Posts filed under General

Motorola’s ROKR iTunes mobile phone

Filed in Technology

My wife and I looked at the new Motorola ROKR iTunes phone today here in Hong Kong. We weren't impressed. The plastic used to build the phone was... too plastic! I wondered if it would survive even a single drop to the ground.

My wife who has been using a Nokia 8310 since I can't remember when decided to buy the Sony Ericsson W800i instead. While almost twice the price of the ROKR, I don't think we made the wrong choice and I'm sure it'll work well for her for many years to come.

And it's fully supported by Mac OS X's iSync so what else can I say.

The future of television

Filed in TechnologyTags:

Say goodbye to television as you know it.

Just as PodCasts are allowing absolutely everybody to make and distribute their own radio shows, VideoCasts are also allowing the ordinary people to make and distribute videos. No longer will what we can see on TV be controlled by the rich television companies. No longer will we be forced to watch the Olympic Games because every single available channel is showing them.

In the beginning, PodCasts were made by everyday people, but they became so successful that even big corporations like ABC and NBC decided to get involved and make their own productions. They were rightfully concerned about getting left behind. The same thing is going to happen with video and I don't think the television companies are ready for it.

Of course, video is a completely different animal to audio. Significantly more money and resources, and many more people are usually necessary to produce a good video series, so you won't see shows like Stargate or C.S.I. get released in VideoCast format any time soon.

But one day, VideoCasts will be just as professional and complex as today's television, and we'll be able to watch anything we want, when we want (at least until companies like Google in collusion with governments filter everything 'distasteful' from our search results).

VideoCasts will be the true IPTV that everyone is talking about. I can't wait!

It’s official. Hong Kong’s a part of China.

Filed in Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

While driving on the expressway to Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣 to make some arrangements for my trip to Indonesia next week, I couldn't help but notice that the sky was very unattractive. It looked pretty much like the skies you'd see in big China cities like Guangzhou 廣州. I really wanted to stop on the expressway and take a few photos but the policemen wouldn't have liked that.

Later on, on my way home, I couldn't resist the urge to try to get a few photographs. I surmised that the North Point ferry pier 北角碼頭 might allow me to get far enough out into the harbour to be able to see Central 中環 around the expressway. I was wrong but the view wasn't too bad anyway and I came away with a few reasonable shots. Since I published 'blue-sky' shots yesterday, I thought I'd share these with you asap so that you can see the contrast.

Orange Tsimshatsui

The business district of Tsimshatsui 尖沙咀 never looked so bleak.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

During my eighteen years here in Hong Kong, I have observed the skies becoming more and more polluted. I remember in the early years that we lived out in Tai Po 大埔, driving in to work in the mornings, I used to be able to see Lion Rock Mountain 獅子山 very clearly. In the latter years, Lion Rock Mountain was simply not visible at all. The same thing is now happening all over Hong Kong and I fear that blue skies will become a true rarity.

Orange harbour

That's Hung Hom 紅磡 district on the left and Kowloon City 九龍城 on the right with multiple cranes working hard on top of a new development at the Kowloon City Pier 九龍城碼頭.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

I guess Hong Kong is now officially a part of China.

It’s official. Hong Kong’s a part of China.

Filed in Hong Kong, Photo of the Day



Instagram image


On a clear day

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

Overall, the weather here in Hong Kong has been dismal for the past six months. We've had much more rain than usual and blue skies have been rare. Unfortunately, even when we did have blue skies, they carried a heavy tinge of brown thanks to the increasing levels of pollution coming across from China. There's nothing we can do about the pollution except be grateful for the blue skies when they do appear.

Because blue skies are becoming rare, I sometimes spontaneously run off up the hills and mountains around Hong Kong to admire the view. This happened one fine day in the beginning of July when I took Batty and Siu Bak with me up a near by mountain. I took my camera with me too so I have a few photos to share.

Of course, for those of you living overseas in places like Canada or Australia, blue skies are frequent (and bluer) and these photos might not mean anything to you. For those of you living in smoky cities, they might be a breath of fresh air.

Ocean view from a hill

It was almost sunset when we reached the top of the hill; a short 45min walk up. The oceans looked cool and calm. Even Batty enjoyed the view.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

In recent months , I have noticed that the clouds forming in the skies are far different to what would normally hover around Hong Kong. I've seen them in Australia but almost never seen them here in Hong Kong; heavy cumulus nimbus clouds. Since early this year, I've sensed a change in Hong Kong's weather, perhaps a change related to the same phenomenon causing the huge storms over in the USA at the moment. On one occasion, I dashed up Lion Rock Mountain to get photos of the clouds over the busy city centre of Hong Kong. While the skies were not as blue as I would have liked, and while there was a certain amount of pollution hanging in the air to murky up the pictures, I still think a couple of the pictures were worth sharing. I have many more but I don't like to bore people with photographs if possible.

Cumulus nimbus clouds over Kowloon

The hills in the background are on Hong Kong Island with the towering business buildings of Central and Wanchai in front of them. Closer to us are the business centres of Tsimshatsui and the residential areas of Kowloon Tong. The park in the foreground is actually an archery range and is part of the Lion Rock Country Park.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

And finally, I took this photo while up on the hill near our home with Batty and Siu Bak. I liked it so much that it's now on my computer's desktop. I think you'll like it too.

Batty looking back through the grass

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

Justice like fine wine

Filed in Current Affairs, Hong Kong

I've been watching a lot of the amazing "CSI" American television series lately and something occurred to me while watching it. For the justice system to work, a certain assumption has to be made; that all police work can be trusted.

If a case against a criminal is built entirely on evidence collected by the police, then the courts have to assume that the police-provided testimonies and evidence, and everything about the evidence is true. If not, then no case would ever get prosecuted.

For example, a criminal scientist collects a strand of hair at a murder scene. The first assumption would be that the hair was actually collected at the scene and not swapped afterward (or planted earlier) by a corrupt officer. The second assumption would be that the hair was correctly handled, labelled and transported so that its authenticity and usefulness as a piece of evidence wouldn't be affected in any way. The third assumption would be that the scientist within the crime department who analyses the DNA of the hair is not corrupt, knows exactly what he's doing and does it accurately to identify the owner of the hair. The fourth assumption would be that the database used to compare the hair's DNA so as to identify the owner is accurate and up to date.

You see, once the results of the investigation of that hair get into the court, the source of the hair, the handling thereof and the DNA identification won't be questioned by the court. It can't be questioned or the case would never get prosecuted. The scientist and the department has to be absolutely unreproachable. That's why in the various television series regarding law, the departments are always extremely concerned when one of their members; be they policemen, scientists, attorneys, judges or whatever; gets impeached with corruption, mishandling of evidence or plain old negligence. When this happens, every case that has ever involved that person or the evidence they touched becomes questionable, and convicted criminals have a basis for retrials. Within the law system, those working within the system are truly assumed innocent (and capable) until proven guilty. It's the only way the system will work.

Unfortunately, police departments around the world are not pure. They become puppets for corrupt governments, politicians or rich people. All around the world, rich people frequently get away with criminal activities; including murder; and there's almost nothing that the common person can do. I know people who worked within the law system of Hong Kong and they hated going to work because they saw rich people orchestrate trial results even before going into court. It happens in Hong Kong. It happens all over the world.

I think it's probably worse in countries where most court cases are prosecuted behind closed doors so that the public only has access to the evidence and findings that the courts deem suitable for public consumption. It's even worse when those same courts don't allow the suspects to hire their own independent attorneys. From the beginning, the suspects have no chance of disproving the accusations against them. The courts have already decided the result without hearing all evidence from both sides. They have no interest in hearing the truth. They have no interest in justice. They only want a speedy trial and the occasional larger-than-life demonstration conviction that they can show to the citizens of their country to prove that they're doing a good job.

The justice system is like making wine or meringue. If even a little vinegar gets into the wine, or if even a smingen of egg yolk gets into the egg white, then the wine and the meringue will go bad.

One of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Crime (ICAC) department's responsibilities were to make sure that any corruption within Hong Kong's justice system be uprooted, so that the system always remained pure like fine wine. Before the 1997 handover, the ICAC did a pretty good job although there is at least one case that I can remember where the bad guys were not prosecuted by the ICAC because of their connections to important people in China. After 1997 though, the ICAC apparently lost the "Independent" part of their name. If you read the news regularly, it's easy to sense how things have changed there and how the ICAC is becoming more and more a puppet of the Hong Kong government. Recent controversial changes to the communication/phone-tapping laws; passed by Sir Donald Tsang without even asking the Legislative Committee; are only the most recent clues that the ICAC is no longer what it once was when first conceived back in the 1960's.

In case it hasn't occurred to you, the changes made to the phone-tapping laws combined with legal phrases such as "disturbing the social order" basically allows the government to spy on anyone they don't like; ie, "big brother" from the book "1984" by George Orwell.

Some people claim that justice is for all when the truth is that justice is only for the rich. For a while, some poorer people in Hong Kong had a good chance of getting justice when private companies were springing up to help people prosecute and sue others without requiring any legal fees up front. Once the suit had settled, the company would keep a percentage of the awards and everyone would be happy. Rich people didn't like this though and many of the expensive attorneys didn't like it either so the attorney association put out a letter forbidding all attorneys from aiding these companies. Basically, they wanted to make sure that only the rich had access to justice. Fortunately, some of those companies are still running, allowing some of the poorer people in Hong Kong to continue getting access to justice. Note that "poorer" doesn't necessarily mean sleeping in the streets or living on the poverty line. Attorneys and lawyers are extremely expensive, so much so that most middle class people cannot even consider hiring attorneys when they've been wronged.

The rich will always want their own way, and those in positions of power will often be owned or persuaded by the rich. As mere mortals, there's not much most of us can do. Thankfully though, there are still a few upright moral people within the justice system. Hopefully, they'll prevent the system from becoming completely biased to the rich and powerful, and prevent the wine from going completely sour.

Interview on moShow (2005/09/01)

Filed in Press, Technology

On Wednesday, I did an interview with the folks over at moShow where they specialise in podcasts and mocasts (I'm not sure if they're the same. Podcasts are supposed to be audio-only because current iPods; where the podcast name comes from; cannot play video whereas mocasts; ie, Mobile-casts; can be played on mobile cameras where video is possible.).

Anyway, I talked my head off and they had enough material for three episodes. The first episode is already available so if you're interested, head on over to moShow and listen in. The other episodes will become available on the coming two Thursdays.

Note. The interviews are in Cantonese.

A Day at Disney HK

Filed in Current Affairs

I had already decided not to visit Hong Kong Disneyland for quite some time to come, pretty sure that there would be a rush to get in when it first opened and that there might be all kinds of problems as the park adjusted. But when my friends offered us Rehearsal Day tickets, my wife and I bit the bullet and agreed to go.

I've been to the Florida Disneyland park in the USA twice. My wife has been to both the Florida and Japan parks, so this visit was going to be a comparison trip even if we didn't plan it that way. We were sure that the Hong Kong park wouldn't be as big or as grand as the other parks but we were curious none-the-less.

We went to the park on Tuesday. The weather was incredible. Luckily, I had my aussie wide-brim hat with me for protection because the sun proved to be quite harsh that day. Many a visitor spent hours sweating while waiting in line to ride the attractions or see the shows, and the sweat level seemed to be much higher than I experienced in Florida.

Disney in the hills

It might have been a visual affect of being nestled in the mountains but the Disney signature castle looked pretty small.

One of the things that struck me as we entered the park was the size of the buildings. Everything seemed to be small. At first, I thought it was the mountains in the background that made the buildings look small but friends who have also been to the USA parks confirmed that the buildings in the Hong Kong park are indeed smaller than the buildings in the USA. That's strange. I wonder why they'd do this? For most of the buildings, it didn't matter that they were smaller but the signature castle was a big let down for many people. It was simply too small.

Umbrellas were up everywhere as people tried to stay out of the direct sunlight. Unfortunately, as a relatively tall person in a city of less-than-six-feet-tall people, I detest umbrellas because I usually end up getting poked in the neck or the face by somebody's umbrella and Tuesday was no exception. It wasn't too bad but I still had to be careful whenever surrounded by umbrella wielding people. Umbrellas were also a problem when we were trying to see the Disney Main Street Parade. We could hardly see anything at all because people in the front rows had their umbrellas up, almost completely blocking our view.

The Main Street Disney Parade

With all the umbrellas up in front of us, it was almost impossible to see the parade. While watching the parade, I was admiring the performers who had to maintain their wonderful cartoon-like smiles and expressions throughout the parade twice a day under the heat of Hong Kong's sun.

We didn't go on many rides. In fact, we only went on one ride if you could call it that. We went on the river raft ride which is around 50 feet long! The reason we took the ride was to get to the other side of the river to walk around Tarzan's tree house which was actually quite good. For most of the day, my energy levels were too low to be bothered waiting 50 minutes in line for the Space Mountain ride or the other rides.

Apparently, the rides are not nearly as advanced as the ones in the USA parks. Rides with simulated momentum such as the "Back to the Future" ride don't exist, and neither do rides such as the Jurassic Park, Tornado and Fire-fighting rides. I guess they were simply too expensive to be rebuilt here in Hong Kong.

There were two live performances. We saw both and I was very impressed by the performers; most of them not from Hong Kong. The dancers and the singers were outstanding. You could see the professionalism by the energy they consistently put into their performances, and the small movements in their dance routines, small movements that are the signature of mature advanced dancers. And the singers were great too. My only complaint was with the Lion King show where in typical Hong Kong fashion, the music was so much louder than the singers that we couldn't hear what they were singing.

On the day that we went to the park, there were too many visitors. Even when not queuing up for a ride or a show, we were still forced to walk at baby speed because there were people all around us. This, combined with the heat of the sun, really tired me out.

Food was a problem. There are around seven or eight restaurants in the park and from around 12 to 2pm, it was impossible to get a table. After queuing up at one restaurant for twenty minutes, I was told that we'd have to wait another one and a half hours before getting in. I gave up. It was almost time for the Golden Mickeys Award show anyway so we bought some fruit juice and made our way over to the show, hoping to find food after the show.

With Disneyland being an American company, I expected to find some fair dinkum American food in the park. I was wrong! With the exception of a few lame hamburgers in the Star-liners fast-food restaurant, there was no real western food to be found. No hot dogs. No quality ice cream or ice cream sundaes (I really missed the Ghirardelli chocolate/ice cream store from the Florida park). However, if Tuesday's attendance was any indication, the park management probably made the right choice. There were almost no caucasians in the park so serving western food might not have made sense. Still, I would have really enjoyed a quality ice cream sundae on that hot day.

The view from Tarzan's tree house

Looking down on Adventureland and the River Boat ride from Tarzan's tree house.

I found the problem of language to be interesting. Cantonese is my second language so I have no problem with it and I enjoy running into people around the world who speak it. Still, the park must be expecting a lot of traffic from Guangdong because all performances were in a mixture of English and Cantonese. If you spoke Mandarin, you were out of luck. Almost all of the Golden Mickeys Award show was in Cantonese except for the songs which were almost entirely in English. It'll be interesting to see how this aspect of the park is accepted by future attendants, particularly those from China who don't speak Cantonese. And if case you're wondering, there were no subtitles anywhere that I could see.

My wife and I didn't stay around for the fireworks scheduled for 9pm. I was too tired to wait. Our friends stayed, one of whom later commented that the most interesting aspect of the fireworks was the sea of starry DV camera LCD screens while everyone recorded the fireworks. Which brings me to cameras. They were everywhere. Digital photography has really changed the world of photography. People aren't afraid to take photos because it won't cost them anything. They were taking photos everywhere. People were even taking photos while trying on hats and clothing in the Disney stores; which makes a lot of sense because you get to wear them without paying for them, and you'd probably only wear them once or twice anyway.

Overall though, I think the park has a big chance of being very successful. Everything looked great and I think people will enjoy it; especially the kids!

The one concern I have about the park's future is the future visitors from China. Will they mindlessly drop rubbish everywhere instead of using the rubbish bins? Will they push through the queues for the shows and rides? Will there be scuffles and fights? Will they try to steal as many souvenirs as possible from the Disney stores? Will they be crouching on the sidewalks in that typical Asian style? Will there be escalated pick pocketing? Hopefully, my premonitions are wrong and the Chinese visitors will be very respectful of other visitors and the park itself.

The big question. Will I go again? Probably. One day.