Asia Time Online - Daily News
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese

     Jun 13, 2009
China adds brick to censors' firewall
By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - The People's Republic of China's censorship machine is going from strength to strength. As of July 1, the government is requiring that PC makers in the country install compulsory Internet filtering software on all new computers. According to a report and translations of the official notice on the Wall Street Journal blog, the move could give the government unprecedented control over how its citizens use the Internet.

The software, called "Green Dam Youth Escort", has been designed to block pornography, but the notice issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology states that it will be used to block all "harmful content". The vagueness of the


notice has PC vendors vexed but the message from the government is clear.

Western-based IT firms are urging China to reconsider the move, which Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang defended by stating: "The purpose of this is to effectively manage harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread."

Internet security experts who have been analyzing the software since the announcement claim to have already found a series of flaws that could leave computers open to hackers. China's tech-savvy youth have taken to the blogosphere this week also claiming that they can circumnavigate their government's digital tyranny.

The spotlight of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this week focused on a new, faster, version of the iPhone, the 3GS, which, among other features, has an improved camera and can record video.

The conference, which ends on Friday, provides IT professionals and developers in-depth technical information on iPhone and Mac operating systems.

Cameras and video capabilities can be found on countless other smart-phones, but Apple vice president of worldwide marketing Philip W Schiller touted his company's new product as one of the fastest smart-phones on the market. The "S" stands, of course, for speed.

The 3GS comes with 300 software enhancements and the recently launched iPhone OS 3.0. It provides many long-overlooked basics such as copy-paste. New security features include remote data deletion, useful in the event of theft, while the new CPU doubles the speed of many applications. Improved 3G connectivity, longer battery life, and voice control are among the new specifications.

In true Apple fashion, the technical specifications of the new speed-increasing chip have yet to be disclosed. The company is relying on continuing to convince customers that the iPhone is better because of the brand and not the individual components. This strategy has long worked for Macs, whose innards are virtually identical to those found in any off-the-shelf PC.

The units will be available from next week priced from US$199 for a 16GB flash drive model and $299 for the 32 GB version. Apple has stuck with its exclusive deal with AT&T in the US, so there may be another slew of teething problems from the carrier if demand is high when the new model is launched.

A two-year contract is necessary, which will inevitably make those attractive initial prices creep up. More significant are the price drop on the existing iPhone 3G, which has been slashed to only $99. Again, lock-in contracts with exclusive carriers are likely to apply so all is not what it seems with Apple's pricing structure.

Microsoft's patch on Tuesday rolled by with a record number of security holes fixed, including one in Internet Explorer 8 that was exploited in a recent hacking contest. The company stated, "It's the most since Microsoft started releasing updates on a regular schedule of the second Tuesday of every month in October 2003." Thirty-one vulnerabilities were addressed.

The patch plugs holes in all versions of Windows and Office, with 15 of them rated as critical and likely to be exploited within the next 30 days. Most of them can be exploited to allow an attacker to remotely run code and compromise the machine. Adobe also issued patches for its Reader and Acrobat PDF reading software.

Microsoft and Google have been slugging it out in the web search arena since Bing, Microsoft's new contender, was launched last month. A number of tests have been conducted to see what users prefer in terms of search relevance but few have been conclusive.

One of the more interesting, from consumer researcher User Centric, tracked the eye movements of test subjects on both search engines. The results showed 42% of users attracted to Bing's advertising compared with 25% for Google. Perhaps after years of seeing Google's ads on virtually every web page, users now tend to ignore them.

Bing has helped Microsoft's share of the search market jump 1.7 points to 15.5% and ad revenue from search pages is up 2% since Bing's launch, according to research firm Comscore. These figures could well reflect initial interest in the new product. They will need to go a lot higher if Microsoft wants to catch Google.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Nuclear war is Kim Jong-il's game plan

2. Economic hell

3. Pakistan fights for its tribal soul

4. You just have to laugh

5. China's rise stirs Vietnam's anxiety

6. Poetic justice of a green revolution

7. India blasts rivals' role in Sri Lanka

8. What China shouldn't learn from the US

9. China's copper deal back in the melt

10. The race for cheerleader-in-chief

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, June 11, 2009)



All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
© Copyright 1999 - 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110