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Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Windows on Changsha

Sometimes things don't go as planned.

Windows desktop screen appearing on a digital billboard
At Huangxing Square in Changsha

More soon.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Assorted Links: Hong Kong Seeks Innovation, Too Much Trump in Trumpchi?, Blaming China for Job Losses, and Panama Cuts Ties with Taiwan

It has been a while since I have done the "assorted links" thing. Time to get back to it with excerpts from four pieces worth a full reading:

1. Natasha Khan's and Enda Curran's piece about a proposed technology park on the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen could inspire debate on a variety of topics such as Hong Kong's integration with mainland China, environmental preservation in China, and strategies for fostering innovation. It also raises the issue that Shenzhen's now sees less advantage to partnering with its neighbor to the south after recent rapid developments:
Shenzhen forged ahead, clearing out most of its old, labor-intensive factories and building high-tech giants like Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. The city’s Nanshan district is a cradle for more than 8,000 technology firms, centered around the vast Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park, known as SHIP. Entrepreneurs have come from across the world, leading some to question why Guangdong needs to collaborate with Hong Kong on innovation.

“That ship has sailed,’’ said Felix Chung, chairman of Hong Kong’s pro-business Liberal Party. “The plan could have been good 10 years ago but have you seen Shenzhen lately? It has the ability to do so much on its own.”

2. My April Fool's post last year, "Donald Trump to Bring His Chinese Car Brand to the U.S." took advantage of the similarity between Trump's name and the Chinese automaker GAC Motor 's brand Trumpchi. Now that Trump is president, GAC has some very real concerns about the similarity:
Executives at the firm and its parent Guangzhou Automobile Group (601238.SS) say they may now change the Trumpchi brand - which was meant to sound like its Chinese name Chuanqi, which is a play on the word "legendary" and means passing good fortune - after it drew some ridicule at the Detroit auto show in January.

"We saw people were laughing at this and took pictures looking only at this detail, and also put on Facebook or other websites," GAC Motor Design Director Zhang Fan told Reuters. "When we read all that feedback, we realized it might not be very positive promotion for the brand."
I don't know if this blog is one of the "other websites", but I do thank GAC for providing such excellent material. The April Fool's post has received a notable amount of traffic during the past year.

3. William H. Overholt argues that both of the major political parties in the U.S. unfairly blame China when it comes to jobs:
[Politicians of both parties] find it convenient to blame China [for "job declines caused mainly by technology"].

Why? Because interest groups dominate the Washington conversation and both parties are beholden to constituencies with an interest in the post-factual illusion. Democrats depend on unions that see protection of current jobs, not helping workers prepare for the future, as their task. They see every gain for workers in poor countries as a loss for U.S. workers. Preparing the workforce for a changing future could threaten union leaders’ power. . . .

Republicans reject reality for different reasons. If you acknowledge the inexorable disappearance of manufacturing jobs, and the fact (documented by MIT Professor David Autor) that, without government help, whole communities stagnate, then you must authorize the government to analyze the areas of loss and gain, and follow through by spending money to retrain workers and help them move. However, to avoid taxation, wealthy Republican constituents will denounce expanded government authority and expenditures as socialism.
4. No excerpt for the final link since the China Digital Times piece is itself a collection of excerpts with links: "Panama Severs Ties With Taiwan, Pledges Allegiance to China".

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Particles Inside: Time to Put on a Face Mask at the Gym

Years ago when I worked out at a gym in Shanghai, I occasionally wondered about the gym's air quality. I didn't notice anything obviously wrong, but there were still reasons to question whether they were using an effective air filtration system.

Today Benjamin Carlson, who is based in Beijing, checked the air inside one gym and . . .


That is pretty bad air. I understand Carlson's choice to wear a mask. Although there is reason to believe exercising in some types of pollution without a mask is better than not exercising at all, clean air is better (not even going to bother to source the last claim). Despite the logic, there is still something extra depressing about feeling compelled to wear a mask indoors.

The mobile air monitor Carlson is holding appears to be a Laser Egg made by Origins Technology. Paul Bischoff reported on the device's release and the technology inside it last year for Tech in Asia:
As the particles are pulled in by a fan, they pass in front of a laser. The laser refracts onto a photo sensor. This allows the device to instantly work out the size and number of particles in the air. These types of devices typically cost anywhere from US$500 to US$10,000, but Origins claims to use the same technology in Laser Egg at a fracion of the cost.
I have been tempted to buy one myself. I wonder how many times as I have traveled across the China it would have convinced me to go to sleep wearing a mask.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Assorted China Tech Links: Innovation and Control Mix, a Reason to Break Through, and Uber China Sold

Some longtime readers will remember the days when there was a more explicit tech focus here, and I hope to soon return to some old themes. For now, I will keep it simple and share links to six pieces on China tech:

1. Emily Rauhala pushes back against the idea that heavy censorship by the government means tech innovation has been stifled in China:
“You go on Facebook and you can’t even buy anything, but on WeChat and Weibo you can buy anything you see,” said William Bao Bean, a Shanghai-based partner at SOS Ventures and the managing director of Chinaccelerator, a start-up accelerator.

“Facebook’s road map looks like a WeChat clone.”

2. Despite the innovation, not everything is rosy about the Chinese internet. Christina Larson captures some of how the good and the bad fit together:
These stark contrasts—an Internet that is simultaneously dynamic and lethargic, innovative and stultifying, liberating yet tightly controlled—are easier to understand when you realize they are not necessarily contradictions. Being forbidden to develop tools for stimulating free expression or transparency essentially forces Chinese entrepreneurs to concentrate their resources on services that facilitate commerce, convenience, and entertainment. And the more successful those kinds of businesses become, the more money they and their investors have at stake, possibly cementing the status quo.

3. Zheping Huang looks at a specific case where Chinese people who previously didn't see a need to access online information and services blocked in China finally felt compelled to use a VPN to break through the Great Firewall:
Recently, hundreds of Chinese investors, who may be out $6 billion in one of China’s biggest financial scams, have leaped over the Great Firewall in an organized, determined way. After being ignored by China’s regulators and lawmakers, these desperate investors are pouring into Twitter to spread news of their plight.

While their numbers are small, their actions are already inspiring other Chinese investors burned in a monumental number of recent scams, turning Twitter into a new venue for angry Chinese citizens to protest. And as they leap over the Great Firewall, some are coming to a new realization—the government has been cracking down on free speech and civil protests just like theirs for years.

4. For something fresh from today, there is big news about Uber and Didi Chuxing:
Didi Chuxing, the dominant ride-hailing service in China, said it will acquire Uber Technologies Inc.’s operations in the country, ending a battle that has cost the two companies billions as they competed for customers and drivers.

Didi will buy Uber’s brand, business and data in the country, the Chinese company said in a statement. Uber Technologies will receive 5.89 percent of the combined company with preferred equity interest equal to 17.7 percent of the economic benefits.

5. The sale of Uber China comes as no huge surprise to many. Heather Timmons highlights how the writing was on the wall:
Then things got even worse—Beijing started to openly back Didi, with an investment by China’s sovereign wealth fund into the new Chinese giant. China’s state banks rolled out billions of dollars in loans to Didi.

In August 2015, Uber reported it was being scrubbed from WeChat, a move, Quartz wrote, that was “almost certainly designed to protect and promote Didi Kuaidi” and make it hard for Uber to do business.

6. And Josh Horowitz takes a quick look at the impact of beyond China:
Didi’s $1 billion investment in Uber likely gives it only a minuscule stake in the ride-hailing giant. But it nevertheless means it has its hands in every single one of its potential major competitors.

This changes perceptions of the future of the ride-hailing industry.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An Unexpected Fix for a Possessed Laptop in Shanxi

Large Turned-Off Screen at a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi
This large screen wasn't displaying anything when I recently visited a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi.

Things have been quiet on this blog the past several days. This was not intended.

The long story . . . ah, I won't bother with the long story.

The relatively short story . . . not long after the previous post, my laptop became possessed by a demon — or something like that — which wasn't so intelligent but was determined to cause chaos and heartburn. Sometimes all I could do was watch as my screen flipped through multiple modes as I was unable to stop it. One especially worrisome moment was when the cursor moved to a a file and then deleted it. Strange stuff.

The troubleshooting was a slow, frustrating process. At one point, I assumed I would need to make a long journey with significant expenses at the end to address the problem. Yesterday, the problematic symptom subsided enough for a period of time that I could try some other fixes. One involved changing a setting. So I did that, although it only required reverting something I had changed since I had initially discovered the problem. And then I considered another piece of advice I had just discovered which seemed potentially relevant.

But slapping the trackpad hard with the palm of your hand? It didn't seem entirely wise.

Of course, I did it.

I'm not 100% sure what did the trick, but my computer is no longer possessed. Since achieving that state, I have taken the time to address other potential issues just to be safe. Fortunately, I didn't blow things up in the process. In fact, I might have fixed an unrelated nagging issue. The verdict is still out on that though.

So, hopefully things are back on.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Apple Opens a Special New Store in Xiamen, China

Today Apple opened its first store in Xiamen, China, at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall. Unlike the notable Apple Store which opened almost a year ago at Jiefangbei in Chongqing, no Apple logo could be seen from afar.

Apple Store at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall in Xiamen, China


As explained by several Apple Store employees, that is all by design and part of the look for Apple's newest "D phase" of stores which also appears at new locations in Nanning far to the west and Shenyang far to the north.

Apple hasn't totally eliminated the outside logo, though. One is well hidden on a wall at the Xiamen store.

Hidden Apple logo at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall in Xiamen, China


My eyes strain to see the faintest sign of the logo in the above photo, and I had the same experience in person. If a store employee hadn't mentioned a hidden logo, I wouldn't have noticed it. Even after the hint, finding it took significant effort. Close up, the logo is somewhat easier to see but still doesn't jump out.

closeup view of the hidden Apple logo


Employees explained Apple wants people to focus more on the products than the logo and believes its stores' distinctive design will be enough for people to identify them.

It may also be hoped it communicates a message similar to "we're so cool we don't even need to show our logo". Another possible impact relates to the "fake" Apple Stores still common in China. Will they be willing to imitate a look which includes no sign?

A "fake" Apple Store with an "Apple Store" storefront sign
Another "Apple Store" I saw by chance today in Xiamen

Although it is not illegal in China for these stores to resell genuine Apple merchandise and most are easily distinguished from a genuine Apple Store, the bigger question is whether these stores are selling genuine, fake, or the semi-genuine Apple products I have seen being made at Huaqiangbei and elsewhere in China. Apple has far more control over what is sold in its own stores, where it can sell its genuine products in an environment which best complements its brand image, no small part of Apple's success.

The lack of a visible Apple logo didn't appear to hurt today. Over 30 minutes after opening there was still a long, slow line of people. The store is much easier to find than the logo.

crowd at the opening at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


A big draw for some people were the limited free shirts commemorating the opening.

free shirt given away at the opening of the at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


One group of Apple fans decided it was worth taking a break from their jobs in order to be among the first to visit the store and hopefully score some shirts.

group posing for a photo in front of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


At the entrance, people were greeted with cheers and high-fives from Apple Store employees.

Apple employees greeting customers at the opening of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


Unlike the Jiefangbei store, no special art marked its opening. But the Xiamen store can make its own claims to fame, at least for now. According to an employee, it boasts the longest LED light panels of any Apple Store in China.

long lights at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

long overhead lights at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


And it also has the largest Ultra HD Screen.

large Ultra HD Screen at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


The live greenery inside is another aspect Apple's new look for its stores.

live plants in a wall at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


During the opening hours the store was packed with customers and Apple Store employees.

crowd at the opening of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


As seems to be common for Apple's new stores in China, a number of the employees were from the the U.S. and established stores elsewhere in China. During my visit I met employees who had transferred from California, Hawaii, Texas, and Shanghai. At least some of them expect to be at the Xiamen store for two years. This not only helps Apple ensure its China stores offer an experience similar to its U.S. stores but could also have benefits when Apple's employees bring what they learn in China back to the U.S. or to elsewhere in the world.

After the opening hour or two, the crowd thinned to a point where the outside line had disappeared and the inside was still busy but moving around was more manageable. As Best Buy has learned, crowds can be especially deceiving in China. In the end, something else matters much more.

RMB cash counting machine


So Apple is surely keeping a closer eye on sales, whether by cash or card.

Apple employee using cash counting machine for a man's purchase

person making a purchase with a credit card at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China


Below are more scenes from the store today including employees demonstrating, assisting, discussing, and photographing; customers watching, trying, buying, and waiting for others; and security keeping an eye on things. The store is Apple's 30th in China, and more are on the way. The opening is symbolic not only for Apple but Xiamen as well. Like many other cities in China, Xiamen has seen much recent development. An under-construction subway system will soon have a station next to the large shopping mall, something surely not lost on Apple as it seeks to grow as well.

Apple employee helping a man put on an Apple Watch

Apple employee helping a customer put on an Apple Watch

Apple employees assisting customers

Apple employees assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employees with a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer with a laptop

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer with headphones at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

customer looking at headphones

customer using a laptop for sale at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

customers in front of monitor displaying Jupiter at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

people trying iPads at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee giving a demonstration at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee giving a demonstration

Apple employee giving a demonstration

woman waiting with a suitcase at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

people using mobile phones at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

security at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

three employees speaking to each other at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee taking a photograph with a Canon camera at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

man with Swarovksi bag making a purchase at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some of Today's Lunch Space

On the plus side, the restaurant in the building has pretty good food and an excellent view.

sign at the Space Telescope Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

On the negative side, I didn't get to use the telescope today.

I had hoped to have a bit more posted by now to help serve as a prelude to the above. I also hope to soon post the material, though in a more postlude-like fashion.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fortunes and Accessories on a Shaoguan Stairway

Early this afternoon in Shaoguan, Guangdong, I saw a person offering fortune telling and related services.

fortune teller on a staircase landing in Shaoguan
Another notable hat in Shaoguan


This evening almost exactly seven hours later, I saw a person selling mobile phone covers and other assorted accessories for electronics.

young woman using a mobile phone while selling mobile phone covers and other accessories on a stairway landing in Shaoguan
One of many "mobile moments" I captured today


Both of them made use of the same corner on a landing of a pedestrian bridge staircase — just at different times. In addition to raising a number of intriguing issues, the variety of offerings available at this single location today captures some of the spirit of what I have observed elsewhere in Shaoguan this weekend.

So my own prediction for the future: I will just say don't be surprised if things as different as bamboo rats, xiangqi, marketing for pole dancing lessons, and Little Red Books all appear here soon.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Mix of Old, New, and Inexpensive: Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng Electronics Market

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng (上海音像城) offers a shopping experience which feels like a cross of a flea market and a large electronics store. I haven't seen any official names in English, but instead of the previous transliteration the name could be translated as Shanghai Audio & Visual City. And at least one online site refers to it as the Qiujiang Lu Electronics Market, though that doesn't reflect its prominently displayed Chinese name. Whatever the case, it is easy to find the market just east of Shanghai's Baoshan Road metro station — part of the complex sits underneath the elevated metro tracks. It may not be where to go if you want something like the latest models of popular mobile phone brands, but it offers an wide array of electronics for sale not seen in many other electronics stores in Shanghai.

Below are a few photos I took there. They only provide a quick look at the market and don't capture many of the second-hand classics available. Like the Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market near the Shanghai Railway Station, a visit can be eye-opening even if you aren't interested in buying anything.

More scenes from markets elsewhere in China later. I will also have more to say about mobile phones like those which appear below.

front of Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng on Baoshan Road

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng entrance on Qiujiang Road

Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng with metro tracks above

outdoor portion of Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

karaoke televisions and other electronics for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

laptops for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

inexpensive mobile phones and flip phones with various designs for sale at the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

inexpensive mobile phones with keypads labeled as for "elderly people" for sale at Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

an aisle inside Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

stall counters inside the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng

branching aisle inside the Shanghai Yinxiang Cheng