July 2007 Archives

links for 2007-07-31


links for 2007-07-29


New iMac Keyboard


You know, I'm kind of hoping that this is real, because I'm getting pretty fed up with the way this Microsoft Natural Keyboard takes over the desk, and I really like my MacBook keyboard.

links for 2007-07-27


Research health impact of Wi-fi


Research health impact of Wi-fi

Some people believe that Wi-fi enables people to access the internet conveniently and more economically.

The MTR Corporation (SEHK: 0066) is installing a Wi-fi network so that passengers can access the internet on its underground trains. The government proposes installing such networks in public places.

However, in Britain, some people have expressed concerns about the safety aspects of Wi-fi, fearing it could have an adverse impact on children. I would like to see the government in Hong Kong conducting extensive research and launching some pilot projects, before there is any widespread expansion of these networks.

Until we are confident that Wi-fi does not pose a risk, we should not be promoting this technology.

Eddie Lau, Sheung Shui

Sure, there are people in England who believe that WiFi is evil radiation which will fry your brain. These people, who clearly are not at home to scientific thinking, are being conned by charlatans who also sell products which will protect you.

See also: Phone Mast Allergy 'in the mind'.

links for 2007-07-24


links for 2007-07-23


links for 2007-07-22


links for 2007-07-21


links for 2007-07-20


links for 2007-07-19


A note on spoilers


When such an eagerly awaited item as the final Harry Potter book is about to be released, it is pretty bad form to give away the ending without some sort of spoiler warning.

Thanks to some unexpected travel, I won't be able to get to my pre-ordered copy until one week after the book is released, so I'd appreciate it if the entire Inter-tubes could stop trying to give away the ending, OK?

Of course, knowing my luck, every single website, blog and newspaper in my RSS feed will be screeching "HERMIONE EATEN BY GRUE!!11!! OMGWTFBBQ!!!" on Saturday morning...

UPDATE: One of the presenters on Triple-M this morning was reading out sections of one of the leaked versions. Gah!

Disney's piracy not fit for HK

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Disney's piracy not fit for HK

On a recent visit with my daughters to Hong Kong Disneyland, I came across the "Pirates" promotion.

I remember reading, when Disneyland was being built, that there would be no pirate attractions, out of respect for the fact that piracy was, in this part of the world, a real concern. But this seems to have been put aside for the sake of bumping up the gross take of Disney's latest Johnny Depp vehicle, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

I took my children to see the movie and found it appallingly inappropriate. The violence was over the top and I walked out.

I will forgive Disney this once, especially since they are going to have their first African American princess, The Frog Princess, set in New Orleans, but please don't do it again.

Joy Kingan, Discovery Bay

Where to begin? For a start, the movie was rated as a category IIa movie in Hong Kong (PG13 in the US), which indicates that parental guidance was required, and specifically that explicit violence may be present. (From: Hong Kong Movie Ratings on Wikipedia.)

Ms. Kingan could have checked out the trailer: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End to decide if the movie was suitable for children. ("Scary but cool", say my kids.)

Or she could've used her common sense! It's not like the Pirates series is an unknown quantity or a movie marketed in some stealth fashion, where no one knows what it's about. The opening shots of the first movie have dead bodies, for heaven's sake! How on earth can you be ignorant of the likely content of the movie?

(Aside: Ms Kingan's essay (I presume it's the same Joy Kingan) Where's the Backwater now? is a curious essay - does Shanghai really have better urban planning than Vancouver? Is the PRC government really doing more to counter climate change than many western governments?)

links for 2007-07-16


links for 2007-07-15


links for 2007-07-14


links for 2007-07-13


links for 2007-07-12


links for 2007-07-11


links for 2007-07-09


links for 2007-07-08


Walking in Soho


I've been in Hong Kong for ten years now, and sometimes I tend to take it for granted. Lately I've been basically commuting between Brisbane and Hong Kong. My few weeks at home[1] tend to be spent with family and running some quick errands before heading back downunder.

Today, I wanted to see parts of HK I hadn't been in for a long time. So I went up to Mid-Levels. Really. I'm not yer standard corporate expat, with a company supplied flat. I live in North Point and scratch a living as a small businessman. A night out with the missus is usually a few happy-hour beers in Wanchai and Thai-food in one of the Dai Pai Dongs in the back streets of Wanchai.

My great-uncle (Suk-Gong for you Chinese Speakers) has a stall in the Peel Street market, so we go there frequently to meet that part of the family. As we were leaving there yesterday by taxi, we saw all these new restaurants and pubs. Normally, we'd walk down the hill and take the bus or MTR. (Or tram, if the scratching a living part isn't going too well). So today I went back to look around the area.

There was a time when I used to be around Lan Kwai Fong quite a bit. Back when the F-Stop was going, I was a regular, because of the bands. The Fringe club was always interesting, and if you were really hammered you could sing a few verses of "Let's all gob on Maggie" in Hardy's before the Black Watch kicked your head in.

That was some time ago (and the PLA don't go around picking fights in any bar I've ever been in, so that's one positive thing about the last 10 years) .

But anyway, back to Soho (the area South of Hollywood Road), which is a maze of narrow streets above the Central Business District of Hong Kong, but below the main residential blocks of the Mid-Levels. It's also a maze of little restaurants and pubs. It reminded me of certain parts of Paris or London, although it's a lot more vertical than either. Very pleasant, apart from being a lot of hard work to clamber up the vertical streets.

I have cousins who live up in that part of the world, and it certainly seems like a pleasant place to live, if you like to eat well and have a good time. (Of course, none of them do. They pay exorbitant mortgages for shoeboxes to live in a place with lifestyle they don't like. They'd be happier living like us in a larger flat which is a shorter walk from Chiu-Chow food and a short minibus ride from the place where the fishermen sell their catch in the early mornings. [There is really nothing like buying your day's fish fresh off the trawler from the South China Sea.])

It was quite weird walking through Hong Kong with lots of Europeans around. And most weren't even tourists! Very odd. I had to remember to day "excuse me, pardon, comin' through!", with the occasional "Yo!" for the larger Americans.

[1] There's a certain type of Chinese person who doesn't believe that any foreigner can consider HK as home. To that person I say: "These are my shorts. I wore them to walk up to the Peak in the August. Eat them."

New Star Ferry Pier


I went out the the new Star Ferry pier today for the first time. Taken by itself, it's a pleasant building with lots of open spaces and pleasant breezes. There are nice views of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and it would probably be a great place to take photos from in the evening.

So why was I spitting with rage?

Because this chuffing piece of faux-Edwardian neo-colonialism is about half way across the harbour, that's why! As you walk all the way out to the ferry pier itself, you see the constant reclamation work bent on filling in the harbour. By the time you get to the Star Ferry, you really are half-way across the harbour! You feel like you could spit on Tsim Sha Tsui. (Probably the best thing for that place...) The feeling of separation from Kowloon is diminished and the knowledge that the government doesn't care about this place is palpable. They will destroy one of the world's great deep-water harbours for profit.

MTR treatment of wheelchair bound


There's something I've been meaning to blog about for years, and I've never gotten around to it.

If you're in a wheelchair, there is ostensibly help available for you to get from street level to platform level. An MTR officer will operate the stair climbing robot for you and accompany you all the way.

While this sounds like catering for the disable, what it really says is that "you're so much trouble, one of our people has to take half an hour to help you do this simple thing."

iPhone in Asia

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It's been mentioned that Apple plans to bring the iPhone to Asia in 2008:

iPhone will be available in the US in June 2007, Europe in late 2007, and Asia in 2008,

and it's also clear that the iPhone requires an iTunes account to activate.

iTunes accounts are only available in a relatively small number of countries:


Only three of which can be charitably considered as Asia: Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Of those three, only one is really Asia: Japan.

Apple usually decline to comment on why there's no iTunes Music Store in HK and Taiwan. Some speculate that it's down to piracy issues, personally I think it's a combination of not wanting to go into the mainland market and not wanting to differentiate HK and Taiwan from there (with the resulting political fallout). Or it may be due to HK's odd 'parallel import' laws.[1] Or the music distribution companies may be stupid. Of course, it may just be that Apple thinks the market is too small.

It might be too small for online music, but the mobile phone market is huge here. It's hard to see Apple ignoring HK. So are we going to get an iTunes Music Store next year? I sure hope so.

Oh, and Apple, when you do open it in HK make it bilingual, OK?

links for 2007-07-06


The Shatner


The Shatner is immune to parody. He cannot be touched by it.

Self Parody just reinforces The Shatner's innate coolness.

He is who he is. He transcends parody because he is... The Shatner.

Hat tip to the Shaky Kaiser.



Anyone know where I can get a 220v, UK plug Kill-A-Watt?

kill-a-watt article on cooltools

Kill-A-Watt 4400 product page.

links for 2007-07-05


links for 2007-07-04


Who pays for PT?


One of the issues I have to deal with all the time, as a vaguelly left kind of guy (well, OK, personally I'm pretty socialist, but in terms of my work ideals I'm a bit less soggy) is how to deal with issues of privatisation

Now, I normally regard those who spew about this issue as being little more than the spawn of thatcher, but they do raise an interesting point or two in their spew.

One of their points is usually: "Why should the state pay for public transport? Why shouldn't it be like any other company and make a profit all by itself?"

Well, I'm going to tell you exactly why that's a load of right-wing bollocks and why your taxes should pay for your secretaries bus fare.

To be a proper business, you need to charge people who use your services. You need to charge an amount which at least covers your costs and preferably gives you some profit. Nobody would disagree with this. This is the model of the corner shop, or any small business. The Thatcherite loons would put this forward as the model for all businesses.

This is fine for a the situation where a small business can simply reclaim its costs from its customers. Where the business has a very simple investment in infrastructure (just the shopfront), and the only benefits of the business are directly between the owner and the customer. The customer gets a benefit from the supplier and the supplier's costs are entirely paid by the customer.

Unfortunately, when you're talking about big infrastructure projects, the interaction is not just between the customer and the operator. The user's benefit is that they have access to parts of the city they didn't have before. There's an additional benefit: their employers have access to staff who previously couldn't afford to get into their workplaces.

So, employees can apply to a range of jobs they couldn't get to before, and employers have an expanded range of employees to help them make money.

Now, why should the employee pay all the costs of the transaction, when someone else is also benefiting from the transaction? Shouldn't the employer have to pay a little something for the benefit of the system providing easier access for potential employees?

If a single company builds and runs the system, they can't properly charge all those who benefit from the system. The farebox can't deal with the benefits that the employer gets.

To make sure that all, both employers and employees, pay the costs of supplying the system, and enjoy the benefits of using the system (and of employing people who use the system), it really does require that the scheme be built, run and administered by the government, so that a certain element of taxation pays for the system.

For the employee, most of the cost they pay should be to the farebox. For the employer, most of the costs they pay should be in profits tax. In a place like Hong Kong, many employees are also employers.

so what am I saying? I'm saying that the Thatcherite notion that the government shouldn't pay for infrastructure (and especially for PT access to major work areas) is complete bullshit, and that everyone profits by properly charged public transport and improvements to public transport.

The only people who benefit from privatised Public Transport are the firms who operate it. And they profit at the expense of every employee who uses it, end every employer who relies on it to get their employees into the office.

links for 2007-07-03


SCMP redesign


Hong Kong's newspaper of record, the South China Morning Post has redesigned their website. The new design is appalling: Far less of the news seems to be available, and what's there is harder to navigate.

Plus, what's with the stupid breaking of articles? I could understand splitting a long article up to get more ad impressions, but the page loads the whole thing and just uses some silly javascript tricks to display it. What's the point? Some articles have an almost blank second section, and some have an almost blank first section.

Why lose the prev/next story navigation links? It's not possible now to go through the stories one at a time.

And they've increased the size of the pages by including tons of javascript rubbish instead of linking common files. And why have all the CSS and then do a table based layout?

Links to articles which looked like this:


now look like this:

http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2af62ecb329d3d 7733492d9253a0a0a0/?vgnextoid=9088cb6d22373110VgnVCM 100000360a0a0aRCRD&ss=Insight&s=Opinion

(Note that I've wrapped that to avoid breaking my layout.)

Don't even get me started on the RSS stupidity, where I'm supposed to copy a url to an external reader to get a small sample of the stories available.

It's a significant downgrade in both the amount and quality of information available. And yet we're expected to pay the same amount. If only we had actual consumer protection laws in HK...

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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