Archive for the ‘design’ category


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.

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


When Here WeGo still sends you to the wrong location six years on

10.01.2022

Six years ago, I reported this error in Here Maps (a.k.a. Here WeGo), both via the official channels and to a software engineer I knew working there.
   It’s still there. There aren’t two Wharekauhau Country Estates (this is the route between them, to highlight just how wrong it is; the westerly one is correct).

   They’ve since been in touch via Twitter and I’ve re-sent them all the information, including:

Trust me, I went to this one and wound up the drive to some random farm with no one around, and had to back my car down a muddy trail with immense difficulty as there was nowhere to U-turn.

   This only came up because Here Maps tried to take me to New World Foxton recently, and I decided to look back.
   If I followed their guidance, I would have to drive through the war memorial.


   Don’t get me wrong. I really like Here Maps and the latest UI is fantastic. It’s no worse than its competitors in accuracy terms. Google has sent me to plenty of wrong places when I was still using their site for things. It’s just annoying when the official channels, reporting bugs the way they suggest, clearly don’t work. Hopefully if anyone’s planning their journeys to the above places, they’ll be able to see this post!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »


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.)

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


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


Some surprises on day one with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G

07.12.2021



Top: Decent enough specs for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G. Above: Very respectable download speeds (in the header) as the phone updates 71 apps.

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G is here, and it’s proved better than the reviews suggested.
   First up, kudos to the seller, YouGeek on Aliexpress, who not only double-checked to see that I wanted the Chinese version, but was considerate enough to send me, without any prompting, a New Zealand power adapter. The wrapping was the most secure I’ve ever seen from any Aliexpress vendor, like a hefty transparent Michelin man.
   DHL did the delivery two days ahead of schedule, which pleased me no end.
   The phone itself surprised me. I imagined 6·53 inches would be too big and 199 g too heavy, but neither has come to pass. It’s marginally taller than the outgoing Meizus but not ridiculously so, and as I have large hands, the width is fine. I haven’t noticed the weight increase, either.
   The blue finish, which isn’t available on the export Note 9T 5G, is probably the best colour of the three on offer, and frankly I don’t care if the back is plastic or metal. As long as it keeps the bits inside, it’s fine.
   What also isn’t on offer for export is precisely these specs: MediaTek Dimensity 800U running at a maximum of 2·4 GHz, 6 Gbyte of RAM, and 128 Gbyte of internal storage. The model code is M2007J22C.
   Other surprises: it’s Android 11 (security update, October 1, 2021) running MIUI 12·5. Now, whether it was straight out of the box, I can’t swear to, since it prompted me to do an update not too long after I switched on and logged in.
   It did try to get me to give a voice print to unlock its features by saying four Chinese words. Naturally I said them, but it seems Xiaomi doesn’t recognize Cantonese! The fingerprint scanner wasn’t that easy to set up—it took numerous attempts before it recognized my finger—but I got there, and now it’s programmed, the home screen does launch quickly.
   The first order of business was to take myself off ad personalization (so easy, they even take you to the screen during set-up), then download Bromite as the browser, to stop using the clumsy default; and replace Sogou keyboard with Microsoft Swiftkey. The rest was getting the apps to mirror the old phones’, which was pretty simple thanks to various APK sites such as APK Pure. The only one that did not function at all (a blank screen after the logo) was Instagram, but you expect Facebook, Inc. products to be buggy. An Uptodown download of a version from June 2021 solved that.
   Despite what other reviewers found, I discovered that the watermark on the photos was switched off by default. I’ve seen the grand total of one advertisement on the default apps, so the notion that Xiaomi is heavily ad-driven doesn’t seem to be the case with mine. There is a possibility that the combination of Chinese spec, English language, and a New Zealand IP address isn’t one that advertisers want to reach. There are far fewer app notifications than I got on the Meizus.
   After updating the OS, there were 71 apps that also needed the same treatment. Those came down at lightning speeds, even on wifi, at over 20 Mbyte/s.
   I’ve synced my messages, call logs and contacts, though surprisingly the phone could not work out that the New Zealand 02 numbers were the same as +64 2, and those had to be manually added. The old Meizu M2 Note had no such trouble back in 2016.
   The default typeface choice in MIUI is much easier on the eyes than the default Android fonts.
   Interestingly, the default music player here also fails to pick up local music on an SD card, rendering it useless, much like Meizu’s (are they copying one another, to have the same bug?). Once again, it was InShot’s Music Player to the rescue, and it works fine here. Sadly, I do have to relink a lot of the album covers.
   Screenshots aren’t as intuitive, as the volume control invariably appears if you do the power–volume switches’ combination, but a screenshot feature in the pull-down menu does the job.
   The battery life is interesting, as I’ve used it for about six hours since it was charged up to 100 per cent, and it fell to 65 per cent in that time. That tells me the 5,000 mAh is good for 18 hours of sustained usage, which included setting up, Bluetooth-linking it to the car and the M2 Note, running apps, using Here Maps for some navigation, and using some mobile data. I haven’t viewed any videos yet, and I don’t play any games. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a more regular day: earlier reviews had led me to believe it could last over a day. I’m sure it can without the heavy use I’ve put it through in its first six hours.
   I understand that with the pace of change in China, this phone, launched this week one year ago, is already obsolete, but as far as I’m concerned, I hope I’m future-proofed for another six years—that’s how long the M2 lasted before things like its short battery life and inability to receive some calls became an issue. (And this was despite the M6 Note having come into service from 2018 with a short break to get serviced at PB.) It’s been a very pleasing first six hours, without the stress of having to put on a Chinese OS myself, and continuing to be Google-free.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


December 2021 gallery

01.12.2021

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


 

Notes
Roger Moore and Ford Fiesta Mk I, via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Volkswagen Fox in Autocade.
   More on the Ford Consul Corsair at Autocade.
   The Guardian article excerpt, full story here.
   The devil drives Kia? Reposted from Twitter.
   Audi maths on an A3, via Richard Porteous on Twitter.
   Christmas decoration, via Rob Ritchie on Twitter.
   Back to the ’70s: Holden Sandman used for Panhead Sandman craft beer promotions.
   Georgia–Pacific panelling promotions, 1968, via Wendy O’Rourke on Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II US advertisement via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Bridal fashion by Luna Novias, recently featured in Lucire.
   Deborah Grant in UFO, with the VW–Porsche 914, which would have looked very modern at the time.
   Freeze frame from episode 1 of The Champions (1968), with William Gaunt, Stuart Damon and Alexandra Bastedo.
   Our rejected greeting card design, with a picture shot at Oriental Parade, Wellington.
   Ford Taunus GT brochure spread via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   My Daddy Is a Giant image and UK measures, reposted from Twitter.
   Richard Nixon attempts to appeal to younger voters, 1972. Simple, modernist design using Futura Bold.
   A 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am advertisement.
   Mazda Savanna brochure via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric in Autocade.
   Lucire issue 44 cover, photographed by Lindsay Adler, layout by me.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, design, gallery, humour, interests, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Farewell, Twitter gadget (is there a point to them?)

24.10.2021

One good thing to having Twitter lock Lucire’s account: there’s no point having a Twitter gadget or widget on your home page any more. Was there ever one to begin with? I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a site and found a Twitter widget useful.
   It did bother me that a Lucire print cover was no longer visible on the top part of the screen with the new theme. The ‘Our latest issue’ has now been moved to the sidebar from the bottom of the page, where it used to reside next to ‘Lucire on Twitter’. It doesn’t make much difference to cellphone users, but all the difference to web ones.
   So that’s one positive development to being locked out of Twitter.
   I’ve also made a minor tweak to this blog: the left-hand column is now wider, and a few more logos appear. Previously the table width (yes, it’s that old) was 960 pixels, but I figured that most people would have larger monitors by now. The blog also has a working, albeit standard, Wordpress mobile theme, so unlike Lucire there shouldn’t be any problems for cellphone users if I changed things. It does make this blog slightly inconsistent with the rest of the site, but maybe one day I’ll stick the lot on Bootstrap as well.

PS.: The first widget to disappear was Facebook’s, in 2018, weeks before the Cambridge Analytica story. Instagram’s was taken off when we most recently reskinned the home page a few weeks ago. They’re all pointing us in this direction.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, design, internet, publishing | No Comments »


Refreshing the less oft-seen pages on Lucire’s website

23.10.2021



A decade separates these two incarnations of Lucire’s shopping home page. Some Facebook gadgets were added during the 2010s and the magazine cover was updated, but it was woefully out of date and needed to be refreshed.

It’s very unusual for us to go into the less-frequented pages in Lucire and adapt them to a new template before doing a major one such as the fashion index page. But sometimes you go with the creative flow, so it was the turn of the ‘Newsstand’ pages plus the shopping home page, which hadn’t been updated in seven years (and most of it hadn’t been touched for ten).
   Needless to say, on the latter, almost everything was out of date. We’ve removed the links to the shopping directory, which last existed to support the print magazine as it was in the mid-2000s. Since then, we haven’t really had a shopping section in print, and we ceased to update it much online.
   What was disappointing to note, after my lament about the disappearance of so many fashion websites earlier this year, that even more had closed down, so much so that the three ‘Newsstand’ pages have come back down to two (as it was in the 2000s). There are still some that have not been updated in years, but we have maintained the links for historical purposes.
   Poking about the directories did lead me to lucire.com/xp, a framed page with content for our mobile edition in 2000 that was compatible with Plucker. Long before cellphones became the norm, we were already catering for portable devices. I knew we had a Plucker edition, but had forgotten about the xp directory till tonight.
   The copy on that page reads, ‘Lucire Express was the hand-held version of Lucire, powered by Plucker. With more recent developments in syndication and content management, support for Express has been discontinued.’
   It seemed logical that cellphone browsers would be developed to reduce the content of high-res pages to make them readable, but that is yet to happen (unless one goes into a simplified view mode). To think that programmers found a way to do that in the 2000s. How times have changed, with what appears to be a slowing down of innovation—forcing us to adapt to the technology (developing mobile-friendly themes in-house) rather than the other way round.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


For once, the US media were on Facebook’s case (they’ve more cohones than their government)

11.10.2021

For once, you didn’t need me to point out the unethical happenings of Facebook, Inc. when the mainstream media actually cared.
   First we had the Murdoch Press run ‘The Facebook Files’ in The Wall Street Journal, which I heard about from the incomparable and insightful Bob Hoffman on the 26th ult. The WSJ begins:

Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.
   Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.

   Other exposés include the fact that Facebook ‘shields millions of VIPs from the company’s normal enforcement … Many abuse the privilege, posting material including harassment and incitement to violence that would typically lead to sanctions.’ I guess promoting human trafficking and genocide falls into this protected category as well, which goes to show I’ve been doing Facebook wrong all these years—no wonder Lucire got kicked off for a week.
   They also know Instagram is toxic, that they promote interaction and who cares if it’s harmful content(?), that the company does little when porn, organ-selling, state suppression, racism, human trafficking, and inciting violence, and it’s a big medium for anti-vaccination content. More has been added to ‘The Facebook Files’ since I was sent the link in Bob’s newsletter, including news of the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who was anonymous at the time.
   Haugen also went on 60 Minutes, garnering headlines for a day, but as I told one friend, with the opportunity to use two diphthongs in a word:

Slide through as usual. Mark and Sheryl control the show, have a lot of shares, and think they will weather it as they always did. Mark will continue to ignore subpœnæ. The US government will continue to lack cohones since candidates on both sides are suckered into believing that Facebook really has as many users as it claims.

   And yes, we got Lucire’s Instagram back, and I am happy—for the sake of our crew and everyone who has ever created for us. The response from Facebook is full of the usual bollocks, which is no surprise. I wrote on the Lucire website:

   Their email states, inter alia, ‘You can’t attempt to create accounts or access or collect information in unauthorized ways. This includes creating accounts or collecting information in an automated way without our express permission. And based on your account’s recent activity, our systems have detected behavior that violates one or more of our policies.’
   It is nonsense, of course, since there’s absolutely no proof. We’ve asked Facebook to furnish it to us, including the alleged activity and the IP address that it came from.
   What information was allegedly collected? What was automated?

   All I can think of is that I have accessed Instagram on the desktop. Oh well, I’ll just stop using it. Or that a couple of the team were online at the same time. With that in mind, fashion editor Sopheak Seng now alone has the keys and that’s good enough for me. Instagram interaction: down again for the 2021–2 year then.
   I haven’t posted much on the Facebook issues since there were far more important things to do, namely getting the Lucire template working for the Wordpress (news) section of the site. Now it’s pretty much done, I’m quite happy with it, though I wish the server load were lighter.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Switching Lucire’s home page over to the new template

07.10.2021



Lucire’s online edition home page: out with the old (top), in with the new (above).

I switched over Lucire’s home page to the new template today. I’m going to miss the old one, since it had the effect of a bled page, something that’s de rigueur for a fashion magazine.
   As outlined in my previous post, it’s just something we had to do to move with the times, and to make life easier for those browsing on mobile devices. I recognize the irony here, as someone who doesn’t tend to use cellphones having to design for that very medium, but then I’m also a realist.
   Once I get a bit more confidence hacking the theme from HTML Codex, the bled effect might return.
   I made some calls on what to include this time round. The social links are gone—recent events have just made them too discouraging. (The Facebook ones disappeared years ago.) The top image has been replaced by a slider with three images. The little graphic featuring the latest issue of Lucire has also been removed, only because we couldn’t figure out where it would go in the new template, but it might make a return sooner rather than later. In terms of appearance, there are fewer lines, though this is more down to convenience and working with someone else’s CSS; again, they might make a return at some point. The dotted line separating the footer from the body has also gone for now.
   As every web publisher knows, no template is set in stone and there’s ongoing evolution.
   It’s partly a shame to bring to an impending close a template entirely programmed by me. Since Lucire started, it was built on my code, the first issue done on Notepad. But HTML Codex has done a good job with its stylesheet, it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. Many of the old pages with my code will still exist (since, other than one article, we don’t redo old HTML pages), and it’ll take months before we shift all section indices and the news pages over. I am looking forward to the changes, and that’s always a good sign.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »