Archive for the ‘general’ category


There can be only one, unless you forget to register your design: the Range Rover Evoque and the copycat Landwind X7

21.04.2015


The stunning original: the Range Rover Evoque.

There has been a lot of ongoing press about Landwind’s 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. There’s 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 (I’m 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 Haymarket’s Autocar, a magazine I’ve taken since 1980. I even think Autocar is being overly cautious by putting copy in quotation marks in its headline. It’s a copy, and that’s that.
   Landwind has maintained that it’s had no complaints from Jaguar Land Rover, while JLR CEO Ralf Speth says he will complain. Considering it’s been five years since the Evoque was launched, and news of the copy, and Landwind’s patent grant from 2014, has been around for a while, then saying you will complain in 2015 seems a little late.
   In fact, it’s very late. What surprises me is that this is something already known in China. I’m 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 “novelty” and prevent this sort of piracy from taking place, must register it within six months, under article 24 of China’s 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 “existing design”. While it’s 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 Prado’s, and there’s neither a kidney grille nor a Hofmeister-Knick. It’s 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 æsthetic for hatchbacks.)
   If you go back to November 2014, the South China Morning Post reported on this matter, again quoting Dr Speth in Autocar.
   He’s 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, ‘… copying by Chinese original equipment manufacturers is still possible and accepted in China.’ It’s increasingly unacceptable, but, there are loopholes.
   I’m 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 ‘ashamed about Landwind,’ points usually ignored in the occidental media.
   Land Rover has traditionally been swift in taking on copycats, and it had fought Landwind’s 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 Rover’s 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.

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Posted in business, cars, China, design, general, India, media, UK | 3 Comments »


Time for a rewatch: Reza Aslan interviewed on CNN about Muslim violence

14.01.2015

Found on my wall today. While it’s over three months old, the responses from Prof Reza Aslan of the University of California Riverside address a lot of the comments that have surfaced post-Charlie Hebdo head-on—which shows that we continue to go round and round the same arguments and not making an awful lot of progress.

   In October, he contrasted the coverage between Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Canadian Muslim who murdered Cpl Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa, and the Norwegian Christian mass murderer Anders Breivik who killed 77 people, in an op–ed for CNN:

In the case of Bibeau, his violent behavior could have been influenced as much by his religious beliefs as by his documented mental problems, his extensive criminal past or his history of drug addiction. Yet, because Bibeau was a Muslim, it is simply assumed that the sole motivating factor for his abhorrent behavior was his religious beliefs …
   Nevertheless, a great deal of the media coverage surrounding [Breivik’s] actions seemed to take for granted that his crime had nothing to do with his Christian identity—that it was based instead on his right-wing ideology, or his anti-immigrant views, or his neglectful upbringing, or even, as Ayan Hirshi Ali famously argued, because his view that “Europe will be overrun by Islam” was being censored by a politically correct media, leaving him “no other choice but to use violence.”

   Aslan does accept that ‘religious beliefs can often lead to actions that violate basic human rights. It is also true that a great many of those actions are taking place right now among Muslims,’ which will require more than a blog post to analyse, but adds, ‘When we condemn an entire community of faith for sharing certain beliefs with extremists in their community, we end up alienating the very people who are best positioned to counter such extremism in the first place.’
   Aslan probably came to most people’s awareness after his interview on Fox News about his new book Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, where he was questioned why, as a Muslim, he would write a book about Jesus Christ.
   As a religion expert who has to defend his position academically—and in the mainstream media—Aslan makes a far more compelling case, backed by research, than some of the anti-Islamic rhetoric that has made a reappearance in social media lately.

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Posted in culture, general, media, USA | No Comments »


Autocade hits 5,000,000 views: what are its most read and least searched?

17.10.2014

With Autocade exceeding the 5,000,000 page view milestone (it’s on 5·12 million), I thought it might be fun to look at a few of the models on the site: the most popular, the least loved, and the first on the site.
   Looking at the stats, here are the most popular models. These shouldn’t be surprising: for a long time, our page on the E100 Toyota Corolla was the most-read. That’s since been overtaken by the Ford Fiesta Mk VII, the Toyota’s rival, the Nissan Sunny (B14), and the older Nissan Bluebird (910), probably thanks to a link from Wikipedia.

2008 Ford Fiesta Trend.jpg
1. Ford Fiesta (B299/B409). 2008 to date (prod. over 1,000,000 Europe only to March 2011). 3-, 4- and 5-door saloon. F/F, 999 cm³ (I3 DOHC), 1242 cm³ petrol, 1399 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1388, 1596 cm³ petrol, 1498, 1560 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC). Ford’s global small car, part of European Fiesta lineage with nameplate returning to North America for the first time since 1980. Four-door for Asian and North American markets. Regarded as class leader, excellent chassis and handling. Showed small-car interpretation of ‘kinetic’ design theme which débuted on larger Ford Mondeo Mk IV. Minor facelift in 2010, more substantial, Aston Martin-esque facelift in 2012, with Ecoboost three-cylinder and 1·5 diesel added.

Nissan Sunny 1800 Super Touring Type S.jpg
2. Nissan Sunny/Nissan Sentra (B14). 1994–2000 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 1295, 1497, 1597, 1838, 1998 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 1974 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). Undistinguished front-wheel-drive sedan with more limited markets; Europe and many western markets were now selling only the Pulsar (as the Almera). No station wagon as Sunny range trimmed. Sold in numerous Asian countries. Sentra in México, with 2·0-litre option. In production in Thailand till 2000. Coupé called Lucino in the home market, a separate line.

1980 Datsun Bluebird.jpg
3. Nissan Bluebird (910). 1979–86 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door coupé. F/R, 1595, 1598, 1770, 1809, 1952 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 2393 cm³ (I6 OHC). Squared-off Bluebird began Nissan’s 1980s’ rise, dropping its alphanumeric model codes in many markets. Badged Datsun for export initially, with Nissan badges appearing in 1981. Sold in US as 810, 810 Maxima, and then Maxima from 1982. Conventional, despite sharp, boxy styling. End of Japanese production 1983. Facelift in Australia in 1985.

Toyota Corolla (E100).jpg
4. Toyota Corolla/Holden Nova (E100). 1991–9 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 5-door liftback sedan, 4-door hardtop, 3- and 5-door hatchback sedan, 5-door wagon, 5-door high-roof van, 2-door coupé. F/F, F/A, 1296 cm³ petrol, 1974 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1331, 1497, 1498, 1587, 1762 cm³ (I4 DOHC). Dr Akihiko Saito, in charge of the Corolla programme, wanted to create the most refined Corolla possible, with Lexus-style comfort. To some degree, the team succeeded, but the car’s price went up in Japan during a recession. Roomy, but heavy, and less competitive alongside other small cars, including Koreans. Sales were initially slow. Longer wheelbase. Short-tail hatchbacks still Corolla FX in Japan. Liftback actually part of Sprinter range in Japanese home market. Four-door hardtop coupé from 1992 called Corolla Ceres. Last Corolla built in Australia, where it was also the Holden Nova from 1994 to 1996.

2004 Toyota Corolla.jpg
5. Toyota Corolla/Toyota Huaguan/Toyota Limo (E120). 2000 to date (prod. n/a). 3-, 4- and 5-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 5-door minivan. F/F, 1364 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1398, 1598, 1796 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 1995 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC). Corolla grows to its biggest size up to that point but limited by Japanese taxation requirements (setting the maximum width to 1,700 mm before it goes into a higher tax bracket). Shortened Toyota Vista (V50) platform, 2,600 mm wheelbase. Torsion beam axle at rear, replacing independent rear suspension. Sedans sold as Corolla Altis in some Asian markets. Wagons named Corolla Fielder, with hatchbacks taking Corolla Runx and Allex names (the latter replacing Sprinter). Corolla Spacio denoted a minivan model, sold as Corolla Spacio in Europe. Toyota Matrix, a different small van or tall hatchback, sold in US, renamed Corolla Matrix in 2005. Platform shared with Pontiac Vibe (or Toyota Voltz). Competent small car, hatchbacks in fact quite stylish, though interior design dull. Mid-life facelift 2004 in Japan. Japanese production ended 2006; some other countries 2008; continuing in China into the 2010s as Corolla EX, running alongside E150 successor.

   But what of the least popular? It’s unfair to go to the bottom of the statistics’ page, because you’re going to get a newer page that might become popular later. The following four are models which I’ve seen at the bottom of that page even after they had been on the site for a while, suggesting not too many are searching for them.

2012 Riich X1.jpg
1. Riich X1. 2009 to date (prod. n/a). 5-door sedan. F/F, 1297, 1497 cm³ (I4 DOHC). B-segment city car with SUV looks, exported as Chery Beat to some countries. Meant to have been absorbed into the Chery range when the Riich marque was killed off in 2013, and continued to appear on Chery’s export site, though it vanished from domestic listings. Based on the Riich M1.

1973 Pontiac GTO.jpg
2. Pontiac LeMans. 1973–7 (prod. n/a, incl. 4,806 GTO). 2-door coupé. F/R, 231 in³ (V6 OHV), 250 in³ (I6 OHV), 260, 301,350, 400, 455 in³ (V8 OHV). Unreliable, thirsty GM Colonnade model line, with poor gas mileage (improving somewhat for 1975). GTO offered as an option for one year only, and more driveable than other LeManses and even previous GTOs, but fans tended to forget this model. Luxury LeMans for 1973 and 1974, renamed Grand Le Mans in 1975. Related to Pontiac Grand Am (1973–5), and other GM intermediates including Buick Century (1973–7), Oldsmobile Cutlass (1973–7) and Chevrolet Chevelle (1973–7).

2007 Buick Park Avenue.jpg
3. Buick Park Avenue (WM). 2007–12 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2792, 2986, 3564 cm³ (V6 DOHC). Chinese-assembled version of Holden Statesman (WM), but with differences such as visually large grille, different bumpers, and no indicators and vents in wings aft of the front wheels. Smaller Australian-built 2·8-litre unit related to one from Cadillac CTS available on Chinese edition, along with 3·6 from Holden Commodore (VE), later both replaced by 3·0. Otherwise mechanically similar to Statesman. Killed off in 2012 due to slow sales.

1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Z34.jpg
4. Chevrolet Monte Carlo (W-body). 1995–9 (prod. 376,483). 2-door coupé. F/F, 3135, 3791 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3350 cm³ (V6 DOHC). Chevy brings back the Monte Carlo nameplate for a two-door version of the Lumina. Z34, with extra equipment, featured DOHC V6, replaced by smoother but less powerful 3·8 in 1998. New four-speed auto in 1997. Good value for money, and a comfortable, long-distance cruiser. Average in terms of reliability.

   Finally, the oldest photos on the site tell us which articles I wrote first. A few of the oldest photos have been replaced for quality reasons, but it’s safe to say the following five cars were among the original ten or dozen entered on to Autocade.

Renault Mégane II.jpg
1. Renault Mégane (X84). 2002 to date (prod. n/a). 3-, 4- and 5-door saloon, 5-door estate, 2-door coupé–cabriolet. F/F, 1390, 1598, 1998 cm³ (I4 DOHC); 1461, 1870 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). Surprising shape for 2002 launch, a total departure from earlier Mégane, with Renault designers showing their creativity. Hatchbacks have vertical tailgate with a bustle; saloon, estate and coupé convertible more conventional. Successful seller for Renault not just in home market, but in Germany. Revisions to range 2005. As before a Scénic minivan offered but this time in short- and long-wheelbase (Grand Scénic) versions, though not marketed as a Mégane despite ‘Mégane’ tag appearing in the C-pillar. (See separate entry at Renault Mégane Scénic II.) Turbo model claims 165 ch; RS delivers 225 ch. Hatchbacks replaced 2008 in France, estate in 2009. Saloon replaced by Fluence in South America 2011, though continued in Iran at Pars Khodro with 1600 and 2000 models; Grand Tour (estate) in Brazil to 2013.

Trabant P601.jpg
2. Trabant P601. 1964–91 (prod. 3,000,000 approx.). 2-door saloon, 3-door estate, 2-door utility convertible. F/F, 595 cm³ (I2 OHV), 1093 cm³ (I4 OHC). East German subcompact car descended from DKW, made with cotton-based plastic (Duroplast) bodyshell. Sold in UK till 1965. Made with 595 cm³ engine (26 PS) until 1989 when larger and cleaner Volkswagen Polo 1·1-litre engine adapted under licence. Estate variant called Universal. Utilitarian “off-road” convertible model called Tramp. Kitsch value toward the end of its life as a relic of the DDR, but unloved for most years.

2008 Ford Falcon G6E.jpg
3. Ford Falcon (E240/FG). 2008–14 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 2-door utility truck. F/R, 1999 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 3984 cm³ petrol, 3984 cm³ LPG (I6 DOHC), 4951, 5408 cm³ (V8 DOHC). Extensively revised series launched in February 2008 with three grilles, for regular Falcon, G6 (which replaces the Futura and Fairmont nameplates) and XR. V8 engine restricted to sporty XR8 model only. No station wagon (EA169 platform carried over on facelifted model briefly). Very little change in fuel economy figures compared with predecessor. V8 produces 290 kW. FG designation supposedly meant to evoke memories of now-defunct Fairmont Ghia nameplate. Marketed as larger than Mondeo Mk IV, but in fact smaller in key dimensions except overall length. At time of launch, petrol models gained a five-star ANCAP safety rating, one up on its main competitor, the Holden Commodore (VE). EcoBoost turbo four from 2012, when FG also had a minor facelift. Smaller 5·0 Miami V8 for XR8 from 2013.

1970½ Ford Falcon sedan.jpg
4. Ford Falcon. 1970½ (prod. 26,000 approx.). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. 250 in³ (I6 OHV), 302, 351, 429 in³ (V8 OHV). For half a model year (built January–August 1970), Ford transferred its Falcon nameplate from the compact model to the intermediate Torino–Fairlane bodyshell (117 in wheelbase for sedans; curiously, the wagon was on 114 in), making the Torino’s engine options available. Still marketed as an economy car, the last American Falcon is characterized by its swooping design. After 1970, Falcons were made only in Australia and Argentina (with an assembly plant for Australian models in New Zealand).

Hyundai i30.jpg
5. Hyundai i30 (FD). 2007–11 (prod. n/a). 5-door hatchback, 5-door estate. F/F, 1396, 1591, 1975 cm³ petrol, 1582 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC), 1991 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). First Hyundai designed specifically for Europe, rivalling Volkswagen Golf. Designed in Rüsselsheim, Germany with excellent dynamics, among the best for the Korean brand. Quality survey in Germany in 2010 put the car at the top. Estate added at end of 2007 and sold in some markets as Hyundai Elantra Touring. Sister car to Kia Cee’d (2006–12), released earlier, but lacks that model’s three-door hatchback style.

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Posted in business, cars, general, New Zealand, publishing, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Let’s improve on the Wellington logo

07.11.2013

The city’s new logo—it is not a rebrand if the underlying tenets are the same—has not met with much support.
   The next question must be: all right, if we’re all so smart, can we do better?
   Ian Apperley and I think we can. Ian approached me yesterday morning to ask whether we should do a competition and open it up to all Wellingtonians.
   At least that addresses the criticisms about getting people involved, and ensuring the internal audience—that’s us—is engaged.
   But to kick it off, we can’t just come up with another logo. I think we need to think seriously about how we might replace the 22-year-old Absolutely Positively Wellington brand (in the widest sense of that word).
   And here’s a head-start to make life easier: a discussion document with some Wellingtonians’ opinions on where the brand could go. In November 2010, I called a meeting with Hilary Beaton, Brian Calhoun, Nick Kapica, Christopher Lipscombe and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to discuss the ideas about rebranding our city. (In other words, the fact that a city rebrand was of concern to Wellingtonians prior to the Massey University–The Dominion Post mayoral debate was foreseen by yours truly.)
   The document was not released due to busy-ness at the end of 2010, then, the need to seek permission from the participants (which took a little while to secure). All have agreed that it can be released to the public.
   I didn’t want to use it as something to do with my campaign when it belonged to everyone. With the discussion around a city brand arising again, this seems as good a time as any.
   You can largely ignore the minutes of the discussion itself and go on to p. 6. In there, we felt that the Wellington brand should include these ideas, but stopped short at offering a concrete slogan.

   Edge. The notion of “edge” came from this first part. Coastal cycleways are on the edge of the city, literally. Biodiversity is celebrated as an “edgy” concept. Cutting-edge is a concept Wellingtonians can relate to. The Sevens are edgy as a concept; as is concentrated diversity.
   Connections to science and technology. Following Brisbane’s example, Wellington already has research institutes that can help with R&D in the city.
   Empowerment. Other ideas that surfaced from the discussion of a producer culture led to the notion of empowering individuals, which could relate not just to technology, but simpler ideas of growing fruit trees in public gardens, or poetry readings when meeting together.
   Encourage diversity. The carrot is better than the stick. Ideas of tolerance, and showing a better way need to be promoted.
   Nimble. Wellington can move quickly thanks to size and innovation.
   Contests. The idea of competition needs to be built in to the Wellington brand, as discussed above.
   Youth. Get young people involved and allow them ownership.
   Economic drivers. We identified the beauty of the city, diversity, public spaces, technology and the arts as important drivers for Wellington.
   The waterfront. It is a public space that is at the core of much of Wellington’s beauty and is a driver of creativity.
   Creative locations. Already Downstage is becoming an incubator for productions, allowing producers to retain their IP—a shift in how theatres could be managed, and totally in line with a creative city. This shift answers how we work today. What if it extended incubation to designers and other creatives?
   The weightless economy. Design, IP, and related services can help raise New Zealand’s OECD rankings and can overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’. Royalty-based products, such as Apollo 13 and others, paint a way forward.
   Ownership and shifting to an individual culture. By providing ownership of ideas, Wellington can shift to a more individualistic culture, rather than the team one that tends to hold entrepreneurship back.

   A competition page for submitting your ideas can be found here.

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Posted in branding, culture, design, general, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


419ers adopt a new technology: the postal system

10.09.2011

Interesting to get this letter from the UK today, sent air mail from the Croydon Mail Centre, Surrey, on September 5.
   The Nigerian 419 scammers have figured out that email is ineffective, so they are moving on to this brand-new technology: mail.
   As with the last time I blogged about clumsy 419 attempts—a terrible PDF—this one brings up more questions. An attorney without his own letterhead or an office address? A matter so urgent on August 19 that it took them 17 days to put it into the post? An executor so ineffective that it takes him nine years to locate next of kin?
   These people do not think. If I can be found online, then clearly I’ve established a bit of a reputation. And I didn’t get there by being a moron.
   As a public notice, please be wary of the change of medium from the 419ers. They may be reaching out to you soon via the postal system, a method that they commonly used before the days of email.

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Posted in general, UK | No Comments »


My second cousin’s in Outlaw Territory

22.01.2011

I’ve made a brief mention, in the past, about my second cousin Vivian Lee, who is quite the illustrator. Her work will be published in the second volume of Outlaw Territory, out February 1. You can order it now from Amazon and it will be dispatched after release.

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Posted in general, interests, publishing, USA | No Comments »


The changing accent of Gillian Anderson

09.01.2011

Gillian Anderson, Chicago-born, star of The X Files, grew up in North London and speaks with an accent that’s closer to Britain than the States. I noticed that she gets quite a bit of flak for this on YouTube comments, which is rather sad, perhaps revealing more about those who criticize her than anything else. (See the above video from 1’15”.)
   Critics say that when she’s on The Tonight Show or the less watched one with the cranky old guy, she has an American accent. To me, that makes sense.
   It’s not about “putting it on”. It’s because Anderson subconsciously switches between the two, because she’s had time in both countries.
   The story, as she tells it, was when she got back to the States at age 11, she had an English accent and wanted to hang on to it ‘because it made me different’. However, she learned to speak with a midwestern one, though it is not her natural accent. In my world, we all do this.
   I remember when I was once in London, the cabbie could not understand me when I asked him to take me to Waterloo Station. I summoned up my best Dennis Waterman and put in a guttural stop, asking for ‘Wa’erloo Station’, and there was an immediate understanding.
   Anyone who has grown up in two countries, or in two cultures, will have a very different approach to accents than those who grew up in one.
   I tend to waver between British and Kiwi for a number of reasons, mostly unconsciously. I’m typing this after getting off the phone to my friend Marie, who hails from Nottinghamshire. My colleagues here have often laughed at me when they overhear us because I go slightly northern without intending it.
   The fact is, despite having been raised in New Zealand for most of my childhood, I don’t have a natural accent.
   If the theory that your most impressionable years for learning to talk are between two and four, then I can say, hand on heart, that my exposure to spoken English was minimal: I was in a British colony where 99 per cent of spoken communication was Cantonese, though we learned some English at kindergarten. There were imported TV programmes but my parents and grandmother tended to watch the dubbed stuff.
   Ms Anderson was in London two to eleven, and that explains a lot.
   After moving to New Zealand, we never spoke English in the home. My godparents were English, one of my best friends at school was English, and one of the teachers I was close to at school was English. What was on telly back in those days? Mostly British programmes: The Brothers, Rainbow, Jamie and the Magic Torch, The New Avengers, Return of the Saint, etc.
   Unlike most Kiwi kids, my exposure to Received Pronunciation through media and family friends was not balanced by New Zealand-accented speakers around me. By the early 1980s, I would guess my accent was a mixture, which accounts still, 30 years on, for people asking if I had spent time in Britain or have some greater connection with the country than I actually do.
   By the time more American programmes began here, I believe my impressionable stage had passed. I have met one New Zealander who speaks with an accent closer to American, though I didn’t get to ask why. It wouldn’t surprise me if her story was not unlike my own.
   The fact I speak in the lower registers might make me sound more well spoken than I really am. When I really try to listen to myself, I hear a strong Kiwi twang, but others don’t seem to.
   By the time I was at uni I was embarrassed by the subconscious switching, which I couldn’t control. I attempted to sound more Kiwi—logically, since I was raised here, my accent should reflect that—but to this day, it jumps all over the place.
   The only accent I can actually “do”, as in switch with intention, but effortlessly so, is Scottish English, which I label ‘lower-register Aberdeenshire’—I’ve even been hired to MC a céilidh on one occasion.
   So poor Gillian, speaking so properly and still, many, many years after she was 11 and heading back to the midwest, still gets criticized for it.
   But there you are: this world is a big place and people have many reasons for speaking the way they do—and don’t deserve accusations of faking the way they speak.

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Posted in culture, general, New Zealand, TV, UK | 2 Comments »


How do you take a screen shot when Alt-Print Screen stops working?

02.12.2010

This is an error that happens to me at least twice a week for years, and no one seems to have a solution. I’ve read some of the help pages on this in web searches, and none of them help.
   As far as I can tell, only one case of this has been reported, but, sadly, the original thread cannot be readily found any more. Most have turned up in fake support sites. (The search phrase is Alt-Printscreen And Ctrl-V Only Works 3X—while I have not counted mine, I’d say this isn’t far off the mark.)
   How do you do a screen shot in Windows (XP or Vista) when Alt-Print Screen stops working?
   And, how and why does it stop working?
   Usually the solution is to reboot. Sometimes, however, rebooting isn’t a desirable option—such as in cases when I need a screen shot of something that I know I won’t be able to get back.
   Let me state some of the things that have been posted by well meaning people elsewhere that have not worked for me.
   Clearing the clipboard doesn’t work. (The usual copy and paste commands still work with text though.)
   On this computer, I don’t have a Function key, but even on my laptop, where I do have one, it’s not activated.
   I don’t have a second monitor plugged in.
   I haven’t installed Boot Camp, whatever that is.
   I don’t think it’s a memory issue because I have oodles more memory today than I did on my old machine.
   I don’t use Microsoft Office—I say this as some of the advice is around how an Office installation will screw up Alt-Print Screen.
   I used to think it was Photoshop, because, on my old computer, I could shut down the program and reopen it, and Alt-Print Screen would usually work again. Or, I could shut down one version and open another. However, these tricks have now ceased to work, though I have a feeling that they once worked on this machine.
   I’d like to say it is Chrome-related, because I have never been able to take a screen shot of the ‘Aw, snap!’ error page that comes up frequently. Whether there’s something related to the graphics, the crashes and Flash, I don’t know. Browsers crash so many times a day now that it’s hard to pinpoint whether the crashes are the cause of Alt-Print Screen failing, or whether the command had failed beforehand.
   But I’ve had these problems long before Chrome was even released, so we can’t blame Google (again).
   I’m putting this post up in case someone has some suggestions and future computer users can find this.
   The closest I have found to a real explanation is from Adobe, on a related issue:

That sounds a bit like an old Windows bug where the OS would stop informing Photoshop of changes to the clipboard after a while (we never determined the cause, but saw the same thing happen in other apps, and reported the problem to Microsoft).

   And, please, no unhelpful ‘Buy a Mac’ comments. You guys are seldom around when I Tweet about Mac problems (believe me, they screw up just as often, with everything from missing icons to stuck DVDs to files that disappear mid-transfer to fonts that don’t show up in a PDF even when subsetting is on …), and the Windows people never say, ‘Buy a PC.’

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Posted in general, internet, technology | 2 Comments »


Retrograde steps for our cellphones

07.11.2010

Nokia 2730 ClassicLast week, our company’s Nokia 2730 Classics arrived as part of a contract with Telstra Clear, of whom we’ve been a customer since the 1980s. They are a reminder of how technology is regressing.
   Remember that scene in Life on Mars, where Sam Tyler, or Samuel Santos in La chica de ayer, tells Annie Cartwright, Annie Norris or Ana Valverde (depending on which version you saw) how LPs had been replaced by MP3s and digital music, and that the sound is ‘much, much worse’? That’s sort of how I feel with these new gadgets.

Left Not quite the same as ours—the display is different—but this is a publicity shot of the Nokia 2730 Classic. Below Life on Mars’s record shop scene in its various incarnations (from left to right, top to bottom): the UK original in Manchester; the unaired US pilot, set in Los Angeles; the US remake, set in New York; and the Spanish remake, set in Madrid.
Life on Mars music store scenes

   On the surface, the new phones aren’t much to look at. Compared with the 6275i phones that the 2730s are replacing, it’s clear that they are built to a price, cost-cutting for easy manufacture in China rather than Korea. There’s not much of an excuse here for design simplification: this is manufacturing simplification.
   I have reason to be cynical. I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to force us to get a nicer model. I remember buying a Microtek scanner for around $600 in the 1990s—probably around 1996—and it lasted me for years, till around 2002 when I ordered an upgrade. I looked at the specs for the latest scanners and thought, ‘Wow, here’s one with a higher resolution going for half the price.’ I brought it back and the scanning quality was total crap.
   I wrote to the distributor in Auckland and they informed me: the equivalent model to my old one is this other machine costing $600. The difference is that the half-price one has a plastic lens and my old one had a glass lens. So if I wanted one with comparable quality, I would need to pay twice as much for one with a glass lens. In other words, it would still cost me $600.
   I bought the glass one and they were as good as their word, although I had to put up with a smaller scanning area (but I got a faster speed). The resolution figure, it turned out, was meaningless, because the actual quality of the product was so poor.
   Technology didn’t really advance in six years. I still had to pay the same price for a machine with actually less capability on the primary function, which was scanning an area of x cm².
   This seems like a repeat. I have yet to try what it’s like as a phone, because the switchover’s not till the 8th, but for many features, it’s poorer. It has a better media player. The speaker for playing music and movies is better. The graphics move more nicely. Nokia supplies some free maps (which, incidentally, get deleted when you eject the memory card, though you can re-download them for free from its website).
   But (and there must be a but given the headline): the camera is worse (judge for yourself below) and the battery life is shorter. I might not be an initié when it comes to cellphones, but I know that people have been using them for telephony and photography for a lot longer than as MP3 and 3GP players. On at least two of the three major criteria on which a cellphone can be judged, the 2730 is worse than the mid-decade 6275i.
   Judge for yourself below. These are photographs (reduced) taken at Massey University’s Blow festival exhibition, currently on at its Wellington campus.

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

   And what is the point of that? Unless Nokia now tells me: if you want the quality of the old one, it’s this other model, which will cost you an extra $300.
   I know there are many exceptions to what I’ve just written. The Asus laptop I type this on is way fancier than one that cost twice as much with a fraction of the power in the mid-2000s. But just because one area of technology marches so rapidly doesn’t mean every area follows suit.

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


When Swedes say it’s too cold, they mean –30°C

26.02.2010

I thought it was cold enough in Stockholm when I hit town a month ago, and temperatures were in the –9°C to –15°C region most days (with a high of around –2°C). But, Stefan tells me, temperatures plummeted greatly over the past week, down into the –30°C region in some parts. Stockholm was in the minus 20s, but when you add the wind chill, we are talking –30°C, too. When the trains stop running in Sweden (though Rogernomics-style cutbacks on staff who would normally have cleared the snow have not helped), you know it’s frighteningly cold. These folks don’t panic at the first sign of snow and things ran as normal when I was there, but not with this sort of blizzard.
   Stefan does not know this but on the last day, I took a pic outside his window as a memento. He took one on the 24th to show me how cold it got. Here is a comparison (both are cropped to give roughly the same frame):

Outside Stefan’s apartment, January 27
January 27, 9.34 a.m.

Outside Stefan’s apartment, February 24
February 24, 10.16 a.m.

   Minus 15 is still cold enough for me, and if I am willing to brave that for Wellington (on my own money, incidentally) to study the public transport and meet with companies that can help us on the environmental angle, then I’m willing to do a lot for my city. I’d do –30°C if I have to, but bear in mind, such a trip would not have been terribly productive if everyone’s stuck at home and there’s 50 cm of snow at your door.

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Posted in general, Sweden, Wellington | 1 Comment »