Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Great Firewall of China – A Daily Surfing Comparison

I’m quite passionate about freedom of speech and information, especially when it comes to the internet. If you follow internet censorship issues you would have heard of the Great Firewall of China, which is essentially a government controlled list of sites that are deemed to be unsuitable for the common Chinese citizen.

You probably think that’s not such a bad thing to do, as the government would block sites such as those that contain child porn, support for terrorism and other “bad” sites, right? Well let me take you through a typical surfing experience that most of you will probably be familiar with and see what you think after that.

  1. I log on to my Yahoo email to clear the pile of overnight emails.
  2. I open an email from my dad who has sent me a link to a video on Youtube and watch that.
  3. Since I’m on Youtube I check out my subscribed channels and watch a few more videos.
  4. I open a news summary email from news.com.au that I use to keep in touch with what is happening in Australia.
  5. I click on a few interesting articles and share one on Facebook with my friends.
  6. I see an email from my blog notifying me of a comment, so I go to my blog to log on to the administration dashboard and approve the comment.
  7. I decide to check a friend’s blog on Blogspot before opening Google Reader to check my news feed.
  8. Looking at Endgaget’s news feed I see an interesting article with a video from Vimeo.
  9. Another article mentions a company’s Twitter feed containing their latest announcements, so I click on the Twitter link to check out what is happening.
  10. A friend on Skype asks me if I have seen the replies to my status update on Facebook yet, so I log into Facebook to check out the feedback.
  11. After that I decide to see what is happening with my blog, so I log onto Google’s Webmaster’s Tool, Adsense and Analytics.
  12. I want to watch a movie, so I see what’s on from Yahoo’s movie page and check out the respective ratings on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com).
  13. Before I head out for the movie I check out the news.com.au site again and notice an article about Wikileaks spokesperson Julian Asange.
  14. I decide to see what’s happening on the Wikileaks site, as it’s been quite quiet lately.

Here is what I can do in China with no problems:

  1. I log on to my Yahoo email to clear the pile of overnight emails.
  2. I open a a news summary email from news.com.au that I use to keep in touch with what is happening in Australia.
  3. I click on a few interesting articles.
  4. A friend on Skype asks me if I have seen the replies to my status update on Facebook yet.
  5. I want to watch a movie, so I see what’s on from Yahoo’s movie page.
  6. Before I head out for the movie I check out the news.com.au site again and notice an article about Wikileaks spokesperson Julian Asange.

Now I’ll explain what happens with each step:

  1. I log on to my Yahoo email to clear the pile of overnight emails.
  2. I open an email from my dad who has sent me a link to a video on Youtube and watch that. Youtube is blocked.
  3. Since I’m on Youtube I check out my subscribed channels and watch a few more videos. Youtube is blocked.
  4. I open a news summary email from news.com.au that I use to keep in touch with what is happening in Australia. 
  5. I click on a few interesting articles and share one on Facebook with my friends. Facebook is blocked.
  6. I see an email from my blog notifying me of a comment, so I go to my blog to log on to the administration dashboard and approve the comment. My blog uses Google’s +1 and Facebook’s Like functions, which are blocked, thus making my blog take a very long time to load when it tries to access these sites.
  7. I decide to check a friend’s blog on Blogspot before opening Google Reader to check my news feed. Blogspot is blocked and Yahoo’s news images are blocked (part of my Google Reader feed).
  8. Looking at Endgaget’s news feed I see an interesting article with a video from Vimeo. Vimeo is blocked.
  9. Another article mentions a company’s Twitter feed which contains their latest announcements, so I click on the Twitter link to check out what is happening. Twitter is blocked.
  10. A friend on Skype asks me if I have seen the replies to my status update on Facebook yet, so I log into Facebook to check out all the feedback. Facebook is blocked.
  11. After that I decide to see what is happening with my blog, so I log onto Google’s Webmaster’s Tool, Adsense and Analytics. Google’s sites are either blocked or have intermittent availability making for a frustrating user experience.
  12. I want to watch a movie, so I see what’s on from Yahoo’s movie page and check out the respective ratings on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com). IMDB is blocked.
  13. Before I head out for the movie I check out the news.com.au site again and notice an article on Wikileaks spokesperson Julian Asange.
  14. I decide to see what’s happening on the Wikileaks site, as it’s been quite quiet lately. Wikileaks is blocked.

This makes for a pretty sad web surfing experience for a non-Chinese-resident in China. Any website that you use that has social media integration normally takes forever to load as those components are blocked (they timeout). However, if you are living in China then there are Chinese equivalents for almost all the blocked sites, which of course are “government approved.”

A government should have no say in what information its citizens can and can not view. A government should educate its citizens to make socially responsible decisions through the standard education system and guidance programs, such as ratings systems for movies. Ultimately the decision of whether to view the material should be the citizen’s own choice, who is aware of their own responsibilities and the consequences of their own actions.

A government that decides what information a citizen can and can not view thinks their citizens are beneath their leaders and not capable of rational thought. The other option could be that the government is scared of its own citizens being empowered by information. Perhaps it’s a combination of both!

Censorship is just wrong and is always abused, thus education is the path to a more progressive society.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_websites_blocked_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China



Singtel mio TV Problem – Fixed!

Singtel agreed to send out a technician to fix my invalid mio TV service number problem. I was very thankful that they could send someone the following morning and that he turned up early!

In the end the solution to the problem was to reset my profile, which is exactly what they tried to do last night. The technician said that it didn’t seem to have been done properly last night, but once he contacted the back office people to do it this morning it worked. If only they had done it correctly last night I could have watched the end of the F1 qualifying and seen Mark Webber get pole!

The problem was caused by my mio TV set top box somehow being unauthorised, thus the invalid service number problem. I would hope that Singtel is looking into how this could have happened so as to avoid future problems. It certainly wasn’t anything I did!

Anyway, I’m glad mio TV is now working again so I can watch the F1 race live tonight. Also, credit where credit is due, Singtel’s customer service was quite efficient from the initial call response time to the technician arriving early and resolving the problem. If only they had done the profile update correctly last night!



Singtel mioTV Problem

I was cooking dinner and decided turned on mio TV to tuck into my steak and salad while watching the the F1 qualifying. Alas, I came out of the kitchen to a blank screen. I had to look at my projector to make sure it was on! Time to troubleshoot.

My first step was to hit the guide button which did show that everything was indeed on when the guide information appeared on screen. I changed the channel and that worked, so I switched it back to the F1 qualifying only to see it freeze in about 5 seconds. Going back and forth between the channels resulted in the same behaviour. Time to reset the mio TV set top box.

I took the power cords out of the set top box and did the same for the ADSL modem/router for good measure. Upon reinserting the power cords the mio TV set top box rebooted and came up with an error message:

Invalid mio TV service number. Please call 1800 5556000 (Home User) or 1606 (Business).

Invalid mio TV Service Number

Invalid mio TV Service Number

I tried a couple of variations such as holding the button down on the set top box for 5 seconds and a different order of starting up the two boxes, but nothing worked.

Needless to say at this point I was not happy. My food was almost ready, so I had the phone in one hand calling Singtel and the tongs flipping the steaks in the other. Then I was told to enter my home telephone number.

Now if you have read my earlier post you would know that I only need mio TV for the service itself, but I had to get a phone number (which I never use) as part of the package. That meant I had to go to my filing cabinet and get the damn phone number from my records and call Singtel again. I was now really pissed off and had to call in reinforcements. My wife was sent to the kitchen to finish dinner!

I got through to Singtel’s support people and guess what he asked me to do?

Him: “Could you please reset the box?”

Me: “I’ve done it 3 times already, do you really think it will make a difference doing it once more?”

Him: “I need you to reset the box so that we can track the order of events.”

Me: “Ok…. same problem.” *palm face*

He then had to contact someone to reset my profile and would call me back in 20 minutes. When he called back (in good time too, well done Singtel), he asked me to reset the mio TV set top box again, but to no avail, the same error appeared.

There was nothing else that could be done over the phone, so I’m now waiting for someone to come to my apartment and fix the problem.