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Massive crowds on hand for iPhone 4S launch in Hong Kong 24 hours prior to sale.

Mother and child sleeping in line for an iPhone 4S

I can’t begin to accurately describe the scene on the walkways outside the Hong Kong Apple Store.

Last night, an unofficial line of about 400 people was broken up by police and security details as the lack of organization and chaos was leading to some tense scenes, even some fighting.

Today the lines are back, and organization is being forced on those waiting by the police and security officials.  “Cattle pens” have been set up to keep the iPhone line sitters from milling about, cutting in line, getting distracted, etc.  Police using crush barricades have made nearly 45 pens along the Star Ferry walkway outside the Apple Store, and are filling each pen with about 20 people.  When someone tries to leave a pen to go to the bathroom or get some food, security officials photograph them with a digital camera so they will be allowed to re-enter their sorted pen.

But this isn’t enough.

The 45 pens stretch nearly the entire distance of the Star Ferry walkway to just a few hundred feet from the ferry entrance.  The surging mass of 100s who have yet to be penned are now stuck behind the last pen and the entrance to the ferry.  Security officials (including some from Apple) are now building new pens on the other side of the walkway to shepherd in the waiting masses.

The scene is pretty surreal.  These are not “Apple Fanboys” by any stretch, but low income migrant workers from places like Pakistan, Indonesia, etc.  There are men, women, old grandmothers, even some infant babies who are bundled up tight for the long night ahead.  There are also plenty of wannabe-Triad boys, gathered together with funky haircuts and tattoos, many of them with their faces covered by surgical masks (and it’s not because they have a cold).  Each iPhone they are able to buy will bring a profit of about $100US, which is the same as a weeks wages in some of the lower income jobs in Hong Kong.  If the limit is 5 iPhones per person, they’ll each clear a month’s worth of work so you begin to understand while they are willing to sleep outside all night.

'Blue Berets' of the PTU squads arrive

UPDATE 5:00pm:  I added some more photos from this evening.  Police have dispatched a platoon of riot police known as a PTU unit.  The line extended at one time down the ferry bridge and onto the street, but after some reshuffling of the ‘pens’ they seem to get everyone back up on the bridge.  It also appears that they are not allowing anyone else to enter the line, but I can’t tell if that was a temporary thing or permanent change (my Cantonese isn’t that good).

Hong Kong iPhone 4S line starts 72 hours prior to launch.

They love their Apple gear in Hong Kong, and they also love to line up to get it.  In fact, this line of about 150-200 people outside the Hong Kong Apple Store isn’t even “official”–it’s just people milling about waiting to get into the official line that will start “soon” according to some in the know.

The local paper (paywall) reported that a scuffle broke out between some of the early liner-ups-to-line-up and some more recent professional line sitters, predominantly South East Asians hired by the iPhone smugglers of Mongkok and Mainland China.

Here are some pics of the wackiness.  We’ll have more Friday when the iPhone 4S goes on sale at the Apple Store in the IFC Mall.


Hong Kong’s iPhone postage stamp

Was poking around the post office today looking for some stamps when I came across a new issue from the HK Post Office which looked oddly familiar.

The Volunteerism series of postage stamps contains one stamp which shows an “An email from co-workers brings good news on school redevelopment. Children’s smiling faces in the photo are the best gift for the aunties and uncles volunteering in the project”.  The email is done as a message on an iPhone, complete with a battery indication, wifi and clock (but no carrier information).  Kind of an interesting, if low budget way of designing a postage stamp.

Available from your local post office.  If you really wanted one shoot me an email or a comment and I’ll see if I can get one and mail it to you.

They also have one that looks like a blog posting, if you are feeling really geeky:


$1.40 – A simple note and a green leaf on a diary page record happy moments of planting trees with mom. This shows that the seed of altruism has taken root in the child’s heart.

$2.40 – A volunteer recruitment leaflet has been uploaded onto a blog to rally support from young people for a community charity event.

$3 – An email from co-workers brings good news on school redevelopment. Children’s smiling faces in the photo are the best gift for the aunties and uncles volunteering in the project.

$5 – A reminder on the calendar tells of an upcoming home visit with an elderly volunteer, conveying a strong feeling of worthiness among the silver-haired in caring about others.


Tracker reveals my iPhone travels over last few months

There is a lot of buzz on the Internet about a small little file being stored on the iPhone and sync’d with the computer containing the exact location of your iPhone over the course of the day, week and month.  At the moment this file isn’t really being uploaded or used for any purpose, but a group of coders have found a way to de-encrypt the file and reveal the GPS goodness that is hidden inside.

Attached you see the results of the simple iPhone tracker app (download iPhone tracker here). It shows you which towers I’ve connected to most frequently and you can play back the results day-by-day if you are seeking to really stalk someone.

Oh, one other bit. See that travel across the border into Shenzhen? Interestingly enough I had swapped SIM cards up there and used my China SIM card. Apparently the gadget doesn’t care what SIM you are using–it just tracks it no matter which card is in there. So while you may escape a trace effort from the phone company by removing the SIM, should they get your phone or your desktop, they’re going to find out where you were.

And for those who wonder, the way to disable this is to turn off your phone (though I suspect some hacks will come out shortly to improve this option).

Here is a 20 minute interview about how the file was discovered.

Best TV Apps for iPhone / iPad

One of the neatest things to do with an iPhone (or any smart phone) is to watch TV streams “live” on your phone.

Now saying it is “TV” is technically a misnomer–you aren’t technically receiving over the air TV frequencies with your phone and displaying them. Instead these are streaming video feeds from a variety of sources around the net that have been nicely packaged and laid out for display on your iPhone.

The apps can be sorted into a number of different types, traditional vs. Internet broadcasters, and collators vs. individual stations. It’s also worth noting that the Chinese presence in IPTV dwarfs, by a large amount, the efforts of other countries. Chinese Internet TV activity is rather amazing in that there is simply so much available. US broadcasters have not quite caught up, but recent developments by the Cable companies are a sign that might soon change.

So let’s go through a list with a few reviews:

Individual Stations

Al Jazeera English Live – Livestation — (Traditional Broadcaster) — AJE is an international news service that has really made a name for itself during the Arab revolutions of 2011. While it is still criticized by some in the West for ‘biased’ reporting on issues such as the US invasion of Iraq and the Arab-Israeli peace process, AJE has established itself internationally as a major player in the international news community. AJE is now viewable on cable TV in most parts of the US (due to the aforementioned controversy) but their iPhone app is a must have for any news afficiando. AJE has really gone to great lengths to get their voice out on non-traditional communication’s channels such as mobile phones, the Internet, and streaming media players like the Roku

FRANCE 24 – France 24 (Traditional Broadcaster) — France 24 is France’s answer to CNN and the BBC World Service. Broadcasting from Paris in English and French, France 24 offers a European take on the international news and is definitely worth adding to your iPhone collection.

DW–(Traditional Broadcaster)–Deutsche Welle is the German international broadcaster offering a mix of English and German programming throughout the day (often the same exact show just in different languages). Streams and podcasts of their programs are available through this app.

CCTV (CNTV) — (Traditional Broadcaster) — CCTV is the Chinese state broadcaster offering a wide variety of programming from sports to those long episodic soap operas. They have an English-language service but this app gives you access to a wide variety of the official government programs from China.

NHK WORLD TV Live – NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) (Traditional Broadcaster)–Made far more relevant by the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, NHK World’s iPhone app gives you English-language programming from Japan. Sometimes you get an HD quality stream too.

SKY TG24 — (Traditional Broadcaster) — This is a Turkish broadcaster broadcasting in Turkish news and other programming from Turkey. I haven’t watched it very much but the production quality looks rather professional.

AJE Sports — (Traditional Broadcaster) — Al Jazeera has a full time sports programming which includes quite a few soccer matches from middle eastern nations. Occasionally they’ll have some other sports programming but generally you’ll see football most of the time.

BFM–(Traditional Broadcaster – French). This is a 24-hour news channel based in France with a worldwide satellite audience. The coverage tends to be about French news and France or EU-related


TVU Player iPad
icon (Lite and Full) This is one of my most important apps as it gives me access to literally 100s of traditional broadcasters from around the world. You won’t find BBC or CNN in there [ usually 😉 ] but there is plenty on this app to keep you occupied. If you are a sports fan, particularly a soccer fan, than this app is a must have. They carry a number of matches from around the world on this app and you’ll have plenty of content to keep you busy. They also have some movie channels airing some copyright expired movies.

PPTV is another good app, eventhough most of the instructions are in Chinese. Originally I thought there were some live channels but on further inspection it appears most of it is ‘on demand’ movies, some of which you kind of wonder ‘do they really have the re-broadcast rights for this’? American and European movies along with tons of Chinese films are found throughout this app.

ELTA TV This is a Taiwanese app that has a number of pre-recorded programs, but occasionally has some sporting highlights from the NBA or MLB.

W.TV iPad
icon–This one is wild. It has all sorts of content, of questionable copyright, filling it’s directory of live and on demand movie programs. It’s in Chinese, but not all the movies are Chinese–some are still in the theaters in the USA.

Livestation (Web) This is one of my favorite websites for watching television. I strongly recommend their mobile site, as a bookmark on your homescreen as they offer a number of channels in iPhone and iPad compatible streams. Euronews is on this channel, something I watch frequently to get the EU perspective on things.

Internet Only

TWiT – ShiftKeySoftware–This week in Tech is a great app with great tech-related content. It’s also a massive warning shot to any traditional broadcaster. Leo Laporte and his crew have patched together ‘a tv station’ with not much more than a lot of bandwidth and a number of TV cameras. They broadcast daily, live and then stream repeats throughout the night. I would love to emulate this model with other content–just have to buy some nice bandwidth and get started. Maybe next week.

Oh man this list is going to be long. I think I’m going to have to take a break before it gets out of control…

Here are a few others worth investigating on your own:

YUPPTV–Indian programming

RAYV TV–Random TV channels

MOSS–Random TV channels (a few good ones too)

I.TV–Links to some streams

SPB.TV–Some German or French channel.

netTV Lite–Random TV channels, paid version has more interesting bits.

MobiTV–Works in the US. Subscription model.

GrandLille TV–French Channel.

Xfinity TV–Comcast app. Works in the USA

We Stream–Random TV channels

Zappo TV–Random TV channels

MTS TV–Random TV channels

SMC TV–Chinese channels

Infinity TV–Random TV channels

On Air Live–Random stuff

Tai Seng–TONS of Hong Kong dramas and movies on demand.

UStream–Random TV and user channels

JustinTV–Random TV and user channels

Olympic iPhone Apps review

Yea, I only reviewed the free ones.  I have a Cowbell already (from my visit to the SLC ’02 Olympics) so couldn’t rationalize buying an electronic version.

The Vancouver Olympics start on Friday and there are quite a few iPhone apps in the app store to help keep you up to date on the latest.

NBC has a formal application that is complete with news, schedules and some (delayed) video from the games.  We’ll have to see if there are any competition videos or whether it just remains the ‘touchy feely’ Olympic stories NBC is famous for producing.   It also parses in the Twitter updates from Olympic athletes, such as Apollo Ohno.

NBC Cheer is a great app for annoying anyone within listening distance of you.  You can select the standard “USA-USA” cheer but then overlay things like ‘cowbell’ or ‘whistle’.  I just tried it out on the wife who glared at me with a ‘shut-that-f#$%-thing up’ look after only a few seconds.  A must have to be sure.

2010 Vancouver is a guide for those who find themselves in Canada during the Olympics.  It has information on venues including maps and directions on how to get to different spots.  It also has a list of official twitter events (including the Torch, which has a twitter feed I guess and some of the IOC tweets).  Good to have if you are going.

CTVOlympics is all the coverage you could want, from a Canadian point of view.  It has a news and photos section along with some venue information, and might be a good alternative if you just can’t stand NBC’s take on things.

Trapped and injured in an earthquake? There’s an iPhone app for that

Dan Woolley was trapped under the rubble of the Haiti earthquake without much information about what to do.  He was in pain, but not sure of his overall situation.  He needed help, and believe it or not, it was just a finger slide away.

His iPhone.

Woolley used his iPhone as a flashlight (a totally under-appreciated function) to diagnose his foot as broken.

Then, he used the instructions from (a medical) app to treat the excessive bleeding from cuts on his legs and the back of his head.  Woolley used his shirt to tie off the three-inch gash that was opened on his leg and a sock to bandage the back of his head. He said he also looked up ways to stop from going into shock.

Woolley also used the notepad function to type out his last notes to his wife and kids, should he not make it.  But he survived and is back doing the talk show rounds this morning.

On a slightly more serious note, there are several iPhone applications on sale today with the proceeds going to benefit Haiti earthquake relief.

How to download a Youtube video with Safari and convert it for your iPhone

You know, I get asked this all the time, so here are the instructions.

  • Find the Youtube video you want.  
  • Click PLAY.
  • While the video is playing, goto the top of the page and open WINDOW–>ACTIVITY 
  • Take a look at all the elements of that page (you may have to click the ‘carrot’ to display)
  • Find the one that is still ‘moving’, i.e. getting bigger and bigger in size.
  • Double-click on that item specifically.
  • A new window will open up and the file will download to your harddrive.


The file will likely be a FLASH .flv movie, but you can convert it with Quicktime Pro or VLC or any number of other programs, converting it to an m4v for your iPhone if you want.

Here endeth the lesson.

China’s CCTV iPhone application review: an embarrassment to American television networks.

China’s CCTV has just released a new iPhone application that really blows away most other TV iPhone applications that I’ve seen.  Of course, there is this caveat–it’s all in Chinese, and pretty much not worth much to those who don’t speak Mandarin (with the exception of sports content), but the application is chock a block full of content from all of the CCTV networks, providing catch up of TV series, news clips, etc.  It’s amazing that so much content can be made available online, and should serve as a bit of a template for American television networks seeking to release mobile applications.  Of course in a country in which IP rights are more of an afterthought rather than the first thought, you can develop the cool applications first and worry about the rights issues later.


Slingplayer for iPhone

From the about fricking time department, word has come from the TUAW that the much anticipated Slingplayer application for the iPhone has been submitted for approval with the overlords at Apple HQ. Slingplayer is a tool of many an expat used to ’sling’ back television content from a central location (i.e. their parent’s house) to their current assignment overseas. It’s also used by people in offices, geeks in college, and plenty of other folks who need to move their video content from one place to another (myself included).

When the iPhone first came out, we heard rumors that Sling would do an application, but that was off/on/only if jailbroken/on/off/on again, or something to that effect. There are already several other live TV apps for the iPhone that are out, but few that will have the functionality as basically getting your cable TV on your iPhone.

And this is the week I got rid of cable in the house. I think the Slingplayer is still in a pile of cables behind where the Comcast box once stood. Guess I have to rewire things.

Live TV on the iPhone – Some new developments

While poking around the app store yesterday, I came across a few new applications that have tremendous promise.

France 24 in the news section offer live streaming of the France 24 (think CNN of France). The buffering is pretty quick and the quality is not bad. France24 is a different take on some of the news out of Europe and this lets you watch them on your iPhone via wifi pretty easily. Free app and worth a download.

France24 is only on limited cable systems in the US, with service in Washington and New York that I know of. They had some great coverage of some stories like the Bettancourt rescue in Columbia and they also have some good culture shows from Europe that are worth watching.

TVU is p2p video streaming company that allows you to watch tons of content from around the world, some of which is probably not authorized by the copyright holder. The app is in beta and released, but will likely have a few new developments that will make it much more useful (such as widescreen, which I haven’t figure out how to use just yet. Lots of Chinese channels (as I’ve said before, the Chinese are light years ahead of the US on IPTV — light years). Amazing what developments can be done when DRM is not the first consideration.

We’re still waiting for to come out with their app (in development) and I guess we are still waiting for the Slingbox app, promised for months and months (but no where in sight just yet).

Livestation going to the iPhone. Thank god almighty.

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Livestation since I first downloaded a copy a month or so ago.  Now I’m even more excited as it appears Livestation will be ported to the Apple iPhone, bringing live video & tv to the iPhone.  The announcement will take place today here but I’m not sure when it will be released.  I know I want it NOW, like right NOW as other video options on the phone haven’t quite impressed just yet.