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Standard User RobertoS
(sensei) Tue 26-Mar-13 18:50:47
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: yarwell] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by yarwell:
you can add packages from a CD or USB stick etc it doesn't have to be done online.
That a few thousand or even millions of techie people may be able to circumvent state-defined installations by smuggled or pre-stored (soon out of date?) build kits is a fleabite in a population of around 1.4 billion.


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Standard User pmb00cs
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Tue 26-Mar-13 22:36:22
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: prlzx] [link to this post]
 
Your argument that because the standard packages are distributed as binary blobs in .deb files (for Debian based distributions) the packages cannot easily be altered is false. Yes Debian maintains the packages it distributes, but it also provides the source files in the same repositories (not all repositories do). And .deb files are not some mysterious format that can only be used by the distribution maintainers. They are a standard, and documented packaging method, such that it is relatively trivial to create them yourself from compiled source packages. Indeed this is a fairly standard method for installing some software if you need it compiled with options that are not standard for the distribution. Get the sources, compile with required switches, create .deb file, distribute to your computers (creating your own repository for this is fairly standard too).

One method China could use (as a thought experiment and not a comprehensive guide) would be to compile a version of apt that ignored all but approved repositories, include this in an "accepted" distribution, and not include compilation tools in the distribution. Your
some magic off switch or inhibitor that stops you later adding a repo for stuff from other places
is suddenly included. No compilation tools, no packages built from source. An apt that ignores none accepted repos, and no software from third parties being maintained.

That method ignores downloading a .deb file and installing through dpkg, but a similar set of recompilation of dpkg could conceivably be used to block .deb files that are not "approved".

Yes, it would require a great deal of effort to go through all other packages and ensure they do not include other installation routes, but essentially a custom dpkg, custom apt, and holding back compilation tools would go a very long way to controlling the distribution from outside interference.

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Standard User prlzx
(experienced) Wed 27-Mar-13 00:27:12
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: pmb00cs] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by pmb00cs:
Your argument that because the standard packages are distributed as binary blobs in .deb files (for Debian based distributions) the packages cannot easily be altered is false.

Ah I didn't expect anyone to read it that way at all.
I wasn't asserting that the individual packages cannot easily be altered (and I never said that).

The opening part of the post was responding to a conceptual question of RobertoS
Given a compiled version of an Ubuntu OS pre-installed on your computer, with no way of obtaining (online) another version to replace it with, does your post (which I confess is beyond me) remain true?


My response
it is not an either or situation
was mean to expand as "Conceptually it is neither all-binary nor all source-code but something else".

I was trying to cover that although a distribution might install from binary packages (in the sense that users don't need to know how to compile things from source to install either individual programs or the whole OS) but neither is the whole OS a single self-contained object,

The thing I meant was hard to change was to go from open and always-choices to fully closed, locked-down, unchangable. I mean something like that would be so unlike any distro or the ethos, it certainly would not be accepted badged as part of the Ubuntu family (which is the explicitly stated intent).

My earlier post touched on compiling from source always being an option, but I didn't want to focus on that because people who have not used Linux or more broadly Unix-like systems recently, sometimes falsely assume you have to do this (which becomes a straw man argument), whereas in some senses, installing and updating software is more integrated and automated than Windows.

Anyway, does anyone seriously think Canonical would allow its reputation to be tarnished by building something that was completely closed and locked down. I realise it's a hypothetical discussion but it's not realistic to suppose Canonical would continue their involvement or proceed as far as a release under those circumstances.

There is currently no reason to suppose China intends to build a closed locked down operating system - when they appear to be trying to get away from one that comes with a licence cost (Windows) and you could think of it in the same way as a country might want to lower costs / overheads - building up local industry / development rather than relying on importing something.

And once even one open version has been built, the cat is already out of the bag. In practical terms China can't actually visit every user's house, force them to upgrade to the imaginary closed version, and prevent people getting hold of any type of storage medium (including microSD and other computing devices) that could be used for reinstalling (any other operating system).

Assuming China could do the above they then have to close the door by taking control of all BIOS and UEFI hardware to stop people installing "non-approved" OSes. Then prevent imports or building any hardware that is not locked in this way.

By this stage the number of hurdles is already beyond silly. But just for fun let's follow it to the logical conclusion smile For good measure China has to ban and prevent all implementations of virtualisation + emulation or similar - and there are many. This includes an emulator running as browser plugin or something like dosbox on a smartphone. Oh and ban any kind of remote desktop or VNC type of thing (otherwise its citizens can still run another open OS, or at least access one).

In other words, if some politician thinks they can get this Ubuntu built and released, but then take it away in-house and lock it down later, then make everyone use it, they misunderstand how stuff works (maybe they are only used to what they know).



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Edited by prlzx (Wed 27-Mar-13 01:09:08)


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Standard User yarwell
(sensei) Wed 27-Mar-13 08:45:44
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
you may underestimate the ability of oppressed cultures to spread workarounds virally, but I'll leave you to plough this furrow off into the distance along your chosen line.

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Standard User RobertoS
(sensei) Wed 27-Mar-13 09:11:49
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: yarwell] [link to this post]
 
And you seem completely unable to grasp that the world you live in isn't the only world that can exist on this planet.

I opened with a question. I did not say what I believe the answer to be, as I genuinely don't know.

All except one reply has being explaining in technical terms why the facilities to which they are accustomed in their cocoon over here prevent a lock-down. All those arguments are specious as they are thinking in a very narrow way.

They don't answer my question as they refuse to believe there could be any possible such intent or even feasibility.

They don't address the question I asked in any way at all. Anyone who believes China is unconditionally on its way to a free society with easy access to the full web is naive, though not necessarily wrong.

Only one poster has understood what I'm talking about.

All the technical gibberish posted here is irrelevant. China will have a huge number of very talented programmers in government employ. Nothing that has been described here as making a lock-down impossible in a few years time is of any importance.

Of course China could do it. Do they intend to? I hope not.

Neither is there anything to cause any concern in the spread of Huawei and similar kit through the UK and US infrastructure etc. etc., and any low-level checking by our security forces is a total waste of money as not necessary.

Or?

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Standard User pmb00cs
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Wed 27-Mar-13 19:40:04
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: prlzx] [link to this post]
 
I am sorry, I misinterpreted your meaning. However I stand by the fact that a locked down linux distrubution is not only possible, but given the correct motivation, and sufficient resources, it is probable. I am not saying that this what China is up too, but I can envisage them considering it. I grant you the method I proposed would require a significant amount of effort to maintain, and strip out sources of "compilation tools" and given that some compilation tools are dependencies for other packages would not be terribly usable. Linux is open by the attitude of it's maintainers, open source is not what keeps linux open, it is the users and contributors. There is nothing stopping a suitably minded group creating a closed distribution.
In reply to a post by prlzx:
Anyway, does anyone seriously think Canonical would allow its reputation to be tarnished by building something that was completely closed and locked down. I realise it's a hypothetical discussion but it's not realistic to suppose Canonical would continue their involvement or proceed as far as a release under those circumstances.
Frankly following the Amazon desktop search controversy, yes I can.
In reply to a post by prlzx:
There is currently no reason to suppose China intends to build a closed locked down operating system - when they appear to be trying to get away from one that comes with a licence cost (Windows) and you could think of it in the same way as a country might want to lower costs / overheads - building up local industry / development rather than relying on importing something.
Currently, but China has a history of oppression, and given what our "freedom loving" western governments keep trying to get away with on the internet can you really honestly not see china contemplating this?
In reply to a post by prlzx:
And once even one open version has been built, the cat is already out of the bag. In practical terms China can't actually visit every user's house, force them to upgrade to the imaginary closed version, and prevent people getting hold of any type of storage medium (including microSD and other computing devices) that could be used for reinstalling (any other operating system).
Maybe, but do you think they can't try to lock down the distro? And given the great firewall of china firewalls the internet inside china as well as between china and the rest of the world they may think they have more control than they do have.
In reply to a post by prlzx:
Assuming China could do the above they then have to close the door by taking control of all BIOS and UEFI hardware to stop people installing "non-approved" OSes. Then prevent imports or building any hardware that is not locked in this way.

By this stage the number of hurdles is already beyond silly. But just for fun let's follow it to the logical conclusion smile For good measure China has to ban and prevent all implementations of virtualisation + emulation or similar - and there are many. This includes an emulator running as browser plugin or something like dosbox on a smartphone. Oh and ban any kind of remote desktop or VNC type of thing (otherwise its citizens can still run another open OS, or at least access one).

In other words, if some politician thinks they can get this Ubuntu built and released, but then take it away in-house and lock it down later, then make everyone use it, they misunderstand how stuff works (maybe they are only used to what they know).
You understand a lot about computers, but do you really think a group of politicians who are not versed in computer tech to consider everything you have expressed? Australian politicians tried to create a great firewall of Australia despite the people telling them their intended method would not work and the whole idea being obviously unpopular. Our own polliticians mooted a similar idea in the UK. Do you really, honestly, think China, which already has it's firewall, would shy away from trying a more repressive technological solution, effective or otherwise?

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Standard User Pipexer
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Wed 27-Mar-13 19:57:37
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: NilSatisOptimum] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by NilSatisOptimum:
Something the public sector here should have adopted long ago.

I hope not. Windows is far superior - unfortunately, the government don't employ any proper IT admins or companies so its no wonder it never works properly.

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Standard User prlzx
(experienced) Wed 27-Mar-13 23:30:13
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
I'll keep this one as logically simple as possible, no gibberish, but is addressed to anyone on the thread

1. If a country wants a locked down operating system
(note that this has not been established, nor was it the part of the Kylin article about Canonical and China)
do you think that is because it eventually wants to make all its citizens use this operating system and nothing else?

As in - if it's intended as a means of control, but you don't force people to use this operating system, what is the point in building it?

(I believe this was the hypothesis implied in the original posts unless I misunderstood)

2. If (1) is yes:

Is it clear the country also needs to control all computing devices capable of running an operating system, down to how the hardware boots up in order to to ensure (1) happens?

And that this class of device increasingly includes smartphones and tablets?
(see capabilities of modern devices, memory, processor and connectivity)

3. If the country does achieve control over what operating system is pre-installed on devices (the supply chain), but is unable to control all aspects of the boot up process:

Is it clear the country then needs to prevent people sharing other operating systems on storage media of any physical form factor and size?

How does a country go about confiscating all copies of other operating systems already inside the country?

4. If (1) is yes:

Is it clear the country cannot allow its citizens any access to other operating systems running on other devices beyond its control (outside the country), nor virtualised nor emulated operating systems?

How practical do you think this is in the real world and still have a functioning computing device that does anything useful?

---

I'm sorry if these concepts were not obvious from earlier posts. I continue to agree with general comments about the Great Firewall if we mean China tries to control experience of its citizens by policing the network (the ISPs and the interconnects to the rest of the internet).



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Edited by prlzx (Wed 27-Mar-13 23:50:46)

Standard User Stoatwblr
(learned) Fri 19-Apr-13 20:19:36
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
They already had Red Flag as an authorised version. This looks like a debian variant (RF is a RHEL clone)

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Standard User MrTAToad2
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Wed 24-Apr-13 20:40:32
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Re: What is China up to?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
They will also be able to add modules to spy on key presses and stuff... The operating system will probably end up being compulsory for businesses and may even end up also being so for home users.

I suspect they will also make other operating systems illegal unless backdoors are also introduced into them,

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Edited by MrTAToad2 (Wed 24-Apr-13 20:45:08)

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