Astrill apology?

Today Astrill offered and apology, well not really, it's still the customers fault!



Chinese New Year holiday brings the gift of an upgraded Great Firewall of China

This week has been a frustrating one for those of us living behind the Great Firewall of China. Popular methods of leaping the wall have been restricted by the authorities and many VPN providers have been totally locked out, especially on mobile devices that are limited to certain detectable protocols.

The provider I have used for the last 18 months or so has had good speeds and solutions in China up until this week. On Tuesdsy their iOS app got totally blocked but fortunately they already had a solution in review with Apple and two days ago it was released. Sadly the euphoria was short lived because as of last night I was presented with this message:


In the past censorship has increased during the holidays, but not like this. My gut feeling is this is a more permanent upgrade, which if it is the case, then my life will be made even more challenging.

I can understand this is not only frustrating for users, but also the developers of the VPN products, but last night this appeared on my Mac desktop client:


This message is totally offensive to customers, and if I could get my money back I would. But sadly the only stupid thing I did was give them money in the first place. Are they so naive to think that customers and the press are the reason the new app got blocked so soon? Do they seriously believe the Chinese authorities are smart enough to create the Great Firewall but not smart enough to monitor the status of one of the more prominent circumvention tools? I really hope somebody got reprimanded for pushing this message out, as I for one will not be sending any further money their way. They must have forgotten that they have competition that actually have functional solutions right now!

Will I ever know what a good Internet connection is?

Today saw the great Internet crackdown of 2016 here in China with most IPSec VPN servers being blocked. For users of VPN's on iOS this is a bit of a disaster because IPSec protocols are what they mainly use.

It's not clear whether the blockage is automatic or if the GFW is targeting the big VPN players, but whatever the reason it's a real pain in the arse. Earlier this evening OpenVPN was being blocked but that seems to be working OK right now.

Life is great in China, except for the air quality and the Internet. That reminds me, I must research the air purifier I want to buy from BlueAir....that's assuming I can access their website.

Just do it my way!

Please look and learn my friends!

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Shanghai's Airpocolypse

Having lived here for 4 years this is the worst AQI I remember. 

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However in recent months to protect myself not only from the bad air but the open coughing and spluttering of germs on the subway I wear my Vogmask ( to hopefully protect me…it’s so bad my employer issued masks to everybody today!

Stay safe folks.

Is DuckDuckGo the latest victim of the GFW?

As many of my friends and colleagues will tell you that I have been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for about 5 years now. This proved a smart choice when I moved to China because other search engines were either filtered or just did not work from the mainland.

In the 3 years that I have been living and working in China, 2014 has to be the worst year for seeing sites being blocked, and the whole international web experience is becoming totally miserable. For example, earlier this year Dropbox was just partially blocked, then it was totally unblocked and many people were ecstatic but as of a few months ago it is now 100% blocked!

There are many ways to get around the blockages, but none of them provide you with the experience that you have when outside of China. They involve connecting a VPN, changing your computer configuration etc Not fun when you just want to quickly look something up.

Yesterday, I fired up my browser and instead of getting the usual DuckDuckGo logo and search box, I was presented with a progress bar that stopped moving and eventually the message 

Safari can’t open the page “” because Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server “"

Anybody who has spent any amount of time in China immediately knows that this is almost certainly a result of the site being blocked by the GFW. So I did a bit of investigating and noticed that the DNS was being poisoned because it returned the ip which appears to be for a non-existent server in South Korea. It also happens to be the same IP that was used to block according to this The Next Web article!

With the imminent launch of iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite I was looking forward to unencumbered DuckDuckGo web search on both my iPhone and Mac. But alas, this is not going to the the case unless the Chinese authorities have a change of heart, of which I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

5000 Firecrackers

So, just for you all I risked life an limb to show you 5000 firecrackers being set off in the apartment complex where I live here in Shanghai.

Notice the strict adherence to health & safety rules and not putting nearby buildings at risk.

Now is the time to visit Shanghai!

My normal commute to the office in Shanghai is often a battle. I rarely get a seat on the bus or subway, and there isn't a day where I am not pushed or shoved in some way or another.

As the Spring Festival is now upon us, many of the migrant workers have already left Shanghai to return to their families. This has made moving around Shanghai a very pleasant experience. During the last 3 days I have managed to get a seat on both the subway and bus on both legs of my commute....I cannot recall this ever happening before!

So if you want to travel and visit Shanghai, take my advice and do it during the Spring Festival your experience will be so much better.

2013 Shanghai Expat of the Year!

Well what can I say, it's well deserved! ;)

From the Wuxi China Expatdom blog it appears that I have been awarded 2013 Shanghai Expat of the Year!

I guess it pays to have friends in high places here in China! ;)


MacBook Air broken screen? problem, this is Shanghai!

On returning from a recent business trip my wife showed me a fault on the right hand side of the screen on her 3 year old MacBook Air. Although this fault did not prevent her from using it, it was somewhat irritating when what she wanted to read was on the right side of the screen.

I am fairly strange in that I like almost everything I own to be well kept and maintained. So having a faulty MacBook Air screen annoyed me somewhat. So I set out to get it repaired….

The first stop was the official Apple channels. I visited both an Apple Authorised Repair Centre as well as one of the big Apple Shops here in Shanghai. Both of which offered to replace the screen for a little under ¥4000 (about $600). I thought this was a little steep considering a brand new same spec model could be purchased for only ¥7088. I needed a plan B.

Not to be deterred, I asked for ideas from my followers on ADN and also contacted my wife's cousin in Wuxi because he has a couple contacts in the digital market there. His contacts suggested I purchased a replacement screen from Taobao and they would replace it for a small fee. So over to Taobao I went.

Within minutes of searching I found a seller who could supply a new screen for ¥600 and not only that, they were based in Shanghai! If I would go to their office they would also install it for ¥200! This was the solution I was looking for!

It's amazing that I eventually got a new screen installed and fitted for less than our Christmas Dinner, but I am disappointed that Apple are marking up spares and repairs by so much, especially knowing that labour is so cheap here in China.

Here is the card for the repair shop if you should ever need it!

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