Category Archives: Gadgets and gizmos

The advanced nation

Irony or necessity?

To spare my ears from being stuffed full of earphones while I’m listening to music on my Walkman, I went in search of the speaker dock which my Mum and Dad have, but to no avail. In spite of visiting several places (mainly the computer centres), there was nothing to be had.

I’ve since checked the Sony China website and find the only speakers they have are the NWD-100, which is a waterproof speaker system for the Walkman. Sony HK doesn’t even have that much, but the Sony UK and New Zealand websites both have the SRS-NWGU50.

What I did find here was some battery-powered Sony speakers which date from about four or five years ago, which are over twice the current price (through Amazon US or Walmart), and which have been long since superseded. This is further confirmation of my suspicion that all the old kit gets offloaded on the Empire. My monitor at home was never the latest model when I bought it although it may have been the latest one available here.

Why would the speaker docks for the Walkman be unavailable in China? Is it because a Walkman is regarded almost solely as a portable device? Is it because the dock requires space and Chinese flats have none? Now if there was no bed in the study, I could move the small table beside the fridge in there and put something on it. But the amount of room in the study is very limited and if there was no bed, I would’ve frozen to death in the unheatable bedroom.

At the moment, I’m compromising. I’ve brought my old speakers out of mothballs (well, dust) and can run the Walkman through them using the cable from my portable DVD player which is meant to be used to connect that to a TV. The balance on the speakers is a bit wonky because the socket in the back is loose, but it seems to be less temperamental with the Walkman than it is with the DVD player.

Kindles to the left of him and Kindles to the right

Into the Valley of Kindles rode the noble Mr Bamboo.

Kirsten, Nick and I started by giving Dad a Kindle and a cover for his birthday today, and then Mum and Dad bought me one for Christmas. I’m hoping that this will free me from going to Hong Kong or other civilised places once every six months to buy books which I then have to lug back home with me and add to my already overcrowded shelves. (In truth, I really need to buy another bookcase because I have enough books to fill most of a fourth.)

I’ll have to get books via the Internet once I’m home. I have no WiFi in the Empire and doubt whether the connection is sufficiently good anyway. Too much silly infantile paranoia to contend with as well.

I’m charging mine at the moment (from the mains; I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to have various devices slurping power through my laptop), but have downloaded all the foreign dictionaries via WiFi.

The weather has gone from brilliant to bitchy in a day. Yesterday was particularly foul with some very heavy rain and a heavy fall in the temperature, and although it’s been much less unpleasant today, it hasn’t been what I would call warm myself. First thing this morning, it was a mere 10°.

Yesterday, we went to a restaurant called The Mud House for lunch to celebrate Dad’s birthday. I ate mountain goat – seriously. It was in a pie (actually, it was more like a stew with some pastry on top) and all rather filling so that when I got to the cheese, I found that I was more bloated than a boardroom executive’s wallet.

Now, what am I going to do with my Kindle? For one thing, slap a bunch of pdf documents on it, which was why I started thinking about something like this three or four years ago. Of course, in those days I went out for tea and would take something to read with me, but my phone with its rather small screen, was a bit hopeless as a substitute for an e-book reader. These days I tend to have tea at home and the Kindle becomes a handy means of dragging a bunch of books around with me instead of just one, which I’m likely to read long before my holiday runs out.

Just before I post this, it has popped into my mind that my 2000th blog entry isn’t far away. There should be celebrations, but I suspect there will just be mundanity instead. (NB Firefox’s British English Dictionary, mundanity is a word. Stop red-lining it.)

The Little Drummer Boy: neither little nor a drummer

Nor even a boy.

I’ve finally worked out that the Little Drummer Boy, who sounds like a madman in the attic bashing away at a kettle drum, is the, er, lift. That’s why I was hearing such a cacophony of sound at all hours of the day and wondering who could sustain such a lifestyle – except a lunatic.

I’ve never lived in a block of flats with a lift before, nor so high as I am now. I happened to be standing outside the lifts the other day when I realised how I had misinterpreted the sound all this time. The lifts do rattle away as they go up and down the shaft and the noise does sound like someone banging away on a kettle drum. Because there was no rhyme or reason to the rhythm [That’s quite enough alliteration for one entry. –ed.], I thought that the drummer was possibly a couple of sections short of an orchestra.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

My mobile

The e-book reader.

For about a year or so now I’ve been thinking that it’d be handy to have some sort of portable pdf reader because I’ve got quite a collection which is limited to my brick of a laptop. For some reason, this matter popped back into my mind a couple of days ago[1] along with the question whether my mobile could display text files. I tried copying a file to the phone, but there’s really nothing on the phone which appears to recognise text files (or pdf files for that matter).

I did a search online, intending to find a phone which came with the facility to read a range of standard text types (out of curiosity; I’m not planning to replace my phone sooner than I have to), but found a program by tequilacat which converts text files to a .jar file which you can then copy to your phone via bluetooth. It includes some useful options such as the ability to include a Windows font in which the text will be displayed (I have to press the #-key a couple of times first), which is much more pleasant to read than the phone’s ghastly native sans serif “font”; altering the page and font colours; and sundry other options which I haven’t tried yet.

On my mobile, a 16pt font seems to be a reasonable size and I’ve set the page colour to a pallid yellow in a rough imitation of the colour of the paper found in a paperback. My first book was Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard which I can redo now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing. I’ve also put on Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley along with Pope’s Rape of the Lock.

From the point of view of convenience, my phone is much more portable than an e-book reader. From what I’ve seen of them, they look rather fragile and are not the sort of kit you can shove in your pocket. It also means that on occasions when I might like to take a book somewhere with me, but such a thing isn’t feasible, then my phone will do quite nicely if I can find the text. Of course, that limits me largely to works from the 19th century and early 20th centuries unless I write my own. Would it make me a narcissist to read my own works?

Notes
1. Now I remember. I was having a look at Project Gutenberg, where such things were mentioned.
[06.08.13. Since I wrote this, I’ve acquired a Kindle. The good: it can store a lot of books and they’re searchable. The bad: the disconnection between indexes and the locations to which they refer.]

I’m a thinker

Yeah, I suppose I do have too much time on my hands.

Via Language Log (My brain hurts), we have a story about a site called Typealyzer which allegedly analyses the language you use on your blog to produce a profile of you as a person. It’s a bit like those ridiculous Quizilla quizzes about what Fullmetal Alchemist character you are. So I threw Green Bamboo into the machine and this is what I got:

ISTP – The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Is that a reasonable description of me? I suppose that like horoscopes, the description will fit someone approximately so that more than one description might be applicable to me without being an exact fit. The one above works until it gets to the fun and action part and then becomes a bit of a fantasy.

I note that whatever I happen to be talking about on my blog at any one time will affect the analysis. Recently, I’ve mentioned Montaigne a few times; the presence of quotes from various translations, not being my words, must skew things a little. If this was a monothematic blog, the result might be different again.

Typealyzer even gives you a graph:

Mr Bamboo's brain

which I note looks suspiciously like the one the boys at Language Log got, although they’re more feeling than I am by about a millimetre.

But the blogspot version of GB has me down as

INTP – The Thinkers
The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Again, I can’t disagree with the analysis entirely, which I think is even closer to me than the other one. Nonetheless, it still works on the basis of being approximately right, which merely goes to show that we’re a melange. Our personalities may predominantly be one thing, but there are always bits of this and that in them as well.

I also note that the graph that accompanies this analysis is barely any different from the one above.

Mr Bamboo's other brain

The only difference is that this is a little less S and a little more N, but somehow that changes the outcome. I can only see the difference clearly by tab switching in PSP to animate the two images.

I tried Chris’s blog. The resulting analysis is

ESTP – The Doers
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.
The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus.
They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I must admit I don’t really recognise him from the description. I’m not sure Chris would exactly describe his job as action-filled.

Matt’s blog gets the same result. Well, he has been doing some travelling recently.

I think that’s enough silly fun as lunchtime beckons.

Mr Bamboo really indulges himself

And it’s not with cheese and crisps.

As much as I like my new laptop, I have to admit that the monitor was a little bit of a disappointment. Compared with the old laptop (1280 x 800), the new one seemed a little small (1366 x 768). Admittedly, it’s proper 16:9 widescreen, but it seems a little squat. After thinking about mouse pens, external HDs and the like, I realised when I got home that I needed a bigger monitor. [Thus complementing that inflated ego. –ed.] Although the TV might be all right for gaming, I wanted a monitor which would be good for all the tasks for which I use a computer.

I set out for Gome this morning, but was diverted because I actually looked at the rim of the front wheel of my bike and found that not only was the dent worse, but the rim itself was splitting. A trip to the bike shop round the corner took care of that and I continued on my original quest. I wasn’t really expecting Gome to have much and it didn’t. A 19″ monitor clearly wasn’t going to be adequate. Such a monitor looks larger, but not that much larger and the resolution is only 1440 x 900. The shop also had a 22″ monitor which seemed to be the sort of thing I was looking for. They were both HP, the latter being ¥2350 (c. £192; the exchange rate has improved in China’s favour which means that the monitor is about £20 more expensive than it would’ve been a few months ago). I made notes and thought the computer centre was a better bet for a range of choices.

Went out there after lunch and wandered into the Acer booth. They had one model (AL2216W; 22″; 1680 x 1050) with a starting price of ¥1650, but I showed unfeigned reluctance because I didn’t want to buy the first monitor I saw, preferring to see what else there was. That brought the price down a bit and eventually they asked for ¥1500 (c. £122), which I thought was reasonable. It’s basically just a monitor and, as I suspected, is an older model. (I’ve just found a review dating from about a year and a half ago.) Nonetheless, my initial impression is good and I did just want a monitor rather than a second TV screen.

Since my laptop is also an Acer, I wasn’t surprised that it made friends with the monitor as soon as they met. None of the “Sorry, am I meant to know you?” routine. Once I’d updated the drivers, I gave ETQW a spin. It looks good; runs smoothly; but I note that certain vehicles were getting lodded out of existence, which means I probably need to look at the in-game resolution. It went through an auto-detect routine when the game started.

Overall, this does represent a major step up for me in spite of the age of the model and an it’s-all-right-but… review. I think I’ll be satisfied for the moment.

[23.09.13. And the monitor is still going strong even although I have occasionally thought about replacing it with something a little more up-to-date. It was certainly never the best monitor, but it’ll do. Doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of ageing.

21.09.14. I replaced that monitor with an Acer H236HL (res. 1920×1080). It cost ¥100 less than the old model. The current laptop doesn’t quite have the oomph to run games on it at full resolution, but copes with most tasks without too much bother.

The old monitor is about to get resurrected for use with the old laptop – assuming that that can still cope with it after the major HD problem it suffered from in 2013.]

That’s right, babe

Ride the Love Sword.

I went to a proper bike shop with Linda yesterday afternoon and got my bike seen to. The real problem was the ball bearings around the spindle. Basically, to use technical parlance, they were knackered. While I was in the shop, I was having a look at the various models of bikes. The model which is equivalent to mine had the name Clerrent, which didn’t make any sense until Linda translated the Chinese name. The English should say Current, but the font is one of those hand-writing style ones like Mistral so that somehow, the ‘u’ has been replaced by ‘le’. I can imagine how a hand-written ‘u’ might be misread as ‘le’ by a non-native speaker.

lovesword But that’s merely the trailer to the main event. Yeah. it says Love Sword. It’s clearly not Love’s Word because the gap is between “love” and “sword”. No Chinese so it’s not possible to say what it might be meant to mean, but I suspect that it’s a gross mistranslation. Anyway, I hope all those Chinese girls out there on their Love Swords [fnar! fnar!] are enjoying the ride.

Meanwhile, my bike is now running smoother than a baby’s bottom. [Do you even listen to yourself when you write? –ed.]

The Nine Plagues of Chengdu

No. 7 – The bike chain.

Two days ago when I went DVD shopping I’d got as far as 南大街, which is to say, not far at all, when the chain came off my bike, sundered by main force. I went to the bike shop outside my old flat and got a new chain. Chains here aren’t linked together using a special tool but rather but a clip which holds the links together. It’s easier to get on and off, but seems to be prone to catching.

Anyway, I went to Zoe’s for tea this evening. Just as I was approaching 南大街, the pedals seized up and, yes, the chain had come off the rear cog. Fortunately, I’ve been carrying pairs of disposable gloves recently and repaired it without getting my hands dirty. I passed through the intersection, turned right down 上池北街 and was just approaching the the skip at the other end of the street when, once again, main force did for the chain. I rescued it (although not before some taxi driver had driven over it – plonker) and took it to the nearer bike shop to get it put back together.

But I have no doubt that this will happen again. The chain doesn’t run smoothly, although I’ve had the rear wheel adjusted more than once, and the other day I had the main cog tightened up. This is chain number three since I inherited the bike from James. It’s not a bad piece of kit, but the parts that make it go are sorely wanting.

A torch of multifarious usage

An ironic purchase.

Because of the problems with the lifts, I thought I might start using the stairs, but if I do that, I really need a torch. I know that the shops which sell police kit have torches so I went to one just near the intersection and pointed to one which looked like just the thing I wanted until the proprietor demonstrated that it had a taser function (or it might’ve doubled as a lighter for a gas cooker). He offered me another torch which suited my purposes better. When I got it home, I found it was rechargeable and came from Hong Kong (offices on Wing Kut Street in Central). It also came with instructions of which I reproduce some below.

Pioneer using introduction

It owns the novel and artistic appearance… slippery-proof. Moreover, it is a sturdy and durable product and performs satisfactorily.

Features:

a) adopt the high capacity of 1100mAHs to do not need to support the sour storage battery of lead.

b) establish the intelligence to flow to refresh and steady press, consume to give or get an electric shock the quantity small, can circulate to refresh to be up to 500 times above, save the money for you.

Lighting:

a) use only the beard will illuminate the switch to make an effort a little bit to push forward.

b) through multifarious usage, a darker hour of flashlight, (do not chase all exhaustions of the battery amount of electricity), please refresh in time.

c) …accepting to put the machine to turn on electricity more than 10 hourses continuously.

I love how the torch “performs satisfactorily”. It reminds me of the machine in the bank in Fuzhou which you use to rate the bank clerk’s service. In English, I think the best they got was an unenthusiastic satisfactory.

There’s one instruction at the end about keeping combustible materials away from the torch while it’s charging. That inspires confidence in me, although I don’t own anything combustible to the best of my knowledge. Actually, it seems that the torch should be kept away from just about everything. Perhaps I should buy a torch from a shop where such things don’t also come with an offensive function beside a practical one.

Those key DVD moments

That’s what that’s about.

Remember I mentioned the mystery keys on the remote for my DVD player and the player itself? No? Well, go back a few entries and read about it. (Or just click on the link which I’ve provided.)

Now that I have the manual, I thought I’d find out what these things do. As I got to the end of my feeble attempt to translate the function of Mr Pointy Finger, I realised that it was the direct play button. This was confirmed a few minutes later when I was glancing through the table of contents and was reminded that there’s a page in English with a brief description of the functions of the keys on the remote.

The other key, the one for the hypothetical keyboard, is actually for the virtual (i.e., on screen) controls for the DVD player. I can’t get it to work, although I don’t know why. It might be that I have to press a button on the remote. I never use such an option anyway.

That’s kind of been the high point of today’s grey day. I don’t know how I cope with the excitement.