<IT WORLD> 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
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
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
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
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
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.