Archive for February 2010

Back on Firefox 3·0: I have had enough of the daily crashes


As of today, I am back with the reliable Firefox 3路0 on my desktop machine as well. Firefox 3.5 would generally crash daily, though I remember there was once a three-day period in January when it did not crash at all. (There were other days when it would crash two or three times, just to make up for it and keep its daily record.) In 2010, Firefox 3路0, on my Asus laptop running Vista, might have crashed once, if ever. (I kept things on 3路0 there, and was right to.)
   I liken 3路5 to the Nissan Sunny B210 or Datsun 120Y: a car which offered no improvement over its predecessor and, in some cases, was even worse.
   I waited till 3路5 had been out for some time before I even considered it, thinking that Firefox had ironed out the bugs. I think it must have been around November when I 鈥渦pgraded鈥. What a big mistake that was.
   I noticed no speed difference and had to put up with the regular crashes. And, judging by feedback, I was not alone.
   One helpful netizen suggested Flash could have been responsible and she may be right. However, rather than change to another type of browser, I decided the best course was to 鈥渄owngrade鈥 to 3路0. which worked with Flash, Java, or whatever else could be thrown at it in the course of daily browsing.
   Another asked if the crash occurred at the same time each day and, if so, could it be the Firefox automatic updates? After a week鈥檚 study, since I got into the habit of Tweeting each time Firefox crashed at one period, I had to conclude that it was around the same time (evening NZDT), but not the same hour. It varied by around four hours.
   Thankfully, Mozilla keeps a copy of it on its website, probably because it realizes that 3路5 is buggy as heck. I only found the link by accident last month and vowed to put restore 3路0 on this machine. Mozilla even continues to upgrade it鈥攖his is 3路0路18, which is a few sub-versions newer than what had been on this machine last year.
   I can鈥檛 tell you how bored I am of seeing the Firefox quality control agent come up every day asking me if I could explain what I was doing at the time of the crash. Well, chaps, I was browsing. And, after today, I hope to only see that window very rarely.
   I鈥檓 not even going to try 3路6 at least till August or September 2010. But I think that鈥檚 just the next type of Nissan Sunny, right? It stays with rear-wheel drive but has more modern colours?

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Posted in cars, humour, internet | 4 Comments »

Jailed Minnesota Toyota owner may get retrial


You can鈥檛 help but wonder (without reading the court transcripts and judgement) how the sentencing of Koua Fong Lee could be so harsh. In 2006, Lee鈥檚 Toyota Camry, with his pregnant wife, daughter, brother and father on board, accelerated out of control and smashed into an Oldsmobile, killing three people in the second car back in 2006. The judge threw the book at him, giving him the maximum eight years, even though Lee, a recent immigrant, was adamant he was hard on the brakes and not the accelerator at the time of the accident. I don鈥檛 know Minnesotan criminal law, but one would think this churchgoing man, with no prior crimes, lacked the mens rea to deserve the full sentence; unless it was cumulative for the three deaths.
   Investigations showed there was nothing wrong with the brakes鈥攂ut, with hindsight, there could have been something wrong with the accelerator or the cruise control, considering that Lee鈥檚 Camry was going at 90 mph when it hit the Oldsmobile.
   What we can very likely say was that this was not the America that Koua Fong Lee expected to emigrate to.
   While the 1996 Camry Lee drove was not part of the Toyota recall, American media suggest that some of these models were repaired for faulty cruise controls. Chances are he will get a retrial, so in light of this new evidence, let鈥檚 hope the Lees, and the Adams and Boltons who lost their family members, will see some justice.

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Posted in cars, USA | 1 Comment »

Saab promises new generation of cars will have original DNA


Rumour has it that the new Saab鈥攁 small car (finally)鈥攚ill resemble the ur-Saab, the 92. In fact, inside Saab, it has the codename 92.
   Where have I heard this one before? I know. Stefan Engeseth鈥檚 Detective Marketing, 2001 edition. And from what I understand, since in 1999 I could not read much Swedish, it featured in the original Swedish edition, too.
   While I am no fan of retro design, a modern one that has strong inspiration from Saab鈥檚 roots could go down well with the market鈥攅specially if the new 9-1 model had some advanced, non-fossil-fuel powertrains.
   A car tied to Saab鈥檚 roots as an airplane manufacturer could reinvigorate passion for the brand in the same way as the Jaguar mascot unveiling under John Egan in the 1980s. And new boss Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker, has wasted no time getting Saab loyalists excited about the brand again. He has not set his sights on brand-new customers: he wants the old Saab buyers back.
   While it might have Opel underpinnings, it at least gets Saab into the European premium compact car game, one which GM denied it, probably due to overlap with its mainstream brands. It was an opportunity missed as BMW, Audi and others broke in to the compact and supermini game.
   I know at least one Swede who finds Muller鈥檚 promises exciting, and I sincerely hope to be proven wrong when I expressed doubts about bringing a 40,000-sales-per-year company back from the brink. Below is the announcement of Spyker finalizing its purchase (via Detective Marketing).

   When he talks about 鈥楧NA鈥, Muller really means brand: it will rediscover and redefine that brand and its entrepreneurial spirit, using it to fuel the corporate culture, and having that drive product quality, R&D and other functions. If he succeeds in reaching his 100,000-per-year goal, then we can say that brand loyalty was a huge driver.
   His first announcement alone has been praised, Saab鈥檚 100-day plan gives distributors and loyalists some certainty, and the folks in this video actually look enthused鈥攁lready this is not like a tired, Rover-style attempt at getting the company back on its feet, even if the annual sales鈥 figures are far worse than what the English company had prior to its collapse.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, design, leadership, marketing, Sweden | No Comments »

When Swedes say it’s too cold, they mean –30°C


I thought it was cold enough in Stockholm when I hit town a month ago, and temperatures were in the 鈥9掳C to 鈥15掳C region most days (with a high of around 鈥2掳C). But, Stefan tells me, temperatures plummeted greatly over the past week, down into the 鈥30掳C region in some parts. Stockholm was in the minus 20s, but when you add the wind chill, we are talking 鈥30掳C, too. When the trains stop running in Sweden (though Rogernomics-style cutbacks on staff who would normally have cleared the snow have not helped), you know it鈥檚 frighteningly cold. These folks don鈥檛 panic at the first sign of snow and things ran as normal when I was there, but not with this sort of blizzard.
   Stefan does not know this but on the last day, I took a pic outside his window as a memento. He took one on the 24th to show me how cold it got. Here is a comparison (both are cropped to give roughly the same frame):

Outside Stefan鈥檚 apartment, January 27
January 27, 9.34 a.m.

Outside Stefan鈥檚 apartment, February 24
February 24, 10.16 a.m.

   Minus 15 is still cold enough for me, and if I am willing to brave that for Wellington (on my own money, incidentally) to study the public transport and meet with companies that can help us on the environmental angle, then I鈥檓 willing to do a lot for my city. I鈥檇 do 鈥30掳C if I have to, but bear in mind, such a trip would not have been terribly productive if everyone鈥檚 stuck at home and there鈥檚 50 cm of snow at your door.

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Posted in general, Sweden, Wellington | 1 Comment »

It’s hard finding the old stuff on Google


My Wired for March 2010 arrived today (things take a while to reach the antipodes), with the most interesting article being on the Google algorithm. And hold on, this isn鈥檛 a Google-bashing blog entry.
   Steven Levy鈥檚 article was probably written before the furore over the Google Buzz privacy flap. And it points out how Google has learned from users for search, producing more relevant results than its competitors. With 65 per cent of the search market (and close to 100 per cent of my searches for many years), it has a bigger pool to learn from, too.
   Recently I have noticed in ego-searches that Google is now smart enough to distinguish between searches for yours truly and those for Jack Yan & Associates (both in quotes), so that the former results in a mere 53,800 references, and the latter with 124,000 (quite a bit down from yesterday, when I first hatched the idea about blogging this topic). That is smart in itself: knowing when people are looking for me (or my blog) and when they seek the company. By comparison, Yahoo! lists 280,000 for the former and 42,500 for the latter, as the latter is (if you look at terms alone) a more specific search.
   Once upon a time鈥攅ven as late as 2009鈥攁 search for my name would result in both my personal and work sites.
   I鈥檓 pretty proud of my company and the people who work with me, and in election year, if someone were checking out my background, I sure would not mind them getting to JY&A as well. On the other hand, thanks to this distinction, my mayoral campaign site comes up in the top 10 in a search for my name. Either way, it鈥檚 relevant to a searcher鈥攕o all is well.
   But is this really how people search? If I were searching for, say, Heidi Klum, I would probably want (I write this before I even attempt a search) her bio, a bit of news, pictures to ogle, and Heidi Klum GmbH, her company. This is exactly what Google delivers, with her Wikipedia entry in addition (as the first result). (Bing does this, too; Yahoo! puts Heidi Klum GmbH at number one.) Maybe someone could get back to me on their expectations for a name search although, as I said, Google is doing me a huge political favour by distinguishing me from my business. The ability to distinguish the two is, by all accounts, clever.
   Levy cites an example in his article about mike siwek lawyer mi which, when fed into Google at the time of his writing, gets a page about a Michigan lawyer called Mike Siwek. On Bing, 鈥榯he first result is a page about the NFL draft that includes safety Lawyer Milloy. Several pages into the results, there鈥檚 no direct referral to Siwek.鈥 (A Bing search today still does not have Mr Siwek appear early on; in fact, most now discuss Levy鈥檚 article; sadly for Mr Siwek, the same now applies on Google, with the first actual reference to his name being the 18th result. Cuil, incidentally, returns nothing鈥攕o much for supposedly having a Google-busting index size.)
   But I have one that is puzzling to me. Ten years ago, Lucire published an article about the 10th anniversary of the Elle Macpherson Intimates range. One would think that the query “Elle Macpherson Intimates” “10th anniversary” would bring this up first鈥攊n fact, I did have to search for the URL last year when writing a blog post. On Google, this is, in fact, the last entry. On Bing, it is the first. On Yahoo!, it is second.
   Of course, Google may well have judged the Lucire article to be too old and that the overwhelming majority of searches is for current or recent information. And being 10 years old, I hardly imagine there to be too many links to it any more. However, I thought the fact that we can now, very easily, sort our searches by date鈥especially with the new layout of the results鈥 page鈥攊t might just give us the most precise result. The lead page to the article is in frames (yes, it鈥檚 that old), which may have been penalized by Google. But many of the leading results that turn up that have these two terms do not have them with great proximity (in fact, numbers one and two do not even have the term Elle Macpherson Intimates any more). However, I don鈥檛 think the page I hunted for should be last, especially as none of the preceding entries even have the words in their title.
   I am not complaining about the Google situation since a 2009 Lucire article that links to the old Elle Macpherson one comes up in the top 10, so it鈥檚 still reasonably easy to get to via the top search engine. (Cuil lists the 2009 article from Lucire in its top 10, too.) There鈥檚 also a blog entry from me that links it, and that appears on the second page.
   It鈥檚 just that I hold a belief that many people who search using Google (or any search engine) do so for research. They want to know about Brand X and, sometimes, about its history. If I type a person鈥檚 name, there is a fairly good chance I want to know the latest. But when I qualify that name with something that puts it in the past (anniversary), then I鈥檇 say I want something historical. That includes old pages.
   While few rely on a fashion magazine for historical research (though, believe me, we get queries from scholars who want citations of things they saw in Lucire), Google results nos. 1 through 53 and the majority of Cuil鈥檚 results (which are very irrelevant鈥攖he first two are of a domain that no longer exists and a blank page) don鈥檛 hit the spot.
   For the overwhelming majority of searches鈥攚ell over 90 per cent鈥擥oogle serves me just fine, which is why you don鈥檛 see me complain much about the quality of its results. Even here, it鈥檚 not so much a complaint, but professional curiosity. It would be sad for Bing or Yahoo! to be labelled as search engines for historical searches, but someone should fairly provide access to the older, yet still relevant, pages on the internet for everyday queries (so I don鈥檛 mean the Internet Archive).

PS.: There鈥檚 one more search engine that should be considered. Gigablast, which I have used on and off over the years, does not list the 2000 article, either. Like Google, the 2009 one is listed, and only five results are returned.鈥JY

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Posted in internet, politics | 1 Comment »

Eric Karjaluoto begins giving away his Speak Human book


A few authors鈥攁nd not crappy ones, but those who have proven they can sell books鈥攈ave resorted to giving them away online. Stefan Engeseth gave away his The Fall of PR and the Rise of Advertising online at the time of launch, while I received word that Eric Karjaluoto is now doing the same today.
   Earlier this year, I reviewed Eric鈥檚 book (if you don鈥檛 want to click through, my review was positive), and this should allow more people to enjoy it. Two chapters are already online, with parts to be added to this collection over the next few months.
   I鈥檓 all for information-sharing, and this seems like a very good model to follow in the 2010s. Online: free; print: pay.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, publishing | No Comments »

First trailers for Alarm f眉r Cobra 11’s next season


Is it just me, or does it feel like the budget for Alarm f眉r Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei has been cut even more? This preview does not seem as spectacular as the last two seasons鈥 (and last season felt cheaper already). And where are Dieter and Horst?
   Back on March 11 on RTL.

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Posted in interests, TV | 2 Comments »

Anyone else with a new Google results’ page?


Google results' page

Anyone else have a different results鈥 page layout for Google? Only began happening this morning (NZDT) to me, though I imagine others must have this by now.
   Despite my fairly regular moans about technology, I seem to be among the first to get some features. I remember getting the Digg Toolbar about two or three weeks before it was mentioned on Mashable or one of the tech guides; ditto with YouTube when there was a layout change there; and I managed to get the Twitter lists on the first day. Have I been among the early ones this time?
   I鈥檓 pretty blas茅 about the whole thing. I think I鈥檓 suffering from Google fatigue after spending much of the last few months dissing them and their failings. This change doesn鈥檛 really annoy me, especially after all the other dodgy things that have been happening at Google.

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Posted in design, internet, USA | 1 Comment »

Beyond Branding Blog removed from Blogger today


As of tonight, the Beyond Branding Blog, where I first cut my teeth blogging, is no more.
   The posts are still there, but no further comments can be entered on to the site. The nearly four years of posts remain as an archive of some of our branding thought of that period.
   The blog had a huge number of fans in its day, but as each one of us went to our own blogs, there seemed little need to keep it going. Chris Macrae and I were the last two holding the fort in late 2005. Since January 2006, no new posts have been entered on to the site. No new comments have come in a year.
   Google鈥檚 announcement that it would end FTP support for blogs in May spurred me into action, and I advised the Medinge Group鈥檚 membership this morning that I would take it off the Blogger service.
   I altered the opening message to reflect the latest change.
   I was very proud of the blog, because it was the first one I was involved in. It was also the first I customized to match the look and feel of the rest of the Beyond Branding site, which I designed in 2003. While the design is one from the early 2000s, it has not dated as much as I had expected.
   Beyond Branding鈥檚 core message of transparency and integrity remains valid, so while the blog is no longer updated, I think the book remains relevant to the 2010s.

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More Buzz, a small buzz, and my real and virtual lives meet


My friend Pete informs me of his Google Buzz experience, and it鈥檚 not positive, either.
   He is no stranger to technology and is more expert than I am on these matters. He had turned off Buzz, and was surprised to find that it was still taking his information and publishing it to his followers.
   His sister took a screen shot of what she saw on her screen, which is shown above. Notice at the top of the screen, it says that Pete is following her鈥攅ven though by this time he had turned Buzz off. In Pete鈥檚 words: 鈥業鈥檝e now had to go into settings where there is a further option to disable it altogether and kill all your posts. I鈥檓 hoping that stops it!鈥
   I hope so, too!

If any of the old Voxers are still around reading this blog, I met up with Paikea (a nom-de-plume of one of my neighbours and friends on the old Vox blogging platform) on Sunday. It was a wonderful catch-up and it was as though we had been Real World 1路0 friends for years. Sometimes, blogs really do help you get into the mind of others so you know if you would hit it off or not.
   I look forward to meeting her husband in the near future, too, and we have exchanged phone numbers and emails. I wonder if Linda-Joy and her husband might be next, as they are nearby in Melbourne.

Finally for tonight, how about the above? These are the followers on one Twitter account (I have an inkling who it is, but it鈥檚 not my place to say so). If you want me to feel honoured and very flattered, then following HM Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan, Shakira Ripoll, Sir Richard Branson and Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately after me will do it. I am also in good company with my dear friend Manas Fuloria over in Gurgaon.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, India, internet, New Zealand, technology | 5 Comments »