Feeds

China's IT: an inside outsider's view

Insight into piracy rates

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Letter We had a letter from a man identifying himself only as Dr. John who teaches at a University in China. What he had to say about the Eastern technology revolution is something of an eye opener:

Over the past 4 years, I have had a chance to see the IT side of China in a unique way. Living and working here in the Middle Kingdom, being everything from a dialup user - hoping to get even an Internet email page - to managing a small Linux cluster in support of a research project. Now back to a LAN user on a university network.

The pace of growth here in China is breathtaking. New buildings are being erected faster than the crew of men with flexible bamboo-handled sledge hammers can knock them down. The metropolitan landscape changes constantly. The skyline, even here in Ningbo, is in constant flux. The IT landscape equates to something like the mid-nineties. Something like, only a lot different.

More than 80 million computer users. Most all of them first generation users. This means that there are over 80 million computer users that are using computers for the first time. The 80 million number includes net admins and net security folks that never touched a computer up until a few months or couple of years ago. Whew.

I have made it a policy to no longer accept disks from my students. An informal survey indicates that 100% are infected by some virus, many of which are thought in the West to be extinct. In China, every virus you can imagine is still alive and well. At least if they send assignments via email, I feel like I stand a chance to quash whatever virus is included before it gets onto my system.

Here at my university, the network is at a crawl. Port monitoring is a fright. Literally hundreds of port scans every hour, looking for unsecured machines, of which there are so very very many.

Why are there so many computers that are open to attack? Many of you in the West have no idea what the computing environment is like here.

As an example, I recently upgraded my and my wife's home computers to Windows XP Professional. I made this move for a couple of reasons. First was because I cannot read simplified Chinese as well as I would like, and my wife reads traditional Chinese much faster than simplified. Windows XP comes with an English-language and a traditional Chinese (among many others) interface. Second, although my outside network is run by China Telecom (CT), which runs mostly on Linux boxes, there is no Linux login to be had for the campus LAN. I cannot get a fixed IP on campus.

So, thinking I was doing the "Right Thing," I went down to the local Computer Supermarket and bought two copies of new, shrink-wrapped Windows XP Pro. Aha! The copies I bought have all the glistening anti-piracy labels. An holographic imprint. Heck, they even include the toll-free numbers to call if you think you might have a bogus copy of their software.

Both copies had the same Product Activation Key code. Bogus keys that will not allow updates, except for the critical security sort. Fair enough. I got a crap copy and it was my fault for thinking it was too good to be true.

I called around and found one MS retailer in Shanghai that would sell me a copy of XP Pro for about 2,000 Yuan. No big deal for me, but almost all Chinese do not make that much in two year's working. There is no place in Ningbo (where I now live) to buy legit MS software, even if I wanted to.

Most all of my Chinese friends that have computers never even try to upgrade their bogus MS systems. If they have AV software, it comes from the same computer supermarket, and they are not allowed to update, but this is no worry for them. They don't even try. The Internet is slow? Of course, it is supposed to be slow; at least that is the common thinking here..

If I could get CT to give me a Linux logon app, there would be no worries for me. The last uni in China gave me a fixed IP, and a logon app was no issue. Windows XP was no issue. Linux worked on our server group, although everything was slowed to a snail's pace by all the crap out there on the evil, unprotected net, inside the uni and out.

Spam zombies. It is not a deliberate part of Chinese IT, but something that must happen. 80 million first-time users. No AV. No MS updates. No information in their language about what to do. No source for legit MS software.

Here there seems to be a perfect platform for Linux. MS stuff is way too expensive, and people buy MS thinking it is the Right Thing. Yet it is pirated and has minimal security for them. The first time they try to get SP1 or SP2 fopr XP, they get a message about the Security Key, so they quit trying, thinking the software is broken.

Is the solution free upgrades for pirated MS software? No, of course not. The Beast still needs to make its $$$. Is the solution a broken version of Windows for Asians? No, of course not. The Chinese are not stupid.

Maybe if the net folks here realize that their own people can do Linux, there may be hope.

Think about it. If your next copy of Windows cost you one year's salary, would you switch to open-source?

Dr. John ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Forget the beach 'n' boardwalk, check out the Santa Cruz STEVE JOBS FOUNTAIN
Reg reader snaps shot of touching tribute to Apple icon
Happy 40th Playmobil: Reg looks back at small, rude world of our favourite tiny toys
Little men straddle LOHAN, attend tiny G20 Summit... ah, sweet memories...
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
Lego is the TOOL OF SATAN, thunders Polish priest
New minifigs like Monster Fighters are turning kids to the dark side
Dark SITH LORD 'Darth Vader' joins battle to rule, er, Ukraine
Only I can 'make an empire out of a republic' intones presidential candidate
Chinese company counters pollution by importing fresh air
Citizens line up for bags of that sweet, sweet mountain air
Google asks April Fools: Want a job? Be our 'Pokemon Master'
Mountain View is prankin' like it's 1999...
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.