Monthly Archives: January 2009

Photos: Chinese New Year fireworks

Shanghai is currently in relax mode with everybody on holidays for Chinese New Year. To celebrate the new lunar year there’s no shortage of fireworks going off at every hour of the day. I’ve been told the idea is to drive evil spirits away and to celebrate the festive season. Personally, I can’t help think it is some sort of sport or competition – like when suburban houses back home try and put up better Christmas lights than their neighbours.

A novelty at first, we decided to blow a our own little piece of China up and accidently hit a taxi. I guess that was always going to happen at 2am, a little drunk, and not having set off a firework in a long time (it’s illegal without a license back home).

I’ve been a bit snap happy with the camera so here are some pictures of events just around our neighbourhood. This first picture shows why a few people might end up in hospital this time of year…


Is charging for Free Software worse than piracy?

Crowds of singing penguins

Excuse me for getting a bit nerdy in this post. On the weekend I was at the markets and looking for fun examples of Shanzhai gadgets and stumbled across a stall offering software. Usually this is full of dodgy versions of software like Office, Windows, Photoshop, and so on. I’ve no use for these types of applications but hear they ship cheap with bonus malware or other nasties included.

Anyhow, what grabbed me was a copy of Ubuntu, the free Linux distribution, was amongst the software up for sale. For the un-nerdly out there, Linux is like Windows but totally free to download and use. In fact, they even ship free Ubuntu CDs if you request one. (More on Free Software and Linux here if you want to learn more)

I was curious, so asked in my best 101 Chinese (I’m not so sure asking in Chinese actually gets you a better price for anything — I’m obviously not local, but a ginger) :

Me: How much is this?
Shop keeper: 300RMB (around $USD50). You speak good Chinese.
Me: Too expensive! How about a discount, buddy.
Shop keeper(now in English): ohhh that’s my no joking price. You give me price
Me: (inserts 0 into calculator, the real price)
Shop keeper: No. You’re joking. Come on, what’s your price?
Me: (inserts 5RMB into calculator – I figure the CD is worth that)
Shop keeper: No. You’re joking. That’s less than my cost price. You’re handsome. Come on, give me your best price.
Me: How much is cost price?
Shop keeper: 120RMB ($USD12-15)

At this stage I couldn’t be bothered bargaining for something that is ultimately free and I already have so walked away — on which the price of 80RMB was yelled out behind me. Anyhow, it left me wondering if it’s okay to charge for the service of downloading Ubuntu and other free software and putting it on a blank disc?

It isn’t exactly in the spirit of Free Software in my books, but, not illegal like piracy is. As far as I understand it’s not against the Free Software license (GPL) Ubuntu ships with, and I certainly don’t have a problem with people trying to make money from Free Software.

However, is it wrong to try and rip (stupid) folks for 300RMB, or in my case 80RMB, which is still a rip when I’ve seen Windows Vista at 10RMB max. Alternatively, if the buyer is willing to pay for Ubuntu and enjoy the discs then is that install a win for Free Software and the user regardless of the purchasing circumstances?

I’d be interested to hear what others think but first a word from The Free Software Foundation, creators of the GPL license that Ubuntu ships with:

“Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible — just enough to cover the cost.

Actually we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If this seems surprising to you, please read on.

The word “free” has two legitimate general meanings; it can refer either to freedom or to price. When we speak of “free software”, we’re talking about freedom, not price. (Think of “free speech”, not “free beer”.) Specifically, it means that a user is free to run the program, change the program, and redistribute the program with or without changes.

Free programs are sometimes distributed gratis, and sometimes for a substantial price. Often the same program is available in both ways from different places. The program is free regardless of the price, because users have freedom in using it.

Non-free programs are usually sold for a high price, but sometimes a store will give you a copy at no charge. That doesn’t make it free software, though. Price or no price, the program is non-free because users don’t have freedom.

Since free software is not a matter of price, a low price isn’t more free, or closer to free. So if you are redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a substantial fee and make some money. Redistributing free software is a good and legitimate activity; if you do it, you might as well make a profit from it.

Free software is a community project, and everyone who depends on it ought to look for ways to contribute to building the community. For a distributor, the way to do this is to give a part of the profit to the Free Software Foundation or some other free software development project. By funding development, you can advance the world of free software.”


In short, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation believe distributors should charge as much as they can and pass some of the profits back to Ubuntu or another project. Freedom is the name of the game, not price, nor circumstance of purchase.

Like experimental music, it’s theoretically good.

Shanzhai eye: Dike shoes

I love Shanzhai (山寨) goods, aka counterfeit knockoffs, in China. Whenever there’s a fashionable good, a group of entrepreneurial go-getters are ready to re-create said good and serve it up in the fake markets. In Shanghai, western tourists can be seen flocking to the markets for a bit of brand-name Shanzhai action and scuttling out later with rip-off booty hidden in inconspicuous black bags.

But it ain’t the plagiarism or the framin’ I like, it’s the subtle changes some of the goods ship with. iPeds, Hello Kittly, D@G, and Polo shirts horses with 3 legs…I’m sure you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Last weekend we came across these Nike, Dike shoes.


Year of the Reindeer Dragon

The shopping centre next to Jing An Temple have put up a pretty impressive light show for Christmas and Chinese New Year season (Earth Hour was so 2008, anyway). I couldn’t help notice that after Christmas the creators changed the neon from Santa’s reindeers into dragons.

Traditionally I thought dragons were more snake-like, however, I welcome these new Christmas / Chinese New Year reindeer dragons.

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations

Chinese New Year decorations

Chinese New Year decorations

Reindeer dragons!

Reindeer dragons!

The Shanghai Circus

With some friends visiting from overseas lately we decided to check out the carnival scene in town and visit the Shanghai Circus. I believe there are a few different circus acts and can’t compare the carnies we saw to other establishments featuring small-handed, cabbage-smelling, triangle-fingered folk around town.

What I can say is that the Shanghai Circus at Circus World was pretty cool. The production included some amazing acts (I won’t spoil it) with a fantastic light and video show. It’s well choreographed and the music is produced live as well – live vocals, bass, drums, and more. If you don’t have to pick your jaw off the ground before walking out then you’re hard to please.

With some more friends expected to visit this year I’m adding this to the Shanghai leg of the tour. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos of the performance so here is a glimpse of what to expect.

Shanghai Circus

Shanghai Circus

What: Shanghai Circus
Where: Shanghai Circus World, Gong He Xin Road. It’s got it’s own stop on Metro Line 1. Walk out from the Metro and you can’t miss it.
When: Every Night at 7.30
How Much:Tickets vary between 80-580RMB. We had the 180RMB tickets and were more than happy. The arena isn’t that big to really warrant paying more.

Shanghai weather: Beautiful one day…

Stating Shanghai’s many contrasts can be an overstated, overdrawn, and constantly repeated task written about in many blogs and articles. East meets West, Rich vs Poor, Old and New, Capitalism and Communism, and well worn conclusions about Shanghai being a city of Yin and Yang.

I won’t bore you with these in this post but here’s a pictorial look at the contrasting days one is to expect in Shanghai. Both pictures were taken at roughly the same vantage point last week:

Day 1.


Day 2.


Video: Shanghai – city of contrasts and confusion!

This video of Shanghai in 1947 has grabbed the attention of a few lately so I’m getting on the bandwagon. According to the original poster of the video it was shot in the short period after WWII when the concessions were closed (1946) and just before the communists rode into town (1949).

It’s an interesting look at the city. If you look closely then you’ll notice how the more things have changed the more they’ve stayed the same.