Does China Own Our Computer Future?

Found this article a bit disturbing. Not because the resources were all based in China, rather because they were all based in a single location! Imagine how frustrated I was to learn that 95% of the rare Earth metals come from one centralized location. Worse, that same centralized location is said to need ALL of its resources in just a few years.

On the flip side, I am going to say here soon Molycorp in Colorado is going to be on a hiring streak… being it will be among the few left available to provide the mines needed for such materials. Alternative materials, anyone? Unless we are looking forward to a future where will be paying through the nose for computers.

Could this be the end of cheap computing? Perhaps, instead, we will finally find ways to have an upgraded computer expense without needing to upgrade quite as often? Definitely open to some thoughts on the pricing aspects of this. Hit the comments, share your thoughts.

[awsbullet:china national geographic]

Google May Cut Its Operations In China – Good For You, Google!

On the Google blog the company has presented a serious picture of how attacks on the Google site back in December seemed to have targeted Chinese activists. Google has concluded that these human rights activists have been the target of attacks by a very sophisticated network of cyber criminals trying to access their Gmail accounts.

Google goes on to state:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

I can only applaud the folks at Google for taking such a strong stance. It is unfortunate that our government can’t also put pressure on China to stop the aggressive behavior against those who oppose China and its continued human rights violations.

Maybe Google really does believe in its own motto ‘don’t be evil,’ after all.

Comments welcome.

Google Blog article

Is The New [Old Folks’] Buick LaCrosse Being Built In China?

Yesterday I wrote a post about the introduction by GM of a new Buick Regal GS, that seemed odd to me, since it had a 4 banger with a 6 speed manual tranny. [yesterday’s post here] This one comment drew my attention when I read it this morning:

Who cares what kind of badge it has? The problem is, I think they’re making them in China, which is a nice kick to the groin of American workers, and will prevent me from ever owning one.

Buick LaCrosses are in fact being built in China, sort of. It seems that the main body is made in the U.S. and shipped to a GM partner, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group. The interior is different inside and reflects the taste of the younger Chinese buyer. At FastCompany it states this:

Joe Qiu doesn’t own a car. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license. His favorite vehicle, actually, is a go-kart with a top speed of 75 miles per hour.

At 31, Qiu still lives with his parents. But he spends much of his time drinking in the vibes at the expensive high-end clubs, over-the-top shopping malls, and elegant, luxurious hotels where Shanghai’s burgeoning middle class gathers.

Qiu is, in fact, a car designer. He works for the largest automaker in the world, General Motors, at its outpost in Shanghai’s Pudong suburb. Two years ago, he was part of a team that radically overhauled the Buick LaCrosse for the Chinese market. The original LaCrosse had a soft, rounded exterior and a plain-vanilla interior, meant to appeal to the brand’s aging U.S. consumers. But Qiu and his boss James Shyr, an intense, fast-talking Chinese-American who learned his trade at Nissan and Toyota, knew Chinese consumers would sneer at such frumpy wheels. “Our buyers are 36 and 37, half the age of buyers in the U.S. and much more discerning,” Shyr says.

I loved this statement because it is exactly what I said yesterday. Buick is an old folks’ car:

The original LaCrosse had a soft, rounded exterior and a plain-vanilla interior, meant to appeal to the brand’s aging U.S. consumers.

There is also this:

The redesign was pitch perfect, so well targeted that the Chinese LaCrosse is on track to sell nearly 110,000 units in its second year in production. (In the United States, the LaCrosse isn’t expected to approach the 100,000-unit mark, ever.) Now, with that success still fresh, Qiu and the China design team face a critical test. They will design the next Buick LaCrosse, due out at the end of the decade, for the entire world.

It’s a mind-bending phenomenon. After an intense internal competition that pitted Shyr and his team against their U.S. counterparts, they will have complete authority over the interior design–driven by Qiu’s insights. The exterior is being handled in the United States, but with a great deal of input from China. And China will control much of the overall logistics.

There’s a carload of irony here. It used to be that GM would send American versions of cars around the globe–sometimes even selling left-hand drive cars in right-hand countries like Japan. What worked in America, it thought, would work globally. Now the automaker, with 50% of its sales coming from outside the United States and the Chinese market growing fastest of all, is betting that a Chinese sensibility will best inform a car for Americans, and everyone else.

Chinese Buick with added ‘bling’.

So it seems that GM may be having more success selling its cars in China than it has here in the U.S. I personally see nothing wrong with this idea as long as GM makes money. But there are some questions that will need to be answered in the future. How long will GM be able to build cars here in the U.S., before China puts a stop to it? What I mean is, how long will it be before China will want the U.S. cars built entirely in China?

Isn’t this what the U.S. has demanded of the Japanese and South Korean car companies: Build the cars here in the U.S. or we will restrict our imports of your cars? My understanding is that this was another of the U.S. car companies’ cries to Congress of why they couldn’t compete. The foreign car companies were building cars cheaper because they paid their employees less.

We later learned that the U.S. car companies were mismanaging the company, that the UAW received very lucrative contracts, and the house of cards fell on us U.S. taxpayers to fix.

Comments welcome.


China Arrests 5,394 For Internet Porn Or Is It Net Censorship?

China claims it is cracking down on Internet Porn and has arrested 5,394 criminals during the previous year. The Chinese governments states that the web sites they have closed down were havens for perverts and that those responsible would be prosecuted. But some are thinking that China is using the excuse of porn to close down web sites with anti government sentiment.

According to a Reuters article it states that:

With an estimated 360 million Internet users, China has a bigger online population than any other country. But the ruling Communist Party worries the Internet could become a dangerous conduit for threatening images and ideas.

The ministry did not say how many of the 5,394 suspects arrested were later charged, released or prosecuted.

The anti-pornography drive has also netted many sites with politically sensitive or even simply user-generated content, in what some see as an effort by the government to reassert control over new media.

China has banned a number of popular websites and Internet services, including Google’s Youtube, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook, as well as Chinese content sharing sites.

So there you have it. China doesn’t like social networking sites in which free ideas and thoughts can be shared. The Chinese government considers such sites as a potential haven for anti government sentiments that must be squished.

Comments welcome.


China’s Twitter Nightmare

There should be an image here!Based on what I have been reading in this article, it seems pretty clear to me that social media has got to be a massive pain for China’s censors. Imagine trying to censor on Twitter or Facebook posts in real time? Honestly am not convinced this is possible, but I might be wrong. Perhaps China will instead, look at a delayed approach to the social web.

Existing Chinese Internet censorship has been described as a cat and mouse game. And this is just with keeping up on email, blog posts and so forth. Imagine the nightmare that would come up for government censors trying to keep tabs on a crisis happening in real time over the social media networks! It would be craziness – free speech would prevail and China’s government is not having it.

No, I suspect that China might eventually look into offering a single site destination where Twitter and Facebook APIs can be plugged into a government site where things are filtered and approved. Hardly real time, but I can see the censors going for something like this. It’s either than or they ban the social media sites completely.

Baidu Cleaning Google’s Clock In China?

There should be an image here!I think with each culture, we tend to flock to the familiar. For those living in mainland China, clearly this is the case with Baidu coming out on top over Google. But to be fair, Google has been fighting Baidu for as long as I can remember.

Apparently for the Chinese, Google is simply not providing a complete enough user experience. And who can argue this? It has been said that Baidu is becoming the People’s Yahoo! in the mainland. And as many of us know already, Yahoo! is a hit among the less tech savvy as everything is slapped together for you on one page.

So it is clear that amongst what the above linked article is calling “high end users,” Google remains strong. But as Google is discovering, Baidu is not something to be toyed with. Clearly, Baidu is winning and Google is on the ropes in China.


Bing With Yahoo By Proxy

There should be an image here!Certainly a mighty sweet deal for Microsoft, using Yahoo to gain a foothold into new and exciting markets. Don’t think there is any real question that Google needs to keep Bing-Hoo in their sights at all costs.

With Bing-Hoo now taking a stake in the Asian marketplace, I think we will begin to see Google react a lot more and perhaps, even provide us with a stronger search product because of it.

What remains uncertain is how much reliance of Yahoo Bing really will become. With Microsoft’s desire to bury Google at all costs, I cannot help but wonder when it will happen that Yahoo and Bing will truly become one in the same.

Baidu Search Going Into Overdrive

There should be an image here!It appears that Baidu is looking to expand their base as much as possible. Exploring possible acquisitions, partnerships and so forth as Baidu begins taking its competition a bit more seriously now.

It’s sort of interesting to see how Baidu differs in market share when compared to alternatives such as Google. While Baidu maintains a massive lead thus far, Google’s partnership with China Mobile Ltd is clearly getting Baidu into an area that is not good for the long term.

All of this said though, regardless of whether or not Baidu is able to maintain its hold on the Chinese audience. One thing is for sure. With more Internet users than even the US, China’s search patterns and habits will be setting the trends in the future. Now if the users can just get past those darn firewalls…

China May Be First To Launch Electric Car In The U.S.

According to an article over at the Technology Review site, a car from Coda Automotive located in China, could be the first company to launch an electric car in the U.S. The vehicle which will have a price tag of about $45k, could sell for about $30k after governmental rebates. The car will get about 100 miles between charges, which can be charged in about 8 minutes. Sound good? Maybe too good.

In addition to trying to bring the car to market ahead of its competition, Coda hopes to distinguish itself with its battery system, which it developed in cooperation with Tianjin Lishen, a major lithium-ion battery maker based in China, and other companies that specialize in different aspects of the battery system, such as the electronic controls. Kevin Czinger, Coda’s president and CEO, says that the company jointly owns the factory that makes the battery packs, which will help Coda ensure a steady supply of batteries. This is also true for the Japanese automakers Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, but he says that his company is ramping up production for electric vehicles faster. By the end of the year, the company’s battery factory will be able to produce 20,000 packs a year. “The scale and speed with which we’re doing it are very different than the Japanese,” Czinger says. “The ownership of mass manufacturing of the battery system distinguishes us from everybody else.”

There is some good news. Once the car goes into production it is hoped that the price will eventually be about $25k without rebates.

Comments welcome.


Tiny Walls In China

People have always questioned me about why I am so adamant about using the platform I have chosen for myself. Well, here is one example. It seems that China’s government is taking some delight in the prospect of making it law that all new PCs shipped new must have special proprietary access control software included.

Now despite this being software designed to run on Windows, I am sure that Microsoft has nothing to do with this. While it does tend to embrace DRM rather easily, I just don’t see Redmond’s software giant being interested in this type of thing. It would be a PR nightmare, so I am sure that this is something that has come about from the software company listed in the above linked piece.

But my initial point stands. Even if something like this were bundled on Linux boxes, it would not last as people would simply stop using the distribution that allowed it. And this brings up a question that just hit me. What about Red Flag Linux? How will it meet with these new requirements? I am certain that Red Flag is not immune to the coming changes in Chinese software/hardware policy, so I can only speculate if we will see a quick software port of this access control app to the Linux platform. Should prove interesting, to say the least.


China Wants Web Blocking Software On Computers

The Chinese government has contacted all international PC makers and have requested web blocking software on computers that are sold in China. The government stated that the requirement will go into effect starting July 1, 2009. The software must be either installed on the hard disk and provided on a disk for the user to install. The Chinese have stated that the purpose of this software is to protect young people from porn.

According to a recent article it states the following:

But the Chinese government’s history of censoring a broad range of web content has raised concern among some foreign industry officials and the US government that the new effort could significantly increase the government’s control over Internet access in China. Industry executives also warn that the software could cause PCs in China to malfunction, and could make them more vulnerable to hacking.

The rule could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship. Several foreign companies have been criticised for accommodating the Chinese government’s censorship requirements in order to operate in the country.

I believe the above statements says it all. Companies that wish to remain in the Chinese market will have to bow to the governments wishes. Unfortunately this means that censorship will be alive and well in China.

Comments welcome.


China – They Are Building Plug-In Hybrids Already

On Monday evening NBC News did a piece on China and how they are starting to build their own cars. The cars that were seen on the assembly line looked no different than some 30 other sedans being built by various car companies. But what took center stage was the work the Chinese are doing in the field of Hybrids. They claim to be producing a car that runs for 239 miles on a single charge of electricity.

Interesting if true. Because in the same tv segment was a piece on Obama who wants cleaner cars and also more fuel efficient cars being produced for use in the U.S. No Duh! We finally have a president with a set of balls. We have sat on our asses for some 30 years thinking the oil problem would go away. The government placed no restrictions on the car companies because they were being told that the American consumer wanted behemoths with V-8 engines. We needed power, power and more power! It is funny that the 2010 Chevy Camaro can kick out over 300 HP from a V-6 while getting an estimated 29 miles on the highway.

Both the American and Japanese car companies are finally coming to the party with several Hybrids of their own. But it could be the Chinese who could take the world by storm if they come up with a better Hybrid.

But the question to be answered is this. Would you buy a car from China?

Here is one model from a Chinese company known as BYD:

Comments welcome.


Elder Search For The Chinese?

Not sure if this is a good thing or a total waste of funds, but apparently the Chinese have a special search engine created with the elderly. While I am among the first to preach the importance of accessibility for all, regardless of physical shortcomings, the idea that a separate search engine it created for this need, seems overkill to me.

Guess I am struggling with the idea of Baidu not being able to simply find a more adaptive means of accessibility than having to create a completely separate arena for those older than whatever is considered “older” these days. My own mother, who is clearly considered older (70+) by most, is perfectly able to use standard search engines without needing to have a special assignment made available to her.

And of course, to trump all of the other points made…how many elderly people in China are seriously surfing the ‘Net in China? Come on, we are struggling to make this happen in the West, I doubt that this is happening in restrictive countries like China!

Global Action Day To Liberate Bears In China

Conservation activist Jeanette McDermott writes:

People across social networks have joined forces to launch a poster campaign to liberate 9,000 bears from crush cages in China, where they live torturous lives so their bile can be drained for Chinese medicine. We need thousands more people to join the Ursa Freedom Project. We need YOU!

We will launch the poster campaign on March 20 (Vernal Equinox) and run a new poster each month with the idea of catapulting the whole globe into action by the time the action day arrives on June 21 (Summer Solstice).

We will drop money bombs to Animals Asia, the bear rescue organization in China, on both designated days: March 20 and June 21. On June 21, we will hold concerts, art auctions, street dramas, theater readings, poetry slams, etc. all across the globe to raise awareness and funds to rescue bears and put an end once and for all to bear farming.

Artists have already stepped forward to make the posters and others are designing original art that we can sell to raise money for bear rescue. We have signed up our first Benefit for Bears concert with a band in San Francisco. A fashion designer is creating a one-of-a-kind jacket to be auctioned for the bears.

But we need more people! More art, more concerts, more events!! The plan is to create local actions all over the world on behalf of the bears! And we need geeks — to do all the mojo that makes the project go viral — create a banner, badges, upload to social media, podcasts, vidcasts, blogs, Twitter, DIGG, etc. And we need photographers to document local events that we can post on the internet. In other words, we need a massive “street team” of cyber geeks!

I’m dedicating myself to ending the suffering of these magnificent creatures in crush cages and am asking you to be part of the Ursa Freedom Project.

Join the movement! Spread the word! Let me know how you will help!

Thank YOU!

China Begins To Lighten Web Restrictions

There should be an image here!I personally think that censorship is censorship, but whatever. Apparently China is beginning to lesson their grip on the people by allowing them to search more than they were previously while on the Web.

Seems the Xinjiang regional government is working to restore various websites and services, in addition to restoring international phone service as well. Apparently the restrictions were done in the first place to help with regional stability. Sure.

Despite this seemingly good news, it should be noted that generally speaking blogs and forums are still off limits. After all, there is just too much freedom going around and the Chinese authorities are not having any of it.