Posts tagged ‘cellphones’


What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

29.11.2021

My Meizu M6 Note has had to be retired, due to an expanding battery, something which I probably shouldn’t have tolerated for so long (it began happening months ago). I only made the call to stop using it last week after the volume buttons could no longer function, and I probably should have stopped earlier still* as it would have been easier to get the SIM and micro SD cards out!
   My original plan was to go slightly newer and opt for a Note 9, and I had located a vendor on Aliexpress who was prepared to send it to me with the Chinese Flyme OS installed. But my sense is that Meizu is now past its prime, and everything seems to be shutting down.
   I had been logging into the app store daily for over a year to earn points, but Meizu informed us that it would cease to record log-ins, and we had to redeem what we could by January. Its now-useless default music app I’ve already blogged about. No one answers international queries any more and from what I can tell, official Meizu reps seldom frequent the Chinese forums—while the international forums consist of frustrated users talking among themselves.
   And this is coming from a self-confessed Meizu fan. I chose the M2 Note back in 2015–16 and if it weren’t for the damaged screen, I might never have bought the M6 Note. For now, I’m back to using the M2, which is slower, and the battery doesn’t hold its charge quite as well any more, but at least everything from the M6 Note has synced to it. With my app usage lower than it was in 2012, I don’t notice any real lags in performance within the programs I do use, something that I couldn’t say even two years ago when I was still popping into Instagram daily. Only the camera gets annoying with its slowness. I have gone away from the Swype keyboard though, as Swype no longer sends verification codes to your email to sync your custom word dictionary. I’m muddling my way through Microsoft’s Swiftkey, which has proved a tolerable successor (the chief gains are the ability to access en and em dashes and ellipses from the keyboard without switching languages). It seems to forget that you’ve pressed shift in order to write a proper noun (you have to do this twice for it to stick!) but it is learning words like Lucire and Autocade as well as my email address.
   Readers may recall that after I had the M2 Note’s screen repaired, it would no longer charge, except at the store in Johnsonville (Repair Plus) that fixed it! The lads there would never tell me why they could charge it and I couldn’t and just grinned, while I told them how patently ridiculous the situation was, that even a new charging cable could not work; in fact none of my chargers did. They didn’t seem to care that this was the predicament they put me in. The issue—and I don’t know if they are to blame—is that the charging port is looser than it was, and it needs a very decent micro USB connector. That was thanks to PB Tech for telling me the truth—and a thumbs-down to Repair Plus for not even trying to sell me a better cable! Moral of the story: use people for the one thing that can do, but don’t expect much more from them, not even basic after-sales service.
   With its “fault” remedied about a year and a half ago, I had a phone to use once I put the micro SD and SIM cards back in, though Amanda isn’t able to hear me that clearly on it when I’m at the office, and I’m sure I’ve missed calls and SMSs probably due to limits with the frequencies it uses (though I had checked six years ago it would handle the Vodafone 3G and 4G frequencies).
   So a new phone is needed because the “phone” function of the M2 isn’t up to par. I don’t need the latest and greatest, and thanks to the pace of development, a phone launched in 2020 is already obsolete in China. It seems that if Meizu is on the way down that I should go to its arch-rival, Xiaomi, and get the Note 9’s competitor, which roughly has the same name: the Redmi Note 9.
   The Xiaomi names are all confusing and the Indian market has different phones with the same names, to add to the confusion already out there. I don’t profess to know where the S, T, Note, Pro, and the rest fit, but let’s just say I’ve been led to get a Redmi Note 9.
   PB had first dibs but as the sales’ rep could not tell me whether I could easily put the Chinese version of MIUI on it, in order to rid myself of the Google bloatware, then I couldn’t safely buy one. I wasted enough time on the M6 Note on that front, and my installation of its Chinese OS could well have been down to a fluke. He also refused to tell me the price difference between the sale units and the shop-soiled demo ones other than it was small, and, ‘You may as well buy a new one.’
   There’s no irony here with privacy: Chinese apps at least tell you what legislation covers their usage, unlike western apps which don’t mention US Government snooping yet Google passes on stuff anyway. In all the years I’ve used the Meizus there has been nothing dodgy in terms of the data received and sent, as far as I know, and there’s nothing questionable constantly running such as Google Services that transmits and drains your battery.
   There are some great sites, a number of which are in India, that teach you how to turn off some of Xiaomi’s bloatware’s notifications, but they seldom annoyed me on the Meizu. I’ll soon find out first-hand how good they are.
   Why the Redmi Note 9? It was one of the few on Aliexpress that I could find with the Chinese ROM installed, saving me a lot of effort. I won’t have to root it, for a start. When your choice is down to about half a dozen phones—Aliexpress and Ebay vendors are so keen to get export sales they make it a point not to sell Chinese—you’re guided on price and your daily usage. I’m a firm believer that a phone should not cost the same as a used car. Bonuses: the big battery and the fact it isn’t too bright (that’s just me); detriments: 199 g in weight and a humongous screen.
   The vendor (YouGeek) was conscientious enough to send me a message (along the lines of ‘Are you absolutely sure you want the Chinese version?’) which cost me a couple of days since I don’t always pop back to the site (and you can’t read messages on the phone browser version anyway). Now we’re on the same page, they’ve dispatched the phone. We’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks. There’s no turning back now.

* PS.: From How to Geek: ‘Once you notice the battery is swollen or compromised in any way, you should immediately stop using the device. Turn the power off, and above all else, do not charge the device. Once the battery has reached such a point of failure that the battery is swollen, you must assume that all safety mechanisms in the battery are offline. Charging a swollen battery is literally asking for it to turn into an exploding ball of noxious flammable gas right in your living room.’ I wish I was told this when I first went to PB months ago when the battery began expanding and I enquired about phones.

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Posted in business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


There go three weeks of ‘Changes saved’: another forgetful piece of software

12.05.2021

After all these experiences, I really shouldn’t be surprised that computers and their programs are so forgetful, and the same applies to cellphones. But of course it happened again today, undoing three weeks’ work.
   I don’t know if this is hardware- or software-related, but all I ask of people who make this stuff is to not have them be so damned forgetful. My email to the developer of Muzio Player follows. This was a player I adopted after Meizu Music also proved forgetful.

Hi there:

I’ve been using Muzio Player for just under a month and have found it attractive, and, other than the issues below, very practical. It’s been a far more stable player than the default one that came with my Meizu M6 Note.
   I am on the free version, so I don’t know if this is something reserved for the Pro one.
   Last month I sent you a small feedback item about cover artwork. Meizu’s default app stores the cover JPEGs in a folder of their own, and I was able to link the hundreds that I have on my phone with your app. I was a bit disappointed that the individual songs don’t “adopt” the chosen covers, but accepted that that was how you programmed it.
   Therefore, over the last month, I decided to link each song—I have over 1,200, and I imagine around 1,000 of those do not have cover artwork embedded in the song file—individually with the album covers. It took hours each day, and I’ve spent the last three weeks almost finishing the task. I estimate I probably had about 30 left to go. Each time Muzio Player would report ‘Changes saved’ and the app was looking better and better as the majority of tracks got linked, especially when I had the player going in my car and I could see the cover artwork with the track.
   Imagine my surprise when today, Muzio Player “forgot” all the cover artwork. Three weeks of individual linking gone. Every track now shows the default musical notes, other than the handful that have artwork within the files. It seems ‘Changes saved’ didn’t mean that after all. Surely these are saved somewhere?
   I should note that I haven’t done any system clean-ups in the last 24 hours, so that is not the reason these changes have vanished. Indeed, I have done them in earlier weeks without any effect on Muzio Player.
   Is there something I can do to get them all back, save for spending another three weeks relinking everything?
   I am on version 100666008, OS 25. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Jack

   I hope they care about their product and can tell me just where everything was saved and can be recovered from. Advice on less forgetful software would be welcome. I’d still be on Meizu Music 8·0 if it didn’t insist on self-updating to an inferior version. It’s like computer mice: they actually make something good, and because they know they cannot top it, they wind up making worse things to succeed it. At the present rate, a computer mouse in 2030 will the size of a stapler, as they continue to shrink.

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Posted in technology | 2 Comments »


Cellphone saga update: back to the past

28.05.2020

Off to PB. The M6 Note was under warranty after all, so it’s now with PB Technologies’ service department in Wellington, after I explained it could have trouble doing read–write operations and the tech saw the camera and gallery hang (usually they just shut themselves down). I paid over NZ$400 for the phone including GST, and fortunately for me, I’m only 17 months in to my ownership. (You may think NZ$400 is cheap, but I don’t.)
   However, before I committed it to service, I had to find a way to get the old M2 Note going. I explained to one of the phone sales’ crew at PB my predicament: despite buying new chargers and cables, the only way to charge the phone was to drive to Johnsonville where it was last “serviced”. And, as usual, here’s the kicker: he plugged it in to his nearest micro USB charger and it fed it with juice, instantly. He said it was the cheapest charger they had in store. It also turned on immediately for him, whereas I’ve never been able to get it going—remember, there are only three buttons here, and I have tried them all. ‘You have 86 per cent charge,’ he said—back home it showed nil, refusing to turn on because the charge was non-existent. Your guess is as good as mine over this.
   The really great thing here is that everyone believed me. I guess these techs have been around enough to know that devices are illogical things, and that the customer isn’t bullshitting you, but more at a wit’s end when they come in with a fault. He sold me a new charger (NZ$18), which worked. Of course, charging it on the cable that fed the M6 Note doesn’t work: it says it’s charging, and the percentage keeps dropping. Again, your guess is as good as mine over this.
   Tonight it’s getting fed the new Adata cable, which took it to 100 per cent earlier tonight.
   Up side: how nice to have my old phone back, with Chinese apps that work and look good. Down side: my goodness, a four-year-old phone is slow. I didn’t think the M6 Note was that flash when I got it at the end of 2018, but after 17 months, I got used to it and find the M2’s processing lagging. The battery isn’t lasting anywhere near what it used to, either.
   I originally needed the M6 in a pinch, as at the time Dad was heading into hospital and I couldn’t risk being out of contact. The M2’s screen had vertical lines going through after a drop, rendering things difficult to read—and what if I couldn’t swipe to answer? The M6 wouldn’t have been my immediate choice: I would have preferred to have researched and found a Chinese-spec phone, even if every vendor online, even Chinese ones, touted their western-spec ones.
   If PB fixes the issue, great. But if not, then I may defect to Xiaomi at this rate. Meizu cares less and less about export sales these days, and there appear to be some vendors who can sell a Chinese-spec phone out there. The newer phone was also buggier: whether that was down to it being a western version, I don’t know. The M6 Note didn’t represent the rosiest of moments, certainly not for Dad, so I’m not wedded to it getting back to full health. Let’s see how they go next week, but at least I now have a cellphone that rings again—one’s only concern is how much charge it holds.

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Posted in China, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


The end of the cellphone?

22.05.2020


Motorola

This is a take that will probably never come true, but hear me out: this is the end of the cellphone era.
   We’ve had a pandemic where people were forced to be at home. Whilst there, they’ve discovered that they can be productive on their home desktop machines, doing Zoom and Skype meetings, and a proper keyboard with which to type and respond to people properly.
   They’ve realized that everything they do on a cell is compromised. It’s hard to reply to an email. It’s hard to compose something properly. It’s hard to see the participants in a virtual meeting. It’s hard to edit a photo. Voice recognition is still nowhere near what David Hasselhoff and KITT suggested 38 years ago.
   Camera aside, which I find is the cellphone’s best feature, it doesn’t offer that great a utility.
   More organizations say you can work from home today, and many have discovered what I’ve known for 33 years: it’s nice to have a commute measured in seconds and not be at the beck and call of whomever is on the other end of your cellphone. You are the master of your schedule and you see to the important things as you see fit.
   This is, of course, a massive generalization as there are professions for whom cellphones are a must, but I’m betting that there’s a chunk of the working population that has discovered that they’re not “all that”. In 1985 it might have looked cool to have one, just as in 1973 the car phone was a sign of affluence, but, frankly, between then and now we’ve gone through a period of cellphones making you look like a wanker to one of making you look like a slave. In 2001 I was the only person at an airport lounge working on a device. In 2019 (because who’s travelling in 2020?) I could be the only person not looking at one.
   But they have apps, you say. Apps? We offered a Lucire news app for PDAs in the early 2000s and hardly anyone bothered downloading them. So we gave up on them. Might take others a bit longer.
   By all means, have one to keep in touch with family, or take one on your travels. Emergency professionals: naturally. A lot of travelling salespeople, of course. But as someone who regularly does not know where his is, and who didn’t find it much of a handicap when the ringer stopped working (actually, I think that bug has recurred), I’m just not among those working groups who need one.

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I prefer the 99 per cent who don’t rely on Google

10.03.2020


Almost three screens of apps, none of which require Google.

I had a good discussion on Twitter today with Peter Lambrechtsen, and if you want to have a peek, it’s here. He’s a really decent guy who makes some good points. But it does annoy me that my partner, whose phone is a stock standard one, with all the Google and Vodafone spyware, cannot run Über, either, and that it wasted half an hour of her life yesterday. Between us we’ve lost 90 minutes because of programs in two days that don’t do what they say on the tin.
   I have several theories about this, and one of Peter’s suggestions was to get a new phone—which is actually quite reasonable given what he knows about it, though not realistic for everyone.
   Theory 1: the people who make these apps just have the latest gear, and to hell with anyone who owns a phone from 2017. (Silicon Valley is woke? Not with this attitude.)
   Theory 2: the apps just aren’t tested.
   Theory 3: the apps are developed by people who have little idea about how non-tech people use things.
   We got on to rooting phones and how some apps detect this, and won’t function as a result.
   I’d never have rooted mine if there wasn’t an easy manufacturer’s method of doing so, and if I could easily remove Google from it (services, search, Gmail, YouTube, Play, etc.). Nor would I have touched it had Meizu allowed us to install the Chinese operating system on to a western phone.
   I wager that over 99 per cent of Android apps do not need Google services—I run plenty without any problems—but there’s less than 1 per cent that do, including Zoomy and Snapchat. I live without both, and, in fact, as the 2020s begin, I find less and less utility from a cellphone. So much for these devices somehow taking over our lives. You get to a point where they just aren’t interesting.
   So why does the 1 per cent become so wedded to Google?
   You’d think that app developers would believe in consumer choice and could see the writing on the wall. A generation ago, Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer got them into hot water. More recently, the EU fined Google for violating their monopoly laws. People are waking up to the fact that Google is wielding monopoly power and it’s bad for society. Why contribute to it, when the other 99 per cent don’t?
   If I build a website, I don’t say that you need to have used something else to browse it: there’s an agreed set of standards.
   And I bet it’s the same for Android development, which is why there are now superior Chinese app stores, filled with stuff that doesn’t need Google.
   We prefer open standards, thank you.
   While these tech players are at it, let us choose whether we want Google’s spyware on our phones—and if we don’t, let us banish it to hell without rooting them. (Next time, I’m just going to have to ask friends visiting China—whenever that will be—to get me my next phone, if I haven’t moved back to land lines by then. Just makes life easier.)

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In the 1980s, I thought society would evolve to become more efficient and smarter

15.02.2020

Growing up in a relatively wealthy country in the 1980s, after getting through most of the 1970s, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world would just keep getting better and things would make more sense as humans evolved.
   From a teenager’s perspective: home computers, with a modulator–demodulator (modem), could bring you information instantaneously and from around the world. As an immigrant kid, that excited me: contact with people “back home” and from other places, making communication quicker. You could hear from others, and you could help others who needed you. And if you didn’t have a computer that could connect to a bulletin board, there was Teletext, which gave you regularly updated information through your TV set.
   Cars were getting more aerodynamic, which meant they would use less fuel, and that was understood universally to be a good thing. MPVs were very practical vehicles that had small footprints yet fitted a lot of people, or stuff, inside. Here in New Zealand, natural gas-powered dual-fuel cars were mainstream, and that meant we weren’t reliant on overseas oil. They also didn’t pollute anywhere near what petrol did—they burned cleanly.
   And since saving energy was understood to be a good thing, who knew? Before long solar power would be the norm for new homes and we’d be putting electricity back into the grid.


Alex Snyder/Wayne National Forest/Creative Commons

   I also heard about recycling for the first time as a teen, and that seemed like a good thing—all that old paper and plastic could have a second life.
   People were interested in being more efficient because no one wanted a repeat of the oil shocks of the 1970s. Nor did we want the government imposing carless days on us again.
   That same teenager would have thought that by the dawn of the 21st century—if the US and Soviet Union behaved—we’d have evolved to have recognized that we had the tools to make things better.
   When the internet came to our house in the 1990s, I saw it as a direct evolution of the 1980s’ optimism. It made sense.
   So through that lens, a lot of what the world looks like today doesn’t make sense.
   We have connected computers, milliards which are handheld, yet some of us are addicted to them and others use them to express outrage, rather than delight in having any contact at all with people thousands of miles away.
   SUVs outsell regular cars in some size segments. They are less aerodynamic, use more fuel, and are less efficient. We have American companies—Ford in the US and Holden here—saying that they’ll stop selling cars in most segments in favour of utility trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Petrol is expensive, and I complain about it, but I guess no one else thinks it’s expensive. Dual-fuel cars are a thing of the past here, for the most part, yet lots of people marvel at hybrids, conveniently forgetting we were decades ahead in the 1980s.
   And solar power isn’t the norm.
   We still, happily, recycle—but not everything we collect winds up being recycled. We have an awareness, but if we kept on progressing as I expected us to when I was Greta Thunberg’s age, then we wouldn’t have Greta Thunberg reminding us that we haven’t.
   I wonder if others in middle age realize that humans have the potential to go forward, and in many respects we do—but collectively there are enough of us who go backward and prevent any real advance in society.
   I like to have the same optimism as teenage me about the future. In terms of myself, many things bring me happiness, particularly in my personal and work lives. Yet in terms of society, I wonder if I can be as optimistic. I know deep down that we are interested in efficiency and treating our planet better (or we say we are), so then who are the ones holding us back, and what are we doing that stops us moving forward? Is it personal greed, hoping others will pick up the slack? Many of us choose products and services from companies that align with our views about what we want—yet are we doing the same when it comes to politicians?

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Posted in leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, TV, Wellington | No Comments »


‘The last USB device you connected to this computer malfunctioned’—such a simple solution for phones

30.06.2019

Over the last few years, I’ve had some USB memory sticks go bad. There was one particular type—a cheap one from the Warehouse—that failed once on Windows 10. The error was ‘The last USB device you connected to this computer malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it.’ The problem was that any other USB stick of the same brand would return the same error, even non-faulty ones, from then on.
   I took them back to the Warehouse and while one of them actually was kaput, the others I alleged were faulty weren’t. The trouble was that there was no way to make Windows 10 forget the error.
   I did the usual ways you find on the internet: going to the device manager, removing the device drivers, scanning for hardware changes, etc., to no avail. Once guilty, forever guilty. There was no turning back.
   Tonight, I encountered the same error when plugging in my phone. However, the last time I had plugged it in, there were no errors, so something already was amiss. When probing more, the error was ‘Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)’, and again, every bit of advice online was useless.
   These included: restarting your PC; uninstalling the affected device driver; installing generic Android drivers (none were available at Meizu directly); checking all cables; using different USB ports. Two hours later, which included contemplating getting a Bluetooth dongle for my PC, I came across a solution that should have been obvious much earlier: reboot the phone.
   That’s all it took.
   I’m putting this here since no one else seems to have suggested this, of all the pages I read over the last few hours. It’s obvious now with hindsight, but not when you’re following well meaning advice online and trying to do it all procedurally. I knew instinctively I didn’t have to uninstall everything that was USB-related, and I’m glad I never made it that complicated for myself. Hopefully this blog post will save others two hours’ trial and error.

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Today’s thoughts on Twitter

25.05.2019


Momentmal/Pixabay

Random thoughts in the last few minutes, blogging as a means of bookmarking:

   You never know, we may see a rise in the demand of very basic phones. And:

’Nuff said.

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Posted in internet, politics, technology, UK | 1 Comment »


Huawei without Google: isn’t that a good thing?

21.05.2019

I see Google’s going to stop supporting Huawei as a developer. How is this a bad thing?
   First, Huawei can still get the public parts of Android, since they’re open-source. Secondly, if they don’t get updates ahead of time, so what? When have western software companies rolled out bug-free updates? Based on my own experience, Chinese cellphone developers make stuff that just works, and I’m inclined to trust them more these days.
   Thirdly, no one needs all that Google crap anyway: I always said that if it disappeared overnight, we’d all find replacements within a week. Now Huawei has to—in fact, it already has them.
   Anyone who owns a Chinese phone made for the Chinese market already knows that they have their own app stores. Why do you actually need YouTube through an app when you can browse to the website? Maybe Huawei will do a tiny YouTube app that only surfs to their site for those keen on getting into the Google snooping network. Is a Gmail app really a must if you can set up your phone really easily as an email client to pull from Gmail? As to maps, I’ve been using Here Maps since I’ve had my Meizu M2 Note in 2016, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s more than adequate. Recently I found they had maps of the Chatham Islands when the cars’ sat-nav didn’t.
   All Huawei really needs to do is roll out its own app store to its western phones with decent enough translations, and make sure it’s updated with the APKs.
   I have a better Meizu weather app on my phone than anything I’ve ever found on Google, and I’m sure Huawei has its version.
   I owned a Huawei phone many years ago, although it was from my telco and I never had it rooted. It came with a suite of battery-draining Google junk, including services that you could switch off only to have them restart; but when I was able to get a Google-free phone, I’ve never looked back. When that phone was replaced, I made sure the next one was Google-free as well.
   What’s going to happen is that Google and the US will lose out as Huawei might find itself zooming ahead with a superior app store, and its own developments may outpace the Americans’.
   Corporate America may be patting itself on the back, and their president may think he was doing their bidding, but I think they’ll find themselves weakened.

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A more honest computing glossary

26.10.2018

Since (mostly) leaving Facebook, and cutting down on Twitter, I’ve come to realize the extent of how outdated traditional computing definitions have become. To help those who need to get up to speed, I’ve compiled a few technobabble words and translated them into normal English.

app: in many cases, an extremely limited web browser for your cellphone that only works with one site, as opposed to a proper web browser that works with many sites.

bots: fake, computer-driven profiles masquerading as real humans on, predominantly, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

clean install: something entirely unnecessary, but suggested by tech support people who want to cover up buggy operating systems (q.v. Windows 10).

cloud: hackable online repository of naughty photos of celebrities.

comments’ section: when you see this while surfing, it’s a reminder to leave the web page you are on and make up your own mind.

Facebook: a website where bots live, where post-sharing is intentionally broken to ensure you need to pay for attention. Once paid, your posts are shared with bots, so even fewer humans actually see them.

Facebook friend: (a) a friend; (b) a total stranger; (c) a bot.

Google: (a) a virtual hole into which you dump all your private information, to be sold on to corporations, but feel good doing it because you gave it up to a private company to use against you rather than have the state take it to use against you; (b) a cult that supports (a), whose members will think you have a degenerative brain disease if you dare question the perfection of their god.

malware scanner: malware (especially when offered by Facebook, q.v.).

messenger app: an inefficient messaging program where typing takes 10 times as long as on a desktop or laptop computer. Designed to dissuade you from actually calling the person.

phone: portable computing device, not used to make calls.

remote desktop: when your operating system fails, and the odds of you seeing your familiar screen are remote.

social media: media where people are antisocial.

Twitter: (a) social media with no discernible rules on who gets kicked off and why; (b) where the US president gets angry.

white balance: when racists attack people of colour but pretend they are noble and against racism.

Weibo: a website monitored by the Chinese Communist Party, where users have more freedom than on Facebook and Twitter.

Windows 10: a buggy operating system that requires 10 goes at any updates or patches, hence the name.

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Posted in culture, humour, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »