I’m not so sure that GM going into talks to sell Opel and Vauxhall to PSA (PeugeotâCitroĂ«n) is that big a surprise.
We obviously hold a lot of nostalgia for these brands, and itâs only right that we perceive GM as selling its family jewels. Opel has made some great cars over the years, and Buick in China and the US, Vauxhall in the UK, and Holden in Australia rely on this division to provide it with product.
But it wasnât long ago that I said I foresaw the next Holden Commodore being a four-door booted model based on a Chinese Buick Regal thatâs on the same platform. While Iâve been proved wrong with scoop photos and inside information from journalists in the immediate term, longer-term this doesnât look so far-fetched, in a future where Peugeot owns OpelâVauxhall and GM has no choice but to consider Chinese sourcing seriously.
Therefore, GM isnât thinking that itâs selling off the family jewels, at least the GM where Chinese partner SAIC is overwhelmingly calling the shots.
What they are thinking is this: âWe should be able to develop the whole lot in China.â They werenât nostalgic over Holden, and they wonât be thrilled with the losses at Opel. Itâs willing to sacrifice it to make its own position stronger. Weâve already seen that SAIC has called it quits when it comes to British assembly at Longbridgeâthatâs now all done back in China.
Thereâs been such a massive technology transfer from the US to China over the last few years that Europe is seen as surplus by the folks in Shanghai. They have all the platforms on which they can make products globally. They may even, rightly or wrongly, think that the remaining brands can get them into Europe, even if GM had pulled its Korean-made Chevrolets out of there.
Holden can be used to westernize the product and the Australians have shown they can do it well.
Iâm not saying I agree with this, as a long-time Opel fan. I was looking forward to the new Commodores coming out of RĂŒsselsheim. The car looks the business, itâs roughly the size of the recently deleted Ford Falcon (therefore, Iâm not sure why people are so upset about its size), and the majority of buyers donât even know which set of wheels the powerâs going to. Iâve got an Astra K coming in a few months at Lucire.
What youâre going to see is GM basically being a Shanghai-run firm with China supplying global markets and the US operations kept going for their brand cachet.
In the meantime, a hypothetical PSA-run Opel will continue with the existing plans till the end of these modelsâ life cycles, then China will become the manufacturing hub for numerous markets.
SAIC already makes a load of Cadillacs, Buicks and Chevrolets for the domestic market, and theyâll want to pump them out more widely.
Theyâve also shown that they can take new GM platforms and turn them into Roewesâor old GM platforms and turn them into Baojuns.
PSA, meanwhile, with 14 per cent controlled by Chinese firm Dongfeng, will pursue a strategy of streamlining platforms and be focused more on Europe. It could pay off as cross-town rival Renault has done well with Nissan, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Dacia and AvtoVAZ, but it wonât nearly be as secure. The two French groups have been obsessed with one another for as long as I can remember, for years spending more time rivalling each other than actually coming up with what customers wanted.
Dongfeng may have to cough up more lolly and it could become a larger shareholder than the Peugeot family or the French government. But will it have the sort of geographical coverage that Renault has?
Thatâll be what PSA will be asking itself, knowing that itâs reasonably strong in Chinaâbut also realizing that it hasnât been clever at creating models that can be sold globally (the current CitroĂ«n C6, DS 5LS and the DS 6 among them, sold exclusively in China). Nevertheless, there are savings to be had, though the most obvious fear is that Opel and Vauxhall will go the way of Panhard and Talbot, brands that fell into either Peugeot or CitroĂ«nâs hands over the years and become defunct at the expense of the parent companiesâ. Is there a desire to extend the groupâs brand portfolio beyond Peugeot, CitroĂ«n, DS, the various Dongfeng lines, and the ex-Hindustan Ambassador?
The official statement is non-committal enough and gives nothing away: âPSA Group and General Motors confirm they are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA.
âThere can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.â
In any case, we always said that SAIC was playing a long game. MG was a toe in the water. GM is the real deal.
Controlling GM means they can do as they please, and whatâs good for China is good for General Motors.
Iâm really impressed with Meizuâs latest Flyme OS upgrades. I didnât know that they were there, but then I have a lot of my notifications turned off. After discovering there was one, I went from my existing 4.5 (I had already upgraded once since I bought the phone) to 5.1, and everything worked fine. There was another sub-version upgrade the same night. US software vendors could learn a lot from this Chinese company.
It wasnât perfect (I made some notes on my Tumblr) but it was a darn sight better than some of the upgrades Iâve had on Mac and Windows. I accept there is less to go wrong with cellphones, but Iâve heard many a complaint from IOS users about their upgrades. The phone feels faster, and after a bit of exploring through the menus, Iâve turned off resource-hogging notifications and data-sucking settings. I stand by my earlier review of my Meizu M2 Noteâif they keep up this level of reliability, and can remain Google-free, Iâd happily buy from them again.
I noticed this on April 28 and Tweeted about it, tagging the New Zealand Labour Party at the time. It still hasn’t been fixed as of today. That’s supposedly Commercial Type’s Stag Bold Italic in the headline, but someone has slanted the italic. Is this a signal that Labour leans to the right more than it’s letting on? Did someone say 1984?
Still, Stag is a far more inspired, and typographically appropriate, choice than the Futura used by our present government’s political party, after years of Gill Sans. Interestingly, I seem to recall the Labour of Bill Rowling having Futura Italic in its logotype. If only modern-day Labour could get its italic displaying correctly.
Good typography wins votes. I should know.
Other than for the landline, Iâve never bought a phone before. Each cellphone has come as a result of a company plan or a loyalty gift from the telco, but when my Huawei Ascend Y200 began needing resets several times a dayâIâve had computer experts tell me this is the phone, or the SD card (like any endeavour, itâs hard to find agreement; this is like saying that the problem with an axe lies with the handle or the blade)âI decided to replace it. Plus, having built websites for clients it seemed only fair to have a device on which I could test them on an OS newer than Android 2.3, and after a few days I have to say the Meizu M2 Note has been worth every penny. (The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 was on the shortlist but the Meizu performed better in online tests, e.g. this one.)
You can find the specs on this device elsewhere, in reviews written by people far more au fait with cellular technology than me, but a few things about arriving in the mid-2010s with such a gadget struck me as worth mentioning.
First, I opted for a blue one. Theyâre usually cheaper. Since I have a case for it, I donât have to put up with the colour on the back anyway, so why not save a few bucks if the guts are the same?
Secondly, itâs astonishing to think in five inches I have the same number of pixels as I do in 23 inches on my monitor.
Thirdly, cellular battery technology has come a heck of a long way. (Down side: you canât replace it in this device.)
But hereâs an absolutely wonderful bonus I never expected: itâs Google-free. Yes, the Flyme OS is built on Googleâs Android 5.1.1, but the beauty of buying a phone from a country where Google is persona non grata is that Iâm not stuck with all the crap I had on the Telstra Clear-supplied Huawei. No Google Plus, Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and all the other stuff I had to switch off constantly. I could have had the phone rooted but it never was a big enough priority, even with my dislike of the big G.
I donât know how much ultimately gets back to Google through simply using its OS, but Iâve managed to keep away from signing in to any of their services. In this post-Snowden era, I regard that as a good thing.
The phone booted up for the first time and gave me English as an option (as the seller indicated), so the deviceâs OS is all in the language Iâm most fluent in. However, itâs not that weird for me to have Chinese lettering around, so the apps that stayed in the Chinese language are comprehensible enough to me. There is an app store that isnât run by Google, at which all the apps are availableâInstagram, Dolphin Browser, Opera Mini, plus some of the other admin tools I use. Nothing has shown up in my Google Dashboard. The store is in Chinese, but if you recognize the icon you should be all right, and the apps work in the language youâve set your OS to.
The China-only apps arenât hard to dispose of, and the first ones to go were Netease, Dianping (I donât even use an Anglo dining review app, so why would I need a China-only one?), Amap (again, it only works in China, and it can be easily reinstalled through Autonavi and its folded paper icon), and 116114, an app from a Chinese telco. Weibo I donât mind keeping, since I already have an account, and I can see some utility to retaining Alipay, the painting app, and a few others.
And having a Google-free existence means I now have Here Maps, the email is set up with my Zoho âboxes, and 1Weather replaces the default which only gives Chinese cities.
What is remarkable is that the Chinese-designed default apps are better looking than the western counterparts, which is not something you hear very often. The opposite was regularly the case. A UI tipping-point could have happened.
I also checked the 2G, 3G and 4G frequencies against Vodafone New Zealand’s to ensure compatibilityâthere are at least two different M2 Notes on the market, so caveat emptor. Vodafone also recommends installing only one SIM, which suits me fine, as the other slot is occupied by a 64 Gbyte micro-SD card.
The new Flyme-based-on-Android keyboard isnât particularly good though, and I lose having a full set of smart quotes, a proper apostrophe, and en and em dashes, but far more obscure Latin-2 glyphs are accessible. Iâm not sure what the logic is behind this.
I had an issue getting the Swift keyboard to install, but Iâve opted for Swype, which, curiously, like the stock keyboard, is missing common characters. Want to type a g with a breve for ErdoÄan? Or a d with a caron? Easy. An en dash? Impossible.
This retrograde step doesnât serve me and there are a few options in Swype. First, I had to add the Russian keyboard, which does give an em dash, alongside the English one, though I havenât located a source of en dashes yet. Secondly, after copying and pasting in a proper apostrophe from a document, I proceeded to type in words to commit them to my personal Swype dictionary: itâs, heâd, sheâll, wonât, etc. This technique has worked, and while itâs not 100 per cent perfect as thereâll be words I missed, itâs better than nowt.
I see users have been complaining about the omissions online for three years, and if nothing has been done by now, I doubt Swypeâs developers are in a rush to sort it.
Swypeâs multilingual keyboards are easy to switch between, work well, but I havenât tried my Kiwi accent on the Dragon-powered speech recognition software within.
Going from a 3Â·2 Mpixel camera to a 13 Mpixel one has been what I expected, and finally I get a phone with a forward-facing camera for the first time since the mid-2000s (before selfies became de rigueur). Itâs worth reminding oneself that a 13 Mpixel camera means files over 5 Mbyte are commonplace, and thatâs too big for Twitter. Iâm also going to have to expect to need more storage space offline, as I always back up my files.
I havenât found a way to get SMSs off yet (suggestions are welcome), unlike the Huawei, but transferring other files (e.g. photos and music) is easier. Whereas the Huawei needed to have USB sharing switched on, the Meizu doesnât care, and you can treat it as a hard drive when connected to your PC without doing anything. That, too, has made life far easier.
Iâve been able to upgrade the OS without issue, and Microsoft (and sometimes Apple) would do well to learn from this.
It leaves the name, Meizu (é æ), which in Cantonese at least isnât the most pleasant when translatedâletâs say itâs all a bit Goblin King. Which may be appropriate this week.
Iâm not one who ever gets a device for imageâs sake, and I demand that they are practical. So far, the Meizu hasnât let me down with its eight cores, 16 Gbyte ROM and 4G capability, all for considerably less than a similarly equipped cellphone that wears an Apple logo. And itâs nice to know that this side of Apple, one can have a Google-free device.
Cortana gives completely the wrong address for me. I wonder if the resident of 39A Aparima Avenue is getting identified as the home of a lot of Windows 10 users.
Thereâs not an awful lot that Cortana can tell you. Most enquiries wind up on Bing, and sheâs only really good for the weather and exchange rates (as I have discovered so far). There are a few fun questions you can throw at her, asking if sheâs better than Siri, or whether if sheâs met Bill Gates, but generally, but weâre far from Knight Rider or replicant technology here. A New Zealand accent presents no problems. One thing she gets very wrong is my location, which is allegedly 39A Aparima Avenue in Miramar. Iâm not sure how she arrived at that address, as I donât live there and I donât believe I know the person who does.
Itâs not too unpleasant to look at although the mobile-specific features can get a bit annoying. The menus feel too large overall, because itâs all designed from a mobile-first standpoint, while the biggest gripe from me comes with the typography.
Microsoft has ruined ClearType here in its attempt to make something for mobile first, and most type looks very poor on screen. Fortunately, a Japanese website still hosts the MacType plug-in, which brings the font display closer to what we experience on Mac OS X. It even goes beyond what we were used to in Windows 7, which had been Microsoftâs best use of its ClearType technology to date.
After installing MacType, ITC Legacy Serif looks far more like it does in print.
You can alter the fonts through the Registry Editor, and I set about getting rid of Arial as always. Windows 10 doesnât like you removing a system font, so the trick is to replace it with something else called Arial, then remove the original from HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts.
Windows 10 removes your ability to change the icon and menu fonts, and they now have to be changed in the registry, too, at HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics, and very carefully.
After tinkering with those, the display began looking like what I was familiar with, otherwise there was a bit too much Segoe on screen.
There have so far been no program incompatibilities. As upgrades go, it hasnât been too bad, and I havenât been stuck here forever downloading updates. Apple still gets higher marks for its OS upgrade processes (when they work) but given how much data I have on my main Windows machine, and how different each PC is, Microsoft has done a good job. Iâm glad the system waited till now, and delivered me a relatively bug-free transition. Software upgrading is one area where I don’t mind not being first.
With the mouse being the culprit on my main computer causing mouse and keyboard to be unresponsive in Windows 7(Iâve still no idea when Windows 10 arrives and Microsoft has been no help at all), I decided to shop for a new one again. The failed mouse was one I bought in 2012, which also made it the most short-lived. Made by Logitech, I had expected better. It replaced a 2002 Microsoft mouse which was my daily unit, and that had failed around 2013. Another Logitech, a few years older, was already giving up the ghost when plugged into the office Mac, and I transferred that to an old Windows machine that we use very irregularly for testing. It was fine there, but the fact it only works on Windows (and Linux, as I later found out) meant that itâs faulty in some way.
One thing I did know, although mice fail in my care less easily than keyboards, is that quality was important. Some months ago, Corporate Consumables advertised old-style Microsoft mice for NZ$12. Considering that type isnât made today, I assume it was old stock they were trying to get rid of. It was the most comfortable I had used last decade, but it appeared that the NZ$12 sale was successful: there were none left.
I headed again to Atech Computers on Wakefield Street, as Matthew had always looked after me and knew I could be fussy. He sold me a Lenovo mouse (above), which he believed would have better quality than the Logitechs, and let me try it out. It was fine at the shopâit was more sizeable than the Logitechâbut after prolonged use I discovered it wasnât wide enough. My ring and little fingers were dragging on the mouse pad, but since there was nothing technically wrong with it, it wouldnât be right to return it. Lesson learned for NZ$30: itâs not just the length, width is important, too. That Lenovo is now plugged into the Linux PC and the older Logitech put aside for now. I might wind up giving it away knowing that itâs not in the best condition, having given away quite a few recycled PCs of late from both myself and a friend when she got new gear for her office.
Corporate Consumables had let me see a dead-stock Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 on my earlier visit and I decided I would give that a go. Armed with the Lenovo, I went to the Wellington office to compare the two and the width was, indeed, right. It was a bit closer to the 2002 model I had. It was narrower, but the sculpted design meant I had somewhere to rest my ring finger, within the body of the mouse. Although manufactured in 2005, it was still in its packaging and Corporate sold it to me at a very low price.
I donât mind that it left the factory a decade ago, if, roughly, the newer the mouse, the shorter the life. A 10-year-old mouse might last me another decade or so. A few years back, I bought a Microtek Scanmaker 5800 to replace a faulty 5700: although it was obsolete and I bought dead stock, it was at about a third of the price of what it was when brand-new last decade, and it plugged into my system without any software alteration. As long as a gadget delivers the quality I wantâand the 5800 gave better results than a newer scanner with a plastic lens, for exampleâthen I donât really mind that that particular model isnât the latest thing. Even the office printer was in a box for about five or six years before it replaced something we bought in 2003 that had gone kaput.
Have mice changed that much between 2005 and 2015? Not really: they do the same thing, more or less, and the old ones might be better made. Iâm perfectly happy with bringing something forth into October 2015 that isnât a De Lorean DMC-12 with a Mr Fusion on the back.
There has been a lot of ongoing press about Landwindâs copy of the Range Rover Evoque (a road test of the Evoque comes next week in Lucire, incidentally), one of my favourite Sloane Ranger SUVs. Thereâs no way Landwind would have come up with the design independently, and, if put before most occidental courts, there would be a finding in favour of the Indian firm.
People are right to be upset, even in China, which has plenty of firms these days that spend millions on developing a new car and hiring the right talent. The days of SEAT Ibiza and Daihatsu Charade rip-offs are not completely gone, but if you read the Chinese motoring press, the journalists there are as condemning of copies as their colleagues everywhere else.
The impression one gets in the west is that this is par for the course in China in 2015, even though it isn’t. While there have been firms that have gone from legitimate licensing to copying (Iâm looking at you, Zotye and Yema), the reverse has tended to be the case in the Middle Kingdom. The latest article on the Landwind X7 appears in Haymarketâs Autocar, a magazine Iâve taken since 1980. I even think Autocar is being overly cautious by putting copy in quotation marks in its headline. Itâs a copy, and thatâs that.
Landwind has maintained that itâs had no complaints from Jaguar Land Rover, while JLR CEO Ralf Speth says he will complain. Considering itâs been five years since the Evoque was launched, and news of the copy, and Landwindâs patent grant from 2014, has been around for a while, then saying you will complain in 2015 seems a little late.
In fact, itâs very late. What surprises me is that this is something already known in China. Iâm not the most literate when it comes to reading my first language, but as I understand it, a firm that shows a product in China at a government-sponsored show, if it wishes to maintain its ânoveltyâ and prevent this sort of piracy from taking place, must register it within six months, under article 24 of Chinaâs patent law:
Within six months before the date of application, an invention for which an application is filed for a patent does not lose its novelty under any of the following circumstances:
(1) It is exhibited for the first time at an international exhibition sponsored or recognized by the Chinese Government;
(2) It is published for the first time at a specified academic or technological conference; and
(3) Its contents are divulged by others without the consent of the applicant.
The Evoque was shown at Guangzhou at a state-sanctioned motor show in December 2010, which meant that Jaguar Land Rover had until June 2011, at the outside, to file this registration. JLR reportedly missed the deadline [edit: with the patent office receiving the application on November 24, 2011].
The consequence of missing the period is that an original design becomes an âexisting designâ. While itâs not entirely the end of the road for Jaguar Land Rover in terms of legal remedies, it is one of the quirks of Chinese intellectual property law, which, sadly, is not as geared to protecting authors as it is in the west.
The approach one would have in, say, a common law jurisdiction, to prove objective similarity in the cases of copyright (and, as I understand it, a similar approach under patent), does not apply there. (Incidentally, this approach is one reason BMW could not have won against Shuanghuan for its CEO, which is usually mentioned by Top Gear watchers as an X5 copy. Look more closely and the front is far closer to a Toyota Land Cruiser Pradoâs, and thereâs neither a kidney grille nor a Hofmeister-Knick. Itâs a mess, but Shuanghuan could easily argue that it picks up on period SUV trends, like the triangular sixth light found on an Opel Astra is part of a 2000s ĂŠsthetic for hatchbacks.)
If you go back to November 2014, the South China Morning Post reported on this matter, again quoting Dr Speth in Autocar.
Heâs found it ‘disappointing’ for a while, it seems, but back in 2014 there was no mention of going after Landwind. An A. T. Kearney expert backs him up, saying, ââŠ copying by Chinese original equipment manufacturers is still possible and accepted in China.â Itâs increasingly unacceptable, but, there are loopholes.
Iâm not arguing that this is right, nor do I condone the X7, but you do wonder why JLR hasn’t taken action. The above may be why JLR has stayed silent on the whole affair.
This is why I read nothing on any action being taken by JLR when the Landwind was first shown, when a patent was granted (a year ago this month), or when the X7 was last displayed at a Chinese motor show.
The SCMP piece is a much fairer article, noting that Chinese car makers have become more sophisticated and invested in original designs. It also notes that consumers are divided: while some would love to have the copy, another felt âashamed about Landwind,â points usually ignored in the occidental media.
Land Rover has traditionally been swift in taking on copycats, and it had fought Landwindâs EU trade mark registration in 2006. This firm is known to them.
Landwind, meanwhile, has a connection to previous Land Rover owner Ford, through Jiangling, which has a substantial Ford shareholding. Could some pressure be brought through Ford?
For now, Jaguar Land Roverâs trouble with its patent registration has yet to make it into the western media. It’s doubtful that state media have ganged up on Jaguar Land Rover, considering it has a partnership with Chery, and invested in a new plant in Changshu. It really needs to be asking its lawyers some serious questions.
I was consistent about the Basin Reserve flyover in my campaign. Yes, I agreed we needed improvements to the area. But no, spending millions on itâit did not matter whether it was from taxes or rates at the end of the day, because that still meant you and me, as citizensâseemed foolish if there were better-value options out there. What I said in 2013 was: itâs not one flyover, itâs actually two, if you studied the wording in the plans. And by the time you add up the totals, it was looking like $500 millionâand for what benefit? The more roads you create, the more congestion there would be.
What if we could get the traffic improved there without the blight of a flyoverâthe sort of thing some cities were removing anyway, making them as liveable as Wellingtonâand save the country hundreds of millions?
In San Francisco, when the highway around Embarcadero Drive (now just ‘The Embarcadero’) was removed (you can see it outside the dodgy hotel room in Bullitt), that area became far more lively and pleasant, where there are now parks, where property values rose, and where there are new transit routes. The 1989 Loma Preita âquake hurried the demolition along, but there’s no denying that it’s been a massive improvement for the City. Younger readers won’t believe how unpleasant that area used to be.
Admittedly, I get ideas from San Francisco, Stockholm, and other centres, but why not? If they are good ones, then we need to believe we deserve the best. And we can generate still more from Wellington and show them off. Making one city great helps not just our own citizens, but potentially introduces new best practices for many other cities.
The Richard Reid proposal for the Basin was my favoured one given the traffic benefits could be delivered at considerably less cost and would not be a blight on our city, yet it was getting frustrated at every turnâthe media (other than Scoop) had precious little coverage of it.
A Board of Inquiry was set up and I am glad to receive this word from Richard yesterday.
âOur practice is very pleased with the Board of Inquiryâs decision to decline NZTAâs Basin Bridge Project. We are equally pleased that the Board has accepted the evidence we submitted against NZTAâs project on behalf of the Mt Victoria Residents Association and ourselves. Of particular note is the Boardâs recognition of our alternative at-grade enhancement of the roundabout (BRREO) which we prepared as part of an integrated and holistic solution for the city.
âThe Board notes: âWe are satisfied the BRREO Option, particularly having regard to the adverse effects we have identified with regard to the Project, is not so suppositional that it is not worthy of consideration as an option to be evaluatedâ [para 1483]. The Board also stated that âWe found that it [BRREO] may nonetheless deliver measurable transport benefits at considerably less cost and considerably less adverse effects on the environment. We bear in mind that BRREO is still at a provisional or indicative stage and could be subject to further adjustment by further analysis.â
âGiven the Boardâs comprehensive dismissal of NZTAâs application, it makes sense that we are given the opportunity to continue to develop BRREO. We look forward to working with NZTA, the Regional and City Councils.â
Regardless of which option you favoured, I think you will agree with me that all proposals deserved a fair hearing. The Reid one did not prior to 2014, and that was mightily disappointing. I said to Mr Reid that if elected, every proposal would be judged fairly. Let every one be heard and be judged on its meritsâand I am glad the Board of Inquiry has done just that.
Does anyone have the rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr theme? If so, itâs time to remove it. The code forwards to a website which McAfee SiteAdvisor labels dodgy. It is very hard to remove from a customized theme, since every time the page loads, the forwarding takes place. Youâll have to ïŹnd a way to stop the loading, then edit your templates.
The code looks something like this:
Iâve advised Tumblr of this. Maybe they have some way to help Tumblr users.
Incidentally, you may be asking, ‘Why is he warning people on his regular blog and not on Tumblr?’ The answer is simple: I am not allowed to.
Every time I tried posting this message, this is what I got:
Maybe Tumblr has already blocked the code?
Regardless, if you have friends who use Tumblr, please get them to check.