Posts tagged ‘cellphone’


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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, marketing, technology | No Comments »


What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

29.11.2021

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.

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


Refreshing the less oft-seen pages on Lucire’s website

23.10.2021



A decade separates these two incarnations of Lucire’s shopping home page. Some Facebook gadgets were added during the 2010s and the magazine cover was updated, but it was woefully out of date and needed to be refreshed.

It’s very unusual for us to go into the less-frequented pages in Lucire and adapt them to a new template before doing a major one such as the fashion index page. But sometimes you go with the creative flow, so it was the turn of the ‘Newsstand’ pages plus the shopping home page, which hadn’t been updated in seven years (and most of it hadn’t been touched for ten).
   Needless to say, on the latter, almost everything was out of date. We’ve removed the links to the shopping directory, which last existed to support the print magazine as it was in the mid-2000s. Since then, we haven’t really had a shopping section in print, and we ceased to update it much online.
   What was disappointing to note, after my lament about the disappearance of so many fashion websites earlier this year, that even more had closed down, so much so that the three ‘Newsstand’ pages have come back down to two (as it was in the 2000s). There are still some that have not been updated in years, but we have maintained the links for historical purposes.
   Poking about the directories did lead me to lucire.com/xp, a framed page with content for our mobile edition in 2000 that was compatible with Plucker. Long before cellphones became the norm, we were already catering for portable devices. I knew we had a Plucker edition, but had forgotten about the xp directory till tonight.
   The copy on that page reads, ‘Lucire Express was the hand-held version of Lucire, powered by Plucker. With more recent developments in syndication and content management, support for Express has been discontinued.’
   It seemed logical that cellphone browsers would be developed to reduce the content of high-res pages to make them readable, but that is yet to happen (unless one goes into a simplified view mode). To think that programmers found a way to do that in the 2000s. How times have changed, with what appears to be a slowing down of innovation—forcing us to adapt to the technology (developing mobile-friendly themes in-house) rather than the other way round.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Switching Lucire’s home page over to the new template

07.10.2021



Lucire’s online edition home page: out with the old (top), in with the new (above).

I switched over Lucire’s home page to the new template today. I’m going to miss the old one, since it had the effect of a bled page, something that’s de rigueur for a fashion magazine.
   As outlined in my previous post, it’s just something we had to do to move with the times, and to make life easier for those browsing on mobile devices. I recognize the irony here, as someone who doesn’t tend to use cellphones having to design for that very medium, but then I’m also a realist.
   Once I get a bit more confidence hacking the theme from HTML Codex, the bled effect might return.
   I made some calls on what to include this time round. The social links are gone—recent events have just made them too discouraging. (The Facebook ones disappeared years ago.) The top image has been replaced by a slider with three images. The little graphic featuring the latest issue of Lucire has also been removed, only because we couldn’t figure out where it would go in the new template, but it might make a return sooner rather than later. In terms of appearance, there are fewer lines, though this is more down to convenience and working with someone else’s CSS; again, they might make a return at some point. The dotted line separating the footer from the body has also gone for now.
   As every web publisher knows, no template is set in stone and there’s ongoing evolution.
   It’s partly a shame to bring to an impending close a template entirely programmed by me. Since Lucire started, it was built on my code, the first issue done on Notepad. But HTML Codex has done a good job with its stylesheet, it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. Many of the old pages with my code will still exist (since, other than one article, we don’t redo old HTML pages), and it’ll take months before we shift all section indices and the news pages over. I am looking forward to the changes, and that’s always a good sign.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


InShot Music Player is also forgetful, though it’s not as bad as the last two

20.08.2021

One bug that creeps up at unpredictable intervals with InShot’s Music Player—though it is not as severe as the bug on Muzio Player—is that after a while, it forgets that it should shuffle the tracks and resorts to alphabetical order, starting from the top.
   Considering this isn’t something that has affected any other music player, I find this very surprising.
   These four screenshots were taken between July and August of the recent tracks. There’s no rhyme or reason the player would suddenly go to the top of the list, but when I begin hearing the same sequence of tracks, I know something’s not right. And it has been happening since I installed the player, though the first couple of times I didn’t realize it was a bug.
   I would tell Inshot directly but my last (highly positive) email went unanswered, so a public blog post is the next best thing, in case others have come across this bug.
   With how forgetful computer programs are all the time, including the player I had on my phone prior to this, I wonder: should I invent the ini or preference file? It seems that in this universe, these haven’t been invented yet!




   On a side note, Meizu’s native music player has also forgotten to show the list of tracks, which remain linked after my herculean effort earlier this year. Its search still fails to scan the SD card.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, technology | No Comments »


Cellphone apps: InShot’s Music Player may finally be the one; Über remains a total waste of time

14.05.2021

Forgetful Muzio Player has been replaced by a program (or app) called Music Player, which isn’t the best brand name considering the many other apps out there with the same name. This one’s version 2.5.6.74 and its maker is InShot Inc., so if all goes well, this is the one Meizu users should go for.
   First, a good bit: it picks up the directories on the SD card, which, till Meizu upgraded its Music app, I thought I could take for granted.
   The not-so-good bits. It doesn’t pick up the album artwork, so you have to link each cover yourself. The disadvantage is that you have to search for the cover by image, and there’s no option to search by name. Mind you, it was the same story with Meizu Music, and provided you have a rough idea of when you downloaded the album (as it displays the covers in reverse chronological order), it isn’t impossible.
   It did, however, pick up the graphics from the songs where the cover image was embedded and used them for the album covers … at least it did till today, when it forgot all about those and I spent more time relinking the dozen or so that the app forgot.
   What is it about forgetful software, or at least software that operates differently every day? Do I need to invent the dot-ini file (since it doesn’t seem to exist in this universe) or radically suggest that software follows a set of instructions, line by line, that do not vary each time?


Above: InShot’s Music Player displayed an album cover for Gone with the Wave yesterday, but today it appears to have forgotten what it was.

   Nevertheless, Music Player does “share” the chosen album cover with the individual tracks, so when they’re played, the image appears on the player screen, something that Muzio was loathe to do.
   In other words, Music Player does what Meizu Music used to do before it became a lemon and, providing it doesn’t forget all the linked album covers (all 280 of them), it’ll stay on my phone for the foreseeable future. Since it didn’t come from an app store, it won’t be “upgraded” to something inferior, either, which appears to be the path of a lot of cellphone software.
   It doesn’t look too bad, though admittedly Muzio Player’s interface remains superior.
   Linking 280 covers with each album over the course of a day and a bit sure beats linking over 1,000 of them with each song on Muzio Player, and to have three weeks’ worth of labour vanish despite the program saying, ‘Changes saved’.
   If InShot’s Music Player keeps things as they are, then it’s the replacement I’ve sought for some time. Since I didn’t hear back from Muzio Player, I’ve deleted the app.

One program I can say is a genuine waste of time is Über, if you happen to use a Meizu M6 Note like me. I’ve always resisted it, on principle. If they didn’t play silly buggers on tax, I might be more inclined to have supported them, but I’ve remained very faithful to public transport and taxis all these years.
   Because of timing and circumstances that I won’t go into here, and having had a virus all of last week that I haven’t fully shaken off (one symptom being short of breath), Über was suggested again today. My first choice was driving to the station, catching the train (being careful not to spread any of my germs about), then either a bus or cab, to pick up a press car from town. That would mean after returning home, I would have to walk to the station while not feeling 100 per cent to get my own car. I know first-hand that a cab from here in the northern suburbs can be pricey—and that’s when one even shows up, as my partner’s faced ridiculously long waits for them during the daytime. So Über was a realistic choice and I’d be suckered into helping to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few milliardaires high up at these tech firms at the expense of working people.
   Never fear, for Über is a half-baked app that cost me two missed trains and I could have been typing this an hour earlier than I am now.
   Thanks to the full factory reset that PB did last year on my phone, and my installation of Meizu’s far more advanced Chinese OS afterwards, I was able to create an account this time and log in. It didn’t keep returning the message that I had attempted too many log-ins, even after a single attempt.
   After that, it takes about half an hour to read the terms and conditions and the privacy policy on a cellphone. You can opt out of promo messages, or so they claim (to be on the safe side, I’ve done it thrice: once when reading the T&Cs before I accepted them, once after I read them, and once more from the desktop when an email with an unsubscribe link arrived).
   And that’s really about all it does. You can’t type in any destination; I later checked their instructions on a proper computer and I was doing exactly what was asked. I could feed in my home address (it came up after I began feeding in the basics), and I could feed in some favourites, but I can’t actually go to them.
   Naturally, it will take your credit card details: Über made sure that that part worked.
   Having saved the Railway Station as a destination, and attempted to order a ride to there, I got to a screen to tell me that Über isn’t available in my area. Whether that means Tawa, or Wellington, or New Zealand, I don’t know.




Above: It’s impossible to feed in a destination in Über, but it’s probably because it’s not available in Tawa.

   I have map software on my phone—both Here Maps and Baidu Maps. And my partner does successfully use Über from time to time, on a Huawei phone which, like my Meizu, is Google-free. She has no Google Maps, so I know that isn’t a prerequisite for Über. I also know Google Services aren’t, either. At least these are points in their favour. I can’t be bothered troubleshooting beyond that, since they’ll just deny everything and pass the buck.
   Eventually, when I realized Über is a monumental waste of time, I carried out plan A, and took a train an hour after the one I could have taken had I not attempted to get an Übercab. And walked in the wintry air to collect my car.
   It was an easy decision to delete my account and the app soon after. Just as well, really. Big Tech loses once again. To think, the little music player made by a small company is more reliable than the milliards behind Über.


Above: Relieved to be on a desktop computer—and hopefully I won’t need to have any connection with Über ever again.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, technology | 1 Comment »


Time to abandon Meizu Music: 8.2 is a lemon

21.04.2021

That didn’t last long. Within a day, this was what Meizu Music showed:

   The songs, all 1,229 of them that I had fed in manually, are still there, and they still play, but the question remains: for how long? If they don’t show in the list—I told you computing devices were forgetful—then how long before the program fails to play them at all? Not only were the songs gone from the list, the few MP3 files that were on the phone’s RAM (from dynamic wallpapers and recordings) don’t show, either!
   I really didn’t want to chance it but you just have to conclude that Meizu has released a lemon, and if in a year they still can’t get it right, then it’s time to abandon it.
   I could go with Migu Music but I wanted something with the functionality of the old Meizu Music. After trying several apps, I’ve settled on an advertising-supported Muzio Player. It’s not perfect—the cover artwork doesn’t show for everything, and updating it manually for an album doesn’t see it shared with the individual tracks within—but it does the job for the most part. And, like every other app I trialled, it picks up the music on the SD card.
   Since I keep phones for some time—the old M2 Note is repaired—it’s going to be a long time before I’d contemplate a replacement for the M6 Note. But when I do I doubt it’ll be another Meizu. After being a cheerleader for the brand in the late 2010s, they’ve really fallen behind in customer service and, how, software development. Whomever else is willing to go the Google-free route is going to get my vote.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, technology | 3 Comments »


Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

19.04.2021

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | 3 Comments »