China’s censorship is in overdrive after a former high-ranking official Bo Xilai was charged today with bribery, embezzlement and power abuse, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Censors have reportedly been taking down unfavorable comments on China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, that criticize the Communist Party or express sympathy for Bo. Many of the deleted posts are shown on the Free Weibo site. The WSJ report also mentions that a note of support from a microblogger in Dalian, the city where Bo started his political career, was later deleted.
It is possible too that some of the posts may have been deleted by Sina Weibo’s “rumor control” team – which aims to dispel false news and information, though in some cases, its hand appears to be forced by the government.
Bo, a former Communist Party politician, captured the attention of Chinese citizens and people from all over the world as details of his allegedly corrupt life surfaced last year – which included links to the mysterious death of a 41-year-old British businessman in a Chongqing hotel room that was declared a murder.
His downfall caused a huge political shockwave that reverberated to the online world, and most comments went through Sina Weibo, with the WSJ noting that back then plenty of posts debated on whether Bo was a criminal or a sacrificial lamb.
Last year, this led to three of China’s most influential Internet companies – Baidu, Sina and Tencent – pledging to “firmly support and cooperate with relevant government departments in cracking down and probing web rumors.”
Subsequently, this time round the comments on Sina Weibo in response to Bo’s news are largely supportive of the government. Several comments say that the Communist Party has made the right decision to charge Bo, and that Bo’s indictment proves the government’s determination to stamp out corruption and that they believe in the Party.
The one-dimensional tone of these comments leaves one to believe that China’s censors have been hard at work. The WSJ report notes that this could be the work of so-called trolls or the “Water Army” – real people who use so-called zombie accounts to post comments online to influence public opinion.
Among other social media services, Twitter is blocked in China. On the other hand, Sina Weibo has more than 400 million registered users and the service enjoys a large profile in China, becoming a force to be reckoned with. This has resulted in Sina Weibo having to walk a fine line between exerting control on the service and letting it operate organically as a forum for dissent and “free”(er) speech. This time round, it seems the government has the upper hand.
Headline image via Mobile Monday Bangkok
Rumors typically abound in the Chinese tech scene, and Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has been bombarded by plenty recently – with one report a few days back notably saying that Xiaomi had received an investment of $2 billion from Internet giant Tencent via Russian investment firm DST.
In a bid to dispel these rumors, Xiaomi has confirmed to The Next Web that it will be holding a press conference
on July 30 (UPDATE: the press conference has been postponed to July 31) to announce a product-related partnership with QQ – Tencent’s instant messaging platform.
The press conference was first announced on Xiaomi’s official Sina Weibo account, which said that it will reveal an “important partnership” next week. Li Wanqiang, one of the seven founders of Xiaomi, elaborated on the teaser by saying that Xiaomi will be collaborating with QQ – but only in terms of products and nothing else.
You can see a (very cute) poster uploaded by Chinese media outlet IT 168 that depicts Tencent QQ and Xiaomi’s cartoon figures on something that resembles a wedding invitation and alludes to a “happy marriage”, sent by Xiaomi to members of the Chinese media.
All we can do is wait and see what will be announced.
Xiaomi has been well on the rise recently, and it would not be surprising at all for more collaborations to crop up, riding on Xiaomi’s success – which has been attributed to its ability to inspire the loyalty of many consumers. Its competitively priced phones are sold in batches that, when released in phases, regularly sell out fast, often within half an hour.
The last phones it launched were the Xiaomi Mi-2S and the Xiaomi Mi-2A in April this year, which followed last year’s launch of the popular Xiaomi Mi2 phone.
The handset maker booked RMB13.27 billion ($2.15 billion) in revenue for the first six months of this year, exceeding the amount it recorded for the whole of 12 months, which stood at RMB12.6 billion. The 7.03 million devices sold in the first six months this year was also just shy of the 7.19 million units that Xiaomi sold during the whole of 2012.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Xiaomi will be closing a round of funding at the end of July that values it at $9 billion.
Headline image via Thinkstock
Today is that twice-a-year day when the world pays attention to big iron. The latest edition of the Top 500 list of the most powerful supercomputers is released, coinciding with a conference being held in Denver.
The main thing you need to know is that the most powerful system in the world is the same one that topped the list in June: The Tianhe-2. It’s a system developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, and it is capable of running at 33.86 petaflops. (A petaflop is a quadrillion* calculations per second.)
This supercomputer may be in China, but it’s packed with a lot of American-made chips. Specifically, Intel chips. Tianhe-2 has 16,000 nodes, each of them containing two Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge-generation processors and another three Xeon Phi processors, which adds up to a combined total of 3.12 million computing engines all being harnessed to work at once.
Unless you work with one of these machines, there’s not much reason to give a lot of thought to them in daily life. But they’re performing a lot of important functions from which you probably derive some indirect benefit. One of the systems on the list is involved in predicting the weather for the U.S. National Weather Service. Others may be helping a bank keep track of your money, or mapping genomes, designing drugs, or using complex mathematical algorithms to simulate all manner of complex things, from the planet’s climate to nuclear explosions.
There was no change among the Top 5 systems on the list from June.
Titan, a Cray XK7 system at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, remained the No. 2 most-powerful machine. Capable of 17.59 petaflops, it uses 261,632 Nvidia-made K20x accelerator cores as its computing backbone. And, while it may have only about half the computing oomph of its Chinese rival, it’s the second most power-efficient system on the list, consuming only 8.21 megawatts to Tianhe-2 s 17.8. Titan was the reigning world computing champ before Tianhe-2.
At No. 3, again, is Sequoia, an IBM-made BlueGene/Q system installed at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. No. 4 is Riken, a Fujitsu-made machine in Japan that topped two years ago this month. No. 5: Mira, an IBM machine at the DOE’s Argonne National Lab.
The highest-debuting new entry on the list is Piz Daint, at No. 6. A Cray XC30 installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre in Lugano, Switzerland, it’s the most powerful machine in Europe, and is the most-energy-efficient one in the top 10. It, too, has a lot of Nvidia’s K20x accelerator chips powering it: 5,272 of them to be exact, making for a total of 73,808 cores.
At No. 7 is a Dell-made machine called Stampede, installed the University of Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin. In June, it was No. 6. The next three machines rounding out the Ttop 10 – two of them in Germany, and one in the U.S. – were all made by IBM.
By way of measuring the march of supercomputing progress in the last six months, here are a few other highlights from the overall list to chew on. There are now 31 machines that can boast top performance of one petaflop or better, up from 26 on the list in June. And the entry point – the minimum performance required to make it onto the list – is 117.8 teraflops, up from 96.3 six months ago.
Intel chips are by far the most popular computing engine used in the systems on the list, showing up in 412 of the 500, or 82 percent. Opteron chips from Advanced Micro Devices were in 43 systems. IBM’s Power chips were in 40 systems. Nvidia’s GPU-based accelerator chips show up 38 systems.
Hewlett-Packard sold more of the systems on the list than anyone, accounting for 195, or 39 percent, of the 500. IBM was second, with 166 systems. If you added up the total computing performance of all the systems from each vendor, HP would rank fourth, while IBM would rank first.
Geographically, the U.S. is still the supercomputing leader, and is home to 265 of the systems on the list, up from 253 six months ago. Europe was second with 102, down from 112. China had 63, and Japan 28.
This is the 42nd time this list has been put out. It’s a joint project run by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can see the full list here.
The list pretty much covers the waterfront in listing the supercomputers publicly known to exist around the world. For the most part, the universities and other entities that have them, like to brag about their position on the list when they can. What the list doesn’t cover are the secret machines that might be used by government agencies like the U.S. National Security Agency and similar government spy shops around the world. One wonders if there’s information about just such a machine in the files of Edward Snowden.
* Quadrillions come after trillions, in case you hadn’t been keeping track.
(A small correction: I initially said Titan – number two – was the most energy-efficient system. It’s actually Piz Daint, number six.)
The lower-cost iPhone that Apple is expected to unveil next month could prove the answer to a relatively new problem facing the company: Slowing growth in China.
China is currently Apple’s second-largest market, and CEO Tim Cook said be believes it will someday become the first. But recently the company’s momentum in the region has waned. In Apple’s third quarter, revenue from Greater China – which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan – slipped 14 percent year over year to $4.6 billion. That was a 43 percent decline from the previous quarter, one aggravated by a brutal 20 percent drop in sell-through in Hong Kong.
A sharp drop in revenue for an important region, and troubling, but one for which Apple may already have a solution, in the form of the so-called iPhone C. According to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, that iPhone, which is expected be a sort of mid-end version of Apple’s flagship smartphone, could significantly boost Apple’s share of the massive Chinese smartphone market.
Extrapolating from data culled from a survey of 2,000 Chinese mobile-phone owners, Huberty found that Chinese customers consider $486 to be an “acceptable” price range for the iPhone C. (Interestingly, that’s 22 percent more than her $399 estimated price for the device.) What’s more, she predicts that if Apple were to launch the iPhone C in Greater China at that price point or one near it, the company would drastically spike iPhone sales in the region, raising its market share by 13 points. This, at the expense of rivals like Samsung, HTC and Nokia.
And if Apple were to debut the iPhone C in China along with a distribution deal that would finally bring the device to China Mobile – the largest wireless carrier in the world – its share of Greater China’s smartphone market would rise even further.
“Apple would gain six points of market share if it struck a deal with China Mobile, according to our survey,” Huberty said. “Samsung would be the biggest share loser, at 4.6 points, while many other vendors would see slight share losses.”
Now, as Huberty notes, it’s not at all clear that Apple has inked an iPhone deal with China Mobile. Indeed, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said earlier this month that the two companies were still in a “deliberation process” about such an agreement. But it’s clear that both sides are very much interested in hammering one out. So, while that additional market share to which Huberty refers may not be in the near future, it could be in the distant future.
And if Huberty’s assessment of iPhone C demand and the market share gains it could drive is accurate, Apple might even manage to take the smartphone share lead in Greater China, making it the top smartphone player in the world’s most populous smartphone market.
A Chinese government research institute hit out at Google Inc.’s Android smartphone operating system, arguing that China is too reliant on the platform and accusing the search giant of using its dominance to discriminate against local companies.
The criticism highlights continuing tension between Google and the Chinese government three years after the Mountain View, Calif., company said it wouldn’t comply with Chinese Internet restrictions and pulled its servers out of mainland China.
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