Archive for the ‘technology’ category


Baojun doesn’t scream ‘premium’ and ‘next-gen tech’ to me

10.10.2019

I have to agree with Yang Jian, managing editor of Automotive News China, that Baojun’s new models ‘obviously’ failed to reverse the brand’s sales’ decline.
   It is obvious given that the vehicles are priced considerably above the previous ones, and despite its next-gen tech, there’s no real alignment with what Baojun stands for.
   There might be a new logo (débuted January 2019) but GM expects that this, the new premium products, and (I would expect) other retail updates would undo nearly nine years of brand equity.
   The associations of Baojun as an entry-level brand run deeply, and the new models are like, if you’ll pardon the analogy and the use of another car group, taking the next Audis and sticking a Škoda badge on them. Except even stylistically, the new Baojuns bear little resemblance to the old ones—they’re that radical a departure.
   I wonder if it would be wiser to keep Baojun exactly where it was, and let it decline, while launching the new models under a more upscale GM brand, even one perceived as ‘foreign’ or ‘joint venture’ by Chinese consumers.
   DaimlerChrysler made the mistake of killing Plymouth when it was surplus to requirements, then found itself without a budget brand when the late 2000s’ recession hit. Chrysler, once the upper-middle marque, had to fill the void.
   There’s a reason companies like GM and Volkswagen have brands spanning the market: they feed buyers into the corporation, and there’s something for everyone.
   And while it’s possible to move brands upscale, creating four lines where the base model prices exceed the highest price you have ever charged for your other base models is just too sudden a shift.

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Posted in branding, cars, China, technology, USA | No Comments »


Should I remove Feedburner?

05.10.2019

I’m wondering whether it’s worth carrying on with Feedburner. Over the last few years I’ve rid our sites of Facebook gadgets—that means if you “Facebook liked” something here, you’d have to go through the Po.st links above (which I’m hoping are visible on the mobile version), rather than something made by Facebook that could track you. It’s not been 100 per cent perfect, since Po.st doesn’t pick up on likes and shares that you get within Facebook, so if this post manages a dozen likes there, the count you see above won’t increase by 12. It’s why well liked posts don’t necessarily have a high share count, which renders the figure you see here irrelevant.
   I suppose it’s better that someone understates the share figure than overstates it—as Facebook does with its user numbers.
   But I dislike Google’s tracking as much as Facebook’s, and since I have de-Googled everywhere else (one of the last is shown below), then I’d like to get rid of the remaining Google tools I use.

   I signed this blog up to Feedburner when the company was independent of Google, but I see from the gadget on the full desktop version of this site there are only 37 of you who use its feeds from this blog. This is a far cry from the 400-plus I used to see regularly, even 500-plus at one point in the late 2000s.
   I checked in to my Feedburner stats lately, and was reminded that the drop from hundreds to dozens all happened one day in 2014, and my follower numbers have been in the two digits since. Check out this graphic and note the green line:

   It’s entirely consistent with what I witnessed over the years. There were indeed days when the Feedburner gadget’s count would drop into the 30s, before rising back up to 400 or so the following day. I never understood why there would be these changes: in the early days of Feedburner, before the Google acquisition in 2007, I had a slow and steady rise in followers. These peaked soon after Google took over, plateaued, and just before the 2010s began, the massive fluctations began.
   I can’t believe there’d be en masse sign-ups and cancellations over a five-year period, but in 2014, the last fall happened, and it remained low. And, to be frank, it’s somewhat demoralizing. Is the fall due to Google itself, or that Feedburner decided to run a check on email addresses and found that the majority were fake one day, or something else?
   Given that the fluctations were happening for years, then I want to say there was a bug that knocked out hundreds of subscribers, but I actually don’t know, and I haven’t read anything on this online, despite searching for it.
   Perhaps Google cuts back the dissemination of your RSS feed if you’re not using their Blogger product, but we know why using their service is an exceptionally bad idea.
   It reminds me of Facebook’s decision to kill the shares from a page by 90 per cent some years back, to force people to pay to keep their pages in the feed.
   If you’re getting this on Feedburner, would you mind leaving me a comment so I know it’s still worthwhile? Otherwise, I may remove my account—I’ve de-Googled everything else—and if you still need Atom and RSS feeds, they can be had at jackyan.com/blog/atom/ and jackyan.com/blog/feed/ respectively.

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Posted in internet, publishing, technology | 2 Comments »


Who is changing Facebook links to affiliate ones?

14.09.2019

I know someone else has come across this before, since there’s a page on it here.
   The very same thing has begun happening on Autocade, whenever the Facebook link is clicked. I’d love to blame Facebook, but I don’t believe it’s them.
   I’ve contacted Sovrn (formerly Viglinks) as the discussion board participants identify them, but ShopStyle may know as it’s their API being used.
   Here’s what I asked ShopStyle tonight, but if anyone has an idea, I’d love to hear it.

I do not know your company, but the Facebook link on one of my sites (http://autocade.net) is being altered to https://api.shopstyle.com/action/apiVisitRetailer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fautocade.net&pid=uid7424-7742368-93&pdata=k0jgi6bfn30122110msza whenever someone clicks on it, and they wind up at https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/deals/?ref=affiliate_external&referral_story_type=daily_deals_rakuten.
   When I go into the source code on our server, the link is correct. The change is happening elsewhere, and I can’t figure out where. From the link and UID I’ve given you, are you able to tell? We do run ads and a Disqus plug-in on our site, as well as a Po.st sharer, if these help narrow down the possibilities.
   I’m sure you’d want to kill the account of whomever is misusing ShopStyle’s APIs to earn referrals.

   Here’s the page I wind up on when I click the link. It has no useful content.

   I’ll report back if I discover more, as there may be a dodgy ad network out there, or Disqus or Po.st aren’t as honest as they used to be. Disqus is clunky anyway, and once we reach a certain payment threshold, we may remove it from all our sites. Autocade was the one place where comments were really good, so it’ll be a shame to lose it.

PS.: After looking through the inspector, it appears to be Disqus, using Viglinks. One has to turn off affiliate links in the Disqus set-up.

P.PS.: Both ShopStyle and Sovrn were really helpful—ShopStyle’s Rasheka even went so far as to include screenshots and links.

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When Universal Media Server loads the wrong dot-conf file for your device

25.08.2019

The latest Universal Media Server has never worked for me. Many years ago, I downloaded what must have been v. 6, and it went well. Upon receiving notification I should upgrade, I did—only to have no videos play any more. Only thumbnails appeared and that was the best UMS could do.
   Fast forward to 2019, when I buy a new computer, expecting that, with a clean installation of Windows 10, any prior issue would be history. Not so: UMS still behaved the same, so I ran v. 6.3.2, which works about 85 per cent of the time. This is, of course, better than 0 per cent for more recent versions.
   I’m at a loss on why newer versions don’t work, considering this computer shares little with its predecessor other than licences for programs that have no relation to media streaming. Yet I must be in a minority (again) since there are few entries of this in UMS forums.
   Today’s error was interesting, and this is a note to myself and anyone else who comes across it. Those who believe software runs the same every time are either unobservant or kidding themselves: while on a Mac this usually holds true, on Windows it is sheer fantasy. UMS refused to recognize my TV as a TV, loading the configuration for Microsoft Windows Media Player (WMP) instead. Naturally, nothing played—in fact, nothing was found in any of the directories.
   Fix: I edited the UMS configuration file manually, searched for selected_renderers =, and added what the program usually found: Vizio Smart TV. Quit and restart (the executable from the program’s directory).
   It does mean the other configurations might not load, but since most of the time I’m watching UMS-streamed content on my TV, then I’m sorted. If I have other devices to load, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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I want to remove a My Business location, but Google won’t let me

23.08.2019

I really should not have wasted my time with Google, as My Business (see yesterday’s post) reminded me just why I don’t use the site—it’s not only the privacy issues, but the fact that things don’t work as advertised, which has always been the case with Google.
   You’ve already seen that it’s impossible for me to add my business’s address to Google My Business. That’s not a huge surprise, since the last time I had Google Earth, they didn’t even know that the White House was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC—and that was version 5 of their software. If these folks don’t even know where their own president is, I can’t expect them to deal with Tawa.
   However, we do have an address in Manhattan, so I attempted to add that. After all, it seemed I was verified, or at least close to being verified, so why not get around the existing entry’s non-verification (as it goes through the process of sending a postcard, and, frankly, no one at the office can be bothered—they feel about Google much the same way as I).
   There was no difference: Google still wanted to send a postcard, so I thought I should delete the entry.
   Well, you can’t. There isn’t anything in the documentation that says it’s this hard. Following their own instructions, I delete the location, and nothing happens.


Seems simple enough: Google says I should select ‘Remove location’.


Google wants me to confirm. I click ‘Remove’.


Like a lot of US Big Tech, they make it appear that they’re busy doing something …


… when in fact, nothing is being done.

   Maybe I should go in and edit it, as perhaps Google can’t deal with three businesses called Lucire.
   Good luck with that. I click on the entry and just get taken to a page where I am asked to select an account. I only have one, so I click on it three times, and I get taken back to the My Business home page with the four locations on it.


Clicking on the last entry goes to this page. Click my email address three times, and you’ll go back to the start.

   And ad infinitum. You can attempt to do this as many times as you like, but it is impossible to delete a location, contrary to what Google claims, it is impossible to edit some locations, contrary to what Google claims.
   It’s no wonder the Dashboard was so full of discrepancies because, like Facebook, like Twitter, like Amazon, their databases are probably shot to hell, and nothing works as they say they do. I may be a layman on such subjects but it appears the more they add, the more the house of cards collapses.
   I suspect some of these errors are intentional—we know Google intentionally programs in more pages so they can claim increased page-views to their site (e.g. if you click on an image in the Google image search, they take you to an intermediate page first—10 years ago, they took you straight to the page)—so by offering a website that is SNAFU, you’re forced to increase the page-view count. (Of course, if we do holding pages and forwarding pages to our sites, Google penalizes us.) When such obvious inefficiencies are introduced, you know that the reasons aren’t all kosher.
   So there you are: even if you wanted to delete an entry (and I was sorely tempted to yesterday), Google won’t let you.
   Google: deceitful and useless. And a total waste of time. I’m so glad I don’t use this site in any real way—apart from the time it sucked over the last 24 hours.

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Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

25.07.2019

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.

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In my experience, the only browser that works with Jetstar’s website is Safari for Mac

23.07.2019

I’ve found some forum entries about this, but they date back to the beginning of the decade. I alerted Jetstar to this in March, and the problem has worsened since then.
   Basically, I can’t book online, and I don’t know why. Consequently, I booked one flight with Air New Zealand and only managed, after huge effort, to get the other (for a colleague) with Jetstar.
   Back in March, I couldn’t book with Vivaldi, but I was able to switch to Firefox. I let Jetstar know.
   Now, this strategy does not work.
   Before you suggest it, cookies and caches have been cleared.
   Here’s what happens after I’ve selected the cities and the dates, and I go to select times. Let’s begin with Vivaldi on Windows, which is based on Chromium (which, as we know, is what Chrome, the browser Jetstar suggests you use, is based on):

Switching to Firefox now results in this:

Switching to Edge on the same PC gives this:

   Fortunately, I also own Macs, so here’s what Firefox for Mac returns:

   The only browser that works with the Jetstar website: Safari on Mac. As I’ve sold my Ubuntu laptop, I was unable to test using that OS.
   Not many people would go to that effort, and while Jetstar’s Twitter staff (after some pushing from me in DMs) said they would refer it on, I don’t expect anything to happen.
   Maybe Chrome would work, but I’m not ever going to download it to find out. Why invite Google on to your computer? But if that is the case, it seems foolish to limit yourself to such an invasive browser. My experience is that whatever is blocking me from booking with Jetstar (some may argue that this is a good thing), it is expanding across browsers.

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My social media engagement is dropping and I do not care

09.07.2019

In the last month, maybe the last few weeks, my likes on Instagram have halved. Interestingly, Lucire’s Instagram visits have increased markedly. But as I use my own account more than a work one, I can see the trend there a bit more clearly.
   It’s not unlike Facebook, which, of course, owns Instagram. While I haven’t used it for personal updates since 2017, I maintain a handful of pages, and I still recall earlier this decade when, overnight, engagement dropped 90 per cent. It never recovered. Facebook, like Google, biases itself toward those who can afford to pay, in the great unlevelling of the playing field that Big Tech is wont to do.
   They know that they’re structured on, basically, a form of digital drug-taking: that for every like we get, we get a dopamine hit, and if we want to maintain those levels, we had better pay for them and become junkies. But here’s the thing: what if people wake up and realize that they don’t need that hit any more? I mean, even Popeye Doyle got through cold turkey to pursue Alain Charnier in French Connection II.
   I’ve written about social media fatigue before, and the over-sharing that can come with it. More than once I blogged about being ‘Facebooked out’. And as you quit one social medium, it’s not too hard to quit another.
   I’ve made a lot of posts on Instagram but I value my privacy increasingly, and in the period leading up to the house move, I began doing less on it. And without the level of engagement, whether that’s caused by the algorithm or my own drop in activity, I’m beginning to care less, even if Instagram was more a hobby medium where I interacted with others.
   And since I have less time to check it, I actually don’t notice that I have fewer likes when I open the app. I only really know when I see that each photo averages 15 likes or so, when figures in the 30s and 40s were far more commonplace not very long ago.
   So what’s the deal? Would they like us to pay? I’m not that desperate. I don’t ’Gram for likes, as it was always a hobby, one that I seem to have less time for in 2019. I never thought being an “influencer” on Instagram was important. The novelty has well and truly worn off, and as friends depart from the platform, the need to use it to keep them updated diminishes. In the last fortnight I recorded three videos for friends and sent them via Smash or Wetransfer, and that kept them informed. You know, like writing a letter as we did pre-email, but with audio and video. Instagram just isn’t that vital. Email actually serves me just fine.

As I said to a friend tonight, even Twitter seems expendable from one’s everyday habits. Especially after March 15 here. You realize that those who are already arseholes really want to stay that way, their life ambition probably to join certain foreign-owned radio stations to be talking heads. But since they lack the nous, the best they can manage is social-media venting. And the good people want to remain good and have the space to live their lives happily. So why, I began wondering, should we spend our time getting our blood pressure up to defend our patch in a medium where the arseholes are, by and large, gutless wannabes who daren’t tell you have of the venom they write to your face? Does anyone ever put a Stuff commenter up on a pedestal and give them respect?
   While there are a great many people whom I admire on Twitter, and I am fortunate enough to have come into their orbit, there are an increasing number of days when I want to leave them to it, and if they wish to deal with the low-lifes of this world, it is their prerogative, and I respect them for doing something I’m tiring of doing myself. Twelve years on Twitter is a long time. At the time of writing, I’ve made 91,624 Tweets. That’s a lot.
   Unlike the arseholes, each and every one of these decent human beings have successful lives, and they don’t need to spend their waking moments dispensing hate toward any other group that isn’t like them in terms of genitals, sexual orientation, race or religion. And, frankly, I can contact those decent people in media outside of social.
   Maybe the fear of Tweeting less is that we believe that the patients will overrun the asylum, that we’re the last line of defence in a world where racists and others are emboldened. That if we show that good sense and tolerance prevail, as my grandfather and others wanted to do when they went to war, then those who harbour unsavoury thoughts toward people unlike them might think twice. I can’t really argue with that.
   But I wonder whether I’ll be more effective outside of social. I publish magazines, for a start. They give me a platform others do not have. I don’t need to leave comments on articles (and over the years, I haven’t done much of that). And I have websites I visit where I can unwind, away from the shouting factories of American Big Tech. Most of us want to do good on this earth, and the long game is I may be better off building businesses I’m good at rather than try to show how much smarter I am versus a talentless social media stranger.
   No, I’m not saying I’m leaving either medium. I am saying that I’d rather spend that time on things I love to do, and before 2007 I had enough to do without sharing. Some of the colleagues I respect the most have barely set foot in the world of social, and right now I envy just how much time they have managed to put into other important endeavours, including books that are changing lives.
   Big Tech must know the writing’s on the wall.

PS.: From a discussion with the wonderful William Shepherd when he read this on Twitter (the irony is not lost on me given the subject).—JY

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‘The last USB device you connected to this computer malfunctioned’—such a simple solution for phones

30.06.2019

Over the last few years, I’ve had some USB memory sticks go bad. There was one particular type—a cheap one from the Warehouse—that failed once on Windows 10. The error was ‘The last USB device you connected to this computer malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it.’ The problem was that any other USB stick of the same brand would return the same error, even non-faulty ones, from then on.
   I took them back to the Warehouse and while one of them actually was kaput, the others I alleged were faulty weren’t. The trouble was that there was no way to make Windows 10 forget the error.
   I did the usual ways you find on the internet: going to the device manager, removing the device drivers, scanning for hardware changes, etc., to no avail. Once guilty, forever guilty. There was no turning back.
   Tonight, I encountered the same error when plugging in my phone. However, the last time I had plugged it in, there were no errors, so something already was amiss. When probing more, the error was ‘Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)’, and again, every bit of advice online was useless.
   These included: restarting your PC; uninstalling the affected device driver; installing generic Android drivers (none were available at Meizu directly); checking all cables; using different USB ports. Two hours later, which included contemplating getting a Bluetooth dongle for my PC, I came across a solution that should have been obvious much earlier: reboot the phone.
   That’s all it took.
   I’m putting this here since no one else seems to have suggested this, of all the pages I read over the last few hours. It’s obvious now with hindsight, but not when you’re following well meaning advice online and trying to do it all procedurally. I knew instinctively I didn’t have to uninstall everything that was USB-related, and I’m glad I never made it that complicated for myself. Hopefully this blog post will save others two hours’ trial and error.

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How to lose readers: accuse them of something they don’t or wouldn’t do

11.06.2019

Here’s a sure-fire way to lose readers and cost you ad revenue.
   It seems Haymarket’s Autocar (which I have been reading in print since 1980) wasn’t pleased about people using online ad blockers, so it created a warning.
   The trouble is I don’t use ad blockers. In fact, you can see a massive advertisement underneath the warning:

In fact, that ad keeps changing, so I guess the advertiser is charged for totally useless impressions.
   Clicking ‘I’ve disabled my Ad-Blocker’ does nothing.
   I decided to click the other option, for advice on how to whitelist the ad blocker that I do not have.

I presume whatever’s in that blue box are the instructions, which are illegible.
   Autocar often talks about the difficulties behind some car infotainment interfaces, but you’d hope a publisher with a budget that far exceeds mine would get this right.
   The irony of this effort is that Autocar winds up losing ad revenue.
   I have Tweeted them, so here’s hoping this silly tech can be removed so I can help their bottom line. You do wonder about their bosses sometimes though—maybe this sort of abrasive behaviour comes from the top.

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