Posts tagged ‘Aliexpress’

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.

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

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.

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Posted in business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »

Can a no-name mouse take the place of a Microsoft Intellimouse?


I’ve occasionally had good luck with ultra-cheap Chinese mice. Years ago, I bought one, with very simple left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, and it proved to be one of the most comfortable I owned. The wheel didn’t run smoothly at first but a quick trim of the plastic, and it’s been fine since.

   This US$3·89 mouse (price at time of writing) was a similar case. I ordered it to see if it might be better than the NZ$75 Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse, and that was bought to replace my favourite, the Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1. One of those was being used after my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 died—like the Intellimouse, these had large bodies that people with bigger hands, like me, can use.
   As those in a similar predicament know, mice have shrunk over the last decade, so finding a replacement takes months as you read the specs and, in some cases, visit the stores to see if they have anything.
   A Tecknet mouse proved too low by a millimetre or two to be comfortable, but when I saw this no-name unit being sold by a place called 7 Elves Store (did they mean dwarves, as in Disney?) on Aliexpress, I decided to take a punt. (The specs suggest the brand name is Centechia, but it’s nowhere to be found on the device or in the heading and description.) And for US$3·89 plus (sorry) my share of carbon emissions from the air freight, it didn’t cost me much to find out.
   It arrived a few weeks ago in damaged condition. The buttons did not work at all, and once again I had to make some simple repairs to get it working. It’s too light. The plastic is of a crappy grade. And the details on the base of the mouse suggest whomever wrote the text had not been in the occident much, if at all. I don’t like the lights because I don’t care if a mouse has pulsing RGB effects since (a) my hand is over it and (b) I’m looking at the screen, not the mouse.
   But here’s the thing: it fits my hand. It’s nowhere nearly as comfortable as those old Microsoft mice, but as a cheapie that I can take in my laptop bag, it does a better job than the Tecknet. It’s not as comfortable as the Asus, but it beats every other mouse, that is, the ones I didn’t buy, that I’ve seen in the shops. On the whole, I can use it more than the Tecknet, and it will do when I’m travelling or out of the office, though I still haven’t found the holy grail of a decent sized Microsoft mouse. (The revived Intellimouse, as I may have mentioned earlier, is asymmetric, and its shape doesn’t work for me.) I’m not sure why this is so hard for mice manufacturers: you’ve all peaked a bit early, and none of the improvements you’ve made have advanced the ideas of user comfort and ergonomics.
   For those who care about this stuff, here’s the Aliexpress link.

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The latest phone factory reset was good for eight days


It looks like this latest phone reset lasted all of eight days, as today, all the bugs returned, all indicating to me that the M6 Note has some sort of read–write error. PB has offered a link to file a report and asked that I drop phone and form in to their Wellington store, but I may call to double check that it is under warranty.
   If I do, I need to figure out a way to charge my old phone, since that’s been impossible since its “repair”. Go in with a phone that works in most respects other than a busted screen, come back with a phone that has a fixed screen but doesn’t charge, regardless of charger, except, of course, the one at their shop. If I can get it going, then that saves a few hundred dollars buying a replacement, which I’m loathe to do.
   There’s also one further option, to buy a new SD card, in case that is the culprit, but considering the phone has difficulty deleting files on its internal storage, I doubt very much that the card is at fault.
   I’ve already been chatting to an Aliexpress vendor in Shenzhen to confirm that they can sell me a new Meizu with Chinese spec, since I have zero desire to get another western-spec one that I have to root in order to remove the Google spyware. And if this M6 is any sign of what a western-market phone is like, then no thanks. I also need to do a lot more reading about the Note 9, the potential replacement, to check the frequencies and capabilities. With Meizu doing less and less outside China, decent information is harder to come by.
   I’ve done factory resets twice already this month, each time wasting hours replacing all the apps and settings. Since the resets have put me right anywhere from a day to eight days, then I don’t relish having to do one a third time, with the very real possibility the phone will conk out again. Amanda and I are back to having half a phone each: hers rings but you can’t talk into it; mine doesn’t ring but you can make outgoing calls.

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Posted in China, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »

After you’ve gone through the brands you’ve heard of …


The mouse quest continues. After going through all of PB’s listings and coming up short—nothing (at least with listed dimensions) matched or came close to the size and shape of the Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1—I returned to Aliexpress for another look.
   This Tecknet mouse might be the right one, but it’s hard to say till I try it out. For around NZ$20 we’ll soon know.
   I’ve bought mice from Guangdong vendors on Aliexpress before, and even have one I regularly take with me when I travel, but it doesn’t have the side buttons, which I’ve become accustomed to. When you’re spoiled, it’s hard to go back—even though I have three mice here without those extra buttons which might be totally adequate size- and shape-wise. I’ll report back when the new mouse arrives. Here’s hoping this will be large enough for my hands—and if it is, Tecknet could well get a lot of business from many of us in the same boat who don’t wish to subscribe to the current trend of tiny computer mice.

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Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse isn’t a successor to the old


How I had such high hopes that the Microsoft Intellimouse Pro Special Edition bought at Noël Leeming would be a successor to my Intellimouse 1.1. The short version: it isn’t.
   It might be a successor to the Intellimouse Explorer 3 on which the shape is modelled, but for those of us who prefer symmetrical mice, because the higher right-hand side supports your hand better, it literally was a pain.
   There are only some counterfeit ones going for a decent price on Ebay, and I really should have snapped up more of the second-hand ones when I had a chance. The mice now at Recycling for Charity are, like all those reasonably priced ones in shops today, tiny. I imagine mice from the early 2000s aren’t even getting recycled any more, since it’s 2020 and the “old” stuff is from last decade—after the manufacturers began to shrink them.
   Asus did a good job with its ROG Strix Evolve which I bought three months ago, but I find that the absence of tapering at the front and the overall tightness of the buttons didn’t serve me that well.
   The Intellimouse 1.1 is back here as my reserve, and the Asus is on the mouse pad. It took all of a few seconds at my desk to know that Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse wasn’t right—and one wonders why they couldn’t just keep making something that worked so well for so many of us.
   I was lucky to get the similarly shaped Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 five years ago, a dead-stock mouse made in 2005 that had been sitting at Corporate Consumables. In between the properly sized Microsoft mice—three in total, including my first in 2002—I had all manner of other types but nothing was as comfortable.
   When you go to some websites selling mice, they tell you that you can hold their product like a ‘claw’, as if that is a positive attribute. Once again we see the need for humans to adapt to technology, rather than the other way round. I can see why one might need to do this given how mice have shrunk. If your hand’s like a claw, then you may be the modern equivalent of the Chinese women who had their feet bound in the 20th century. You may feel that is the fashion, but you need not live with it.

I did it. On Saturday night I reset my Meizu M6 Note again, the second time in eight days, taking it back to factory settings. Except this time I didn’t load Whatsapp or Signal. Two days later, my phone remains OK.
   I suggested to PB that it may have developed a read–write fault, as deleting photos from the internal memory takes minutes (if it ever completes), which the warranty should cover. It also would explain why the gallery, camera and the downloads’ folder wouldn’t load properly, since they each tried to access the internal storage. I also had difficulty restoring my SMSs with SMS Backup, with the operation crapping out before completing—though strangely, today, the SMSs are back without any intervention from me.
   But it also wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Whatsapp wasn’t compatible with Android 7 now—Instagram never was, not fully. To save a load of time I won’t be putting messaging apps back on there. I lost a second evening to this and I’m not keen on losing more.
   There are two up sides: I don’t need to get a new phone, and if I did, I finally found a vendor on Aliexpress who’ll sell a Chinese-spec Meizu. No more of these western editions: they are less reliable, with a less well stocked app store, and you can’t update the OS. You have to root them to get rid of the Google spyware. I may stick with Meizu but I really won’t be buying domestically again.

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