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Great Firewall of China gone?

An friend of mine who lives in China recently wrote to me and said “guess what.. the great firewall of China seems to be gone…” My friend advised that you can read anything you like.

An example of this is the UK BBC news site, who a few months ago reported that their English site is available inside China for first time in a decade; but the point of interest is that the BBC Chinese site is also available for use within China.

A quick search, by my friend from within China, for tiananmen, dalai lama and taiwan yields links to articles that seems to make it evident that the so called Red Firewall doesn’t reset connections anymore.

Is this a show to the world that China is no longer the perceived oppressor of their own peoples right to information? A way to “shake-hands” with the world before the upcoming Olympics? This possible change in policy or network filtering may re-enable other people to test the status of the filtering once again.

Whether it will stay that way permanently remains to be seen.

Wikipedia Article creates Circular references

A recent post on SlashDot quotes an IT professor saying:

People are unwittingly trusting the information they find on Wikipedia, yet experience has shown it can be wrong, incomplete, biased, or misleading

After reading this, I thought it was time to write about a something I found that backs this up. An anonymous user added information about Sacha Baron Cohen (known onscreen as Ali G.) to Wikipedia on November the 14th 2006. This entry added information about Baron Cohen working for investment bank Goldman Sachs prior to becoming famous as an actor.

Three days later, on November the 17th 2006 an article appeared in the Independent with the same information. The article included Baron Cohen’s career information almost as a footnote, at the end of the article – possibly using Wikipedia as the source of his “Goldman Sachs” career and other family information.

On November the 21st 2006 a second anonymous user added information to the Wikipedia entry on Baron Cohen that his early career included work at not only Goldman Sachs, but JP Morgan. Doing a lookup on this users IP address shows that it belongs to an address block allocated to JP Morgan Chase & Co! Someone at the company either new it to be true – or didn’t like the fact that he had been listed as working at a rival company; showing this addition as a potential one-upmanship entry.

A number of months later, a wikipedian actually did his homework, and on the 23rd February 2007 removed the bogus career information stating:

remove Goldman Sacks career as it is not mentioned in the Rolling Stone interview or anywhere else I can find

But it was too late. From 2007 onwards the Wikipedia entry detailing his career has been modified in an on again off again fashion. As of April 2008, the Independent and the Guardian are now used where still used (but have since been removed and discussed) as the source of the information – external references that exist outside Wikipedia – albeit written after the initial entry to Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia references used to referenced these articles as the source for this career move from investment banking to acting; it’s deemed permanent information.

The anonymous Wikipedia entries appear to have been “jokes”, or methods of associating famous people with a company – by financial industry insiders. Not only in the case of the initial change on 14 November, but also in the additional change by someone at JP Morgan on the 21st November, and subsequent additions, removals and swapping of big-time rival company names from Wikipedia.

The bottom line is that NO verifiable information existed anywhere on the internet that Baron Cohen worked for any investment banks (Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan) prior to the 14th November 2006. The only person that can tell us the truth now is Sacha Baron Cohen himself.

In February I wrote on the user talk page of the first “prankster” about this issue, but only recently has an another anonymous user commented over at SlashDot on this exact information of the same article – It could even be the same person who started this as they say:

It is now down to the rest of the world to prove that Sacha Baron Cohen DID NOT work for Goldman Sachs.

All of these thing show how easy is this to do. But how many other times has this been done? Is it the corporations, insiders or just people who work in related industries having a laugh. I’ll leave you with this (long) quote from anonymous@slashdot

The real Wiki-vandals are the companies, governments and lobby groups of all sorts that flood Wikipedia with their squeaky clean corporate profiles (yes, corporate governments), whipped straight from their websites … These entities are the true threat to the laudable goal of Wikipedia to provide a freely accessible forum for the production and storage of (hopefully well-referenced) articles for the masses and a forum that does not restrict the privilege of contribution to those that have jumped through the all the right hoops. … The printed word is no more reliable than the plasma. Lies may be propagated on Wikipedia, but not without debate. Politicians spouting their sludge find their propaganda sitting side-by-side with those that mock them… If knowing that anything in a Wikipedia article is as likely to be crap as correct, the average reader becomes more vigilant in clicking through to the supporting sources; then Wikipedia has served the purpose of bringing to the masses the healthy skepticism that is, after all, the cornerstone of all academic pursuits.
Dark eyes look down from ivory towers. Do they cheer or do they fear?

Update 20 April: since I wrote about this, and got slash-dotted, Wikipedian editors (and numerous slash-dotters) have discussed this entire issue; and the general consensus of the editors is that these two external sources are no longer valid. I think my point was understood. This may only be the tip of the iceberg and it is up to people checking their Wikipedia information to verify first, or remove – and be conscious of timelines!

Telstra ADSL2 upgrade complete

Telstra announced yesterday that their ADSL 2+ (what’s with the plus?) upgrade has now been completed Australia wide. What does this give the average end user access to? The Telstra PR and discussion site explains:
Telstra Logo

The ADSL2+ upgrade of 907 telephone exchanges serving 2.4 million homes and businesses announced in February is now complete. This means millions of additional Australian families, businesses, non-profit organisations and government agencies across every state and territory can now enjoy the benefits of high-speed broadband

This is a double edged sword. On one side it is a good thing that this increases high speed access to the end user; on the other side its Telstra. Even though I am a Bigpond Cable user, I would not recommend Bigpond ADSL2 unless it was last resort – for a number of reasons;

These cons mean that a non tech person getting ADSL2 could start of with the entry level 600MB plan, spend a few days surfing YouTube and having clocked up, lets say 1.6GB of usage, would be up for AU$209.95 for their initial monthly cost, on top of installation and hardware costs.

But in some cases this is the only ADSL2 on offer where previously there was none, dialup or very expensive wireless. Before Telstra commenced the turn on they made sure that “the Government … made clear it did not consider a compelling case had been made for regulating third-party access to the service”. Other ISPs don’t think so, even though I have to side with Telstra on this one. They are in the money making business for their shareholders. If these networks were to be available for the people, then the government of the day should NOT have sold off Telstra, but left it as a public utility.

Bottom line: Despite this new capacity and services, cheap, fast broadband is still unobtainium in Australia if you don’t live in a Metropolitan location.

The state of Broadband in developing countries

Australia is a mixed bag at Broadband. In some ways we resemble the US, and in no way do we resemble the Japan style FTTN networks (yet). But the infrastructure is starting to be there. What sucks is that sometimes to get the 30 Mbps connections you have to pay quite a bit for it (AUD$90/bundled per month for 25GB, Bigpond Cable). Yes I’m only with Bigpond cable as no ADSL service exists in my area that comes close to that speed. Damn counted uploads and data shaping.

But at least unlike some countries, we do seem to have decent peering links to EU and the US. I have actually achieved 3 MBytes/sec (24Mbps) transfer on a regional transfer and about 1MBytes/sec (8Mbps) using international servers.

Why do I mention this? I just watched Walt Mossberg talk about the bad state of Broadband and the lack of integration of the online world with big TVs (watch below, 8 mins).

Lastly Australia gets, as no doubt does the rest of the world, a time lag factor of everything latest and greatest. No iPhone yet, no iTMS TV/Movie store, no local Amazon style service (some come close), up to 1 year delay on airing TV series (though it is improving recently); and so on.

The tyranny of distance, and small population on a great land mass, is at play.

Oh yes, and the iPhone rumour gets another bump – woot 3G iPhone in June, well in the US. No doubt another 6 months will pass before Australia gets it. Lets hope it is not locked to Telstra. I don’t want to have to pay for my 3G data on top of the expensive plan AND the phone. I want it bundled, and not a pitiful 5 Megabytes worth. I have a $500 cap on Vodafone for now, including all my 3G data usage at $1 per 5 mins (part of the $500 cap).

If the iPhone ends up locked to Telstra, I’ll be singing Elvis.

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