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Sod the iPhone: give us Mac service in China

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While the hi-tech world is swooning at Steve Jobs' feet after the dramatic unveiling of Apple's iPhone, your correspondent is cursing and swearing in front of his Mac keyboard, wishing that Apple's famous engineers and designers would turn their attention to some very real Mac problems that beset users in China.

These problems concern me a lot more than the stuff on the iPhone, which looks cool and all but does not really offer anything that a SonyEricsson 910c cannot already do. The Mac problems that the engineers need to solve are pretty basic:

• Many Mainland Chinese websites do not load properly on a Mac, no matter whether you use IE, Safari or Firefox as a browser. I have completely abandoned IE, but usually have both Safari and Firefox running all the time because some Chinese websites work on one but not the other. The problem is especially grave with online video: files for Microsoft's popular Media Player are very tricky, and require Mac users to download dodgy bits of shareware to view.
• The Chinese language input system is clunky.
• There is no always-on point and translate software; there are dozens for PCs.

Finally, these problems are nothing compared to the hassle of buying a Mac in China and maintaining it. There is no decent Mac service in China, unless you find a solitary good guy working for a Mac shop who actually cares about his customers (in Beijing try Mr Hao who can also sell you the modem mentioned below - 1380 116 0509).

Finally, after a long wait, in China you can buy a CDMA modem that works with the new Intel Macs: the Vtion V1819. Nobody at Apple's customer hotline actually knows how to set the thing up, but thanks to Dan Washburn of Shanghaiist for telling me how to do it. Nationwide unlimited wireless on the CDMA mobile network, for 198 yuan (USD 25) a month.

There are currently 30 Comments for Sod the iPhone: give us Mac service in China.

Comments on Sod the iPhone: give us Mac service in China

Jeremy:
"Many Mainland Chinese websites do not load properly on a Mac, no matter whether you use IE, Safari or Firefox as a browser. I have completely abandoned IE, but usually have both Safari and Firefox running all the time because some Chinese websites work on one but not the other. The problem is especially grave with online video: files for Microsoft's popular Media Player are very tricky, and require Mac users to download dodgy bits of shareware to view."
As for the websites: Same problem here, I use a PowerBook G4. Anyway, that's actually the fault of the website-administrators: If they would set the damn encoding of the website to UTF-8 or something like that, it would be no problem anymore. I don't surf chinese websites that much though. Anyway, I am 100% sure there is some kind of widget for Firefox that lets you change the encoding of a website on-the-fly.
As for wmv videos, there is a optimal, free-of-charge solution: Integrate it into Quicktime with a software called 'Flip4Mac WMV'. It will open embedded wmv's in Quicktime, if you have Quicktime Pro, you can even safe these wmv's to your hard drive! Awesome software.
• The Chinese language input system is clunky.
Are you sure you set it to the right mode? There are two modes for chinese; one sucks, one is almost like on a PC - quick, easy and intelligent, realizing your sentences and suggesting the right words in advance. Try it out, it's called 'ITABC'. Just write the whole sentence in chinese, then start hitting the space key - fun time.
• There is no always-on point and translate software; there are dozens for PCs
Yeah, that's something I am missing, too...

>>Many Mainland Chinese websites do not load properly on a Mac, no matter whether you use IE, Safari or Firefox as a browser

Repeat after me: this has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with Apple.

If you're using IE on the Mac, you're an idiot. Microsoft abandoned that particular product of theirs 3 years ago.

"Mainland Chinese" (um, aren't you supposed to say "the Chinese mainland"?) websites are well known for their issues with everything except IE on Windows -- but this is because they are badly coded by morons who still think that popping a new browser window every time you click a link gets you more "hits" or something equally idiotic.

Sure, get angry with the Hong Kong money's decision to close the Apple Center in Wangfujing without telling anyone, but blaming Apple is just silly.

On your "poor Chinese language support" points -- man, get out there and do some Google-ing. At least half of the Apple users I know here in Beijing use their machines exclusively in Chinese, some even switched to Macs because Apple's Chinese language support is so very much better than anything existing on any other platform.

And your "long wait" to use a CDMA service for your internet connection -- that's a well chosen phrase. You're in for a lot of "long waits". Again, absolutely nothing to do with Apple, although going on your form above you'll find away to blame them, I'm sure.

Thanks for giving the Mac-in-China issue some attention. Although not a solution, I run Windows XP via Parallels on my MBP...this helps alleviate some of the Chinese Web site viewing issues as running IE and Firefox on XP dont have as many problems as when run on OS X.

Anyone else having trouble connecting to the Internet with a MBP since the Taiwan earthquake? Solution? The night of the quake, my MBP was connected to the Internet...the next morning the connection had dropped and I havent been able to get online since.....I can get on elsewhere (work, wireless, etc.), just not at home...have tried just about everything...thoughts?

The hype about the iPhone is ridiculous to anyone who access to comparable phones already. In fact, I think that a few of the Sony Ericcson models definitely rival it and have quite a few features that the iPhone does not (plus no $499 pricetag!).

Wow, those are some pretty strong comments to the post. Anyways, all I can say is that Flip4Mac seems to work rather well for the WindowsMedia that I come across on the Web. I don't think it falls into the dodgy shareware category, so you're safe there. At one point, it was endorsed by Microsoft to some extent. They offered a download link on their website in place of their own software.

i think the chinese website issue is more about their design, rather than browsers or which OS one uses. chinese websites tend to use lots of overly-fancy tricks, especially using java applets and flash, which was fine with IE6 (which played anything, hence it being a security nightmare). compare a chinese portal, such as sina.com, which is a mess, and which never displays properly for me on either firefox (with the No Script extension) or safari, with yahoo.com's english front page.

It used to be difficult to even touch any Mac in Shanghai but now www.bestbuy.com.cn has pretty much all the models in their Apple department.

Browser issues can be solved partially by changing your User Agent, which makes your browser seem like it is, for example a Windows MSIE 6. You need the Safari Debug menu enabled, and can do this by installing PithHelmet, which has the added benefit of blocking lots of ads. (Add Saft and Safari becomes the best browser out - unless you use Firefox's web developer plugin). Setting page encoding to UTF-8 does make a difference but can in turn screw up English pages written by idiots who think 'Western ISO (Latin 1) because everyone Speakes Her Majesty's Englishe.

I've always found the Chinese language input is excellent, though better in pinyin simplified than traditional. Check out http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/

Always-on Point and translate: try LiveDictionary. It uses CEDICT for its traditional and simplified, and can load pretty much any dictionary in that format for any language. It's mostly for Safari, but by adding some extra lines in the menu loader preferences it can work in many apps, including Mail, TextEdit, NetNewsWire

Flip4Mac is awesome.

Frances

I couldn't agree more about there being no decent service for Macs in China.

We've got 6-7 Macs in our company, and in the case of the latest Macbook we're actually keeping one as a "spare" – there is ALWAYS one that's "in for repairs".

One of our Macbooks has been at the repair center 5-6 times. Each time they repair it they give it back with new problems, e.g., the computer won't sleep when you close it, sound doesn't work anymore, or the lid is misaligned. That's just sloppy craftsmanship.

We've had to call Apple to have them put pressure on the repair center more than once.

---

Regarding battery replacements:
Seems like in the US and elsewhere Apple would send you a new battery; when you got it you would send back the old one. NO DOWNTIME.

In China, they ask you to first come to the service center so they can confirm you have a faulty battery, then they order a new battery (takes weeks) and we actually had to argue with them not to take the old battery from us immediately (which would give us WEEKS of downtime). When the battery finally arrives you have to go to the service center again to have it replaced.

It's certainly a different experience than you'd get abroad.

One of the reasons I didn't get a mac was because its Chinese input was funky. I think on some older versions of Word it automatically put spaces between every character. Plus I wish there was somewhere I could go to fix my iPod that broke less than a year after I got it.

(i am not involved in this project in any way) QIM is my favorite chinese input for os x. available here: http://glider.ismac.cn/RegQIME.html

here's some other input methods: http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/pages/input_methods.html

sorry, itabc is unbelievably dumb at predicting text and the native wubi is just too slow.

forget cdma cards! can we please get 3g?? let xinjiang have that silly t-wcdma ballyhoo the gubment wants and let the rest of us have the real deal

Oh man, Jeremy, I so do agree with you. Apple is rolling out these nonsense gadgets and i cant even get my imac decently repaired here in Beijng.

Maybe we would get some service if Jobs would sell off the computer division to some other company. Then he can 24/7 develop his pricey nonsense gadgets for the religious fools (Shan?)

ha ha.

My MacBook Pro has had many problems, most of which China support has been clueless about but when I call US support they argue with me for a long time before grudgingly answering my questions...

Well among other problems, the connector on my Magsafe power adaptor caught on fire. When I called local support they gave me an address for a repair center. When I went there, it was an empty office.

I have nothing but bad things to say about Apple support here. Recently the battery started to bubble and I finally got the attention of the Apple executive office in California. They had Hong Kong and Beijing call me and guess what, they recommend two repair places, one of which is still the empty office.

They don't care about you. You are helpless tied to your Mac with abusive service. Live with it. I do.

As other commenters have said, the problem has nothing to do with browsers and everything to do with Chinese web developers. As long as they are coding solely for IE6 on Windows and not coding to meet web standards there is no way to resolve the problem on a Mac except to run IE6 in Parallels.

Thanks for the tip about Mr. Hao. The hard drive in my iBook sounds like it's on its last leg. Does Mr. Hao take AppleCare?

>>Then he can 24/7 develop his pricey nonsense gadgets for the religious fools (Shan?)

Where does one start with stuff like this?

Did I say the iPhone was great (hint: no)? Did I say Apple was great (hint: no)? Did I say I was a Mac fan (hint: no)?

All I did was point out that Jeremy's "things that are Apple's fault" were not, actually, Apple's fault at all.

Who's the religious fool, then?

And while we're on fools, has anyone got a "my AnyBrand laptop broke and they fixed it quickly and cheaply" story?

No? Didn't think so.

Anyone got a "my AnyBrand hard-disk mp3 player broke and they gave me a new one no questions asked" story?

No? Didn't think so.

Tried getting a Lenovo laptop "decently repaired" in Beijing?

No? Didn't think so.

The Mac ITABC is not as good as the windows version. Although both "learn," the windows version is faster, in other words you can write more of a sentence and expect it to get most of it right. The one thing about the mac input that is nice is that you can type the first four letters of a cheng yu and have it show up, instead of typing the entire pinyin out. The other thing is that the windows version allows you to switch into traditional characters whereas the apple version makes you use the Taiwanese input system, which is pinyin but lacking in the "learning" capability, which means that you have to type and find each character, which can be a real drag.

If you need support in Southern China try the Apple Guy in the Saige Computer Mall in Shenzhen. 13714660196

He sells all available items and repairs iPods and stuff. Great support from him. I guess in Southern China it is a bit easier with the support as I can always go to HK where a lot of shops offer support. Other than that what hinders you guys to go online and check out some help forums?
They usually know some solutions.

As for Chinese typing, what about wubihua? Does anyone use that? I have some Taiwanese friends that use that on a Mac and have no problem. I have also never heard any complaints from those Cantonese users in Hong Kong about typing. The language support for Chinese is good on OS X. Websites not displaying properly are due to poor code of the website, not the actual software.

I also really miss a proper dictionary for Chinese like on Windows systems.
Even better would be to have more Chinese fonts pre-installed with a larger character base. Also the conversion of Traditional to simplefied and vice versa is tedious at best. I require such a function quite a lot.

I second the promotion of QIM

I third the promotion of QIM, but (a) it costs money, and (b) it's still not as good as the Windows IME /清华紫光 input methods. Sure, I guess things might be faster if I were typing in Wubi, but I don't feel like spending months learning an insane shape-based input system. Also, Peijin's right on about toggling between simplified and traditional. Having to use two separate inputs for the separate character sets is insane and maddening. It's 2007; this shit should be a solved problem by now.

Dictionary-wise, I use Wenlin and iciba.com . It's not as handy as having iCiba for Windows, but it'll do in a pinch most of the time. Thanks for the heads-up on LiveDictionary, but I always find CEDICT-based stuff to be suspect at best and borderline useless at worst.

One Mac shout-out, though: the text rendering on Mac OS is so far superior to that on Windows, it's not even funny. I guess Firefox uses non-native rendering, or something, because text rendered in that browser is just ugly and frequently improperly formatted, while Safari handles it all like a pro.

I had trouble with my Mac while in Beijing. The hard drive died. They wouldn't replace it the first time I took it in, I guess it wasn't dead enough for them even though it could hardly spin up and sounded sick. DiskWarrior could do nothing.

I blogged about it.

My Chinese friends bitched about the character input too, but I just don't type much or fast in Chinese. However you may want to try the Opera browser. It is really international, not that Safari and Firefox aren't bad. It's free now and I use it as my main browser, there are always websites that just aren't created very well and crash all sorts of browsers or render poorly all but on the machine it was built on...

If iphone can send Chinese SMS,I'll buy it at the first time no matter when.

Mainland Chinese Mac people are outright outraged at the delay of the new iPhone. And this after the new iPhone was given unprecedented publicity - even mainland Chinese Central Television mentioned it in their news bulletin -- even if it was a last-minute news article. (Mainland TV rarely gives any noticeable airtime to things that make us Think Different.)

As a Mac user in Beijing I am absolutely desperate for the new iPhone. Seriously, I cannot wait until the day I dump my current phones - this is too cool a gadget. But there are loopholes -- word has it that the government is not too keen about WiFi-ready cellphones and that "CCC certification" could be on the long side.

Then again, as we're on about Mac service in China... as the guy spearheading the Beijing Mac user group, and as a Mac guy since 1991, here's what I've found in general about Macs in China:

1. There is truly a lack of Mac service here -- and the expats are kinda hard hit by this. (I kind of include myself in this as I'm on a Swiss passport.) English-speaking Mac support a la Tekserve and Co are virtually nonexistent or do exist, but are few and far between. I used to be in the Mac support biz for a while, but thanks to my mass involvement in other Mac, media and wiki stuff, I'm way too busy to do support these days. Believe me, there is a market for Mac tech support -- I always get phone calls asking me if I do support.

2. To be fair, the 800 freephone service from Apple mainland China has been ripped into smithereens with irritated locals and expats. People think they're ignorant, lazy or just outright not doing their job. I was in contact with them back November 2003 and I found them, sadly, to be worse: they dump the locals and treat expats like gods. I've proof -- I phoned them and spoke Chinese first and I got the kind of treatment typical of state-owned shopkeepers of the late 70s (attitude-wise). When I called them again and spoke English, they were desparately rushing to "impress me" -- like some kind of god. I think this is bad behavior -- mainlanders and expats ought to be treated the same and they should get equal treatment, and plus, service should improve.

3. You may or may not have known that there are more and more Mac shops in China. Not just on the mainland, but also Taiwan. They're opening like mad; they're good as in they spread the culture and revolutions of the masses who Think Different, but if history is anything, they then get neglected and ultimately ruin Apple badly. Now there are new people on board Apple mainland China and this could all change (I hope) for the better, but if they open up shops and then shun tech support, they're in for a bruising. If the Kewei shop in Beijing is any kind of weathervane, though, it's looking up; some of our members got pretty good PowerBook support just a month or two ago.

4. In the good old days of the early 2000s, I used to do a lot of Internet banking. That's but a dream in China, where most -- if not all -- banks shun Mac support. This is ignorant behavior.

5. Finally, anyone heard of QQ? Were it not for the heroes of Sinomac, Mac users would be stuck without QQ. One of our members gave the Tencent crew quite a lesson and got them to hire someone that would develop a Mac version of QQ. It's the trend, by the way -- more and more Macs are being sold in China, and the one big barrier prior to liberation (as in Mac liberation) is the "Will I be able to run QQ?" question. Yes, QQ has them Big Mamas take out the not-so-secure words you say, but most of us use QQ for legal intents and purposes and there is, in fact, quite a gathering behind QQ. One of our gang at our sister club, BeiPod (the iPod group), says that if there is a version of QQ that's natively developed by Tencent, we could see a massive surge in Mac users as they finally realize that the computer for the rest of us runs their most frequently used IM software.

Personally, I am not a QQ guy. I've met one of my friends over QQ, but I do most of my IMing in Adium. And I don't do Internet banking, either -- I in fact don't use anything Microsoft. I never use Word, and all of my word processing is done in TextEdit. So maybe while I'm surfing along fine (being as Apple as I can), I do realize that some of us use stuff that gets us into contact with the "unliberated masses" or "dark side" and do wish for better compatibility.

And, of course, don't we all clamor for better Mac support!

Having read the original post and the ensuing comments, I would like for all of you Apple fans and users in Beijing that there is a vibrant Macintosh User Group - BEIMAC (www.beimac.com), at the ready to assist you all with your PowerMacs, iMacs, Macbooks and Powerbooks. My friend, David Feng, is the current President.

As for browsers not being able to interpret/render websites, do not lay this at Apple's door. I give you that Safari is not ideal, but it is far better than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which was discontinued at version 5.5. Your best best is to use Mozilla's Firefox (latest version is 2.0.0.1).

Apple is far from perfect, and I'm the first one to constructively criticize, but you cannot hold their feet to the fire for users' poor web design and construction.

As to what I gather is rather circuitous service, Mac service in the States has improved greatly because of the Apple Stores and their Genius Bars, not that their people are geniuses, but they are really quick with the paperwork to take in my machines for service and have them shipped directly to my house when they have been repaired.

Sod the iphone...be my guest..Sod Apple, and you're left with Microsoft and its viruses, spyware, registry hacks, vulnerabilties, and what galls me most is no underlying UNIX layer. To date, the only way to accomplish this on a Windows machine is to install CYGWIN and that's no fun.

On the subject of media player software - flip4mac is not hard to find nor is it difficult to install. And as for "always on point and translate software", i believe you mean a local software package...in a pinch i use the Dashboard translator widget, or failing that instant message my friend David in Beijing. He likes the attention.

Honestly, if the technology issues you are facing are what you consider to be the most serious, bear in mind that others on the planet wish those were the ONLY troubles they would have to encounter.

With much love from here in New York City.

I would class Apple "Support" as the priority over chinese input.

I've lost count of the time I've had to escalate stuff to the states so they can call the idiots in support here for support.

At one point I was recommending that people go to Hong Kong (anything is better than support in the mainland).

Apple Mainland Support Guarantee's-

We promise you a guaranteed argument.

What you give us may not be what we give back to you.
(My personal iBook battery got switched when I sent mine in for the global motherboard replacement (thats another story in itself), and Apple "support" tried to sell me a new battery) because mine was "broken".

I still like Apple (and I still sell a couple of Mac's each year), but its me that supports them, not Apple.

If anyone is in Shanghai, we provide Mac (and PC, Linux) support, as well as iPod repairs.

Lawrence / http://www.computersolutions.cn

An excellent Chinese input system for the Mac, QIM, can be downloaded at http://www.sinomac.com/QIM or at versiontracker.com. It costs twenty-dollars, but is worth every penny.


If I use this iPhone in china, does it come with Chinese fonts? (for at least texting)?

For those who cannot find a place to get their iPods fixed, iPod repair service is now available in China! Quick, reliable and affordable. More details at: link

You know what, a few days ago I thought ah iphone is for suckers, $600 for a phone plus monthly service, what? That's until my homeboy got one, boy this thing is the bomb... I love it. It's very innovative. But then again I still use a phone from like 5 years ago...If I had the money I would definitely buy one.


I've owned macs in Beijing for years had mixed experiences with Apple support here in China, but the bottom line for me is that if you're persistent you will definitely get what you need.

In Spring 2006 I bought an intel iMac with global applecare. Within 6 months the motherboard was fried. I took it in to the repair shop in Ruisai near guomao and they fixed it under applecare, while fixing that they screwed up the wireless antenna, after taking it home and figuring this out I called them and they sent a kuaidi at their expense to pick up the mac from apt and fix it, after the second fixing it was all good.

A year later the dvd reader / writer gave out, I took it in to the new repair place in the basement of dinghao. When it came back I noticed that screen had a problem so I pointed that out and they kept it for another few days while they swapped the screen out. All of these repairs required no proof of purchase for the computer or proof of applecare, they just looked up the serial number on the machine and found that it was covered. Maybe I'm not used to US service standards, but I've gotten my apple products serviced here half a dozen times all told and in the end they always fixed it and never gave me too much of a problem about it. Maybe I just got lucky?

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