Windows 8?

I’ve been reading things here and there regarding Microsoft Windows 8, which was released just 2 days ago and have seen some walk-thrus on TV.  Given the relatively cheap (for Microsoft) upgrade price of US$40, I decided I want to try it out.  There’s just one thing that’s stopping me.

Most of the things I’ve read about Windows 8 on the desktop say that it can be an exercise in frustration if you don’t have a touch screen monitor.

PC Advisor (August 2012):

 Windows 8 is really all about having a touchscreen interface – so if you are buying a display for your PC, you’d be well served to get one that is equally adept at running Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Ars Technica:

Learning the list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts will save you more time and trouble than a touchscreen ever will, though this is not something that most normal people will have the time or patience to do.

Moving on from the core operating system, for a certain class of Windows 8 applications, touch support is not just preferable, but necessary.

Venture Beat:

So how will it work on your desktop when it lands on Oct. 26?  Based on my tests, not very well. In fact, if you’re still using a desktop PC, you’re probably going to dislike Windows 8. With Windows 8, Microsoft favors tablets, touchscreens, and laptops with modern touchpads. It works very well for these kinds of computers. Traditional desktops with a keyboard and mouse, on the other hand, have been left in the dust.

So if it’s not quite unanimous, it seem that a touch screen would be helpful.  I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a 27 inch monitor so it makes sense that I should get one that would be Win8 ready.

One further tip, also from PC Advisor:

If you’re going to choose a monitor now that you hope to later use with Windows 8, one important thing to watch out for is the design of the bezel. Because Windows 8 makes use of gestures, which require you to swipe your finger inwards from off the edge of the screen toward the centre, you’ll find that displays with raised bezels usually make it very difficult to touch the far edge of the screen.

It’s a requirement of Windows 8 certification that the bezel should be flush with the display or incorporate a 20mm border between the edge of the display and the start of the bezel.

I was in Mong Kok yesterday and went to the Mong Kok Computer Centre in search of touch screen monitors.  No one had one and no one had any idea when they would have one.

Which got me thinking about how Apple’s control over both hardware and software means that the two sides of the house are mostly synchronized (though they still have issues fulfilling demand) whereas Microsoft doesn’t seem to have properly timed things with hardware vendors.

A bit more searching today led to me an article on Neowin about two new touch screen monitors from Acer that are certified for Windows 8.  There’s the 23 inch T232HL, US$500, available in the US same day as Win8 release, and the 27 inch T272HL, US$700, available in the US at some point in November.

Okay, fine, zip on over to the Acer web site.  Yep, those monitors are listed there.  Oops, I’m on the U.S. site.  Better change country – oh good, on the country list, there’s “Hong Kong English.”  Click on that link and guess what? The Acer Hong Kong home page is in Traditional Chinese with no option to change language.  Idiots.

Google Translate to the rescue.  Neither the T232HK nor the T272HL are listed on Acer’s Hong Kong site, no “coming soon,” no nothing.

I know this stuff is coming.  And it’s not like I need to upgrade to Windows 8 today or even this week.  And I probably shouldn’t be spending money on a new monitor right now anyway.  It’s just frustrating that “Asia’s World City” gets treated like a second-tier market even by Chinese companies.

Loud Music in Bars

You may or may not have thought about this.  It turns out there’s a reason for it.

Via Boing Boing, an article in Popular Science notes that “when the music in a bar gets 22 percent louder, patrons drink 26 percent faster.”  Boing Boing says, “When you can’t talk to anybody, you always have booze to be your friend.”

What’s New From Apple

Since I can’t sleep and since I know this is the first place you turn to for Apple news, here’s a wrap-up of today’s announcements.

iPad Mini

Pretty much as expected.  A seven inch diagonal screen tablet, released in my opinion solely because others are gaining foothold against Apple with tablets this size.  Like the “full size” iPad, this is available in 6 configurations – memory of 16, 32 or 64 gig; WiFi only or WiFi plus cellular.  Pricing runs from US$329 to US$659.  For Hong Kong, pre-orders start this Friday.

I think this would have absolutely killed if it had the Retina display.

iPad 4

This was somewhat unexpected.  There had been talk about a newer version with the Lightning connector.  Apple also threw in some other tweaks, including a faster processor.

Pricing remains identical to the iPad 3, ranging from US$499 to US$829.  Contrary to rumors, the iPad 2 remains available, but just two 16 gig models, now $399 and $529.  There will be lots of reconditioned iPad 3’s available for sale.  (So, for example a 64 gig WiFi + cellular iPad 3 will run $679.)  For Hong Kong, pre-orders start this Friday.  Some reconditioned iPad 3’s are already available online for purchase.

Note that if you purchased your iPad 3 in the last 3o days, some Apple stores (no word on HK stores) will allow exchanges for the newer model.

MacBook Pro

The 13 inch laptop will now have a Retina display option.  It comes with a 2.5 GHz Core i5 chip (optional bump to 2.9 GHz Core i7), 8 gig of RAM, and a base of 128 gig (upgradeable at time of purchase only) of flash storage.  Base prices are US$1699 and US$1999. Weight is 3.57 pounds.  This is immediately available, the HK Apple store shows this as being in stock, though I expect that to change quickly.

I love my 15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.  Would I down shift to the 13 inch?  While I’d appreciate the lighter machine, having the larger screen seems more important to me at the moment.




This is the killer release for me, a real thing of beauty.  It is almost insanely thin and while it’s not “Retina display” it’s pretty close.  The 21 inch model starts at US$1,299 and the 27 inch model starts at US$1,799.  One interesting new thing inside this is what Apple is calling a hybrid fusion drive – a disk drive that’s part physical disk and part SSD, with software that “learns” what apps you use the most and moves those automatically to the SSD.

Of everything Apple released today, this one is the most tempting to me.  (However, I’m gonna stick it out with my Windows desktop PC for awhile longer, though maybe at some point swap out my 24 inch monitor for a 27 inch one.  I’m in no rush to upgrade to Windows 8.)

The 21.5 inch iMac will be available in November, the 27 inch in December.

So – any of this gear excite you?  Who is planning on buying what?

The Wanch 25th Anniversary Parties!

The Wanch is a small bar in Wanchai featuring live music seven nights a week with no cover charge.  “Historic, friendly, hassle-free, unpretentious and international” is how they describe themselves and  I’ve been going there since 1995.  While it’s mostly cover bands these days, they get some really talented musicians in there.  These are guys who are doing this for love, not money.

It may be hard to believe but The Wanch is now 25 years old.  They’re celebrating their 25th anniversary with a series of parties and special gigs all week long.

Friday night (tonight) will be  a party celebrating the release of their latest compilation CD with live performances from The Bastards, The Sleeves and The Delfino Trio.

Saturday night’s line-up features The Not So Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindlers, Sparx and Don’t Panic.  They’re also promising an appearance by the original owner, BBQ and lord knows what else or who else.

To top it off, they’ve made the smart decision to hire me to be the official photographer for both nights.  I would have gone there anyway but now I’ll have double the fun.

Robert De Niro, Star of Casino, Endorses a Casino

This is old news, announced back in March, but I only just came across it.  Robert De Niro, star of the movie casino, is appearing in ads for a Korean casino.

It’s a long-standing tradition that American movie stars who mostly wouldn’t be caught dead doing ads in the U.S. often do ads in Asia or Europe, generally for humongous paychecks.  I can’t find any info on how much he’s been paid for this but one can safely guess it’s millions.  You’d think that for whatever paycheck he’s earning he would look happier.

Hurry Up and Wait

Okay, the first one’s not so insane, the second one is kind of bonkers.

I went over to the Nikon service center in Mong Kok today to get my D800 sensor cleaned.  (38th floor of Langham Place, just in case you’re curious.)  HK$150 plus they have some cameras mounted with huge zoom lenses pointing out those 38th floor windows, it’s kind of neat (except on grey days like today).

While there, I figured I’d ask them to check out my camera.  There have been widely reported auto focus issues and I wanted to know if my camera was affected by that and indeed it was. They told me that mine was “slightly off” and that if I wanted to leave it with them to be fixed, it would take about two weeks.   I couldn’t go for that because I’m booked for shoots for Friday and Saturday night and need the camera for it, plus two weeks seemed like a very long time, especially because I don’t have a second Nikon body to fall back on.  I asked why it takes so long and was told that they have to send it over to the Tai Koo Shing service center and they “need to wait for delivery.”  For those of you not in HK, Tai Koo Shing is about 30 minutes from Mong Kok.  I asked if it would be quicker if I brought it there myself and they said “probably.”  So I’ll do that next week.

While in Mong Kok, I stopped into a Tissot shop.  I’ve got one of those Tissot T-Touch watches, first generation I think, and the battery died a long time ago.  My gf tried taking it to a local shop in Sai Kung where they do watch batteries and they said they couldn’t do that one.  So I went to the Tissot shop at Langham Place and they said they’d need to send it to the repair center.  How long would it take?  “Maybe 6 to 8 weeks.”  6 to 8 weeks to change a battery?  Somehow I managed to not say to the guy, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” because he was very polite.  I got the same story that Nikon gave me – they have to wait for the delivery service.  No, I didn’t ask if the service was taking the polar route to get across the harbor.   Instead I asked if it would be quicker if I bring it to the repair center myself and he said “probably.”  And their repair center is right next door to Tai Koo, in Quarry Bay.  So I can drop off both the watch and the camera off on the same trip.

But really – 6 to 8 WEEKS to change a battery???????

The Idiot Club

Here’s an ad for a new club that offers as a signing bonus “the thinnest smartphone in 16 GB.”  Even better, “colors can be chosen by choice,” because how else would you choose?   “Renew membership can enjoy the same benefit.”  What benefit is that?  The ad never says.  “Free bottles will remain the same as membership is applied.”  Does anyone have any idea what that means?  And why is the price listed as $13,800 + $2,880?  Why can’t they just say $16,680?

Groucho Marx famously said that he wouldn’t belong to any club that would have him as a member.  I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that has members who were enticed to join by idiot ads like this one.

Scott Walker Bish Bosch Trailer

Scott Walker, one of the most uncompromising and brilliant musicians ever, has a new album coming out in December titled Bish Bosch.  This is his first since 2006’s The Drift and only his 4th in the last 30 or so years.  There’s a 4 minute “trailer” for the album up on YouTube and judging from what can be seen and heard, the man still takes no prisoners. This is not music for everyone, this is the antithesis of pop.

Here’s the link in case you can’t see the embedded video.

I strongly recommend you check out the 2006 documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man if you haven’t already.  My favorite bit in that film, Brian Eno listening to some of Walker’s tracks from 1975 and saying, “I have to say, it’s humiliating to hear this. It is. I just think, Christ, we haven’t got any further.”

Movies I Watched Last Week

Surprisingly few.  I’m not a big fan of watching films on an airplane.  For some reason, it just doesn’t work for me.  Even though airlines now show uncut versions of films on widescreens, the lack of a comfortable seat, all the noise and distractions (meal service, PA announcements, the guy sitting next to you going to and from the bathroom, the moron behind you who grabs your chair and pulls it back to help stand up) – it’s just not conducive to really watching a film.  I’ve also got my laptop loaded with films (and blu-ray rips on the MacBook Pro with retina display look fabulous) but the same distractions apply.  I think if I came upon Citizen Kane for the first time on an airplane, my reaction would be, “What was all the fuss about? It’s a fucking sled.”  On the other hand, on a 16 hour flight, I need something to pass the time, so I watch films.

So please take what I’m going to say about these films with as many grains of salt as you’d like.

I’ve always been a Woody Allen fan and I think he’s been on something of a streak lately.  So I came to To Rome With Love with high expectations, none of which were met.  There are four stories and he cuts relentlessly between them, yet the lives in the stories never intersect.   I suppose it’s meant as a tribute to the omnibus Italian films that were so popular in the 60s.  But for the most part the stories are not that good and the framing device (the traffic cop) isn’t used consistently enough to justify it.

Story 1 – young beautiful American girl (Alison Pill) means young handsome Italian guy.  They get engaged. Her parents (Woody Allen, Judy Davis) come to visit from the U.S.  The girl’s father discovers that the boy’s father, a mortician, is the world’s greatest opera singer, but he can only sing when he’s in the shower, so he mounts a production of Pagliacci where they wheel the guy onstage in a shower to sing.  It’s a one-joke story that takes too long to get to a very small joke.

Story 2 – an ordinary Italian guy (Roberto Benigni) suddenly is followed everywhere by the paparazzi.  He’s now a star, famous for being famous, and they breathlessly await news of if he shaves before or after he eats his breakfast.  And then one day he’s no longer famous.  I suppose this is meant as a commentary on reality TV but I’m not sure what the commentary is.

Story 3 – A young American architecture student (Jesse Eisenberg) meets a famous American architect (Alec Baldwin), who then hangs out invisibly with him for days, offering advice when Eisenberg’s live-in girlfriend’s best friend (Ellen Page) comes to visit and he finds himself attracted to her.  The device of having Baldwin always there, very similar to Bogart in Play It Again Sam, simply doesn’t work, it’s not exploited to its potential, and Page is thoroughly miscast as someone who is supposed to be irresistibly sexy and wild.

Story 4 – A young Italian couple comes to the big city and gets separated.  Somehow the husband ends up with a prostitute (an incredibly sexy Penelope Cruz) while the wife gets romanced by a fat, bald movie star.  It’s like a series of bad sitcom jokes only salvaged by how hot Cruz looks.

Individually, none of these stories is strong.  Taken as a whole, it just doesn’t hang together.  Which leaves you with the expected gorgeous photography of Roman landmarks and little else. It’s a shame because Allen had so much to say in Midnight in Paris and you’d think, given his love for film and so many great Italian directors, that he could come up with something much more meaningful for Rome.

Once upon a time I was a huge Oliver Stone fan.  But lately? Alexander?  W?  Wall Street 2?

Savages is about two guys and a girl (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively) who have a three way relationship and grow the bestest marijuana ever and so catch the attention of a Mexican drug cartel who want their primo weed.  You get Salma Hayek as the drug lord (!), Benicio Del Toro as her enforcer, John Travolta as a crooked cop.  It struck me first as an example of how far the director of Natural Born Killers has fallen, that he couldn’t do more with this material. And it struck me as a too-obvious attempt by Stone to do his version of True Romance, with a lesser cast (Taylor fucking Kitsch?) and without Tarantino’s great dialog, and with a really truly horrible ending.

I’m a big David Cronenberg fan and I was eager to see what he would do with this material.  Technically, this shines.  There is an exactness to the way this has been shot and cut.  Pattinson proves he can act.  Yet in the end, I’m not sure what this metaphor-heavy story adds up to.  Something Pattinson does about halfway through the film, a random and extreme violent act, makes no sense and goes unremarked.  The final 15 minutes or so, Pattinson and Paul Giamatti talking and talking and talking and talking, I’m still not sure what that was about.  The final moment of ambiguity – why?  If this is meant to be seen as an indictment of the Wall Street “masters of the universe,” and I’m sure it is, it just didn’t come across for me.

I suspect that I’m likely to watch all three of these again under better circumstances to see if they improve at all.  For those of you out there who’ve seen any (or all) of these, what were your thoughts?

My Dick is a Threat to National Security?

Returning to Hong Kong from New York yesterday, it was my first time to go through those super special scanning machines that the TSA has in U.S. airports now.  I did the whole prep thing – emptying out my pockets, taking off my jacket, shoes and belt, and stepped into that machine to be scanned.

When I stepped out, for a moment they didn’t say a word to me so I just stood there.  Then one of the agents asked me where my stuff was and I pointed over to the belt.  He called out, “We’ve got a RPD here.”  RPD? WTF?

I glanced back at the scanning machine’s screen and saw that on the little cartoony outline figure, there was a little yellow box right over my dick.  I followed the agents over to the examination room and asked, “RPD? Random Pat Down?”  And one guy said to me, “There’s nothing random about this, you set off an alarm in the machine.”

So I entered the tiny room with two agents.  They asked me if I had any medical devices or metal hidden away.  Yes, it’s true, I was definitely thinking Spinal Tap here, but there were no vegetables wrapped in foil in my pants. The guy explained that it was my dick that set off the alarm (well, he may not have used those exact words).  “Yes, because it’s so large!”  Yeah, I know, I couldn’t help myself, and I immediately apologized for that.  Fortunately the guy had a sense of humor.

I wondered if I would have to strip down but the guy explained to me, in a lot of unnecessary detail, how he was going to go about patting me down.  He asked if any parts of my body were sensitive.  “All of them!”  I suppose he’s used to people yelling and screaming at him over this sort of thing.  Me, in situations like this, I always remember Lenny Bruce’s line about how people confuse Authority with Those Who Have Authority Vested In Them.  Really, what was I gonna do?  At that point the guy can’t give me a “pass” and if I gave him a hard time, he could have given me a much harder time in return.  The guy’s just doing his job (and doing a proper job of it as far as I could tell) so even if my crummy jokes weren’t that funny, at least I wasn’t making his life difficult.

So he put on the blue rubber gloves and patted and rubbed me all over the place.  When he finished, I had to wait until someone checked the gloves for any residue.  And then I was free to go.  I told him my gf would probably get a kick out of hearing how my balls set off an alarm.

Anyway, it’s nice to be home.