Posts tagged ‘1990s’


August 2022 gallery

01.08.2022

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

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If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.

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The missing second verse

16.06.2022

The second of three verses of the Scots College school song appears to be missing from the web. I posted them once on Facebook, back when people used Facebook, so of course it doesn’t appear in Google.

We sang it, but I understand that the generation before, and the one after, didn’t sing it. We seem to have been the anomaly.

In the interests of having them somewhere searchable on the web, and as the Secretary of Scots Collegians:
 
We’ll keep our tryst from day to day
And pledge our honour bright,
To follow truth’s unerring way
And march into the light.
Let God and right and the watchword be,
Let Scots have honoured name,
For joy be ours to know that we
Were heroes of its fame.
 

Corrections are welcome; these are to the best of my recollection.

The move to co-education at Scots several years ago means the song has had to change with the times, though I imagine that enough of us remember the lyrics to the other verses as they once were, and the old choruses, for me not to need to record them.

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Lucire’s holding page prior to launch

01.06.2022

Of course I remember there was a holding page prior to Lucire launching on October 20, 1997 at 7 a.m. EST, or midnight NZDT on October 21, 1997. I just didn’t remember what it exactly looked like, till I discovered it at the Internet Archive:
 

 

There was no semicolon in JY&A Media, not even then; this must be some Internet Archive bug since I didn’t use & for the HTML entity in those days. Most browsers interpreted a lone ampersand correctly back then. We also tried to save bytes where we could, with the limited bandwidth we had to play with.

Pity the other captures from the 1990s aren’t as good, with the main images missing. I still have them offline, so one of these days …

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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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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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March 2022 gallery

28.03.2022

Now we are on the new server, here are March 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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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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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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Spacing in French: figuring out how to punctuate professionally

22.09.2021

With the French edition of Lucire KSA now out, we’ve been hard at work on the second issue. The first was typeset by our colleagues in Cairo (with the copy subbed by me), but this time it falls on us, and I had to do a lot of research on French composition.
   There are pages all over the web on this, but nothing that seems to gather it all into one location. I guess I’m adding to the din, but at least it’s somewhere where I can find it.
   The issue we had today was spacing punctuation. I always knew the French space out question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semicolons; as well as their guillemets. But by how much? And what happens to guillemets when you have a speaker who you are quoting for more than one paragraph?
   The following, which will appear in the next issue of Lucire KSA in French, and also online, is demonstrative:

   In online forums, it appears the spaces after opening guillemets and before closing guillemets, question marks, exclamation marks and semicolons are eighth ones. The one before the colon, however, is a full space, but a non-breaking one.
   I should note that the 1938 edition of Hart’s Rules, which was my first one, suggests a full space around the guillemets.
   When quoting a large passage of text, rather than put guillemets at the start of each line (which would be hard to set), the French do something similar to us. However, if a quotation continues on to a new paragraph, it doesn’t start with the usual opening guillemets («), but with the closing ones (»). That 1938 Hart’s disagrees, and doesn’t make this point, other than one should begin the new paragraph with guillemets, which I deduce are opening ones.
   If the full stop is part of the quotation then it appears within the guillemets; the full stop is suppressed if a comma follows in the sentence, e.g. (Hart’s example):

« C’est par le sang et par le fer que les États grandissent », a dit Bismarck.

   Sadly for us, newer Hart’s Rules (e.g. 2010) don’t go into any depth for non-English settings.
   Hart’s in 1938 also says there apparently is no space before the points de suspension (ellipses), which I notice French writers observe.
   Looking at competitors’ magazines gives no clarity. I happened to have two Vogue Paris issues in the office, from 1990 and 1995. The former adopts the same quotation marks as English, while the latter appears to have been typeset by different people who disagree on the house style.
   This is my fourth language so I’m happy to read corrections from more experienced professional compositors.

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