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Comment Re:This ain't the first time ... (Score 4, Insightful) 470

I've been living in China teaching English for two years now, and I can tell you that the locals themselves are quite wary of bad copies coming out of their own factories. The Chinese are indeed good at copying things, but not all of the copies necessarily work so well, and the few that do are still far behind most of the originals in one area or another.

Now, if you want to talk about the Japanese or the Germans for taking our original inventions and making them better, then I'm with you all the way. The Chinese? They still have a while to go before overcoming their issues, especially when the cheapskate culture is so widespread around here.

Comment Re:Tablets (Score 2) 77

I own a Nokia N900 3.5" smartphone, a cheap $80 Chinese knockoff 7" tablet that's basically the equivalent of a Nook, and an Asus 12" netbook, and I can tell you that the 7" tablet definitely comes in handy for many situations.

  • It's just the right size to fit into your pants' pocket (if you prefer pants with large pockets like most geeks that I know tend to).
  • The screen size makes reading eBooks much more enjoyable than on a phone, and you can carry it around in your hand without having it being awkward like the 12" netbook.
  • It's wonderful for showing off pictures or videos to a group of people who don't have to squint to see the 3.5" screen.
  • It's great for watching movies on the bus, the train, or the plane.
  • The 7 hour battery life means that I can use it for about a whole day without worrying about draining my smartphone's battery and not being able to receive a call when I need to.
  • When you need to pacify your cousin's kids or your own students while waiting, you can just pull it out, let them play games on it for a couple of minutes, and don't have to worry about them breaking it or deleting your important documents.

There are definitely a lot of things that I find lacking in Android, but for the most part, it does what I want it to do. You may think that a tablet won't do anything for you, but try it out for a month or so. It really is quite convenient for a whole class of situations.

Comment Re:Wait, what? (Score 1) 66

Yet another great example of our congressmen throughly reading the very laws that they vote upon...

If only most Americans had somewhat decent interest in politics beyond the narrow confines of our own lives, we could catch things like this much sooner before they became a media worthy issue in the first place. Oh well, at least this is one win for sensibility in this case, unlike some of the recent SCOTUS cases. Cheers!

Comment Re:Could be a great learning tool (Score 1) 120

It's really no problem at all.

If you plan on teaching in one of the larger cities, then it would be very good to have a Bachelor's Degree in some English-related subject. Barring that, you can pick up a 100 hour TEFL/TESL certificate in about a month, which will open up the door to many schools.

If you head to one of the smaller cities where foreigners are a bit harder to come by, then you really don't need any qualifications at all. All you have to be is a native speaker who is willing to take the time and the energy to teach, and many schools will happily accept you.

Just be warned that although China is a reasonably modern place in many aspects, coming from the Western world is still a huge culture shock in terms of how things are done around here, so be prepared for a lot of adjustments. Since you're coming from Germany rather than the U.S. though, you will probably have an easier time than I did adjusting to the metric system and the public transportation systems here.

Since China's wages are still about 1/10th that of us in the Western world, you will definitely not be making any money to take back to Germany, but it's still a fun experience, especially if you enjoy working with kids. The younger Chinese kids are *NOT* shy at all, but the older they get, the more shy they seem to become. All in all, it's been a good experience.

Comment Re:Could be a great learning tool (Score 2) 120

When I was growing up, it was ST: TNG which got me interested in science along with Mr. Wizard and a whole lot of good teachers along the way who introduced me to model rocketry, optics, and home chemistry sets. We've advanced so much since then in terms of homebrew projects and access to information via the Internet, but have also lost a lot in terms of freedoms and regulations since 9/11. So many things that we used to do because we were kids and sorely for fun are now outlawed or frowned upon in this time and age. It's hard to say whether this generation will have an easier time growing up than we did.

The thing that I've found after switching careers from a programmer in the U.S. to an English teacher in China is that kids are amazing resilient and playful wherever they are. All you have to do is to give them the right tools, a little push along the way, and it's incredible what they can accomplish. Now, the U.S. educational system is still an order of magnitude better than the Chinese one in many ways, but the rest of the world is catching up slowly, and it's quite possible that the playing field will be leveled in our lifetimes. I sorely wish that my current students will have a chance to get outside of the standardized testing mindset and be able to develop their own thoughts and ideas for themselves, but it's an uphill climb against society in both countries for different reasons. All we can do as teachers is to try.

Comment Re:Probably costs a lot (Score 1) 120

Half the guys over here live on $2 a day, so even $1 would be a lot out of their pockets. 8-(

Now, if every adult male in the U.S. contributed $5, I could definitely go for that. It's about as good as the $3 campaign contributions on your taxes that you keep getting nagged about every year, and it would go to something that I could tell my kids about rather than how things used to be when the shuttle was still running and we could send our own astronauts to the ISS. [sighs]

Comment Good Luck With Everything, Rob! (Score 1) 1521

I was in high school when one of our fellow lab assistants by the name of Lucas (although I cannot remember his last name to save my life at the moment) introduced me to Slashdot in 1997. It was one of the few sites that I went to everyday along with ESPN and the New York Times. I've lost my login three times since then, so I will definitely not be competing with the rest of you for lowest UID status, but I can definitely say that this is one of the sites which has really influenced me throughout the years, and has helped me view all of the marvels of life from perspectives foreign to my own. I know that we complain a lot here about broken JavaScript, CSS, and the horrors of Slashcode, but at the end, other than Arstechnica, this is the place that I come to for stories that interest me.

Thanks for all of your work here, Rob. I never knew you personally, but your contributions have shaped our generation more than you'll ever know. May God bless you in all of your future endeavors.

Comment Re:To answer your question (Score 3, Interesting) 203

It's interesting that you should use the word "normal" in your post, because here in China, Internet filtering is indeed normal, the same way that you would considering post-9/11 groping to be normal and being constantly watched in the streets of London normal. Do I agree with it? Certainly not, but every place has its own culture and laws, and for the most part, the modern Chinese people are getting along just fine without trying to fit in with Western ideals.

It's actually quite amazing to me how much China has progressed from the days of the Cultural Revolution though. Between all of the new high-tech buildings, the girls in miniskirts out on the streets, the new high speed train which rivals the Japanese, and the huge influx of luxury items, it's hard to believe that this was a nation torn apart and hungry just half a century ago. Now, I believe that the Bill of Rights (not the Constitution itself, due to that nasty 3/5th compromise) is one of the greatest ideas in history, but China has placed economic freedom above political freedom in its efforts to pacify its people, and having a chance to be here and talk to various people, I've actually found that it's working decently well.

Not every place is like the U.S., but not every place is like the Middle East either. I really don't know how the "China model," as it's often called, is going to end up, but to be honest, propaganda is everywhere. How many times have you watched a commercial where everything was true? How many people do you know who watch Fox news or listen to Rush Limbaugh? Even NPR and the BBC have their own biases. How many actual, purely objective articles can you find in the mainstream media? Certainly, we don't have the state mandated media in the U.S. like China does, but the important thing to accept is that everyone has their own propaganda, no matter where they are. It's just a matter of which ones you agree with and which ones you don't.

Do the things that work for the U.S. automatically work in China? It's going to be very interesting to find out in the next ten to twenty years as China continues developing and opening up to the world. I'm curious to see how this huge housing bubble and the enormous debts of the local governments are going to turn out, but there's no denying China's growth and advancement in the last 30 years. With Russia's fade from glory, I'm hoping that some competition can get the U.S. out of its current funk and start being the country that we're capable of being. If not, China will be glad to sell us everything that we need, and once they get past the copying stage and start innovating for themselves, it's going to be scary.

Comment Re:Quick experiment for you /.ers currently in Chi (Score 2) 203

Just tried it here from Kunming with the results:

Wikileaks Cables Say No Bloodshed Inside Tiananmen Square 235
Bing Censoring All Simplified Chinese Language Queries 214
Chinese Social Websites Go Under "Maintenance" 84
Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, Others Blocked In China 151
20 Years After Tiananmen, China Stifles Online Dissent 235
China Blocks YouTube, Again 127
China Makes Arrests To Stop Internet Porn 204
China Does U-Turn, Lifts Ban On Websites 133
China Allows Access to English Wikipedia 219
Users Rage Against China's 'Great Firewall' 277
Yahoo Confirms Beijing Blocking Flickr 163
Helping Other Big Brothers Go High Tech 97
Yahoo China has the Worst Filtering Policy 184
Poor Spelling Beats Google's China Filter 248
Business At The Price Of Freedom 254
China Prosecuting Webmaster Over Site 27
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Stupid Slashdot not respecting my pre element...

Comment Re:To answer your question (Score 4, Interesting) 203

I've been a daily Slashdot reader since 1997, and I've been exploring China since March of this year. The only time that I've ever had Slashdot blocked was with the Falen Gong article a couple of months back. Apparently, there was a url keyword detection routine which filtered the page out. Every other page has loaded just fine. Fortunately, since I have a shell account on a U.S. server, ssh -D [port] got around it quite nicely.

I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the country, but here in Kunming, if you run a website, you have to have it registered with the police, which means that someone is probably periodically checking on your site to make sure that the content is considered appropriate and "harmonious." It is definitely a big brother approach, but considering the situation with the cameras in London, Homeland Security in the U.S., and the filtering in Australia, I really can't see an open web besides perhaps a couple of the European countries. To be honest, it reminds me an awful lot of the early gated communities like AOL, only this time, we're dealing with government rather than corporate interests.

Youtube, Dailymotion, Twitter, Facebook, and other such sites are blocked on a constant basis requiring a VPN or SOCKS proxy to get around. It's a bit of an annoyance, but most people around here simply use the native Chinese versions and don't notice anything of the outside world. It's only us foreigners that really know what's going on.

On the one plus side, China Telecom has a 3G mobile data plan with a 100 hour per month limit. I haven't found a data cap on it yet, and I used 17GiB last month watching Stargate: Universe. It's 500 yuan for the adapter and 400 yuan for six months, which works to ~67 yuan, or slightly over $10 per month use. Take that, AT&T!

Whenever I finish exploring here and get to Europe, I'll get a chance to see how all of you fancy Europeans have been haggling us Americans about our data plans and cell phones for years. ;-)

Comment Re:Wow, talk about version inflation (Score 1) 441

I'm giving up my mods on this thread to post this, but I simply couldn't resist jumping in with Buzz Lightyear's

To infinity... and beyond!

Personally, I think we should just start going to build numbers for every project. Having Firefox 76,326,358 would certainly take care of that annoying Chrome rivalry. ;-) Then perhaps geometric sequences, Taylor series, quantum dynamics... software versioning would never be the same again!

Comment Re:Harmful? (Score 1) 77

I would think that articles concerning the Big Bang would predate the 4 billion years of this story, so probably not. If you consider our past discussions about multiple universes, oscillating universes, and so forth, it becomes even more muddy. I personally would like it just fine if Slashdot managed to make it no more than a week behind the headlines on other sites, versus the months to years that we get sometimes around here. Still, there is no other site on the Internet besides Arstechnica that has the range and intelligence found in some of the comments here.

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