Wandering Earth review

I don’t usually review movies. After seeing some of the online comments I decided ito put my dissenting voice into the mix. This was a big budget movie that came out in February 2019 and did very well in the Chinese box office. It’s also available in Netflix but I am not aware of major global cinematic release.

In a gist “wandering earth” is a movie about efforts to shift the earth through space, from our solar system to another star system in order to escape the sun going super nova. This is sci-fi so anything is possible! However this is where the sci-fi part ends, because focus of rest of the movie is decidedly on the humans and really earth takes a back seat.

It has mostly achieved the claim of being able to rival Hollywood movies in terms of CGI. Being a China-produced movie, it understandably plays on much of Chinese nationalist sentiments (main protagonist against all odds of being Chinese managed to achieve the impossible, or being the most persevered when everything seemed lost), Chinese settings etc. Its biggest limitation is in characterisations. The main protagonists are all emotionally-driven and makes self-centred driven decisions throughout the film. Some highlights.
– I don’t want to participate in your time-critical Earth/humanity-saving efforts because I am more concerned to get my grandpa/son/grandson to safety. It doesn’t really matter that there may not be a home to go back to if everything fails.
– A solider in a fit of rage destroys a device that can still be useful in saving Earth.
– One soldier has already died trying to save me, but I don’t care and still want more soldiers to risk their lives to go back to save my grandfather.
– At times the movie really tries too hard. For example last scene of having hundred(s) of people trying to push a ignition pin (“pin” is really an understatement because it’s gigantic) in place.

The ultimate sacrificial act really takes the cake. Some online commenters have tried to draw a parallel to Armageddon (or Deep Impact, Space Cowboys, etc)- another meteor-heading-to-earth and somehow an American crew miraculously pulled off the impossible by sacrificing themselves. Apart from the imminent danger to earth and the entire humanity and the hugely stacked odds, in my opinion that’s where the comparisons end. Firstly the protagonists in Armageddon took a gamble and sacrificed themselves since there appeared no other options. In “Wandering earth”, there was an alternative: leave Earth be, and move the remaining humans and human embryos onboard to hopefully find a new planet and and create a New Earth. The option in the movie was for the so-called selfless hero to single-handedly make the decision to sacrifice not only himself but also the rest of humanity so that he can take a gamble. In other words he made the minds up for rest of people on board the space station, that he/they should not go on living should the original Earth become lost. How. Very. Noble.

Overall, I think it’s an enjoyable sci-fi film with cool effects, but annoying characters. If you can get beyond that, then you may enjoy it.

Quick review of Mi True Wireless Earphones 2

This is not your typical unboxing.

I am sharing my own experience of using the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 (shortened to Mi TWE2 from now on) for a week. I used these earphones during work commute (walk + cycle), in the office (relatively quiet, not shop/factory floor type of noise) and at home (mostly Youtube and music listening in FLAC format). For home use, I am normally a HD650 open-back headphone user, looking for something to use on daily commute and the occasional office calls, so the two qualities I am interested in are: decent sound quality, and good for phone/app calls. I own the Edifier W2000BT but Mi TWE2 is the first pair of true wireless that I have used for more one hour.

To be honest, of the specs that can easily found, the only information that I am interested in are:

  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • True wireless Qualcomm chip
  • Battery consumption: about 3 hours (this was also my experience)
  • Cost: RMB 399 (US$56)

To start off I’d say this is an excellent pair true wireless earphone if your use case restricts to two or less devices, in a mainly office or home environment. Build quality feels good, and good value for money. However as a disclaimer I did not search for competing devices (and frankly there is quite a few, with big range in price) but placed my faith in the Xiaomi/One more brand that is behind this pair of earphones.

Pros

  • Sound quality good (music and receiving calls). no complaints of tinny sound.
  • Each earphone can pair to a different device.
  • Light weight, where you really hardly feel the presence.

Cons

  1. (Passive) Noise cancellation is non-existent. The Mi TWE2 is more of the Air Pods 1/2 design where the earphones hang on to your ears, so environmental noises will leak in naturally. To be fair, each person’s ear is different and it may be just that this is of looser fit for me.
  2. Connection logic is sometimes hard to figure out. For example, when listening to music with Mi TWE2 with an Android phone, after removing the earphones from the ear and then replaced, restart of music needs to be done manually. When paired with the MacBook, music resumes automatically.
  3. Pairing for the first time needs to always involve placing the earphone in the case. I am not sure if this is the case with Air Pods but can be inconvenient at times.
  4. There were the occasional connection issues after pairing each earphone to different devices and want to use both with one single device. However I think this is something that can be easily solved with a software update.

Recommendations

  1. For general commute, and when noise reduction is of low priority.
  2. For office and home environment, ideal.

For now I will stick to my Edifier W2000BT, bluetooth wired but costing between RMB89-109 (US$12.60-15) that is reliable with decent sound for normal use.

Footnote: I actually had this drafted already since November 2019, so I’d better get this out as the updated hardware has been released (2S).

Switching host: Update 1

I have been using open-source web-based photo album organiser Gallery for a long time, starting (around 2003) with Version 2 and now on (the final) Version 3. In fact it’s been so long ago that I have forgotten why I made the decision initially, except vaguely recalling something along the lines that I was looking an application based around PHP and MySQL (around the time the term LAMP stack was coined) photo gallery software Gallery, and there wasn’t anything else as feature-rich and user friendly at the time. My needs are fairly basic so I have not re-evaluated other choices since upgrading to Gallery 3.

Now, due to the recent decision to move host, I discovered two things while attempting to migrate Gallery. One is that Gallery has not been actively maintained since 2014. The second thing is that the MySQL dump from Gallery apparently exceeded the file size limit (50MB) for uploading to my new host using phpMyAdmin and the command line route is also out (certain errors during importing that I could not track down). This led to the slightly annoying situation of needing to find a new photo album software. By the way, although briefly experimenting with Flickr (which has also become history, as they say), I am more for keeping content on my own server.

A quick Google search showed I was not the only one having the same predicament. Taking the easy (ie. lazy) route I decided to follow the advice of more knowledgeable users such as the below and migrated to Piwigo. I must say, it’s been good after a week’s use.

  1. Serge’s consideration when migrating to Piwigo, with his wonderful Gallery to Piwigo migration script and GreyDragon theme
  2. Migration to Gallery to Piwigo
  3. Another user’s migration (to Piwigo) experience

A new lease of life for Mi Pad

Xiaomi’s Mi Pad was launched in 2015 to the global markets with above average specs. Unfortunately being a 4-year-old product means sooner or later development and support for it was going to end sooner or later – another consequence of the fast-paced nature of smartphone-tablet market. The last official build was MIUI 7 based on Android Kitkat (China version was supported up to MIUI 9).

Frankly, although the Mi Pad sported the decent NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, paired with a measly (by today’s standard) 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM (now THIS is terrible…), it does come with a high resolution 1080p IPS screen (326PPI). This makes it a rather good media consumption device. A few months ago, I decided to dust off a couple of Mi Pads that I had and started to look for third party ROMs that can extend Mi Pad’s usefulness. Below are the steps which I used to flash LineageOS Unofficial 15.1 (Android Oreo), for my own benefit when reflashing in future. It’s a combination of steps I found from multiple sources, combined with my own experiences. For those who may be unfamiliar with this Android Distribution, LineageOS is the successor to the custom ROM CyanogenMod.

Downloads

Files that need to be downloaded (links can be found online):

  • mocha_repartition_1_2GB_RahulTheVirus.zip: Keep as zip. This is needed to merge the two partitions, or Gapps can’t be installed.
  • TosForPSCI-0.1: This needs to be unzipped to img, for flashing using fastboot.
  • recovery-03.11.2018.img: For some reasons, newer versions of TWRP recovery didn’t seem to work reliably so I am sticking with this slightly older version.
  • lineage-15.1-20181228-UNOFFICIAL-mocha: Keep as zip file, install from within recovery.
  • Gapps: I have found one tablet, pengapps-pico (needs to be arm, not arm64) worked but not on another, but MindTheGapps worked consistently so I am sticking with this version.
  • SmokeR24.1-stable(31.12.2018-12.56): Keep as zip, install from within recovery. This must be installed at the end or touchscreen won’t work during initial set up.

Once custom recovery has been flashed, I’d suggest pushing items 4-6 to /sdcard for faster installation.

adb push filename /sdcard

Installation

  • Change active system to partition 1.
  • Go into fastboot mode, and flash tos and TWRP custom recovery.
  • fastboot flash tos your-path-to-tos.img
    fastboot flash recovery your-path-to-recovery-03.11.2018.img

  • Reboot to recovery. I found it was necessary to hold on to the volume button for another 5-10 seconds after Mi logo has appeared.
  • fastboot reboot WHILE holding vol+ button.

  • Merge system partition
  • Reboot to recovery. A couple of times this took up to 20 minutes to restart. Keep Mipad charged in the meantime.
  • Full wipe: system, cache, data, dalvik
  • Flash current LineageOS build
  • Flash Gapps
  • Flash touchscreen hot fix
  • Reboot tablet.

Switching host yet again

A couple of months ago, I was informed that my current web hosting company Webfaction was merging with GoDaddy, although it sounded more like a take-over frankly hosting issues would be handled by GoDaddy since moving forward. The whole process was set to be finalised in a month or two. Since GoDaddy has never been high on my list of web hosting companies, I started to shop around for a new home for the few domains that I own.

The final decision was reached after reading these few articles:

  • https://justfreethemes.com/best-hosting-services/
  • https://winningwp.com/shared-vs-managed-wordpress-hosting/
  • https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/best-wordpress-hosting/
  • https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/shared-vs-managed-wordpress-hosting/
  • https://hostingfacts.com/hosting-reviews/siteground/
  • https://www.shivarweb.com/7970/siteground-hosting-review/
  • https://www.websitehostingrating.com/siteground-vs-bluehost/

I guess it’s kind of obvious that SiteGround was ranked highly but I still had some reservations about the renewal price, seeing that I am mostly dealing with WordPress sites plus the occasional trials of other software.