Wipha Typhoon in Shanghai

September 20, 2007

Yesterday was supposed to be the coming of the dreaded Wipha Typhoon. The day before the news channels announced that schools would be closed, people should be careful, …

However in Shanghai city nothing special happened. In fact there was bigger rain on Tuesday than on Wednesday and while everybody was fearing that the storm would hit us with more strength yesterday, there was little rain and maybe just stronger wind.

Indeed as the Associated Press reported, the typhoon seems to have hit China a bit south of Shanghai and lost most of its might overland before hitting Shanghai.

Apparently the broad annoncement on TV, radio, traffic signals, as well as closing schools and evacuating the part most at risk helped keeping the casualties low.
But in Shanghai yesterday it seemed that somehow the municipality did not think that “typhoon” and “torrential rains” would be a good enough reason to stop their road cleaning trucks to spray water over the roads.

The Great Firewall of China

September 13, 2007

Coincidentally there was an article today on Science Blog about the Great Firewall. So yes like I said yesterday their Firewall is not really effective. But is that surprising considering the amount of resources that would be needed for a reliable censorship ?First a quick reminder on how it is supposed to work:

China takes a different approach by filtering Web content for specific keywords and selectively blocking Web pages […] when the Chinese system detects a banned word in data traveling across the network, it sends a series of three “reset” commands to both the source and the destination.

And this works in a protocol agnostic way, so it may reset your DNS request, HTTP session, etc …

Because it filters ideas rather than specific Web sites, keyword filtering stops people from using proxy servers or “mirror” Web sites to evade censorship.

Encrypted content can’t be filtered, that’s why I previously mentioned Tor which has been “omitted” from the blacklist. Now it would not be that hard to filter the Tor network and web site, but just like Google Reader, they are missing the obvious.

But because it is not completely effective all the time, it probably acts partly by encouraging self-censorship, Barr said. When users within China see that certain words, ideas and concepts are blocked most of the time, they might assume that they should avoid those topics.

I suppose the average Chinese will use a Chinese search engine anyway (Baidu is very famous here) which will have its own politically correct “filters”, and even Google is complying with Chinese censorship … or trying.

In fact the networks in China so reliable that I guess the Chinese hitting a “banned” word would just assume that something went wrong with its connection. Getting a “timeout” error is quiet common, and it is not like they redirect you to a page with flashing warnings.

Overall the Great Firewall is just a source of frustration and lost time. Especially when it get overzealous on blocking content you want to access on a daily basis (like developer blogs for example). It is like having a 5cm wall on your way to work, you may trip on it if you don’t pay attention, but it is barely preventing you to do anything. (another analogy would be the lake wall in the Simpson movie, but i can’t get a pic right now).

Hello ze Intarweb!

September 12, 2007

I finally found the motivation to open a blog so I can share my rants with the world. And this first post is actually a good place to start ranting about … blogs … and China.

I’ve chosen WordPress not because I think it is superior to other blog platforms, but simply because i know it will be accessible from “inside” China without having to use Tor …

I would have chosen Google Blogger since i already use many Google applications, but blogs hosted on blogspot.com are Firewalled® (but not the site http://www.blogspot.com).

Ironically Google Reader makes my life a lot easier by fetching the RSS Feeds of all those dissident web sites (a lot of KDE developers do not suspect they are political threats) from behind the “Great Firewall of China”©.

Or maybe those who hacked the Pentagon cannot implement a proper censorship…