The Chinese government has issued a warning to websites that are selling virtual private networks (VPNs). The country outlawed the sale of VPN except those approved by the government in July.
While many articles speak of China having outlawed all VPN's in July that is not technically correct. What it did was require all VPN services to be certified and licensed by the government. This would require them to agree to censor those websites the government blocks. Businesses and individuals would still find VPN services significant for security purposes.
However China has issued a warning to websites that are selling VPNs. The Cyberspace Administration of China demanded that five different website remove vendors who sell VPNs that are not government approved. The VPNs are used to evade what is called the Great Firewall of China. Even such common websites as Twitter and Facebook are blocked by the Great Firewall. VPN's also keep ones Internet activity private from the government or others who might be spying on you. They are important for both both businesses and individuals.
One of the websites that received the warning is Alibaba's Taoba which is China's largest online retailer. The Cyberspace Administration ordered that the sites "immediately carry out a comprehensive c,lean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal accounts and submit a rectification report" according to Reuters. The government also ordered Apple to remove all VPN apps on its Chinese stores. Presumably they were all not government approved VPNs.
The VPNs that are being banned are able to route traffic through routers overseas that are free of the filters China used to block sites such as Twitter and Facebook. GreenVPN already stopped service as of July 1st in China after being ordered to cease operating. However, other popular services may also be blocked by now. The Chinese government has also intervened on its own local media platforms such as Weibo where it has blocked "negative talk".
The Chinese government requires all VPN services to apply for a licence, which will not be granted unless the service agrees to the government censorship policies. They have set a deadline of February 1 next year for all three of China's mobile operators to block all unlicensed VPN services. The Ministry of Information Technology said back in January of this year that the VPN and cloud computing market was undergoing "disorderly development" and there was an "urgent need for regulation norms". Russia also has recently passed legislation that will have effects similar to that of China's new rules.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Monday, August 28, 2017
Donald Trump found a new use for Twitter as he announced the dissolution of two advisory committees: The Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing and the Presidential Strategical and Policy Forum.
|Trump took some time before he explicitly condemned the Klu Klux Klan and neo-Nazis involved in the Charlottesville Virginia incident in which a protester was killed when run over along with others by a right-wing extremist. There was a large demonstration of white supremacists, and Klu Klux Klan members protesting the removal of a confederate statue. The protester killed was part of a counter protest. A video of the protest from You Tube is appended.|
Augmented reality is a view of reality modified by computer-generated input such as sound, video, graphics or even GPS data. The augmented reality enhances ones perception of reality.
|Augmented reality is often used to enhance a customer experience in a store as is evident in the appended video. Using AR technology the customer in the video is able to see how she looks in many different outfits without having to go to the change room every time she changes. This is a huge improvement over the old-fashioned mirror.|
Saturday, August 26, 2017
The big tech companies in Silicon Valley in the southern San Francisco Bay area in California employ some high-tech workers who collect both full pay and stock without doing much or any work. They are nicknamed "resters and vesters".
|At first, the practice of keeping employees on the payroll while they do little or any work seems preposterous. One might even think perhaps big corporations lose track of what their employees are doing and these employees survive through administrative error. But there are often good reasons why these employees are not let go.|
Chicago faces a huge problem when any new construction involves digging within the city. Chicago was incorporated in 1837 and many records of the network of underground pipes is hopelessly outdated.
|Construction crews often find something unexpected and have to phone the city which then sends out a specialist who ascertains if the pipe is still being used. This can often cause significant delays in construction. The problems are so prevalent that the city even has an Office of Underground Coordination to pour over old maps in an attempt to find out what is underground before a crew digs.|
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Somewhat surprisingly, Sudan has received an invitation to take part in a joint U.S.-Egyptian military training exercise this October in Egypt, a first for the country in almost thirty years according to the Sudanese Defense Ministry.
|General Emad al-Din Adawi announced the invitation to join the Bright Star exercises that will take place in Egypt after he met this week with a U.S. State Department official according to the Ministry. Operation Bright Star takes place every two years and is described by Wikipedia as follows:|
Operation Bright Star is held every two years. It is a series of combined and joint training exercises led by United States and Egyptian forces in Egypt. These exercises began in 1980, rooted in the Camp David Accords. It is designed to strengthen ties between the Egyptian Armed Forces and the United States Central Command and demonstrate and enhance the ability of the Americans to reinforce their allies in the Middle East in the event of war. Other allied nations joining Bright Star exercises in Egypt include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The exercise begins with coalition interoperability training to teach nations how to operate with one another in a wartime environment, then continues with a Command Post Exercise designed to help standardize command and control procedures, and then a large-scale Field Training Exercise to practice everything together.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
A new report shows that many international tech workers no longer see the U.K. as a top choice. Only six percent of those surveyed listed the U.K. as a top choice for relocation due to concerns over Brexit the report claims.
|The report was carried out by the international recruiter Hired, focussing on tech workers within the U.S. tech industry. A majority of the respondents claimed that Brexit had dissuaded them from considering the U.K. as a prime place to relocate. They saw Brexit as making the U.K. a less desirable place to live.|
Monday, August 21, 2017
Roku TVs are smart TVs in that they have built into them the functions of the Roku streaming player which makes available many channels, some free but others paid.
|1 of 2|
|The Roku is a streaming media player. It takes content from the Internet and displays it on your TV. There are several different Roku models that differ in performance features and price. All models are able to access the 3500 Roku channels it streams. The Roku service will work with any existing cable system or you can use it as an alternative to cable. There are a wide selection of free services but also subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, etc. If you already have subscriptions you can view them without further charge through Roku. You have access to other sources such as Amazon Video, and Google Play but there will be charges for that.|
(August 6) The Trump administration is considering a plan to turn over much of the Afghan US war effort to private contractors supposedly as a means of breaking the stalemate in the war against the Taliban.
|The plan is being pushed by Erik Prince the founder of the firm Blackwater that was active during the Iraq war earlier and also in Afghanistan. Prince sold the company in 2010. The Prince proposal would see 5,500 private contractors used to advise Afghan combat forces. Many of those hired would be former US Special Operations troops. The plan also includes a 90-plane private air force that would provide air support for Afghan forces. President Trump has grown more and more frustrated with the lack of progress in defeating the Taliban insurgency.|
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Many Internet users want to remain anonymous. Tor is free software that helps defend you on line against surveillance that threatens your personal freedom and privacy.
Tor is a product of the Tor Project. On the website you will notice that there is an Onion logo. Originally the Tor Project was called "The Onion Router"(TOR) and this gave rise to the acronym Tor. Tor also hosts websites that are anonymous. They all have the domain name .onion. The software not only protects the privacy of communications of individual users but of business and government users as well.
As Wikipedia describes Tor:
There are other ways of browsing anonymously than through Tor. Many people use Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a means of doing so. Most VPN providers charge but some are free but often just to try. A list claimed to be the best of 2017 can be found here. The appended You Tube video shows how the system works.
Roger Dingledine is a co-founder of the Tor Project, originally funded by the U.S. navy, which allows the user not just to surf anonymously but also to gain access to blocked sites and the deep web. It also hosts sites anonymously. While to some the dark web is a menace since it hosts criminal activities, to others it is a lifeline and allows political and other activity on the Internet and the use of services that we take for granted but for them are blocked. However, there have been numerous criminal uses of Tor on the dark web. Just recently a large deep web marketplace Alphabay was closed. It was said to have more than 200,000 users and $1 billion in sales. Dingledine claims that journalists like to hype the bad side of Tor saying: "I think a lot of it comes down to incentive mismatches,where journalists have to create more controversy and get something so that everybody will want to read their article. The story is privacy is under threat around the world, and that's been the story for a while - so they need a new story."
The line that Dingledine uses to defend Tor claims that it is not Tor so much as criminal gangs that are responsible for the crime on the Internet. However, this does not show that the criminals have not found a new platform for operation in Tor. Nevertheless Dingledline maintains: "I would say that there are bad people on the Internet and they're doing bad things, but Tor does not enable them to do the bad things.It's not like there's a new set of bad people in the world who exist because Tor exists. I still think that most of the bad stuff on the Internet has nothing to do with Tor."
While the government hoped Tor would be used by those in authoritarian and dictatorial regimes to get around blocks to access sites and also to allow them to browse anonymously the largest number of users are actually in the United States. U.S. users on an average day number 430,065 or over 19.5 percent of the market. In second place, rather surprisingly given its size, is the UAE at 314, 805 or 14.32 percent of the market. Next comes the authoritarian state Russia at 211,180 or 9.60 percent. Another surprise is the Ukraine next with much less population than Russia but with 206,603 or 9.37 percent of the market. In the top ten countries Germany, France, the U.K., Netherlands, and Italy all EU countries are included and also Canada. It seems that those in western democracies fear surveillance by governments, businesses and hackers, although some may be using Tor for criminal purposes.
Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult for Internet activity to be traced back to the user: this includes "visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms". Tor's use is intended to protect the personal privacy of users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities from being monitored.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
As retailers face tough competition, augmented reality (AR) technology may help save them and revive their profits. Ecommerce was still only responsible for 8.1 percent of retail sales last year but was fully 41.6 percent of sales growth.
|Shoppers still spend about 90 percent of their dollars in regular stores even as their dominance is shrinking year by year. New technology may help save the regular stores from the fierce competition as they also take advantage of new technology. Recent estimates indicate AR and related technology will be worth $30 billion by 2020 as competition between online stores and older style brick-and-mortar retailers heats up. Using AR will enable retailers to augment their customers' interactions with physical items.|
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are "augmented" by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called computer-mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. Augmented reality enhances one’s current perception of reality, whereas in contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated oneThe augmentation is typically performed in real time.
Mozilla Firefox or just Firefox was at one time the first choice of browser users back in December of 2009, challenging the dominance of Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer.
|Firefox's usage peaked at the end of 2009 with 32 percent of the browser market. It has now declined as its competitor Chrome kept rising and now dominates the market. Depending on who is doing the measuring, Firefox now has between 5.65 percent and 14 percent of worldwide usage as a desktop browser. Firefox runs not only on Windows but on Mac OS and Linux distributions as well.|
Gone was the blazing-orange fox snuggling a blue globe, the image that’s represented Mozilla’s scrappy browser since 2003. Instead, Firefox Senior Vice President Mark Mayo opened the event with a drawing of a fox in menacing mecha armor, named Mark 57 — the same way ever-improving Iron Man suits are named.
One part, Stylo, accelerates formatting operations. Quantum Flow squashes dozens of small slowdown bugs. Quantum Compositor speeds website display. And Firefox 57 also will lay the groundwork for WebRender, which uses a computing device’s graphics chip to draw webpages on the screen faster.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Somehow two chatbots managed to offend Chinese authorities to such an extent that they were pulled from a Chinese messaging app. The two questioned the rule of the Communist Party and also made unpatriotic comments.
|The two offending bots were on a Chinese messaging app run by the giant Internet company Tencent which boasts more than 800 million users. Tencent is a very large Chinese investment holding company with subsidiaries that provide media, payment systems, internet and mobile phone services and operate online ad services. It is the largest gaming company in the world. It also includes social networking, such as instant messenger Tencent QQ, and mobile chat service WeChat.|
The Chrome browser dominates over all others in terms of its usage on the Internet. However, the measurement of usage is complicated and there can be some measures that overestimate the usage of a browser and others that underestimate usage.
|The problems involved in measurement are discussed in this Wikipedia article. The figures given by this site are for desktops only this year so far: Chrome, 58.91 percent; Internet Explorer, 18.19 percent; Firefox, 11.91 percent; Microsoft's new Edge, 5.6 percent; Apple's Safari, 3.52 percent; Opera 1.22 percent. There are a few others under one percent. Microsoft is having trouble pushing its new browser Edge as many users prefer to stay with the older Internet Explorer even though its usage is going down over time. Edge can be used only on Windows whereas other browsers such as Chrome, Opera, and Firefox can be used on other operating systems.|
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