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Browsing the Broken Web: a Software Developer Behind the Great Firewall of China 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the internet-obstacle-course dept.
troyhunt writes "While we've long known that China takes a fairly aggressive stance on internet censorship, I thought a visit to Shanghai this week would pose a good opportunity to look at just how impactful this was to software developers behind the Great Firewall of China. It turns out that the access control policies make life very difficult at all sorts of levels when accessing simple technology resources we use every day from other countries. But I also found an amazing level of inconsistency with sites and services intended to be off limits being accessible via other means. It's an interesting insight into how our developer peers can and can't work in the country with the world's largest internet population."
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Browsing the Broken Web: a Software Developer Behind the Great Firewall of China

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  • impactful? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Hubert_Shrump (256081)

    The English, she weeps.

  • Just like DRM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deciduousness (755695) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:17PM (#39383901)

    Seems to work just like DRM. Gives the company a sense of power and usually just inconveniences the average user. The power user probably has very few issues.

    • Indeed. What's so amazing about inconsistency? It would be fairly amazing if some organization dumb enough to implement censorship did it 100% effectively. Even something as simple as DRM on itunes files, there are workarounds that were simple, like burning it to a CD, then ripping it back as an MP3.

      (Yes yes, apple apologists, they HAVE stopped adding DRM, though they haven't released files that were bought previous to that date, and their legal teams prevent anyone from unlocking those songs to play
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Indeed. What's so amazing about inconsistency? It would be fairly amazing if some organization dumb enough to implement censorship did it 100% effectively. Even something as simple as DRM on itunes files, there are workarounds that were simple, like burning it to a CD, then ripping it back as an MP3.

        (Yes yes, apple apologists, they HAVE stopped adding DRM, though they haven't released files that were bought previous to that date, and their legal teams prevent anyone from unlocking those songs to play on, sa

        • Yes, but a simple, efficient, lossless workaround like Requiem, they went after that like someone had naked pictures of Steve Jobs.
  • by Saphati (698453) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:29PM (#39384037) Homepage
    I spent 4 months in Shanghai and was considering moving there. Shanghai is an amazing city. However, by the end of the 4 months I could not get out of there fast enough. Their Internet censoring/monitoring slows down your Internet connection so much it is sometimes not useable. Skype and many other programs/websites we use regularly in the west are not legal in China. Some are blocked for political reasons and other are blocked so people are forced to use local versions of the products. The local versions all have built in monitoring for the government. Almost all expats in China use VPN connections for their daily work. Hong Kong is the complete opposite. Nothing is censored there and their Internet connections are extremely fast! I can live in HK.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can live in HK.

      you do realize that the "one country, two systems" deal is only valid for 50 years after PRC assumed control over hong kong? so there's as little as 35 years left before all hell breaks loose there... and PRC has already tried, countless times with no signs of stopping, to reduce the economic and social freedoms and exert more control over judicial system and media. so unless you're like 50+ yrs old and probably won't be around in 35 years, you may like to live there NOW but you certainly

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:30PM (#39384045) Journal
    VPN. VPNMakers.com - $5/month, works great from all over China (including Shanghai, where I live half-time). No problem getting into corporate networks, secured websites, or even streaming Hulu/Pandora/MOG/Netflix.
  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:19PM (#39384591) Homepage

    Been to Shanghai more than I can count. Basically, the network is poorly maintained. Everything from double-NATing, poor routing, to offline DNS servers. The problem at least residential side are systemic.

    • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:07PM (#39385649) Journal

      Been to Shanghai more than I can count. Basically, the network is poorly maintained. Everything from double-NATing, poor routing, to offline DNS servers. The problem at least residential side are systemic.

      I live in Shanghai half-time (out by Qibao town, in Minhang). My apartment had poor Internet service, until I complained to China Telecom and demanded they honor the contract I had with them. Ended up I was too far from the CO to get the 3 Mbps connection I was paying for, so they pulled fiber to my apartment block and now I get a solid 8-10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up without a hitch.

      Use China's laws to your advantage. If a contract is offered, accepted and paid for, then legally they HAVE to give you what you want - there is no way for them to back out or refund the money. Service has been paid for, they must provide the service regardless of cost.

      • Where my wife's parents live, they get pretty poor cable and DSL service. They live in a nicer area of Shanghai though. But all the building including the walls are poured concrete. I honestly doubt there's conduit in place. Maybe the electricians are lazy, but anytime they add a new like or repair, they always seem to run it on the outside of the wall. I'm assuming they can do this with twisted pair or fiber?

        Also, isn't China Telcom a state owned and operated utility? Or has it always been privatized unde

        • There's a central chase next to the stairwell/elevator shaft in most apartment blocks, where cable and phone is delivered. They pulled fiber into that space, then tapped through the wall for me. And yes, China Telecom is State-owned, but they still have to abide by the rules. I pushed them on it, and it did take 6 weeks - but I got the speedy service I contracted for. The techs were pretty worthless, and it took 9 visits - but it did happen.
  • Insert obligatory ignorant "but the USA is way WORSE than China!" post here.
  • I'm a developer currently living in China and working for an Australian company. It is immensely difficult to work here without a VPN and I notice it in every part of the work. Searching the internet for information about a problem is nigh on impossible, Google searches are intermittent, I can't access a large amount of developer blogs, and stackoverflow is intermittent too.

    One funny one I came across last night was after installing Mint. The Ubuntu repos aren't blocked, but the main Mint repo is. Lucki

  • Disclaimer: I'm a native Chinese living in Shanghai. Somehow access to /. isn't disrupted, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is in the future. Simple complaints about the GFW, online or otherwise, is too common to be considered sensitive here AFAIK. Buying a VPN is probably so as well; I have been too lazy to get one myself, but considering the amount of lost productivity, maybe I should.

    That said, Google is borderline unusable here. When I search for anything technical, 30% of the time the connection gets reset and google becomes inaccessible for several minutes, and if the search results are shown, about half of the sites are inaccessible, including most foreign blog sites and many of the mailing list archives. It is so frustrating that I'd wish for the evil bit to be implemented, or bang the keyboard refreshing the page in a vain attempt to DoS the machine sending out these bogus TCP reset packets.

    I consider the GFW a kind of malicious DoS attack on our network infrastructure. We do have laws against such attacks, and I think those responsible for it may well deserve a few years in prison.

    • by thejynxed (831517)

      If they are sending TCP reset packets, you do realize you can use firewall/router rules to drop those reset packets. You don't have to allow them to use that simple trick to thwart your browsing. We did the same when Comcast here in the USA was using that same trick to disrupt Bit Torrent transfers.

      • by LS (57954)

        There was a paper on how they were doing this released maybe 5 years ago. I tried setting up firewall rules as they described and I didn't have any success. I could be doing something wrong but I suspect they've figured this one out.

        • by r6144 (544027)

          The problem is that they are sending reset packets to both sides, and if Google's servers honor these reset packets, it doesn't matter whether my computer does.

          There was indeed a project, named after a fairly well-known story in Chinese literature ("west chambers" or something), that finds a way to work around this problem. IIRC it sends special packets to make these reset packets ineffective on the other side due to timing issues. However, since this only helps with TCP resets and cannot deal with IP blo

  • But I use TOR and I have a colocated server in the states that I use to browse the web using SSH forwarding... I use Putty with tcp forwarding turned on in putty then on firefox i tell it manual proxy set to localhost and port I set putty to, then ssh into my colo server in the states which is really fast and browse anywhere unfiltered.

    For everything else I use Tor with manually added exit nodes

    on my colo I also installed rapidleech, rutorrent web front end to rtorrrent and setup password protection on

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