Social networking sites to open up in China

No Facebook. No Twitter. No Google+. These sites were blocked in China since 2009 onwards. But they are coming back soon.

Internet censorship in China

The internet arrived in China in 1994. The Golden Shield Project popularly known as the Great Firewall of China was started in 1998 and began operations in 2003. This project was based on Deng Xiaoping’s saying, “If you open the window to fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.”

Some of the current methods used by the Chinese internet police include IP blocking, DNS filtering and redirection, packet filtering, URL filtering, TCP connection reset and VPN blocking.

China has also blacklisted certain keywords from search engines. These are keywords such as democracy, human rights, dictatorship, communism, communist party, Dalai Lama, Chinese democracy movement, Tibet and so on.

Photo and video sharing sites, blogging platforms, discussion forums, peer-to-peer sites and pornography are also blocked.

The lift on the social media ban

The South China Morning Post recently reported that the ban on internet access will be lifted. However, this access will be available only within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone. This region is a mere 28 sq-km out of mainland China’s 9.3 million sq.km area.

China undoubtedly is a huge market and has a largest internet population. This move is a part of the economic and financial reforms that the Chinese government is experimenting with.

The Chinese alternative

All over the world, social media is dominated by Facebook and Twitter. However, China has its own networks, which exceed 100 million active users.

Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are the Chinese equivalents of Twitter. Weibo means microblog. Qzone is China’s largest social networking site. RenRen, another social networking site has a design that is similar to Facebook. Youku Tudou is a video-sharing site similar to YouTube. Soso is the Google of China and can easily be mistaken for the previous Google China website. Baidu is another popular search engine in China.

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Blackberry Messenger is coming to Android and iPhone

Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry will launch the instant messaging service Blackberry Messenger (BBM) for Android on 21 September and iPhone on 22 September.

Why is BBM coming to Android and iPhone?

BlackBerryThe instant messaging feature was the reason why most people ended up buying Blackberry handsets.

Apple and Samsung have emerged as the market leaders in smartphone markets due to its constant innovation and effective marketing strategies. Offering BBM across other platforms broadens the charm of BBM.

“With more than a billion Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones in the market, and no dominant mobile messaging platform, this is absolutely the right time to bring BBM to Android and iPhone customers,” said Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President for BBM at Blackberry.

Troubled Times

Once considered unbeatable and the pioneer in smartphone technology, Blackberry is struggling to stay afloat in the smartphone market.

Blackberry is expected to lay off 4,500 employees, which is around 40% of its workforce.

Blackberry is going to step back from the mainstream consumer market and focus on enterprise devices.

Why BBM is better than Whatsapp?

BBM provides message indicators such as D and R that mean Delivered and Read. Whatsapp provides check marks. On Whatsapp, a single check mark means the message has been delivered to the server and a double check mark means that the message has been delivered to the phone. There is no indication to prove that the message has indeed been read.

BBM provides a unique pin which you can give people so that they can add you on BBM. Whatsapp uses phone numbers. Whatsapp users can add phone numbers to groups and through this, user phone numbers are visible to the public and can even be stored. This could lead to potential harassment. If a user changes his phone number, the new user of the phone number can access all the Whatsapp contacts that were used by the previous user.

A BBM user can receive a message only if the receiver has approved them. If the user has been deleted, he needs to send another request until he can continue messaging the receiver.

BBM has the ‘ping’ feature to draw the attention of the receiver.

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London Open House this weekend

On 21st and 22nd September many doors in London usually closed, inaccessible or priced will open up their doors to the public for free. This year, there are over 800 buildings open to the public.

What is Open House weekend?

London open houseOpen House is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes public awareness and awareness and appreciation of building design and architecture. The tours are guided and the guides are volunteers.

This is part of the Open House Worldwide where a similar concept exists in several countries like USA (New York and Chicago), Ireland (Dublin, Limerick and Galway), Israel (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), Finland (Helsinki), Australia (Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane), Spain (Barcelona), Slovenia, Italy (Rome), Portugal (Lisbon), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Greece (Thessaloniki) Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia in Poland, Athens in Greece, San Diego in USA and Vienna in Austria will join the Open House in 2014.

“Open House is a unique and vibrant annual event, offering people across London the chance to explore and learn about the capital’s architecture,” said Victoria Thornton, Founding Director of Open City.

How to access the buildings

Some buildings are booked via ballots while some have to be pre-booked in advance. However, a vast majority of the buildings are on first come first served basis.

People from different parts of the UK and Europe camp around popular sites to as these sites witness serpentine queues. Some of these sites include 30 St Mary Axe also knows as The Gherkin, Tower 42, Bank of England, Battersea Power Station, the Crossrail Liverpool Street Construction Site, City Hall and others.

The Highlights

The theme this year is “Celebrating architecture, people and place”.

The highlights are 10 Downing Street, The View from the Shard, London Eye and Gray’s Inn, the booking of which has been done through a ballot. The Olympic park has also been opened to the public this year.

“Open House London gives people the chance to explore some of London’s most unique and celebrated buildings. As the official residence and office of British Prime Ministers since 1735, Number 10 Downing Street is a truly historic address. I’m delighted to be opening up the famous black door for the first time this year,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Guide

The Open House London Guide provides a comprehensive list of buildings, tours, expert-led walks and other activities.

Open House Junior contains lists of events for children.

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Scotland: In or Out?

Exactly a year from today, Scotland will hold a referendum to decide its independence from the United Kingdom.

The big question

The question to be asked at the referendum will be “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012. Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0

An agreement was signed on 15 October 2012 by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister and Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. This agreement provides the legal framework for the referendum.

The referendum bill setting out the arrangements was put forward on 21 March 2013.

Who gets to vote?

Everyone above the age of 16 who lives in Scotland is eligible to vote. This means that the 800,000 Scots living in other parts of the UK will not be eligible to vote.

Eligibility to vote will also include members of the armed forces serving overseas who are registered to vote in Scotland.

What happens after Scotland gets a “Yes” vote?

If Scotland gets a “Yes” vote, the Scottish “Independence Day” will be in March 2016 just before the start of the May 2016 Scottish election campaign. Scotland will get its own written constitution.

Scotland will retain cultural ties with the UK and will join the Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union and the NATO. The British monarch will be the ceremonial Head of State in Scotland as is the case with Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Scotland will continue to retain the pound sterling currency.

The Scottish National Party objects to having nuclear weapons on Scottish territory. However, Scotland will inherit the naval base of Faslane in the Firth of Clyde and the Trident Nuclear Missile System at Coulport.

The Scottish economy

Opinion polls have indicated that Scotland would perform better economically as an independent state. The public spending in Scotland is higher than England but Scotland also produces higher tax revenue compared to the UK average mainly due to production of oil from the North Sea.

The research paper Scotland Analysis: Macroeconomic and fiscal performance states that Scotland’s economic performance is stronger because it forms a part of the UK.

If Scotland becomes independent, a proportion of the UK national debt will be inherited, thereby starting a new nation with existing debt.

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Reasons not to upgrade to iOS 7 immediately

In a few hours, iOS 7 will be available for upgrade. Here are some of the reasons to wait

 1.    Expect a few bugs

ios 7When a new upgrade is available, expect a few bugs and flaws. These bugs will be ironed out after the initial release. Apple releases updates regularly to fix bugs so it is worth waiting for stable software while Apple fixes its flaws.

2.    Downgrading may not be possible

As with all iOS updates, downgrading is not possible. Considering the hype surrounded by the iOS 7, may be this upgrade is here to stay

3.    Some apps may not be compatible immediately

Developers had access to iOS 7 much earlier so that they could work on updates for their apps. However, as much as iOS 7 is ready for launch, not all apps have their updates ready for launch. Hence, all your apps would not work the way they used to work before.

4.    You will lose your jailbreak

If your device is jailbroken on iOS 6, then the jailbreak for iOS 7 may not be available instantly.

5.    Your older device may not be compatible

iOS 7 will be compatible with the iPhone 4 and above, iPad 2 and above and the fifth generation of the iPod touch.

6.    Reviews

At the moment, developer reviews are available but it would be wise to wait for user reviews before updating.

If you plan to upgrade to iOS 7, please backup your data using iCloud or iTunes. While installing any major software update, you run the risk of losing data.

Delete any unused apps and make space for the new update

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Gareth Bale makes a debut today

World-record signing Gareth Bale made his debut for Real Madrid on Saturday at a La Liga against Villarreal at El Madrigal. He scored a goal at the 38th minute. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Most expensive deal

On 1 September 2013, Welsh footballer Gareth Bale signed a world record deal of £85.3m in a transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid. He is the thirteenth British footballer to join Real Madrid.

Through this deal, Bale replaced Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s most expensive player. Real Madrid bought Ronaldo in 2009 from Manchester United for £80m.

Gareth Bale’s club career

In 2006, Bale was the second youngest player after Theo Walcott to play for Southampton. He joined Tottenham Hotspur as a left-back for £10m from Southampton in 2007 and later became a left-winger. He spent 6 years playing for the Spurs.

Highest transfer fees by Real Madrid.

Real Madrid has a record of paying the highest transfer fees. In addition to breaking records with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer fees, other records include Kaká from A. C. Milan for £56m in 2009, Zinedine Zidane from Juventus for £46.6m in 2001 and Luís Figo from Barcelona for £37m in 2000.

Real Madrid is the world’s richest football club in terms of revenue with turnover of €512.6m.

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UK Courts to go the US way

From October onwards, cameras will broadcast cases from England’s Court of Appeal has been approved by the House of Commons. The proposal will now be debated in the House of Lords prior to coming into effect in October.

The positive move

The UK Supreme Court proceedings are already streamed live on the Internet since 2011. The Royal Courts of JusticeFilming inside has been banned under Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

The cost of filming in court will be covered by media organisations.

Courts Minister Helen Grant said, “ Justice must be seen to be done, that is why we are introducing limited television broadcasting in courts from next month.”

The limitations

Victims, witnesses, jurors and defendants will not be filmed.

“We are opening up the court process to allow people to see and hear the judges’ decisions in their own words, but we will also ensure that victims and witnesses will not be filmed and will remain protected,” added Grant

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Is FIFA 2022 in Qatar a mistake?

Sepp Blatter, FIFA president has admitted for the first time that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar may have been a mistake.

The winning bid

On 2nd December 2010, Qatar won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar will be the first Middle East nation to host a FIFA World Cup.

The other countries that bid to host the tournament were Australia, Japan, South Korea and the US.

Weather concerns

The weather in Qatar is the major issue. The FIFA World Cup is held during the summer where the temperature soars to above 50°C.

The official bid site for Qatar 2022 states, “Each of the five stadia will harness the power of the sun’s rays to provide a cool environment for players and fans by converting solar energy into electricity that will then be used to cool both fans and players at the stadia. Along with the stadia, we plan to make the cooling technologies we’ve developed available to other countries in hot climates, so that they too can host major sporting events.”

Rescheduling the tournament to winter months is not feasible, as it will disrupt domestic league competitions in countries like England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. However, this matter will be discussed at a meeting on October 3.

Other concerns

Qatar’s legal system is based on Sharia law. Therefore, alcohol consumption is permitted legally only in a few clubs, bars, hotels and the Pearl island. However, the country has allowed specific fan zones for the consumption of alcohol

None of the Middle East countries including Qatar recognise Israel. However, if Israel qualifies for the FIFA World Cup, they would be allowed to play in Qatar.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Since FIFA does not want any discrimination, they have asked Qatar to relax its anti-gay legislation.

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Apple unveils iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

After months of speculation, Apple has finally launched two new iPhones – iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. This time there is a premium product and a more affordable version.

Goodbye iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 has had the shortest shelf life in the history of the iPhone. This model been discontinued. Whenever Apple unveils a new model, the previous model is discontinued. This time, the iPhone 5 has been discontinued but the iPhone 4S stays which rather comes as a surprise. This strategy is somewhat similar to the availability of the iPad 2 after the iPad with Retina Display was announced this discontinuing the iPad 3.

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5SThe iPhone 5s is available in space grey, gold and silver colours in capacities of 16GB (£549), 32GB (£629) and 64GB (£709). The phone features a 64-bit A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and a M7 motion coprocessor.

“iPhone 5s is the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world, delivering desktop class architecture in the palm of your hand,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

iPhone 5C

iPhone 5CThe iPhone 5C is available in white, pink, yellow, blue and green in capacities of 16GB (£469) and 32GB (£549). The phone has an A6 chip.

“iPhone 5c is everything iPhone 5 was and more, in an all-new design packed with great features. It is designed with a polycarbonate enclosure that looks and feels so solid in your hand,” added Schiller.

Availability

The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C handsets will ship on September 20 in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong Japan, Puerto Rico and Singapore. Customers can pre-order the iPhone 5C online from September 13.

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Tokyo to host Olympics 2020

Tokyo defeated Madrid and Istanbul in the race to host the 2020 Olympic Games.  The decision was announced at the 125th IOC Session in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires.

Japan’s history of hosting games

Tokyo was the first Asian city to host the Olympic Games in 1964.Tokyo Olympics 2020 Now they will be the first Asia city to host the biggest sporting event twice.

Sapporo and Nagano have hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972 and 1998 respectively. Sapporo has been the first Asian city to host Winter Olympic Games.

Japan previously co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with South Korea, the 2006 FIBA World Championship and the 2011 Gymnastics World Championship

The 2020 Olympic Games will add another feather to their hat along with the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Previous bids

Tokyo’s first Olympic bid was in 1940. They won the bid but the games were cancelled due to World War I. Tokyo unsuccessful bid for the 1960 and 2016 Olympic games where they lost to Rome and Rio de Janeiro respectively. They won the bid for the 1964 Games.

Osaka bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games and lost to Beijing while Nagoya lost to Seoul in the race to host the 1988 games.

Japan also made bids for the Winter Olympic Games. The scheduled 1940 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo was cancelled due to the World War II. They later bid for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games and lost to Grenoble. They successfully won the bid for the Winter Games in 1972. They later bid for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games and lost to Sarajevo.

The controversies

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami initially worked against them. However, their stability worked in their favour as opposed to Turkey’s large anti-government protests and Spain’s economic crisis.

Fukushima, about 225 kilometres from Tokyo has a nuclear plant. However, the country will bring the damaged reactors under control and clear up the radioactivity.

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