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Chinese Authorities Shoot Down Videogame Rumor

Chinese Authorities Shoot Down Videogame Rumor

Today in international tech news: Beijing nixes rumors that it might lift its ban on videogame consoles; an exiled Thai leader is using Skype and cellphones to help run the country from abroad; a trial date could be nearing for a Pirate Bay cofounder wanted on hacking charges; Israel's cybersecurity investing comes under scrutiny; and messaging apps drive down China's SMS volume.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
01/30/13 5:43 PM PT

This game is over before it even started.

China's Ministry of Culture said that it is not considering lifting the nation's ban on videogame consoles, according to Tech In Asia.

Reports that China might lift its ban on systems like Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation surfaced last week in a number of media outlets, including Tech In Asia.

However, that story, which first appeared in China Daily, appears to be false.

The anticipated approval of videogame consoles caused a spike in Microsoft and Sony stock and spurred some starry-eyed pundits to speculate about billion-dollar paydays for console makers.

Thailand Being Governed From Afar

For the past 18 months, the governing party in Thailand apparently has been making political decisions from abroad, according to The New York Times.

Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who has been in exile for more than four years, is exercising "rule by Skype," The Times reported. He "circles the globe in his private jet" and talks with ministers via cellphone, social media and email.

In this way, Shinawatra, whom The Times characterized as the nation's most famous fugitive, can avoid corruption charges while still helping to run the country.

Shinawatra -- who was deposed by a military coup in 2006 and whose sister, 18 years his junior, is the nation's official prime minister -- has homes in Dubai and London and regularly visits Asian countries neighboring Thailand. One Thai official told The Times, "If we've got a problem, we give him a call."

Pirate Bay Founder Could Be Nearing Trial

Gottfrid Svartholm, the Swede who cofounded file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, could be formally charged with hacking within a month, according to Torrent Freak.

Svartholm was arrested in Cambodia late last summer and subsequently deported to Sweden. He faced allegations of hacking into Logica, an IT company that, according to Torrent Freak, works for Swedish tax authorities.

The presumption at the time of Swartholm's arrest was that he would receive a long overdue jail sentence stemming from a Pirate Bay-related conviction. (The other Pirate Bay founders -- the ones who didn't flee the country -- were already sentenced.)

Israel Investing in Cyberdefense, Offense

Israel is heavily investing in cybersecurity as a means both to protect itself and as "a national growth engine," according to Bloomberg.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been "channeling resources" into Israel's cyberwarfare operations to help the country wage war with its enemies, chiefly Iran.

Israeli government networks are attacked tens of thousands of times per day, according to Soufan Group, a New York-based security adviser cited by Bloomberg.

A side-effect of Israel's cyberinvestments, which include high school programs designed to create cybersecurity-savvy citizens, is a healthy tech sector, including security networks. Technology accounts for half of Israel's industrial exports, Bloomberg said, and exports account for 40 percent of its GDP.

Chat Apps Cause Dip in Chinese SMS Volume

Mobile messaging services like WeChat are reducing Chinese mobile users' SMS volume, according to The Next Web.

The number of text messages sent via mobile networks grew just 2.1 percent in 2012 -- compared to a 9 percent spike in wireless service penetration, reported The Next Web, citing data released by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

In years past, texting was the No. 1 way to communicate among young Chinese mobile users, but Internet-based messaging services, which are often cheaper, are starting to rule the day.

China has more than 1.1 billion mobile subscribers. WeChat, one of the top "SMS replacements," has about 300 million users.


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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