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Sanya

November 19th, 2019

I spent a few days recently at a company “offsite” meeting in Sanya, Hainan, a island in the very south of China. It’s a bit like a Chinese Hawaii. Not somewhere I’d usually visit but worth going once for the experience.

On the beach

The hotel we stayed in was a self-contained resort and there didn’t seem to be a lot else within walking distance, or even within a short taxi ride. But the hotel did have an aquarium and a water park.

Jellyfish in the aquarium

Carelessly got sunburnt on the first day. In November! But the latitude is similar to Thailand or Vietnam so guess I should have known better…

37th floor…

Shanghai Metro Line 12

November 10th, 2019

I sometimes feel a bit nostalgic for the time a few years ago when I would plan epic county-crossing adventures for the weekend. But there isn’t any reason why I can’t do that here in Shanghai, I just need … a goal. And what better goal than walking the entire length of metro line 12. I pass my local station every day, but where does it come from? Where does it go? Today we’ll find out.

I started at the western terminus Qixin Road. The first few hours were pretty boring as this area is mostly residential and I’ve explored most of it already. My own backyard, so to speak. Anyway things picked up when I got to the city centre after eight miles or so.

Qixin Road station

The air quality in the morning was pretty bad so I did the first half wearing a mask. Bit novel for a hiking adventure.

Start of the northern section

The best part of the route is the section north of the city centre to the Huangpu river. West Nanjing Road to Donglu Road if you fancy following it.

Looking at the financial district from Hongkou

I’ve never been to Hongkou before, it’s a really interesting area: a mix of (relatively) old and very new. There was a large population of Jewish refugees living here during WWII and there’s a Jewish museum I’ve made a note to visit in the future. You also get some good views across the river to the financial district.

My constant companion

The eagle eyed might have spotted I missed a station on the map above, Fuxing Island. In my defence it really is an island and would have required a massive detour to get to, and then double back to catch the ferry across the river. I was tired, had a long way to go, and so I skipped it. Maybe I’ll go back another time to tick it off.

The eastern section over the river was unbelievably dull and ended up in some industrial estate. But eventually I dragged myself to the eastern terminus, Jinhai Road station.

Jinhai Road station

Yes I know it says line 9. It’s an interchange station and I guess they forgot to add line 12 to the sign when they extended it here, *sigh*.

Sheshan Forest Park

October 27th, 2019

Shanghai seems almost totally flat but there’s actually two little hills out in the suburbs to the west at a place called Sheshan (佘山). Just take metro line 9 to the station with the same name and then bus number 92 from outside. The “forest park” is nice enough but the main attraction is a Catholic church and observatory on the top of the western hill.

Sheshan Basilica

This basilica has been here since 1924 but there’s been a church of some kind on this site since 1863. I actually came here last October but the building was closed for renovation. This time there was a wedding. Maybe better luck next time…

Sheshan observatory

The observatory was originally built by Jesuit missionaries. There’s an exhibition inside which is worth looking at around, but it’s all in Chinese.

The photos below are a mix of this week’s trip and my original visit last year which I forgot to blog about.

✈️ A380 ✔️

October 19th, 2019

I finally got to fly on an A380 for the first time when I went home last month.
On the way out I got an economy seat upstairs at the front of the plane. More than a little bit excited.

Dubai airport

Would have liked to spend a day or two in Dubai. Maybe next time…

Leaving Dubai

Folkestone

October 19th, 2019

I went to Folkestone with my parents last Saturday. My dad was visiting a model railway exhibition of all things. I don’t think I’ve ever explored the town before. From the news you might expect it to be very run-down, but there a quite a few quaint parts to the old town, and lots of interesting things to look at in the harbour.

The old Folkestone Harbour train station which was recently renovated. Note the signs in French: you could get straight off the train and onto a boat to France.

Lighthouse at the end of Folkestone harbour. You can almost see the white cliffs of Dover in the distance.

Metropole and Grand hotels. There was an interesting info board about their rivalry in the 19th century.

Android Connectivity Check and NTP in Mainland China

October 13th, 2019

If you’re using an Android phone with LineageOS or similar close-to-stock ROM in mainland China you may have problems with NTP not syncing and every WiFi network being marked as “no internet access”.

By default Android tries to access http://connectivitycheck.android.com/generate_204 to determine if a network has internet access. This is also used for captive portal detection. The android.com domain is completely blocked by the Great Firewall.

The default NTP server is 2.android.pool.ntp.org. At lease some of the servers in this pool are either blocked or have poor connectivity from China.

You could work around this by using a VPN all the time. But it’s actually easy to change these settings, and you only need ADB access, not root.

First change the connectivity check URL to Google’s China holding page.

adb shell settings put global captive_portal_http_url 'https://www.google.cn/generate_204'
adb shell settings put global captive_portal_https_url 'https://www.google.cn/generate_204'

You can use another URL that generates a HTTP 204 response if you don’t want to rely on anything Google.

Next change the NTP server:

adb shell settings put global ntp_server pool.ntp.org

pool.ntp.org should give servers geographically close to you. Alternatively you might like to use cn.pool.ntp.org.

Lego Submarine

October 11th, 2019

When I was child I had a bit of a thing about building Lego submarines. I think it started after we went on a day out to the soviet submarine in Folkstone, sadly no longer open to the public. Anyway it seems I’ve still got the skillz.

At the front we have the sleeping area for the crew and some missiles. The next room is the on-board dentist because… reasons. Followed by the crew relaxation area and the nuclear reactor / engine room at the rear. Upstairs is the control room.

Around Willingdon

October 6th, 2019

I went for a short walk on the South Downs near Willingdon with my parents last week.

Going up the steep hill from the village

This isn’t far from where I grew up but I only got into walking long after I moved away from Hastings so I haven’t explored here at all. Hope I can come back one day and do a longer linear walk, to Brighton, say.

Hastings Beach

October 4th, 2019

Back in Hastings at the moment. The weather this week has been rather uninspiring but it did clear up a bit yesterday afternoon and I took some photos on the beach.

Fishing boats

This ferris wheel is relatively new. Never seen it going…

The harbour arm

Lunar Lander 0.7

October 1st, 2019

I spent a little time recently updating my lunar lander game. Nothing much changed gameplay-wise but I cleaned up the code and build system, and rewrote all the graphics code away from the “legacy” OpenGL fixed-function pipeline. I also fixed a number of small issues and removed the artificial fixed 30fps frame rate.

I’ve made an experimental foray into Flatpak packaging so the game is also available on Flathub! This the most convenient way to install. Either find it in Gnome Software or use the command line:

flatpak install flathub uk.me.doof.Lander

If you want you can also get the source code on GitHub or directly.