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Today, I found this announcement via Hacker News. Google says their servers were attacked, and that the primary goal was the gmail accounts of rights activists. They said that their security protecting email data wasn’t breached. However, their own investigation revealed that several rights activists email accounts have been routinely accessed by what appear to be third-parties using valid login information. This would suggest that the rights activists’ passwords have been discovered via keyloggers, packet sniffers or some other surveillance at their end.

In response, Google has decided to stop complying with the PRCs filtering regulations.

We launched in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, 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, and potentially our offices in China.

David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer: A new approach to China

Related: A Chinese analysis of the situation
Related entry: Google Rejects DOJ Subpoena


I caught this on the other day, and it really reminded me of my friend Thomas. At least last time I met up with them, he was a programmer by day, and literally built a working spacecraft in his garage. The speaker Peter Diamonds is behind the X-Prize.

Be sure to check out how my thoughts changed in the nine years after writing this post!

Recently, it seems there’s been a sort of obsession spreading through the expat blogging communities. It’s about search engine optimization, i.e., trying to get one’s site to come up as high as possible in search engine results. The idea is to bring in traffic by figuring out how the search engines rank sites and then exploiting that system, or at least making sure of not being ranked artificially low. It’s not really a topic I’m interested in, but I’ve been dragged into this debate. Now that I have, I’ll let let my feelings be known.
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For the first time in years, I’m absolutely floored by a new Chinese IME. Google just came out of nowhere, slapped their Google Pinyin up for download and humbled the competition. Like other IMEs, Google Pinyin uses a word’s context to figure out which character to input. It’s just a lot better at it. I really can’t get over how intelligent this IME is. It handles mis-ordered n’s and g’s or z’s and h’s, and it’s even pretty good about knowing when just output English.

Google Pinyin Rocks!!!Just as Microsoft has, Google has put far more work into input for mainland users than for those using traditional characters in Taiwan. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Google Pinyin can be set to output traditional characters. Even though I’m much more used to using zhuyin input, I find Google Pinyin to be faster than Microsoft’s traditional Chinese IME, especially if I’m typing full paragraphs of text. It really saves a lot of time not having to switch out of the IME every time I want to type a punctuation mark.

Setting Google Pinyin to output traditional Chinese

Just click on the pair of cogs at the right hand side of the Google Pinyin toolbar, then select 属性没值, click the 词典 tab, click the 繁体模式 checkbox and then accept. You’ll then be typing in traditional characters!

Update: Holly, Fili, Mark S., and Brendan have all written about Google Pinyin, too.

In a recent Chinese-English and Arabic-English machine translation competition, Google’s entrant demolished the competition, taking first place in 35 out of 36 different categories. Unlike typical teams, not a single person on the Google team speaks either Chinese or Arabic. Their technology is based completely on computational analysis texts written by native speakers. It isn’t completely clear what sort of computational techniques were used, but from what I can tell, either a neural net or a genetic algorithm appears likely.
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As my long-time readers know, I started my blog on Blogger at I later moved it to mostly because John emailed me and told me I was blocked in China. WordPress kind of annoyed me at the outset, but I’ve since gotten pretty accustomed to running a blog on my own domain and like it.

There’s one problem, though. I still get a fair amount of search engine traffic from a page I wrote about the Back Dorm Boys at That page is still just like I left it months ago. Unfortunately, some splogger has taken over my domain. I tried to set my blogger preferences to publish at my old address, just for the purpose of wiping out the splog, but it won’t let me. I had assumed that with my whole site still there, it was safe from being over-written. I guess I was wrong and that people are free to over-write my old entries with spam one URL at a time, and even cash in on the reasonably high page rank my blog had built up. I’ve emailed Google about it since they own Blogger, but they haven’t responded.

The moral: if you ever decide to host a Blogger blog on your own server, make sure you always set your site address back to your old blogspot URL after publishing in your own domain.

Foreign loan words have always been one of the hardest parts of Chinese for me. Despite hearing it millions of times, I still don’t say 拜拜 instead of 再見, or other alternatives. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I just don’t like saying instead of 打電話, either. Above all, I have absolutely no desire to start throwing English words into my sentences like so many “trendy” people in 台北 do. I’m not happy with saying “打 tennis” instead of 打網球, and I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because I already speak English fluently and don’t see throwing it into my Chinese as a sign of coolness. I don’t think that’s it, though. I always used to love using all the foreign loan words I could, when I was learning Japanese. I even found my self grinning and muttering things like offisu waka (office worker) or konpyuta saiensu (computer science) to myself during my first few months of learning Japanese. There’s something about how thoroughly loan words are turned into Japanese that I found appealing. Maybe it’s because the phonics of Japanese loan words are changed to fit the languages, where as Taiwanese people sometimes, but not always, try not to change the pronunciation of foreign loan words in Chinese?

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One weird thing that doesn’t fit the trend I mentioned above, is that I love foreign loan words in Chinese when they are company names and foods. I like 谷歌, 肯德基, and most of all, 雅虎

Has anybody else out there loved loan words in one language, but wanted to avoid them in another?

Since my Google Toolbar for Firefox has a page rank checker built into it, I’ve noticed what page rank various sites have from time to time. My blog stubbornly remained at zero from the time I started it until last week. Now, all of the sudden, it’s five. What’s up with that? While, a higher rank is cool and all, such a rapid change kind of makes me doubt the system’s validity.

I lost a bunch of data and had to rebuild my site, again. Everything’s back now, thanks to the goodness of Google’s cache of my site. Please mail me if you see anything broken or missing. Here’s what happened:

  • I asked Hostgator to upgrade my account, so that I could host multiple domains
  • There was still a copy of my blog on another of their servers (gator48) left over from the whole migration debacle a while back. Hostgator upgraded that instead of the my site (which is on gator50).
  • When I alerted them to the fact that I didn’t want to move off of the gator50 server, due to the fact that gator48 is blocked in China. I said that if upgrading would require changing servers, I didn’t want to move
  • Hostgator deleted my account on gator50
  • When I asked why they’d deleted my site and said that I needed my data back, they accept any fault. They said that I’d told them to delete my server, which is completely false.
  • After numerous emails and phone conversations, I was literally one click away from signing up for an account on Dreamhost. Then, Hostgator completely surprised me by saying that they’d give me a full refund for my 1 year plan I signed up for and continue my service for the rest of my contract. They said they wanted to keep my business.
  • Today, AFTER spending 6 hours restoring my site, I received an email saying that they’ll only refund one month and that if I cancel the service, I still have to pay for the rest of the year.

I’m not sure if this is another case of miscommunication, or if they’ve just changed their minds. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Update: I was given a full refund, and I can continue to use the service.

Obviously, a refund makes me feel a lot better. Equally obviously, I won’t stay if I continue to have data loss problems every month. The time cost to me to rebuild my site is far more than the hosting fees. However, the fact that they want to keep me as a customer despite my loud complaints during each of the three times my data has been lost or corrupted, tells me that Hostgator is confident their service is improving. If they expected to continue having these difficulties, there’s no way they’d want to keep me as a customer. I’m a frequent blogger, and I get really unhappy about losing a week or two of data as a result of someone else’s actions. It wouldn’t be profitable to have a customer who used tech support so much. They must see improvement coming in one form or another.