Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid or guest posts, no link sales.



17.12.2021

Lucire’s Twitter account is back

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.)


Filed under: business, China, design, Hong Kong, internet, New Zealand, technology—Jack Yan @ 09.02

11.12.2021

Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

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.


Filed under: China, design, technology—Jack Yan @ 00.33

07.12.2021

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



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.


Filed under: China, design, internet, New Zealand, technology—Jack Yan @ 10.22

04.12.2021

Xiaomi’s confusing nomenclature

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.


Filed under: China, marketing, technology—Jack Yan @ 21.47

03.12.2021

On Lucire’s locked Twitter account: they’re still doing sweet F. A.


Pixabay

Twitter, after having done sweet F. A. about Lucire’s locked account, and failing to provide any response since the last lot of evidence was sent to them on the 4th ult., wrote this to me today:

After reviewing the reported account, it appears that this issue may have been resolved. Please reply to this email if you still need assistance, or to let us know if the situation has changed in any way.

   You just have to wonder if they hire morons at that level, or do they hire regular people and train them down?

Dear Twitter Support:

This most certainly has not been resolved. Quite the opposite.
   Your company still refuses to examine the evidence, despite our sending it numerous times.
   We have heard nothing from you at all over the actions you say you will take. In fact, your latest response of pretending all is well is the only thing we have heard from Twitter since the 4th [ult.]
   It has been referred to your internal support team by your UK head of planning, David Wilding (whom I know) to no avail.
   I’m not sure that you could call it resolved as a quick check of the handle shows it ‘doesn’t exist’.
   We ask again that @Lucire be unlocked as we have done nothing wrong, and we hold a USPTO trade mark registration for all online publishing usage. (Your own link in your autoresponse to locked accounts results in a 404.)
   We have to come to your department as the “proper channels” for locked accounts claim that I cannot be confirmed as the owner of Lucire, and a USPTO certificate is apparently not the sort of evidence they will entertain.
   Attached is a letter to your executives Winston Foo and John Pegg outlining the whole matter to date. It would be fair to label your responses farcical … I have also attached the same items of evidence that have been sent earlier. They more than satisfy your requirements.
   I should note that Instagram took a week to resolve an accidental deactivation caused by its AI, not a month and a half. This entire matter can sensibly be resolved in minutes, not months.
   We put the ball back in your court.

Sincerely,

Jack Yan

   The saga continues.


Filed under: business, internet, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 04.09


Targets painted, opposition misses again

Our government’s response to COVID-19 has been better than many nations’, but it is far from perfect, as Ian Powell points out in a well reasoned blog post, and in his article for Business Desk. It’s backed up by a piece by Marc Daalder for Newsroom. To me, Powell’s piece makes a great deal of sense, and for those who feel the new system feels, instinctively, politically driven, then they are right. He says, inter alia:

At the time I thought that the traffic lights system had been initiated by the Ministry of Health (experts outside the Ministry were not supportive). Subsequently, however, according to senior Health Ministry officials privately, it came from the Prime Minister’s department.
   This helps explain the working it out as you go along approach that is causing confusion among many. Jacinda Ardern’s claim of the system being world leading is overcooked.

   He cites Daalder, who writes:

While the outbreak was expected to have a long tail, the Government fully intended to return to zero cases and even to maintain an elimination status after reopening the borders in 2022.
   Just two weeks later, Cabinet threw in the towel on elimination.

   We know that the government is working on overdrive through this whole pandemic, but it seems there are areas where the experts are being overridden.
   But what does our opposition do? Instead of firing at the targets that Powell and Daalder have helpfully revealed, new leader Christopher Luxon repeats the ad nauseam cries of his predecessors to open up, to put Auckland into the “green”. Any expectation that National had found pragmatism with its new leadership vanished in smoke mere days after Luxon took the helm.
   This is the identical complaint I have over Sir Phony Blair over in the UK with not only missing the targets painted on the Tories by themselves, but turning 180 degrees and firing the other way.
   We need an opposition that holds a government to account but it seems Luxon, who bafflingly refers to Simon Bridges as having ‘intellectual heft’, might be yet another ideologue, importing more of the same but in more hidden, calm language than his predecessor.
   Are there any pragmatists left in politics, or is everyone following ideology these days?


Filed under: media, New Zealand, politics—Jack Yan @ 04.00

01.12.2021

December 2021 gallery

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.


29.11.2021

What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

My Meizu M6 Note has had to be retired, due to an expanding battery, something which I probably shouldn’t have tolerated for so long (it began happening months ago). I only made the call to stop using it last week after the volume buttons could no longer function, and I probably should have stopped earlier still* as it would have been easier to get the SIM and micro SD cards out!
   My original plan was to go slightly newer and opt for a Note 9, and I had located a vendor on Aliexpress who was prepared to send it to me with the Chinese Flyme OS installed. But my sense is that Meizu is now past its prime, and everything seems to be shutting down.
   I had been logging into the app store daily for over a year to earn points, but Meizu informed us that it would cease to record log-ins, and we had to redeem what we could by January. Its now-useless default music app I’ve already blogged about. No one answers international queries any more and from what I can tell, official Meizu reps seldom frequent the Chinese forums—while the international forums consist of frustrated users talking among themselves.
   And this is coming from a self-confessed Meizu fan. I chose the M2 Note back in 2015–16 and if it weren’t for the damaged screen, I might never have bought the M6 Note. For now, I’m back to using the M2, which is slower, and the battery doesn’t hold its charge quite as well any more, but at least everything from the M6 Note has synced to it. With my app usage lower than it was in 2012, I don’t notice any real lags in performance within the programs I do use, something that I couldn’t say even two years ago when I was still popping into Instagram daily. Only the camera gets annoying with its slowness. I have gone away from the Swype keyboard though, as Swype no longer sends verification codes to your email to sync your custom word dictionary. I’m muddling my way through Microsoft’s Swiftkey, which has proved a tolerable successor (the chief gains are the ability to access en and em dashes and ellipses from the keyboard without switching languages). It seems to forget that you’ve pressed shift in order to write a proper noun (you have to do this twice for it to stick!) but it is learning words like Lucire and Autocade as well as my email address.
   Readers may recall that after I had the M2 Note’s screen repaired, it would no longer charge, except at the store in Johnsonville (Repair Plus) that fixed it! The lads there would never tell me why they could charge it and I couldn’t and just grinned, while I told them how patently ridiculous the situation was, that even a new charging cable could not work; in fact none of my chargers did. They didn’t seem to care that this was the predicament they put me in. The issue—and I don’t know if they are to blame—is that the charging port is looser than it was, and it needs a very decent micro USB connector. That was thanks to PB Tech for telling me the truth—and a thumbs-down to Repair Plus for not even trying to sell me a better cable! Moral of the story: use people for the one thing that can do, but don’t expect much more from them, not even basic after-sales service.
   With its “fault” remedied about a year and a half ago, I had a phone to use once I put the micro SD and SIM cards back in, though Amanda isn’t able to hear me that clearly on it when I’m at the office, and I’m sure I’ve missed calls and SMSs probably due to limits with the frequencies it uses (though I had checked six years ago it would handle the Vodafone 3G and 4G frequencies).
   So a new phone is needed because the “phone” function of the M2 isn’t up to par. I don’t need the latest and greatest, and thanks to the pace of development, a phone launched in 2020 is already obsolete in China. It seems that if Meizu is on the way down that I should go to its arch-rival, Xiaomi, and get the Note 9’s competitor, which roughly has the same name: the Redmi Note 9.
   The Xiaomi names are all confusing and the Indian market has different phones with the same names, to add to the confusion already out there. I don’t profess to know where the S, T, Note, Pro, and the rest fit, but let’s just say I’ve been led to get a Redmi Note 9.
   PB had first dibs but as the sales’ rep could not tell me whether I could easily put the Chinese version of MIUI on it, in order to rid myself of the Google bloatware, then I couldn’t safely buy one. I wasted enough time on the M6 Note on that front, and my installation of its Chinese OS could well have been down to a fluke. He also refused to tell me the price difference between the sale units and the shop-soiled demo ones other than it was small, and, ‘You may as well buy a new one.’
   There’s no irony here with privacy: Chinese apps at least tell you what legislation covers their usage, unlike western apps which don’t mention US Government snooping yet Google passes on stuff anyway. In all the years I’ve used the Meizus there has been nothing dodgy in terms of the data received and sent, as far as I know, and there’s nothing questionable constantly running such as Google Services that transmits and drains your battery.
   There are some great sites, a number of which are in India, that teach you how to turn off some of Xiaomi’s bloatware’s notifications, but they seldom annoyed me on the Meizu. I’ll soon find out first-hand how good they are.
   Why the Redmi Note 9? It was one of the few on Aliexpress that I could find with the Chinese ROM installed, saving me a lot of effort. I won’t have to root it, for a start. When your choice is down to about half a dozen phones—Aliexpress and Ebay vendors are so keen to get export sales they make it a point not to sell Chinese—you’re guided on price and your daily usage. I’m a firm believer that a phone should not cost the same as a used car. Bonuses: the big battery and the fact it isn’t too bright (that’s just me); detriments: 199 g in weight and a humongous screen.
   The vendor (YouGeek) was conscientious enough to send me a message (along the lines of ‘Are you absolutely sure you want the Chinese version?’) which cost me a couple of days since I don’t always pop back to the site (and you can’t read messages on the phone browser version anyway). Now we’re on the same page, they’ve dispatched the phone. We’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks. There’s no turning back now.

* PS.: From How to Geek: ‘Once you notice the battery is swollen or compromised in any way, you should immediately stop using the device. Turn the power off, and above all else, do not charge the device. Once the battery has reached such a point of failure that the battery is swollen, you must assume that all safety mechanisms in the battery are offline. Charging a swollen battery is literally asking for it to turn into an exploding ball of noxious flammable gas right in your living room.’ I wish I was told this when I first went to PB months ago when the battery began expanding and I enquired about phones.


Filed under: business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 09.46

28.11.2021

My tribute to David MacGregor


Digital art by David MacGregor

I hope the media will say more because David MacGregor had packed so much into his 50-something years on this planet. Here is my tribute on Lucire. Not everyone can claim to have discovered Rachel Hunter, created the Family Health Diary TV commercial format (and others), founded the first online men’s lifestyle magazine in New Zealand (Emale, or to give it its official form, eMALE), conceived and co-founded Idealog, and won a heap of advertising, marketing, and magazine publishing awards in the process. A brilliant man who never stopped creating.


Filed under: business, internet, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, TV—Jack Yan @ 23.28


Amazon: as dodgy as the rest of them

Jane Pendry in the UK Tweeted this in response to a Tweet about Amazon, and I had to reply:

   Jane helpfully elaborated:

   You read correctly: Amazon is just as dodgy as the others I’ve criticized publicly. Just that I hadn’t got around to them on this blog, because there had been a lengthy dialogue and I wanted to get more facts. But above is where I’ve got to so far, and it seems I’m not alone.


Filed under: business, globalization, internet, technology, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 21.26

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