June 29, 2009

Hanrizon on Twitter

I finally opened up a Twitter account, although until now I still doubt the necessity of having a microblog, while I already have a blog and a Facebook page for social networking and sharing my statuses. But as microblogging is getting popular, it is really tempting to give it a shot. Please leave comment on my Twitter page and share yours as you may.

The Truth

An article can have no value unless it has utility. No one will give anything for an article unless it yield him satisfaction. Doubtless people are sometimes foolish, and buy things, as children do, to please a moment's fancy; but at least they think at the moment that there is a wish to be gratified. Doubtless, too, people often buy things which, though yielding pleasure for the moment, or postponing pain, are in the end harmful. But here ... we must accept the consumer as the final judge. The fact that he is willing to give up something in order to procure an article proves once for all that for him it has utility, - it fills a want.
Frank Taussig, 1912

June 25, 2009

Google blocked in China yesterday night

According to my testing, starting from somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 pm on June 24 Beijing time, all sites in the domain google.com were blocked in my neighborhood. The blocked services include the search service of google.com (except google.cn, which was still accessible), Gmail, Google Talk, Reader, Docs, Sites, etc.. The exact time of the recovery of the connection is not certain. BBC reports it was not resumed until today's morning; while some other source claims it was 11 pm yesterday night. The analysis on Kenengba, a blog in Chinese, is quite interesting, if you could read Chinese or would like to try some translating machines.

June 23, 2009

A New Mega-Competitior for iPhone

Intel and Nokia teamed up.

Buying a textbook or not?

College students, at the beginning of new semesters, have you often asked yourselves: Should I buy this textbook or not? It is a typical question especially in regions where the prices of textbooks are absurdly high. Of course there are very understanding instructors who speak openly that their recommended textbooks are not necessary in passing, or sometimes even acing, their courses. In those cases, I always followed their advice. However, most instructors would not be so merciful to students' bank accounts.

In the past two years of college experience, I've tried to minimize the money spent on textbooks so far as infringement on my grades or copyright laws are avoided. The way is to categorize textbooks (or the courses themselves) into two types. The first requires rote memorization of facts or theories, and the textbook usually does not present many "principles"; and the second requires you to understand and sometimes duplicate the deduction of theorems, or analyses of numerical or practical problems.

In classes pertaining to the first category, you can expect the materials to be memorized be provided by instructors in lecture notes and handouts, and as long as those are handled well the exams should be an easy shot. The textbooks usually serve as no more that an expanded version, sometimes with additional but inessential explanations, of the materials presented by the lecturer. For the second-type subjects, however, textbooks are indispensable, because it is usually not possible to remember every detailed proof made on class (whereas they are usually not included in the handouts), while the textbooks are clear and definitive references for those information not captured.

Unfortunately, such criteria may differ from country to country or even from one institution to another. If you are not sure whether you need a textbook, it is always safer to buy one. Even if you are not able to sell it after the semester, it can always enrich your personal library.

June 22, 2009

Green Dam Technology

Do you realize that the Green Dam is actually a pioneer in employing "technology of the cutting edge"? Nelson points out:

Although the government may not necessarily have been aware, they are utilizing the advantages brought about by distributed computing, as enormous amount of calculating tasks required by image identification have been distributed to individual personal computers.

US Complained to China

FT.com: US lodges China censorship complaints -  a rare scene partially driven by economic incentives.

June 21, 2009

Off-Campus Internet Access

Below is my letter sent to the Information Technology Service Center of my university on June 17 (five days ago), regarding secured off-campus access to the Internet. By now I haven't received any reply yet. I understand that this letter may suffer from inaccurate technical details in the second paragraph, as I am not an expert in network technology. However, I believe the point I would like to make is well conveyed.

Dear Officer

As is known to the world, the Internet censorship in China is most intensive, especially in recent years. Many essential resources on the web, e.g. Wikipedia, Bing, Live Search, AOL (partial), Google (partial), MSN (partial), Hotmail, Irish Chronicle, Hong Kong Economic Journal, United Nations News, The Learning Channel, Technorati, Blogger, Webshots, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, MotorBikeAssociation etc., are frequently blocked (though maybe intermittently unblocked) by the Great Fire Wall of China (GFW). As a university student, I very often have the need to study and research and access these and more sites at home. The inconvenience in not being able to access many blocked sites has been extremely troublesome during my study.

May I request the ITSC to provide services that equip students and scholars to access the legally allowed whole of Internet wherever they are in the world. Actually the Chinese University of Hong Kong already has such measure. CUHK students can connect to the VPN server of the University through an encrypted tunnel (via HTTPS), making the data recondite to the GFW, thus serving the purpose. I hold the belief that providing access of information to students and scholars is a university's foremost responsibility, and this responsibility should not be limited to the time students stay on campus but whenever and wherever they need it.

For your information, my intended access to the information provided by these sites and others, no matter blocked or unblocked, perfectly complies with local and international laws, and serves solely the purpose of necessary research and education.

Yours faithfully

Zhang Han

June 19, 2009

China forbids Google to offer foreign search results


Beijing has ordered Google to stop users of its Chinese-language service accessing overseas websites in the biggest blow to the world’s leading search engine in China since it started operating there four years ago.

I don't understand how this is reasonable, as pornographic content, the major censorship target claimed by the Chinese government, exists no less in China than elsewhere. Besides, as China now has antitrust laws, shouldn't Beijing also order all other search sites to disable their overseas links?

June 16, 2009

Noble vs. Rude

The construction of the pair of words, though unrelated they may seem, churl, meaning "bondman, villain," and earl, meaning "nobleman, warrior," is quite curious. To make things clear, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the Old English forms of these two words were eorl and ceorl respectively. Such a formation as adding a "c-" in front and invert the meaning seems rare. May it be related to the prefix "contra-"?

Of Blogging

Years ago in High School, having registered a dozen blogs at different service providers to test their performances, I started my first frequently updated blog. Back then, I did not believe in the idea of blog as web log. Instead, I managed the blog as an anthology - mostly posting answers to writing assignments at school and some other leisure-time essays.

After learning about philosophy during the Eton College Summer Course, I devoted much of my articles to the subject, especially epistemology. I thought ordinary people knew little about what the world was really like; therefore I wrote to spread the “truth” to my audience. Once a kid who hated writing assignments, I discovered a bottomless fountain of writing ideas.

I thought about the meaning of existence in this world. Mortal life lasts no more than a dozen decades, and then whatever can I leave to the world behind me? What would happen after my death? My children will remember me, maybe so will my grandchildren. How about the offsprings following after? A hundred years after my departure, will anyone in the world still hear of me at all? If not, what difference can I make to this world?

It came to me that the way to make my life worthy is to make a difference that endures. One way to achieve this is by writing. People die, but good books and essays survive generations and ages. That’s when I truly discovered my reason and passion for writing. Among all courses, by now, I enjoyed the Chinese language most, and I craved for writing assignments. I didn’t believe writing for oneself – it seemed a waste of time spending hours writing for only one person (especially when the person was the author and thus already knows the idea). And after I discovered the Creative Commons license, I adopted it for my works – hoping to serve my initial purpose for blogging, which was to let people know more about the reality.

After matriculation into college, I also used my blog as a personal bulletin board, posting news about my life and commenting on events happening around me and my friends, as a way to communicate with people in my circles. This was especial useful (and potentially risky) during my presidential election campaign for the Association of Hong Kong and Mainland Youths.

Earlier this year, I reestablished this Blogger blog (originally founded in 2007) and renamed it Hanrizon, a blend of my name and the word "horizon". In naming this way, I hoped this blog would not be limited to any particular topic or purpose, but everything I wanted to express and let either the public or my friends to know about. With intention to make information available to the greatest audience, I published this blog in English. Up till now, the posts consist of my perceptions on current issues, some of my essays originally written elsewhere, and proses in general.

I do not know where my blog will be heading to in the future. But I enjoy writing, and sharing, and that is why I blog.

June 2, 2009

The Wise Way

An old friend sent me this presentation regarding the philosophy of doing good. I find it quite inspirational and it reminds me of a true story told by my respected high school Chinese language teacher, Mr. Li Jiasheng. Maybe I will jot down that story here after the exam on Saturday.

General Motors is Down

It’s a sad day for the automobile industry, and the playing field of the global market has been reshaped again. General Motors, the a-hundred-year-old automaker having dominated the industry for seventy-seven years, filed for bankruptcy protection on June 1. The U.S. Treasury will extend loans to the company that will be converted into a 60% stake in the reorganized GM.

For GM China, WSJ reports:
"It is absolutely business as usual in China," said Kevin Wale, president of GM China Group. "None of General Motors' operations outside of the U.S. are included in the Chapter 11 filing, including GM China, our joint ventures and our other China operations."

Wale reiterated that GM's businesses in China are self-sustaining and would require no funds from the parent company in the U.S. The company's overall auto sales in China rose 9.4% in the first four months of the year, while sales in the U.S. have plummeted.

By the way, the failures of American automakers and possibly their counterparts in other advanced countries potentially provide opportunities for local automakers in China. The Shenzhen-based BYD already has plans to sell hybrid vehicle in the United States by 2011, according to a report by NY Times earlier this year.

June 1, 2009

Search Engine Wars

Microsoft has launched its new search engine
Bing (formerly dubbed Kumo) today (China site, Hong Kong site). I tried a few queries though found no fundamental differences from other major search engines. But advances in the searching techniques probably are not something identifiable within a few trials. I decide to use Bing and Google interchangeably for a few days or weeks and see what Microsoft has actually accomplished in the past few months.

No matter how much Microsoft can achieve this time and how long Bing will go, the market is at war again. The development of search engines is yet far from ceasing.