August 2007 Archives

In Flight Movie Reviews: Hot Fuzz

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Hot Fuzz may just well be the greatest Cop movie ever made. Great Fun,and well worth a look.

links for 2007-08-31


links for 2007-08-30


links for 2007-08-29


links for 2007-08-28


Green pressure could harm city, says Li Ka-shing

Li Ka-shing warned yesterday that conservation campaigns and calls for limits on high-rise buildings could damage the interests of everyone in Hong Kong.

The remarks by the chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) (SEHK: 0001) were the first time a leading developer has hit out at the recent tactics employed by groups that are seeking to improve the city's environment through legal means.


"It affects the [government] revenue, which is everybody's revenue in Hong Kong," Mr Li said.


If by "everybody's revenue", you mean the revenue of large property developers, who make huge profits at the expense of the actual population, then I suppose that's true. If you look at it otherwise, then it's blatantly untrue.

As Chris says here, and Alice Poon points out here, the relentless skimping on contruction costs (thin, single layer walls, no double-glazing, no centralized air-conditioning) which increases the profits of the developers leaves the eventual owners with increased running costs (air conditioning, heating, etc).

Slightly increased construction costs would result in developments with lower over environmental impact and could also result in substantial reductions in running costs, as Chris points out in his linked article.

James Tien Pei-chun, another developer who is also chairman of the Liberal Party, month urged the government earlier this month to hold public consultations on urban development immediately before a decision on a project was made, to avoid last-minute objections.

Mr Tien, as well as not apparently understanding the whole "public consultation" thing in the first place, is also in charge of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

You know, the very same Tourism board which raised no objections to the recent destruction of the Star Ferry, one of Hong Kong's signature attractions. Which is raising no objections to the imminent destruction of the markets in Wanchai and Central. The Wanchai one is particularly egregious, as they're clearing it to allow vehicular access for a development.

Some somewhat related articles from

Contrary to popular outside belief, the big HK property tycoons are not superb businessmen. They've come up in a system with a captive core-revenue generating mechanism which requires very little business acumen.

If they were good businessmen, they'd recognise that there's a clear and growing market demand for more environmentally aware developments. Better insulation, recycling facilities, centralized air-conditioning, use of sea-water for cooling, more effective use of internal space, and use of solar power for minor power use. These are all things which are just starting to be incorporated in commercial developments, and which should really be in residential developments.

There's a small market for developments which are more concerned about their impact on the environment. It will grow over time, if there are properties to cater for it. Unfortunately, the system is closed and there is no competition.

As Alice Poon says in her post, we need proper standards to force the developers to pay more attention to the damage they're causing. I don't think there's going to be much chance of this government bringing in such legislation though. Not when it would upset the only public they pay attention to: the tycoons.

links for 2007-08-27

  • The European Commission's Press Office in London monitors the British press's highly distorted coverage of the European Union. Euromyths are scare stories based on hearsay, rumours and half-truths, many of which have been repeated so often that they have
  • Press coverage in the UK of the European Union is often trivial, misleading or just plain wrong. It is little wonder that many people in this country are unsure what to believe about Britain's membership of the EU. Large amounts of space are often devoted
    (tags: news europe bias)

(Via Waider.)

links for 2007-08-24


links for 2007-08-23


links for 2007-08-22


links for 2007-08-21


Airport needs new procedures

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Airport needs new procedures

K. W. Chow, for the director of immigration ("Staff at airport hitting targets", August 13), replied to my letter on the time it took to go through immigration at Chek Lap Kok ("Long wait in line out of order", July 31).

As I am a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I assure him I am able to read my watch correctly. The use of averages is known to miss fluctuations, and a 92 per cent standard does not yield good-quality service. Indeed, why should visitors wait in line on average 15 minutes to leave? I have not experienced this type of wait when leaving other places.

Further, while eight counters were open, Mr Chow admits that only 15 per cent of visitors used the three counters that had almost no traffic, as I observed in my letter.

Thus, the procedures should be improved so that visitors leaving Hong Kong are not subject to long waits.

Jerry Hausman, professor of economics, MIT, Boston, US

(Unlike most of the times I quote a letter to the SCMP, this time I don't think the writer is unhinged.)

One of the issues which Prof. Hausman mentions above (and which was referred to in the Director of Immigration reply earlier) was the average time taken to go through outbound immigration. The Immigration Department has spent a great deal of time and effort to speed up the processing of residents as they go through the various border controls we have in Hong Kong. Much of this effort has been the replacement of paper based systems with electronic systems, and the whole SmartID system.

If Prof. Hausman had glanced to his right while queuing, he may have noticed some people approaching turnstiles, using a card of some kind and apparently being processed electronically. Total time through inbound or outbound immigration for those lucky people? Under a minute, depending on the volume of people. When I return to HK usually, I don't stop walking from leaving the plane to collecting my bags.

So how to get one of those electronic cards? Well, you have to be a permanent resident[1] with a SmartID card. Unfortunatey for Prof. Hausman, that means that you must be resident in HK for a period of 7 years.

[1] I've heard rumours that the electronic system will be extended to non-permanent residents, but I've not heard anything concrete about that. UPDATE: Spike confirms in the comments that the E-Channel at the airport is usable by ordinary residents.

This short processing time naturally makes the average processing time look very good. And, as the vast majority of border crossers are permanent residents, the costs benefit analysis is clearly on the side of improving the experience for permanent residents.

One of the primary drivers behind the whole speeding up of the immigration process has been the land-based borders (we're supposed to call them 'boundaries' now) with China. The Lo Wu border, for example, can handle several hundred thousand travellers per day, largely thanks to immigration on the HK and China sides being largely electronic. There are queues at the non-electronic immigration gates there too, but they're nothing like the airport queues.

Note that this doesn't change Prof. Hausman's point at all: there are still far too few Immigration officials manning the Visitor gates at the airport and this can create a poor first (or last) impression as to the efficiency of the airport and Hong Kong.

The Immigration department separates the categories according to equipment required to process the travel documents. Permanent residents just have their ID cards scanned, Ordinary residents will require a passport stamp, while visitors will require a visa sticker or stamp. Officers at non-visitor gates will almost certainly not have the equipement required to process visitors and this is a big part of the problem. It's 2007, we should be entirely electronic with visitor records now. The Australians have electronic Visas, so why doesn't HK record a visitor visa on the passport number electronically?

There is a way to bypass the long visitor queues, if you're a regular visitor: Frequent Visitor Card. Unfortunately, it requires that you have come to Hong Kong three or more times in the last 12 months, but it may be of value anyway.

links for 2007-08-17


links for 2007-08-16


links for 2007-08-12


links for 2007-08-10


links for 2007-08-07


links for 2007-08-06


Upgrading from FC6 to Fedora 7



# a script to illustrate the steps required to upgrade using yum.

# Note that this is FC6 to F7.

# this should require a locally mounted repository for extra speed.

yum clean all

yum update

/usr/bin/pg_dumpall -U postgres >/storage/postgresql/all_data.backup

rm -rf /var/lib/pgsql/*

chown -R postgres.postres /var/lib/pgsql

#(/storage/linux... is my local repository)

rpm -Uvh /storage/linux/fedora/core/7/i386/mount/Fedora/fedora-release-*


# There's a missing dependency:


yum remove libglade-java libvte-java libgnome-java glib-java kdemultimedia

yum upgrade

#yum install libglade-java libvte-java libgnome-java glib-java kdemultimedia

service postgresql initdb

/etc/init.d/postgresql start

su - postgres

psql -f /storage/postgresql/all_data.backup

# you may need to check the ident config in pg_hba.conf, and that it's

# set to trust, not ident. Also there may be more than one file!

links for 2007-08-03

  • This is a tool for converting AutoCad DXF (Data eXchange Format) files into ESRI Shapefiles, the format used by ArcMap and MapWindow. This software is open source under the GPL and was created using two other open-source tools: dxflib and MapWinGIS,

May the Force be with you


And I certainly didn't expect this:

Some misc stuff


I notice that Hemlock appears to have updated his index of Hong Kong blogs recently and I've been removed after being on the occasionals list for a while. He wouldn't be the first who got the impression that I was more of an Australian blog...

If you're reading this site by an RSS feed, there was an older RDF feed which remained stuck in 2005. The real feed is, although the rdf feed is now a clone of that. There's also a feed of all the comments, if you're really bored.

The new version of Movable Type is looking good - I'll probably upgrade to that as soon as it's out of Beta and an Upgrade to Fedora 7 is on the cards.

Back to your scheduled ranting...

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

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