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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pentagon wants open-source 5G plan in campaign against Huawei – ok in theory only

It Seemed Like a Popular Chat App. It’s Secretly a Spy Tool. – The New York Times – Emirati’s do with Totok what the Chinese have been doing for years with WeChat TOMS/Skype etc. Totok is apparently popular in Qatar as it allows VoIP without a VPN – so expat workers use it to connect with their families at home.

Totok messenger

Made in America – On US staffed hacking team in UAE. Interesting investigation by Reuters

The decade of the drop: why do we still stand in line? | How To Spend It – experience. It’s diametrically opposite to one stop shopping

Apple Captures 66% of the Smartphone Industry’s Profits in Q3 leaving all of their Competitors Combined in the Dust – Patently Appleit is becoming a challenge for Chinese smartphone brands to increase their smartphone ASPs and margins due to a combination of longer consumer holding periods and Apple lowering pricing on some key SKUs, which has limited the headroom that Chinese vendors had used to increase their ASPs – in the long term Huawei having to be vertically integrated all the way up the stack could be to their benefit

Nike’s Jordan brand just had its first billion-dollar quarter — Quartz – interesting that it has taken over 30 years to get to a billion dollar quarter, yet Jordan is at least ten years past its cultural peak

In Focus: Pet Shop Boys 6th December 2019 | Listen on NTS – amazing delve into their career

Reality TV stars auditioned to ‘promote’ poison diet drink on Instagram – BBC News – Oh my gosh, this is as good as watching re-runs of Brass Eye

Pig Irons at the ‘Plex | Margins – essay on consulting firms well worth reading

Gildo Zegna: tailoring masculinity for changing tastes | Financial Timesluxury goods industry is feeling the heat of technological disruption, social upheaval and identity politics. Furthermore, within the high end fashion industry few items of clothing are facing more pressure from falling consumer demand than the one that made the Zegna family rich: the traditional men’s suit. “The big challenge we face is a rethinking of masculinity,” he says. – I think streetwear is interesting because of the reassurance it provides on masculinity. The basics of streetwear go back to the mid-century sports basics. The hooded top, jeans, t-shirts, plaid shirts, Letterman jacket, track jacket etc

Facebook awaits EU opinion in privacy case | Financial Times – interesting how wide the impact of this case could be in terms of things like credit card transaction data etc. (paywall)

Aito.ai – Introducing a new database category – the predictive database – hmmm

A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers – The New York TimesChinese authorities are knitting together old and state-of-the-art technologies — phone scanners, facial-recognition cameras, face and fingerprint databases and many others — into sweeping tools for authoritarian control, according to police and private databases examined by The New York Times. Once combined and fully operational, the tools can help police grab the identities of people as they walk down the street, find out who they are meeting with and identify who does and doesn’t belong to the Communist Party. The United States and other countries use some of the same techniques to track terrorists or drug lords. Chinese cities want to use them to track everybody.

Is LVMH’s Digital Transformation Working? | Luxury Society“Over the last few years our market has become highly fragmented,” it added. “Customer journeys and purchasing habits have become more complex. Now, in addition to magazines and other traditional media, our customers – especially young people – use a range of digital options to stay informed, communicate with friends and shop. Brand awareness and customer engagement are built on these many different touchpoints.”

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Is it western companies, or China in a financial crisis? Part 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Apple and Jaguar Land Rover blamed the Chinese economy for their recent financial results. The truth is probably more complex. What factors are affecting affecting these businesses that aren’t directly related to the Chinese economy?

China is a unique mobile environment and in some ways it mirrors the hopes (and fears) for the internet in the late 1990s. Oracle and Sun Microsystems spent a lot of time during the dot com boom developing technologies that would allow applications to run on the web. Enterprise software sudden had a user experience that could be accessed via a web browser. Java allowed applications to be downloaded and run as needed. Netscape had a vision of the internet replicating the operating system as a layer that would run applications. Microsoft also realised this which was why they developed Internet Explorer, integrated it into Windows and killed off Netscape. The Judge Jackson trial happened and that was the start of the modern tech sector allowing Google and Apple to rise.

Move forwards two decades and most computing is now done on mobile devices. In China, WeChat have managed to achieve what Netscape envisioned. Their app as a gateway to as many services as a consumer would need including a plethora of mini applications. It doesn’t suffer the problems that native web apps have had in terms of sluggish user experiences. In addition, WeChat has invested in a range of high-performing start-ups to built a keiretsu of businesses from cab services, e-commerce, property companies and even robotics. In the meanwhile Tencent who own WeChat have a range of consumer and business services as well.

What this means for Apple is that many of its advantages in other markets are negated in China. The OS or even performance of a smartphone doesn’t matter that much, so long as it can run WeChat and a couple of other apps. The look and feel of the app is pretty much the same regardless of the phone OS. Continuity: where the iPhone and a Mac hand-off seamlessly to each other doesn’t matter that much if many consumers use their smartphone for all their personal computing needs.

This has been the case for a few years now in China – but Apple haven’t found a way around it.

As for phone industrial design – Apple lifted the game in manufacturing capability by introducing new machines and new ideas. To make the iPhone 5, Apple helped its suppliers buy thousands of CNC machines. This grew the manufacturers capability to supply and the amount of pre-owned machines that eventually came on the marketplace. It meant that other manufacturers have managed to make much better phone designs much faster.

That meant Chinese consumers can buy phones that are indistinguishable from an iPhone if you ignore the logo and function the same because of China’s app eco-system. Again this has been the same for a few years and has accelerated due to the nature of the dominant smartphone form factor. The second iteration of the iPhone X form factor is what really changed things. The phones were different to what has come before, but they weren’t demonstrably better. They were also more expensive.

In the mean time Huawei and others have continued to make progress, particularly in product design and camera technology – the two areas where Apple led year-on-year. Huawei devices can be expensive for what they are, but they gave domestic manufacturers ‘brand permission’ in the eyes of many Chinese consumers to be as good as the foreigners.

This wasn’t helped by Samsung’s missteps in the Chinese market that started with the global recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 battery recall. Samsung hasn’t managed to make that gap back up and seems to make marketing missteps regularly such as its recent tie-in with the ‘fake’ Supreme brand holder China. If you’re a Chinese consumer the additional value or status that you used to see in foreign handset brands is now diminished. This seems to be a wider theme as domestic brands are also making similar gains in market share compared to foreign FMCG brands. Although there are also exceptions like baby formula.

Domestic brands have done a good job marketing themselves. BBK in particular are very interesting. Whilst Huawei makes lots of noise and bluster at how big they are, BBK creeps up. It has a number of brands in China and abroad OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo and RealMe going after particular segments. The brands are focused but run separately like companies in their own right. Apple’s marketing riffs on its global marketing (though it did a great Chinese New Year themed ad last year). This reinforces the perceived common view that foreign businesses are full of hubris and don’t sufficiently localise for China. Apple’s recent pricing strategy in a market where this is so little to show in value provided looks like the epitome of hubris.

180120 - China smartphone market

Finally, there has been a massive amount of consolidation of brands in the China smartphone market over the past four years. That provides for scale in terms of logistics, supply chain, design, component sourcing and marketing.

If we move to the automotive sector and look at Jaguar Land Rover – their problems in China look self inflicted. China’s car market has declined for the first time in 20 years. But it seems to have mostly affected brands like Hyundai rather than prestige brands like Mercedes Benz or BMW. The reasons why aren’t immediately apparent. Yes diesel cars are less popular, but BMW, Audi and Mercedes make diesel cars.

Jaguar Land Rover aren’t the only foreign brand suffering: Toyota has had problems in China since the last round of strong anti-Japanese sentiment exploded in 2012.

More information

Why Does WeChat Block Competitors, While Facebook Doesn’t? | Walk The Chat

Apple’s China Problem | Stratechery

Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7 worldwide due to exploding battery fears | The Verge

Samsung angers hypebeasts by partnering with fake Supreme brand in China | The Verge

Fake News: Samsung China’s Deal With Supreme “Knock-off” Spurs Drama | Jing Daily

Chinese car sales fall for first time in more than 20 years | World news | The Guardian

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Mac software recommendations

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Why a list of Mac software recommendations and why me? I have been using Macs since my early cough, cough – ok let’s just say a long time. I bought my first Macs secondhand. The first one was a sit-up-and beg style Macintosh SE. This is in what nerds now call the Mac Classic style machine. This allowed me to proof club flyers on a computer rather than getting bromides made. The machine paid for itself in less than five months.

Classic Mac Flickrdither

I moved on to a PowerBook 165 running ClarisWorks and early Internet software.

I managed to connect it to the net through my university and surf in 16 shades of grey. Some of the software I recommend has been maintained almost as long as I have been a Mac user which says something about the power of developer’s core ideas.

At the time there wasn’t the Mac user community that there is now. But what users there were made up for their lack of numbers with fierce passion.

When you bought a Mac you could tap into a real world community. My University user group met once a month and swapped software and tips.

It was this rather than the iMac which made sure Apple had a user base by the time Steve Jobs returned. Mac related magazines filled in the knowledge gap and carefully curated demo software. It was through this experience that I learned about some of the apps here. I have stayed loyal to them over the decades and upgraded them as required.

Nowadays there is a larger, but less passionate community. We tend to share web services rather than apps. We also tend to gather around the biggest rather than the best. I am a great believer in supporting independent development where the applications work better for me. This the lens that I view software through in making the recommendations below. Some of the recommendations come from people I trust like Mat Morrison. Where I have shared a piece of software I don’t use I’ve made this clear below.

Despite the disappointing* product designs of the last two MacBook Pro revisions, I’ve been surprised as a few more friends move to the platform. They’ve sought advice myself and other friends. So I thought I’d consolidate the knowledge and put it out there.

The process caused me to reflect on the software that I use and value. I like:

  • Products that work both online and offline, so Hemingway’s native app made it in rather than the Grammarly Chrome plug-in. Internet isn’t as ubiquitous as one would have you believe, God knows I love technology, but I am not blind to its faulty implementation
  • Products that seem to be mature and have gone through a couple of development cycles
  • Software has to fit me, rather than the other way around. I’ve built up behaviours over my time using computers and networks that seem to work for me. But we have different learning styles and habits, which was part of the reason why I’ve suggested choices that I don’t use but others like. Chances are one of them will work for you, but not all of them will
  • I prefer not to depend on web giants like Google, Facebook et al when it comes to software. Their ‘always in beta’ philosophy can make for inconsistent product experiences – look at how the Skype consumer platform UI and functionality has changed for the worse over time. ‘Always-in-beta’ also results in abrupt ‘sunsets’ – that’s tech speak for killed off. This happens for a few reasons. The bigger they get, the bigger a service has to be in order for it to be worthwhile supporting. Their product strategy is about you as a product rather than you as a user. This is true if its an application or an API. Their entry into a market can see them decimating small competition; once that has been completed if there isn’t megabucks they’ll leave just as fast. The RSS news service Google Reader is an exemplar for this process. I love new shiny things as much as the next nerd, but I also don’t want to invest too much into them if they can disappear just as quick

Communications

Communications used to be a simple process for me, as I used to run Adium.

At one time Adium supported ICQ, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN. Adium still exists but many of the main instant messenger platforms don’t. These days things are a little more complicated for me.

I run Apple’s Messages.app which allows me to use my iPhone’s SMS service and contact other Apple product users. It’s encrypted which is nice. It’s so simple, even my parents have managed to master it.

I use Slack to keep in touch with a number of professional groups.
My friends in China and Hong Kong use a mix of WhatsApp desktop app and WeChat’s desktop app.

I don’t use it so much any more but LINE and Kakao Talk make a couple of good desktop apps too. The Economist and Wall Street Journal do good content on their LINE channels. Bloomberg and the UK agency Battenhall publish some good content on WhatsApp that are worth subscribing to.

I use the consumer version of Skype to dial into conference call bridge numbers. I have used Skype for Business whist working at Unilever and Publicis – it wasn’t a positive experience.

I know some friends that find Franz handy, it seems to support an eclectic collection of services; but not all the ones I need covered.

Evernote alternatives

Evernote wasn’t the innovator that many people think it is. DevonThink and Yojimbo have been longer in usage amongst a small but dedicated Mac user base.

DevonThink – positions itself as document management. It also syncs across devices. It is an expansive and thorough piece of software, I’ve tried it. It’s great, but just wasn’t for me. Devon Technologies also have some interesting products that do web and system search. They have been handy for friends in recruitment headhunting research.

Yojimbo – In my personal experience I found Yojimbo easier to use than DevonThink. Both are great tools, but its a question of what makes the most sense for you. I think you should try both and see which one works best for you.

Graphics

OmniGraffle – great for diagrams and flow charts. OMNI are long time Mac developers and always seem to get the most out of the machine.

News

I have been vocal in my love of Newsblur RSS reader on other occasions, so won’t go into how fantastic it is here. I use a native Mac app called ReadKit to interface with Newsblur, Pinboard and Buffer on my Mac. This was really handy when I was in China, as the internet operates differently there.

ReadKit also has good integration with Buffer and Pinboard.in; services I use for social posting and bookmarking respectively. ReadKit isn’t perfect; in particular its persistent windows for posting to Buffer and Pinboard.in can annoy; but it works for me.

Office software

I use the default macOS applications Mail.app, Calendar.app and Contacts. app. They work flawlessly with iCloud to sync across iPhone, iPad and Macs. I have Google hosted, Microsoft Exchange and IMAP based accounts running on Mail.app side by side with no problems (so far).

I use the home edition of Microsoft Office (for Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Going for the home edition is a fixed cost rather than an Office 365 subscription. I use Hemingway to handle the creative process of writing and provide some editorial input. If I am writing a presentation for myself then I will use Keynote instead of PowerPoint.

I use OmniPlan as an equivalent to Microsoft Project.

Music

I still listen to ripped music on iTunes. Streaming services like Spotify often have a limited library of back catalogue music. Carefully curated playlists can see tracks disappear in an arbitrary manner when rights owners pull them from the streaming service. I listen to old DJ mixes, digitally bought music from BeatPort, iTunes and Bleep. I also rip CDs as often these are cheaper than their MP3 counterparts or haven’t made it into online music stores. iTunes also handles my podcasts and audio books. I have an iPod Classic that’s tricked-out with a 256GB SSD. I don’t run my phone’s battery down listening to music. I have been keeping track of my listening using last.fm’s app.

Productivity

BBEdit is a 25-year old piece of software for the Mac. It is a text editor but always comes in more handy than that descriptor implies. It’s one of them applications that I discovered on a Mac Format or MacWorld demo disk and then kept on using.

I haven’t used it, but Duet looks like a handy way of bringing a secondary screen around with you, if you are working out of client offices.

OmniFocus – list writing made better, but also handy for getting thoughts down on a presentation etc

Parcel – comes in handy for keeping an eye on your package deliveries.

PopChar X – I have been using PopChar since I was in college. I got it on a demo disc from MacFormat and immediately saw its benefit. Twenty years later I am still using the application.

Screen grabs

Papparazi is my go to screen grab tool, Skitch comes highly recommended from people I trust.

Utilities

Apple has got an annoying habit of taking ideas from great utilities and including them in future versions of macOS. This is great for users, but bad for Apple’s long-suffering developer community. It was independent developers who kept the faith during the dark times of the mid-1990s.

coconutBattery – recommended by a friend who uses it for ensuring that apps aren’t drawing excessive power when you’re on a battery. Here’s looking at you Google Chrome!

GraphicConvertor – yet another app that is over 20 years old and still supported. It manages to handle the most arcane graphics formats and allows you editing functions.

Fetch and CyberDuck – Fetch and Transmit have been the go to Mac apps for FTP clients for a long time. Familiarity for me means that Fetch edges out Transmit. Both are great pieces of software that I am happy to recommend. It is also worthwhile considering CyberDuck which is open source. CyberDuck has also done work on supporting Amazon and Google storage which some of my friends find invaluable.

Little Snitch – in the world of Mac users Little Snitch used to be famous for stopping Adobe software from phoning home. This was back before Creative Cloud when buying software was a major investment for agencies. So there was an interest in cracked user codes and careful monitoring of your network connection. Little Snitch is very useful these days as a really good firewall application.

Stuffit Deluxe – yes you can do a lot in terminal but you’d be hard pushed to find a compression app that handles as many formats as Stuffit. I even opened up some 20 year old .sea archives from my time in college.

TechTool – machine health monitoring that has been around since the dark days of the Mac. A great application to keep your Mac running the way you want it to.

Terminal.app (default app) – macOS is built on a proper operating system NetBSD and the Mach micro-kernel. Terminal allows you to access the power of the operating system. But with great power comes great responsibility, I strongly recommend some additions for your bookshelf. O’Reilly Publishing has some great books that provide advice on how to use the terminal notably Learning Unix for OSX. David Pogue’s Missing Manual series for macOS are worthwhile as references as well.

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Designing the Internet

Reading Time: < 1 minute

David D Clark was involved in the designing the internet as it moved into the commercial sphere. He rose to prominence in the 1980s through to the mid-1990s. In the talk at Google’s Mountain View campus he goes over much of the process. The things he says about network economics and security is particularly interesting.

His discussions with politicians are particularly intriguing. There are still unanswered questions about accountability.

Embedding risky actions to provide attractive features for users, versus ensuring that these are only between people who you know.

Protocol features affect industry power, adding more features may give power to the wrong people.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Notes From Tencent’s Annual Staff Meeting – China Channel – some interesting insights on how they are looking at the online world

2018 Year in Review – Pornhub Insights – I wish that I’d this quality of data when I was cranking out press releases for Yahoo!

The Last Independent Mobile OS – Motherboard – interesting write-up on Sailfish and yet more reasons why you shouldn’t trust Google

Pioneer’s woes echo those of earlier Japanese audio legends – Nikkei Asian Review – for someone like myself this is heartbreaking

1967 Mustang meets Tesla: Aviar Motors all-electric muscle car – Electrek – this fits in with Aston Martin’s announcement last week about retro fitting vintage cars with electric automation

Interesting video that’s as much an illustration of collective delusion that drives VC thinking in a very wasteful manner and where they are likely to be putting their focus moving forwards

Nobel economist Paul Romer