Posts tagged ‘2020s’


Can a no-name mouse take the place of a Microsoft Intellimouse?

01.08.2021

I’ve occasionally had good luck with ultra-cheap Chinese mice. Years ago, I bought one, with very simple left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, and it proved to be one of the most comfortable I owned. The wheel didn’t run smoothly at first but a quick trim of the plastic, and it’s been fine since.

   This US$3·89 mouse (price at time of writing) was a similar case. I ordered it to see if it might be better than the NZ$75 Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse, and that was bought to replace my favourite, the Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1. One of those was being used after my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 died—like the Intellimouse, these had large bodies that people with bigger hands, like me, can use.
   As those in a similar predicament know, mice have shrunk over the last decade, so finding a replacement takes months as you read the specs and, in some cases, visit the stores to see if they have anything.
   A Tecknet mouse proved too low by a millimetre or two to be comfortable, but when I saw this no-name unit being sold by a place called 7 Elves Store (did they mean dwarves, as in Disney?) on Aliexpress, I decided to take a punt. (The specs suggest the brand name is Centechia, but it’s nowhere to be found on the device or in the heading and description.) And for US$3·89 plus (sorry) my share of carbon emissions from the air freight, it didn’t cost me much to find out.
   It arrived a few weeks ago in damaged condition. The buttons did not work at all, and once again I had to make some simple repairs to get it working. It’s too light. The plastic is of a crappy grade. And the details on the base of the mouse suggest whomever wrote the text had not been in the occident much, if at all. I don’t like the lights because I don’t care if a mouse has pulsing RGB effects since (a) my hand is over it and (b) I’m looking at the screen, not the mouse.
   But here’s the thing: it fits my hand. It’s nowhere nearly as comfortable as those old Microsoft mice, but as a cheapie that I can take in my laptop bag, it does a better job than the Tecknet. It’s not as comfortable as the Asus, but it beats every other mouse, that is, the ones I didn’t buy, that I’ve seen in the shops. On the whole, I can use it more than the Tecknet, and it will do when I’m travelling or out of the office, though I still haven’t found the holy grail of a decent sized Microsoft mouse. (The revived Intellimouse, as I may have mentioned earlier, is asymmetric, and its shape doesn’t work for me.) I’m not sure why this is so hard for mice manufacturers: you’ve all peaked a bit early, and none of the improvements you’ve made have advanced the ideas of user comfort and ergonomics.
   For those who care about this stuff, here’s the Aliexpress link.

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Posted in China, technology | No Comments »


Admiral doesn’t understand that I’m not blocking ads, only trackers

21.07.2021

It’s pretty bad that Admiral, which detects whether you are using an ad blocker or not, now advises this with Privacy Badger.
   Let me make this very clear: I am not against advertising on websites. I have advertising on our websites.
   I am against tracking by people such as Google. And that is all I am blocking: the tracking part. There is a difference.
   Frankly, if you need to track in order for your ads to work, then there is something deeply wrong with your model. You’re actually doing your clients out of exposure.
   This goes for the ad networks that work with us, too. If you have Privacy Badger installed and both you and I miss out on ads on our sites, then so be it.
   What is so wrong about using the context of the page and delivering ads to suit? Everyone still wins with this model and we don’t feel as violated.
   So I won’t be disabling Privacy Badger, thanks.
   It also means I’ll be happy to charge a premium on advertisers who want to appear on our site because the content is relevant—and because the non-tracked stuff will at least get seen by an engaged public.

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


Facelifting the Lucire licensing site after 13 years

30.06.2021

After 13 years, it was time to facelift the Lucire licensing website.
   It’s a very familiar template, similar to what we used for JY&A Consulting a few months back. The home page copy we already had from a flier that we created late last year that Susan Ninan and I worked on; and the ‘About’ page’s text was mostly carried over (though it still needs 13 years of updates).
   I am surprised the old site still netted us enquiries but it was looking extremely dated. The 2008 design was positively archæological in internet terms. However, I’m not sure if the new one is particularly interesting, because the web design convention is to do something very simple at the moment.
   The old one was created with consideration for those who didn’t have mouse wheels, whereas these days it seems to be all right, even fashionable, to scroll away.
   Hopefully everything is more fit for purpose though, and the links are more useful. We’ve kept the code very light.
   And if you do want to license an international fashion magazine with an independent, authentic and engaged firm, you know where to come.



Above: The old and the new Lucire licensing sites—to my eyes, the old appears more creative, even in 2021.

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Why the British people still prefer Boris Johnson

27.06.2021

When you see the utter dog’s dinner the British government has made of COVID-19, namely turning their country into a petri dish for mutations while they plunder the place with impunity, you have to wonder why many there still prefer these current Tories, when even Max Hastings and Sir Nicholas Soames don’t. Is it because Labour has no direction? That they don’t like Sir Phony Blair? The latest balls-up is this, by the Cabinet’s own Karl Pilkington, (now former) health secretary Matt Hancock:

I jokingly Tweeted (italics added): ‘Terrible casting in the Hancock’s Half-Hour remake. I can deal with the sidekick now being a woman called Sydney James but you never saw scenes like this with Tony and the original Sid.’ Not many liked the post so I assume I am getting a bit on the old side for the mainstream to get these references. And I thought I was doing so well matching the grey from the original titles and the Clarendon type.
   The answer of why Boris Johnson still appears to be their preferred prime minister, how he can constantly fall upwards (reference below), appears to lie in Hancock, too, specifically Tony Hancock.

   For those of us old enough to remember Tony Hancock’s sitcoms (note: I saw them as repeats), he played a version of himself, but one who was poorer, more outspoken and exaggerated. (Surely as he was voted Britain’s greatest comedian this side of the 21st century, enough of you must know what I am talking about.) But most of all, he lived in a world of self-delusion, that he was the cleverest man around and if only the right people would just see his genius. This is part of the same British comedy tradition as Alan Partridge and David Brent. As I said in a Toot on Mastodon tonight (inter alia): ‘Audiences sympathize with failures, and none have failed as much as this PM.’

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Posted in culture, humour, leadership, politics, TV, UK | No Comments »


Why does my landline phone dial by itself?

13.06.2021

As sent to Vodafone New Zealand today. Anyone know what might be going on?

Hi there:

Not really a complaint but since you don’t give any options other than compliment and complaint, the latter will have to do!
   Since moving to Tawa, my landline phone has been calling numbers that no one has called. It does this by itself, usually around 3 p.m. each day.
   I enquired with Vodafone on Twitter about this but we never found a resolution, and Custhelp doesn’t appear to exist any more on your website. As to Tobi, the sooner that vanishes, the better!
   As you read on you’ll see why it’s not really easy to explain on either Twitter or on the phone, and Tobi has no option for landlines at all.
   I suspected there was something wrong with the landline set-up here that causes the phone to dial by itself.
   We don’t exactly have a high-tech landline phone. These are basic Vtech units from Warehouse Stationery. I have never entered any “programming” into them, nor do I know how. Even the outgoing answerphone message is what it came with.
   These are the same phones we had at my old place in Rongotai where they most certainly did not dial by themselves every day at 3 p.m. We moved, I unplugged them, and plugged them into the house here.
   It’s been going on for most of the two years we have been here, if I recall correctly.
   Today we had a power outage, so instead of 3 p.m., the phone kept calling well into the evening after the power returned.
   I went into My Vodafone’s landline section for the first time. If you go in there, you’ll see the phone kept dialling 04 569 3555 and 04 569 3566 very, very regularly. Since 3.07 p.m. and now (11.18 p.m.) it has made 130 of these calls.
   On occasion, I catch the phone doing this and stay on the line. When it connects, it sounds like a fax machine on the other end. My phone then enters some sort of identity code. No human has ever answered these calls.
   It will sometimes do this while I am on the phone to someone else, which is very distracting.
   Today, I filmed a video on my cellphone to prove that the phone does this by itself with no human agency. You can watch this at:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQDd45HAkkJ/

   Please note that no one at this house is making these calls and the phone is doing it by itself.
   I would like to know why this is happening, how a phone even knows how to do this, and just who is behind this.
   Thank goodness these are local calls that do not bear a charge but this smells of a scam to me.

   Here’s an embed of that Instagram video:

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A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

   Hopefully from the above they’ll be able to see that the phone is not even sophisticated enough to be programmed to do this. Yet the frequency of the calls (130 today alone) suggests they are automated. I haven’t found anything online about this. This link is the closest I’ve found to my experience, but Vodafone so far does not know.

On a related note, after I published this post, Wordpress created an extra tag that I never fed in, called F4F4F4. Why does it do this?

PS.: This seems extremely plausible, from a friendly Tweeter.

Based on what I was told:

   Who knows? Maybe it is all connected properly. I’ve sent a note to the folks who installed the security system here.

P.PS.: From the security company: ‘If your phone was calling these numbers, it would not be related to the alarm.
   ‘These numbers are not recorded anywhere on the alarm.’

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Posted in New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Dear Gmail user: your industry has worn me down

11.06.2021

After three messages I decided I would answer one of those Gmail users asking about advertorial. And from now on I’m just going to copy and paste this to anyone else asking, ‘Why won’t you answer me?’

Dear [redacted]:

Sorry, this is why I haven’t answered you (and this is not because of you, but everyone else who has been enquiring about the same thing for years):

http://jackyan.com/blog/2021/06/time-to-stop-entertaining-advertorial-enquiries-from-gmail/

   Almost every time I answer one of these emails it leads nowhere, and I’ve answered hundreds over the last few years. What many of them have in common is Gmail. So to save time and energy I’m no longer entertaining link and advertorial requests coming from Gmail.
   Even if it were one in twelve I’d be borderline OK (the ratio I had doing phone sales during a recession) but one in hundreds is just not worth it. Your industry has worn me and my colleagues down.

Sincerely,

Jack

   I really don’t know why, in the 2020s, anyone would use Gmail, given its rather massive problem of allowing more than one person to use an email address. But I guess if you use Google, you’re not too concerned about privacy, with the endless stories on this topic out there. It shouldn’t then matter if someone else with a similar address can read your emails.

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A brief misadventure into the Chinese internet

28.04.2021

When I was a kid and wanted to hit back at someone for being mean to me, my parents would often say that successful people, true leaders, would be 大方, which is roughly akin to saying that one should rise above it. I would say that goes with nations as well: you can tell when a country is in a good state by the way its citizenry behaves, and online behaviour is probably a proxy for that.
   As many of you know, my literacy in my mother tongue is just above the level it was at when I left Hong Kong, that is to say, it’s marginally better than a kindergartener’s. And where I come from, that means age 3, which is already in the big leagues considering I started at 2½, having passed the entrance exam, and had homework from then on. What I can write is in colloquial Cantonese, devoid of any formal structure that someone with a proper education in the old country would know. If you’re Cantonese, you’ll be able to read what I write, but if your only idea of Chinese is Mandarin, you’ll have little clue. (Bang goes the official argument in Beijing that Cantonese is a ‘dialect’. It can’t be a dialect if a speaker of one finds the other unintelligible.)
   With Meizu having essentially shut its international forum, I decided to head to the Chinese one to post about my experience with its Music app, and was met by a majority of friendly, helpful people, and some who even went the extra mile of replying to my English-language query in English.
   But there were enough dickheads answering to make you think that mainland China isn’t a clear global leader, regardless of all the social engineering and online credit scores.

   When I used Facebook, I had ventured on to a few groups where people simply posted in their own language, and those of us who wished to reply but didn’t understand it would either use the site’s built-in translator, or, before that was available, Google Translate. I still am admin on a group where people do post in their own language without much issue. There’s no insistence on ‘Speak English, I can’t understand you,’ or whatever whine I hear from some intolerant people, such as the ones sampled below.

   That makes you despair for some folks and one conclusion I can draw is that members of a country who demand such a monoculture must not see their country as a leader. Nor do they have much pride in it. For great nations, in my book, embrace, or believe they embrace (even if they fall short in practice) all tongues and creeds, all races and abilities. They revel in their richness.
   Of the negative souls on the forum, there was the crap you’d expect. ‘Write in Chinese,’ ‘Why is a Cantonese person writing in English?’ ‘Think about where you are,’ and ‘I don’t understand you’ (to a comment I wrote in Cantonese—again supporting the argument that it isn’t a dialect, but its own distinct tongue).
   Granted, these are a small minority, but it’s strange that this is a forum where people tend to help one another. And it tells me that whether you’re American or Chinese, there’s nothing in the behaviour of ordinary folks that tells me that any one place is more likely to be a centre for 21st-century leadership than another.
   I’ve had far worse responses to Tweets, by a much greater proportion of people (the UK still stands out as the worst when I responded to a Tweet about George Floyd), but it’s the context. Twitter is, as Stephen Fry once put it, analogous to a bathing pool into which too many people have urinated, but a help forum?
   It’s the globally unaware, those who engage in casual xenophobia, who are intolerant of other languages, who are the little people of our times, having missed out on an education or life experience that showed them otherwise. They reside in the old country as much as in so many other places. The leading nation of the 21st century does not look like it’s one of the obvious choices. Future historians, watch this space.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, internet, leadership, New Zealand, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


It’s not hard writing clear terms and conditions

25.03.2021

We’ve had a ‘Highlights’ section in our T&Cs for a while, but today I thought I’d take another look at them. Without reading them again, I drafted these:

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you do tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• The businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs. But we’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on our sites, and they might pick up info about you. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system through Aboutads.info and related services.

   The law degree kicks in and I wasn’t quite able to replace the existing ones, but hopefully the final highlights suffice (links removed here, but they are on the page):

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we ultimately store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• We don’t have a Google Analytics account so we don’t collect stuff on our sites for that.
• However, the businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs or plug-ins. We’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on some of our sites, and they might pick up info about you (e.g. through cookies). They don’t share this info with us. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system (for example, click here, here or here). We also recommend you opt out of Google Analytics tracking you.
• More details are below.

   While there are more bollocks below these on the page, covering our arses in various situations, including historical ones, fundamentally the above is what we follow.
   We used to have a record of IP addresses and we never did a thing with them, and when our servers were rejigged in 2013, we stopped collecting them. I’m sure some plug-ins on the sites know what they are, and they’re bound to be in the logs, but no one here has the time to look at them. I don’t think anyone’s peered that those logs (save for debugging) for over two decades.
   Anyone who’s read this blog knows why I don’t have a Google Analytics account, and long may it remain that way. I seem to recall finding a way to make sure I could never access that part of the Google Dashboard when I was granted access to Medinge’s analytics. We’ve none of our own.
   I do know what pages are popular on the sites but that’s from aggregated data. And frankly, that’s all I need to know.
   It’s really how I expect to be treated by others and it’s not that hard to do this online. Who needs complicated T&Cs which even the company can’t follow? Strip away the jargon, and both you and we win.

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There goes the neighbourhood

05.03.2021

Demolition has commenced on 1–4 Māmari Street, across the road from where I lived for over three decades.
   I’m not against change and my feelings toward the development have already been recorded here.
   It was with a tinge of sadness that I saw the demolition crews there and the only wall left standing was part of the north side to no. 4.
   Right now the sections, littered with debris, are letting in plenty of summer sunlight.
   But not for long.
   I’ll remember Gus and Lyna Bourke’s place at no. 2 which I understand they bought after the war. Lyna was widowed by the time we met her in 1983, and she had an incredibly low-mileage silver Hillman Hunter in the garage. As her eyesight failed, the car stayed in there, and it was in incredibly good nick by the time she passed in the 1990s. We always had good chats and Lyna was our “neighbourhood watch” as she kept an eye on the street from her living room.
   Frank and Carol Reading and their family at no. 3 were probably there for a decent half-century, and they were incredibly good neighbours. Frank passed only a few years ago but they had wisely bought the Bourke residence as well in the 1990s, plus no. 4 decades before, so I imagine that made life easy for the developers who only had to purchase from two sellers to build on the site.
   We visited the Reading house many times over the years to help each other out, and that was the great community we had in the cul-de-sac back then. On our side of the street there were frequent chats over the fences with nos. 12 and 14.
   The old street changed a lot when both nos. 10 and 11 went on the market in 2018, then it was our turn in 2019. And now it has had its biggest change in probably a century as those old weatherboard bungalows from the early 20th century were demolished.
   I realize same-again McHouses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but as one famous architect recently told me: it’s hard to get creativity consented. And the demand is there, so this was inevitable. I already felt that the old street was a memory, but one that could be refreshed on a revisit; but now it really is a memory. Contrast this with the other neighbourhoods I’ve lived in Wellington, which have remained largely the same, or were subject to far slower developments after our departure.
   Just as well I got the neighbours together in 2011 to stop the council taking away the right turn into the street. With 24 dwellings there in the near future, they’re going to need it more than ever.

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A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

And yes, the above video was on Instagram, which is going the way of Myspace and Facebook, I believe. I haven’t been on there for nearly a fortnight and the feed held little interest to me. Near-daily ’Gramming from 2012 to 2019 was enough.

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Posted in business, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same

08.02.2021


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.

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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »