$79 Smart Mirror Uses Raspberry Pi

[Nathan] wanted a smart mirror that cost less than the last one he built, which was about $500. He decided that you don’t see more smart mirrors because of the high cost. His latest build came in at only $79 (you’ll have to visit the blog’s home page to find the entire series).

The most expensive piece of the build is a 7-inch monitor ($45). Any Raspberry Pi will work, although [Nathan] uses a Pi B+. Although he managed to score a free one-way mirror from a local glass shop, you can buy one for about $13.

This is the kind of project that isn’t a big technical challenge. After all, it is a one-way mirror with an LCD screen behind it. However, getting the screen blacked out and set to provide the best possible effect is the trick and [Nathan’s] techniques will give you a head start.

You can see the mirror in the video below. We’ve seen smart mirrors that sense your presence as well as wireless mirrors before.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

Hackaday Links: Leap Eve, 2016

The current Mac Pro is a masterpiece of design that looks like a trash can. We’ve been waiting for someone to take one of these computers and stuff a MiniITX board in there, but seeing as how the Mac Pro costs $3000, that probably won’t happen anytime soon. Here’s the solution. It’s a trash can computer case that is also too expensive for what it is. Now all we need is someone to put a big fan inside one and turn this computer into a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.

[Mike Harrison] recently got his hands on a $20,000 SPARC CPU module. This is an enormously thick board that must be dozens of layers thick. How many layers was an open question until he put the board in a CNC milling machine. The setup is pretty much what you would expect with a few lines of g-code repeated over and over. The real trick comes from using one of the outputs for lubricant to trigger the shutter release on a camera. How many layers were in the CPU module? About 30, or something like that.

Almost a year ago, we saw the latest advances in perfboard. It was a perfboard with each hole connected to rows and columns on a selectively solderable orthogonal busses. Something like that. Actually, we still can’t wrap our head around it. Now, it’s a crowdfunding campaign with a few new and useful features. There’s also a layout tool that will show you where to place your components and where to make solder bridges.

[Ray Wilson] started Music From Outer Spacethe place to learn about DIY analog synthesizers. Ray now has cancer, and as you can imagine, being a self-employed engineer specializing in analog synthesizers doesn’t provide great health coverage. [Ray]’s family set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the medical expenses.

We haven’t seen much in the land of 3D scanners, and we’re betting most of that is because they’re so expensive. The guys from CowTech have a kickstarter up for a 3D scanner that’s just $99. It’s based on the Ciclop scanner but designed around a custom Arduino shield and remains fully open source.

Remember the screen printed electroluminescent displays that were printed directly onto t-shirts from a few months ago? Now that company is working on a much cooler design: the Hackaday Jolly Wrencher. It works, but there are still a few problems: they’re setting the shirt on fire a little. Don’t worry, if these are ever reasonably safe and somewhat affordable, an EL Jolly Wrencher shirt will be in the Hackaday Store.

Need a rechargeable multimeter? It’s actually pretty easy. With an 18650 Lithium Ion cell and a 9V boost converter, this circuit will fit in most devices that need a 9V battery. To do this right, you’ll also need a USB charging port, to be used once every couple of years when the battery needs charging.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

A Wooden Performance Is Fine WIth This Sequencer

You could sometimes be forgiven for thinking that making popular music has become too easy. With a laptop and suitable software almost anybody can now assemble something that had they secured the services of a canny promoter would be in with a shot at stardom. So many performances have been reduced to tightly choreographed dance acts to mask the absence of musicians or indeed musical talent, and our culture is poorer for it. It’s not that music made with modern technology or outside the performance is an indicator of lack of talent, indeed when a truly talented musician makes something with the resources of a modern technology the results are astounding. Instead it perhaps seems as though the technology is cheapened by an association with mediocrity when it should be a tool of greatness.

So it was with pleasure that we noticed a fresh project on Hackaday.io this morning which provides a marriage of accessible music technology and a requirement for performance. [Ernest Warzocha] has made a wooden sequencer.

It’s true, audio sequencers are old hat, so a new one will have to work hard to enthuse a seasoned Hackaday reader who’s seen it all. What makes [Ernest’s] sequencer different is that he’s made one with a very physical interface of wooden pucks placed in circular recesses on a wooden surface. Each recess has an infra-red reflective sensor that detects the surface texture of the puck placed in it and varies the sample it plays accordingly. It’s all held together underneath by an Arduino, and MP3 samples are played by a Sparkfun MP3 shield. At a stroke, he has turned the humble sequencer from a workaday studio tool into a performance art form that you can see in the video below, and we like that.

Home made sequencers have a special place in maker culture, and as you might expect over the years we’ve featured quite a few of them. Shift registers, CMOS analogue switches or even turntables as the sequencer elements, Lego as a human interface, a sequencer made from a cash register, and a rather lovely steampunk sequencer, to name but a few. So this one joins a rich tradition, and we look forward to more in the future.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, musical hacks

Password Extraction Via Front Doorbell

Not a day goes by without another IoT security hack. If you’re wondering why you don’t want your front doorbell connected to the Internet, this hack should convince you.

The hack is unfathomably stupid. You press the button on the back of the unit that pairs the doorbell with your home WiFi network, and it transmits the password in the clear. Sigh. It’s since been fixed, and we suppose that’s a good thing, but we can’t resist thinking for a moment about an alternative implementation.

Imagine, like all previous non-IoT wireless doorbells, that the doorbell transmitted a not-very coded signal over an open frequency like 433 MHz to a receiver inside your home. Do the same with the video stream. Now the receiver can be connected to the Internet, and can be significantly more secure because it’s behind your locked front door. The attack surface presented to the outside world by the doorbell itself is small, and limited to faking a doorbell press or showing you pictures you don’t want to see. Yawn.

But because the outside doorbell unit could be connected to a network, it was. Now the attack surface extends into your home’s network, and if you’re like most people, the WiFi router was your only real defense.

Now we love the IoT, in principle. There are tons of interesting applications that need the sort of bandwidth or remote availability that the Internet provides. We’re just not convinced yet that a doorbell, or a fridge for that matter, meet the criteria. But it does add a hundred bucks to the price tag, so that’s good, right? What do you think? When does the risk of IoT justify the reward?

Thanks [Dielectric] for the tip!

Filed under: security hacks

Password Extraction Via Front Doorbell

Not a day goes by without another IoT security hack. If you’re wondering why you don’t want your front doorbell connected to the Internet, this hack should convince you.

The hack is unfathomably stupid. You press the button on the back of the unit that pairs the doorbell with your home WiFi network, and it transmits the password in the clear. Sigh. It’s since been fixed, and we suppose that’s a good thing, but we can’t resist thinking for a moment about an alternative implementation.

Imagine, like all previous non-IoT wireless doorbells, that the doorbell transmitted a not-very coded signal over an open frequency like 433 MHz to a receiver inside your home. Do the same with the video stream. Now the receiver can be connected to the Internet, and can be significantly more secure because it’s behind your locked front door. The attack surface presented to the outside world by the doorbell itself is small, and limited to faking a doorbell press or showing you pictures you don’t want to see. Yawn.

But because the outside doorbell unit could be connected to a network, it was. Now the attack surface extends into your home’s network, and if you’re like most people, the WiFi router was your only real defense.

Now we love the IoT, in principle. There are tons of interesting applications that need the sort of bandwidth or remote availability that the Internet provides. We’re just not convinced yet that a doorbell, or a fridge for that matter, meet the criteria. But it does add a hundred bucks to the price tag, so that’s good, right? What do you think? When does the risk of IoT justify the reward?

Thanks [Dielectric] for the tip!

Filed under: security hacks

This startup makes getting freelance help for your business as easy as sending a chat

konsus small 2


Getting freelance help for business projects often feels more like dating than time-saving.

Businesses have to post an attractive task, pick a freelancer to do it (based on little information) and then hope it’s a good match and that the work comes back at a decent quality.

If it’s bad, they move onto the next one.

If they find the “one” who is a good fit, they will generally take the freelancer off the market to help work exclusively.

After all, that’s how Konsus is building its own business to help workers save time by using freelancers. They’ve been posting job listings, and then poaching the ones who do the best.

“This work of going around of platforms saying ‘I’m
John from Russia and I’m great at PowerPoint, so please hire me’ isn’t a nice thing. And then people are not nice to you. You’re going to get fired daily,” said cofounder and CEO Fredrik Thomassen.

Instead, Konsus flips the model on its head. Businesses send a chat message or an email to ask for help on a project, and a project manager immediately delivers a quote and splits up the tasks among freelancers. No begging, dating, or firing on either side. And starting Thursday, the company is also launching an integration with Slack, so requesting a spiced up PowerPoint will be as easy as chatting with a coworker.

A problem with no solution for many workers

Thomassen learned the value of outsourcing some easy tasks from his days as a consultant. At McKinsey, they had a staff of freelancers that could help them take care of some of the essential but non-core tasks of doing their jobs overnight. A PowerPoint presentation could be
sent off at the end of the day and a formatted version would be back in his inbox in the morning.

Leaving to build his own company, Thomassen soon realized that his days spent building a company meant nights handling excel spreadsheets and creating investor presentations.

“At 10 p.m., you can’t really send a task to your employees because they’re going to be super pissed,” Thomassen said.

After messing around trying to hire folks on other platforms, he built his own network of freelancers, and soon realized his friends were looking for an affordable solution to cut down on office work too.

The problem is the freelancer market has been so broken, Thomassen said.

Konsus

Meeting with his college friend Sondre Rasch for lunch in the parliament of Norway, where Rasch was working as a
policy advisor, the pair realized that there was a larger need for quick and easy but quality work that benefited both the freelancer and business.

There were plenty of companies to get freelance labor, like Task Rabbit, or longer engineering work, like Gigster. But their idea for Konsus was to create a solution that any business can tap into and have round the clock support. Negotiating a contract for data entry shouldn’t take longer than the time it would take to just enter it.

The company launched in Norway in August 2015 and has already signed up customers ranging from major enterprise clients like Telenord to small 10 person businesses looking for some extra help. The pair joined the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in January 2016 to introduce Konsus to the US after seeing 10% week-over-week growth after its launch. And unlike most startups that are eight months old, the pair claim it’s already profitable.

“The problem we’re
solving is not just finding the freelancer, but also getting it done,” Rasch said.

How Konsus works

To save businesses time, Konsus pre-screens and vets the freelancers to work on its platform, making it easy to find help immediately and not go through the back-and-forth hiring phase. For freelancers, it’s a big boost to have a constant stream of tasks without having to invest time into responding and competing for job postings.

The company narrows down its freelance help to 10 core competencies, ranging from website and logo design to data entry. After spending hours scanning freelancer forums all over the web, these tasks accounted for 60% of contract volume, Thomassen said.

When a business chats Konsus a request, a project manager quotes the company a price and puts it into a pool of available tasks. The project manager will be someone from your country, but the task could be sent to freelancers around the world based on their skill
set and availability.

“The language barrier can be high when working with freelancers globally. Communication difficulties do arise and we bridge that gap by having that project manager who you do have a common language with and who you can hold responsible, ” Rasch said.

The project manager is also in charge of asking questions and breaking down the tasks into bits for freelancers.

While normally a business would have to post a task like a new website piece by piece on a freelance site, Konsus handles breaking it down and assembling the finished product. Logo design is dispatched to one specialist while copy writing is sent to another. The product manager then makes sure the quality is high and meets the standards before sending it back to the business — and all of this happens instantly since it’s staffed around the clock.

“What we find is that very few real tasks when you think about it in the business
world revolves around one very well-specified single task,” Thomasssen said. “I think we’ve almost never seen a task which is simply one siloed specialized task that we can just complete directly.”

Businesses can buy a package of 100 hours at a rate of $19/hour. For one-off tasks, it’s bumped to $29/hour. The company doesn’t vary pricing based on the freelancer or time of day or turnaround time. It’s designed to be transparent and equal.

For the founders, making Konsus affordable comes at a peak time when e-labor or freelance work is on the rise, but there hasn’t been any disruption to the traditional marketplace of posting job listings.

Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work.

“Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work. Maybe sometimes people would be nice to you and give you some task. But now the power relationship is totally changing
around, and if you’re talented, you can tap into a service like Konsus and get work whenever you want,” Thomassen said.

By cutting down on the time freelancers spend having to search, they can do work that’s fitted to their skill set around the clock and increase profits just based on volume alone.

“Whether you’re a single mom in the Philippines or a failed writer in Scandinavia living in the mountains, you can just open up your computer at any moment to start working on what you’re good at and get paid the value of that product,” Rasch said. “We think that kind of flexibility for those that want is better, and that’s the future of work.”

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

This startup makes getting freelance help for your business as easy as sending a chat

konsus small 2


Getting freelance help for business projects often feels more like dating than time-saving.

Businesses have to post an attractive task, pick a freelancer to do it (based on little information) and then hope it’s a good match and that the work comes back at a decent quality.

If it’s bad, they move onto the next one.

If they find the “one” who is a good fit, they will generally take the freelancer off the market to help work exclusively.

After all, that’s how Konsus is building its own business to help workers save time by using freelancers. They’ve been posting job listings, and then poaching the ones who do the best.

“This work of going around of platforms saying ‘I’m
John from Russia and I’m great at PowerPoint, so please hire me’ isn’t a nice thing. And then people are not nice to you. You’re going to get fired daily,” said cofounder and CEO Fredrik Thomassen.

Instead, Konsus flips the model on its head. Businesses send a chat message or an email to ask for help on a project, and a project manager immediately delivers a quote and splits up the tasks among freelancers. No begging, dating, or firing on either side. And starting Thursday, the company is also launching an integration with Slack, so requesting a spiced up PowerPoint will be as easy as chatting with a coworker.

A problem with no solution for many workers

Thomassen learned the value of outsourcing some easy tasks from his days as a consultant. At McKinsey, they had a staff of freelancers that could help them take care of some of the essential but non-core tasks of doing their jobs overnight. A PowerPoint presentation could be
sent off at the end of the day and a formatted version would be back in his inbox in the morning.

Leaving to build his own company, Thomassen soon realized that his days spent building a company meant nights handling excel spreadsheets and creating investor presentations.

“At 10 p.m., you can’t really send a task to your employees because they’re going to be super pissed,” Thomassen said.

After messing around trying to hire folks on other platforms, he built his own network of freelancers, and soon realized his friends were looking for an affordable solution to cut down on office work too.

The problem is the freelancer market has been so broken, Thomassen said.

Konsus

Meeting with his college friend Sondre Rasch for lunch in the parliament of Norway, where Rasch was working as a
policy advisor, the pair realized that there was a larger need for quick and easy but quality work that benefited both the freelancer and business.

There were plenty of companies to get freelance labor, like Task Rabbit, or longer engineering work, like Gigster. But their idea for Konsus was to create a solution that any business can tap into and have round the clock support. Negotiating a contract for data entry shouldn’t take longer than the time it would take to just enter it.

The company launched in Norway in August 2015 and has already signed up customers ranging from major enterprise clients like Telenord to small 10 person businesses looking for some extra help. The pair joined the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in January 2016 to introduce Konsus to the US after seeing 10% week-over-week growth after its launch. And unlike most startups that are eight months old, the pair claim it’s already profitable.

“The problem we’re
solving is not just finding the freelancer, but also getting it done,” Rasch said.

How Konsus works

To save businesses time, Konsus pre-screens and vets the freelancers to work on its platform, making it easy to find help immediately and not go through the back-and-forth hiring phase. For freelancers, it’s a big boost to have a constant stream of tasks without having to invest time into responding and competing for job postings.

The company narrows down its freelance help to 10 core competencies, ranging from website and logo design to data entry. After spending hours scanning freelancer forums all over the web, these tasks accounted for 60% of contract volume, Thomassen said.

When a business chats Konsus a request, a project manager quotes the company a price and puts it into a pool of available tasks. The project manager will be someone from your country, but the task could be sent to freelancers around the world based on their skill
set and availability.

“The language barrier can be high when working with freelancers globally. Communication difficulties do arise and we bridge that gap by having that project manager who you do have a common language with and who you can hold responsible, ” Rasch said.

The project manager is also in charge of asking questions and breaking down the tasks into bits for freelancers.

While normally a business would have to post a task like a new website piece by piece on a freelance site, Konsus handles breaking it down and assembling the finished product. Logo design is dispatched to one specialist while copy writing is sent to another. The product manager then makes sure the quality is high and meets the standards before sending it back to the business — and all of this happens instantly since it’s staffed around the clock.

“What we find is that very few real tasks when you think about it in the business
world revolves around one very well-specified single task,” Thomasssen said. “I think we’ve almost never seen a task which is simply one siloed specialized task that we can just complete directly.”

Businesses can buy a package of 100 hours at a rate of $19/hour. For one-off tasks, it’s bumped to $29/hour. The company doesn’t vary pricing based on the freelancer or time of day or turnaround time. It’s designed to be transparent and equal.

For the founders, making Konsus affordable comes at a peak time when e-labor or freelance work is on the rise, but there hasn’t been any disruption to the traditional marketplace of posting job listings.

Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work.

“Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work. Maybe sometimes people would be nice to you and give you some task. But now the power relationship is totally changing
around, and if you’re talented, you can tap into a service like Konsus and get work whenever you want,” Thomassen said.

By cutting down on the time freelancers spend having to search, they can do work that’s fitted to their skill set around the clock and increase profits just based on volume alone.

“Whether you’re a single mom in the Philippines or a failed writer in Scandinavia living in the mountains, you can just open up your computer at any moment to start working on what you’re good at and get paid the value of that product,” Rasch said. “We think that kind of flexibility for those that want is better, and that’s the future of work.”

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

How to wire your garage for electric-car charging: what you need to know

Tesla's Model X electric car


(Green Car Reports) – One of the more daunting perceived obstacles to driving a plug-in electric car seems to be the need for a home charging station.

While plug-in hybrids can be recharged overnight using their 120-Volt charging cords, battery-electric drivers should really have access to a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station.

Those will recharge the full battery pack in anything from 4 to 9 hours, depending on the specific car.

Many owners will want to retrofit a charging station into an existing garage,
but to lay out the principles, we’re starting with what it takes to install one into a garage that’s being built or extensively remodeled.

We’ve just gone through that process for a new garage in New York’s Catskill Mountains. (Note this applies only to North America!)

There are several steps, but it’s important to understand that the wiring is the first step, and separate from the charging station–since drivers may later choose to upgrade to a more powerful station.

Circuit-breaker box showing 240-Volt circuit for electric-car charging station

First, work with your contractor and electrician to install a dedicated 240-Volt line to 1 or 2 feet
below wherever you plan to locate your charging station.

We sited ours in a corner of the building so a car can be recharged inside, or we can run the cord out underneath the garage door or through the regular door on the side of the building.

Many contractors won’t have any prior experience with electric-car charging stations, so you may have to educate them.

ALSO SEE: Electric Car Charging: The Basics You Need To Know

The easiest way to put it in context is that it’s the same kind of circuit used for electric clothes driers or stoves.

Second, make sure your new circuit is capable of 50 Amps, which means a 40-Amp charging rate (using 80 percent of the circuit capacity).

Even if your first charging station is only capable of 24 Amps
(as many less-expensive ones are), you’ll want to “future-proof” your garage wiring.

NEMA 6-50 socket

Third, tell the electrician to install a NEMA 6-50 socket–the one used by most charging stations that aren’t hard-wired–in the wall below the chosen site.

One electrician we spoke to preferred hard-wiring, which eliminates resistance heat between the plug and socket, but we wanted to allow the charging station to go with us if we move.

Fourth, once you have your garage wired, THEN select your charging station and bolt it securely to the wall.

Most people will buy a new one; we were lucky enough to have a used one given to us by Green Car Reports contributor and electric-car advocate Tom Moloughney, who was upgrading. (Thanks, Tom!)

There are more than a
dozen charging stations on the market today.

They can be bought directly from the makers or through a big-box store like Best, Home Depot, or Lowe’s–from their websites if not necessarily in stock at your local outlet.

NEMA 6-50 plug

Things to keep in mind:

  • Look for at least 24 Amps of charging capability; 40 Amps is best, but more expensive
  • Charging rate should be at least 7.2 kilowatts, which will handle both Chevy Volts (3.3 or 3.6 kW) and higher-rate cars like Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s (6.6 and 7.2 kW, respectively)
  • Make sure it has that NEMA 6-50 plug on it!
  • Some charging stations are “dumb,” while others come from makers (e.g. ChargePoint) offer online connections between your charger and a phone app and/or online site that will show you instant
    and cumulative charging statistics
  • Ensure the cord is long enough to reach a car parked outside the garage. We’d suggest 16 feet at minimum, and 25 feet is well worth the extra cost.

NEMA 6-50 plug in socket

That’s the short and simple version of what you need to know. We’ll update this article if we get additional tips and pointers from readers or commenters.

Remember: It’s no more complex than an electric clothes drier–and there are millions of those in garages all over North America.

This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.

How to wire your garage for electric-car charging: what you need to know

Tesla's Model X electric car


(Green Car Reports) – One of the more daunting perceived obstacles to driving a plug-in electric car seems to be the need for a home charging station.

While plug-in hybrids can be recharged overnight using their 120-Volt charging cords, battery-electric drivers should really have access to a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station.

Those will recharge the full battery pack in anything from 4 to 9 hours, depending on the specific car.

Many owners will want to retrofit a charging station into an existing garage,
but to lay out the principles, we’re starting with what it takes to install one into a garage that’s being built or extensively remodeled.

We’ve just gone through that process for a new garage in New York’s Catskill Mountains. (Note this applies only to North America!)

There are several steps, but it’s important to understand that the wiring is the first step, and separate from the charging station–since drivers may later choose to upgrade to a more powerful station.

Circuit-breaker box showing 240-Volt circuit for electric-car charging station

First, work with your contractor and electrician to install a dedicated 240-Volt line to 1 or 2 feet
below wherever you plan to locate your charging station.

We sited ours in a corner of the building so a car can be recharged inside, or we can run the cord out underneath the garage door or through the regular door on the side of the building.

Many contractors won’t have any prior experience with electric-car charging stations, so you may have to educate them.

ALSO SEE: Electric Car Charging: The Basics You Need To Know

The easiest way to put it in context is that it’s the same kind of circuit used for electric clothes driers or stoves.

Second, make sure your new circuit is capable of 50 Amps, which means a 40-Amp charging rate (using 80 percent of the circuit capacity).

Even if your first charging station is only capable of 24 Amps
(as many less-expensive ones are), you’ll want to “future-proof” your garage wiring.

NEMA 6-50 socket

Third, tell the electrician to install a NEMA 6-50 socket–the one used by most charging stations that aren’t hard-wired–in the wall below the chosen site.

One electrician we spoke to preferred hard-wiring, which eliminates resistance heat between the plug and socket, but we wanted to allow the charging station to go with us if we move.

Fourth, once you have your garage wired, THEN select your charging station and bolt it securely to the wall.

Most people will buy a new one; we were lucky enough to have a used one given to us by Green Car Reports contributor and electric-car advocate Tom Moloughney, who was upgrading. (Thanks, Tom!)

There are more than a
dozen charging stations on the market today.

They can be bought directly from the makers or through a big-box store like Best, Home Depot, or Lowe’s–from their websites if not necessarily in stock at your local outlet.

NEMA 6-50 plug

Things to keep in mind:

  • Look for at least 24 Amps of charging capability; 40 Amps is best, but more expensive
  • Charging rate should be at least 7.2 kilowatts, which will handle both Chevy Volts (3.3 or 3.6 kW) and higher-rate cars like Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s (6.6 and 7.2 kW, respectively)
  • Make sure it has that NEMA 6-50 plug on it!
  • Some charging stations are “dumb,” while others come from makers (e.g. ChargePoint) offer online connections between your charger and a phone app and/or online site that will show you instant
    and cumulative charging statistics
  • Ensure the cord is long enough to reach a car parked outside the garage. We’d suggest 16 feet at minimum, and 25 feet is well worth the extra cost.

NEMA 6-50 plug in socket

That’s the short and simple version of what you need to know. We’ll update this article if we get additional tips and pointers from readers or commenters.

Remember: It’s no more complex than an electric clothes drier–and there are millions of those in garages all over North America.

This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.

China bans former tycoon’s Weibo and QQ accounts

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. REUTERS/Edgar Su


(Reuters) – China’s cyberspace watchdog said on Sunday it had ordered the closure of a microblog account of a former property tycoon, known for his bold remarks on China’s economic policy, for “spreading illegal information”.

Microblog portals such as Weibo.com and t.qq.com, among China’s most popular, were ordered to ban the account of Ren Zhiqiang, a retired top executive from a state-controlled property developer who has more than 30 million online followers.

“The cyberspace is not outside the laws, nobody is allowed to spread illegal
information using the Internet,” Jiang Jun, spokesman for the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The statement, posted on the website of Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) (www.cac.gov.cn), did not say what specific comments had led to the ban of Ren’s account.

His account could not be found in a search on Sunday at Weibo.com, owned by Sina Corp, or t.qq.com, owned by Tencent Holdings.

Reuters was not able to reach Ren for comment.

According to a commentary posted on Feb. 22 on china.qianlong.com, a website run by the Beijing municipal government, Ren, a communist party member, was accused of making remarks against the state media and the party.

“Who gave Ren the courage to be anti-party?” was the title of the commentary, which also called him “cannon Ren who’s only a proxy for the capitals.”

The Chinese government routinely censors
the Internet, blocking many sites it deems could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability, including global sites such as Facebook and Google’s main search engine and Gmail service.

Authorities have launched numerous operations to combat illegal online behavior, from pornography to gambling.

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the country’s top three state new organizations – Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television – and asked them to toe the party lines.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Clark Li; Editing by Clelia Oziel)