September 2006 Archives

A Cunning Plan


What is the best way of tackling the influx of pregnant mainlanders?

The main reason mainlanders come to Hong Kong to give birth is for the residency that the baby will receive.

Therefore the most effective solution to this issue would be to end Hong Kong's status as a special administrative region, giving everyone a Chinese passport (since we are all Chinese anyway).

Then I'll bet no non-locals would come to Hong Kong to give birth.

Joseph Xie, Tin Hau

I do believe that this may be one of the stupidest letters I've seen in the SCMP.

To deal with what is at most a very small problem, we should destroy everything which makes Hong Kong more than just another city in China. We should get rid of the Rule of Law, our honest police force, our uncensored access to information, our simple tax regime, our status as a world city (no matter how tenuous it is) and just become Shenzen's southern suburb. A filthy, crime-ridden, corrupt cesspool with blocked news channels, justice for money and hideously deformed beggars on the streets.

We should not be able to trust the taxi drivers, and our kindergartens should be fortresses constantly in fear of being robbed. We should all have to leave some small amount of cash on the living room table, so the burglars will take that and not cut our throats.

Also, note Xie's racism in denying that non-Chinese can live in Hong Kong. It's a repeat of the "Sod Off Gweilo" message you hear from time to time, as some deluded idiot thinks that Hong Kong would have been exactly the same city if it had never left China.

From his name, Xie is obviously a mainlander living in Hong Kong. Why live here, Mr Xie? Why not live in one of those Mainland cities of which you think Hong Kong should be one? Why not live somewhere you can be arrested for no reason, or killed so that your organs can be sold?

Six weeks with Core 2 Duo


at the start of August, I upgraded my linux workstation to a Core 2 Duo system. One of the reasons I went with Core 2 Duo was the fact that it's supposed to run much cooler, and consume less power than other CPUs.

Attachment and retention of the heatsink is difficult. for a long time my CPU was idling at 42.5°C, which dropped to 36°C with a replacement heatsink, although in the process of fitting this, I noticed that the stock heatsink had become loose. The trick seems to be to turn the little retaining clips fully clockwise before you position the heatsink and push down on diagonally opposing pegs until you hear a click.

The chip is advertised with a voltage range from 0.8 to 1.3v, but in practice it never goes below 1.14v. Also, the frequency never drops below 1.6Ghz, from the maximum of 1.86Ghz. This seems like a very small drop. An AMD64 chip in another system here goes from 1.8Ghz (1.4v) to 1.0Ghz (1.1v), so a much greater drop (and a much greater saving in power obviously).

Under load, (two instances of the gimps torture test for one hour), the temperature of the CPU reached 42°C. When I was down in Brisbane last year with a render farm of 3.60 Ghz Pentium 4's, they would hit 60°C at full load in an air-conditioned office. That's about 35° above the ambient temp. This Core 2 Duo chip at full load is 16°C above the ambient temp. That's pretty impressive. What was even more impressive was that, when that test was going on, with both CPUs at 100%, I could browse the internet as normal and didn't really notice and slowdown at all. This may be more due to the highly pre-emptive kernel I run though. Plus I run Linux not Windows, and it's a little better about multiple CPUs.

To put this into perspective, the thermal envelope seems to be about the same as for a pair of 1Ghz PIII processors, but with far less electricity consumed and nearly twice the processor speed. The idling temperature is about the same and the max load temperature is the same.

Talk like a pirate day!


Arrrrr mateys, it be talk like a pirate day today! Shiver my timbers, splice me mainbrace and bittorrent my movies!

Yo ho ho and a small rum'n'coke.

Tax oddities

| | Comments (2)

From this morning's SCMP:

The issue of spreading the tax base is a valid one. I should know. As a member of the professional middle class, I have to hand over about four months' pay in salaries tax every January. However, I must disagree with the financial secretary and the chief executive on the introduction of a GST. It is a horrendous tax to implement, and costly at that. This cost will be passed on to the consumer on top of the proposed 5 per cent tax; driving up inflationary pressure, pushing up interest rates and causing a slowdown in the economy.

Why not levy a flat 5 per cent tax on dividend income instead? It would be easy and cheap to administer at source and, more to the point, it would be more equitable, with those lucky enough to have spare cash to play the stock market paying their way.


I pretty much agree with his sentiment here: GST is a useless proposal which will do more harm than good, and seems like exactly the sort of braindead and moronic proposal we could do perfectly well without here in Hong Kong.

I've highlighted one part in Mr. Newman's letter above and that's what I'm going to kvetch about. Four month's pay is one third or 33%. The maximum tax rate in Hong Kong is about 16% (IRD Tax calculator.) How on earth can you pay twice that?

Assuming that Mr. Newman earns 10 million HK$ per year (and has no wife, mortgage, kids or other allowances, he'll only pay 16% of that in tax.

Assuming that Mr Newman makes H$600,000 per year (HK$60,000 per month, a pretty respectable middle professional salary), is married (wife doesn't work) and has two kids and a mortgage ($100,000 interest), he'd pay HK$31,300 per year, or 5.2%. (This doesn't include his retirement fund, which is also tax deductible.) Plus, he could go on a course, have an aged relative dependent, have more kids, give money to charity, etc, all of which would lower his total tax bill.

Now I know there's this annoying thing called provisional tax where you're supposed to pay next years salaries tax in advance, but you only ever get stung for two years at a time once.

I suggest you have serious words with your HR department, Mr Newman. The return they're submitting to the IRD is twice your salary if you have to pay 33% tax. Salaries tax is pretty cut and dried here.

Fedora Core 5 - updating bind


If you're having problems updating bind to version 9.3.2-33.fc5 because of a missing bind-config-9.3.2-33.fc5.rpm file, the following steps will sort you out.

  1. yum remove bind-config

That'll remove evolution as well, which is a dependency for some odd reason. You can't reinstall it. This seems like some major breakage on Redhat's part. Why should the bind-config utility be a dependency for Evolution?

Oh No!


Lemmings in your browser!



I think we just had an earthquake! 19:55 local time. There was a distinct tremor and kids looked scared. It lasted a few seconds.

UPDATE: Yep, it's official, we had a 3.5 (on the Richter scale): Minor temblor shakes HK.

The HK Observatory hasn't updated it's list yet: HKO: list of locally felt tremors since 1979.



Apple is in your [den | living room | car | pocket ] (plus bathroom, if you look at the iCarta iPod holder). What's missing? Your workplace.

My prediction: the next serious Apple push is showing Parallels running those things you needed Windows for. Games, Bespoke Software, etc:

PC: "Hi, I'm a PC."

MAC: "And I'm a Mac."

PC: "Why are you wearing a boiler suit?"

MAC: "Well, I've been able to do office stuff for years, but now I can run the software intended for PCs only, like power station control, industrial robot operations, that sort of thing."

(An army of car building robots form up behind Mac, obviously under his complete control and loom...)

MAC: "We were thinking of calling this Skynet."

(PC is wearing a colander on his head and looks terrified.)

(Massive robots suddenly become cool in apple anodized aluminium with iPod Nano colours.)

MAC: "But in the end we just went with Parallels."

(Robots do cool stuff. With kids. And little fluffy wabbits. PC tries to hide the bottle of Wild Turkey he's been slurping from.)

Seriously, this iTV box looks awesome. You want to show people your holiday slides? On your TV in the living room. Browsing through movie trailers on your home cinema? I bet plenty of people would buy it just for that. Have all your music on shuffle for dinner parties? I've actually been tempted to station the Mac Mini in the living room to do just that, so a little box which puts all your media on the big screen in the living room would be just the ticket.

There is one thing I'm not sure about though: 640x480 is fine in a small window on your ipod or a laptop, but on a large flatscreen TV, you'll see just how low that resolution is. HDTV screens are *minimum* 800x600 and I've seen a lot of 1366x768, and 1440x900 screens here recently. And there are the new Sharp TVs which are 3.15 Megapixel displays. (That's 30" Apple Cinema resolution: 2560x1024.)

You know what 640x480 looks like on that? Crap, that's what. Pixels the size of your thumb. It'll look like a bootleg VCD.

Apple aren't stupid. Jobs couldn't quite hide the catch in his voice when he said 'near DVD quality', and there are already HDTV downloads from the Quicktime trailers site, so I'm expecting higher resolution downloads very soon. Probably just after the iTV comes out. "You've already bought the movie, so you can re-download it at the resolution of the device you want to watch it on."

But there's one big thing I want to know: right now, I can rip my own music to iTunes and then I could (with this new iTV) play it in the living room. Could I rip Movies I already have on DVD (or VCD) and play them via the iTV? The kids want to watch Madagascar? Sure — there's the Front Row Remote. No more DVDs to wear out, or DVD players to break. (Or devices with slots to have toast and postcards inserted.)

Nope. I just popped in Ghost in the Shell, and it was played with no option to rip it. An Audio CD was automatically ripped.

One more thing...

I'm sure the free download of album cover art is nice, but it's restricted to places where the iTunes Music Store is supported, which means not Hong Kong. Bummer.

Five years on


Five years ago yesterday evening, I wandered into the bedroom to turn on the TV. I can't remember now exactly what show I was expecting to watch: perhaps ER, the X-Files or The Fugitive. When greeted with the sight of the WTC on fire, I thought it must have been some attempt at Reality TV, like COPS or something. "This looks really real", I thought, "Hats off to the SFX guys."

I wandered out to the living room to, perhaps to get a beer or to see why the Mah-Jongg game had gone quiet. Four Chinese ladies frozen in the act of playing Mah-Jongg and staring at the TV indicates that an event of world-shattering proportions has occurred. I glanced at the TV showing one of the Cantonese channels, expecting to see some pop star coming out as gay, or something of that nature, but it was the same picture as on the English channels, just with a commentator shouting about airplanes, fire, and America. (There was more, but my Cantonese wasn't up to it.)

I went back to my office and started checking the news. *Nothing* was resolving. Every news website I knew was swamped. This was before I had broadband, so slow responses were to be expected, but not *nothing*.

Back in front of the TV, I flicked from channel to channel. Death and Destruction. Death and Destruction. Death and Destruction. Horse Racing. What? ATV World were still showing the horseracing from somewhere, with two frantic Aussies trying to squeeze in what news they could between the races.

September 11, 2001


About five years ago today, some members of a group which used to be funded by the CIA to throw the Soviets of of Afghanistan were sitting in their cave[1] watching the unfolding events on CNN. As the WTC towers went down, there must have been cheers and shouts of "Allah hu Akhbar!", etc.

And after the cheering? Well, I fancy it went a little like this...

(Note: translated from Arabic to English or thereabouts.)

[Osama]: "Now Lads, Calm down! Calm down! We should all be like Abdullah over there and pray that our mission went well, like. Abdullah, lead us in your prayers!"

[Abdullah]: "Ohshitohshitohshit, we're all gonna die ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod... Uh what Osama?"

[Osama]: "Weren't you prayin' like?"

[Abdullah]: "Sort of. I mean, we're all dead men right now, right? We've just bloodied the nose of the great Satan and they'll stop at nothing to avenge this deed. Their 'special forces' will hide under rocks in the desert eating nothing but stones and scorpions just waiting for one of us to pass by. They'll invade the countries our brave martyrs came from and punish everyone there for this action. We have brought destruction on our Women and Children!"

[Osama] Thinks for a moment: "You're right! There's only one way that any of us will be alive this time five years from now."

[All]: "What's that?"

[Osama]: We need Allah to turn all the leaders of the Great Satan into idiots. You know, make them invade Afghanistan in a half hearted fashion, refuse to take action against Saudi Arabia and Egypt (where most of our martyrs came from), then invade a country which we all hate (and which isn't even Islamic!)...

[All]: "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest Saddam's armpits!"

[Osama}: "...with not enough troops to do the job properly. Then they should attempt to win Arab hearts and minds by torturing ordinary Arabs, thus radicalizing them and winning us more converts. Also, we should pray that all of their most senior officers should be such a bunch of religious extremists that even we in Al-Qaeda would be embarrassed to know them, and that almost their entire army should behave in such a way as to make even the lesser Satans hate them."

[Abdullah]: "Bloody hell, Osama, I mean, God is great and all, but isn't that asking for a lot?"

[Osama]: "Well, It's a million to one shot, but it just might work. RIght lads, five minutes to wash up, then I want to see you all back here on your knees praying to God that they American President is a moron.

(or the Islamabad Hilton)

New iMacs and Mac-Mini


So, the new iMacs are here: Conroe (or "Core 2 Duo" if you're not keeping up with the Inside Baseball), bigger screens (up to 24") and Nvidia graphics.

The slight uptick in processor speeds is more important that it looks: the Conroe chip runs cooler and faster than the Yonah chip (Core Duo) it replaces. It's also 64-bit, and this will be a big selling point for Apple when OSX 10.5 Leopard is released next year.

That enormous 24" screen (1900x1200) is presumably a close relative of the Apple 23" Cinema Display and as such is lust-inducing all by itself.

If I didn't already have monitors (and other computers I use with those monitors, I'd be very tempted to buy one, but what I really want is the same specification sans screen. A sort of iMac Mini.

There's this huge gap in Apple's model range between the two headless systems, the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro, and yes the iMac does fit into the gap on the basis of its specification, it also comes with a huge monitor, which you then can't use if you upgrade to a more powerful Mac Pro.

Maybe if Apple just put a DVI-in socket on the iMac, so that you can use the monitor from an external source...

The Mac Mini also received a slight upgrade, with an all dual core line up (Yonah, not Conroe) but still 32-bit and with no improvement in the integrated graphics. Nice, but I think there'll be an upgrade to the 64-bit chip before Leopard comes out, and probably better integrated graphics.

Dodgy Linksys

| | Comments (2)

You may not have noticed it last week, but my primary router — an elderly Linksys BESFR41 — popped it's clogs and stopped working reliably.

It was hardly surprising, as the little blue beasty had been in service 24x7 for the last almost 5 years since I got broadband in 2001. 5 years of service for an outlay of about HK$400? Not bad.

I've replaced it with the wireless BEFW11S4 unit I've had (I prefer to keep the wireless traffic on a separate VLAN, so that none of the neighbours can be a spammer on my dime.), but that thing is appallingly unreliable. It needs a power cycle every one or two days!

Anyone still running Win95 would probably be impressed by that, but involuntary reboots are not something I like to see here, in the rack with Linux, Mac OSX and my Palm. (OK, there's a WinXP box as well, but I haven't turned it on since I finished playing Half Life 2: Episode 1.)

Currently the Linux box has 17 days up time (mainly because I rebuilt it), and the Mac is on 20 days, which is probably after the last major update from Apple.

Also, my job can take me away from home for weeks if not months at a time, so I want to have something reliable keeping my mail-server and websites on the internet.

I'm considering a Linksys WRT54GL with OpenWRT firmware. Does my imaginary reader have any experience of that combination?

PT Demands


Recently, there was an article in the SCMP concerning an upgrade in the frequency on the Tung Chung Line (TCL), not due to increased demand, but due to increased demands from travellers. They felt that the eight minute headway on the TCL was too long.

(Also see: Tung Chung Line Train Service Enhancement.)

MTRC responded by promising to buy enough additional rolling stock to go to four minute headways during the peaks, but opined that passengers only used the centre of the trains in any case, the part near the escalators.

So why doesn't the MTR just shorten the trains from eight to six carriages to cover the bits near the escalators and provide the more frequent services without buying new rolling stock? One eight train car per eight minutes or two six train cars per eight minutes. This would require some extra drivers, but drivers are a very small fraction of the cost of operating a rail line.

Failures of Comprehension


From the SCMP a few days ago:

As compensation to build the potentially money-losing extension in Kennedy Town, the MTR Corp wants to get the police quarters in Ka Wai Man Road - a premium sea view parcel of land with a potential income of HK$6 billion. That is a whopping profit.

Wait a minute; the MTR Corp is a listed company and decisions should be based on business logic.

If it is not profitable, why build the extension? I don't see any reason why we would give the rail operator such a precious parcel of land. If the government auctioned the land, the Treasury would pocket almost HK$3 billion. This money belongs to Hong Kong people and should never be a gift to anyone.

It is just not right from the citizens' view. It is also wrong to subsidise any project and not follow a business logic in business operations. It's like a telephone company asking the government for a large gift so it would extend its phone lines 3km further. What a joke!

Inde Au, Wan Chai

You'd think that experience would help quell the fanatics of the Church of Privatisation. But, even after the disaster that British Railways became, some people still think that every enterprise would be magically better off in private hands, or where a bunch of shareholders can demand short term profits.

Railways don't make a short term profit. Railways make it possible for the businesses they serve to make money by allowing workers to get to work, allowing shoppers to get to shops, even allowing transportation of goods and products (although that's on a relatively small scale in HK).

Urban Railways, when operated as a business by themselves, are extremely unlikely to be profitable. Even in Hong Kong, where the city is small and densely packed, car ownership is low, and there's a fully integrated fare system, the railway does not make money.

Or maybe it does, if you look at it right. With greater access to the Central Business District and the suburbs, it is easier for people to move around and get to work. This greater flexibility means that workers can travel from further away to the CBD and increase the productivity thereof. (Imagine if you had to have a parking space for every office worker in Central...)

This greater productivity leads to (hopefully) greater profits, which leads to larger tax revenues which would lead to greater profits for the largest shareholder of the MTR, HK SAR Govmn't.

So The MTR *is* acting for the financial benefit of it's major shareholder, HK Gov't. By increasing the mobility of HKers, MTR increases the ability of people to find work, consume products or in other ways prop up the economy.



Sad news this morning: Steve Irwin is dead. Killed by a stingray while diving.

Embedded Linux


There's a port of the excellent GKRellm system monitoring to the Linksys WRT54G!

Monitor your WRT54G with GKrellM

Metro Systems


When you consider that I make my living at being a transport geek, it is humbling that I have only ridden 3 of the systems shown here:

So what about systems I have modelled?

Plus some that aren't on that list, like Hong Kong Tram, KCR Light Rail, HK Airport Express, Brisbane rail, and Melbourne rail.

found on pnh's live journal.

More gibberings

| | Comments (2)

From this morning's SCMP:

Falun Gong are pests

Falun Gong occupies considerable space at the Star Ferry piers every day, playing videos and uses loudhailers to protest against the central government. This nuisance causes great inconvenience to passengers.

The group is clearly abusing its right to freedom of expression. Members have had their say for more than four years now. It is time their demonstrations were banned. This noisy nuisance must stop.


Yes Anna, we should completely cave into Beijing and destroy what little is left of "One Country, Two Systems" just so you don't have to put up with nuisance. Nice of you to take the long-term view.

UPDATE: As I said in the comments the FLG tendency to use 'torture porn' — graphic illustrations of the tortures allegedly inflicted upon their members by the Chinese Central government — is extremely upsetting and should really not be exposed to minors. The only way to prohibit the display of this material would be declare images of tortured and dead humans to be obscene. This would kill the circulation of the local tabloids, and, as that sort of legislation would make some tycoons lose money, it will never happen in this town.

The FLG are a cult, and they exploit the gullible and weak. In this, they are no better or worse than other cults, like Moonies and Mormons. They do have one good point, in that they expose the entrenched inhumanity of the Chinese Central Government, and for that they must be tolerated.

To the Fedora Core Dev Team


Dudes, please look at the following two links:

and please explain why you thought moving something as vital to Unix Standards Compliance as fortune was necessary?


$ ln -s /usr/bin/fortune /usr/games/fortune

$ /usr/games/fortune

Flame on!

-- Johnny Storm

Godsdammit, where is my green and white stripey paper Konsole?

Bangkok Thai


on the advice of a Thai friend, we decided to go have dinner in the new Bangkok Thai restaurant in Causeway Bay a few weeks ago. This restaurant was recently opened, but is part of a larger chain, so we were expecting decent Thai food.

Inside, it looks the part of an upmarket Thai restaurant - pictures of the King, elephants, etc. (There's probably a kit, like you get with the Oirish Pubs.) It's very busy, and one or two of the staff are Thai, so we're getting the 'good restaurant' vibe.

Alas, it was downhill from there. rozen, small shrimp in the Tom Yum soup, poor quality ingredients, appalingly slow service — the rice crackers we were given were the high point of the meal, and had to last us for what seemed like hours until our food arrived. Pathetic.

To add insult to injury, we were charged more than we would have been charged in Tom Yum's in Wanchai, a very fine Thai Restaurant on Hennessy Road.

Final Verdict: Danger Will Robinson, Danger! Ahooga! Ahooga! Avoid the entire chain!

About Me


  • Unsolicited Bulk Email (spam), commercial solicitations, SEO related items, link exchange requests, and abuse are not welcome here and will result in complaints to your ISP.
  • Any email to the above address may be made public at the sole discretion of the recipient.

Other Stuff

  • Powered by Linux
  • (RedHat Linux)


Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2006 is the previous archive.

October 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.