Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ category


They weren’t the original, and they weren’t even a magazine

26.05.2022

I posted something on Instagram the other day, something I rarely do—so rarely that it’s now noteworthy. Surfing through, I happened across this:
 

 

My friend Nicky Wagner started FashioNZ and if she were still involved, I doubt they would make such a demonstrably false claim.

Let’s pick the low-hanging fruit here. FashioNZ is not the original. They started in 1998—they even admit it; Lucire started in 1997. I was hanging out with designers as the publisher of the fledging Lucire when I saw Nicky’s promo about her new site. It looked really good.

Secondly, FashioNZ wasn’t a magazine, not initially. It was a directory, and its content was driven by its clients. It’s why I can’t bring myself to italicize it!

Now, at least I’m honest enough to give some lip service to Fashionbrat (styled [email protected]) out of Wellington Polytechnic. They only lasted one issue, so if your definition of magazine is that of a periodical, that it must come out or have new content at various times of the year, then they don’t qualify; Lucire was first. But if your definition includes something that lasted only one issue, then Fashionbrat got there before us all, in 1996. This would have faded into internet history if I didn’t keep bringing it up. Judge for yourself at the Internet Archive.

In the US there are so many people claiming to be the first but usually the record betrays them: we have one who may have got a promotional page up, but their content was not on the web initially (from memory it was on a BBS); we have another who claims they began in 1993, which may have been their incorporation date, but their own SEC filing revealed that particular site didn’t come into being till later.

I didn’t expect this to happen in New Zealand, where it’s very clear who got there first. Disappointing.

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Browser history

11.04.2022


In 2011, I was definitely on Firefox.
 
I believe I started browsing as many did, with Netscape. But not 1.0 (though I had seen copies at university). I was lucky enough to have 1.1 installed first.

I stuck with Netscape till 4.7. Its successor, v. 6, was bloated, and never worked well on my PC.

Around this time, my friend Kat introduced me to Internet Explorer 5, which was largely stable, so I made the leap to Microsoft. IE5 wasn’t new at this point and had been around for a while.

I can’t remember which year, but at some point I went to Maxthon, which used the IE engine, but had more bells and whistles.

By the end of the decade, Firefox 3 was my browser of choice. In 2014, I switched to Waterfox, a Firefox fork, since I was on a 64-bit PC and Firefox was only made for 32-bit back then. A bug with the Firefox browsers saw them stop displaying text at the end of 2014, and I must have switched to Cyberfox (another 64-bit Firefox-based browser) around this time.

I went back to Firefox when development on Cyberfox stopped, and a 64-bit Firefox became available, but by 2017, it ate memory like there was no tomorrow (as Chrome once did, hence my not adopting it). Vivaldi became my new choice.

There are old posts on this blog detailing many of the changes and my reasons for them.

I’ve always had Opera installed somewhere, but it was never my main browser. Maybe this year Opera GX will become that, with Vivaldi’s latest version being quite buggy. We shall see. I tend to be pretty loyal till I get to a point where the software ceases to work as hoped.

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Hopefully this week: farewell, Amazon Web Services

10.04.2022


 
Wow, we’re nearly there: the long journey to migrate our sites off AWS and on to a new box.

We began hosting there in 2012 but the server—which appears to have had a single major update in 2016—was getting very old. In 2018 we began searching for someone who knew about migrations.

A second instance for Lucire Rouge was fired up in September 2020, thanks to a wonderful developer in the US. A New Zealand expert moved Medinge’s website on to there subsequently.

The work hadn’t been finished but both gentlemen wound up getting very occupied in their regular gigs, and it was another year before a good friend said he knew how to do it.

From that point, it was about finding a few hours here and there that worked with both our time zones.

I am deeply grateful to him because I know just how busy he got, both professionally and privately.

The sites are now all on to a new box, and not on AWS.

We were only on there to begin with because in 2012, we chose to host with a friend’s company. AWS was familiar turf for him, but I never understood it. It’s a mess of a website, with an incomprehensible interface. No wonder people have to do courses on it. You really need a professional computing qualification to understand it.

Whomever said computers would become easier to use in the future was dead wrong, as I have never seen such a maze of technobabble offered to consumers before. It’s not even that presentable.

My hosting friend soon was head-hunted and I was left to deal with AWS.

The fact is if AWS was even remotely comprehensible I might have been able to do the migration myself. I estimate that if it were anything like normal, each of the sites would have taken me about five hours to do. It would have all been over in a month in 2018. If I had a week off to just do this, I probably could have done it—if server software was how it was in 2005.

It’s little wonder, given the convoluted confusion that AWS is, that it took three years to find someone match-fit to tackle it. And even then it took several months.

A week in 2005, three years in 2022. I don’t call that progress.

I approached half a dozen techs who had experience in web hosting and serving environments, some of them with very major organizations. A few of them were even given the keys to SSH into the server. I think three of them were never heard from again. I can only surmise that they saw a Japanese girl with long hair in front of her face crawl out of a well when they Telnetted into the box.

Once my latest friend had set up the basics, I was even able to do a few migrations myself, and handled the static sites. I even got a couple of Wordpress ones done. He did the lion’s share, beginning with the most complex (Lucire and Autocade, plus the advertising server).

Tonight, he did the last two sites from the second AWS instance.

The first instance has been stopped. The second is still running in case DNS hasn’t updated for the last two sites. The database has also been stopped.

You probably wouldn’t ever hire me or this firm to deal with AWS and, as it turns out, there are quite a few techs out there, who do this as their full-time job, who also don’t know it.

I plan to terminate the instances and the database by mid-week and close my AWS account. Amazon can figure out what to do with the S3 boxes, VPC, Cloudwatch, Cloudfront, and all the other stuff which I have no idea about.

It’s going to be a good day, provided they haven’t made account closures as contemptible a process. Because it’s not the only thing contemptible about Amazon.
 
Speaking of technology, it looks like I’ll be sticking with Opera GX going forward. The bugs in Vivaldi persist, despite another bug-fixing update last week. Five years with one browser isn’t too bad, and probably one of the longer periods I’ve stuck with a single brand.

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What’s popular on Autocade

31.03.2022

What’s been quite fascinating with having the stats reset on Autocade is getting a fresh perspective on what its most popular pages are. When a website has been going for 14 years, and the stats have never been refreshed, it doesn’t give you the most up-to-date picture. You know historically what was most popular, but what about in the last year? Unless you really kept an eye on the rates of change, you wouldn’t know.
   Here’s how things looked on the old site before the move (March 17). It’s a corner of the ‘Popular pages’ page:

   It’s a pity I didn’t take more screenshots on subsequent days, but I had been watching the models linked from the home page occupy the top slots for the last week. That only seemed logical: both readers and search engine spiders were hitting them more. Here’s how things looked on March 23, with Autocade at its new home after a couple of days:

   But here we are today, a week later:

   You’re beginning to see the earlier highly trafficked pages reassert themselves.
   For a long time, the Nissan Bluebird (910) page led the table, before being overtaken by the Toyota Corolla (E120). Now it seems the Renault Mégane II, Ford Fiesta Mk VII, Ford Taunus 80, and the Peugeot 206+ and 207 are leading the way. I see a few other top pages make their way up: Opel Astra J (which isn’t that old a page), and the Holden Commodore (VE), Chrysler–Simca 1307 range, and Ford Cortina Mk III (which are old pages, from the first years of Autocade).
   I assume these pages have been somewhat grandfathered by the search engines. It’s a relief to know that the transition to the new box has been relatively seamless for the search engines not to notice.

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Back, on the new box

28.03.2022

There are a few experiments going on here now that this blog is on the new server. Massive thanks to my friend who has been working tirelessly to get us on to the new box and into the 2020s.
   First, there’s a post counter, though as it’s freshly installed, it doesn’t show a true count. There is a way to get the data out of Yuzo Related Posts into the counter—even though that’s not entirely accurate, either, it would be nice to show the record counts I had back in 2016 on the two posts revealing Facebook’s highly questionable “malware scanner”.

   Secondly, we haven’t found a good related post plug-in to replace Yuzo. You’ll see two sets of related posts here. The second is by another company who claims their software will pick up the first image in each post in the event that I have not set up a featured image or thumbnail; as you can see, it doesn’t do what it says on the tin.
   Some of you will have seen a bunch of links from this blog sent out via social media as the new installation became live, and I apologize for those.
   Please bear with us while we work through it all. The related post plug-in issue has been the big one: there are many, but they either don’t do as they claimed, or they have terrible design. Even Wordpress’s native one cannot do the simple task of taking the first image from a post, which Yuzo does with ease.

Recently a friend recommended a Google service to me, and of course I responded that I would never touch anything of theirs, at least not willingly. The following isn’t addressed to him, but the many who have taken exception to my justified concerns about the company, and about Facebook, and their regular privacy breaches and apparent lack of ethics.
   In short: I don’t get you.
   And I try to have empathy.
   When I make my arguments, they aren’t pulled out of the ether. I try to back up what I’ve said. When I make an attack in social media, or even in media, there’s a wealth of reasons, many of which have been detailed on this blog.
   Of course there are always opposing viewpoints, so it’s fine if you state your case. And of course it’s fine if you point out faults in my argument.
   But to point the “tut tut” finger at me and imply that I either shouldn’t or I’m mistaken, without backing yourselves up?
   So where are you coming from?
   In the absence of any supporting argument, there are only a handful of potential conclusions.
   1. You’re corrupt or you like corruption. You don’t mind that these companies work outside the law, never do as they claim, invade people’s privacy, and place society in jeopardy.
   2. You love the establishment and you don’t like people rocking the boat. It doesn’t matter what they do, they’re the establishment. They’re above us, and that’s fine.
   3. You don’t accept others’ viewpoints, or you’re unable to grasp them due to your own limitations.
   4. You’re blind to what’s been happening or you choose to turn a blind eye.
   I’ve heard this bullshit my entire life.
   When I did my first case at 22, representing myself, suing someone over an unpaid bill, I heard similar things.
   ‘Maybe there’s a reason he hasn’t paid you.’
   ‘They never signed a contract, so no contract exists.’
   As far as I can tell, they were a variant of those four, since one of the defendants was the president of a political party.
   I won the case since I was in the right, and a bunch of con artists didn’t get away with their grift.
   The tightwad paid on the last possible day. I was at the District Court with a warrant of arrest for the registrar to sign when he advised me that the money had been paid in that morning.
   I did this case in the wake of my mother’s passing.
   It amazed me that there were people who assumed I was in the wrong in the setting of a law student versus an establishment white guy.
   Their defence was full of contradictions because they never had any truth backing it up.
   I also learned just because Simpson Grierson represented them that no one should be scared of big-name law firms. Later on, as I served as an expert witness in many cases, that belief became more cemented.
   Equally, no one should put any weight on what Mark Zuckerberg says since history keeps showing that he never means it; and we should believe Google will try one on, trying to snoop wherever they can, because history shows that they will.

Ancient history with Google? Here’s what its CEO said, as quoted in CNBC, in February. People lap this up without question (apart from the likes of Bob Hoffman, who has his eyes open, and a few others). How many people on this planet again? It wasn’t even this populated in Soylent Green (which supposedly takes place in 2022, if you’re looking at the cinematic version).

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Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


The Suzuki Swift: one of the saving graces on New Zealand’s top 10 list.

At the Opel relaunch briefing yesterday, I was shocked to find that these were New Zealand’s top selling vehicles for 2021. I knew about the first two, but had always assumed a Toyota Corolla would follow, plus some regular cars. From this, I gather the rest of New Zealand thinks the opposite to me. I personally believe petrol is expensive.

1. Ford Ranger
2. Toyota Hilux
3. Mitsubishi Triton
4. Mitsubishi ASX (RVR on the home market)
5. Toyota RAV4
6. Mitsubishi Outlander (presumably the outgoing one)
7. Mazda CX-5
8. Nissan Navara
9. Suzuki Swift
10. Kia Stonic

   Not a very discerning lot, are we? We say we care about the environment yet enough of us have helped fuel the second biggest contributor to the carbon emissions’ rise in the last 10 years: the crossover or SUV.
   And I’ve driven those RVRs. Why are people buying, in 2021, a vehicle that feels like a taller, larger Colt from the 2000s?
   I have no issue with those of you who really need an SUV or ute. But for those who pose, you aren’t helping yourself or your planet. And even if you bought some electrified variant, I thought it was universally understood (certainly for any of us alive during the 1970s fuel crises and those who observed the aerodynamic trend of the 1980s) that tall bodies and big frontal areas would consume more energy.

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Slightly slower growth at Autocade as it reaches 27,000,000 page views

15.01.2022

Autocade did get to 27,000,000 page views some time last week, earning its latest million in two-and-a-half months. It was a slower pace of growth than what I had observed through the latter part of 2021, probably because I hadn’t done too many updates to the site during Q4 (unsurprisingly, having had to deal with Instagram and Twitter deleting Lucire’s accounts, as well as a hacking attempt from the US, among other things). Only 20 models had been added since the last million milestone, taking the total to 4,544.
   That was a record, having been reached in one day under two months; nothing quite as impressive this time out, which is only fair if there were fewer updates.
   The latest model in the encyclopædia is the Toyota Chaser (X30), which isn’t the prettiest vehicle line, but I guess it is more interesting than yet another SUV! The image came courtesy of Carfolio, which generously gave me a treasure trove of Toyota materials.

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)

   Thank you again for your support and hopefully there’ll be more than 20 entries in time for the next million!

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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When Here WeGo still sends you to the wrong location six years on

10.01.2022

Six years ago, I reported this error in Here Maps (a.k.a. Here WeGo), both via the official channels and to a software engineer I knew working there.
   It’s still there. There aren’t two Wharekauhau Country Estates (this is the route between them, to highlight just how wrong it is; the westerly one is correct).

   They’ve since been in touch via Twitter and I’ve re-sent them all the information, including:

Trust me, I went to this one and wound up the drive to some random farm with no one around, and had to back my car down a muddy trail with immense difficulty as there was nowhere to U-turn.

   This only came up because Here Maps tried to take me to New World Foxton recently, and I decided to look back.
   If I followed their guidance, I would have to drive through the war memorial.


   Don’t get me wrong. I really like Here Maps and the latest UI is fantastic. It’s no worse than its competitors in accuracy terms. Google has sent me to plenty of wrong places when I was still using their site for things. It’s just annoying when the official channels, reporting bugs the way they suggest, clearly don’t work. Hopefully if anyone’s planning their journeys to the above places, they’ll be able to see this post!

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January 2022 gallery

01.01.2022

Here are January 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
More on the Ford Falcon (XA) in Autocade. Reposted from Twitter.
   Taupō Plimmerton summer sunset, photographed by me.
   BBC parody news item, via Twitter.
   More on the Wolseley on Autocade.
   More on the Mitsubishi Colt Galant at Autocade.
   Dodge 1500 advertisement via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   Model Alexa Breit in a bikini, via Instagram.
   More on the Renault 17 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault 20 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault Mégane IV in Autocade.
   ‘Sign not in use’ posted by John on Twitter.
   Asus ROG Strix G17 G713QE-RTX3050Ti, at Asus’s Singapore website.
   Pizza Express Woking parody still, via Twitter.

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