Already 6 months in South China

terrapins and lizard pondIt’s been now 6 months that Pockey and I have left Beijing and moved to Shantou. A great decision if you ask me, and we can now enjoy summertime for about 9+ months of the year (I’ve been wearing only shorts since I arrived – not the same pair though ;-)), our lizards and turtles get to see and appreciate the real sun (which is much better than UV and heat lamps like we had to have in Beijing) and they even have a small pond where they can bathe and swim. It’s a real pleasure to be finally able to have them live almost like in the wild and give them so much space, plants and trees to climb on (about 5 times the space on the photo). The iguanas however still prefer to be hand fed (seems someone has been spoiling them), and living in a climate closer to where they come from allows us to find much more diversity of salads and fruits all year long. Again another positive change from Beijing. On this note I guess that the fresh marine air we have here is also a lot healthier for both the reptiles and us…

waveOn my end I have been able to finally refocus on my contributions to the Free Software projects I am involved in such as Software Freedom Day and GNOME.Asia. I haven’t been able to catch up with all of them yet but it’s well on the way. I also had the chance to meet Richard Stallman in Shenzhen in August “all by myself” and it was a rather pleasant and enriching experience. I am now planning for a new release of RUR-PLE, some work on Greenboard and maybe some integration with the GNOME Education suite. I also attended the GNOME.Asia Summit in August for which the GNOME Foundation generously paid all my expenses to go there and present my work with GNOME applications in Education. I met a wealth of great people and there is definitely a lot more to write about (next post?). I should probably also start a GNU/Linux User Group, as I have to admit to miss the fun of the Beijing LUG and all my buddies there. Last but not least Shantou is also bringing me the opportunity to surf a lot more than Beijing! πŸ˜‰ So a view like this one is something quite common and which I definitely appreciate.

Oh and yes, I’ve also caught up with cooking (which I did a lot when I was living in France back then – don’t ask when!). Tempted now? Well drop me an email if you’re in town and we’ll take you around. πŸ˜€

New baby born…


While getting ready to leave to the office and quickly spreading water over our day geckos terrarium as we do every morning (one need to keep humidity levels rather high since they’re originally coming from Madagascar), I noticed an extra small gecko inside the enclosure. Since we live in a typical Beijing courtyard we do have a central yard which gets full of local geckos from spring to autumn. The fact that we keep crickets at home to feed our own reptiles, and that those crickets easily escape, do attract all the neighboring geckos for free food (they probably have planted gecko signs offering “Open Food Services at Fred’s yard”). So, I thought for a moment it was one of those little guys that made it through our living room and into the terrarium.
Well I was wrong, our female phesulma did actually lay eggs since she was given to us by the Beijing Zoo (actually they gave both a male and a female), but we carefully took care of her first clutch (2 eggs each time, 1 clutch a year found 2 more eggs this morning, so obviously that was wrong. Maybe it was an Easter egg celebration?), removing the eggs from the terrarium and placing them in a special container, measuring and respecting required temperature and humidity levels and hoping we would get babies. That didn’t work and we kind of gave up on the idea.

Seems nature has decided otherwise and that leaving the eggs in the terrarium itself (Pockey now knows why they do hide their eggs πŸ˜‰ ) and not bothering about it was a much more successful way to get baby phelsumas. So welcome into our world little guy (or girl), and we’ll do our best to give you a happy life!

Sad day

beardyI lost one of my beardies today. Can’t tell whether it was natural death or not, he was laying asleep (their sleeping position is quite characteristic) with both eyes closed and noticed when I thought that was suspicious. We’ve had him for a year and half, and he was already adult (and sick) when he was given to us; at least one year and half year old, maybe more. They usually live 4 years (up to 10 years) in captivity so it’s really hard to say whether the poor guy reached his end-of-natural-life or not. He had his last few crickets yesterday as usual and we really couldn’t tell.

I’ll be missing him…

Another day at the Beijing Zoo

Just back from the Beijing Zoo where we (the “reptile team”) went to install a misting system that Adrien (our Chameleon Expert) just brought back from the US. Even though they are made in China it seems impossible to buy any here. I did take a few shots with my iPhone to share. So here is all the process in images below:

Misting system
The whole system, including the pump, the nozzles, the pipe, a transformer, an electronic timer and a big water container (280L).

Electronic timer
Setting up the electronic timer.

Installed on top of the terrariumWater is coming in
The set up on top of the terrarium and the water starting to flow in.

We’re in the rain forest!
The rain forest experience!

While cutting and assembling the pipe we also did take a look at the animals, especially the weak ones. So here is a shot of one of the chameleons who had no UV 2 weeks ago, and how he is feeling much better in his new environment.

Happy chameleon

This is an “old time friend” who is on her way to recovery after she had a surgery last summer (abscess removal). She almost stopped eating at one point and we had little hope. Seems she is doing much better now (she still needs a few more pounds though) and was very happy to grab the salad we offered.Recovering iguana

Overall a good visit, the keepers also added quite a few plants, some nicer looking water bowls and cleaned the cages before CNY.

Some good, some bad…

The last two days have been hectic and not very peaceful for my mind. Maybe I should start with the bad: I deleted the wrong partition and install a new system on it. Yes! That bad! When I realized the “ouch!”, I think I wanted to just disappear from the surface of this planet.

Luckily my business partner has a better tolerance to screw-ups than me and she didn’t kill me. Two days later, the whole thing is not as terrible as I initially perceived it, but I am still trying to recover the data. I actually found a few tools that I am experimenting with such as systemrescueCD which include photorec (recommended by my good friend Young Yu) and pyflag which I discovered through a Google search.

SystemRescueCd is a Linux system on a bootable CD-ROM for repairing your system and recovering your data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It contains a lot of system utilities (parted, partimage, fstools, …) and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It is very easy to use: just boot the CDROM. The kernel supports most of the important file systems (ext2/ext3, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs).

FLAG (Forensic and Log Analysis GUI) is an advanced forensic tool for the analysis of large volumes of log files and forensic investigations.
PyFlag features a rich FeatureList which include the ability to load many different log file formats, Perform forensic analysis of disks and images. PyFlag can also analyse network traffic as obtained via tcpdump quickly and efficiently.

I’ll update you guys in a few days about both. I might even find more tools later, who knows. I also wanted to thank Alex Li, Sysadmin at Google China for following up and calling me everyday to know how I was doing. Alex also send me a link to other tools which I will explore as well.

We also bought a low-end machine to mirror the disk and process the whole thing: cheapo AMD, 1GB of RAM and 2 x 500GB for 3,000.- RMB. That makes me wonder how the Lemote box fits into this market. I don’t have any update on their pricing, but if not for the price I don’t quite see the attraction of running any MIPS based CPU when an i386 can do the job (and provide more flexibility as to OS choice).

Now, to the “good”: we got a call from the Beijing Zoo during the weekend as 2 of their new chameleons are having problems to feed. My friend Adrien, the chameleon expert (he has 25+ at home) was only available Tuesday or Wednesday morning, and the reptile keeper was off on Tuesday. So easy choice, here we go (we = the reptile team composed of Adrien, Pockey and myself) wednesday 9am, Beijing Zoo! There was a few easy fixes to do in the set up of the enclosure but one of the big issue is that they no longer had any UV-B light. Reptiles, in particular diurnal species, do need UVB to transform vitamin D3 and combine it with the food calcium to use it for the body (bones and other organs) . I stole a nice graphic (got the approval and a very nice email as well) from to give more details on the process without long boring sentences. The whole site has tons of information for people interested in the topic.

UV-B and reptiles

(c) – reproduced with authorization.

UV light can also brings other positive effects such as the well-being feeling and the desire to live. No UV means death for sure (for the diurnal species that is) and is characterized by a famous disease called MDB or Metabolic Bone Disease.The Beijing Zoo is a government run zoo and has, as you can easily imagine in any state owned enterprise (in China and elsewhere I have heard), a lengthy administrative process for anything. So here we go, the “noisy”, “not-afraid of layers” laowais, talking to the manager of the manager of the manager of … well you get the picture… and explaining how important it is for those poor lizards to get their daily dose of UV-B TODAY! And it worked! The keeper got a 1,000.- RMB budget that same afternoon, went to buy 6 UV tubes and some extra needed stuff and we felt useful! It doesn’t mean that the chameleons are going to eat right away, but for sure they will feel better. Note that it’s also winter here, and the temperature are relatively lower even inside the reptiles area. It’s also normal for some lizards to have a “winter shut down” which is a period where they eat a lot less because of the temperature drop. This of course highly depends on the species and where they are originally from.

At the beginning of those two days I thought I was having just another bad week, it turns out not everything was bad. In fact even the mishaps might bring more good in the short term than bad: I’ll get to discover cool Linux apps! πŸ˜‰