Posts tagged ‘New Zealand’


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

26.05.2022

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing | No Comments »


Hopefully this week: farewell, Amazon Web Services

10.04.2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


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

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

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

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

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

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

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

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

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

10.01.2022

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

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

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

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


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

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January 2022 gallery

01.01.2022

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


 

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

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Posted in cars, gallery, humour, interests, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Don’t put your events on just Facebook—they won’t be seen

31.12.2021

We’re probably far enough along from the event for people not to know which one I am referring to, as I’ve no wish to embarrass the organizers.
   Earlier in 2021, we saw a weekend event that would take place at the ‘Johnsonville Community Hub’. No address was given other than that. Both Duck Duck Go and Google seemed to think this meant Waitohi, the new library and swimming pool complex.
   We arrived there to find that no one knew of this event, but maybe we could try the community hall next door?
   No joy.
   There was the Collective Community Hub on Johnsonville Road but their website made it clear that it wasn’t open at the weekend.
   We hung round Johnsonville for a bit and decided we would check out the Collective place, just to see it up close.
   Sure enough, that’s where the event was—it was open at the weekend—and we got there after everyone had packed up.
   They were very apologetic and we told them the above. They had noted, however, that there had been more information on Facebook.
   To me, that’s a big mistake, because I don’t know what their Facebook page is, and even if I did, there was no guarantee I would see it for a variety of reasons. (Try loading any fan page on Facebook on mobile: the posts take unbearably long and few people would have the patience.) A search for the event on both Duck Duck Go and Google never showed a Facebook page, either.
   A similar event posted its cancellation on Facebook exclusively, something which we didn’t know till we got there, and after getting puzzled looks from the party that had booked the venue, I randomly found one organizer’s page and clicked on his Facebook link. Again, nothing about the event itself came up on Duck Duck Go or on Google.
   In the latter case, the organizer had the skills to make a web page, a normal one, so was it so hard to put the cancellation there?
   You just can’t find things on Facebook. They don’t appear to be indexed. And if they are, they’re probably so far down the results’ pages that they won’t be seen. If you’re organizing an event, by all means, post there to those who use Facebook keenly (a much smaller number than you think, with engagement decreasing year after year), but it is no substitute for getting it into properly indexed event calendars or on to the web, where regular people will put in search terms and look for it.
   Facebook is not the internet. Thank God.

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


Ingredients of leadership

17.12.2021

My friend Sarah Jane Adams is undertaking research on leadership and asked for what people thought being a good leader meant. Here are 10 that I gave her on her Linkedin. They are in no order and are the first 10 things that popped into my head. Not saying I’ve managed to do all of them consistently, but I try.

Recognize every individual for who they are and what they bring to the table.

Acknowledge your own limitations.

Don’t assign someone something you aren’t prepared to do yourself if you were in their shoes.

Work with people who can think beyond themselves and who can look at the bigger picture.

Communicate clearly and succinctly. Jargon is for losers.

If you have a good team, being transparent with them is a good thing.

Do not put up with anyone who thinks they can hold you to ransom or to hold up your work. Replace the buggers.

Are you instilling love or fear? If it’s the latter, you haven’t led.

Do what you love. It’s easier to lead when you do.

And don’t be a dick.

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Lucire’s Twitter account is back

17.12.2021

I can’t yet reveal why, but I’ve come across the work of Hong Kong-trained and based designer Caroline Li, and it’s really good. She’s done a lot of book covers, and I know first-hand how hard it is to have a small canvas to work from. Maybe I’m just used to magazines. Check out her work here.

After nearly two months, Lucire’s Twitter account has been restored.
   Earlier in the week, they had requested—again—that I upload my ID to prove that I was who I said I was, despite this having been done countless times already in the past two months.
   Today, I received another ‘it appears that this issue may have been resolved.’ I had my doubts and was about to send them a reply giving them a piece of my mind, but I checked, and sure enough, Lucire’s account was back.
   I don’t know if my letter to Twitter New Zealand Ltd.’s directors, via their lawyers, did the trick, or whether my private information finally reached someone literate with reasonable intelligence.
   I gave the lawyers till today (the 17th) to respond, though the timing of the resolution could be a coincidence.
   It showed just how terrible Twitter’s systems have been and how right I was to call the entire process farcical.
   To think that Facebook did better when Lucire’s Instagram was deactivated, and we were only out for a week. And I have had plenty to say about Facebook over the years, as you all know.
   It’s a shame that we never got to play with Zoho Social’s premium version trial with all our social media accounts intact. I just hope that now that we’ve reactivated all our gadgets (IFTTT, Dlvr.it, etc.), that they work as they once did. (As they certainly didn’t when we used our temporary @luciremagazine account on Twitter.)

When I was waiting for my new phone to arrive, I didn’t know what all the DHL status updates meant. I looked online to see if I could get a clue as to how long each stage took, especially the “last mile” delivery. There were very few screenshots or public traces. Here’s the trace from my package in case it helps someone else the same boat. (Vivaldi put the DHL website header near the bottom when I made the screenshot.)

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Posted in business, China, design, Hong Kong, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


Some surprises on day one with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G

07.12.2021



Top: Decent enough specs for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G. Above: Very respectable download speeds (in the header) as the phone updates 71 apps.

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G is here, and it’s proved better than the reviews suggested.
   First up, kudos to the seller, YouGeek on Aliexpress, who not only double-checked to see that I wanted the Chinese version, but was considerate enough to send me, without any prompting, a New Zealand power adapter. The wrapping was the most secure I’ve ever seen from any Aliexpress vendor, like a hefty transparent Michelin man.
   DHL did the delivery two days ahead of schedule, which pleased me no end.
   The phone itself surprised me. I imagined 6·53 inches would be too big and 199 g too heavy, but neither has come to pass. It’s marginally taller than the outgoing Meizus but not ridiculously so, and as I have large hands, the width is fine. I haven’t noticed the weight increase, either.
   The blue finish, which isn’t available on the export Note 9T 5G, is probably the best colour of the three on offer, and frankly I don’t care if the back is plastic or metal. As long as it keeps the bits inside, it’s fine.
   What also isn’t on offer for export is precisely these specs: MediaTek Dimensity 800U running at a maximum of 2·4 GHz, 6 Gbyte of RAM, and 128 Gbyte of internal storage. The model code is M2007J22C.
   Other surprises: it’s Android 11 (security update, October 1, 2021) running MIUI 12·5. Now, whether it was straight out of the box, I can’t swear to, since it prompted me to do an update not too long after I switched on and logged in.
   It did try to get me to give a voice print to unlock its features by saying four Chinese words. Naturally I said them, but it seems Xiaomi doesn’t recognize Cantonese! The fingerprint scanner wasn’t that easy to set up—it took numerous attempts before it recognized my finger—but I got there, and now it’s programmed, the home screen does launch quickly.
   The first order of business was to take myself off ad personalization (so easy, they even take you to the screen during set-up), then download Bromite as the browser, to stop using the clumsy default; and replace Sogou keyboard with Microsoft Swiftkey. The rest was getting the apps to mirror the old phones’, which was pretty simple thanks to various APK sites such as APK Pure. The only one that did not function at all (a blank screen after the logo) was Instagram, but you expect Facebook, Inc. products to be buggy. An Uptodown download of a version from June 2021 solved that.
   Despite what other reviewers found, I discovered that the watermark on the photos was switched off by default. I’ve seen the grand total of one advertisement on the default apps, so the notion that Xiaomi is heavily ad-driven doesn’t seem to be the case with mine. There is a possibility that the combination of Chinese spec, English language, and a New Zealand IP address isn’t one that advertisers want to reach. There are far fewer app notifications than I got on the Meizus.
   After updating the OS, there were 71 apps that also needed the same treatment. Those came down at lightning speeds, even on wifi, at over 20 Mbyte/s.
   I’ve synced my messages, call logs and contacts, though surprisingly the phone could not work out that the New Zealand 02 numbers were the same as +64 2, and those had to be manually added. The old Meizu M2 Note had no such trouble back in 2016.
   The default typeface choice in MIUI is much easier on the eyes than the default Android fonts.
   Interestingly, the default music player here also fails to pick up local music on an SD card, rendering it useless, much like Meizu’s (are they copying one another, to have the same bug?). Once again, it was InShot’s Music Player to the rescue, and it works fine here. Sadly, I do have to relink a lot of the album covers.
   Screenshots aren’t as intuitive, as the volume control invariably appears if you do the power–volume switches’ combination, but a screenshot feature in the pull-down menu does the job.
   The battery life is interesting, as I’ve used it for about six hours since it was charged up to 100 per cent, and it fell to 65 per cent in that time. That tells me the 5,000 mAh is good for 18 hours of sustained usage, which included setting up, Bluetooth-linking it to the car and the M2 Note, running apps, using Here Maps for some navigation, and using some mobile data. I haven’t viewed any videos yet, and I don’t play any games. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a more regular day: earlier reviews had led me to believe it could last over a day. I’m sure it can without the heavy use I’ve put it through in its first six hours.
   I understand that with the pace of change in China, this phone, launched this week one year ago, is already obsolete, but as far as I’m concerned, I hope I’m future-proofed for another six years—that’s how long the M2 lasted before things like its short battery life and inability to receive some calls became an issue. (And this was despite the M6 Note having come into service from 2018 with a short break to get serviced at PB.) It’s been a very pleasing first six hours, without the stress of having to put on a Chinese OS myself, and continuing to be Google-free.

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Posted in China, design, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »