Stupid, stupid, stupid…

OK, so the fast train in Korea is the KTX. They offer free Wi-Fi with the kicker that you have top watch a commercial after every 30mb of data use. That’s me, last time it was a flay rate 200mb limit. This is kinda better, would be easy enough to ignore commercials. Fine, you have to download their app to the Wi-Fi. So I click on the link and see the following:

image

Ummmm, what?!

North Korea has a new tablet!

Some may immediately scoff but it’s not that bad from the report it seems.

It’s No iPad, But North Korea’s Tablet Isn’t a Joke Either

 

Rudiger Frank
A screenshot of the Samjiyon’s home screen, showing North Korea’s Unha 3 rocket.

It came with less fanfare than the iPad Air, the fifth-generation iPad tablet that Apple Inc. is releasing to a frenzied market today.

But the Samjiyon SA-70 tablet, released by North Korea’s state-run computer agency earlier this year, could also be an in-demand product, at least for a certain breed of frontier-market tech consumer.

North Korea’s nascent tablet industry first gained widespread attention last year, after Martyn Williams, a journalist who runs the North Korea Tech blog, described tablets that appeared to be showing up at trade fairs.

But those reports of a North Korean tablet only generated more questions: Were they any good? Where did they come from? Which was the best model? And how was the screen resolution?

North Korea may not yet have its Walt Mossberg, but for now, Rüdiger Frank, a professor at the University of Vienna, is happy to step in.

Last week, the Korea expert and frequent visitor to the North, penned a product review of the Samjiyon SA-70 that has garnered considerable attention in North Korea-watching circles.

The review — which, it should be noted, is earnest — reveals a product that isn’t quite up to Apple-like standards, but isn’t a complete embarrassment either. (At 180 euros a pop, the Samjiyon is also a bargain next to the iPad Air, which starts at $499.)

In fact, Mr. Frank, sounding very Mossbergian indeed, kicks off his review by giving the device a hearty thumbs-up: “After a few days of intensive use I can say that this is one of the few cases in my career as a consumer when I got more for my money than I had expected.”

From there, Mr. Frank — an owner of an iPad 4 and a GoogleGOOG -0.34% Nexus 7 — spends 16 pages outlining the specs on the device and ably describing the Samjiyon’s software capabilities.

As far as software is concerned, the tablet, which runs on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, offers a wealth of applications — some 488 preloaded onto the device, by Mr. Frank’s count.

That includes games like Angry Birds, a “fully functional” MicrosoftMSFT +0.34% Office package (Microsoft Corp. had no immediate comment on the apparent installation of its software on the device), a PDF reader and a music player. There are Siri-like voice-recognition functionalities, as well as an amply-stocked digital bookshelf of dictionaries (high quality, Mr. Frank says), encyclopedias (“quite sophisticated”) and e-books (expect plenty of Kim Il Sung here, though Dickens, Hugo and Balzac are also present).

The Samjiyon tablet, Mr. Frank concludes, is “a remarkable device,” and “tremendously useful” to anyone trying to understand the country.

According to Mr. Frank, the device can’t actually connect to the Internet, and while the device is designed to access North Korea’s domestic intranet, Mr. Frank said he could find no way to do so. (As a foreigner, he notes that he wouldn’t have permission to access the intranet anyway.)

That North Korea can develop and sell such a tablet is a reminder of the technological prowess of a country that, while little understood, has developed enough expertise to become an ever-present online threat to the government websites in South Korea – one of the most wired and technologically savvy countries in the world.

It also highlights the fact that North Korea, for all its economic woes and human rights abuses, has an upper crust of elites with ample disposable income and an appetite for fancy gadgets.

“The existence of this tablet does not in any way change the fact that the DPRK is, for many of its people, a country of hard manual labor and simple living conditions,” Mr. Frank wrote in the review, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The tablet is not just another toy of a typical consumer-oriented society,” he said. “It is a useful and entertaining device for a minority in a totalitarian system with a dominant ideology.”

In a phone interview from his office in Vienna, Mr. Frank said that the tablet was still in heavy use, though his iPad is still his go-to device.

“The major disadvantage for a Western client is you can’t connect to the Internet, but for everything else, it’s actually quite nice,” he said. “I was impressed by the sophistication of the software.”

*****

That North Korea can develop and sell such a tablet is a reminder of the technological prowess of a country

What a ludicrous statement!  In one of the videos/sites I saw how one of them was taken apart and it was noted how at least one part was nearly identical to a Chinese version of this tablet.  To me, I’m willing to bet this thing was made in China.  Maybe some assembly in NK but actual start-to-finish in NK?  Not so much.

Also, this 7″ form factor came directly from Samsung’s 7″ Galaxy Tab.  The shape, size and probably even weight is nearly identical to the 7″ tab used to have a few years ago.  It’s the same design/size/case as my wife’s cheapie tablet that she has right now.  This 7″ casing has been shuffled around many of the ‘less-than-technically-advanced’ companies.  It’s like Samsung sold the rights to use this form factor and now is making money from North Korea using it.  I would be interested in hearing from those who are detailed about the origin of this form factor.

In any case, it’s a cheap tablet that will eventually make a few rounds and get hacked to run more up-to-date/customizable software.  I’d even say that someone will get the WiFi working on it soon too.

Smelling #Korean technical bullshit when I see it!

A little diagram of an IP address (IPv4)
A little diagram of an IP address (IPv4) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The recent cyber attacks on South Korea’s banks has made quite a stir in the media.  3 banks services were unavailable  for many hours with lingering effects still.  Yet when I see a line that supposedly explains the origins, and that line is total and utter bullshit….well, I’m gonna call it.

 

See,  they track who is attacking by IP address.  Sure it probably will not be a North Korea IP address and like many other types of attacks, such methods use systems in other places, countries.  So they originally blamed the attacked coming from a Chinese IP address.  Not surprising really, happens all the time.  In fact, there are certain services that blanket-block any/all Asian IPs because of things like this.  What really got me is the line where they played on people’s absolute ignorance of how networking works.

 

The IP address was used only for the company’s internal network and was identical to a public Chinese address.

 

There is a severe problem with this statement.  This situation is completely and utterly impossible to happen.  Out of all the original IP(version 4) addresses, 3 ranges are used exclusively to internal networking.  These 3 ranges are not ‘routable’, meaning you cannot use them to access the internet.

 

However, they cannot have IP connectivity to any host outside of the enterprise.
source - RFC1918

 

So, tell me. How can an internet network IP address possibly be the same as an IP address on some external network in China?  That’s right, it can’t.  Thus I call bullshit.

 

Still want to believe everything you read in your newspapers?

 

Internet in #Korea

I’m afraid I have been spoiled…even on the cheap plan.  We are paying a whopping $20/month (3 year plan) and my speed is about 5 times faster than the fastest internet I could get when I was back in Canada where it was costing me $80/month.  So in essence, I am getting 20 times the value on the cheapest plan.  This is rated at 50Mb/second.  Just so we are clear.  That is MegaBITS(Mb) and NOT MegaBYTES(MB).  To put it in layman terms, an average DVD could technically be downloaded in about 2 minutes(assuming a 700MB file size).  Remember, this is their cheapest plan!  Next step up would be 100MB/s which means a DVD could be downloaded in 1 minute.

Now, moving is interesting.  Koreans are really good at customer service and it is pretty top-notch here.  We had to put our internet on hold until we have an address of our new place.   Our provider (KT, Korean only) allows you to put your Internet on hold up to 3 times in one year and for a maximum of 90 days each time.  Way more than most people need I think but awfully damn handy if you are a person who travels a lot for work/pleasure.  So with a bit of language-fumbling around, a few phone calls to friends and/or translation service, we managed to put our internet on hold and then go to the local office here and tell them our new address.

Today the Internet guy comes and apparently he can’t use the current setup.  He has to run a line to our place.

Now, I have to take a break and explain the construction of apartments here for a moment.  Remember that post where I briefly touched on the extreme conservatism that is pervasive here in Korea?  Well that idea applies to nearly everything here and I DO mean everything.  Including the construction of buildings.  In order for the technician to run a cable to our place, it literally will run from the top of the building, along the outside of the wall, and he has to drill a hole and feed it inside to our apartment.  Typically they drill holes through the vinyl frame of the windows and just seal it up with silicone.

Now, he asked me if it was ok to do this.  Well, I can’t just say yes because I’m not the owner of the building.  I have to get permission.  Sure it is probably just fine but I am not going to just assume that.  Koreans(Asians in general?) don’t like you doing things without asking first.  Even if you know they will say yes, they want the opportunity to be able to give you permission.

So now I have to wait and go through a long chain of people to get this number so permission can be had.  The chain, in case you were wondering, goes like this: Me -> Wife -> Supervisor -> Owner.  At lest, I hope it’s only this short.  At least we’ll have the number for next time, should anything come up again.  We will see what happens on Monday when he comes back.

Daily View of Korea

One might think that living in Canada or the US you have the ‘ultimate freedom of expression’. It is true that ‘westerners’ have much more liberty at their fingertips that much of the rest of the world. The problem is the censorship that does happen is simply in the form that you are not aware of. It happens quietly, sneakily and it is pretty scary once you realize it. For the moment, I won’t be dwelling on it. Here in South Korea, such banning is rather blatant.

There is still a great fear in the upper echelon of Korean Society that they believe there is information out there that will harm their society. Eventually they will realize that people can make up their own minds but that is probably a loooooong way off. Tradition is hard to kill and the Koreans have been around for a very long time.

Want to know what site was banned? A travel site. What? Yeah a British travel site that provides tours to North Korea. Here’s part of the article explaining.

A British-run travel agency which specialises(sic) in tours to North Korea disclosed Monday that South Korea was blocking its website because of alleged pro-Pyongyang material.

AFP article via Google

There are actually two sites and they are www.koryogroup.com and www.koryotours.com. Now, anyone outside of Korea should be able to view them without any hindrance. I, however, using my regular channel get the above screenshot unless I do some techno-wizardry.

If you want to learn how to get around such bans and censorship, I would highly recommend you learn about Tor from EFF. Read and become illuminated.

Daily Image of Korea

So I am guessing many of you are wondering what the heck a wifi router is doing on a bus. Glad you asked. Internet service providers and cell phone service providers offer an extended service, that being access to their wifi hotspots around town. This includes many coffee shops and fast food places. It’s super handy if you just want to simply extend your home service without having a data plan on your cell phone. Or maybe the connect is just faster due to some network traffic over the 3G/HSPDA connection. In either case, it’s another indication of how far advanced connectivity is here.

Daily Image of Korea

For those who are less than technical, the little green android represents the operating system that runs a lot of Smart Phones which is called Android and it is owned by Google. Here we have someone dressed up and parading in front of a store in Dageu.