Archive for the ‘technology’ 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.

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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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!

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Instagram scammers are next-level lazy (and greedy)

22.12.2021

This was somewhat disappointing.
   This chap contacts me, seemingly wanting permission to repost our Instagram images. His personal info has been removed.

Hello there,

We have reviewed your page and we truly loved your work!
   We’d like to repost your pictures on our profile. Our account is [redacted] and we have over 200.000 followers. If our followers see your work a large number of them are extremely likely to follow you.
   I hope this sounds great to you since we are convinced you are going to receive a lot of new fans from this.
   Would you like to be published on our page?

All the best,

   I realize this was a form email but I thought: how courteous that they ask permission first. So many just steal your work. I felt they should be complimented on doing the right thing.

Dear [redacted]:

Thank you for reaching out but we must decline your offer. Our work is licensed for our use only, and we cannot permit it to be reposted. We truly appreciate your asking us first and for doing the right thing.

Kind regards,

Jack Yan
Publisher, Lucire

   Seems their email system is set up assuming that all replies are positive, because I next get this:

I appreciate you getting back to us!
   We have delivered many sponsored shoutouts and the results were always terrific. When we saw your Instagram profile we were confident you would get the same results. You can choose the photos for the promotion yourself or we can help you out with that.
   We guarantee at least 500 new followers with just one picture. With 3 published photos you will get at least 1500 new followers, and with 7 – more than 3500 new followers! If we don’t deliver these results, we will issue a full refund.

Packages:
1 shoutout – $39
3 shoutouts – $79
7 shoutouts – $159

And it goes on.
   This doesn’t deserve much more than:

Dear [redacted]:

I don’t know if you read my reply at 11.31 a.m. UTC—it seems like you haven’t. It’s a no.

Regards,

Jack

And a block of the schmuck’s domain on our server, plus two reports from us on Instagram for spamming.
   I know you’re thinking: why did you even bother replying in the first place?
   Well, usually when people send me unsolicited emails, they’re not so stupid as to not read the replies. This Instagram scammer, whose followers are probably all fake anyway, had automated everything, and took things to the next level of laziness. And he’s a greedy bugger as well, wanting to use your work and charge you for their using it!
   This is a sure way to ruin your reputation, and if you feel public policy would be served by my revealing their identity, I’m very happy to do so.

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Facebook pages no longer immediately update after you post

21.12.2021

With Lucire’s Twitter restored—it was a huge distraction over the last two months with various automatic posting gadgets needing to be reprogrammed, and the Twitter-to-Mastodon cross-poster still does not work (it’s what happens when you modify things that are working perfectly well: it’s impossible to put them back)—we wanted to get some of our social media back up to speed.
   So let’s get back to rubbishing Facebook, shall we?
   Because whenever we post, whether it’s through another program or directly on Facebook, the post just does not show on the page itself, unless you’re on the ultra-slow mobile edition (m.facebook.com) where you’re likely to give up before the posts begin to load. You have to wait many hours, even a day, for something to appear on the full-fat web version.
   This reminds me of those days when our Facebook walls stopped updating on the 1st of each month, presumably because someone in Menlo Park had to flip a switch to tell the website that the new month had begun. And they wouldn’t do it till it hit midnight in California since everyone on the planet must live in the one time zone.
   What’s the bet it’s a related glitch that existed at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, but we need to wait till midnight in California for Facebook to know it’s a new day?
   Here’s the mobile version (albeit viewed on the desktop) earlier on Tuesday:

And here’s the web version, still unchanged 12 hours later, with the newest post after the pinned one from December 18.

   Lesson: don’t use Facebook if you wish to tell your audience something urgently. You are better off sending an email: they’re more likely to see it in a timely fashion. And if your following isn’t that big, and you need your fans to know something urgently, it might actually be quicker to telephone them! Social media—forget it.

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Facebook: the year in review

19.12.2021

If you’d rather not read every Facebook entry I made on my blog this year, here’s a helpful video by Simon Caine on all the shitty things they’ve done over 2021. As we still have a couple of weeks of 2021 left to go, I’m betting they will still do something shitty that deserves to be in this video.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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


Xiaomi’s confusing nomenclature

04.12.2021

I’m starting to understand Xiaomi’s naming conventions but it’s a mess, especially coming from a marketer’s point of view.
   I ordered the Note 9, which is superior to the 9. So far so good.
   But what I’m getting is not what’s called the Note 9 here (or in any export market, from what I can tell). It’s the Note 9T, since it runs the new MediaTek Dimensity 800U and not the “old” MediaTek Helio G85. Here’s hoping the case I ordered through a Chinese vendor is for the correct phone since the two have a different shell.
   It’s not just any Note 9, but the Note 9 5G, which apparently has minor differences between the regular one and the 4G. Will it mean a very different case? Who knows?
   There’s also a Note 9 Pro, which doesn’t have 5G but has some superior specs but only runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G. And that Note 9 Pro is the Note 9 Pro Max in India because what the Indians call the Note 9 Pro is the Note 9S in other export markets.
   Pro doesn’t always mean a better spec in China: the Marvel R crossover, for instance, has four-wheel drive, but the Pro model has rear-wheel drive, although better equipment inside.
   It’s appeared on some British and Philippine sites but one site purporting to show all available variants of the Note 9 (including Chinese ones) doesn’t have this model.
   Out of sheer luck, since I was never after the most powerful, I seem to be on to one of the better phones in the Note 9 line-up. In terms of real-world use, we’ll soon see.
   My Meizu M2 Note (Meilan Note 2) isn’t lasting the day in terms of battery capacity, and it seems to drain very rapidly once you head south of 50-odd per cent. A quick browse of a few pages yesterday, using the 4G, saw it drop from 55 to 42 per cent in minutes, then into the 30s even after I switched off the screen and reception. With that and the missed calls, its successor cannot come a moment too soon, even if that successor weighs 199 g.

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