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Inside Factory China 135

Posted by kdawson
from the making-it dept.
blackbearnh writes "While China is attempting to pull its industry up out of mere manufacturing mode, for now the country is the production workhorse of the consumer electronics industry. Almost anything you pick up at a Best Buy first breathed life across the Pacific Ocean. But what is it like to shepherd a product through the design and production process? Andrew 'bunnie' Huang has done just that with the Chumby, a new Internet appliance. In an interview with O'Reilly Radar, he talks about the logistical and moral issues involved with manufacturing in China, as well as his take on the consumer's right to hack the hardware they purchase."
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Inside Factory China

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:09AM (#26842725)

    Put yourself in the Chinese situation. If you had to work months and months and months to save up to buy something for yourself, would you buy the frivolous electronic gadgets you are manufacturing now, or would you work your tail off for something more rewarding like health care, better housing, national defense, or better quality food?

    The Chinese economy is undergoing changes to serve its own people now. Factories will be modified to produce goods the Chinese people want, rather than what we want. It won't happen over night, but it's a process that will continue as they shift away from being an export economy.

    • by Canazza (1428553)
      China's economy may well shift away from Export and more towards domestic goods, however, every country keeps atleast one major export that it's famous for. Scotland has Whiskey and Beef, Japan has Electronics and Cartoon porn, and I see consumer electronics continuing to be one of the major ones (if not the biggest) in China's future.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tritonman (998572)
        you forgot that Japan also is famous for exporting smut videos of hot girls eating bugs and other disgusting things.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by number17 (952777)
        What China will keep is the ability to disallow full foreign ownership of its companies. The neocons want China to open up so that they can buy up all the companies and funnel the money out of the country. So far the leadership has not allowed that to happen and based on history (Opium Wars) they will not allow that to happen again.
      • by gerddie (173963)
        America used to be famous for exporting freedom, but now, even that is Made in China [failblog.org]; so what will be, this mystical major export thingy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488)

      would you buy the frivolous electronic gadgets you are manufacturing now

      Hands up anyone who wants to buy something from any of their former workplaces. I sure as hell know I don't.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        That's 'cause most of us produce software. And most of the software we produce is free anyway.

        Now, if we worked as a Lego bruckmaster or even at the Lego manufacturing plant...

      • by linzeal (197905)
        Why would you think that the would not be proud of the places they work. There are of course egregious human rights abuses but the same could of been said of American plants before the unions stepped in and a nascent labor movement is arising in mainland China to speak up for the working class and if it is like every other movement we have seen worldwide it will be unstoppable. China deserves the reward of their hard work and the rest of the world needs to realize that exporting virtual slavery for import
      • I've recently bought 3 boxes of software from a place I've worked at a year ago. Your point is?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Have you ever seen WalMart: High Cost or another movie about Chinese factories? They would never be able to afford anything they make. They make nothing, and I say that almost literally. Half of what they make gets taken out of their pay for room and board at the factory. Whether they live in them or not. You can't negotiate work time. You have 12 hour days without breaks. The factories make US prisons look like they're a five star hotel. Not to mention the fact that they constantly recruit children
      • You forgot about the kitten torturing rooms and how they are required to give at least 5 old people the finger everyday.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        China's factories run the gamut from "not that bad" to "government-instituted slave labor camps". The more skills you have the better you are treated. Is it fair? Nope. But that's how it works in the USA as well. The quality of life is just much much higher here. As far as getting killed I think it's actually worse than you describe. The Chinese government has taken to killing people in a van and trucking their body off for disposal. The family is never allowed to see it from the time they take it. Meanwhil

    • USians: you are a bunch of wackos...

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:10AM (#26842733)

    Link to Chumby page Flash-infested, but interview with creator quite refreshing, for example:

    JT: There seems to be a running battle between the users of equipment and the manufacturers, be it jail-broken iPhones or hacked Xboxes. How much control do you think a manufacturer legitimately should be allowed to have over the use of their hardware?

    AH: Well, I think that a manufacturer, basically once the hardware leaves the factory, and someone's paid whatever the market price is for it, then the user owns it, right? So I mean you could take that piece of hardware, melt it down and use it for the component metals if you want, use it for a doorstop. You could use it for something completely other than the computer, that you had not imagined it to be used for. So the hardware itself is pretty much -- I kind of believe you buy it, you own it.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:14AM (#26842811) Journal
      Pff, he must be one of those communists. How can the free market and private property possibly survive if people are allowed to own what they buy?
      • Amen brother!
      • by itschy (992394)

        Why is this moderated insightful?
        Is there really anybody out there who does *not* get this is irony??

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by N1AK (864906)

        Pff, he must be one of those communists. How can the free market and private property possibly survive if people are allowed to own what they buy?

        No one is stopping people from buying things that conform to there required interpretation of 'freedom'. How would it be a free market if the government legislated to control how a company is allowed to build physical devices? Sadly, sometimes it is exactly because a market is free that people choose to make choices that we as individuals may wish they wouldn't.

        • Your point is not without its validity; but it should be noted that there are many cases where a series of ostensibly free choices adds up to an effectively unfree result. Take a look, for example, at the infiltration of mandatory binding arbitration clauses into virtually all areas of consumer banking and finance. In principle, those are all free voluntary contractual relationships; but in practice, they all pretty much say the same thing, and it isn't good.

          I suspect that the various flavors of high-tech
      • by Jurily (900488)

        Pff, he must be one of those communists. How can the free market and private property possibly survive if people are allowed to own what they buy?

        The weird thing is, you hear these things from The Land Of The Free(tm). Meanwhile in communist China...

      • There has been a shift in corporate thinking over the last 20 years. They have slowly been moving from selling products, to licensing products. Companies worldwide have taken their cue from the software industry.

        DRM laden musics. Not for rental DVDs and videos. EULAs on video games. Proprietary printer cartridges. Cars that can only be fixed at licensed dealers. Homeowners associations. The list goes on.

        The sad reality is that many companies now think, or behave as if they do think, that once you buy their product they still have control and veto power over how, when, when and who can use it. This has been a huge shift in western industry, thirty years in the making. Its genesis can essentially be traced back to this letter [blinkenlights.com]. Once the idea of selling numbers to people, and retaining indefinite control over their use of that number, became firmly entrenched in the law, culture and mindset of our industry, it was much smaller step to apply that same principle to books, cars, nintendos and houses.

        I'm not sure where this will end, but I can guarantee you one thing. The myriad of artificial restrictions being placed on property in the western world are most certainly not being applied or enforced in developing countries.

        • by noidentity (188756) on Friday February 13, 2009 @01:50PM (#26846347)

          I'm not sure where this will end, but I can guarantee you one thing. The myriad of artificial restrictions being placed on property in the western world are most certainly not being applied or enforced in developing countries.

          It's just plain inefficient. Before, companies made products that were governed mainly by the "laws" of nature; they tried to offer as much as nature allowed. Now, companies are actively creating new laws and restrictions, which ultimately means the products aren't doing as much as they could do. Any country which avoids this idiotic situation will have an advantage.

        • by SB9876 (723368)

          The concept of licensing goes back much further than that. Early wax cylinder recordings from 100 years ago came with the equivalent of EULAs that stated you were merely buying the rights to play the music contained thereon. While I haven't read up on it myself, a friend of mine once told me that this can be traced another hundred years to the sheet music industry.

          Basically, any medium where the final product is easily copied or mass disseminated has tended towards EULA style business models for a while.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lord Ender (156273)

      He has it wrong. Unlocked communication devices are different, because they can cause additional costs/damage on the network they are connected to. This is the reason smartphone makers cripple their devices.

      If the cell phone network eventually becomes as robust *cough* as the Internet, then the need for unlocked devices will go away. But right now, there is a lot of "trust the client" built in to the way the cellular network operates.

      • The correct solution to this problem is to harden the networks and stop trusting the client. To do that you need open standards, open APIs and open protocols.

        The reason why the carriers hate jailbroken devices is primarily their interest in maintaining walled gardens, tying phones to carriers and make the users on a constant replacement treadmill. In my recent trip to India I find my friends and relatives nonchalantly switching SIM cards to get the best price/service on the same phone. "Vodofone sucks in

        • Mobile networks are actually pretty robust, and the standards and protocols are indeed open ( GSM/UMTS [3gpp.org], OMA [openmobilealliance.org]).

          Nevertheless, mobile phones are usually sold as locked black boxes because:
          1. Government regulations require that equipment must not be able to use frequencies other than those they are licensed to;
          2. The same regulations require that transmit power be limited to a safe level; and
          3. Mobile carriers want to be able to enact anti-competitive measures (SIM locking) and/or screw consumers (disabling softw

          • by Jurily (900488)

            3. Mobile carriers want to be able to enact anti-competitive measures (SIM locking) and/or screw consumers (disabling software features).

            Fuck them. Don't you guys have govt regulations that say something about this?

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:00AM (#26843559) Homepage Journal

        He has it wrong. Unlocked communication devices are different, because they can cause additional costs/damage on the network they are connected to. This is the reason smartphone makers cripple their devices.

        How does that work? An unlocked communications device can simply be used on a different provider. That provider still has to provide you (see what I did there?) with the services in order for you to use them. A malfunctioning, locked device can cause communications problems - if the network is poorly designed. The same is true of a rogue device. You don't mean to tell me that the cellphone companies are trusting phones they have sold simply because they once held them, do you? Because somehow, I doubt that.

        • Yes, they are trusting the phones in some ways. This allows them to sell "unlimited" Internet access.

          I must say I find your assertion that the network is not "poorly designed" to be a little funny.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:02AM (#26843593) Journal
        I don't think so. He specifically mentions(in the bit just after what is quoted above) the case of interaction with services. He never says that carriers are under any obligation to allow malicious activity on the network.

        Also, in many cases, particularly among the smarter smartphones and more complex devices(which are generally the ones people are most interested in modding), there is a substantial degree of separation between the cellular modem bit, and the processor running the OS(Hayes AT ain't dead yet). Lockdown of the communication side is often about FCC regulations or legitimate network concerns. Lockdown of the application side is all about squeezing more money for worse service.
      • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:46AM (#26844375)

        He has it wrong. Unlocked communication devices are different, because they can cause additional costs/damage on the network they are connected to. This is the reason smartphone makers cripple their devices.

        If the cell phone network eventually becomes as robust *cough* as the Internet, then the need for unlocked devices will go away. But right now, there is a lot of "trust the client" built in to the way the cellular network operates.

        Me confused. Depends what you're meaning by 'communication device' and 'unlocked', definitions of which seem to vary during your post.

        IMHO existing GSM cell phone networks are *very* robust, (at least in Europe), and either nuke or tolerate 'unlocked' devices pretty well. Working upwards:

        1. You/service provider can (optionally) link your account/SIM to the device IMEI. Service providers can block devices at IMEI level, regardless of the SIM inserted. They don't like what your device is doing? It dies. See:

        http://www.babt.com/gsm-imei-number-allocation.asp [babt.com]

        2. If you clone a sim card, the network will block the account linked to the SIM as soon as you fire up two simultaneously, or just fry the 'defective' first one.

        3. Assuming you get your 'open' device working, then access to the network and its associated services is fairly tightly controlled, and is in any case linked to your ID and - more importantly - method of payment.

        4. Most devices are 'sold' @ less than list/cost price as part of a package deal. It's understandable that you can then only use them on the SP's net - they're 'locked'. Of course, options exist to 'unlock' them for use on any network, but again, your priviledges on that network will depend on your SIM, not the device.

        5. Finally, some devices - most notoriously the iPhone - are 'locked' as to what apps you can install on them. The ingenuous excuse offered by Apple is that 'this is to prevent damage to the device/network', which is, of course, complete bollocks. I own one of the most 'secure' GSMs around - a Blackberry - and it's quite happy to let me install 'unauthorised' apps...

        Locked clients are all to do with business models, not (unfortunately) robustness.

        • by sjames (1099)

          I would say that in item 4, since you're getting a special deal in consideration of contracting the service for a set time, it's understandable that you have to keep up your end and pay the monthly minimum for the duration of the contract. There remains no legitimate reason to lock the phone. If I want to never use a service I have contracted for and pay for it anyway, that's my problem, not theirs. They generally charge a "cancellation fee" for early termination, I presume that covers the real cost of the

      • This is the reason smartphone makers cripple their devices.

        This may be a reason, but not the only. Service providers monetize additional services, features on their phones to make money. I remember getting a phone a few years ago where the manufacturer clearly enabled it to have pc to phone communication, but the provider disabled that feature in software as a 'carrot' to get me to upgrade to a different phone.

      • by sjames (1099)

        There is an important distinction between the right to modify and the right to usethat modification.

        The owner of a device SHOULD have an absolute right to modify it in any way they want. For example, let's say I hack a transmitter to operate on another frequency. Should I do so, the manufacturer has no cause for complaint whatsoever. If I actually turn it on, and it interferes with a legitimate licensed user of that frequency, then they and the FCC have reason to complain.

        In the case of cellphones, the netw

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What would you expect from the author of "Hacking the Xbox"? Next you'll be surprised that RMS is in favour of open-source software...

    • by citizenr (871508)

      AH: I think that a manufacturer, basically once the hardware leaves the factory, and someone's paid whatever the market price is for it, then the user owns it, right?

      yeah right, so WHY does Chumby come with "crypto CPU" with sanded off markings and no source code to the firmware?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by One Louder (595430)
        The "crypto processor" is simply an ARM7 CPU, and the source code for the firmware running on it is available here [chumby.com]
    • All Goblin made objects are technically leased to the buyer and at the end of life (of the buyer or the product) it should be returned to the goblins.
      • by jesset77 (759149)
        Entirely. Goblins, Wizards, Pirates (like me) and even wands all seem to have very different ideas of property ownership. I was very pleased to read about JK touching upon this subject; thank you also for drawing attention to it here. :3
    • Well, I think that a manufacturer, basically once the hardware leaves the factory, and someone's paid whatever the market price is for it, then the user owns it, right? So I mean you could take that piece of hardware, melt it down and use it for the component metals if you want, use it for a doorstop.[...]

      Hmmm, for some reason "Zune" popped into my head as I read this.

  • Mr Andrew Huang said "I mean...." over twenty times in that interview. I mean it got real tiring seeing it over and over again. I mean that kind of talk is confusing. It leads me to think he might mean something else entirely and is just throwing us of.

    I know, I actually read the article, but I mean sometimes I just feel an urge you know what I mean?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      We tend to forget about such things here on slashdot, but actual publications have people called editors whose job it is to fix things like that. They omit all the redundant bullshit and provide you with something intended for people to read. Even in conversation such things are annoying, but not completely useless as only a small percentage of communication is actually verbal. Let's say that 50% of it was verbal, that would still give you an opportunity to hang an awful lot of meaning on those two words (h

      • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason AT jasonlefkowitz DOT net> on Friday February 13, 2009 @02:31PM (#26846895) Homepage
        IRONY: A long, dense, unbroken paragraph about the importance of editing for readability.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Right, and getting defensive proves I have no sense of humor, probably. But I will say that when I write an actual article I follow an essay structure and I do tend to go back and reread articles (especially the most-read ones!) and edit them later on down the road, not to mention at the time I'm writing them. Unlike this comment, as my previous sentence shows. When I find a graceful way to display the diffs I will probably show them. I must resurrect the site first anyway. If I have written a brilliant com

  • Right? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by oodaloop (1229816)
    So it's like he's talking about, like, China, right? And , you know, the Chumby, right? Pretty long article. Right?
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by owlnation (858981)

      So it's like he's talking about, like, China, right? And , you know, the Chumby, right? Pretty long article. Right?

      Yeah it reads like: "China, China, China, boring stuff about China. CHUMBY CHUMBY CHUMBY. China, China China."

      Would it perhaps be a leap to suggest that this is nothing more than poorly-crafted, viral-marketing for some lame-named new product?

  • Bunny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LS (57954) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:28AM (#26843025) Homepage

    I met this guy at a Foo camp party in Beijing, and he gave a presentation on how he reverse engineers Nintendo Wiis. He uses some kind of custom chassis that connects to both sides of the Wii's motherboard and burns off the tops of chips to look at their structure through a microscope. Pretty impressive...

    • Yeah, I highly recommend "Hacking the Xbox" to the aspiring hardware hacker. It's a great book and the guy knows his stuff.
    • Re:Bunny (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HungWeiLo (250320) on Friday February 13, 2009 @12:40PM (#26845265)

      That's pretty amazing.

      A friend of mine works in the MS DRM team. Their algorithm gets cracked within a couple days of release by some Eastern European (actually, they have no idea where) hacker. It's a pretty complex security algorithm that involves randomizing pointer locations and such. Nevertheless, it will take the team over a month to figure out how they broke it and to release a patch. Only then, the patch will be compromised within a few days.

      It just takes one person...

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:41AM (#26843231) Homepage Journal

    Let's have China be a giant slave labor pool but then borrow trillions of dollars of them to cover our own increased social welfare costs. Let's face it, the whole concept of trade coming into balance with them is just impossible, will never happen, and the more we trade with them, the more bankrupt we will get. Anyone who seems to think otherwise, please let me know what year it will be that US and China trade will be in balance. What year is that going to be?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905)
      Say the USA borrows trillions of dollars from China and after a while goes bankrupt and can't repay them.

      That seems more like a bigger problem for China than the USA.

      To paraphrase the saying, if I borrow 100K from the bank, it's my worry. If I borrow 1 trillion from the bank, it's the bank's worry.

      Worse for China - it's not like China can throw the USA into prison, or seize and liquidate the USA's assets.

      Anyway if the USA wants to, it can ask the Federal Reserve to wave its magic wand and create USD out of
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MiniMike (234881)

        Say the USA borrows trillions of dollars from China and after a while goes bankrupt and can't repay them.

        They would probably come and take all of our factories away. We'll really be screwed then...

      • by relguj9 (1313593)
        What you are saying, hypothetically then I guess, is that they are really getting the short end of the deal. I mean, they are making our stuff and in reality giving it to us because we are borrowing money from them to buy it. Kinda like slave labor, huh.

        I guess another question is, if we can't pay them back, what are they really going to do about it?
        • Even if we could assume that by, itself, a scenario of long term debt and eventual bankruptcy would not have terrible consequences for the USA, losing our ability to manufacture for ourselves is corrosive to our society. A slave economy retards technological innovation, undermines scientific achievement and ultimately results in social stagnation. The Romans collapsed as they went more and more into a slave economy, and having an economic reliance on slaves also doomed the old African tribal states, the Muslim states, and then most recently even the old Confederacy. Why invest millions into building machinery, when you can just add more slaves to your mix without any real capital cost at all? In that sense, slavery and a destruction of worker's rights is not just evil, its stupid.

          • by TheLink (130905)
            How does a slave economy retard technological innovation etc? Please explain your reasoning more and show more proof.

            OK so I'm dense, it's not obvious to me.

            So far all empires eventually collapse. Saying the Romans, etc collapsed because of slave labour seems a bit of a stretch.

            Practically every empire back then had slave labour. Even the Americans and British had slaves and during the period they had slaves they sure didn't seem like they would be collapsing because of slavery.

            The Greeks had slave labour a
        • by Deosyne (92713) on Friday February 13, 2009 @01:08PM (#26845723)

          Stop making all of our crap for us while retaining all of that massive production capability filled with experienced manufacturing personnel for servicing internal production and other countries of their choosing, I would guess. But in the meantime, they'll continue to increase our reliance on them while ensuring that they can completely obliterate our credit at any time that they choose simply by calling in their markers. Being suddenly cut off from the rest of the world probably sounds like a wonderful fantasy to many insular Americans, but we'll see how well that works out for a country that has relied on deficit spending and operated in a trade deficit for decades.

          The Chinese think long-term better than any other people on the planet. Last I heard, the general plan was to be the most powerful nation on Earth in 50 years. At the rate that we westerners are undermining our future for the sake of short-term bolstering, I'd say that the 50 year estimate is highly conservative.

          • "But in the meantime, they'll continue to increase our reliance on them "

            Ummm, don't you think that perhaps you have a bit of a say in this part? Your the bigger country here fella's. Maybe, just maybe, China is offering a service that you are buying. No gun at your head or anything, this is free-trade capatalism pure and simple. If it is not really in US long-term interest is a second point we could debate, but even if this trade is detrimental to the US why is that China's problem to worry about and no

            • by relguj9 (1313593)
              Slashdot hint... you'll only be modded up in the majority of non scientific topics if it's a conspiracy theory or a "the world as you know it ending" pessimistic outlook. Also, bashing Americans as an American is usually a home run.

              Things working out just isn't as entertaining a viewpoint as you don't have anyone to be pissed off at... anyways.

              I agree, it really is our problem and our solution to make. The US economy receding is probably related to it as well. Nobody actually knows why it's rec
            • by Deosyne (92713)

              Ummm, don't you think that perhaps you have a bit of a say in this part?

              My stack of generic form letters from various politicians over the years has been trying to convince me otherwise, but I like to keep telling myself that I do. ;)

              Your the bigger country here fella's. Maybe, just maybe, China is offering a service that you are buying. No gun at your head or anything, this is free-trade capatalism pure and simple.

              Not sure what your point is here relative to what I said, so I don't really know what to tell

      • by Jaqenn (996058)

        Say the USA borrows trillions of dollars from China and after a while goes bankrupt and can't repay them. That seems more like a bigger problem for China than the USA.

        China is in the process of becoming a world superpower, including an effective military. You may recall that in Nov 2007 a previously undetected chinese submarine surfaced within striking range of a US Naval exercise. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-492804/The-uninvited-guest-Chinese-sub-pops-middle-U-S-Navy-exercise-leaving-military-chiefs-red-faced.html). No hostile actions taken, but it appears that they could have done so if they wished.

        I'm not saying that the US is about to go to war wit

        • by maxume (22995)

          That's reportedly undetected.

          The question is, how good is the U.S. military at managing information?

          The answer is a tough one, but it seems that some parts of it are extremely good at managing information.

        • Do you really believe US naval intelligence wasn't aware of their presence?

          I recall reading about how the US military would secure funding for ICBM R&D during the Cold War. It was as simple as grossly overstating both the number of nuclear warheads the Soviets supposedly possessed and the range of the Soviets' own ICBMs. They would then leak their "concerns" to the public and-

          Profit!
        • by TheLink (130905)
          If the USA had a habit of punishing the people in charge when they screw up, instead of throwing more money at them, then I'd be more likely to believe that the military didn't detect the Chinese submarine.

          As it is, how sure are you it's not another of those "throw more money at us!" ploys?

          The US already has had a habit of overplaying the China bogeyman card. Anyone remember the "Oh No! The Chinese are attacking US military internet sites" propaganda? Seriously if the Chinese attacking US military sites is
      • by icejai (214906)

        Worse for China - it's not like China can throw the USA into prison, or seize and liquidate the USA's assets.

        Anyway if the USA wants to, it can ask the Federal Reserve to wave its magic wand and create USD out of nowhere to pay China. After all the loans are in US Dollars ;).

        You're missing something here.
        BOTH China and the Treasury have the capability of selling $700B in U.S. Treasury securities.

        Right now, BOTH entities have gigantic red buttons labeled "SELL", and don't for a second think that China won't

        • by TheLink (130905)
          What am I missing?

          If the buttons are pressed, the bonds become worth a lot less. So it hurts those holding the bonds. And who is holding all those bonds?

          All the people/entities with savings (or are owed) in USD or in currencies linked to the USD will be negatively affected. Like China for example.

          All those who have borrowed in USD or in currencies linked to the USD will be positively affected. The US Government for example.

          "If the bank sells your debt to a hundred thousand people, you are fucked"

          Sorry I don
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by icejai (214906)

            I would say "you are fucked" because you (or rather, the U.S. government) depends on not only a) entities buying your treasury securities now, but also b) entities buying your treasury in the future. The first wave of baby boomers will be eligible for social security and medicare benefits in the next 16 to 24 months, there is no way in hell the U.S. will be able to fund these obligations in the state the U.S. economy is currently in. This means they'll have to borrow more money in the future.

            If the U.S. beh

            • by TheLink (130905)
              But devaluation of the US dollars is fine as long as most oil (and grain, wheat, orange juice, CPUs, DRAM, etc) is still sold in US dollars.

              Analogy:
              The world is Zimbabwe.
              The US Gov is Mugabe.
              The US citizens (or some of them at least) are Mugabe's cronies.
              The non US citizens are "rest of Zimbabwe".
              The US dollar = Zimbabwean dollar.

              As long as all that stuff is traded in US dollars, the rest of the world will be hurt more when "Mugabe" prints more dollars.

              Because it takes time before the rest of the world catc
              • by icejai (214906)

                Although commodities are *priced* in USD, their trade does not *only* involve USD. What you're saying would be true if USD were the *only* currency in the world.

                The world is *not* Zimbabwe, because all the central banks in the world are NOT inflating their currencies at the printing press.

                For you analogy to be comparable:

                the *U.S.* is Zimbabwe,
                the Fed is Mugabe,
                U.S. citizens are "the rest of Zimbabwe",
                the rest of the world is the rest of the world.

                You're rational, but it's clear that there is some kind of m

                • by TheLink (130905)
                  Sure, Japan can try to sell the USD to buy back yen, but not that many countries hold that much yen. Tell me, who is going to sell yen back to Japan?

                  So they use a lot of that USD "as is" to buy stuff. Loads of international suppliers sell oil, toys, nails, ceiling tiles, etc in US dollars, far fewer sell them in yen.

                  They can't buy oil from Saudi Arabia in yen. So Saudi Arabia has very little yen to sell back to them.

                  Another example, if Japan wants to buy widgets from China, they buy it in US Dollars. If the
                  • by icejai (214906)

                    Sure, Japan can try to sell the USD to buy back yen, but not that many countries hold that much yen. Tell me, who is going to sell yen back to Japan?

                    More than $4 trillion dollars worth of currency is traded every single business day. There is absolutely no problem finding someone to sell Yen, especially since Yen is the Carry Trade currency of choice, the only question is at what price. The fact that you made such a statement tells me that you really don't know how money, or foreign exchange markets operate

                • by TheLink (130905)
                  OK I've read the article and it backs up what I've been saying.

                  China has $1.95 trillion in foreign reserves.

                  They couldn't convert all that USD to RMB/Yuan ("sell the USD to take home Yuan/Yen/Won/Dong" is not as easy as you seem to imply). Most countries selling lots of stuff to the USA end up sitting on a huge pile of US dollars called "USD denominated foreign reserves".

                  China lent the USA money using some the excess USD they got from selling the USA stuff.

                  So clearly devaluation of the USD to help the USA w
              • Or in any other currency that is perceived as to be stable.

                In Zimbabwe (your example) people trade using hard currecny.

                The same would happen in the world economy if the US dollar became the world's Zimbabwean currency...

      • And if the government would not allow it, your currency would become monopoly money.

    • by emarks (1190825)
      The year of the boar plus or minus 12 years.
  • As for chumby (Score:4, Insightful)

    by squoozer (730327) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:41AM (#26843237)

    Flying spaghetti monster and all his noodley appendages, just go and read a bloody book or talk to someone or do something other than sit there watching a non-stop stream of the same five websites.

  • Moral issues? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bieeanda (961632) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:45AM (#26843315)
    Like the ones he just kind of hand-waves, by repeating 'Oh! It's so much better in the factories than it is outside, you know? And they've tried to fool me by bringing in good food on the days I'm there, you know. And the workers aren't going to tell me how shitty it really might be, because I don't really speak the language and they really don't want to lose their jobs... or get in shit with the mob like this rebuttal [oreilly.com] suggests might happen. You know.'
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The truth is that the more workers you have, the more power the workers have. Having the peasants out in the fields keeps them distributed. I think the environmental cost to China (and to the world, but just think about China for a moment) is a bigger deal.

  • by fprintf (82740) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:53AM (#26843449) Journal

    I read the article, and the guy uses right, like and whatever an awful lot. I realize it was supposed to read like a conversation, but it was awfully annoying.

    It was also quite rambling. I would have loved more detail on the kinds of things he took apart as a kid, or some of the neat things he built with his 200 in 1 radio shack kit. These are the kinds of comments that inspire future hackers & product designers. But they spent very little time on what he had actually done.

    All in all not a bad article, and certainly fodder for additional reading into this guy. I will say that the Chumby is getting some interest in my office. Folks have latched onto it in a "Web 2.0" kind of way, using it as an emblem of what the future of commerce, not just ecommerce, will be in the future.

  • Nifty article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:36AM (#26844215) Homepage Journal

    Gem from the article: "...it's a little bit different in terms of its industrial design. It has a soft leather case and has electronics on the inside. So trying to explain something that the Chinese guys hadn't seen before..." where was teddy ruxpin manufactured again? (I don't honestly know, but it's still a hilarious sentence.)

    Now what is interesting about this guy (which applies to manufacturing jobs anywhere) is that he goes and sleeps in the dorm and eats the food. And he even talks about how sometimes they will try to fool him, et cetera. So what he's talking about is personal responsibility for corporate actions. It's not forced on you, although sometimes in China they will execute you for fraud if it's politically expedient...

    Here's a painful bit from the article:

    I can't actually walk through the toy section anymore because toy factories are awful. They're really -- that's where you get the worst labor conditions these days. And when I walk through a toy section, I can hear the machines cranking away in my head, driving out Tickle Me Elmos or whatever there is on the shelf. And it is kind of a little bit nerve-wracking to see all of that stuff on the shelf and see people just picking them up for $5.00 a piece and not knowing all the effort that went into building it. But that's sort of the consumer mentality in Americans as well.

    I would add that I can't walk through the toy section any more because the smell of offgassing plastic makes me want to puke. I'm not one of the super-sensitive types, or at least I'm not sensitive to everything. And I like toys, I'm not ashamed to admit that I still have a collection of 'em sprinkled around here and there collecting dust. When I start to reenact scenes from Spaceball with them, I'll start accepting snarky comments. Crap, I'll make a webapp for the purpose. I even just got a new LCD TV that my lady chased out of the living room until it stops stinking so badly. I don't think that has to do with inherent disgustingness of electronics so much as Sharp's failure to actually wash them after production to remove residues. I pick on them because I'm staring at their logo under my windows taskbar, but I've been noticing more and more of this as time has gone by, both from name-brands and crap-brands. (As in, when you get one as a present, you say crap. e.g. "Oh crap, it's a Coby." Maybe not out loud, depending on how polite you are.)

    Finally, NERD FACTOR NINE:

    Oh, yeah. The name. It comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where there's that rabbit with sharp, pointy teeth that everyone runs away from. It was given to me back in middle school because I used to play a lot of roll-playing fantasy-type games. My friends thought it was a hilarious name to give me. It was hilariously inappropriate. That was back in the day when this thing called Bulletin Boards was just coming up and I had to pick a name. So I picked the name then. It was actually Vorpal Bunnie and I had to shorten it to bunnie when I went to college because they didn't have enough characters for it. And back then, you just never thought that people would call you by your online handle. But it really stuck. And I've grown into it, so I like the name.

    Seriously, if you don't have a story like this about your nickname, are you really a geek? Definitely +10 geek cred points on that paragraph. Now if they can just lose the ballbag picture frame, maybe they'll have something.

    • ...I used to play a lot of roll-playing fantasy-type games...

      And minus -10 geek cred points for the article writer...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        And minus -10 geek cred points for the article writer...

        I don't know the author's intent, because my crystal ball is broken. Maybe I should get an all-seeing orb. But there is indeed a convention among gamers to refer to games which make overuse of dice as "roll" playing games, especially among arrogant pricks like me who would prefer to play Amber Diceless. (Now if I could just find a good game, perhaps via irc. I can summon the apparently obligatory disdain for the second series if necessary for entry...)

    • When I start to reenact scenes from Spaceball with them, I'll start accepting snarky comments.

      Bad news: there will never be official Spaceball merchandise. I know I was crushed when I found out.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think the Chumby guy has his facts wrong about US manufacturing.

    FTA:
    I was reading the other day Boeing union labor gets paid $110,000 a year for machining parts

    I found an article [boston.com] from last September saying this:
    While the average salary is about $54,000 a year, more than 4,000 machinists make less than $30,000, Kelliher said.

    Earlier in the article it states that Boeing:
    ... offered a package ... including overtime, bonuses, and benefits ... to $110,400

    The union rejected that deal, but accept [newser.com]
  • What a fugly piece of equipment.
  • Bunnie's go a fairly good blog that has a number of entries on the Chumby manufacturing process that goes into a lot more detail than the interview.

    http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?cat=7 [bunniestudios.com]

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