httpv:// Pacific Coffee this morning I observed a boy; about the age of ten, at an Internet workstation. From the start I see that he is fidgety, and is the type who cannot sit still. When he jumps onto the computer the first thing he does is sign into Facebook. He scans the posts in his Home stream, then proceeds to FishVille for the next 15 minutes.

Throughout his time on the computer I see that he is still fidgety and cannot sit still, but he is able to endure this urge and stay put for FishVille. It is quite interesting how Zynga is able to create games that are addictive to both young and old, but I will leave that for another post.

What worries me is that there is no signs of his parents. I hope they have taught him the basics of information sharing on The Net and it's dangers.

Please don't get me wrong. I am all for our young generations embracing technologies, but they need to be first educated on the dangers and importance of personal privacy before jumping in head first. This is particularly important given the recent revamp of Facebook's privacy settings for it's user accounts.

I think there needs to be some basic education for everyone who use the Net, no matter at what age. I am definitely not speaking for the monitoring of The Net or filtering The Net access for the end users. The two extremes in this being China and Australia.

It is impossible for any governing body to determine all dangerous or inappropriate contents and activities, which exist today and in the future. Also who is to say what is dangerous and what is appropriate. The society should determine that. It is much more practical to educate the users, empower them to make those decisions, and allow them to act accordingly to protect themselves.

If you remember the following each time you use the Internet you will be on your way to protecting yourself. The following list is in no particular order:

4 Rules of Using the Internet

  • Always explicitly log off any web site or services instead of just closing the web browser.
  • Never opens/clicks on links directly within emails. Try to locate the referenced content yourself on the said web site or retype the URL yourself in your web browser. Pay attention to any hyperlinks (URLs) that may be trying to spoof the site it is pretending to be.
  • Do not click or download any attachments from anyone; even from people you know, unless that person had previously told you he will send you an attachment.
  • Before you share any information (content) onto the Internet, you should stop for a moment and think whether you are willing to have this content permanently stored/live on the Internet.

I hope you find these information useful and you will share them with as many people as possible, especially young children.


As I stay in Shanghai on my 6th day I am staring to get Internet withdraws. It is not that I do not have access to the Internet. I do have access to my online store, my emails, my blog and some of my favorite sites. Although this is possible the mainland Chinese government has effectively killed my net social life. Access to Facebook, Twitter and all Google feeds for blogs are blocked. For the latter I have to figure out the original site, visit it's Home page and then locate the story I'm interested in. Yes, VPN is one way to get around the Great Firewall, but I am not that addicted to my net social life to pay for VPN service during my short stay in Shanghai, and the free services like Hotspot Shield is not helping.

For Twitter I use it more for sharing interesting finds on The Net and breaking technology related news. I hope my followers will not give up on me during my short period of hiatus. I guess I can only tell when I returns to Hong Kong.

I had always been a proponent for the use of OAuth, but another side effect from these Internet restrictions is my reliance on OAuth. Three of the providers I use are: Google, Twitter and Facebook, all except for the Google is totally blocked by China Information Bureau (CIB). In future OAuth and particularly XAuth implementations we should take this into consider.

Aside from these restricted accesses I'm also not use to having to first locate WiFi hotspots whenever I want to use the net connection on my iPhone. I had decided to give that up a year ago when I signed up for my first unlimited 3G network access with Smartone-Vodafone (SMV). Unfortunately SMV does not offer a roaming data plan while travelling, so turning my 3G data access on while in Shanghai will be costly.

Being always connected to the Internet is not only for the benefit of my net social life. It is also important for me to keep an eye on the emails relating to my online store, locate where I am in a foreign city, and find transit information. Fortunately, for the latter I had the foresight to purchase the USD0.99 iPhone app Explore Shanghai [iTunes link] before I left HK. This little app made me appear to be an experienced Shanghai subway user. Last night this app was updated to include the new subway (Metro) line (#13), just in time for the opening (May 1st) of World Expo 2010.

I understand China government's needs to control information dissemination. It is the one of the major way for a communist government to keep control of the country. Although the influx of foreigners in a cosmopolitan city like Shanghai; especially during a world event like The Expo, outside information and opinions will inevitably reach locals even with the heavy control of the CIB.

I hope the publishing of this post will not get my blog block within China as that is definitely not my intentions. I think that every government system in the world has its benefits and we cannot impose our own believes onto other countries. All I am pointing out with this post is that we are no longer living in an information deprived world, although information may not be readily available in certain part of the world, it will eventual arrive to those who seek it. Forcefully prevent the flow of information may not be the most effective way to control its flow.

Rank Country % of Wrold Total # of Internet Users
1. USA 18.00 210,575,287
2. China 13.80 162,000,000
3. Japan 7.40 86,300,000
4. Germany 4.30 50,426,117
5. Inda 3.60 42,000,000
6. Brazil 3.30 39,140,000
7. UK 3.20 37,600,000
8. South Korea 2.90 34,120,000
9. France 2.80 32,925,953
10. Italy 2.70 31,481,928
Top 10 Total 62.00 726,569,285
World Total 100.00 1,173,109,925

Statistics are collected for 2007. With the recent reform and increase of Internet users in China, it would not be a surprise if China had already surpassed USA as of 2009.

I also question the position of Japan and South Korea, as they are more connected to the Internet than most other countries in the world. The low ranking may be the result of their populations compared to China and USA.

Source: Internet World Stats

CategoriesTop Ten

China's Virtual PoliceBeijing, China today introduced the new "Virtual Policeman and Policewoman" cartoon figures who will constantly monitor the web sites Chinese citizen visits. At the moment the Virtual Police is only monitoring 13 Chinese web sites and will eventually covers every domains registered in Beijing, China. These Virtual Police would periodically appear on Internet surfer's browser window reminding surfers not to visit porn sites, illegally download music and applications. If the surfers need further assistance, they just have to click on the Virtual Police figure and the surfers will immediately be redirected to the Beijing Police web site.

This is a perfect example of the cultural difference between mainland China and other western countries; particularly United States.

If this sort of government monitoring happens in Canada, United Kingdom or United States there will be a major up roar and citizen revoke. Of course, this is not to say that these government (particularly UK and USA) are not currently monitoring what their respective citizens are doing. In most cases, they are doing it much more subtly. It is well know that United States' NSA (National Security Agency) monitors Internet traffic. In most cases, they justify the monitoring as domestic security reasons.

I think people, particularly governments, need to stop forcing their own principals onto other countries. Instead they should learn how to work with the local culture and improve the respective lives of their citizens.

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Yesterday, a major earthquake in Southwestern Taiwan caused sever damage to the fiber optics communication cables on the sea bed.

This interruption prevented me from accessing my emails and the backend applications for my online stores which are stored on the server located in the United States.

Fortunately, for part of the day yesterday I was able to access my backend applications and email server via an European proxy server. I managed to set up auto replies for two of my main email addresses. Informing my potential and existing customers the problem.

Unfortunately, this proxy server was turned off latter in the day, may be due to overload of traffic. I was unable to change the message on my website to inform potential customers of the situation.

This incident exposed our dependence on technologies. While it also emphasize the important of technologies in our daily lives. Without these technologies I will not be able to operate these online stores for the past 2+ years. Without these technologies I will not be able to manage and process orders from 4 different online stores.

We should not be questioning the level of dependence we have with technologies. As technologies are already part of our daily lives and will continue to be in the near and foreseeable future. Instead we should be questioning the people who manage our technologies and whether they are placing the same importance on these technologies as we do. Most importantly having the foresight to protect the access to these technologies in events like this.