In Time (video release 2012-1-31) is smarter than I expected. Its concept – remaining time to live as a currency, is very interesting. There are some action sequences in the movie, they serve the movie well but are not extraordinary by themselves. Certain plot details are not entirely convincing, but they are not major enough to harm the movie. I’d like to see the main characters do more things than what is shown at the end of the movie, bring down the system, and explore more about the social impact of their actions.
Ayumi Hamasaki A CLIP BOX 1998-2011 (release date 2012-1-1) contains 100 music videos that span 13 years on 4 Blu-ray discs. The Blu-ray video quality, however, is disappointing, and cannot be compared to her recent concert Blu-ray discs. Other than having true 16:9 instead of letterbox (for widescreen video) as in previous DVD releases, there is only marginal video quality improvement.
The Ides of March (video release 2011-1-17) is a talky political drama. Since I have no interest in politics, I expected this movie to be boring. However, it did not make me feel boring at all, so I’d consider this movie to be very good. A good cast definitely helped. Watching this movie I also felt like I learned a little more about what politics is about.
Drive (video release 2012-1-31) got excellent reviews. Surely it is different from the typical car or action movies that stick to formula. And there are some very memorable scenes. However, I can’t say I like the story of this movie. At the end the main character made an illogical decision that is inconsistent with is prior actions.
Spent time to find the most trustworthy 3rd party replacement battery for my Sony NEX camera. From Hong Kong forums, 品胜 (Pisen) got the best feedback, followed by PowerSmart. To my surprise, I went into more than half of the relevant stores in Ap Liu Street and couldn’t find Pisen. Most of them sold M***X (which always exaggerates its capacity), and a few of them had PowerSmart. Eventually I bought a Pisen battery elsewhere, and it has been charged by the Sony charger successfully.
金陵十三钗 (The Flowers of War) (HK movie release 2012-1-19) has to be the most tragic, and most important, movie in the Hong Kong market during the Chinese New Year of 2012. It has tons of killings, blood, corpses, and rape, etc. However, looking past all these the movie tells a beautiful story of self sacrifice during the Rape of Nanking.
Western reviewers did not give favorable reviews for this excellent movie, criticizing that it demonized Japanese soldiers, had one-dimensional characters, and considered the fictional sex content to be inappropriate. I’d say they know very little about the Rape of Nanking, unlike the massacre of Jews in World War II. They also did not know this fictional story was actually inspired by true events.
There are a few penny auction sites in Hong Kong. I’ve recently tried one of them. I don’t want to disclose its name, I’ll just say it is a smaller site, with limited range and number of items, as well as much lower price per bid than the larger sites. And strangely enough even if this site has hk in its domain name, payment goes to SG – I think this means Singapore.
By wasting my own money, many nights of programming, google, and observation, I’ve found:
- If no real customer is bidding on an item, bots compete for a short time then generates a fake winner at low price
- If a real customer is bidding on an item, bots join to push the bid higher continually until the customer runs out of bids (money)
- There are at least multiple bots, and they often change names. The bot names are usually made up of two words, and the second word can be a series of numbers
- Initially the bids placed by the bots are listed as single bids, but later at least one of them would have their bids listed as auto bids, scaring real customers away
There are plenty of youtube videos that discuss how to win at penny auction sites, and many of them point to a simple rule of bidding at the last second. So I knew I had to make an automated bidding script based on this rule. I found the blog of Praveen Lobo taught how to build such a script. After adapting his script to the site I was trying, I encountered multiple problems caused by the site, some of which are not mentioned by others (as far as I could find).
The first problem is auto-logout. The first several times I tried my script I found that it could not place a bid because I was not logged in. Originally I thought it is some mistakes I made, but later I found it to be the site automatically logging me out if I monitored the bidding without actually placing a bid for too long. This is a really bad feature because it not only prevented typical auction sniping programs from working, it would also prevent human from placing bids successfully only at the last second. To defeat this feature I devised the following solutions:
- Periodic bid. It worked, but wasted money.
- Periodic opening of another window. It worked too for a limited time. Eventually Firefox 9.0.1 with Firebug crashed – I suspected this might be a memory leak or something I did wrong in my script.
- Periodic clicking of certain things on screen. This did not cause Firefox to crash but I could not confirm it really worked – because by the time I tried this solution my script placed bids rather frequently.
The second problem is freezing counter. Even in normal case, the countdown may occasionally be skipped. However, at the most critical moment it could freeze for many seconds, skipping over the important 00:01 second-left trigger. This appears to be a trick by the site to prevent typical auction sniping programs from working at all. It also screws human who watches the counter to place bids. To combat this problem I rewrote the script entirely so that it calculates the exact moment to place bids in advance, without depending on the countdown to 00:01 at all.
Then it occurred that the final bid I placed was not accepted by the site, and the previous bid by a bot was declared winner. Assuming this rejection was not a trick employed by the site, it would mean that the time I saw was delayed, indicating a latency problem. Then I modified the script to estimate the latency and dynamically adjust to it. However, since the latency is often 2 seconds, trying to place a bid 2 seconds before 00:01 causes the bids to be placed too frequently. What made things even worse was that when another account placed a bid, my screen was not immediately updated – it toke place 1 second later. Very often, within this second my script would have placed a bid which was simply wasted.
So that’s it. With the latency problems and the bots, I conclude that there would be no way to win at this site.
買兇拍人 (You Shoot, I Shoot) (10th Anniversary Blu-ray release 2011-12-30) is one of the rare Hong Kong comedies that is both creative and consistently funny. For a 2001 HK movie, its remastered video quality is decent. For those who have not watched it 10 years ago, this is a must-watch movie.