Tech & Gadget Shops on the Golden Mile (Hong Kong) are dying

In November 2014, when I visited HongKong on my way to China, i couldn’t help but stay in the vicinity of the famous Golden Mile, Nathan Road. The famous shopping avenue has been for year a favorite place for tourists from all over the world who wanted to quickly shop for tech and media products where they could bargain and took advantage of cheap prices in the territory.

I remember when I first set foot in HongKong, as a geek, I couldn’t help but but spend hours in some of those shops try to find the cheapest up to date gadget. Since 2005, my favorite portion of the Golden Mile was Tsim Tsa Shui, between the Peninsula Hotel and Jordan road. You could find almost every 10 to 20meters tech shops with salesman at the door yelling at tourists. I was impressed prices could change significantly from a shop to another one just few steps away. I remember buying my first Macbook there after a fierce bargain.

Then things started to change.

The year before, I noticed that few shops already got closed. For example  I saw only one out of two tech shop open on Peking Road just in front of the famous Chunking Mansions. That’s the place I bought my macbook years ago. Then, when I walked up the Golden Mile to Jordan, only on the right side few shops were open. Cameron road to Kimberley road, I saw that only two shops  were still displaying their huge stock of Cameras, Smartphones, Laptops, shavers, speakers and other gadgets.

After the Observatory, no more shops open till Jordan road. And most shocking, no more shop on the left side of Nathan road on this area of Tsim Sha Tsui. Of course on the Park Lane Avenue just after the Kowloon Mosque and going towards the Police Station there were some shops but those are branded shops and not really matching the kind of shops I’m talking about.

At the end of the stay, I discussed with one of the shop owners about the decline of their business and what he told me what really sad: online shops killed their business. Tourists can now find online same goods at very cheap rates. Their rents are very expensive and they need to hire at least 6 salesmen per shop. Wages and other expense keep rising while their sales declined. And many other business, specially fashion and grocery stores business increased. No one named it, but I guess alibaba the Chinese Online shopping giant was being blamed.

Last October 2015, I was in Hong kong and the situation worsened for my tech shops: No more shop on Peking Road, Only one shop between Chunking Mansions and Carnavon Road and a second Shop just after Kimberley road near the Mirador Mansions. at the end of my stay I only found 3 tech shops from Peninsula Hotel to Jordan road. What a decline.

As far as I remember, the Golden Mile was famous for those shops and their Neon signs displaying : CANON, NIKON, SONY, KONICA, FUJI…… This is dying. And its a part of the history of Nathan road, Kowloon and HongKong itself that is dying.

This sad story just remembers me the situation of SURCOUF and Rue Montgallet in Paris, France. First was the biggest Computer shop in France for years before it collapsed few years ago while the second was an adjacent street to Surcouf where dozens of Chinese shops were dealing in Tech and Computer products. Nowadays in Paris, the area is just empty and shops are closed or being closed. The few still open are struggling to keep up with different luck.


Getting Started with TrueCrypt – Open Source

If you’re looking for a simple and powerful way to encrypt everything from system drives to backup discs to everything in between, TrueCrypt is an open-source tool that will help you lock up your files. Read on as we show you how to get started.

What Is TrueCrypt and Why Should I Use It?

TrueCrypt is an on-the-fly encryption application that allows you to work with encrypted files as you would work on files located on a regular drive. Without on-the-fly encryption, actively working with encrypted files is an enormous pain and the outcome is usually either that people simply do not encrypt their files or they engage in poor security practices with their encrypted files because of the hassle of decrypting/encrypting them.

How does this play out in real life? Let’s take a look at a simple hypothetical situation. You’re a lawyer (or anyone, for that matter, that works with sensitive information). You have some client files that need to remain absolutely secure. Using a system that does not provide on-the-fly encryption and decryption you’d need to open the encrypted container file, unpack the files you wanted to use (into the insecure operating system), work on them, and then repack them once you had worked with them. To make sure the files were totally secure, you’d then need to secure wipe the space on the drive the unencrypted files had occupied. There are so many points in that process where things can go wrong that’s its not really practical to use such a workflow for anything but static files which will be encrypted and, more or less, permanently archived.

With an on-the-fly system like TrueCrypt you have an encrypted container (or even an entirely encrypted system drive). All the files within the container are encrypted and TrueCrypt, acting as an intermediary, decrypts each file on the fly (in the computer’s memory) so that you may interact with it like a regular file. You simply mount the encrypted volume, work within it, and unmount it. TrueCrypt takes care of everything, keeping the files temporarily in the RAM, sweeping up after itself, and ensuring your files remain uncompromised.

Whether you just want to encrypt a flash drive to store your tax data and personal documents as a safeguard against identity theft or you want to encrypt your entire computer to keep The Man out of your business, TrueCrypt is a comprehensive and easy to use tool.

What Do I Need?

For this tutorial you’ll only need a few simple things:

  • A free copy of TrueCrypt.
  • Administrative access to a computer.

That’s it! You can grab a copy of TrueCrypt for Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X and then settle in at a computer that you have administrative access to (you can’t run TrueCrypt on a limited-privilege/guest account). Have a copy on hand? Great, let’s get started. For this tutorial we’ll be using the Windows version of TrueCrypt and installing it on a Windows 7 machine.

Installing and Configuring TrueCrypt

The initial installation of TrueCrypt is very straight forward. Run the installation application, accept the user agreement, and then select Install. (The extract option is of interest to those who wish to extract a semi-portable version of TrueCrypt; we will not be covering that method in this beginner’s guide.) You’ll be given a battery of options like “Install for all users” and “Associate .tc file extension with TrueCrypt”. We left all of them checked for the sake of convenience. Once the application finishes installing, navigate to the Start Menu and launch TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt will ask you if you’d like to view a tutorial on getting started; since we’re already walking you through the process go ahead and skip the tutorial. You’ll be greeted with a screen that looks like the one above. The very first thing we need to do is create a volume.

Click on the “Create Volume” button. This will launch the Volume Creation Wizard and prompt you to choose one of the follow volume types:

Volumes can be as simple as a file container you place on a drive or disk or as complex as a whole-disk encryption for your operating system. We’re going to keep things simple for the first section of our TrueCrypt guide and focus on getting you set up with an easy to use local container. Select “Create an encrypted file container”.

Next, the Wizard will ask you if you want the create a Standard or a Hidden volume. Again, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to skip messing around with Hidden Volumes at this point. This is no way lowers the encryption level or security of the volume we’re creating as a Hidden Volume is simply a method of obfuscating the location of the encrypted volume.

In the next step we need to pick a name and location for our volume. The only important parameter here is that your host drive have enough space for the volume you with to create (i.e. if you want a 100GB encrypted volume you’d better have a drive with the space to spare). We’re going to throw our encrypted volume on a secondary data drive in our desktop Windows machine.

Now it’s time to pick your encryption scheme. You really can’t go wrong here. Yes there are a lot of choices, but all of them are extremely solid encrypt schemes and, for practical purposes, interchangeble. In 2008, for example, the FBI spent over a year trying to decrypt the AES encrypted hard drives of a Brazilian banker involved in a financial scam. Even if your data-protection-paranoia extends up the level of acronym agencies with deep pockets and skilled forensics teams, you can rest easy knowing your data is secure.

In the next step, you’ll select the volume size. You can set it in KB, MB, or GB increments. We created a 4.5GB test volume, for no other reason than it fits neatly on a DVD if we wish to burn it for backup purposes.

Next stop, password generation. See that screenshot? That’s a short password. Short passwords are a bad idea. You should create a password at least 20 characters long. However you can create a strong and memorable password we suggest you do it. A great technique is to use a passphrase instead of a simple password. Here’s an example: In2NDGradeMrsAmerman$aidIWasAGypsy. That’s better than password123 any day.

Before you create the actual volume, the creation Wizard will ask if you intend to store large files. If you intend to store files larger than 4GB within the volume, tell it so—it will tweak the file system to better suite your needs.

On the Volume Format screen, you’ll need to move your mouse around to generate some random data. While just moving your mouse is sufficient you could always follow in our footsteps—we grabbed our Wacom tablet and drew a picture of Ricky Martin as an extra onPortlandia. How’s that for random? Once you’ve generated enough random goodness, hit the Format button.

Once the format process is complete you’ll be returned to the original TrueCrypt interface. Your volume is now a *.TC file wherever you parked it and ready to be mounted by TrueCrypt.

Click the “Select File” button and navigate to the directory you stashed your TrueCrypt container in. Because we’re extraordinarily sneaky, or file is in \TrueCrypt\The How-To Geek Super Secret File Dump. Nobody will ever think to look there. Once the file is selected, pick (in the box above) from one of the available drives. We selected Y. Click Mount.

Enter your password, again we’re going to emphasize our short password. We picked a short one for testing purposes; if you’re smart yours will exceed 20 characters. Click OK.

Let’s go take a look at My Computer and see if our encrypted volume was successfully mounted as a drive:

Success! One 4.38GB volume of sweet encrypted goodness, just like the kind mom used to make. You can now open the volume and pack it full of all the files you’ve been meaning to keep from prying eyes.

Don’t forget to secure wipe the files once you’ve copied them into the encrypted volume. Regular file system storage is insecure and traces of the files you’ve encrypted will remain behind on the unencrypted disk unless you properly wipe the space. Also, don’t forget to pull up the TrueCrypt interface and “Dismount” the encrypted volume when you aren’t actively using it.


Viber, un concurrent sérieux pour Skype….

Tout Geek que je suis, je n’avais jamais vraiment utilisé de Viber. J’avais brièvement entendu mentionner cette application il y a quelques mois mais pas plus.

En essayant de convaincre un oncle entrepreneur de prendre un Smartphone, je réussi à lui faire prendre un iPhone que je configure pour lui. Je lui mets quelques applications et surtout Skype pour lui permettre d’appeler et voire ses enfants étudiants en Amérique du Nord. Et finalement il me téléphone le lendemain pour me dire que son fils cadet lui demande d’installer Viber pour pouvoir appeler et échanger des sms gratuitement.

Viber est une application gratuite, disponible sur les plateformes iPhone et Android depuis moins de deux ans et revendiquant plus de 60 millions d’utilisateurs. Elle permet de passer des appels gratuits et échanger des sms à travers une connexion wifi ou internet mobile (GPRS/EDGE/3G). Cette application a des avantages évidents par rapport à Skype. D’abord, pas besoin de savoir le pseudo ou le nom d’utilisateur Skype d’un contact. En effet, l’application scanne le répertoire du téléphone et ajoute automatiquement les contacts qui ont installé aussi viber sur leur téléphone. Les appels passés à travers Viber vers un contact viber sont gratuits, tout comme les sms échangés. Ceci bien sur à condition qu’il y ait une connexion internet mobile ou Wifi active.

La fonction qui me plait vraiment c’est l’envoi et la réception de sms. Elle concurrence directement Chat’ON de Samsung et à une moindre mesure de BBM sous Blackberry et de iMessage (iPhone4/4S, iPad2. New iPad) qui peine à décoller. De plus, l’activation de Viber est tres simple. Sur iPhone, il suffit d’activer les notifications Push puis d’indiquer son numéro de telephone et entrer le code que Viber envoie par sms au numero indiqué lors de l’activation. Ensuite l’application demande l’autorisation d’acceder au repertoire, indispensable puis scanne pour trouver des contacts sur Viber. Des qu’une liste de contacts Viber s’affiche alors on peut passer un appel Viber ou envoyer un sms via viber. Les appels entrants Viber sont signales par une tonalite speciale.

Cette superbe application arrive bientôt sur BlackBerry, une version beta étant soumise à des tests en ce moment même.

La version Android permet d’ailleurs de passer un appel sans lancer l’application et la qualité d’appel est excellente.

Mes tests personnels sous une connexion wifi médiocre m’ont permis de vérifier que mes appels Skype saccades étaient de loin de qualité inferieure aux appels passés par Viber.

Alors, définitivement j’adopte Viber. En gardant Skype bien sur. Et vous ?


Pour plus d’informations:

Samsung’s Galaxy Note copy from China – Copie Chinoise de Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung’s Galaxy Note which was sold up to 5 millions in 5 months created an new market for hybrid devices combining both smartphone and tablet features. Such a great device could only be apreciated by Shenzhen shanzhai makers. And before the Galaxy Note hit Chinese Market, they worked hard to provide a nice looking knockoff, available in Huaqiang Bei, the High Tech Market district of Shenzhen just near Hong Kong in China.  The device has very similar details and look with the genuine Galaxy Note. Of course some difference exist. But the best feature is the android 4.0 which is loaded in it with a 5 inches display. But the device has a poor 800 x 480 display and a 9.7mm thickness. This knockoff is powered by a 1Ghz Cortex A9 based MTK6575 chip, 512MB RAM, and a 5-megapixel camera.

Le Samsung Galaxy Note, vendu a 5 millions d’exemplaires en 5 mois a ouvert un nouveau marché pour terminaux hybrides combinant à la fois des fonctions d’un smartphone et d’une tablette. Un produit aussi innovant et génial ne pouvait pas ne pas retenir l’intéret des copieurs de Shenzhen. Et avant même que le Galaxy Note ne soit disponible sur le marchee chinois, ces copieurs ont fait fort et réussi à sortir une copie de belle facture disponible sur les marchés de Huaqiang Bei, le quartier High Tech de Shenzhen, à coté de Hong Kong en Chine.

Cet appareil est tres similaire en apparence au Galaxy Note original; bien sur avec des différences notables. Mais le point fort de ce produit est qu’il tourne sous Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich et un écran de 5 pouces. Par contre il a une résolution médiocre de 800 x 480 et une épaisseur de 9.7mm. Coté  matériel, cette copie comprend un processeur Cortex A91Ghz  basé sur une puce MTK6575, 512MB de RAM, et un APN de  5 MegaPixels



Pourquoi il faut développer des applications pour les téléphones mobiles “chinois”

Depuis 2006, les téléphones mobiles “chinois” ont fait leur entrée en Afrique Sub saharienne, et de façon plutot réussie. Sans se tromper et surtout sans chercher a commander d’onéreuses etudes statistiques, il suffit de regarder dans les rues d’Abidjan, de Bamako, de Niamey, de N’Djamena, de Pointe Noire, de Kisangani, de Mombassa, Dar-Es-Salam et j’en passe pour remarquer des téléphones mobiles, généralement a double ou triple carte SIM et avec des sonneries fortes et pratiquement toutes identiques. Il est indéniable que le boom de la téléphonie mobile en Afrique qui est reconnues et saluée par tous les opérateurs et professionnels du milieu des télécommunications comme de l’économie en général, il est indéniable dis-je que ce boom soit lie a l’approvisionnement simplifie en terminaux mobiles dont le cout abordable se justifie par la provenance chinoise.

Toujours avec le boom des technologies (TIC), de plus en plus d’africains développent des applications mobiles. Il faut comprendre que les plateformes les plus adoubées par ces developpeurs sont celles qui dominent en ce moment le marche des “SMARTPHONES”: IOS de Apple (iPod, iPhone, iPad et AppleTV) et Android. JAVA aussi intéresse beaucoup ces developpeurs du continent.

Les telephones communément appeles telephones chinois utilisent des généralement des puces (chip) MTK produites par la société Taïwanaise MEDIATEK. Cette société est deuxième producteur de puces pour téléphones mobiles au monde après QUALCOMM du fait de l’énorme production Chinoise. En 2010, la chine a produit 1.015 milliards de téléphones mobiles représentant 71% de la production mondiale puis en a exporté environs 758 millions. La plupart des téléphones chinois avec puce MTK tournent sous un système d’exploitation basé sur Nucleus RTOS avec un Framework MMI (ou PlutoMMI). Souvent du Java RE mais pas toujours le cas. De plus MediaTEK commercialise son SDK. Même si cette société semble difficile d’accès, investir dans le développement mobile visant ces mobiles apparait un créneau porteur.

Alors, developpeurs mobiles du continent, pensez a développer pour une plus large audience. Les plus nombreux utilisateurs du mobile n’ont pas de smartphones. Et surtout pour la majorité, ils utilisent des téléphones chinois. Alors….

Should we kill the PC now?

When IBM launched the PS/2 in early ’80s, the PC started to be “Personal”. Users in corporate environments as well as famillies were now able to own their “computers”.

As R&D was doing an incredible progress, we started to use more and more powerful machines. From Megahertz and KiloBytes we now talk about Gigaherts and TeraBytes. In around 30 years, we jumped exponentially reagarding power, usefullness and usability of computers and other high tech gadgets.
The golden age of PCs ran from 1980 to 2010. During those 30 years, personal computing got powerful and easier. But this period can be divided into 2 phases. First, desktop PCs entered houses and benefited a lot with appearance of Internet and its spreading by end of 90s. From 2000, Laptops started to grow as with the boom of Internet, users as well as home users or professionnal users started to thing mobile. Then mobility became a major concern. Laptops from en of 1st decade of 21st century started to move to the netbook era. With the big intro of Tablets by Apple in 2010, PCs started to decline. Irremediably? not so sure. But what is obvious is that the use of computers is tied with the use of internet now. The world of computers is “connected”. And as we want everything to be instant done, we need mobile devices as well as we need it “small” (even if smatphones are getting bigger and bigger these days).
Now, software vendors as well as most of big players in the computer business are coming with economic models reducing costs and enhancing revenue. Most business softwares are sold online, traning offered online.
Things are changing and the PC is definitely no more useful as it was when internet was not exsisting or not so common and widespread.
But don’t you think computer litteracy is tied to a PC?