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  1. CS2C and Tianjin Kylin announce plans to develop a new Chinese operating system. The two biggest OS (operating system) makers in China announced plans last week to unite and jointly build a new "domestic operating system." The two companies are China Standard Software (CS2C) and Tianjin Kylin Information (TKC), two of China's largest software firms, with known ties to the Beijing government. Both companies are known on the local Chinese OS market. CS2C created "China's Windows XP clone," known as the NeoKylin OS, and TKC is the current steward of Kylin, China's first-ever homegrown operating system. CS2C and TKC plan to set up a new company in which they'll become investors, and through which the new joint OS will be developed. The new company will handle the new operating system's development, technological decisions, marketing, branding, financials, and sales. CS2C and TKC have a verbal agreement on a planned investment plan, and a formal deal is to be signed in the future, the two companies said in a joint press conference held last Friday, December 6. The current Kylin and NeoKylin operating systems will serve as a base for the new OS, the two said. As a sign of the merger between the two, the new "domestic OS" will combine the current Kylin OS logo (a blue qilin, a Chinese mythical beast) and the NeoKylin OS logo (a red qilin). The new joint "domestic OS" has no name yet. A history of China's homemade operating systems The roots of both operating systems reside in the original Kylin operating system, created in 2001 by academics at the National University of Defense Technology. The original Kylin OS was based on FreeBSD and was developed via the popular 863 Program, a government fund set up in the 80s to stimulate the development of local tech to help China reach independence from foreign technologies. The FreeBSD version of Kylin OS was never truly successful. It was deployed on some Chinese military networks, but not all, and was never adopted beyond academia and research projects. The OS took a big image hit in 2016, when a Chinese student going by the nickname of Dancefire revealed that the Kylin creators copied large chunks of code from FreeBSD v5.3, with little to no modifications, with code similarities reaching a whopping 99.45% between the two projects. A new version, developed on top of the Linux kernel, was released in 2009, and in 2014, development passed from the National University of Defense Technology to the newly-founded TKC. TKC broadened Kylin's development, and there are now Kylin versions for desktops, servers, and embedded devices, under both commercial and free licenses. These Linux-based versions of Kylin were far more successful than the FreeBSD versions, and they've also been used to power the Tianhe-1 and Tianhe-2, the fastest supercomputers in the world at the time of their launch in 2010 and 2013, respectively. Currently, both supercomputers run a Kylin OS version known as Galaxy Kylin. The community version of Kylin OS is still free, and TCK claims it's downloaded more than 24 million times each year. However, while the original Kylin is still around, it is not the most popular. CS2C forked the original Kylin codebase in 2010 and created a more user-friendly version known as NeoKylin. CS2C, through its subsidiary Winning Software, developed NeoKylin into a powerhouse. The NeoKylin variant is currently compatible with more than 4,000 software and hardware products, ships pre-installed on most computers sold in China, and has wrestled the desktop market away from TKC. Neither Kylin or NeoKylin are in a position to give Apple or Microsoft a run for the top OS in the home PC market, but CS2C claims they and TKC have a 90% joint market share in the government sector, where they've been aided by a 2014 push from the Beijing government to replace foreign operating systems with homegrown alternatives, and primarily NeoKylin. A new push to replace foreign software is underway News about the new jointly-developed "domestic OS" comes just as the Financial Times reported over the weekend that the Beijing government is currently executing a second push to get rid of foreign tech, amidst an ever-escalating trade war with the United States. The FT reported that Beijing had ordered all government offices and public institutions to replace foreign-made hardware and software with Chinese alternatives by 2022 as part of a new national policy named "3-5-2." A source at a Chinese software company has told ZDNet that Beijing's 2014 push to replace Windows with local operating systems has had side effects when local governments choose different operating systems, fracturing a previously Windows-only ecosystem. While Kylin and NeoKylin have a common codebase, they are different from one another. Kylin is focused primarily on servers and cloud deployments, while NeoKylin has historically focused on supporting as many platforms as possible. For example, NeoKylin is the only Chinese-made OS to support all six major "domestic CPUs" -- namely Feiteng, Godson, Zhaoxin, Shenwei, Haiguang, and Kunpeng. Currently, many apps that run on Kylin won't run on NeoKylin, and vice-versa, creating problems with managing a nation-wide IT system without unwanted friction and incompatibilities. With a plan to rip out all foreign hardware and software from government systems within three years, orders likely came down from Beijing to unite the two OSes into a common platform. The Beijing government is well known for its heavy-handed approach to controlling the local tech market, primarily through state-owned companies and generous government subsidies [1, 2]. CS2C, the company behind NeoKylin, is a subsidiary of China Electronics Corporation (CEC), China's largest state-owned tech company. The joint press conference to announce the new joint CS2C and TKC "domestic OS" was held at CEC's headquarters in Beijing. China's two top OS makers and competitors don't just join hands out of the blue. The Sino-US trade war forced China's hand In an interview with CNBC in September, David Roche, the president of Independent Strategy, said the Sino-US trade war is what's forcing China's hand to act and wean itself off American technologies, such as semiconductors, hardware, and software. "China will never trust the United States again, and it will achieve its technology independence within seven years," Roche told CNBC. He also predicted that China would win the trade war. "It is a conflict between a rising global power and a declining global power ... It's not just about trade," Roche said. And it's clear that China's has a long term plan with dealing with the current trade war. The new "domestic OS" will most likely play a minor role, but it was the Chinese who invented the "death by a thousand cuts" form of torture, known as lingchi. Source
  2. NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Technology firms must protect user privacy and prevent abuse of their platforms, India’s IT minister said on Thursday, speaking as the government draws up a data privacy law and seeks to push companies to store more data locally. Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a Google India event in New Delhi. Federal Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he wanted Indians to have access to more technology platforms but said this should not undermine user privacy. “I have only one caveat - it must be safe and secure, it must safeguard the privacy rights of the individual and you must make extra efforts that people don’t abuse the system,” Prasad told industry executives at a gathering organized by Alphabet Inc’s Google in New Delhi. India’s 1.3 billion people and their massive consumption of mobile data has turned it into a key growth market for U.S. technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. India has already forced foreign payment firms such as Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc to store data locally. Technology firms have been concerned that the government’s drive to step up measures to boost local data storage will increase investment costs. Google said at the event that it had launched a new job-search feature on its Google Pay platform, which is used by 67 million people in a month and competes with SoftBank-backed Paytm and Walmart Inc’s PhonePe. Google also expanded its artificial intelligence-based voice assistant service to feature phones by partnering with one of India’s top telecom carriers in a country where more than 300 million use 2G devices. Source
  3. Global tech companies like Google and Facebook have started lobbying against the U.K.’s proposed “duty of care” rules meant to prevent online harms, the Financial Times reported. The Internet Association (IA) — based in Washington, and including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter — said the rules are too broad, don’t protect privacy and will “produce a chilling effect on freedom of speech.” The rules want tech companies to take “reasonable and proportionate action” against content that “may not be illegal, but [is] nonetheless highly damaging,” including terrorist propaganda, cyberbullying, extremist content and disinformation. In addition, the rules state that companies could be fined or banned for not following the rules. The IA said the requirements are “unmanageable” because of some of the loose definitions of harms. “The internet has flourished in part because platforms permit users to post and share information without fear that those platforms will be held liable for third-party content,” the IA said. “Dilution of [these] protections would encourage internet companies to engage in over-censorship for fear of being held liable for content, with a consequential impact on freedom of speech.” The IA put forth a proposal for a full regulation impact assessment to investigate the economic impact of the rules, and on privacy and freedom of expression. It also asked for legal clarity into whether the proposals are in line with EU laws or not, singling out the eCommerce directive, which says that there can’t be any general monitoring of content on social media. “In relation to any future regulation in this area, IA believes that the government should offer solid guarantees to [the] industry that U.K. regulation will not undermine the intermediary liability protections that have underpinned the internet economy,” the IA said. Amy Shepherd, legal and policy officer of Open Rights Group, shared a similar sentiment. “In the model currently proposed, focused on content and content takedown, you have a situation where the state is potentially censoring citizen speech, which is unacceptable. So, it has to be an independent regulator, with partial government oversight,” Shepherd said. “We are calling for a rights-based model, using a human rights framework to improve company standards. Their terms and conditions should be human rights-compliant, and transparency should lead to accountability.” Source
  4. Internet and technology rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has praised the improved transparency of Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, among others, which it says have upped their game in response to the public reaction to Edward Snowden's NSA-related whistleblowing. Referring to the findings of the EFF's second study into how tech firms respond togovernment and law enforcement data requests, activism director Rainey Reitman said: "The sunlight brought about by a year's worth of Snowden leaks appears to have prompted dozens of companies to improve their policies when it comes to giving user data to the government. "Our report charts objectively verifiable categories of how tech companies react when the government seeks user data, so users can make informed decisions about which companies they should trust with their information." The EFF report has studied how 26 technology firms respond to government and law enforcement data requests, and how they protect and support the rights of their users. While some organisations including Snapchat came out relatively badly, others got top marks and were awarded gold stars across the board. "Snapchat joins AT&T and Comcast in failing to require a warrant for government access to the content of communications. That means the government can obtain extraordinarily sensitive information about your activities and communications without convincing a judge that there is probable cause to collect it," said EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo. "We urge these companies to change course and give their users this simple and needed protection from government overreach." In contrast, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Dropbox, Yahoo and Twitter were awarded a star in each of the six categories, and praised for defending users in court, for keeping them informed about data requests and their rights, and for being as open about law enforcement rights and means as is possible. Apple and Yahoo were singled out for special praise for their dramatic improvment over the past year. In 2013, Apple earned only one star, but has scored 6 out of 6 this time around. Yahoo also jumped to earning credit in all 6 categories this year, making remarkable progress in every category, the EFF said. Source
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