SourceForge: Nobody Is Asking Why Now?

sourceforge hands tied

Bound by the law?

Sourceforge is now blocking access to sites from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Since 2003, the SourceForge.net Terms and Conditions of Use have prohibited certain persons from receiving services pursuant to U.S. laws, including, without limitations, the Denied Persons List and the Entity List, and other lists issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security. The specific list of sanctions that affect our users concern the transfer and export of certain technology to foreign persons and governments on the sanctions list. This means users residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanction list, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, may not post content to, or access content available through, SourceForge.net. Last week, SourceForge.net began automatic blocking of certain IP addresses to enforce those conditions of use.

In all the commentary I am seeing, nobody has asked the very simplest and perhaps most obvious of questions: Why now?

These terms have been in place for nearly 7 years now. (The Entities list has existed since 1997)

Lets forget for the minute that one hell of a lot of the software hosted by Sourceforge is developed with the help of, or even entirely by, people living outside the U.S.

Lets also bear in mind that SourceForge has claimed that this is because of the “transfer and export of certain technology” to foreign persons and governments on the sanctions list, yet doesn’t give any details about what this technology is?

Surely everything on SourceForge can’t contain dangerous technology? Why not just restrict the programs which contain those technologies?

Not to mention the fact that everybody knows that any idiot, never mind some evil axis human overlord wannabe wouldn’t be able to use a proxy or Tor to get past the IP filtering!

Or is there something more at play here?

Google and China perhaps? Did the U.S. government pay SourceForge a call and “politely” remind them that these laws exist? Maybe because the government wants to show that it is willing to enforce it’s laws and send a subtle hint to China that the hacking of U.S. companies and theft of their I.P. might get them added to these lists?

I find it very hard to believe that the guys at SourceForge have had a sudden moment of conscience and, out of the blue, decided to comply with laws that have existed for almost 12 years and to their own terms and conditions which they have ignored for the past 7 years.

Google Is Just Saber Rattling And Won’t Pull Out Of China

Google China

All talk?

David Drummond, SVP of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google, just dropped a very provocative post over on the official Google blog.

Normally a post of this nature would go pretty much unnoticed (except by the tin-foil hat wearing security freaks) as it details an attempted attack on Google and a number of other companies operating within China.

What makes this post truly interesting however is the tone of the post, which, to my mind at least insinuates that the Chinese government were themselves responsible (or at least played a part), without ever coming out and actually making that accusation.

While that was provocative enough, the real sensationalism was to be found in this bold statement:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Wow, it sounds like Google is going to pull out of China. After all we know the Chinese government won’t back down, so what choice will they have?

To be honest, it’s all saber rattling. Google is trying to put pressure on the Chinese government, a regime that it knows doesn’t even generally bow to the massive weight of global political and public opinion.

In fact, Google is so aware of this that they provided themselves with a back door within their statement:

and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law

I’m confident that the settlement will come, one way or the other, and there are a number of reasons for it.

First and foremost there is the financial situation. Simply put, the amount of money Google will lose.

In Q2 of 2009 there were 338 million internet users in China and Google was the search engine of choice for 23.7% (about 80 million) of those users in Q3. That’s more users than North America which had 246.8 million users.

Add that to the fact that the Chinese market is growing rapidly as internet penetration is only 26.9% (or 1 in 4 people are online) compared to the saturated US market which has 74.2% (or 3 out of 4 online) penetration.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is too much at stake to walk away and too much potential for growth.

Could Google really walk away from that? Could they honestly allow their market share in China to be eaten up by Baidu (the number 1 search engine in China) or to allow Ballmer to walk Microsoft in there and expand their market share? Or even better have Ballmer cut some sort of a deal with the Chinese government?

Sara, Steven Hodson and others have pointed out that Ballmer wouldn’t walk into that hornets nest. I think he would. What is there to lose?

Microsoft already operates Bing in China so it won’t be as if they can be demonized for pushing into the territory.

The digiratti may get up in arms about it, but who in the real world listens to them? Once they leave the geek twitter/blogosphere they have no real influence over the masses, no matter how they may delude themselves. Lets make it very clear-being famous in the blogosphere is nothing but an ego trip. It comes with no power and you won’t be recognized if you walk into the average pub.

Mainstream media will pick up on the story, but they’ll likely focus on the fact that Google is pulling out and not who is staying in. Even if they did, you can be sure Microsoft would have an army of PR experts ready to be on the tube and tell everybody how they’re trying to do the right thing, by sticking it out and fighting for the Chinese peoples right by providing them a service, working with the government and trying to affect change. Not like childish Google who couldn’t take the heat so took their toys home to play in their room alone.

The number of activists who may give out about Microsoft (and others) staying in China will be many, they will be loud, rant and rave on twitter, get their backs up and shout from atop their high horses, but very few of them will do anything about it.

Only a very minute percentage will actually bother to stop using Bing, or to not buy a Microsoft product and even their outrage will be short lived before they go back to their old habits.

Most will forget what they were angry about after a few days, and the real world will have forgotten about it within 24 hours of the mainstream media miking it.

The bottom line to a company like Microsoft would be an increase in revenue from the Chinese market that would far, far outweigh any potential loss or fall out from the few malcontents who actually do something about it rather than just rant on twitter and blow hot air on their blogs.

Public opinion can be a wonderful thing, but it only works as long as the public pays attention. In this day an age the public has an attention span that can be measured in minutes. The next time Angelina and Brad adopt, that Madonna farts or Obama stares at a girls ass, it will all be forgotten about.

The Chinese government has a stubborn streak and disregard for international opinion that is beyond legendary and Microsoft are definitely not above doing something that may not immediately be popular in order to gain a long term advantage and the public is too wrapped up in dealing with their own economic woes and miserable lives to really care who is providing search results to the Chinese.

Finally and above all, Google is not a public service. They are a business and their primary responsibility is not to their users but to their shareholders. Leaving China would not be in their shareholders best interest.

Google are testing the waters to see if they can get a concession. It would take some serious brass balls to pull out of the Chinese market and give their foothold over to competitors. Brass balls, which for all Google has done in the past, I think are more like two rolled up socks stuffed down the underpants.

They may look impressive from afar, but they don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Google playing with music search again?

I’d almost forgotten that Google has a search operator “music:” that when put in front of a query will bring up information about the artists, songs and albums you’re searching for.

However, what did surprise me today, was getting the same results as searching for “music: Nickelback” simply by searching for Nickelback on Google.com.

Check out the screen shots below to see what I mean.

1. The results I normally when I search from Google.com just for “nickelback” (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search

2. The results I get when I search on Google.com with the operator “music: nickelback” (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search-1

3. The results I got earlier today using just “nickelback” from Google.com (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search-2

As you can see searches 2 and 3 show identical results even thought the search query URLs are very different!.

So, is Google trying something new with their music search? We know they have rolled out free music links to users in China, might we see the same or something similar in Europe or the US? Doubtful, but we can hope :)

Selling Seagate a national security risk? Grow up!

Hard disk The xenophobes are at it again. This time they’re freaking out because a Chinese technology company has expressed an interest in purchasing hard drive maker Seagate.

“Seagate would be extremely sensitive,” said an industry executive who participates in classified government advisory groups. “I do not think anyone in the U.S. wants the Chinese to have access to the controller chips for a disk drive. One never knows what the Chinese could do to instrument the drive.”

Yep, because the Japanese (Hitachi, Toshiba) and South Koreans (Samsung Group) are that much less of a potential security threat so it’s okay to use their drives.

Not to mention the fact that since 2000 you’ve been using Chinese hard drives manufactured by ExcelStor in your laptops.

ExcelStor is a small hard disk drive manufacturer established in 2000. It has a manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, China, and an R&D center in Longmont, Colorado, USA. The company is partly owned by Shenzhen Kaifa Technology, of which the major share holder is China Great Wall Computer Group Co.

In 2002 ExcelStor signed a deal with IBM to manufacture and sell the 40GB version of IBM’s Deskstar 120GXP series under the ExcelStor brand name. IBM was also to market these drives under its own brand name. In 2003, after Hitachi took over IBM’s storage division, the deal was extended to include 40GB and 80GB drives from Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K250 series.

I mean really….

No O’Flaherty in China? I’m blocked!

Greatfirewallofchina.org is reporting that O’Flaherty (and the entire oflaherty.dk) is being blocked in China.

GreatFireWall.org Bloacked  

Aim of this website is to be a watchdog and keep track of which and how many  or how many times sites are censored. Help to keep the censorship transparent. Each blocked website will automatically be added to the great firewall on the homepage.

Wow! Okay, the program does say that there may be other reasons why my sites isn’t available, but if this is true, then damn!

How many Chinese readers am I loosing? What did I do annoy the Chinese censors? Who cares! Censorship is wrong!

How will these poor people have happy and fulfilled lives without reading this blog or listening to my podcast?

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