Browsing all articles from April, 2009

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There are a few numbers in China that have additional meanings.

In the northern parts of China 250 (二百五) is used to refer to someone as not so smart. This probably stems from the fact that in order to say 250 in Chinese, you don’t say er bai wu, you say liang bai wu, but Wikipedia says different, and who am I to argue.
[Apparently I’m wrong again 🙂 after chatting to some of my friends, they say wiki is right, and to call someone 500 (五百) is even worse – you’re twice as 二百五! There was talk about that when 伍佰 (the Taiwanese Singer) was big here.]

For example 56 (五六) sounds like 无聊 (bored) in standard mandarin, and I lost a conversation about the origins of the video site name to someone on Twitter.
55 also has a meaning which roughly corresponds to an affirmative exclamation of excitement eg yeah! woohoo!

38 (三八) is used as a derogatory term for women, and typically means bitch.
This stems from March 8th (3月8日) being womens day (三八节).

三八线 on the other hand is the 38th Parallel, which is the dividing line between North and South Korea for those that didn’t know that.

In school however, the 三八线 was the dividing line on the desk (although this did have its origins in the North / South Korean divider line.

There is a an amazingly well done video cartoon below which recalls the 三八线 to illustrate primary school life. Unfortunately no subtitles, but its eminently watchable without.

More video’s here over at Kuanger, or do a Tudou search for 哐哐哐

Lastly, but not least is 88 – this sounds like bye bye, so is often used in online chat when you sign out.

I hope you enjoyed the lesson, and 88!

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Fridge Lingo - Talking to your Ayi

Fridge Lingo - Talking to your Ayi

Sadly, most expats here, excluding myself of course, cough cough, have something from marginal through to no Chinese language skills whatsoever.

What to do?

Buy a Fridge Magnet set from, and communicate (or alternately make pretty word patterns, that part’s up to you).

The Fridge Lingo sets have common phrases for various situations. The first set, available now online, and at select venues around Shanghai is “Talking to your Ayi”.

Each set has over 200 words and phrases with English, Chinese and Pinyin (per word/phrase) which you can use to make sentences with.

Smart Shanghai were lucky enough to get a set, and as they pointed out in their review, we neglected to include a “you’re fired” phrase, but the rest of the phrases in the set are pretty useful, including such gems as “empty the cat litter”, and “please”, both of which go well together, at least in my apt.


The View from the Fridge

Our second set (coming out soon), is aimed at a different segment of the marketplace. We’d probably recommend that people don’t try to mix the 2 sets on the Fridge, unless you really like your ayi, but we’d be giving too much info away.

You can buy them online here –, with Cash on Delivery available to anywhere that our Kuaidi company will send someone to, which apparently includes most of Shanghai. Yes, even that bit across the river called Pudong, not that anyone actually lives there, right?

Remember… Fridge Lingo is hand made by Laowai’s for Laowai’s. Only the best slave labour will do*

*Unfortunately I’m the slave labour.

Fridge Lingo is available at select venues around town, or online at

Go buy a set!


GIF Animation the Staff made

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Apparently the new thing in blogging in China is to be eclectic.

While I have been blogging/writing in China for a good few years longer than most of even the longest China blogs out there (I started in 95, beat that haha!), I haven’t really thrown it all into one spot.

Plus mostly it all went into forum postings on long lost sites that I should revive at some point (D.D’s Club and Shanghaiguide I’m looking at you), so there is a vague chance I may get to revive some of it from the depths of bit rot hell, and post select bits in one place.

Too be honest, this is probably going to turn into a rant or pure SEO spammy keyword promo post to get more hits for the blog anyway but…

Apparently I should also mention Puppies, Kittens, that cool dude I totally hung out with last night and partied till dawn with, and the 15 chicks we hooked up with that night, plus god isn’t China a total pit, I mean they don’t even speak English here, what the F!*

*This is an in-joke that no-one else will get but the Jojo, and readers of That’s not Kitto.

Back to being eclectic, shall we, and less of the “in” jokes.

The honest truth is that I’m eclectic enough apparently, although that might also be a slightly schizophrenic way of looking at my diverse random project ideas.

Over the last few months, we’ve done the following interesting projects, some for love, some for money, and some for the hell of it.

Figure out which is which, and see which of them you like.

No.1 on our list is:

Lets face it, once a geek, always a geek.
I discovered twitter, and for a few days was happy playing in a new medium.
I did note that twitter had a limited character span (140 chars) for messages, and it truncated URL’s to save space.
Taking a quick look around I saw plenty of clones oversea’s, but nothing local, so I grabbed my trusty keyboard, and a few hours later and a quick search of what was left in .cn domain space I invented, the first Chinese TinyURL clone.

Its even got its own blog, and twitter feed.

Use is slowly growing, and we’re starting to see an increase in use and awareness of in China and oversea’s. has also started using it for their venue twitter links (5000+ urls).

No. 2 is –

iWantOne started out as an outlet for our badges.

The badges themselves started out from a post on LPCoverLover via a sighting on BoingBoing.

A quick trip to taobao, and we had a badge machine, and lots of idea’s.

These quickly culminated in my staff going nuts over snoopy badges, and my prompting them for cool stuff for foriegners (we’re suckers for cultural revolution related artwork).

We quickly got bored doing that, and moved onto cool phrases.

Coffee at Moganshan lu led to a brainstorming session about cool ways to promote Shanghainese (an under promoted language imho), and a whole set of cool phrases.

Some publicity shots, and some talk about it over here at
(Note that I am also occasionally a contributor to the 56minus1 blog, although I completely avoid talking about stuff we do ourselves).

No 3. Fridge Magnets – is a rather cool unique idea, and something that led on from the badges.

One of our clients asked me why we didn’t put an English translation on the badges as well. Which, to be honest, I’d thought about, but as I’m a pretentious I can speak Chinese better than you so nya nya kind of foreigner, didn’t want to do. Plus it also meant remaking a bunch of badges, and I’m lazy.
*Pick one of the above for the correct answer.

It did lead me to think, well hey, why don’t I make some magnet word sets like you used to see a few years back when Magnet Poetry was all the craze.

An idea was born…

A few days later, we had our first rough draft of the first magnet set we wanted to make “Talking to your Ayi”, and a few agonizing days later teaching my art team how to use illustrator correctly so I didn’t have to spend over 12 hours redoing their alleged “good” version *again*, we had something we could play around with. This also involved some running with scissors, and lots of small pieces of sharp paper, to put the danger, and comic tragedy of it all into perspective.

A quick round or two with friends, roman’s and countrymen, and we had most of the mistakes corrected also.
Interesting factoid – I could point out more mistakes than the native speakers could.

Even more weeks passed and we had a sample set. Even more weeks x2 later, lots of shouting, changes, and scowling (followed by light rain), we actually had a box design that I liked, and all was good.

This was closely followed by lots of my own money changing hands with dodgy factories in outer godknowswhere, a minor whoops at the factory meaning a reprint, and finally a rather large kuaidi delivery to our office later, I actually had a product in my hands, yay!

We’re currently pimping the sets out to anyone that stands still long enough – Smart Shanghai is the first to publish something about us, and expect to have some more publicity and some sales soon.
Plus, its been rather fun making something that people can buy (or I can throw at the kuaidi guy), instead of our usual intangible products – websites, websites, and more websites.

Our Fridge Lingo Magnet sets are available now at select venues around town, or via the website.

Direct link to the Magnet sets here.
They are honestly quite cool, and I’m extremely happy to be a father to my first live baby project.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough, and to be honest, I’m a lot more eclectic on Twitter.

This is Lawrence signing out, and I hope you enjoyed the ride.

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We’re seeing a huge recurrence of spam thats been getting through our spam filters., all coming from addresses.
I hadn’t seen any personally until one of our clients brought up the fact that she was receiving 20-30 sex related spam a day, all coming from Random name addresses.

A check of the logs showed that we’ve received at least 100,000 of these spam mails over the last month that have gotten through to our users.
This is something I’d obviously like to remedy.  Not receiving, processing, or storing that much spam free’s up the servers for other things.

As the number of valid addresses using accounts appears to be minimal (I could only see a handful of legitimate users sending from that domain), I have taken the decision to block any email from the domain until Microsoft can resolve their spam issues.

If you do have clients using addresses, you will be able to send email to them, but not receive from them.
We apologize for the inconvenience, but unfortunately there is no other solution that easily mitigates the issue, other than completely blocking them.

For a more technical explanation of whats happening, read below:
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From 12:00 – 2:40pm today Shanghai Telecom was experiencing router problems for servers in the 61.129.88.xx address space in the data centre at WuSheng Lu (the main Shanghai Telecom building).
This affected 3 of our servers, and one of our clients managed servers.

Shanghai Telecoms official response below:


Unfortunately once they had resolved their router issues, at around 3pm,  Shanghai Telecom decided to create some new ones, by arbitrarily rebooting all the servers in that address space.
Due to their actions, on reboot, our database server could not fully mount the data partition, and so a number of our client websites were unaccessible, as was our webmail service.

Repairing the damage caused by Shanghai Telecoms actions took around 2 1/2 hours.

Full services resumed at approximately 5:20pm

All services are currently running smoothly, although we do have some reports of connectivity issues from some clients.
If you are still unable to connect to the mail server, please turn off your ADSL modem or Router, and log onto the internet again.
(This will clear any route issues  in your router, and you should be able to connect successfully.)

Apologies for the inconvenience.


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As I pretty much have no life away from the computer, I do spend an arbitrarily long amount of time online.
The benefit of that though, is that I can trawl through Taobao, and find glorious crap that were I not slightly less sensible, I would quite probably buy on a whim.

Into that category, I can squarely fit this piece of awesomeness.

Its almost creeping into the “its so wrong that its right” category, but I’ll forgive its rambunctiousness.
Woah, I’m starting to sound like Woot! here.

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One of our clients sent us an email this morning letting us know that they couldn’t send an email to a client.
They forwarded the bounce message to us (below) does not like recipient.
Remote host said: 554 Service unavailable; Client host [] blocked using Barracuda Reputation;
Giving up on

Simple enough – we’re getting blocked by Barracuda Reputation, so off I go to the link to see why.

Sorry, your email was blocked

We are sorry you have reached this page because an email was blocked based on its originating IP address having a “poor” reputation. The “poor” reputation may have been caused by one of the following reasons:

* Your email server contains a virus and has been sending out spam.
* Your email server may be misconfigured.
* Your PC may be infected with a virus or botnet software program.
* Someone in your organization may have a PC infected with a virus or botnet program.
* You may be utilizing a dynamic IP address which was previously utilized by a known spammer.
* Your marketing department may be sending out bulk emails that do not comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
* You may have an insecure wireless network which is allowing unknown users to use your network to send spam.
* In some rare cases, your recipient’s Barracuda Spam Firewall may be misconfigured.

A quick check of our ip space over at a more legitimate place shows we’re fine –

I double check with a rbl lookup over here –, nope, we’re clean as a whistle.

However, on the same page, they have an big button helpfully letting us know that:

Many Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewalls are configured, as a policy, to automatically deliver email that comes from sources that are properly registered at

Ok, so follow the link through to, and sign up.
Looks good until we get to the – a $20 fee will be charged per domain per year.

Hmm, so email will possibly be blocked by Barracuda unless I pay them $20 a year.
Sounds like Blackmail to me.

I also note that although appears to be a separate entity, it is in fact owned by Barracuda. So a neutral third party blocking service just so happens to be owned by the people doing the blocking. If thats not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is!
This is actually illegal in some countries, although apparently, not the USA.
It also doesn’t stop actual spammers coughing up money, and getting greenlisted.

Seems the rest of the net agrees with us on this one.

Quote from Mike E. that pretty much sums it up: I feel compelled to add this. If I’m paying Barracuda for a appliance to filter out spam and they in turn are being paid by spammers to allow their messages through my spam firewall, how is that different than an antivirus company taking money from somone that write viruses to have their product not detect a virus? None. It’s slimy.

So, in future when clients are unable to send mail to people using Barracuda firewall devices, I’ll be able to point them to this post, and let them know the situation.

We don’t like spam either, and work hard to avoid clients misusing our services.
However, we don’t blackmail senders into paying us money to accept their mail.

For a rundown on legitimate practices, read this:

Further References/Complaints: (Trad Chinese)

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Had a client over today with some Mac issues.
Was getting disk full messages, despite having 130Gig free.

Did the usual stuff – disk repair, disk verify (caught some small things).
That fixed the disk full messages.

Then the client told me – oh, by the way, Safari doesn’t open.

Tailing the system log in console still revealed issues.

14/04/09 09:07:43[2] could not fetch history: Cannot allocate memory
14/04/09 09:07:43[2] BootCacheControl: could not stop cache/fetch history: Cannot allocate memory

A quick google of that error showed it was caused by…. Wacom drivers.

While Wacom have updated drivers for other tablets, the client uses a Bamboo, which hasn’t had driver updates since 2007.

Checking the logs while opening Safari revealed that it was trying to open a non-existent file called com.pentablet.defaults.xml

On the off chance that this would work, I created a blank file in terminal.

sudo su
[enter in your password]
cd /Library/Preferences
ls -al com.pentablet.defaults.xml

If (and ONLY if) no file is found, do this:

echo > com.pentablet.defaults.xml

Safari will open again.

Hopefully Wacom will release newer less buggy drivers sometime soon.

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A man with a dream.

Chen Zhao Rong (陈昭荣) dreamed of flying.

Despite not being able to read English, and with only a primary school education, Chen scoured through foreign flying websites, checking out pictures and schematics, before finally starting to build his helicopter.


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As I’ve spent the day doing some pre-emptive maintenance type stuff on our servers, I noticed that one of our servers appeared to have way slower ping times than normal from our other servers.

Taking a closer look I also saw that the logs said it having timeout problems talking to our database server.

A quick look at the server logs showed that the server in question was using 100% of its bandwidth for the last hour or so according to Monit.

A quick check with ntop (excellent web based network analysis statistics) and iftop (console based network traffic analysis) confirmed that 99.5% of the bandwidth was going to HTTP requests.
Strangely enough, the server wasn’t even stressed at all (I guess I’ve overspecced that one!)

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