Is China Still A Hot Economy?

In the past 10 years I’ve spent a lot of time in China doing business. It depends how you quantify things but I can speak anecdotally and from experience.

China’s GDP growth is no longer double digit

China’s GDP has dropped from the double digit miracle of 10.1% in 2010 to 6.1% in 2016. In terms of numbers there is no doubt China is slowing down but still 6% growth is nothing to complain about. Why so? Because the miracle that is between 10-15 years behind China in Southeast Asia for example is showing similar growth.
Malaysia in 2016 was 4.2% which is a fair drop compared to 2010’s 7.5%. Indonesia follows a similar trend with 2016 being 5.0% and 2010 being 6.4%. We can see a general trend in Asia especially that China is following with moderating GDP but the hype would have you believe otherwise. Don’t get me wrong Southeast is undoubtedly poised for huge growth, it’s just that the hype would have you believe there is double digit growth that hasn’t arrived just yet.

Changes Have Happened
Of course this is no surprise, the Chinese government itself planned for this and stated that double digit GDP is not sustainable into the future. China’s stated goal has essentially been to transform themselves from a labor based economy to a knowledge based economy with internal consumption largely sustaining this. To the credit of China I think they’ve largely achieved this. The evidence is everywhere with constantly rising wages, Chinese citizens are becoming more affluent, buying more expensive items and high end goods have flooded the Mainland and they are intended for the locals. This presents a huge opportunity for companies who have such items on offer.

Missing from the above picture are things I’ve heard from friends and colleagues. A lot of manufacturing companies have packed up shop due to rising costs including labor and moved to Southeast Asian locations. In turn there are less jobs for expatriates than in previous times and with rising living costs in China it has been less attractive to some business sectors and expatriates alike. With less production from the labor force in China, it’s only inevitable that the GDP has moderated.

It’s not all bad
A lot of people have said that some companies entered the Chinese market because it was so lucrative and with less competition. Today that’s no longer true as China’s economy has matured and the country itself has been modernizing and changing at break-neck pace. The one unintended impact is that this also created an environment of uncertainty for some businesses and sectors.

However, it’s not all bad depending on who you ask. China’s ecommerce market is thriving, in fact part of the reason why some companies are no longer there is because just like the West (but even moreso in China) the digital economy and internet have literally transformed and revolutionized the country. What worked yesterday is no longer valid or effective today and this is a general statement for how things are done in China (things move fast!).

Stats in China showed the ecommerce grew by 26.2% in 2016 for a whopping 5.16Trillion RMB/CNY! In fact ecommerce in China is said to represent 15% of ALL retail sales in China and of course these numbers are only expected to increase.

So is China still hot?
It depends from who’s perspective, internal consumption is rising, so are wages, GDP is still fairly high and eCommerce continues to be a huge factor in China. If someone wanted to get into eCommerce in China or offer goods to the growing middle and affluent class in China I would say it’s still hot. As always it is best to diversify and not rely on a single economy.

Countries where cryptocurrency, coins, tokens and ICOs are banned

There has been a lot of activity lately in the world with governments banning cryptocurrency and ICOs but this should come as no surprise as there has been strongly worded messaging about this for some time.

China bans ICOs and shuts down Exchanges
This had a massive impact on the valuations of coins such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum, Dash etc.. but things have since recovered since the 2017/09/04 law passed in China but serves as a warning and example of what government intervention can and cannot do.

http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0904/c90000-9264331.html

Chinese authorities on Monday ordered a ban on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), a nascent form of fundraising in which technology start-ups issue their own digital coins, or “tokens”, to investors to access funds as the rapidly expanding market spawned concerns over financial risks.

Starting Monday, ICO activities should be halted, and ICO platforms should not engage in exchange services between fiat currencies, virtual coins and tokens, said a statement from the People’s Bank of China.

South Korea Bans ICOs

The good news is that while ICOs are banned it does not appear that trading in the currencies themselves is banned.
http://www.nasdaq.com/article/south-koreas-ico-ban-a-reaction-to-serious-concerns-over-cryptocurrency-investment-practices-cm854236

In fact it appears South Korea plans to allow trading but wants more regulation and safeguards:

South Korea Makes it Legal to Transfer Cryptocurrencies Internationally

Singapore

Although not by law, many companies in Singapore dealing in cryptocurrency have had their accounts closed:

https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2017/september/singapore-banks-closing-accounts-of-cryptocurrency-firms/

Countries subject to strict or promising strict regulations

Nearly every country has taken a similar line where they are making a legal framework and claiming that ICOs are subject to the same laws and rules as IPOs. However this doesn’t appear to have been translated into law. It also doesn’t address the question of how holders on the coins will be impacted but one would guess that in the future they may be subject to capital gains tax and treated like traditional stock investments.

This list of countries includes:
EU, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore and many other countries around the world.

Hong Kong Regulators Warn ICO Tokens May be Securities Under the Law

SEC: ICO Tokens Like Those of The DAO are Securities Subject to Regulations

Canadian Regulators Say Cryptocurrency ICO/ITO May be Subject to Securities Law

Is the regulation valid, practical and legal?

This is a hard call for me to understand in the sense that these cryptocurrencies are just that, digital currency and currently people are not taxed or penalized for simply exchanging, buying and/or holding different currencies.

It may also be interesting to see what the large exchanges, businesses and users do in response such as unprecedented regulation and laws. It may be that some of the regulations and laws imposed around the world may be found invalid or unenforceable in the end.

What are your thoughts and as always please let me know if I’ve missed any new developments around the laws of cryptocurrency.

Google Pixel 2 for Business Use?

Source http://areebyasir.com/?p=218

I have to start off by saying I am surprised at the specs or lack of them right out of the box I wouldn’t buy because there is no value there and no compelling features over the average phone. The entry level 5″ model comes in at $899 and the XL 6″ at $1159 USD. What is especially disappointing is the lackluster 4GB of RAM in both models this is quite shocking for a flagship phone I would say it is a low-end phone in terms of RAM which is a big deal to me and I think most people. If you don’t have enough RAM your apps will slow down and start swapping. There is also nothing that I see is groundbreaking in this phone compared to the iPhone-X.

If this phone came in at a budget price I’d say it would be a good value but like many, I am comparing it against flagship Chinese phones such as my OnePlus 5 that I recently bought. In comparison my One Plus 5 came in at $540 USD has 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and dual-SIM slot (very hand when traveling abroad/on business).

I think Google is going to be creating more work for itself and it needs to decide if it’s competing against the OnePlus or Apple because both are very different types of market segments and this phone fits into the middle of the pack in terms of specs but at a premium price. It just doesn’t make sense because these phones don’t carry any prestige that say a Samsung or Apple would.

I’m sorry for not going into more depth but for the way I purchase I had to stop at the 4GB of RAM I cannot believe any 2017 flagship phone would have such little memory.
The Pixel 2 looks like a good phone but it is overpiced and underspec’d and usually I say specs are not an issue but at that price point it certainly is and I’d say the iPhone-X is the better value. Think of it this way though you could almost buy 2 OnePlus 5’s with 8GB of RAM for the price of one Pixel 2.

My New Phone – OnePlus 5 8GB RAM/128GB Storage

Around the time I posted my thoughts on the iPhone-X I finally decided on a Chinese phone like the post hinted after a few hiccups with sellers in China. I’ve searched for several weeks and almost bought a Xiaomi (there are so many to choose from) but I felt the OnePlus 5 even though it has increased in cost was the best value. One big issue with a lot of other Chinese phones is if you look at the bands or frequency of LTE, they often only support only 1 or 2 common bands in North America. This is a big problem of course and phones like the OnePlus tend to support the same or more bands than phones from our local market. However Xiaomi is making phones like the M1 which are not as high spec’d but with most of the same bands so things are changing, but still many other Chinese phones are lagging in terms of LTE bands and this should be a big factor if you check the bands supported do not match with your local carrier.

Why did I choose the OnePlus 5?
The specs are high and so is the value with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space even though some have complained that the value is not as great as previous models I still consider it a smart buy at $540 USD (I originally purchased it for $519.99 but it turned out to be a bait and switch scam-more on that later). The camera is also great on this phone and it is another alternative for capturing business and family moments on the go when I don’t have a dedicated camera with me.

In short it’s basically a quality, flagship, superphone at a reasonable price. There’s no need to pay more for less such as Google’s Pixel2 with only 4GB of RAM for $899 USD. Samsung S8 was on my list but not so much after a string of quality issues and my previous Note not working as well as I expected (I will say for its time the camera was fantastic though).

I think this is a fantastic business phone and nothing out there really beats it. I could spend more but why bother when the OnePlus offers top end specs and reliability?

What factors made me almost not-choose it?
Not having a SD card slot and removable battery are some things I really tend to stay away from. Either of those issues made it hard for me to Choose the OnePlus5 I do hope they will change this in future models.

Why haven’t I reviewed the phone more?
I’m still waiting for it, I wasted several days after buying it on sale at GeekBuying.com only to be told I had to pay $25 more (essentially they didn’t honor their own sale price) and it took time to get a refund from them. Apparently they do this a lot after searching about the same issue. I then purchased from another place called GearBest at a higher price $539.99.

The most difficult thing about this phone has been dealing with the companies in China. Some of the most recommended sellers based on internet forums/blogs which I suspect some of the praise is not authentic suggest “GeekBuying” and “GearBest”. Part of this motivation is of course because they have affiliate programs but there are slew of complaints similar or worse than mine. Customer service at these sorts of companies is usually not helpful when they’ve made a mistake or they’re asking you for more money.

I wanted to buy from OnePlus.net directly but they won’t allow Canadians to pay in USD (because this works out to be cheaper at the moment) and they didn’t seem to understand why someone would want to pay in a different currency. Their system forces you to pay by only the currency of the shipping destination.

Has anyone else bought a OnePlus or other Chinese phone and can you recommend more trustworthy, honest and reliable sellers in China? Please let me know in the comments section.

I’ll have the full review once I have the phone but shipping has been a bit slower than I expected from Singapore Post (normally it is much quicker).

Why Don’t I/We Use RHEL Red Hat Enterprise Linux Instead of Centos?

This a question one of our good client’s asked me one day and I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for this one, it’s something we’ve never put active thought in but was rather a matter of instinct. While we do use various OS’s for different platforms including our own in-house Linux, Cloud, Hosting Control Panel, applications and clients including BSD based OS’s such as FreeBSD, this is something we’ve never been asked.

RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) has been a clear leader since the early days of providing a standardized, mission critical platform for business applications in the Linux/Unix environment. It was actually my first Linux install back when I was in highschool and I’ve personally maintained Unix/Linux systems for over 16 years now. In that time I have found the strengths and weaknesses of RHEL in terms of our business and clients. However, the Centos project is a legal clone of RHEL with the only difference being artwork and the name Centos it functions identically as RHEL and is completely Open Source.

Since our team of experts does everything in-house we don’t really on Vendor support, it means when something is going on with a server we can solve the problem on our own very quickly with our own team. We don’t have the need to call a third party and ask how-to fix the problem and in fact it’s quicker for us to just do it ourselves whereas I’ve learned many organizations heavily rely on this type of third-party support. The goal with my ventures has always been that our teams should be self-sufficient for both security and efficiency.

Centos being Open Source is a huge advantage for us, we can customize and redistribute OS’s and deploy them on servers without having to touch a button or connect to monitor or KVM (yes I do realize RHEL can be installed headless/kickstart but not in the way we deploy our custom OS images-possibly for another blog). The only con with Centos is that there is a small delay in updates since it depends on the upstream source which is RHEL but this is a minor issue and all major updates are done to Centos almost instantly.

To conclude, my hats off to Linus Torvalds for inventing the Linux Kernel, the RHEL team and especially the CentOS team and I hope this explains why CentOS for my company’s is the best fit for our needs at the moment.

2017 and Beyond The Future of Cryptocurrency and Government Financial Regulations

Governments, banks and other large entities have all been murmuring, talking and hinting what the future of cryptocurrency could be or specifically the block chain. They all agree “blockchain” is good, there is no one against it but there has been a lot of confusion about the internet thinking this is equates to government and corporate backing of decentralized cryptocurrencies. I believe this couldn’t be the truth, in fact there have been lots of issues for companies exchanging cyrptocurrency for cold hard cash being unable to wire etc.

The excuse you hear from the big players are concern over fraud, money laundering, etc.. all of which happens in the current fiat monetary system. The true issue behind all the fuss is simply that these decentralized cryptocurrencies allow unhindered free trade around the world regardless of which country you are citizen of and where you are, no one can sanction you or freeze your assets in cryptocurrency. Further, it is of course a huge threat to the current financial system and governments around the world who depend on third party “reserve” banks to print their money. It’s bad news for their monopoly on finance and business transactions worldwide.

Bitcoin Exchanges in China are being shutdown: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/09/14/china-orders-bitcoin-exchanges-shut-down-report-says/665209001/
Russia says Bitcoin is illegal: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-bitcoin/russian-authorities-say-bitcoin-illegal-idUSBREA1806620140209
Bitfinex sued Wells Fargo for blocking their wires: https://bravenewcoin.com/news/wells-fargo-sued-for-suspending-bitfinex-wire-transfers/
US SEC says they want to regulate coins: https://themerkle.com/sec-may-be-looking-for-ways-to-regulate-the-cryptocurrency-ico-market/
JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon calls Bitcoin a fraud: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-12/jpmorgan-s-ceo-says-he-d-fire-traders-who-bet-on-fraud-bitcoin

The part in China is most significant because the action in China has coincided with drops in value of the major currencies, as well as Chinese users doing a lot of mining and trading in crytocurrency.

When we take some examples above, this is the general consensus among bankers and government worldwide. They all like blockchain and want to make their own currencies that they control and centralize, but they are certainly against the decentralized ones and as new banking, taxation and other government intervention roles out surrounding cryptocurrency it will be very interesting to see where things head.

I personally think the decentralized currency will always exist and it can and will coincide with other mainstream offerings from banks and governments. There will be a place for both just as cash from other countries is traded for other items whether gold, silver or even electronics and oil. Trade will continue but through a different method of settlement and transfer.

One thing is for sure until we see how things break in terms of government regulations and how their own cryptocurrency’s play out, the value of the original decentralized currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum et al will have wild fluctuations as people react to news that threatens these currencies the same way people would read the news about Greece’s debt and haircut on the bonds they sold. In fact many watch the crypto market including the ICO (Initial Coin Offerings) and note they do seem to function as any other traditional market would in terms of news and advancements.

I believe we are seeing a financial revolution, all currency will soon be crypto and physical cash before we know it may all be stop being used.
The only question is how fast does it all happen and how does the difference between centralized banks and decentralized crypto users play out?

Decentralized Search Engines to Rival Google Based on Blockchain from Bitclave

I haven’t covered it in my blog here but many know the blockchain technology made popular by Bitcoin has other possibilities such as sharing data, files etc and one of the latest manifestations is the “Bitclave” project. The website doesn’t detail some of these things but here is what I gather and I apologize if it’s not 100%, but here is what I break it down as:

#1) Bitclave is a decentralized search engine based on blockchain technology.
#2) Bitclave has CAT which is it’s own cryptocurrency based off the same blockchain meant to be used as currency.
#3) Bitclave is unique in that unlike the current big search engines, they will not be freely selling your information to benefit unknown third parties.
#4) Bitclave is not only a decentralized search engine and currency but it also rewards you for engaging in particular offers if you want to buy a car or house, for engaging with particular companies and offers (even if you don’t buy) you are rewarded with some CAT currency.
#5) Your information is under your control and completely private so you can choose when and how to sell it for big money potentially to third parties.

I’m going to go into some of the pros and cons that I see.
Pros.
First and foremost this is an exciting project on its own due to the decentralized aspect of the search engine. It takes it one step further by giving the user control over their private search/marketing data and even lets them directly and profit in ways that are under their control.

It will also revolutionize business potentially if things are done this way under a mutual benefit between business and user. In fact if executed properly it could end or significantly change the internet business and search model as it exists now with the big engines and social sites.

Cons

However, the Bitclave team would still largely retain certain controls just as developers of any blockchain do which makes some aspects only as trustworthy as the team is capable and trustworthy for.

It is theoretically possible that the business model above could turn biased in a somewhat similar way that the mega search engines have done things, where the rules are constantly changing for the benefit of a few. However, this is not a likely thing in the near future since Bitclave needs to prove itself and gain trust to both users and business.

Another big concern, which is still a concern for the mega engines is how would spam, hateful, defamatory and other harmful material be handled? It is great to be free and decentralized but there needs to be some legal or other mechanism to prevent abuse of such a powerful search engine. It’s definitely worth checking out to see how things play out.

Conclusion
I am very excited about this project, it is more commercialized than I expected and could not be considered entirely open source or community based but I’m OK with it as long as it is executed as envisioned it will have a massive and positive impact on the internet which benefits the majority.

Good luck to the Bitclave team they could be making serious history in both blockchain, search and online commerce!

The Future Is Powered By Kinetics and Thermal Power Generation

Kinetics

I came across this newly developed product called Pavegen. With that said what they do is remarkable, they take every day activity with their product which in simple terms creates energy by people walking on special tiles they have created (sorry to simplify it really is much more than that) but in laymans terms it is very exciting. Imagine the green and power efficient applications nearly everywhere, especially in crowded city centers and areas things like lights and even buildings could be powered by this technology.

The one thing that will be critical is how they are able to store the and redeploy the energy generated from walking on these special tiles. If this product makes it to market I think it will revolutionize how we view and use power. It will also offer the possibility of completely “off the grid” power systems so long as there are enough people to create energy, combine that with solar and wind power and begin storing it en-mass and the possibilities are endless and most importantly brighter and greener for everywhere with the possibility of generating your own electricity (at least in part) and hopefully paying less for it.

Thermal
There is also another company called Thermax which claims to generate power through heat from industrial gases. I wonder if the same application could be used for datacenters where we all know datacenters use massive amounts of power and also generate incredible amounts of heat. What if at least a percentage of this heat could be capture and turned into recyclable energy?

iPhone-X 10 Thoughts and Personal Business Review

I thought I’d put my thoughts down trying to keep up with all the new phones and technologies and put it in perspective and keep it relative for business/professional use, security, practicality and value first.

I will admit iPhone-X is exciting in terms of new features it is groundbreaking and what Apple needed at this point in time!

Apple iPhone-X’s key new features (to me)

AR (Augmented Reality)
Yes another “Reality” based feature, augmented reality has huge capabilities both practical and impractical. For example it is cool that you can literally use this phone as a ruler and drag it across the floor to do so. However would I do this if I owned one of these? No, how often would you use this feature and would you use a high-end phone in this manner? However, as some point out, it remains to be seen the adoption rate of this technology. For me it comes down to practical use and at this moment there is not a whole lot of it out there aside from gaming and social apps. If there are new groundbreaking apps that can be used practically everyday that don’t have any other efficient method then AR will take off, however if not, AR may just go the way of the old 3D Virtually Reality console by Nintendo. I personally think AR will take off but it simply depends on how long until practical apps come out. So far most of what I’m seeing is not a game changer in terms of “this AR app does something I could never possibly do without AR technology”.

Facial Recognition
Sorry but this doesn’t interest me and also scares me at the same time! Facial recognition technology is nothing new but rather new to the phone unlocking world. However is this a good idea? I don’t think so, under duress or even if you are injured or incapacitated someone can take your face and unlock your phone or use your finger for the fingerprint reader. Passwords in this aspect on their own may be safer if it is complex, secure and no one knows it.

Pros
iOS is the most efficient and fastest performing mobile OS in my opinion with the best user experience. It is a very slick interface that works extremely well. Without iOS the iPhone would not be what it is. It definitely has a wow and latest and great factor without a doubt.

Cons
iOS is closed-source and suffers from more malware and security issues than Android. It lacks the customization features that Android does.
The all glass phone sure sounds cool but the possibility of any part of the chassis breaking or cracking is a big issue, still, Apple has probably done their homework on it and made it extremely strong but the prospect of dropping a glass phone is not nice to think about!

Conclusion
This phone comes at a premium price but doesn’t disappoint with features or specs but this is fairly standard today, all new flagship phones are more than adequate for most users so I never worry about specs. The above is simply based on what makes the phone different to me. The iPhone 3G/3GS to me was the most groundbreaking phone in its time and I had a 3GS (and still have it today) but I do not feel the iPhone 10 is the same level of groundbreaking because there was simply nothing like it back then and today it’s not quite the case. I wouldn’t buy one for my needs in terms of business I have more concerns about security.

Green Low-Power Alternative Computing Intel NUC Boxes

The key features of low power NUC boxes are that they are small,lightweight,portable,efficient and the low power means less heat and energy savings which all mean “Green Efficient Computing for the Environment”.  In addition consider that you could run these units without power on a UPS for a much longer period of time than most laptops or Desktop computers.  In an emergency or any issue with lack of power, these units will be first and foremost.

As a bit of continuation of my Green Computing talk these NUC boxes take it to the next level from Intel using low power laptop DDR3L SODIMM memory.  I recently bought a barebone Intel NUC J3455 Box for my wife and was impressed at the power usage (literally 10W to the wall at 110V!) and it is still a Quad-Core albeit with slightly lower CPU frequency of just 1.5Ghz but it works great for most functions.  I was able to upgrade it easily to 8GB of RAM (2x4GB), it has an SD card slot built-in, HDMI, VGA and 4 USB 3.0 ports and a 2.5″ SATA 3.0 port that I plugged a 256GB SSD into and installed Ubuntu/Linux Mint on.  It works quite well but there appear to be a few bugs and fidgeting required, for example the NIC cable came loose and it wouldn’t work until I replugged and rebooted it (actually the BIOS stopped showing the NIC at all so somehow it got disabled on its own and there was no option to rThe cheaper one on the left is bare-ones and e-enable or disable it in the BIOS).  You also have to disable the C-Step functions or the CPU doesn’t work properly.  In Linux it looks like there is a bug in the Intel Graphics driver for this model that sometimes causes the graphics/mdm to be restarted. Aside from the tinkering it is well worth the cost saving and works well and reliably.

One thing I will say I am a little surprised at is that the unit does get fairly hot if you are using it heavily and there is no fan in the Intel NUC which means things do get a bit hot (but nothing compared to a laptop).  It comes down to HDD, RAM and CPU being cramped into an incredibly small package.

The Vorke V1 J3160 is basically the same thing as above but does not have the 2 RAM slots (only a single).  However it is priced well and only uses 6W instead of 10W, quite the power savings!  I have purchased the unit below but have not had a chance to test it but I am hoping for the same or better results as the Intel J3455 unit above.  I love how this one comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD out of the box and includes Windows so it’s ready to go out of the box (many like me will just be installing Linux though).  It can serve as an excellent backup box (eg. plug it in somewhere else and hook up a bunch of large USB 3.0 HDDs and keep another copy of your data). Or in my case it could just be an excellent “stand-by” computer with a mirror of your current config “just in case” your main unit goes down you could get going instantly with the backup one.  One other feature I am hoping for in this unit is to see the BIOS is a little more stable and less buggy than Intel’s.  Finally I am hopeful the unit will run cooler due to the 6W CPU and built-in case fan which I think Intel may want to consider too.   Time will tell but I am looking forward to getting a chance to open and test the Vorke V1 and hope they will keep producing similar units.