October 14, 2013
Even before I went on vacation this year, my (second) cheap Chinese tablet was broken. It somehow got itself into an endless boot loop where it would hang at one of two logos during boot (the fullscreen image or the animated Android word logo). To be honest, I wasn’t actually using that tablet much except to play my alt Happy Street account so it wasn’t actually a big loss that I couldn’t get it to work – it just irritates me that it somehow broke.
I’ve been trying to fix it on and off for awhile now; again, not too seriously because I don’t actually need to use it. But when I did try it, I wasn’t getting much success. I knew that I had exactly the Eken T10A tablet, and although it is relatively popular, there weren’t a lot of posts on how to solve my problem. I finally solved my problem this past week, and factory reset the tablet. Here’s how I did it:
- Download the AllWinner A10 drivers (link from this post)
- Download Livesuit (link from this post)
- Download firmware for the Eken T10A – I used this one, which I think is for the T10 but it seemed to load fine. But I didn’t do a full test of the device to see whether it provided all the necessary drivers.
- Use a Win7 or earlier computer so you can load the unsigned drivers for the device
- Follow these instructions to flash the firmware using Livesuit (especially the one where you have to press the power button once ever second until the dialog box pops up)
After this headache, I’m kind of through with cheap Chinese devices. I couldn’t even find a recovery image for this Eken T10A! Nexus-level devices are now pretty cheap and there are many more hackers using those (and thus better support) so I’m just going to get those when I have techlust.
July 25, 2013
I buy lots of stuff from China – nothing important, just various electronics and plastic-based merchandise that is extremely cheap to produce over there. Typically for small things, my go-to source is to look for it on DealExtreme.
I’ve had good success with DX, so I have confidence when buying from there. I’ve bought from other China-based sites before, but because so many pop up and disappear, I’m not sure whether they’re trustworthy or not. With DX, even though sometimes the prices are a few dollars higher, I’m relatively certain that I will get the item in about 3 weeks (I’ve experienced a couple of DOAs or missing packages, but usually they refund my money or send it out again).
In fact, I buy from DX so often that I started getting curious. How much money have I spent propping up the manufacturing industry of China? Luckily for me, I have PayPal records of all my purchases so I spent an evening entering the data into a spreadsheet.
Since August 2007, I’ve made 62 different orders at DealExtreme. I typically try and batch my orders so that they’re less than $20 in value (to avoid custom fees). Even then, 60+ orders is a lot – and comes up to just over $1000 USD spent at DealExtreme! $1000 seems like a lot of USB cables and various electronic knick-knacks, but I’ve bought some more expensive items, such as a lot of LED light bulbs, EZ-Flash, and some musical instruments. In total, I’ve bought 197 items from DX.
Crossing that $1000 threshold surprised me, but I don’t think I’m going to stop buying from China. Besides, that’s just a year worth of Starbucks, and I get much more happiness out of random stuff from China.
July 7, 2013
I ended up buying this knockoff of the Grand Carrera Calibre 36 even though I didn’t really want to. Well initially I wanted to buy it, but then I bought a whole bunch of real and fake watches in a flurry, so now have a surplus of watches and insufficient time to wear them.
The reason why I bought this watch was because I had a $10 coupon due to my other counterfeit Carrera being broken on arrival. I complained to the site and they offered me a $10 coupon to “fix the watch”, but of course I had to buy something to get the money. So I ended up getting this watch for around $30 instead.
It looks like its real, and is pretty massive. I sprang for the version that shows the date for an extra few bucks and it seems to work. But I just haven’t had the opportunity to wear it to really know whether it’s a good knockoff or not. Sigh, such problems.
June 6, 2013
While I was looking at military watches and NATO straps, I ended up buying a cheap Chinese automatic for only $12 shipped! I can’t believe it actually keeps time (well I haven’t worn it enough to really know). Here’s what I looks like:
I actually like how it looks! Now I just need to get a good NATO strap to go with it, and find time to wear this watch…
The only bad part about this watch, given the price, is that there is an awful Winner logo on it. That’s another Chinese watch company, but I don’t feel it fits with the watch so would rather it not be there.
May 26, 2013
Last year, when I bought this Eyki watch, I started researching the Chinese watch company. They made some decently designed watches, and one that caught my eye was their Hamilton Ventura “tribute”. The Ventura is an iconic watch because it’s shaped as a triangle – even if you’re not a watch fan, you might recognize it because it is the watch that the MIB wear!
It’s not a counterfeit but rather a tribute because while Eyki gathered inspiration from the Ventura, it bears its own name and design. However, it is clearly modeled after the Ventura so I’m not sure how they can get away with it (maybe they are protected because they are in China). Anyways, I wanted one so I bought one on Ebay for about $60.
After I received it in the mail, I was a bit perturbed by a few things:
- The case height is really high, especially compared to the surface area of the watch
- The band sucks (no surprise since it came from China) and I ended up buying a couple of bands (one metal, one a better leather) but it still didn’t look or fit right on my wrist. I think the fit of the bands were thrown off because the watch is so small
I ended up putting a NATO strap on it and it’s wearable. I still think it’s cool, but the execution is lacking. Of course, I wouldn’t spend a couple of hundred on a real Ventura so I’m not losing out.
April 4, 2013
I was browsing around on a Chinese knockoff site when I came across a sale on this watch – it was going for $30-something from $80. I didn’t know the brand but liked how it was clean and crisp with a high contrast dial. I didn’t need that many complications, just the time and date are fine!
Later after ordering it, I found that that it was a replica of a Bell & Ross, specifically this one. On some random website, it goes for more than 3000 pounds, but who knows if that is true.
It arrived after a month and looks to me like a pretty good replica. There are lots of text and finishings that seem accurate, but who knows for sure because I’m not going to get the real version! Good thing it didn’t come broken like my last watch because I’m not supposed to unscrew the back.
One knock against this watch is that it is too big for my wrist. It’s not as big as some of the large watches that I’ve seen (i.e., not the size of a pop can) but it’s still a big square on my wrist which doesn’t sit flush. The glass is also not glass – it’s just plastic. Well you can’t expect too much from a $30 automatic, at least it wasn’t $80!
March 25, 2013
Earlier this year, I bought a counterfeit Tag Heuer from China for about $40 (instead of ~$3000). I liked the design of the watch, and it’s too bad that it’s a counterfeit otherwise I’d be happy to wear it all the time. On the other hand, one of the reasons that I bought it was that it is a relatively accurate copy of the Carrera Calibre 16 – you can see that the band isn’t a generic Chinese one.
Of course after I decided to buy it, I had to wait a month for it to arrive. Finally it did, and when I opened the package, I noticed that one of the smaller hands had fallen off! I sent an email back for an exchange, but wasn’t expecting a quick reply (it was right during the Chinese New Year break). Instead I tried my hand at fixing it myself. I was able to open it and found that the hand had snapped off!
In the end, I was able to fix it with some super glue. At least without close inspection you don’t know anything is wrong.
Overall, the operation of the watch is not bad. It’s not too thick and is an automatic which I fancy. If it wasn’t a counterfeit I would wear it everyday (until I get a cooler one)
January 20, 2013
I have this techlust for Android gadgets frequently, and I blame the Chinese market for its cheapness – both its price and build. This has caused me to buy a 7″ tablet which wasn’t actually very usable but a kinda fun hacking exercise for a few months. Then I bought a larger 10″ tablet which is still quite servicable and an adequate HTPC replacement (but not really a great living room computer).
Since that purchase, I have been lurking on some Chinese sites looking at phones. Apparently phablets (large phones that are almost 7″ tablet size – think Galaxy Notes) are quite popular in Asia, so Asian manufacturers make lots of them. There are a lot of Samsung clones (S3 or Notes) that look pretty similar (from online screenshots at least) and are sub $200 delivered. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one?
Then there are the “high industrial design quality” phones that have been designed and sold to the Chinese market. If you follow tech blogs, you may recognize some of the manufacturers like Xiaomi or Meizu. I was actually seriously thinking of buying the Jiayu G3 because it’s a 4.5″ Android 4.0 phone for ~$200! Although you must be aware that the Chinese phones are not pentaband and won’t work with the WIND frequency range, so my justification would be that I would use this phone as my “American” phone when I’m in the States.
Strangely but luckily, all this techlust for Android devices disappated after I received my Nexus4. I guess I just wanted good hardware at a good price, and the Chinese way was the easy way to do it (although you don’t always get good stuff).
June 27, 2012
I’ve blogged about a couple of fake, knockoff Chinese watches; but it is quite surprising that my favorite, and day-to-day watch this summer is one made by the Chinese manufacturer Eyki.
I came across this watch while I was looking at counterfeit ones. It caught my eye primarily because of the band. The band has a nice textured pattern, looks like it is made from a canvas material (but it is actually backed by some faux leather), and the colors complemented each other. The second thing that caught my eye was the watch face. The font on the numerals give it a retro look, and there is a slightly off-color asymmetrical pattern under the hands. The third thing that appealed to me was the price, it was just over $10 shipped to my door!
I’ve been wearing it for a month or two now, and it has held up well. I am a bit afraid that the face will scratch, but it hasn’t yet. Although it is supposed to be waterproof, I have also been careful about that; but mostly because I’m not sure how the band will react to water. The band itself does seem to attract dirt and grime, so I’m not sure how long it will last. Like many other Chinese watches, the movement is very loud but seems to be accurate. The arms are glow in the dark, and have sufficient paint to glow as well as some of my name brand watches. One other thing I don’t like is that the watch face is thick, but many Chinese watches are like that.
All-in-all, it’s a good and cheap purchase.
May 29, 2012
Like the last watch I blogged, this watch is not an original Chinese design. I’m not sure whether to call it counterfeit or a knockoff – it’s not a counterfeit because it’s not an exact copy of an existing design, but a design that loosely fits the lifestyle/image of an existing watch. However, it’s not exactly a knockoff because it is clearly an Omega logo with the Seamaster trademark.
The watch itself is not spectacular but not bad. It tells the time and hasn’t fallen apart yet. I guess whether it is a “good” watch or not depends on how well it can pass for an Omega – I think if you just glance at it, you might think that it is real; but the thickness of the face and the band can easily tip you off that it is fake. Also, I wore this watch for about a week to try it out, and the band smelled for the entire week! Well, it’s a cheap novelty/thrill for under $5 shipped.
May 16, 2012
I haven’t heard of the Nixon brand until the last year or two, and I didn’t really pay attention to them as I thought they were a surfer/skater brand. Independently, I found this cool watch, with a silicon band, for $3 online. I like silicon bands because I don’t have to take it to someone to resize the band (although I should invest in a kit that does this). It turns out that this $3, shipped, watch is a counterfeit of The Newton by Nixon.
It’s a pretty good knockoff; the brand NIXON is even imprinted on the side. The only differences that I can tell is that the clasp is not yellow (which is fine, as it still works in the color theme), and the watch face is not exactly the same yellow as the band. That’s ok though – I’m quite happy to pay $3 for a $150 watch!
I like this watch because it is a sharp yellow that contrasts with the darker shades that I wear (in the winter). The use of dots for hour and minute hands also make it unique – in fact I’m not sure how it works; I think the hour hand is on a disc that turns, while the minute hand floats (maybe on another sheet or with a magnet).
In terms of complaints, I don’t have many. I guess the only ones are that I’m not sure whether the face will get scratched (it is plastic) and the strap holes don’t seem to be cut cleanly (but doesn’t obstruct their usage).
November 3, 2011
Beats By Dre has been a huge fashion statement in the last couple of years. If you walk around sporting one of these, it signals that you are willing to drop a couple of bills ($300+ for studios, $180 for earphones) on music while pirating the songs that you’re listening too!
The price itself is a bit crazy. $180 is a ridiculous amount to charge for earphones, you can get earphones for ~$1 shipped from China! A 18000% markup is beyond Monster ripoff territory (and I’m sure they contributed their marketing expertise in addition to their technical expertise to this project). The price is one of the reasons why there are a lot of counterfeit Beats, such as those seized in this raid in China (of course).
I don’t need Beats but I set out to get a pair (fake of course) for fun. The question is, how much would I have to pay. On Craigslist, there are many being sold for $60-$80 range – more than a 50% discount, but still expensive. Online, you can get Beats (with the box and etc) for $10-$20 shipped. Great, that’s more affordable! I ended up getting a pair for $4.20USD shipped (no box) which is about a 98% discount on the actual price+tax (actually this is my second try buying them online, as my first try, for ~$10, never got shipped to me).
I tried them out and they seem alright. I have had other pairs of in-ear earphones, and this one is comparable (the fit in my ear seems to be better). I don’t know if there is truly a sound quality difference between fake and real Beats but to my ear, the fake ones seem fine! If you inspect it closely, you can tell that they are fake, the paint is not as precise nor complete, but as long as someone isn’t in your intimate space, they can’t tell that you only spent $5 on a set of $180 Tours!
September 21, 2011
I no longer read up on Apple news, and this news doesn’t affect me at all – but I am really confident that the iPhone 5 is going to be announced momentarily.
Why do I have this feeling (aside from the fact that iPhones get released every October)? Well I was browsing on DealExtreme earlier this month and saw iPhone5 cases being sold – some of them were already sold out! While it is a Chinese outlet, DX is fairly reliable, so if they’re selling cases then I expect it will work with the real iPhone5. If they’re selling out then places like the PacMall shops are stocking up just in time for the new iPhone announcement (well 4 weeks in advance since shipments take forever to arrive). Book it!!
July 20, 2011
When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:
June 10, 2011
Last weekend, I woke up with an idea and embarked on a weekend project. Nah I didn’t build a shed or anything, as most of my ideas are geeky – it was YAAA (Yet Another Android App). This one is a bit offball, I decided to make an app where you could learn Chinese. It’s basically a glorified (well actually “scaled down” may be a better word) flash card app, and it’s entirely focused on food items.
The actual “flash card” capability of the app, and underlying database was easy to do – I finished it in a couple of hours. But I’ve spent a lot more time on figuring out what Chinese characters to add (mostly thanks to Google Translate, Wikipedia, and an Asian Legend menu). I spent an even longer time drawing.
Flash cards by themselves are pretty boring – you need a strong motivation to WANT to learn to use it. I also didn’t want to add a silly score mechanism to make it a “game”. I ended up adding badges to unlock on various occasions or combination of actions. Hopefully the mystery around the badges will cause people to use the flash cards more.
Of course, I’m not a graphic artist, so the badges themselves are difficult to create. To do this, I started experimenting with Isometric Pixel Art, which is pretty easy if you don’t have any artistic talent. Here are the first badges I created:
Now I just need to decide and draw an icon for my app before I can release it.
May 9, 2011
Dubai on Empty
A short but entertaining article packed with colorful descriptions of Dubai.
No one dreamed of this. Twenty years ago, none of this was here. No Narnia. No seven-star hotels. No tallest prick buildings. Just a home of pastoralist tented families herding goats, racing camels, shooting one another. And a handful of greasy, armed empire mechanics in khaki shorts, drilling for oil. In just one life span, Dubai has gone from sitting on a rug to swiveling on a fake Eames chair 100 stories up. And not a single local has had to lift a finger to make it happen. That’s not quite fair—of course they’ve lifted a finger; to call the waiter, berate the busboy. The money seeped out of the ground and they spent it. Pretty much all of it. You look at this place and you realize not a single thing is indigenous, not one of this culture’s goods and chattels originated here. Even the goats have gone. This was a civilization that was bought wholesale. The Gulf is the proof of Carnegie’s warning about wealth: “There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.” Emiratis are born retired. They waft through this city in their white dishdashas and headscarves and their obsessively tapered humorless faces. They’re out of place in their own country. They have imported and built a city, a fortress of extravagance, that excludes themselves. They have become duplicitous, schizophrenic. They don’t allow their own national dress in the clubs and bars that serve alcohol, the restaurants with the hungry girls sipping champagne. So they slip into Western clothes to go out.
Lot 800: The Bainbridge Vase
The story of the most expensive antique Chinese piece (for now) that sold for 43 million…pounds! That’s like $80 million then. Of course, with a piece that expensive, it’s never simple.
That is because the future of the vase is nothing like resolved. Within days of the sale, there was speculation on the internet that the bidding had been rigged by Chinese agents, seeking to bump up prices ahead of the big sales in Beijing two weeks later. Then, in December, a respected American dealer expressed doubts about the vase’s authenticity. Since February, there has been a drip-drip of stories in the British press, mostly unsourced, questioning whether the anonymous buyer—a mysterious “businessman in Beijing”—is going to pay, or pondering the possibility of a conspiracy involving the Chinese state.
President Trump? ‘I’m Very Serious’
A look at Trump’s potential entry into the 2012 election. Sounds like he is ready:
In the deposition given by Trump in the suit he filed against O’Brien, Trump was asked whether he has ever “not been truthful” in his public representations of his properties: “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try,” he responded. When lawyers asked him whether he had ever exaggerated when describing what he owned and was worth to the press, Trump said: “I think everybody does. Who wouldn’t?” When a lawyer asked, “Have you ever lied in public statements about your properties?” Trump replied: “When you’re making a public statement, you want to put the most positive—you want to say it the most positive way possible. I’m no different from a politician running for office.”
March 11, 2011
I’m probably going to burn through a bunch of instapaper articles during my upcoming trip, so I’d better blog my backlog first:
PR for the PRC
An (unsurprising) story of being an (English) transcriber for the People’s Republic of China. Guess what, things are always positive.
Love you and leave you
This article is the story of (hundred of) millions of parents in China who leave their young kids behind to go to the big city. No, not for the bright lights, but to make enough money to raise their kids! It is a sad story, until I remembered that people from HK having been doing the reverse of this for last few decades!
The Final Days of Favre
The tragic story of Brett Favre?
The Forger’s Story
Yet another story, this one is of an art forger. He doesn’t do it for the money or fraud!
February 20, 2011
I cleared a couple of Instapaper articles while waiting for some work to be done on the car:
January 9, 2011
It’s easy to point and laugh at the portrayal of (mainland) Chinese tourists in this article in The Economist, because we of the Western world (even of Chinese heritage) haven’t grown up in the same restrictive culture as they have; but the conclusions and the rationalization behind their actions end up resonating with me (unfortunately).
This is because excitement and acquisition are prized over pleasant, relaxing experiences. The Chinese are keen on European luxury, says Andy Xie, a Shanghai-based economist—they just aren’t so interested in luxurious hotels and lavish meals. Coming from a newly affluent, increasingly unequal society, they have a strong preference for the accumulation of material goods. After all, a Swiss watch lasts a lifetime, whereas “if you want a good bed, you can have that at home.”
The Chinese travel patterns aren’t that odd, they are just interested in different things.
January 5, 2011
Through all of December, I was itching to get an 7″ Android tablet. I was excited about it and trying to find a good reason to get one (I still don’t have a good one), but held off because I’m mature enough to recognize that my enthusiasm was just because it was the new hotness.
I researched a bit, and waited a few days. Eventually I decided that paying sub-$100 USD for an Android tablet, even if it sucks, is worth it. It would be fun to hack around with it (and try not to brick it upgrading the firmware). I intended to order one from China, but as I read about it more and more, I decided that I should pay a bit more for better specs (and more reputable dealers).
I decided to wait until I left for vacation to place the order, because shipping from China usually takes about a month, and at least I could be having fun on vacation instead of waiting in anticipation for my order. I decided to order from some random factory in Shenzhen and gave them ~$150USD, including shipping, hoping that I wouldn’t get scammed.
In the end it turned out ok. My tablet arrived in something like 5 days via UPS which meant I should have just bought it before I left on vacation (and brought it with me!) The tablet seems to work as advertised. I didn’t end up taking unboxing photos due to laziness, but it is a bit thicker and heavier than I thought; lacks a micro-USB connector (instead has normal USB and mini-USB), has no camera and a messed up battery reporting meter; but it is relatively stable, has a G-sensor, relatively responsive via touch, and has decent battery life. I’m not sure whether I would be willing to pay an extra $200 for a better quality tablet.