Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shanghai

According to my estimation, per capita GDP (PPP) in Shanghai will match the level of Taiwan. But this simple average does not address the issue of the gap between urban and rural areas, the distribution of wealth, and other structural issue of economics. Besides, the definition of municipality is more like something in between a metropolitan or a region. Comparing Shanghai with the whole Taiwan may seem inappropriate. The area of Shanghai is approximately equal to ¾ of Hsinchu County and City, Yilan, and everything north of them, or Delaware.

When I was collecting data, I found this article, which states that China (didn't specify whether it's mainland China or the whole China), in between 2025 and 2030, will reach the level of Korea in 1991 or 1992, and becomes a developed country in between 2055 and 2065. The blog has many interesting posts. I added it to the links on the right column.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Technology news in Taiwan

I am tired of those so called "mainstream" print media in Taiwan. When they talk about "tech news", most of them are about the increase/decrease of production, revenue, and the up and down of stock prices. These are "tech industry news", which are more business than technology at the core. Indeed, those are useful information. And as media, they have the duty to report it. But not all readers are investors. On the contrary, most are consumers. The impact to consumers is usually briefly mentioned. Is this product like microwave oven, which will change the way we do things, or is it just a trendy thing? Is there any obvious short coming? Substitute? Cons and pros? You hardly see those.

This could be attributed to the manufacturer's state of mind that lasted for decades. Manufacturers do not need to worry too much about what the consumers want or need. All they need to take care of is the number: capital, income, expense. The challenge that Taiwanese firms face right now is not how to make things at a very cheap cost and with a superb quality. They've already achieved that. The challenge is to choose a path. They can continue their current course, and be the leader. Or they can sell their products directly to consumers, then in turn establish their brands. The latter would cause an immediate problem: their customers would become competitors instantly. It's too early to tell. I seem to deviate from the original topic too much.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Apple

Steve Jobs said that there will be more iPhone applications by the time it is released. Apple will control what applications make it onto the iPhone. He said "You don't want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers." While I believe that they have the best intention of providing better software, this strategy is totally a double edge sword. The reason why PC is still the dominating platform is not because Windows or the software that runs on it is so much better than those of Mac. It's because everyone can make PC hardware and the OS/software can be easily pirated. What's my point here? Openness. Although I am in no way demanding Apple to let everyone pirate their OS/product, but being open is absolutely important to a product like smart phones.

The example Steve gave could happen. But bad software will be eliminated by natural selection. Is Apple implying that smart phone users are not smart enough to make the selection so that the smart people at Apple will make the selection for the 10 million customers they anticipated to have? My phone is a Windows Mobile 5. If you press the on/off button, the touch screen will shut down and all inputs are locked. However, what they fail to do is to let the music continue being played when everything else is locked. I had to turn to a third party software. If Microsoft employs the same strategy, this software will probably never see daylight. It makes me wonder if Apple will reject a certain software because it will cannibalize its profit elsewhere (e.g. iTunes), hurt its beloved partner Cingular Wireless from AT&T (e.g. VoIP software like Skype), or some small utility that will expose iPhone's deficiency (like my personal example above).

Apple's lawyer team is cracking down blogs that provide links to screenshots of Windows Mobile skins that look like iPhone's in the name of copyright infringement. (another report). First, it is already questionable to take action against the skin. It is like McDonald's taking action against a small mom and pop's burger shop because the wrappers look too similar to McDonald's (while the burgers taste differently). Please, it is just a skin. Second, it is just beyond absurd to threaten a blogger who simply reported the thing. The blog doesn't even provide the skin itself.

If this is not for chilling effect, then what is it?

In addition to Cisco, LG is considering suing Apple for similar design. Now we know who has the habit of copying!

Taste your own medicine, Apple! (The same proverb in Chinese is "a taste of your own fruit" (自食其果), which gives it an extra pun!)

This is like when Intel tried to register a well established acronym (was it RAM, DRAM, or SDRAM, I don't remember) as a trademark so that everyone else can't use the name anymore (in favor of RDRAM). They tried to win by law instead of better products. Nobody uses RDRAM nowadays.

If you know me for years, you will know that my criticisms on Apple's products have been technical. From time to time, there are appraisals too. Now Apple just falls into the "uncool" category in my book.

I was contemplating buying an Apple's laptop. (In case you haven't noticed, I didn't use the proper product name because I'm afraid of legal trouble about trademark infringement!)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New technology

I hate when a new technology comes out, developers and designers spend additional resources with the new technology, just to mimic some imperfection of an old technology. This statement is best illustrated with examples

  • Some digital cameras make the noise that is similar to a mechanical shutter at the time of shooting. All the user needs is a confirmation that the picture is taken. A simple beep will do just fine. Now that someone needs to make/record/synthesize a sound file to mimic that. What's next? When I put in a new memory card, the camera will make the noise of film being scrolled?
  • There is a world clock widget in Apple's Dashboard. I am not against analog clocks on computers, but if you look closely at Apple's widget, when the second hand moves every second, it shakes back and forth a little before landing on the next second. This is a perfect example of the imperfection of a traditional analog clock. How does this reproduced inaccuracy enhance time measuring? What's next? A pendulum below the clock?
  • Cell phones show reception strength in bars, usually from 0 to 5 bars. I would guess that the actual measurement of the signal strength is a numeric value, but not from 0 to 5. So now the developers have to convert the strength to a 0 to 5 scale, and then draw bars on the screen with increasing sizes? Isn't it easier just to display a percentage number? A 2 digit number will take about just as much space on the screen. Why sacrifice the precision?
  • Some calculator programs on computers display digits like a green 日 shape LCD. Again, it would be easier just to print the digits with regular fonts! Apple's Dashboard again falls into this category.

Doing things like these is just a waste of hardware and human resource. These examples are not so different from a flat screen TV morphing the picture so that the rectangular video frame would have round corners.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who read my blog?

Overview at the right.


We all know that telecommunication in Taiwan is very developed. But I never know that ET home (東森) has operation in the Gulf of Guinea.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Eating habits

Many people like to comment on the way I eat. In order to save time, I write this FAQ preemptively.

Q: You don't eat meat with bones. You're lazy.
A: Nope. The definition of lazy is not doing things that you're supposed to do to avoid trouble. I stress "supposed to do". Although I'd like to avoid trouble, eating meat with bones is not a duty of anyone. If the duty doesn't exist in the first place, the issue of laziness doesn't exist either.

Q: You don't eat seafood, except sashimi and sushi. It is inconsistent.
A: If you think that having exception is inconsistent, not eating all seafood is consistent, then I beg to differ. "Not eating all seafood" is equivalent to "Eating all food, except seafood". Contradiction.

Q: You eat fast. Why not eat slowly and prolong the enjoyment?
A: Perhaps for some people, the joy acquired per unit time (dj/dt) is about the same at any eating speed. But for me, when I eat fast, the value of dj/dt can be so high so that the total amount of joy (the area under curve in the graph) would be higher than if I eat slowly.

Q: If you've never tried this, how do you know it's not good?
A: I have tried many things. It's just that I deem them not good after trying. It doesn't take 20 years to try these. In addition, not every instance requires trying. Existing knowledge can provide much insight on the chances of good or bad. Why do people not eat shit without trying? Because our knowledge tells us there is a very high probability that it wouldn't taste good. By the same token, if I have tried yellow watermelons, red watermelons, and they taste about the same; Red apples and green apples are about the same. And I've tried green kiwifruits and deemed that not tasty, then I don't need to try golden kiwifruits.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

iPhone

Apple announced iPhone on 1/9/2007. This is a news the industry has been expecting, so there's no surprise here. Many news media report the event, whether it's newspaper, TV, or online-only. It's big, of course. But it's been 2 working days and I have seen few editorials or true journalism. All they do is reporting what happened, what feature the iPhone has, or what Steve Jobs said. Well, I can get all that from the keynote speech video. So I thought I'd like to through in my 2 cents.

Apple excels at user interface and design, I reiterate. Not just the look, but the usability as well. Here are some highlights that I feel are innovations or good reinventions.

  • With so many features, the device is only 11.6 mm thin, and weighs only 135 grams.
  • I often find the QWERTY keyboard on other smartphones clumsy. Most of the time, I don't type. But I do want to preserve the possibility to type. My current phone offers a sliding solution, which satisfies my need. But the drawback is a thicker body. The iPhone has a soft keyboard only. It addresses my concern of clumsiness, but iPhone is definitely not the first that has a soft keyboard. Let's see how well it does.
  • "Multi-touch" control where you can use two fingers to zoom in and out things by the distance between the two points. Innovation. Period.
  • Proximity sensor that shuts off display and touch screen input while the phone is near the ear. This is a problem all smartphone users have. Apple has solved it!
  • Ambient sensor that adjusts the brightness according to, um... amount of ambient light. As above. But see my counterpoint below.
  • Accelerometer determines if the device is portrait or landscape. Nice feature, but many cameras have that already.
  • Random access voice mail. You don't need to go through the first 5 message to get to the 6th. Again, a solution everybody can use.


Those being said, I would like to give my constructive criticism as well. These include things that are questionable or never discussed.

  • No stylus. Steve said this as if it were a feature. Perhaps the touch screen is so sophisticated that even people with larger fingers can type the virtual keyboard with no problem. In that case, more power to iPhone and I give the credit where it is due. But what if I want to prevent my sweaty fingers to smear the pretty screen? Some of us like to preserve the phone so that it would have higher resell value.
  • While the ambient sensor is a good thing, is there a manual override?
  • It runs OS X. Really? True OS X or a scaled down version? Forget about whether or not the OS is shrunk down version. Is it easy to develop software on iPhone? Is there any developer tools?
  • – Which leads to the question – how many software will there be? How easy is it to install? No demo, no mention at all. What about Skype?
  • Steve and the official website briefly mentions synchronizing contacts and other stuff between the phone and your PC or Mac. Great, but no demo. What kind of contact does it accept? Outlook? Thunderbird?
  • The keyboard was shown with 3 lines of regular keys and 2.5 lines of symbols and numbers at the demo. What about international characters? How easy is it to mix different languages while typing?
  • Steve demoed the contact with scrolling. It would suck if I need to call multiple members of the Zellwegers. Can it display by categories? Go to Z? How easy is it to transfer a contact to another device?
  • When talking about the price, Steve combined the price of an iPod nano, $199, and an average smart phone with 2 year contract, $299, because "these phones sort of do music, but nobody uses them for music". False, 2 of my co-workers and I have the Windows Mobile phone and we all use the phones for music (not that Windows Mobiles phone are good phones). The point is, a simple addition doesn't justify the $499 cost.
  • No expansion slot.
  • There is no way to replace the battery easily.
  • In the U.S., iPhone users are stuck with Cingular. I'm not against bundling two products or services that are highly related. I am against offering the bundle as the only choice while its products are totally separable. Why do they have to pick Cingular for me?? This will suck for frequent travelers. But Steve has the amazing ability to spin this as "partnership of innovation". We all know better.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Metric

Use metric. I don't know why the Americans are still using the customary units. I'd like to ask, if a pound of meat costs $3.45, how much does one ounce cost? Who can compute 3.45 / 16 without aid? How much does one ounce of water weigh? Ah ha, there are many different ounces, such as American fluid ounce (29.57 ml), British fluid ounce (28.41 ml), avoirdupois ounce (regular weight system, 28.35 g), and troy ounce (31.1 g). When the United States achieved independence, Thomas Jefferson promoted a decimal currency, as opposed to the British 1 pound = 20 shillings = 240 pence system. There are a series of acts in the States to promote the metric system, such as the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 and its amendments. But the voluntary conversion is useless. Because the metric is not yet adopted, Amazon has encountered problems when transmitting product information with other companies. Yes, habits are hard to change, and it will cost a great deal. But the earlier the better. If Canada and Australia can, so can the United States.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wikipedia

Sometime people ask me what I do during my free time. I've always been busy as Wikipedia for the past few months. Why and how? Because the tasks are like ever-expanding tree. In layman's term, 1 task leads to a few others, and they in turn lead to more. This is part of what I've done today

  • I found out that Kyrgyz banknotes are not eligible for copyright (So are banknotes from other ex-USSR republics).
  • Someone else has already uploaded some Kyrgyz banknote images. But I have better ones. So I upload them.
  • For the ones I got from www.banknoteworld.com, I had to tag them properly with their sources as dictated by the Wikipedia policy.
  • So I needed to make a template so that the same tag can be reused.
  • There were existing tags, but they were all over the places. I needed to clean them up.
  • On the English Wikipedia, I categorized these tags.
  • I repeated that on Wikipedia Commons, which is a image depository for Wiki in all languages.
  • Finished the upload
  • Requested the inferior images for deletion

This is just for Kyrgyzstan.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Juggling convention

My boss said there is a convention for juggling, and his son participated one for a week!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007