Posts tagged ‘China’


After 18 months, some progress on the Meizu M6 Note

23.06.2020

That was an interesting day in cellphone land. I collected the Meizu M6 Note from PB last Friday and switched it on for the first time in the small hours of Tuesday.
   I originally wasn’t pleased. I had paid NZ$80 for a warranty repair (there is provision under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 in some circumstances) and was told at the service counter that all that was performed was a factory reset, followed by a week’s testing. In other words, what I had originally done, twice, before bringing the phone in. I replied that that was not going to work, and was told by the PB rep that maybe I shouldn’t have so many apps open. Conclusion: a newer phone is far less capable than an older one.
   But he wasn’t the technician, and as I discovered, Joe had done more than a mere factory reset. When I switched the phone on, it was back to square one, like the day I bought it, complete with Google spyware. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but it suggested to me that the ROM had been flashed back to the beginning.
   Meizu’s factory resets don’t take you right back to factory settings, not if you had rooted the phone and removed all the Google junk.
   To his credit, this was a logical thing to do. However, within 10 minutes it developed a fault again. The settings’ menu would not stay open, and crap out immediately, a bit like what the camera, browser, and gallery had done at different times. All I had done up to this point was allow some of the apps to update, and God knows what Google was doing in the background as messages for Play and other programs flashed up in the header. The OS wanted to update as well, so I let it, hoping it would get past the bug. It didn’t.
   So far, everything was playing out exactly as I had predicted, and I thought I would have to head to PB and point out that I was taking them up on the three months they guarantee their service. And the phone was warranted till December 2020 anyway. Give me my money back, and you can deal with Meizu for selling a lemon.
   However, I decided I would at least try for the umpteenth time to download the Chinese OS, and install it. Why not? Joe had given me a perfect opportunity to give this another shot, and the phone appeared unrooted. The download was painfully slow (I did the same operation on my older Meizu M2 Note out of curiosity, and it downloaded its OS update at three to four times the speed—can we blame Google for slowing the newer phone down?) but eventually it got there. The first attempt failed, as it had done countless times before. This was something that had never worked in the multiple times I had tried it over the last 18 months, and I had drawn the conclusion that Meizu had somehow locked this foreign-market phone from accepting Chinese OSs.
   I tried again.
   And it worked. A fluke? A one-off? Who knows? I always thought that in theory, it could be done, but the practice was entirely different.
   It took a while, but I was astonished as the phone went through its motions and installed Flyme 8.0.0.0A, killing all the Google spyware, and giving me the modern equivalent of the Meizu M2 Note from 2016 that I had sourced on Ebay from a Chinese vendor.
   I may be speaking too soon, but the settings’ bug disappeared, the apps run more smoothly, and as far as I can tell, there is no record of the phone having been rooted. I had a bunch of the APKs from the last reset on the SD card, so on they went.
   Meizu synced all contacts and SMSs once I had logged in, but there was one really annoying thing here: nothing from the period I was running the western version of the phone appeared. The messages prior to December 2018 synced, plus those from the M2 Note during June while the M6 was being serviced.
   It appears that the western versions of these apps are half-baked, and offer nothing like the Chinese versions.
   With any luck, the bugs will not resurface—if they don’t, then it means that the read–write issues are also unique to the western version of the M6 Note.
   I’ve spent parts of today familiarizing myself with the new software. There are some improvements in presentation and functionality, while a few things appear to have retrograded; but overall, this is what I expect with a phone that’s two years newer. There should be some kind of advance (even little things like animated wallpapers), and with the western version, other than processor speed and battery life, there had not been. It was 2016 tech. Even the OS that the phone came back with was mid-decade. This is what the western editions are: out of date.
   The only oddity with the new Chinese Flyme was the inability to find the Chinese version of Weibo through Meizu’s own Chinese app store—only the foreign ones showed up on my search, even though the descriptions were all in simplified Chinese.
   These mightn’t have been the developments that Joe at PB expected but if things remain trouble-free, that NZ$80 was well worth spending to get a phone which, for the first time in its life, feels new. The other lesson here is to avoid western-market phones if you don’t find the Chinese language odd. I had already made enquiries to two Aliexpress sellers to make sure that they could sell me a non-western phone, ready to upgrade. Hopefully that won’t need to happen.
   Next week: let’s see if I can shoot some video and have that save without killing the gallery, the bug that kicked all of this off.

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


Crunching the COVID-19 numbers for June 15

15.06.2020

I hadn’t done one of these for a long time: take the number of COVID-19 cases and divide them by tests done. For most countries, the percentage is trending down, though there has been little movement in Sweden. I hadn’t included Brazil, Russia and India before, but as they are in the top part of the table, I’ve included them for the first time for context. That does leave the C of the BRIC countries out, but as China does not disclose its testing numbers, I can’t work out a figure for them. Given the news, it is no surprise that Brazil has the worst percentage I have seen since I began crunching these numbers: more than half of the tests done result in a positive. The source is Worldometers.

Brazil 867,882 of 1,604,784 = 54·08%
Sweden 51,614 of 325,000 = 15·88%
France 157,220 of 1,384,633 = 11·35%
KSA 127,541 of 1,106,398 = 10·99%
USA 2,162,261 of 24,795,407 = 8·72%
Singapore 40,818 of 488,695 = 8·35%
Switzerland 31,131 of 461,128 = 6·75%
Spain 291,008 of 4,826,516 = 6·03%
India 333,255 of 5,774,133 = 5·77%
Italy 236,989 of 4,620,718 = 5·13%
UK 295,889 of 6,772,602 = 4·37%
Germany 187,671 of 4,694,147 = 4·00%
Russia 537,210 of 15,161,152 = 3·54%
South Korea 12,121 of 1,105,719 = 1·10%
Taiwan 445 of 74,409 = 0·60%
New Zealand 1,504 of 311,121 = 0·48%
Australia 7,335 of 1,830,665 = 0·40%
Hong Kong 1,113 of 275,293 = 0·40%

   It shows that COVID-19 is far from over, something that we here in New Zealand need to be reminded of as we begin to rebuild. Still, nearby Fiji is also COVID-19-free, so perhaps we can begin having some travel with them?

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Posted in China, India, New Zealand, Sweden | No Comments »


Where does Hong Kong’s new national anthem law leave parody?

05.06.2020


Steve Cadman/Creative Commons 2·0

I don’t profess to be an expert on how Hong Kong law functions these days with its mix of old British ordinances and the laws made after 1997, but one thing that struck me with at least the news reports covering the criminalizing of insults against ‘March of the Volunteers’, the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China, is whether parody—a fundamental part of free speech—will still be permitted.
   I don’t have a problem with the anthem being taught to children as it was sung long before 1949, the establishment of the PRC. It was a wartime anthem, which people like my father knew, having been born in the 1930s at the time of the Sino–Japanese War. It is historical, and it has meaning. It is arguably even more familiar to older Chinese than the Republic of China’s anthem generally sung on the island of Taiwan. But, even back then, ‘March of the Volunteers’ had picked up this parody:

起來! 買嚿牛肉蒸葱菜!

   If I recall correctly, the parody emerged when the Communists and Nationalists were trying to entice the citizenry over to their side, and the Communists were promising food.
   I won’t go in to parody and its relationship to freedom of speech here; there are plenty of resources on it online.
   But does it mean that repeating the parody lyrics would put me at risk in Hong Kong?
   Of course it has escaped no one that the law was passed on June 4, a ballsy move by Beijing.
   Meanwhile, a few members of the UK government have talked about giving BN(O) (British National [Overseas]) passport holders a pathway to British citizenship, leading some to say there would be a brain drain. What I will say here is: the British have talked about defending the rights of Hong Kong people under the joint declaration ever since 1997—indeed, even before, with the Blair-led opposition—and nothing has happened. I’ve gone into my issues entering the UK with this passport before, so you’ll excuse me if I say that actions speak more loudly than words. British politicians have been high on rhetoric for over two decades on this issue and I have no reason to believe the least trustworthy lot they have ever elected.
   I disagree that they are interfering with Chinese affairs if they are simply looking after those that identify themselves as British, but at the same time I don’t think Beijing’s foreign ministry has anything to be concerned about. The British have their own doorstep to think about, and the prospect of millions of Hong Kong Chinese heading there was too hard for them to stomach under Major or Blair, and I do not expect that attitudes have changed.

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Posted in China, Hong Kong, politics, UK | No Comments »


Going beyond a blacked-out image: thoughts on Black Lives Matter

04.06.2020

Usually I find it easier to express myself in written form. For once, Black Lives Matter and the protests in the US prompted me to record another podcast entry. I’m not sure where the flat as and the mid-Atlantic vowels come from when I listened to this again—maybe I was channelling some of the passion I was seeing in the US, and I had watched the news prior to recording this.

   My Anchor summary is: ‘Personal thoughts in solidarity with my black friends in the US. Yes, I posted a blackout image on my Instagram but it didn’t seem to be enough. This is my small contribution, inspired by a Facebook post written by my white American friend Eddie Uken where he reflects on his perspective and privilege.’ Eddie’s Facebook post, which is public, is here.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, politics, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Cellphone saga update: back to the past

28.05.2020

Off to PB. The M6 Note was under warranty after all, so it’s now with PB Technologies’ service department in Wellington, after I explained it could have trouble doing read–write operations and the tech saw the camera and gallery hang (usually they just shut themselves down). I paid over NZ$400 for the phone including GST, and fortunately for me, I’m only 17 months in to my ownership. (You may think NZ$400 is cheap, but I don’t.)
   However, before I committed it to service, I had to find a way to get the old M2 Note going. I explained to one of the phone sales’ crew at PB my predicament: despite buying new chargers and cables, the only way to charge the phone was to drive to Johnsonville where it was last “serviced”. And, as usual, here’s the kicker: he plugged it in to his nearest micro USB charger and it fed it with juice, instantly. He said it was the cheapest charger they had in store. It also turned on immediately for him, whereas I’ve never been able to get it going—remember, there are only three buttons here, and I have tried them all. ‘You have 86 per cent charge,’ he said—back home it showed nil, refusing to turn on because the charge was non-existent. Your guess is as good as mine over this.
   The really great thing here is that everyone believed me. I guess these techs have been around enough to know that devices are illogical things, and that the customer isn’t bullshitting you, but more at a wit’s end when they come in with a fault. He sold me a new charger (NZ$18), which worked. Of course, charging it on the cable that fed the M6 Note doesn’t work: it says it’s charging, and the percentage keeps dropping. Again, your guess is as good as mine over this.
   Tonight it’s getting fed the new Adata cable, which took it to 100 per cent earlier tonight.
   Up side: how nice to have my old phone back, with Chinese apps that work and look good. Down side: my goodness, a four-year-old phone is slow. I didn’t think the M6 Note was that flash when I got it at the end of 2018, but after 17 months, I got used to it and find the M2’s processing lagging. The battery isn’t lasting anywhere near what it used to, either.
   I originally needed the M6 in a pinch, as at the time Dad was heading into hospital and I couldn’t risk being out of contact. The M2’s screen had vertical lines going through after a drop, rendering things difficult to read—and what if I couldn’t swipe to answer? The M6 wouldn’t have been my immediate choice: I would have preferred to have researched and found a Chinese-spec phone, even if every vendor online, even Chinese ones, touted their western-spec ones.
   If PB fixes the issue, great. But if not, then I may defect to Xiaomi at this rate. Meizu cares less and less about export sales these days, and there appear to be some vendors who can sell a Chinese-spec phone out there. The newer phone was also buggier: whether that was down to it being a western version, I don’t know. The M6 Note didn’t represent the rosiest of moments, certainly not for Dad, so I’m not wedded to it getting back to full health. Let’s see how they go next week, but at least I now have a cellphone that rings again—one’s only concern is how much charge it holds.

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The latest phone factory reset was good for eight days

24.05.2020

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 …

23.05.2020


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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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


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

17.05.2020


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 »


The first world problems of the cellphone (lockdown edition)

09.05.2020


This Pukerua Bay Tardis was the last thing I shot before the cellphone’s camera and gallery failed

First world problems: the cellphone. Right now my partner and I have half a phone each, so between us, we have one phone. She can receive calls on hers but no one can hear her answer. Mine no longer rings but you can hear me speak. So I guess the way to communicate with us, while there are no repairers within easy reach during Level 3, is to call her, we note down the number, and one of us calls you back on my phone. Oh, and neither of us can take photos any more: hers has had an issue with SD cards from quite early on, and mine developed an inability to function as a camera last week.
   I’m not that bothered, really. I’ve no real desire to get a new one and while it’s a shame to lose a very good camera, one wonders whether I should just get a camera. After all, those last longer than a mere 18 months …
   The fault on my Meizu M6 Note isn’t easily explained. I’ve spotted similar errors online, solved by deleting the app cache or app data. That doesn’t work for me. The camera crashes on opening, as does the downloads’ folder. The gallery is a grey, translucent screen that does or doesn’t crash eventually. The stock music and video apps cannot find anything, though the stock file manager and ES File Explorer tell me that everything is there, and the music and video files play.
   I’ve not lost any important data—I’ve always backed up regularly—and I’ve transferred everything off the SD card, including all SMSs and contacts, as well as photos.
   PB (who sold my phone) says this is a software issue (avoiding a warranty claim) but I’m sensing that the phone is crapping out whenever it’s trying to write to one of its disks. That sounds like hardware to me. I can transfer files via ES File Explorer but it crashes immediately after the transfer. It doesn’t appear to be the SD card, as when I unmount it, it makes no difference.
   Meizu has been useless: no forum answers and no customer-service answers, though I did contact them during the CCP Workers’ Day holiday and mainland China was, it appears, shut.
   I’d go back to my old phone but the only way to charge it is to drive to Johnsonville and ask the repair shop to charge it—that’s been the only way since they repaired the screen last year. They claim they haven’t altered the charging mechanism, but since no charger in this house works, not even a new one, I can’t explain why this is. The techs there are mum because it would be giving away a trade secret, I suspect. It seems I need a special charger since the manufacturer’s one is no longer compatible, and, guess what? I bet you the repairer will sell me one at some ridiculous price.
   But for now it is rather inconvenient, making me wonder: just why on earth do we need a cellphone anyway, when we have perfectly adequate land lines, when they become this much of a nuisance? They are frightfully expensive for little, fragile trinkets that I now increasingly use for just calling and not apps. There is no utility to a phone that can only be charged at one location, and there is no utility to the newer phone to which no one has posted a ready solution.
   Last night, I reset the newer unit to factory settings, and, happily, none of the Google BS returned. Maybe it was software. I still can’t do any updating with Meizu’s official patches, which is annoying. But for that brief, glorious period, I could take photos again. The camera, gallery and downloads’ folder would open.
   I did have to find, with some difficulty, the Chinese version of the Meizu app store, since I never saved the APK separately. This at least allowed me to get some of the Chinese apps not available on Meizu’s western app store. It was a shame to see some of the apps I once had no longer in the catalogue; presumably, the licence had expired.
   And there I was, for about five or six hours reconfiguring everything, and I’m now suspecting that I should not have put the thing into developer mode or downloaded Whatsapp. Those were the last things I did, content that all was well, before waking up this morning to find myself back to square one, with the bugs all returned. The log files tell me nothing other than Meizu’s servers not responding properly (they’ve been getting progressively worse supporting people outside China).
   I never wanted Whatsapp but for one friend formerly in Germany, and one of Dad’s friends in Hong Kong. The former has moved back here and can be reached on Facebook, accessible via a basic browser. And sadly, I doubt I will hear much from the latter now that Dad has passed away. He knows my regular number anyway, and if I had a cellphone that rings, maybe he could call it.
   Since Whatsapp and Instagram are owned by Facebook, it would not surprise me if both were becoming less and less compatible with Android v. 7, and I’ve charted Instagram’s increasing, Facebook-era faults on this blog before. If Facebook can’t get its basics right on its flagship site, then why should I have their crap in my pocket?
   Generally, I could live without it. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll give the reset another go. I’ve saved most of the APKs from this round, and it was a good opportunity to do without some apps that I seldom used. But I already lost a day to it earlier in the week, a night to it last night, and I face the prospect of more hours to come. These things are not productive when they take up this much time. And I don’t like typing on tiny keyboards, I do absolutely zero work on them other than calls since it is impossible to compose a logical email (which you then have to somehow sync back to the desktop to maintain a full, professional record, wasting even more time), and they serve only a narrow range of purposes, photography being one. I’m still quicker looking at a paper map than relying on a device.
   However, I don’t like faulty gadgets that have cost me hundreds of dollars, and since a reset solved the problems for a few hours, it might be worth one more shot to at least bring things closer to normal, useful or not. Let’s at least have that camera and music back.

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


Live from Level 3

03.05.2020

Finally, a podcast (or is it a blogcast, since it’s on my blog?) where I’m not “reacting” to something that Olivia St Redfern has put on her Leisure Lounge series. Here are some musings about where we’re at, now we are at Level 3.

   Some of my friends, especially my Natcoll students from 1999–2000, will tell you that I love doing impressions. They say Rory Bremner’s are shit hot and that mine are halfway there. It’s a regret that I haven’t been able to spring any of these on you. Don’t worry, I haven’t done any here. But one of these days …

Perhaps the funniest Tweet about the safe delivery of the British PM and his fiancée’s son, for those of us who are Clint Eastwood fans:

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Posted in China, culture, France, globalization, Hong Kong, humour, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »