Warning: Declaration of action_plugin_include::register(&$controller) should be compatible with DokuWiki_Action_Plugin::register(Doku_Event_Handler $controller) in /home/public/lib/plugins/include/action.php on line 0
Blog [Jim Chen]

Warning: Declaration of syntax_plugin_meta::handle($match, $state, $pos, &$handler) should be compatible with DokuWiki_Syntax_Plugin::handle($match, $state, $pos, Doku_Handler $handler) in /home/public/lib/plugins/meta/syntax.php on line 16

Warning: Declaration of syntax_plugin_meta::render($mode, &$renderer, $data) should be compatible with DokuWiki_Syntax_Plugin::render($format, Doku_Renderer $renderer, $data) in /home/public/lib/plugins/meta/syntax.php on line 16

Back from leave

Back in January, I left on a two-month-long leave from Mozilla, in order to do some traveling in China and Japan. Now I'm finally back! I was in China for 1.5 months and in Japan for 2 weeks, and it was amazing! I made a short video highlighting parts of my trip:

Being a mobile developer, I naturally paid some attention to mobile phone usage in China, and how it's different from what I'm used to in the U.S. The cellular infrastructure was impressive. It was fairly cheap, and I was getting full 3G/4G service in small villages and along high-speed rail routes. It seemed like everyone had a smartphone, too. I would see grandmas standing on the side of the road checking their phones.

I never use QR codes in the U.S., but I actually used them quite often in China. For example, you would scan another person's QR code to add them as friends on Wechat. In some places, you could scan a merchant's QR code to pay that merchant using Alipay, a wallet app. Many types of tickets like train tickets and movie tickets also use QR codes over there.

Everyone used Wechat, a messaging app that's “way better than anything else in the U.S.” according to my American friend living in China. It's more than just a messaging app though – you have a “friend circle” that you can post to, a la Facebook; you can also follow “public accounts”, a la Twitter. The app has integrated wallet functionality: I paid for a train ticket and topped up my phone using the app; during Chinese New Year, people were sending each other cash gifts through it.

For some reasons, you see a lot of these “all-in-one” apps in China. I used Baidu Maps during my travel, which does maps and navigation. However, you can also call taxis from within the app or hire a “private car”, a la Uber. You can use the app like Yelp to find nearby restaurants by type and reviews. While you're at it, the app lets you find “group buy” discounts to these restaurants, a la Groupon. I have to say it was super convenient. After I came back to the States, I wasn't used to using Google Maps anymore because it didn't do as much.

Of course, on the flip side, these apps probably would be less popular without the Internet censorship that's so prevalent over there. By creating a barrier for foreign companies to enter the Chinese market, it provided opportunities for domestic companies to create and adapt copycat products. I found it amusing that Android is so prevalent in the Chinese smartphone market, but everything Google is blocked. As a result, you have all these third-party markets that may or may not be legitimate. Mobile malware seems to be a much larger issue in China than in the U.S., because people have to find their apps off of random markets/websites. It was strange to see an apps market promising “safe, no malware” with every download link. Also amusingly, every larger app I saw came with its own updater, again because these apps could not count on having a market to provide update service.

Overall, the trip was quite eye-opening, to see China's tremendous development from multiple angles. I loved Japan, too; I felt it was a lot different from both China and the U.S. Maybe I'll write about Japan in another post.