Thailand reportedly close to introducing its own China-style Internet firewall


In a move that seems pretty worrying for 2015, Thailand’s military government may be about to introduce a China-style Internet firewall to control the flow of online information, according to a Wednesday report by Telecom Asia.

The news appears to have come via Twitter user Prem Sichanugrist on Tuesday. Thailand is known to be a very active country on social media, with Facebook just opening its first office there this month.

“[On 30 June] General Prayuth’s cabinet ordered the ICT and justice ministries and the national police department to set up a single internet gateway,” Telecom Asia wrote.

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“A subsequent cabinet resolution ordered the agencies to report back with any laws that would need to be enacted or amended prior to setting up the single gateway,” it added.

The move is unsurprisingly being compared to China’s infamous Internet firewall, dubbed “The Great Firewall” in a play on the name of one of its most famous landmarks — The Great Wall of China.

The news also comes at an interesting time, as the issue of net neutrality in Asia and around the world has been making headlines. Just today, India’s government pulled a new proposal on the encryption of social media data after a very public outcry.

Meanwhile, Google is said to be mulling a re-entry into mainland China after a five year absence, despite no let-up in government censorship.

Thailand has been known to block certain websites, including pornography, but since the 2006 military coup it has become more aggressive in its censorship practices, with new cybercrimes laws and an updated Internal Security Act.

Clearly this new development paints a worrying picture for the future of the Internet in Thailand under the military government.

As Telecom Asia points out, “The continued existence of the single gateway project makes a total mockery of everything new ICT minister Uttama Savanayana said about turning Thailand into a data center hub for the region, and building better connectivity.”

And perhaps an even bigger question that it poses: “Would anyone in their right mind host a regional operation in Thailand under these circumstances?”

In 2014, Thailand was rated as “not free” by U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, coming in at number 52 out of 65 countries.

With this news, it looks like that ranking could drop substantially further.

But perhaps even more worrying, it looks like an increasing number of large tech companies are starting to turn a blind eye to such government censorship in countries like China and Thailand as they decide to put business first.

Spotify launches ‘Mix Mates’ playlist generator to help friends find common musical ground

Spotify - MixMate

In its latest attempt to showcase its smart music-discovery algorithms, Spotify has launched a new web app designed to help friends unearth common grounds in their musical tastes.

With Mix Mates, Spotify says it’s targeting university students, presumably because term time normally begins around September, and music is often used to help people form new friendships in their inaugural year. However, anyone can use this tool.

To use Mix Mates, you enter both you and a friend’s favorite band, and Spotify generates a playlist which “shows the musical degree of separation” between the two artists.

Favorite Bands: Mix Mates

Above: Favorite Bands: Mix Mates

The number of tracks in the playlist mirror how many degrees of separate there are between the two artists, and it includes a song from each artist in the chain.

Save Playlist

Above: Save Playlist

Today’s launch comes a few weeks after the music-streaming giant launched a new app to show which artists you listened to before they made it big, and represents part of Spotify’s bigger vision to help its users unearth new music based on their existing tastes.

Halo 5: Guardians’ executive producer explains Master Chief’s arrival on Xbox One

Josh Holmes, the executive producer at 343 Industries for Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo 4 was the end of the Master Chief and Cortana love story. But the iconic hero supersoldier is coming back in Halo 5: Guardians for his first appearance on the Xbox One.

The game debuts on October 27, and it represents Microsoft’s best chance to capitalize on the community of 60 million Halo fans and create a competitive advantage for its Xbox One game console in competition with Sony’s PlayStation 4. This time, there’s a new conflict between Master Chief and one of his own, agent Locke, who is a kind of rival Spartan.

The title is also a big chance for Microsoft’s 343 Industries (the studio created to handle the Halo franchise after original creator Bungie spun out to create another first-person shooter, Destiny) to show what it can do with huge investment of time and money. We played all parts of Halo 5 — a preview of the single-player campaign, the esports-like Arena, and the massive Warzone multiplayer mode — and then talked to one of the guardians of the Halo franchise, Josh Holmes, the executive producer for the game.

Holmes talked to us about how 343 is servicing the longtime fans of Halo and how it has honed the story, multiplayer, and cooperative play in the upcoming game. Will the new title be worthy of the Halo name? In the background, we were listening to cheers as multiplayer combat rounds became more intense. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Halo 5: Guardians

Above: Halo 5: Guardians

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: I got to play two of the missions here. I don’t quite grasp entirely what the story is getting at. If you’re setting this up without really spoiling it for anybody, what sort of preamble do you tell?

Josh Holmes: The story takes place after the events of Halo 4. At this point we have a series of cataclysmic events threatening colonies across the galaxy, mysterious events. The UNSC is trying to figure out what’s going on. Early in the story Master Chief goes AWOL for uncertain reasons. This leads the UNSC to deploy a new squad of Spartans to find out why Chief and Blue Team have left the ranks, and what connection – if any – that has to these events.

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That’s the setup. It’s told like a mystery, deliberately. The player, as Locke, is following in Chief’s footsteps and trying to unravel why he’s doing what he’s doing and where everything will lead.

GamesBeat: This is why Master Chief and Locke seem to be at odds? They’re not on the same mission.

Holmes: They’re very different characters. That’s intentional. Designing Locke and writing the new character, we wanted him to feel distinct from Chief. We wanted him to be a person who would ask Chief the kind of questions we want him to ask over the course of this mission.

GamesBeat: As far as airtime goes, is it largely about those two? When I think back on Halo 4, a lot of time was spent focused on Chief and Cortana.

Holmes: This is an interesting departure from Halo 4 in that it’s an ensemble cast. In Halo 4 we were very focused on those two characters and this intimate relationship they had against a backdrop of action and high-stakes drama. In this game, we still have Chief at the center of it all, but he’s now surrounded by a team of Spartans. We have a second team of four that are tracking him. Finding the time to explore all those characters and give each of them a chance to establish themselves was an interesting creative challenge.

GamesBeat: How did Nightfall set up some of this?

Holmes: Nightfall introduces Spartan Locke. At the time, Locke was still an agent of the Office of Naval Intelligence. It’s his background before he became a Spartan. It shows viewers the man he was and who he is at his core before he joined the Spartan program.

As a new Spartan in Halo 5, he’s been put at the helm of Fireteam Osiris. They’re a brand new squad, which is very different from Chief and Blue Team, who have known each other since childhood. They’ve fought together and trust each other. They know what each other member of the team is going to do without even thinking about it. They operate on instinct. Locke and Osiris are still finding their groove together, learning about one another and figuring out their places. Locke is still learning what it means to be a leader. That’s all fertile ground for the story.

GamesBeat: Playing Blue Team really seems to change the campaign. All of a sudden, the Hunters don’t seem so invulnerable anymore.

Holmes: Introducing three more Spartans requires us to rethink the way we build our encounters and design our characters. In the case of the Hunters, they have new behaviors and new attacks they can do in reaction to the way players can surround them. Before, you could trick a Hunter and get behind them and lay waste to them. Now they have the ability to rapidly turn and smash you. It’s more challenging to take on those mini-boss characters like the Hunters and the Knights than you’d think.

Halo 5: Guardians

Above: Halo 5: Guardians

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: You’ve shown more levels and modes from multiplayer. What do you have that’s going to surprise returning players?

Holmes: We’ve gone big with this game in multiplayer. We’ve built two distinct experiences within the multiplayer suite. Arena is purpose-built for competitive play. It celebrates everything at the core of Halo multiplayer. We have even starts, a level playing field, a variety of game modes that cater to that taste. It’s built from the ground up for eSports, but it’s there for players of all skill levels.

On the Warzone side, we’ve tried to bring all the best parts of Halo into one colossal mode. It’s multiplayer at a scale that’s never been done before in Halo – the size of the maps, the number of players, dozens of AI integrated into the mode. You have AI bosses coming in. The scoring system is very different. You have all these choices as a player. Do I want to try and support my team by taking down bosses? Do I want to go capture bases and score that way, maybe even get a shot at taking out the core in the enemy home base? Or do I just want to contribute by shooting opposing players and whittling them down? There are all these different ways you can contribute in that mode. It never plays the same way twice.

GamesBeat: How do you explain the requisition system since that’s brand new to everyone? What should players strategize around?

Holmes: Requisition is a reward system, basically. It supports all of our multiplayer experiences. You earn req packs by playing in Warzone or Arena. There are cosmetic items that carry across both experiences.

For Warzone specifically, all the weapons and vehicles and power-ups and gameplay-impacting things you can unlock within the req system are limited to Warzone. New players, I hope, will have a great sense of discovery as they open packs and find cool stuff and deploy these cool weapons in Warzone. But there is a lot of strategy there as far as what you deploy, when you deploy it, and how you expend your req energy within each Warzone match. You have this governing system that prevents you from going willy-nilly with any part in your inventory.

GamesBeat: One of the worst things you can do is go in and lose your vehicle to the opposing team.

Holmes: I did that earlier today. I got myself an awesome rocket ‘Hog, took it over to the enemy base, and promptly got sniped. It was disappointing.

GamesBeat: I found that if I got a Warthog, I couldn’t count on someone getting in the back to shoot people. I was just driving around.

Holmes: I should have let you guys know ahead of time, but we added a new mechanic in the game where you can rapidly switch from the driver’s seat to the gun by pressing jump. You’ll swing out of the driver’s seat, get on the gun, and start shooting. But it takes a half-second or so. That’s what I was doing when they sniped me.

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DataStax partners with Microsoft to improve Cassandra on Azure

The DataStax booth at OSCON 2014 in Portland, Ore.

DataStax, a company selling licenses for a premium version of the Apache Cassandra distributed NoSQL database, is announcing today that it has formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft.

The commercially supported DataStax Enterprise software has been for sale on Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace since the launch of the Azure Marketplace last year. Now DataStax, as a new member of Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Alliance, will go beyond being just another vendor of software that can be easily deployed on Azure.

“Through this alliance, DataStax and Microsoft are working together to create enhanced enterprise-grade offerings for the Azure Marketplace that reduce the complexities of deployment and provisioning through automated ARM scripting capabilities,” DataStax said in a statement on the news.

DataStax was quick to get DataStax Enterprise running on the Google Compute Engine public cloud back in 2013. Startup Instaclustr offers DataStax Enterprise on the biggest public cloud, Amazon Web Services.

Azure has its own proprietary NoSQL database as a service, DocumentDB. But that database is intended for storing data in JSON documents, while Cassandra — which is inspired by Google’s Bigtable and Amazon’s Dynamo papers — emphasizes its reliability through replication across multiple sites.

Microsoft has not previously partnered with any major NoSQL database company, such as CouchDB, Basho, or MongoDB. In the Hadoop market, Microsoft has been more active, having partnered in the past with both Cloudera and Hortonworks.

DataStax announced a $106 million funding round last year.

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Pension funds, insurance companies could fuel venture capital

The resources of Azerbaijan's pension funds and the insurance companies could become sources of venture capital for start-up projects in the country, Osman Gunduz believes. The member of the Supervisory Board of the State Fund for Development of Information Technologies of Azerbaijan told Trend that certain changes in legislation would allow pension funds or insurance companies to place some of their assets in riskier instruments.

Blue Jeans Network Raises $76.5M To Bring Video Conferencing Beyond The Office

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.45.58 PM Blue Jeans Network, a company that provides cloud-based video conferencing services, has raised $76.5 million in its fifth round of financing. NEA led the Series E round, joined by Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Glynn Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Quadrille Capital. Jeter Ventures, a new fund launched by MLB all-star Derek Jeter, also participated. When Blue Jeans launched in… Read More

Video conferencing company Blue Jeans raises $76.5M

You can record Blue Jeans video conference meetings.

Blue Jeans Network, a company with web and native mobile applications for video conferencing, is announcing today a $75.5 million round of funding.

Companies have plenty of options if they want to hold a video conference for employees or partners. There’s LogMeIn’s, Citrix’s GoToMeeting, Cisco’s WebEx, Logitech’s Lifesize, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype/Lync, and Zoom, to name a few. Blue Jeans emphasizes its interoperability with Lync, Hangouts, and other services, as well as even hardware systems from Cisco and Polycom. That way, everyone on a call doesn’t have to be logged in to the same system.

Acquisitions in this market happen frequently. In April, for instance, Atlassian acquired Blue Jimp.

Blue Jeans customers include Facebook, GoPro, Pandora, and Stanford University.

In December Blue Jeans launched the Primetime service to broadcast video streams to large audiences.

New Enterprise Associates led the new round in Blue Jeans, which started in 2009 and is based in Mountain View, Calif. Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Glynn Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Quadrille Capital, and former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter also participated.

To date Blue Jeans has has taken on $175 million.

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John Doerr of Kleiner says he’s sorry for offensive joke about new partners’ names

John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Oh, you white men of Silicon Valley.

It appears the growing outcry over the lack of women and minorities in Silicon Valley, particularly in the ultra-clubby world of venture capital, still has a long way to go.

Exhibit A: Yesterday, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, fresh off a bruising and embarrassing lawsuit over his firm’s treatment of a former female partner, decided to make light of his new partners’ names.

Their names: Muzzammil Zaveri and Swati Mylavarapu.

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So, a venture capitalist walks onto a Techcrunch Disrupt stage and says:

Get it?

Guess those sensitivity training sessions didn’t get the hoped-for ROI.

Probably getting some flak from his flak, Doerr apologized on Twitter:

Pro user tip: Next time put a period before the @ so more people will see the tweet: [email protected] We understand. Twitter is damn complicated.

In any case, KPCB has clearly hired two worthy new partners. Zaveri was doing investments in the U.S. for China-based Internet giant Tencent. Mylavarapu was at Square and had previously been with and focused on mobile in sub-Saharan Africa and India through.

A couple of strong additions for a firm with global investment ambitions. Just going to be a bit awkward at the next KPCB golf tournament.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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