Clamboring toward and through the airport for the long flight "home" to Beijing -- whose own airport has the delightfully old-school identifier PEK -- two items leap out at me from quick exposure to headlines of the past week.

1) The Chinese government has closed down Time Out Beijing. (According to the Times of London, via Paul Karl Lukas.)

What???? As I was discussing ever so recently, the security agencies in the Chinese government have chosen the run-up to the Olympics as the moment to crack down on citizens and foreigners in the most ham-handed of ways. Like its familiar Time Out counterparts in other major cities, TOB is a frothy but very useful entertainment-and-lifestyle guide. And even this is an intolerable menace? As the Times account said:

The decision seems to have been taken not because of any racy or politically incorrect content. Time Out Beijing has fallen victim to the accelerating imposition of restrictions on any aspect of life in the capital deemed to pose a potential threat to a smooth Olympics.

UPDATE: It appears that this episode is a little more complicated than it appeared at an in-airport glance. Perhaps it involved Olympic-crackdown matters; perhaps it was largely a question of following business-licensing laws. Overview of the snarls here, at China Law Blog, with many subsequent links including to Shanghaiist and Beijing Boyce. In the meantime, this will teach me about catching up too quickly or passing on tips I haven't checked out myself. More later.

2) According to Steve Lohr of the NYT, even Intel has decided not to "upgrade" its own computers to Windows Vista? Wow and wow. Out of a sense of sportsmanship and a dim awareness that if I've said something 99 times I may not need to say it the 100th*, I've kept to myself recent illustrations of the ponderous nightmare that the Vista Experience has meant for me. But this, from the other half of the Microsoft-Intel partnership that for years has ruled the PC world, has got to sting.

And it of course is a fitting complement to a related, bonus half-item: the now-widely-circulated and wonderfully expressive and human email from Bill Gates about his own frustrations in using Windows XP. I would really like to see what he said when trying to make Vista work.**

I think I hear the boarding call.

* OK, number 100: just this morning, in a non-US, non-China location, my wife's XP notebook located and logged into a WiFi network within about 60 seconds of starting up. A Mac I had with me did the same. A Vista ThinkPad I had also brought along took three minutes to wake from hibernation; required several resets of its own wireless adapter to even locate the network in question; had a blue-screen crash at that point; and after the five-minute recovery-and-reboot period identified and linked to the network but never managed to go beyond a "local only" connection to the full internet. Finally I dug up some Cat V cable and made a physical connection to the router, hidden in a dark corner. That worked.

Why did I bother? That machine had a file on it I needed to extract, and (lacking a USB stick at the moment) I needed a net connection to get it to another machine. (And, to preempt nerd follow-ups: no, a "local only" link wasn't enough for the kind of transfer I was making.) And I keep Vista on the machine partly out of laziness and partly out of ongoing test-bed fascination.

** For later on, argument from a tech veteran that my "Vista" complaints really aren't about Vista at all. Instead they're about the Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc computers that come laden with all kinds of "extra," often hidden programs -- "craplets," as Walter Mossberg has called them -- that gum the entire system up. Maybe so -- and more details another day. But the tone of Gates' email makes me guess what his reaction would be: whoever is wrecking the usability of Windows, Microsoft's going to be blamed for overall system sluggishness and inconvenience, so Something Should Be Done.

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