Tag: China

Microsoft’s Chinese AI is clever enough to censor itself

beijing cybercafeSoftware King of the World has admitted that its Chinese flavoured AI chat bot will not talk about anything that the authorities behind the bamboo curtain don’t want them to talk about.

Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state including the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or “Steamed Bun Xi,” a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Am I stupid? Once I answer you’d take a screengrab,” read one answer to a question that contained the words “topple the Communist Party.”

Mentioning Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump also drew an evasive response from the chat bot. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Xiaoice says. Fair enough who does?

Microsoft has admitted that there was some filtering around Xiaoice’s interaction.

“We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics.” The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.

Microsoft says that Xiaoice engages in conversations with over 40 million Chinese users on social media platform like Weibo and WeChat.

Xiaomi claims smartphone sales drops will not harm it

980China’s Xiaomi will not suffer from the downturn in smartphone sales as its profits will be driven by sales from smart home devices as well as revenue from its software eco-system.

But last year Xiaomi missed its global smartphone targets by 12 percent, while its third-quarter China smartphone sales have fell by 45 percent. Analysts are a bit worried that the company’s high value might not be still warranted.

But Xiaomi’s global vice-president Hugo Barra said the company’s business model was not based on money made from handset sales and that it did not need to raise more funds or see any point in doing so at a valuation of less than $46 billion.

The company model was giving handsets without making any money but getting it back on the recurring revenue streams over many years.

Xiaomi could flog 10 billion smartphones and not make a cent, he said. Which further confuses the question of how the outfit makes money at all. Xiaomi, which discloses little of its profit and revenue figures anyway.

Recently it has emphasised its range of home appliances such as air and water purifiers, and rice cookers as key earnings drivers.

The company has invested heavily in India and Southeast Asia and is making its first forays into the U.S. market – launching next month its first device capable of roaming on the country’s 4G networks.

Barra said they are first targeting Chinese users traveling in the US, but are laying the groundwork for direct sales to US consumers.

Apple finally releases cure for touch disease

poison-appleThe fruity tax-dodging cargo cult also known as Apple has finally released a cure for “a problem” in iPhone 6s which forced users to upgrade to the new iPhone 7.

Just before Apple released its iPhone 7, iPhone‘s started to get a mysterious illness which bricked them.  Apple refused to acknowledge that the fault existed, presumably because it meant that people were simply upgrading to the new phone rather than requiring it to be fixed.

All that changed this week when the Chinese government started to complain about the fault and was threatening a recall. Suddenly Apple admitted the fault and offered to fix it.

Of course, the problem is still nothing to do with Apple. Jobs Mob claims that some iPhone 6s exhibit Multi-Touch issues after “being dropped multiple times on a hard surface,” causing damage to the device. Under its repair program, Apple will fix affected iPhone 6 Plus devices for a service price of $149.

Of course, if users don’t want to stump up $149 there is always the chance to upgrade to a nice, but identical iPhone 7. We are not sure if that move will satisfy the Chinese and personally we hope not.

iFixit thinks that the problem is caused due to the wonders of Apple’s design. For some reason Jobs’ Mob has started soldering the touch screen controller to the phone’s logic board making repairs difficult.

Third-party repair outlets speculated that the issue could be linked to the same structural design flaw that caused the major “Bendgate” controversy. Of course Apple denies that there ever was a structural flaw.

IDG wants to become a Chinese takeaway


chinese-take-out-400x300Tech publishers International Data Group, better known as IDG is in talks to flog itself off to a Chinese investor group for up to  $1 billion.

IDG owns important magazines like PC World and the market research firm IDC. The buyer is understood to be a group led by IDG of Greater China chairman Hugo Shong.

The identity of the other investors in the group and the exact size of the deal could not be learned. The privately held company had been seeking a valuation of $500 million to $1 billion.

Founded in 1964, IDG has grown to be one of the largest global trade publishers, with hundreds of tech-focused websites and magazines.

However, since its founder and long-time CEO, Pat McGovern, died two years ago things have not gone well. Advertising has vanished and the internet has taken out huge chunks of the print business.

IDG said in January that its board of directors hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore strategic options.

China is a bright star in IDG’s business. McGovern was very early to see the importance of China, and IDG has been doing business there since 1980, when it launched ComputerWorld China.

IDG’s focus on business rather than politics, helped the company get an early foothold in China and steer clear of press restrictions.

The Chinese buyout group will likely need to seek approval from the US Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), the government panel that considers deals over national security concerns before finalizing any deal.  The US government is also less likely to look favourably on Chinese buy-outs under the current Republican administration.

Donald Prince of Orange made some attacks on China during the election campaign which has made the future of that country’s investment in the United States even less certain.

If the IDG deal is completed, it would be the latest media asset to be sold to Chinese investors, following deals this year including Wanda’s $1 billion announced acquisition of Dick Clark Productions this month.

China brings in tough new cyber security law

ChinaThe glorious People’s Republic of China has bought in new tough new cybersecurity regulations on companies operating behind the bamboo curtain.

The proposed Cybersecurity Law features with data localisation, surveillance, and real-name requirements. It will require instant messaging services and other internet companies to require users to register with their real names and personal information, and to censor content that is “prohibited”.  Real name policies restrict anonymity and can encourage self-censorship for online communication.

There is also an element of data localisation, which would force “critical information infrastructure operators” to store data within China’s borders.

According to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organisation that is opposing the legislation, the law does not include a clear definition of infrastructure operators, and many businesses could be lumped into the definition.

Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director said the new law will effectively put China’s Internet companies, and hundreds of millions of Internet users, under greater state control.

Many of the regulations are not new, most were informally carried out or specified in low-level law. However, implementing the measures on a broader level will lead to stricter enforcement.

Companies are required to report “network security incidents” to the government and inform consumers of breaches, but the law also states that companies must provide “technical support” to government agencies during investigations. “Technical support” is not clearly defined, but might mean providing encryption backdoors or other surveillance assistance to the government.

The Cybersecurity Law also criminalises several categories of content, including that which encourages “overthrowing the socialist system,” “fabricating or spreading false information to disturb economic order,” or “inciting separatism or damage national unity.”

Obama launches new Semiconductor Working Group

obama-funny-face-grr-growl-640x397The US government has launched a new initiative to put the US back in front in the semiconductor industry.

President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) today announced the launch of a new Semiconductor Working Group that will provide recommendations to address the rapid rise of semiconductor businesses abroad.

John Neuffer, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, the US industry trade group, said in a statement that the US industry was facing major challenges and was facing unprecedented government investment programmes in some countries like China and Taiwan.

Meanwhile getting to the “next stage” meant increasing technological complexity involved in achieving innovation breakthroughs.

“These developments have implications not only for the economy and society, but also national security. In fact, SIA earlier recommended the Administration form a public-private advisory group to help guide government policy related to improving the competitiveness of the US semiconductor industry,” Neuffer said.

Neuffer added that semiconductors were a “fundamental building block for US technology leadership.”

“They enable commercial innovations that drive economic growth and productivity, as well as strategically important platforms that ensure US national security, such as satellites and supercomputers. The chip industry spawns new industries, makes existing industries more productive, and drives advances once never imagined,” he said.

To stay on top. The US needs a vibrant industry and the Obama plan will allow for the assessment, analysis and formulation of recommendations to the next Administration on how to maintain US leadership in this key sector.

IPhone make-overs are apparently a thing in China

lipstick-on-a-pig-1Fruity tax-dodging cargo cult Apple is facing a huge problem with its Chinese sales – not only are the Chinese not interested in its products, they are actually using common sense to avoid an expensive upgrade.

Chinese iPhone owners are giving their old models a makeover to look like the latest iPhone 7, rather than buying new.

Online sites offer shoppers makeover kits, false cameras and even dust plugs to hide the removed headphone jack to give their iPhone 6 or 6S the appearance of the iPhone 7.

Apparently, the Chinese think that the iPhone 7 doesn’t have enough new features to convince them to trade up, but it is worth looking like you have money to spend to do it.

Searches on platforms including Alibaba’s Taobao showed a range of products to transform older phones to an iPhone 7 – from stickers and engraving services to replacing the outer casing and hardware.

Apparently the iPhone 4 is the best used iPhone out there because it is more durable than the later incarnations.  Tarting up the phones show that really Apple has made sod all difference to the thing over the years.

Hopes that Apple might convert a few Samsung users behind the bamboo curtain after the Note 7 fiasco have also been dashed.  As one Chinese bloke told Rueters: “It is better to have a phone that explodes than an iPhone 7 which lacks any innovation.”

Apple’s iPhone 7 is a “dick”

{EEB30F63-7755-43E1-8E54-F047F3A12BE5}Img100It seems that the fruity tax dodger, Apple cocked up when it did its research into the name of its iPhone 7.

If it had wanted to win the hearts and minds of Hong Kong’s population it should really have thought of a better name as calling it the “seven” which means “penis” in Mandarin slang.

The character for “seven,” pronounced tsat, is frequently used in slang not only for “penis” but to mean “goofy” or “dorky,” as in “You’re so seven”.

It has not helped that Apple has done some odd translations to Taiwanese and Mandarin as well, having the slogans read “Exactly is 7” and “7, is here.”

The jokes have been spreading widely around Hong Kong, with one person posting to Facebook, “Without a 3.5mm earbud jack, this is exactly penis.”

Apple is having trouble selling its “dick” in mainland China. Hong Kong should have been a safer port in a storm.


Apple moving from making stuff to investing

poison-appleAfter sales of the iPhone in China disappointed the fruity cargo cult, Apple appears to have moved from making stuff to investing in stuff.

Apple has announced that it will boost its investment in China, one of its largest but increasingly challenging markets, and build its first Asia-Pacific research and development center in the country.

Chief Executive Tim Cook made the pledge during a trip to China, at least his second in four months, as demand for Apple’s iPhones has plummeted in the world’s second-largest economy and the government remains wary about foreign technology.

Research centres are one of the ways that Western outfits get onside with the Chinese government. Cook said  the center will unite Apple’s engineering and operations teams in China and is also intended to deepen the company’s ties to partners and universities.

Sales in Greater China, once touted as Apple’s next growth engine, decreased by one-third in its fiscal third quarter, after having more than doubled a year earlier. The results did not include inventory drawdowns as retailers sold phones in stock faster than new supply coming from Apple, meaning that demand was not as weak as it seemed.

China’s slowing economy is stocking concerns about Apple’s prospects there. The company’s online stores for iBooks and movies closed in the country after Beijing in March imposed strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Apple has lost intellectual property battles in China and faces anti-U.S. sentiment from consumers there.

In May, Apple announced a $1 billion deal with  taxi outfit Didi Chuxing, a move many experts saw as an attempt to curry favor with Beijing


Chinese hackers posted Delta airlines vulnerablities on the dark web

chinese-propaganda-posterChinese hackers appear to have been flogging Delta Airlines vulnerablities on the dark web and some of these are already being exploited.

This week Delta Airlines started to suffer from an attack which caused worldwide delays to flights. Although the source of this attack has not been found, it appears to be a concidence that Chinese government hackers just happened to be looking on the dark web for suggested hacks on Delta Airlines earlier this year.

In January a darknet black market run by Chinese state hackers published an advertisement for information and vulnerabilities in a long list of major airlines that included Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Japan Airlines, FedEx, and others.

According to Epoch Times  the advertisement was under the “Air Attacks Infrastructure” category under the premium section of the online black market run by hackers who call themselves “Babylon APT.”

Darknet researcher, Ed Alexander, who runs the world’s largest known team of darknet cybercrime undercover investigators said that the full list of airlines included Delta Airlines, but noted this doesn’t necessarily mean the current outage is tied to the vulnerability posted for sale by the cybercriminals.

He said: “That is not to say that Babylon is not a part of it, but they certainly had some level of access.”

Babylon APT is run by Chinese military hackers who use it to resell information and access to critical networks after finishing contract cyberattacks under the Chinese regime. The hackers also offer mercenary cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, businesses, or personal networks. Their clients include foreign governments and organized gangs of cybercriminals.