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Ai Wei Wei, the renowned Chinese dissident who has been relentlessly persecuted by his own government, has written an op-ed for the Guardian comparing Chinese totalitarian surveillance with Prism and related NSA spying:
I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.
In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.
During my detention in China I was watched 24 hours a day. The light was always on. There were two guards on two-hour shifts standing next to me – even watching when I swallowed a pill; I had to open mouth so they could see my throat. You have to take a shower in front of them; they watch you while you brush your teeth, in the name of making sure you're not hurting yourself. They had three surveillance cameras to make sure the guards would not communicate with me.
But the guards whispered to me. They told stories about themselves. There is always humanity and privacy, even under the most restrictive conditions.
Maker culture is being remade in China. Along with pioneers like Bunnie Huang and David Li, of Shanghai hackerspace Xinchejian, Eric Pan and his open hardware facilitator, Seeed Studio
are accelerating the global maker movement by helping people source, design, produce, and commercialize their maker projects. And just as importantly, they are fueling a Chinese maker movement that is starting to take full advantage of both Shenzhen’s awesome manufacturing capacities and China’s shanzhai superpowers.
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Edward Snowden has reportedly checked out of the hotel in Hong Kong where he had holed up to leak a series of NSA documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post. The US will not say if it is seeking his extradition. His whereabouts are not presently known by various news-agencies, though it seems likely that he, himself, knows where he is.
Hong Kong's broadcaster RTHK said Mr Snowden checked out of the Mira hotel on Monday.
Reuters news agency quoted hotel staff as saying that he had left at noon.
Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian journalist, told the BBC he believed Mr Snowden was still in Hong Kong.
The Chinese territory has an extradition treaty with the US, although analysts say any attempts to bring Mr Snowden to America may take months and could be blocked by Beijing.
Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian have published details of another Top Secret US surveillance/security document. This one is a presidential order from Obama to his top spies directing them to draw up a hit-list of "cyber war" targets to be attacked by American military hacking operations.
The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".
It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".
The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.
The document further contemplates preemptive first strikes on foreign targets.
As Greenwald points out, this document has been published on the eve of a meeting between Obama and the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. China has been publicly accused by the USA of carrying out electronic attacks on American infrastructure, and Xi has rebutted by saying that the US has engaged in aggressive "cyber-war" attacks on Chinese infrastructure. This document lends credence to Xi's claim.
Everything I hear about Mystic Manor, the new Haunted Mansion at Hong Kong Disneyland, makes me insane with desire to ride this thing. It's like something that sprang full-blown out of my fevered imagination and into a pile of landfill in the South China Sea. Case in point: this short doc on the ride's operation from Inside the Magic.
A team from the University of Sichuan won the Red Dot Design award for a concept design called "Lumigrid" -- a bike-light that projects a grid on the ground ahead of the rider, making terrain irregularities easy to spot:
Lumigrids can project a grid onto the ground. On a flat road surface, the grid will consist of standard squares. On a rough road surface, the grids will deform accordingly. By observing the motion and deformation of the grids, the rider can intuitively understand the landforms ahead. In addition, the luminous grids can make it easier for nearby pedestrians and vehicles to notice the bicycle, reducing the likelihood of collision.
Lumigrids can be fixed onto the bicycle’s handlebars. Its power is supplied by either an internal battery or by the rotation of the bicycle’s wheels. It has only one button so that the rider can easily use it while riding. The first press will turn on the power, the second press will change the mode of projection, and holding the button down for two seconds will turn the power off. Lumigrids has three modes with different grid sizes that can be used to adapt to different situations: normal mode (140x180mm), high-speed mode (140x260mm), and team mode (300x200mm)."
It's hard to say what's more interesting about this video in which a CNN reporter tours the New South China Mall, the largest mall in the world when it was built five years ago, now a deserted ghost-mall. On the one had, there's the "eerie urban landscape" of the mall itself, and on the other, there's the comforting, sinophobic narrative of the clip: "China's economy is huge and growing, America's is contracting, but look, it's all smoke and mirrors! The Chinese growth is just an illusion!"
The LA Times tells the story of David Chan, a Chinese-American man who discovered a love of Chinese food as an adult, during a wave of Chinese immigration to America in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He and his Hong Kong born officemates set out to sample all the new Chinese restaurants that opened after the 1965 loosening of the strictures on Chinese immigration to the USA, and he's kept meticulous records ever since, documenting the highs and lows of 6,297 Chinese restaurants across the USA and Canada (he's sampled the Chinese in all 50 states). These are now kept in a huge spreadsheet, with graphs and maps.
In New England, he encountered a chow mein sandwich topped with gravy. In St. Paul, Minn., he found a burger with egg foo young for a patty. Throughout the South, he came across a sweet, stir-fry dish called Honey Chicken.
"It doesn't have to be authentic Chinese. If it's Chinese American, it's all the more interesting," Chan said.
Chan rarely discussed his list. His son, Eric Chan, was only vaguely aware of it growing up. "There are a lot of things my dad doesn't talk about," he said.
In their family, a meal often said what words couldn't, Eric Chan said. During the three years he studied law at Stanford, his father visited about 20 times. They'd dine in San Francisco dim sum houses and San Jose noodle shops.
"If you collect enough of something, you can capture its essence," Eric Chan said. "Maybe that's what he's trying to do with food."
Chan rarely eats somewhere twice, but he keeps going back to ABC Seafood, even after the restaurant's ownership changed and, he said, the lemon chicken lost its flavor. Chan says he does it out of respect for history. He's dined at practically every Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, but few culinary experiences can match that first meal at ABC Seafood.
"For a good portion of when they were open, they were the best Chinese restaurant in the country," Chan said.
Bunnie Huang paid a visit to Shenzhen's Mingtong Digital Mall and found a $12 mobile phone, with Bluetooth, an MP3 player, an OLED display and quad-band GSM. For $12.
Bunnie's teardown shows a little bit about how this $12 piece of electronics can possibly be profitable, but far more tantalizing are his notes about Gongkai, "a network of ideas, spread peer-to-peer, with certain rules to enforce sharing and to prevent leeching." It's the Pearl River Delta's answer to the open source hardware movement, and Bunnie promises to write more about it soon.
How is this possible? I don’t have the answers, but it’s something I’m trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints.
First, there are no screws. The whole case snaps together.
Also, there are (almost) no connectors on the inside. Everything from the display to the battery is soldered directly to the board; for shipping and storage, you get to flip a switch to hard-disconnect the battery. And, as best as I can tell, the battery also has no secondary protection circuit.
The Bluetooth antenna is nothing more than a small length of wire, seen on the lower left below.
Still, the phone features accoutrements such as a back-lit keypad and decorative lights around the edge.
The electronics consists of just two major ICs: the Mediatek MT6250DA, and a Vanchip VC5276. Of course, with price competition like this, Western firms are suing to protect ground: Vanchip is in a bit of a legal tussle with RF Micro, and Mediatek has also been subject to a few lawsuits of its own.
The MT6250 is rumored to sell in volume for under $2. I was able to anecdotally confirm the price by buying a couple of pieces on cut-tape from a retail broker for about $2.10 each. [No, I will not broker these chips or this phone for you...]
Adam P sez, "I first found out about the Aeropress on Boing Boing and it has dramatically improved my quality of life as an expat here in China. When purchasing another one online for a colleague, I was well titillated by the shop's 28 point photo guide to the differences between a real and fake Aeropress."
Here's an unexpected use for a dead hard-drive: use its motor to power a candy-floss machine:
A Chinese engineer who operates a data recovery and hard drive repair center is being hailed as a genius after inventing a DIY candy floss machine made from a used hard disk. According to the instructions, all that is needed to create your own candy floss maker is a hard drive that can still power up, a round flat metal tin, six bicycle spokes, an aluminum can and a plastic basin. A series of photos demonstrating how to create this candy floss machine have made some sensation across China internet …
The key to the improvised cotton candy maker is the hard drive’s rotating platter. Most commercial cotton candy machines spin at around 3,450 rotations per minute, while modern hard drives operate at 5,400 rotations per minute or higher. We’re really admired this kind of DIY creation from a technical nerd …
Turning an Old Hard Disk Into a Candy Floss Machine [English, MicGadget]
技术宅拯救世界：用旧硬盘自制棉花糖机(图) [Chinese, tt.mop.com]
Federal agents grabbed him over the weekend just as he was boarding a flight from Dulles airport (in DC) to Beijing. He is charged with making false statements to U.S. authorities by failing to disclose all of the electronic devices he was carrying on his one-way flight, and has since been jailed.
When a Sky News reporter broadcasting live from Tiananmen Square mentioned the 1989 protests, Chinese
secret police swooped down on his and hustled him and his cameraman into the back of a van, and kidnapped them to a distant park where they were polite but Orwellian in their explanation for their deeds (they didn't realize he was still broadcasting, and thought it was all going to disc or tape whence it could be scrubbed):
At this point, the police do something Orwellian in its brilliance. An officer who speaks English informs Stone that they have to stop filming because they don’t have official permission. Stone disagrees, saying that they sought and received permission to film in Tiananmen Square. But the officer counters that they’re not in Tiananmen anymore. They’re in a park where the police have brought Stone against his will, and he doesn’t have permission to record in that park, so regrettably the police have no choice but to insist the camera be switched off. Who could have possibly foreseen that little complication?
The officer then takes the Orwellianism to the next level by explaining that Stone and his team are neither being detained nor are they free to go. They can do whatever they like, except that they must go sit in an empty classroom and wait for some unnamed officials to show up.
This reminds me of nothing so much as the DHS checkpoint officials who won't tell you if you're being detained, won't tell you if you're legally required to answer their questions about your citizenship, but also won't let you go.
Video: Chinese police detain British reporter, unaware he’s broadcasting live throughout [Max Fisher/Washington Post]