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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid or guest posts, no link sales.



16.09.2022

Rare: an Asus product not lasting the distance; awaiting its successor

I see it was only 19 months ago since I bought the Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse. A mouse that cost several times what a regular one does, claiming the switches would last 50 million clicks. It has now developed a fault, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a heavy user. I’m certainly not a gamer.

Mice seem to last shorter and shorter periods. An old Intellimouse 1.1 lasted from 2002 to 2013. Its successor (after trying badly made Logitechs) Microsoft mouse lasted from 2015 to 2020. Here is the latest lasting 19 months.

Its problem is that a single click is being recorded as two clicks, with increasing frequency. Right now, a very cheap no-name unit bought in August 2021 is the daily driver with my desktop PC, and one of the earlier ones will now have to go with my laptop. It’s reasonably comfortable because the size is (almost) right (the biggest criterion for me), it’s light, and it works. Those switches won’t last 50 million clicks and the unit feels cheaply made, but right now I need something usable, and most mice are just too small. I even saw an article testing mice for ‘large hands’, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that they are for medium hands at best.

A Delux M625 is on its way now from Aliexpress (here’s the seller’s link). I’ve never heard of the brand before, but one Tweeter who responded to me says he has tried one, and found it acceptable. What sold it? None of the features that I find useless (a rapid fire button for gaming, RGB lighting effects that you never see because your hand is on the mouse and your eyes are on the screen, high DPI up to 24,000) but three simple figures: width, length, height.

The Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1, which I have raved about for decades, measures 126 by 68·1 by 39·3 mm. A bit of height helps so I don’t mind if a mouse exceeds 40 mm.

The Delux vendor claims 130·6 by 68·9 by 42·5 mm. That sounds very comfortable to me, as width is very important (something the Asus didn’t have, with my ring finger off the body of the mouse and on to the mouse pad). The no-name could be better, too. In a few weeks, I should know.

I had been so desperate after coming up empty with local sellers I even looked on Amazon. But I couldn’t be arsed converting Imperial measurements to metric, which the majority of the world uses. Jeff’s mob can carry on abusing workers and selling to their own country.

As to the Asus, caveat emptor: it hasn’t even lasted two years reliably.


Filed under: China, design, technology—Jack Yan @ 22.53


I’ve seen that episode of Hustle

A young man who reminded me of a confidence trickster I knew (who is now serving time at His Majesty’s pleasure) approached me today on Lambton Quay.

‘I wonder if you could help me,’ he said. ‘I’ve just had my 25th birthday but woke up with all my stuff gone. I live in the Wairarapa and I’ve been walking around for eight and a half hours. I just want to go back and see my daughter.’

That’s a lot to hit someone in a few seconds, but my instinct was to find a way to help him, despite my wanting to meet my other half as I was holding some of her things, having dropped her off a few moments earlier while I looked for a car park.

I explained this to the young man—and wished him happy birthday—but said I could return this way. And I didn’t carry any cash. I offered to find a way to get him home.

‘The fare is $20 back to the Wairarapa.’

‘I’ll tell you what. I have to meet my missus but if you wait here, I’ll drive you to the station and buy you the ticket myself.’

‘Could you not get $20 out of an ATM? If you give me $20 and your account details, and I’ll give you $50 when I get back. I’ve got lots of money.’

This is when alarm bells ring, because I’ve seen those episodes of Hustle. And then everything else became implausible.

Obviously if he was out of town for his birthday, he would have friends. Real friends.

There’s no way that in Wellington you can wander around for eight hours with no one rendering you assistance.

Whomever is looking after his daughter would have already called the police. He could have just walked into a station and explained what happened.

And no, I wasn’t going to go to an ATM. ‘I don’t want $50. I’m old school, I’ve barely used those. Let me just get you the ticket and get you on the train.’

‘How will you pay for it if you don’t use ATMs?’

‘Credit card. I can get you the ticket. Let’s go to the station.’

‘Nah, I’ve troubled you enough.’
 
Couldn’t he do the flop instead? As far as short cons go, that wasn’t very good.

But also a sad indictment on all of us that we’ve let society come to this, where a young man falls through the cracks and feels he has to con.


Filed under: New Zealand, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 03.07

14.09.2022

Far more important news

Among all the royal hoop-la, it’s nice to come across this vital 2014 article while on Mastodon.
 

 
To the scientists who analysed 1,893 poos, and other waste, thank you for your mahi.
 
All right, a couple of remarks about the royal coverage. First, I’ve heard from a legitimate news source, words to the effect of ‘It took the Queen’s death to bring William and Harry together.’

No one remembers Prince Philip’s death or the unveiling of the Diana memorial? Things that happened very recently?

The media really do think we are morons without memory sometimes, don’t they?

The other one: ‘There have been 15 US presidents since the Queen has been on the throne.’ I haven’t counted the UK prime ministers (15 is given there, too), but I have counted the presidents. And I get 14.

My friend James heard 12 in another report.

The media really do think we are morons without numeracy skills sometimes, don’t they?

Not just media, but some political parties and governments actually attempt to thrive off these—and it makes you wonder if you are the only one who has faculties to remember and count.
 
It is up to Twitter to provide less frustrating coverage:

Dog poo, in amongst all this, has been far more interesting to read about.


Filed under: culture, humour, internet, media, politics, UK—Jack Yan @ 05.53

09.09.2022

I can empathize with the 500-mile email problem

Big thanks to Petra on Mastodon for this one.

Don’t discount us non-techs. When we come to you, we’ve often done a lot of testing first before sounding the alarm. And often we are right.

Just like I was right with Vox when I could only get a compose window on select days over three months, or when Facebook forced an anti-malware program on us when we didn’t have malware. This one, however, takes the cake, and I have to agree with Petra on her assessment that it’s her favourite ‘non technical user with the absurd bug is right’ tale.

The author of the story, Trey Harris, has given me permission to republish it here. (Here’s the original.) I have only made slight alterations for style (e.g. using the right ellipses and dashes that weren’t available to him, and italicizing where he might have had all caps) but I have not changed any of Trey’s words. Please note the link to the FAQ at the end.

From: Trey Harris <[email protected]>
 
Here’s a problem that sounded impossible … I almost regret posting the story to a wide audience, because it makes a great tale over drinks at a conference. 🙂 The story is slightly altered in order to protect the guilty, elide over irrelevant and boring details, and generally make the whole thing more entertaining.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

‘We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.’

‘What’s the problem?’ I asked.

‘We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,’ the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. ‘Come again?’

‘We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,’ he repeated. ‘A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.’

‘Um … Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,’ I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. ‘What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500 miles?’

‘It’s not what I think,’ the chairman replied testily. ‘You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago …’

‘You waited a few days?’ I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. ‘And you couldn’t send email this whole time?’

‘We could send email. Just not more than …’

‘… Five hundred miles, yes,’ I finished for him, ‘I got that. But why didn’t you call earlier?’

‘Well, we hadn’t collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now.’ Right. This is the chairman of statistics. ‘Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it …’

‘Geostatisticians …’

‘… Yes, and she’s produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can’t reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius.’

‘I see,’ I said, and put my head in my hands. ‘When did this start? A few days ago, you said, but did anything change in your systems at that time?’

‘Well, the consultant came in and patched our server and rebooted it. But I called him, and he said he didn’t touch the mail system.’

‘OK, let me take a look, and I’ll call you back,’ I said, scarcely believing that I was playing along. It wasn’t April Fool’s Day. I tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.

I logged into their department’s server, and sent a few test mails. This was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and a test mail to my own account was delivered without a hitch. Ditto for one sent to Richmond, and Atlanta, and Washington. Another to Princeton (400 miles) worked.

But then I tried to send an email to Memphis (600 miles). It failed. Boston, failed. Detroit, failed. I got out my address book and started trying to narrow this down. New York (420 miles) worked, but Providence (580 miles) failed.

I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my sanity. I tried emailing a friend who lived in North Carolina, but whose ISP was in Seattle. Thankfully, it failed. If the problem had had to do with the geography of the human recipient and not his mail server, I think I would have broken down in tears.

Having established that—unbelievably—the problem as reported was true, and repeatable, I took a look at the sendmail.cf file. It looked fairly normal. In fact, it looked familiar.

I diffed it against the sendmail.cf in my home directory. It hadn’t been altered—it was a sendmail.cf I had written. And I was fairly certain I hadn’t enabled the ‘FAIL_MAIL_OVER_500_MILES’ option. At a loss, I telnetted into the SMTP port. The server happily responded with a SunOS sendmail banner.

Wait a minute … a SunOS sendmail banner? At the time, Sun was still shipping Sendmail 5 with its operating system, even though Sendmail 8 was fairly mature. Being a good system administrator, I had standardized on Sendmail 8. And also being a good system administrator, I had written a sendmail.cf that used the nice long self-documenting option and variable names available in Sendmail 8 rather than the cryptic punctuation-mark codes that had been used in Sendmail 5.

The pieces fell into place, all at once, and I again choked on the dregs of my now-cold latte. When the consultant had ‘patched the server,’ he had apparently upgraded the version of SunOS, and in so doing downgraded Sendmail. The upgrade helpfully left the sendmail.cf alone, even though it was now the wrong version.

It so happens that Sendmail 5—at least, the version that Sun shipped, which had some tweaks—could deal with the Sendmail 8 sendmail.cf, as most of the rules had at that point remained unaltered. But the new long configuration options—those it saw as junk, and skipped. And the sendmail binary had no defaults compiled in for most of these, so, finding no suitable settings in the sendmail.cf file, they were set to zero.

One of the settings that was set to zero was the timeout to connect to the remote SMTP server. Some experimentation established that on this particular machine with its typical load, a zero timeout would abort a connect call in slightly over three milliseconds.

An odd feature of our campus network at the time was that it was 100% switched. An outgoing packet wouldn’t incur a router delay until hitting the POP and reaching a router on the far side. So time to connect to a lightly loaded remote host on a nearby network would actually largely be governed by the speed of light distance to the destination rather than by incidental router delays.

Feeling slightly giddy, I typed into my shell:
 
$ units
1311 units, 63 prefixes

 
You have: 3 millilightseconds
You want: miles

* 558.84719

/ 0.0017893979
 
‘Five hundred miles, or a little bit more.’

For those wanting to nitpick, Trey has written this FAQ with his answers.

I’m grateful for people like Trey, who actually investigate, even when what we say sounds totally implausible.


Filed under: internet, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.46


The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
 
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.

During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.

Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.

Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.

Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.

I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.

The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.

A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.

At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.

As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.

It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)

When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.

My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.

The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.

Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.


Filed under: China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, UK, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 10.17

08.09.2022

Google libels, and gets away with it

This isn’t a dig at Red Points or Hearst this time, since I received an apology and they did what they said: the DMCA claim notices were withdrawn and they have revised their systems. If anything, Hearst SL wound up quite cordial, as their New York office has tended to be in my dealings with them.

This is a dig at Google who only today sent what appears to be the final confirmation that our URLs have been reinstated.

This sorry saga began on August 17 and essentially Google told people searching for various terms that we were thieves till today.

The fact this virtual monopoly can libel someone with impunity—and has done so for years—should disturb any right-thinking person.
 
Speaking of Google, we gave in and connected the revised about.shtml page on the Lucire website to a current page. This was a page we hadn’t linked since the 2000s, but kept coming up high on site:lucire.com searches on Google and, formerly, Bing.

Since I typically don’t use Google for searches, and have not done regularly for a dozen years, I had no idea until investigating the collapse of Bing’s index recently. (Itʼs still just as compromised, despite claiming it has a higher number of results for any given search. I see no real evidence of this.)

Admittedly, people might seek an ‘About’ page, so instead of their reading a 2004 page, we took the content from our licensing website and created a new one. The old one is linked from there, as it’s quite a novelty.


Filed under: business, internet, publishing, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 12.18


A tribute to Boris Johnson

What a perfect tribute to Boris Johnson. (Note: coarse language.)

I guess he wasn’t the last UK PM after all.


 
On a happier note, Liz Trussell, who has the Twitter handle of liztruss, has been replying to messages tagging her, including from the Swedish prime minister. Her account is well worth a look.


Filed under: internet, politics, UK—Jack Yan @ 12.07

06.09.2022

On the mayoral races in Wellington and Toronto: Tory for us, not for them

Almost makes you want to run for mayor again.

I had a look at my 2013 manifesto during the weekend and it wasn’t half bad. And, with respect to our candidates in Wellington, each of whom I know socially (and politics aside, actually like), it goes into more detail, and is arguably more visionary, than what I’ve seen from them to date.

It was quite uplifting to read this from Stephen Olsen writing in Scoop, covering the 2022 mayoral candidates’ meeting at St Peter’s Church last night:

To be honest the lack of rigorous thinking made for a lacklustre event. It even had me pining for the 2010 and 2013 Mayoral campaigns of an outsider, Jack Yan, who did reasonable and intelligent things like put forward a detailed manifesto and who did justice to the role of an articulate, knowledgeable and expressive candidate. (A disclaimer being that I was on the Back Jack team of 2010 and a supporting advisor three years later).

It was written without bias, and evaluates each of the three leading candidates.

Stephen concludes:

Tory Whanau did have a few Jack-like moments in calling as forcefully as possible for more democracy, more boldness, more engagement of citizens and more community-based co-design opportunities to rejuvenate Wellington. However for her campaign to get some wind under its wings it will need far more amplitude on those basic but vital notes. It’s not a time to pull punches.

In both of the elections I contested, I said we could not have politics as usual. I stand by that, because look at the lack of progress between 2013 and 2022 when voters choose politics as usual: rising rates, little change in the industry make-up (which is another way of saying very few high-value jobs have been created as a proportion of the total), which leads to a lack of economic resilience (and things being unaffordable for Wellingtonians). I said as much nine years ago.

Paul and Andy represent the old guard, and are conservative. Tory is a well read woman—I recall seeing Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy in her office, among others, and she is aware of the world outside politics. She is the same age Mark Blumsky was when he was mayor, and the same age I was when I first ran. A good age, young enough to articulate a vision and have the energy to carry it out.

Whomever took a jab at her ‘inexperience’ as detailed in Stephen’s article obviously does not know her history or background. That person evidently does not know Wellington well enough, either, or just how well the last 30-something mayor we had improved the place. Maybe their memory’s playing tricks on them now and they’re out of touch. I mightn’t have agreed with everything Mark did, and maybe there are some rose-coloured glasses at play—but I do agree with the digital advancement this city made under him. Anyone miss the wooden bus stops along Courtenay Place? Anyone? Bueller? I thought not.

Our choices this year are Tory boys or Tory in name. Tory Whanau would make a fine mayor and (finally) the city’s first non-white mayor, too.
 
It wasn’t nostalgia that had me looking up my 2013 manifesto. It was one Jack Yan running for mayor this year. Not me, but the guy in Toronto.

Jack’s finally got his website up and got in touch, in good humour, as he saw the crazy coincidence of not just the name but of running for mayor of one’s city. I naturally forwarded on the emails I received thanks to mistaken identity. Out of interest, I had a look through what I wrote back then and sent it on out of interest. Just helping a brother out.

He probably doesn’t need it, as he has good, comprehensive policies tailored to his city. There’s a Tory called Tory running there. Torontonians have way more candidates to choose from. To the folks there, give the guy a chance and check out his website at jack2022.ca.


Filed under: leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 11.52

04.09.2022

September 2022 gallery

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


27.08.2022

Autocade slowly gets to 29 million page views

It took a while, but Autocade has now finally reached 29 million page views.

The stats’ page since the count was reset shows 1,362,506 views. Add that to the 27,647,011 recorded on March 19, 2022, and we have well and truly crossed the 29 million mark (by 9,517, in fact).

We probably got there yesterday given that the counter is no longer updated live (so much for improving technology), and I didn’t get a chance to look in.

Sadly, this does mean the slowest growth in reader numbers since 2019.

I’m sure part of it is down to Bing’s collapse, which must have shaved off at least six per cent of our daily totals.

What I have found fascinating is our model leaderboard. The Ford Taunus 80 had been leading for some time since the reset, but it’s been well and truly beaten by the current Toyota Corolla. What caused a sudden surge during August is anyone’s guess, but all I know is that I’m grateful for it. It’s a newish page as well.

The Kia Morning (TA) is now third, another newer entry that shot up the ranks.

I’ve also been watching the pages for the Peugeot 206+ and 207 jostle for fourth place against the Daewoo Winstorm. (At the time of writing, the Winstorm is ahead by five views.) Another former leaderboard champ, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII, now sits in sixth, while the Renault Mégane II, Opel Astra J, Rover SD1 and Ford Cortina Mk III complete the top 10.

Here’s how the Autocade traffic watch is going:
 
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)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
August 2022: 29,000,000 (four months for 29th million)
 

Toyota’s unsuccessful Verossa was the latest entry into the database.
 


Filed under: cars, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing—Jack Yan @ 12.52

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