January 2008 Archives
Here is a very simple guide to how a new railway might be financed and a review of the limitations of privatisation and private sector participation in the ownership and operation of railway systems.
I agree with the views of Gary Collings on the minimum wage ("In defence of a fairer society", January 11). He is right to point out that Britain has not been harmed by minimum wage legislation since its introduction in 1999. In my letter ("Proof in the practice", December 7, 2006), I referred to a report in The Economist which said that the law had worked well in Britain and had not harmed the wage earner or the employer.
I also reminded readers that there has been a minimum wage in the US - the stronghold of market freedom - since 1938, and that most market economies in the world had adopted some form of wage protection policy. I also mentioned a research paper by distinguished scholars on the website of the UN Labour Organisation that said there was no historical evidence that wage protection laws caused unemployment. I am frustrated by the nature of the debate on the wage issue in Hong Kong. Opponents of a minimum wage law just avoid dealing with the evidence that such a law does not damage the economy, and merely repeat nonsensical arguments. Some so-called economists even claim it will lead to a reduction in the demand for labour.
Labour demand is affected by many factors independent of wages. The two-way movement of supply and demand can lead to so many different outcomes, which makes it difficult to blame wage levels for unemployment.
The facts speak for themselves, and it is up to those opposed to wage legislation to answer them.
Joseph Ko, Sha Tin
Well said Sir!
There's far too much of the Thatcherite point of view that any regulation of business is inherently anti-business in Hong Kong. Much of this is relentlessly pushing a corporatist agenda, by attempting to absolve large corporations of any social conscience or responsibility and therefore allowing them to operate unfettered.
Revenge of the Triads
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Major Hong Kong banks have followed the surprise 0.75 percent interest rate cut in the United States, as Asian stock markets rebounded. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority slashed its base rate to 5 percent - the fifth reduction since last September when the US cuts began. HSBC, Bank of China, and Standard Chartered Bank responded by reducing their best lending rates. The Hang Seng Index was the region's main gainer - closing 2,233 higher - or 10.7 percent - at 24,090. It was the biggest points rally for ten years. India and South Korea also recorded large increases in share prices, reversing days of losses and easing fears of a global recession. In Australia, the stock market closed more than 4 percent higher and in Japan shares rose by 2.4 percent.
The market is just going crazy.
The Hong Kong stock market has plunged more than 2,000 points, as investors across Asia dumped shares amid fears of a US recession. The Hang Seng index closed down 2,061 - or 8.7 percent - at 21,757 - the biggest one-day points fall in its history. Mainland stocks took a particularly heavy hit as the Shanghai exchange fell another 7.2 percent. Banks extended their losses on earnings uncertainty in the wake of the US subprime crisis, with Bank of China and HSBC both down more than 8 percent. Japan's Nikkei index nose-dived 5.7 percent.
I wonder if the relevant authority would care to comment on a situation I consider to be terribly unfair. My brother, an American on holiday in Hong Kong, and myself, also American but a Hong Kong permanent resident, were both charged HK$1,200 for visas to the mainland. Why, as a permanent resident, am I charged the same as a non-resident? Furthermore, why am I not allowed the same privileges as my wife, who is local Chinese? Is it a case of racism? I hope not, but I cannot understand the differences. Hopefully someone can explain what the logic is.
Terry Scott, Sha Tin
I paid about the same amount of money for a China visa. Of course, my visa was for three years and multiple entries.
How did I get this? I am not cursed with an American passport, or with citizenship of a country which feels free to invade other countries for little more reason than to channel government money to the military and military suppliers.
China apparently increases the visa price to reflect the perceived quality of the diplomatic relationship between the country whose passport you hold and China. Plus, they normally figure that they can squeeze the Septic Tanks for some extra moolah, as many of them seem to be making huge amounts of money from China.
I refer to the letter from Terry Scott ("Visa racism?", January 16) regarding the charges for mainland visas.
Of course this is a case of racism, but Mr Scott may get some satisfaction knowing that at least his children, should they ever apply for similar visas, will be charged the "local" rate as they will be able to hold Hong Kong passports by virtue of their ethnicity.
My children, despite being born in Hong Kong to parents with permanent residency, have no trace of Chinese ethnicity and will therefore forever be deemed foreigners and charged as such.
A. Cable, Cheung Chau
Yet more misinformation.
Ethnically Chinese children don't need Hong Kong passports to qualify for Home Return Permits. My two kids hold both Irish passports and Home Return Permits, but have no Hong Kong Passports.
Nor would they want HK passports - that's little more than a second class citizen passport. It was that under the British rule, and it's even more so now under Chinese rule, as the hair-dye brigade in ZhongNanHai regard anyone who lived under British rule and doesn't completely reject that historical period as a traitor.
Time Capsule: w00t! I was planning on updating my router anyway, but this makes the decision a complete no-brainer. I think there'll have to be an OS update to allow remote disk backup from Time Machine.
iPod: a $20 software update? When the same update is free for the iPhone? I guess the iPod Touch isn't selling as well as the iPhone.
iTunes Movie Rentals: Nothing unexpected.
I must say I'm very impressed with the streaming experience this year. I can pause and play without problems. Occasional picture breakup, but that's to be expected when the stream is trying to show HD content.
New Apple TV: pretty good for a software upgrade. And a price cut.
MacBook Air: what a sucky name. Looks nice a nice bit of kit, though. My MacBook looks fat! I like the backlit keyboard, and the vertical profile of the machine is probably similar to the new slimline Apple keyboards.
Looking at the Specs page - fixed RAM. This machine is not upgradeable. It's also stuck with the Intel Graphics, and a slow hard disk, as well as a grossly expensive Solid State Disk. The Solid State Disk option makes it more expensive than the 17" MacBook Pro! No audio in, which means you have to use usb microphones if you're a podcaster.
Remote Optical Drive: not revolutionary, but looks well done. The idea being, I guess, that the MacBook Air is not your primary machine; it's your Road Warrior machine. The pricing fits that profile, coming in between the BlackBook and base MacBookPro.
I like the multi-touch trackpad. I await the arrival of these features in 10.5.2. Or probably later, so that people will buy the Air first, before Apple pushes the upgrades out.
Wow, Randy Newman's song (and speech) was the most nakedly political thing I've ever seen on an Apple stage.
OK, Macworld 2008 is starting in a few hours: time to set phasers to squee and enjoy the ride.
Hopefully Apple have updated their bandwidth this year, and I can get a decent stream tomorrow morning between bringing the kids to school and picking them up again. And hopefully, won't get inundated with Keynote spoilers like last year, when the iPhone was plastered across every available surface on the journey into work.
When syncing an iPhone to a Mac with Entourage syncing to iCal enabled, the sync process can take a long time. My solution was to delete Entourage (and the Microsoft Sync file). This has the added benefit of not letting you use Entourage.
If you really need to use Entourage, probably your best bet is to upgrade to the latest version of Office. Or possibly not.
Macworld 2008 is next week, and there's the usual predictions of wonders to emit from the Mothership in Cupertino from the usual suspects (MacRumors, MacWorld, Engadget, etc). Here's my best guess as to what coming along:
- Sub-notebook. I think a MacBook Pro about the size of the current Macbook will be the one here. It may have a smaller display bezel and end up being a 12.4" notebook (and called a 12" MBP), as you could pretty comfortable take half an inch from the sides of the MacBook. Possibly the width of the unit could be reduced to 28.5cm, which is the size of the keyboard 'pit' on the MacBook. Spec wise, this 12.4" would be similar in spec to the existing Black MacBook, with the addition of a dedicated graphics card, but probably 'only' an Nvidia 8400 type, rather than the 8600's of the larger laptops. Possibly it would replace the Black MacBook. This small MBP may or may not have an optical drive.
- An outside option for all the MacBook Pros would be a resolution bump, so that the 12.4" gets 1440x900, the 15.4" gets 1680x1050, and the 17" keeps only the HD display at 1920x1200. That would give the 12.4" a very useful distinction from the Consumer grade MacBooks, and would give a good reason for upgrading, as well as run the pro and office apps better. 1280x800 is a bit too small for Numbers and Final Cut.
- Cosmetically, the MacBook Pros are due a redesign, and I think they'll adopt a variant of the MacBook keyboard (but backlit), magnetic latches, a black bezel around the display (iMac style). Rumours of a super-slim laptop abound, but there's not a great deal of thickness to lose there anyway, as they're already only one inch thick, and could start to lose stiffness if any thinner. LED backlights in all the MacBook Pros, and probably the MacBooks as well, could lead to a thinner lid, so that'll probably happen.
- Mid-Tower: It's the gaping hole in the Apple Lineup, and I doubt it'll get filled. Apple seems to have no trouble insisting that anyone is the market for a desktop Mac just get an iMac.
- iPhone2: maybe a bump in specs, and the announcement of the 3G model for Australia and Asia (read Japan). Rest of Asia ignored as Apple can't or won't get the iTunes store working in China (or HK), citing piracy concerns.
- Cinema Displays: Slightly revised cases to match the slightly darker iMacs, plus an option for built in iSights. Probably a glossy variant as well. Very slight chance of a glossy only version, which would piss off the graphics professionals something awful. LED backlights where possible, although this might not be possible for the 30"
- A real dark horse would be OLED cinema displays, but these are just coming out for TVs, so unlikely to be used for computer displays for a while. Still, that 1 million to 1 contrast ratio would be attractive.
- Apple TV: Movie and TV show rentals from the iTunes store, and possibly a very slight spec bump on the AppleTV to include HD capabilities and 5.1 sound.
- Mac Mini to be ignored and to later get a bump to the current MacBook spec, i.e. Santa Rosa chipset.
Traditionally, there's a "one more thing..." which can be something awesome, or just iPod socks. What I'd like to see is a hand held device, about twice the screen space of the iPhone, which is capable of running some of the iLife apps. Edit your photos on your iDevice with iPhoto, record your band with Garage Band, play your tunes with iTunes. Very possibly, use the built in camera (or external source) to make a video for pushing to YouTube with iMovie. (iDVD and iWeb not supported.)
UPDATE: And of course the iPhone SDK, new firmware and the means of getting software onto the device via iTunes.
Ah, Hong Kong in the gap between Christmas and Chinese New Year. It's cold and clammy and all the flats are badly built, draughty and un-insulated.
And of course, you can't close all the windows and turn on a heater, because people visiting for New Year are wearing fifteen layers of underwear and North Face outerwear because it's cold everywhere else. And then you're the weird foreigner with the stuffy house who loses face because he has these weird ideas about houses actually being warm places! Chee Sing Gwai Lo!
It's made all the more galling this year by the fact that we've just returned from Ireland, where it's far colder outside than you'll ever get in Southern China, but it's insulated, heated and supplied with roaring fires inside.
I've had to conduct a few educational experiences with the young'uns. When they feel warm inside, they think it'll just be warmer outside, so they balk at wearing coats and scarves. Fine. Shove them outside for a few minutes in their t-shirts. It usually only takes about thirty seconds before they realise that conditions are different, and it's full thermal gear before braving the elements again.
Just back from the trip to the Old Country, where we had a very pleasant and relatively stress-free Christmas.
The most stressful part of the whole exercise was the travelling, and the Security Nonsense at LHR was at least handled well, even though almost every single thing they ask to check is pointless. A child's shoes need to be x-rayed? As far as I can see, the only purpose of the Security Stupidity at LHR is to provide a tempting target for a suicide bomber (thousands of people shuffling in intertwined queues), which will then allow BAA to make it all but impossible to fly at all. However, all our shoes, laptops, iphones and cameras have been x-rayed, which will probably have dealt with all the bird-flu laden goose and kangaroo faeces we traipsed from Fota Wildlife Park into London.
Ireland was quite strange to me: the beginnings of a multi-cultural society appear to be strongly taking root, and there's a very noticeable increase in the number of overseas accents and faces you encounter.
This has had the usual benefits when it comes to the variety of foods on offer, and the usual disbenefits in giving grumpy uncles something new to complain about. It's a net benefit, as far as I'm concerned, with probably the best smoked salmon, olives and cheese available anywhere in the world all in the Olde English Market right in the centre of Cork.
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