge series. Here are some musings about where we’re at, now we are at Level 3.

   Some of my friends, especially my Natcoll students from 1999–2000, will tell you that I love doing impressions. They say Rory Bremner’s are shit hot and that mine are halfway there. It’s a regret that I haven’t been able to spring any of these on you. Don’t worry, I haven’t done any here. But one of these days …

Perhaps the funniest Tweet about the safe delivery of the British PM and his fiancée’s son, for those of us who are Clint Eastwood fans:

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Posted in China, culture, France, globalization, Hong Kong, humour, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Finding an Android browser that works without fuss is harder than you think

25.04.2020

With my last two cellphones, I’ve not used the default browser. I usually opted for Firefox, and in December 2018, I believe that’s what I did on my then-new Meizu M6 Note.
   I don’t recall it being too problematic, but the type on some sites displayed a tad small, so I sampled a few others. I must have tried the usual suspects such as Dolphin and definitely recall seeing the Brave icon on my home screen, but my friend Robin Capper suggested Edge.
   You might think that that’s a ridiculous option given what Edge’s (and IE’s) reputation has been like, but it actually worked better than the other browsers I sampled. It played the videos I loaded on it, and it displayed type generally well, but there was one very regular bug. If I left a session and came back to it later, or let the phone go to sleep or standby, Edge would almost always falter when I tried to pick up where I left off. It would stutter and close. When I opened it up again, it was fine.
   The latest version began displaying in my notifications that it wouldn’t work properly without Google Services, which was a blatant lie, since it was still stable other than the bug above, and all previous versions were absolutely fine. I wonder if this was some leftover from the Chromium base, but, as with the overwhelming majority of Android apps, Google Services are unnecessary.
   The other bug that began happening on a more recent version was Edge getting confused by stylesheets and not knowing what size to display type at. It might change as you browsed, and when you scrolled back up the page, the text that was legible before had turned minute. It did this on Lucire, and it is serious enough for us to redevelop a template for the site.
   I began wondering if there was life outside Edge. I returned to Firefox to find it stable but utterly incapable of playing videos. I don’t remember it being like this when it was my default, but like so many software programs, the more they upgrade, the crappier it gets. I also believe that a lot of these boffins don’t test with older gear, for reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere on this blog.
   Four browsers were suggested to me as replacements: Vivaldi (which I went to anyway, since I use it on the desktop), Duck Duck Go (which I had heard was slow, but I downloaded it anyway), Brave (they have a programme where they claim to give money to publishers but it’s impossible for a publisher like me to sign up to), and Bromite (hadn’t heard of it before today). I had already tried, and rejected, UC Browser on another occasion.
   Vivaldi has been and gone from my phone as I write this post. It’s buggy as heck. Twitter displays about half a centimetre off, so you think you’re clicking on one thing you see on the screen but you’ve just activated the link that’s 0·5 cm above. YouTube will crash the browser (two out of four times). It loses the tab you were browsing on when you come back to a session. It gives the same BS about needing Google Services when it doesn’t. I was very disappointed considering it syncs with Vivaldi on the desktop, the settings seem comprehensive, and the interface looked pretty good.


Vivaldi struggles to display YouTube before crashing


Vivaldi displays everything a bit low (though it functions as though everything is fine, leading you to click on the wrong things), and the tabs I set it to show have gone

   Duck Duck Go has been working quite well. Other than the pop ups that tell me about things I already know as a decade-long user of the search engine, I haven’t noticed the slowness that I’ve heard from a very reliable and knowledgeable source.
   Brave was back, still telling me about their rewards’ programme, but I haven’t experimented with it enough to form a proper opinion. But it has sent a notification about my first Brave advertisement, which I actually can’t see. I admire what they’re trying to do but if only they’d let me sign up as a publisher—yet their site doesn’t permit it. It might be short-lived on my phone, too.
   Bromite, so far, has worked in a standard fashion with nothing too remarkable, and I’ll be investigating further.
   The day has ended rather differently on the cellphone—a whole lot of time invested on a device I barely use. But it’s been a fun exploration of what’s out there and how some fall well short of the basics of stability, consistency and compatibility. Duck Duck Go has so far won the default slot but the jury is still out on Bromite.

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COVID-19 infections as a percentage of tests done: April 13 update

13.04.2020

I can cite these COVID-19 calculations (infections as a proportion of tests done) with a bit more confidence than the last lot, where many countries’ testing figures had not updated. I see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has released its total test numbers now, and they show a pretty good result, too.
   Compared to my post of the 7th inst., there are improvements in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany, while Spain has shown a marked and positive improvement (from 39·58 per cent to 28·25 per cent).
   The UK’s delay and its initial reliance on herd immunity, with sycophants up and down the country agreeing, is showing up now as its number grows slightly, from 20·4 per cent on the 7th to 23·88 per cent with the latest data.
   The US’s numbers are holding fairly steadily with an increase of 0·8 per cent since the 7th (to 19·78 per cent).
   Sweden’s total test figure is one of two inaccurate ones here, having remained unchanged since the last tables, which obviously cannot be right. I estimate they have done around 75,000 tests so far, which would bring the figure to 13·98 per cent, fairly close to the 7th’s, rather than the 19·16 per cent that the Worldometers’ table would have me calculate.
   Also statistically similar are Switzerland, South Korea, Australia and Hong Kong, though Hong Kong’s total test figure is also inaccurate (unchanged from the 7th). Singapore is showing a rise with the reports of community transmission. New Zealand is showing a small drop (2·71 to 2·15 per cent), though the percentage change here is less than what the US’s is.
   Taiwan continues to see its percentage decline with another 8,000 tests done and only an additional 17 infections since the 7th’s post.

France 132,591 of 333,807 = 39·72%
Spain 169,496 of 600,000 = 28·25%
UK 84,279 of 352,974 = 23·88%
USA 560,433 of 2,833,112 = 19·78%
Italy 156,363 of 1,010,193 = 15·48%
Sweden 10,483 of c. 75,000 = c. 13·98%*
Switzerland 25,449 of 193,800 = 13·13%
Germany 127,854 of 1,317,887 = 9·70%
KSA 4,462 of 115,585 = 3·86%
Singapore 2,532 of 72,680 = 3·48%
New Zealand 1,349 of 62,827 = 2·15%
South Korea 10,537 of 514,621 = 2·05%
Australia 6,359 of 362,136 = 1·76%
Hong Kong 1,010 of 96,709 = 1·04%*
Taiwan 393 of 47,215 = 0·83%

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Another COVID-19 table: total infections as a proportion of tests done

07.04.2020

Peter Lambrechtsen rightly pointed out that COVID-19 per capita infection statistics aren’t as good as knowing the infection rate based on tests done, so at 2 a.m. I decided to crunch some numbers based on the stats I had on hand. These are many hours old now but hopefully still indicative of where things stand. Here you want a low percentage, and we are very fortunate to be sitting on 2·71 per cent. This site has tests per million as well, which I haven’t factored in. Taiwan and Hong Kong are looking even better on this measure; Australia isn’t looking too bad, either. The European and US numbers are sobering. Mainland China and the KSA haven’t released their testing numbers, only total infections.
   I don’t really want to go into fatality rates.

France 98,010 of 224,254 = 43·70%
Spain 140,510 of 355,000 = 39·58%
UK 51,608 of 252,958 = 20·40%
USA 369,179 of 1,941,052 = 19·02%
Italy 132,547 of 721,732 = 18·37%
Sweden 7,693 of 54,700 = 14·06%
Switzerland 22,242 of 167,429 = 13·28%
Germany 104,199 of 918,460 = 11·34%
New Zealand 1,160 of 42,826 = 2·71%
South Korea 10,331 of 461,233 = 2·24%
Singapore 1,375 of 65,000 = 2·12%
Australia 5,908 of 310,700 = 1·90%
Hong Kong 936 of 96,709 = 0·97%
Taiwan 376 of 39,011 = 0·96%

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