Shenzhen – First day

During the morning we visited an important OEM manufacturer of shoes: Huajian.

Huajian - Main building
Huajian – Main building

During our visit we were told that as the manufacturing costs are increasing in China, the company has chosen to move a big part of its production in Ethiopia, Africa, as wages are lower and there are no taxes for exporting to Europe.

Huajian is building a huge project in Ethiopia, basically a city built around the manufacturing site comprehensive of hospital as well as a symbolic Chinese wall, with the aim of covering all possible needs of their workers. Which, by the way, will be Ethiopians!

During our short visit, we also had the chance to assist to a singing performance of Ethiopians employees, who are currently learning the job in the main production site in Shenzhen: once finished the training program they will go back to Ethiopia and teach what they have learned to their colleagues.

While talking about this company we also pointed out how strong is the sense of community in China and how families still share common room and life, while in our countries we are living more and more as singular individuals. As a joke we said that one could define the current state of “development” of a country by the number of clinics dedicated to the elderly: therefore if you look at Switzerland society, which struggles to keep elderly integrated, has a lot of rest homes, whereas China doesn’t have any. In my understanding though, also in China it is getting more difficult to be a large family, since  in order to find work long distances need to be covered and people from rural areas simply can’t commute everyday as the journey is too long. Companies like Huajian, which had almost 20’000 employees, have built dormitories directly behind the company, in order to have workers coming from rural territories which are distant and poorly connected.

Other, consequent, topic of discussion was what is being done in Ticino for its development beside the opening of new rest homes. And there was no positive feeling… and no propositive ideas either.

We had quick lunch in a noodle store. Not easy eating noodles with the sticks, but I managed!

Eating noodles
Eating noodles

In the afternoon we met Huawei, the company that we all know because of mobile phones. We learned that the company has many other branches, the base of it being hardware and software for networking. In Switzerland for example Huawei has collaborations with Swisscom and Sunrise in order to develop the internet connectivity for fixed lines in the first case and mobile for the second. I don’t know if it is true but our speaker implied that the recent overtake of Sunrise on Swisscom regarding the best mobile network in Switzerland was related to their collaboration.

The expansion of Huawei in the US is of course limited, because of US protectionism, but also because being a Chinese company a strong involvement of the government is taken into account and of course data networks, datacenters, security systems are sensitive matters that an independent state struggles to share with another one.

As we weren’t satisfied yet in the evening we went to an event organised by Swissnex China, Venture Leaders: China – Swiss innovation night, where Swiss startups looking for partners were presenting their ideas and products. There were 10 startups presenting their idea in a short presentation during 2 minutes each: here the list.

  1. Bestmile
  2. Flyability
  3. Technis
  4. Oviva
  5. Zurimed
  6. Lunaphore
  7. Climeworks
  8. Urbanfarmers
  9. VIUVentures
  10. Astrocast

While at this link you may find a .PDF file with the executive summaries of each company.

Here below few pictures I took of the incredible Intercontinental Hotel


Heating system: technician advice

After a few months I have finally decided to do something about our heating system which is still showing some pressure loss as I was mentioning already in this previous post.

Past week I asked the plumber company Gino Lepori & figlio SA to pass by and have a look at our expansion vessel (not too sure this is the correct English name) and check it thoroughly. I wasn’t at home to check if he really did it, I’m pretty sure he didn’t like the idea of troubleshooting the whole heating installation as it is pretty big. Still, he told me has checked that expansion vessel and that in his opinion it is still working properly. Therefore he called Elco on my behalf. On Wednesday current week their technician passed by.

Apparently, my burner, belongs to the first ones that were installed and are known for a faulty heater exchanger: if this is the case it is not possible to spot the water spilling out of the burner or leaving tracks somewhere, because the water would go from the heater exchanger where the condensed water therefore there won’t be any chance of noticing it.

What to do?

The plan is following: we will try to separate the water circuit of the burner from the circuit of the floor heating. By doing this we hope to see if the burner looses water pressure. And it should happen quite quickly, as the volume of water contained in the burner is a lot less from that one in the whole heating circuit.

Claudio showed me the steps that I should perform in order to separate the burner circuit from the rest.

Step by step guide: how to isolate the burner water circuit

Turning off the burner

On the right of the burner there is an On/Off switch. Just press it

Closing the pipes bringing water to the burner

There are 4 valves which are very hard to turn. I used some hard surface to protect my fingers while trying to move them in the right direction.

Burner valves
Closing the valves bringing water to the burner. The one on the left is already closed and shows the position of a closed valve.

The valve in middle in yellow color, is the one bringing the gas and doesn’t need to be closed.

Once the water cannot reach the burner, in order to avoid the water pump of the burner to run while empty, it is a good idea to disconnect it.

Disconnecting the water pump

In the burner itself there is the pump which is connected to the power: it is sufficient to remove the cable in order to interrupt the power supply.

Burner water pump: power connector
This picture shows on the left the power connector which should be removed in order to interrupt the power supply to the pump

Once those operations are completed it is possible to start the burner again and check how the water pressure behaves. Shouldn’t there be any issue it should remain unchanged.

This morning: the first test

I decided to perform the first test this morning before leaving for work, around 08:15. As I entered the room I realized that the burner was running: I checked on the display and apparently it was heating. Also the valve for the heating was on. I mean we are in June, the heating is turned off, why did it start? It is true that in these days it is raining a lot, temperature have dropped, but outside there still are like 15°C while inside we still have a lot of warmth, still from the passed days, which were really hot. Anyhow, this will be next issue to be checked. I decided to do what I was told, therefore I executed each step as described above.

… and the first results

Which I don’t believe too much. The burner acted strangely, maybe because it had been heating until that moment. Anyhow, as soon as I had separated it from the rest of the heating circuit, the pressure dropped reaching very quickly 0.

Water pressure drop
As I switched the burner back on, after having closed the valves, the pressure dropped to 0.6 and after to 0.

Strange behaviour

The burner didn’t act like that when I tried together with Claudio, the Elco technician: in that case the pressure was stable at 1.6 bar. I guess that this happened because at the time it wasn’t heating.

What’s next?

I’m going to set the burner back to normality and try again. Meanwhile I’ll notify Claudio and see what he thinks about it. I believe that already the first, sudden pressure drop is already something which is showing a problem.

A valid alternative to Age of Empires?

We have been playing it, discussing about it, dreaming about it. And then it stopped. Age of Empires III has been one of our favourite games and I, together with my friends, we have spent literally nights playing it, dinners discussing about the heroic strategies and laughing about the tricks we managed to pull on each other in order to win.

0 A.D. is not Age of Empires. But it is indeed very similar to it. I have played just one game until now as I didn’t have much time, but it was great. The first difference which I discovered is the fact that in the Town center both male and female workers may be produced and although both are capable of gathering food, chopping wood and mining they differ in their productivity: females are more efficient in gathering and collecting food while males workers are more efficient in drinking beers… err… they are more efficient in mining. Also male workers efficiency is increased by having female workers working with them.

The soldiers are also capable of mining and this is a major difference to Age of empires were you would have had to send troops to protect your workers mining in the middle of the map. In 0 A.D. you may very well send your soldiers to mine, therefore knowing that they won’t fall as easily as mere civilians.

Oh… and I didn’t even mention the best part. The game is free to download as it is an opensource project. Which, from one side is great, on the other one the game is not considered finished and always in development and may still have some bugs or missing feature which may decrease the whole gaming experience. While I was playing though I didn’t notice anything major beside the fact that I was getting owned even by the computer player. 🙂

This the trailer of the current release:

The other very interesting part of the game is the fact that you are not allowed to build everywhere on the map: you may build only in those territories which are within your city’s borders, which get wider as you get more powerful.

I haven’t tested multiplayer games yet: I have seen that there are the required options to connect to each other and I believe that some networking skill may be required in order to connect to others (opening ports probably) but, as I said, I didn’t test it. Any candidate who is available? 😉

Bee home: reinforcements are under way!

The last three weeks I have been busy preparing for my exams and configuring the new Swiss Folding Team homepage therefore I wasn’t reporting about the evolutions of my bee home. In fact there was no evolution, sadly a devolution related to the cold temperatures: yes, my bees suddenly stopped working and there was no more buzz coming and going.

On Saturday I checked once more if there was something moving, I opened the small observatory drawer and met a sleepy and weak bee which was slowly moving. On one hand it was a nice surprise to meet one as I expected the drawer to be empty, on the other hand seeing that the bee was struggling I felt sorry and was unhappy as it confirmed my suspects regarding the effects of the low temperatures.

Today I received an email from the company, wildbiene und partners (I have just checked the homepage and they do have a wonderful film as introduction), were they were recognizing the challenge posed by the weather and proposing to send a second starting colony in order to reinforce the current one and take advantage of next weeks of hopefully nice weather. Needless to say that I immediately subscribed for the free proposal… I should receive the new bees around next week. Let’s hope for the best! 🙂

The Swiss Folding Team has its own webpage!

Please have a look:

I have managed to create the homepage for the team, which still is far from perfect, but at least it offers the required information for new users. The homepage features support for multiple languages (translation still need to be made though) and a very simple forum, which we may use to exchange information between us and with new team members of course!

The hosting company couldn’t decrease the prices on the long term but still, they offered us the free registration of our domain for one year which is a nice gesture from their part.

I have been able to configure the site as it is also thanks to Roberto who is always a valuable source of information.

And here we go… nothing stands us in between now! We may very well start spreading the word about the team and the whole project! Put the link on Facebook, in your mail signature… get it going and let’s make The Swiss Folding Team the best performing team in Switzerland!

Swiss Folding Team: looking for a hosting service

I’m so excited! Since weeks I have been thinking and/or dreaming of the best ways of promoting our Swiss Folding Team. Of course we are going to need a homepage to do that and this automatically implies having a hosting service. I have done a quick research on what is available on the Swiss market now and the cheapest (at least on paper) seems to be ServerTown. I have asked my hosting service if they can do something similar and this is why I’m so excited right now.

On a first thought it would have been definitely better to go directly with Server Town without wasting energy/time in formulating an appropriate request to my current hosting company since the kind of leverage I have is very small: it is not that I don’t have any kind of leverage as I’m a customer having new ideas and plans for the future which may evolve and create a bigger business for them too and, let’s don’t forget, satisfied customers promote by word of mouth: I already have sent to my friends a message on what’s app announcing my request… if it goes well, for sure I will be happy, not only because I have received something that costs less, but also because, it would mean that somehow I have managed to move someone else to support our Swiss Folding Team! In fact, since I was writing to have a better offer, I took the chance of explaining what it was all about: just a few lines to explain about the Team, put it in the link to Stanford University… maybe if I don’t get the rebate we may get a new Team Member, which would also be great!

I have been thinking that should my provider not be able to directly reduce the prices maybe they could offer me some kind of sponsorship in exchange of some advertisement on the homepage: I could do that by publishing the name and logo of the hosting company. Although this is would probably the only one advertisement I would allow, as I don’t like having flashing banners everywhere…!

I really hope they don’t come with answer like: “I’m really sorry but our packages are already configured and we may not modify them”. Which basically is what I think I will receive as answer as it is very common (also they couldn’t do an exception for every crazy guy asking for rebates, do they!?!), but… do you imagine how cool this would be if they would offer me something? For me it would be great, not only because the Swiss Folding Team would have a cheaper hosting service, but because in order to achieve an objective, human beings were able to do an effort and come together.

Am I exaggerating things right now? Maybe. But I feel this way and it feels great to have such expectations, even though it is for a very, very small thing! 🙂

I’ll let you know how it goes, for sure. And… I also decided that, no matter how things will proceed, I will send the link to this post to whoever from the hosting company answers my request (hopefully it won’t be an automated answer 😀 ).

BTW before I go: I used Hostingliste to get a comparison among the best Webhosting services in Switzerland.


Bee home – Three weeks later

It is impressive how this animals keep up the good work. As for the moment being the bees keep filling the small bamboo tubes with eggs and close them with mud. This time I was lucky enough to to record a bee while it was placing some mud so to close the entrance to one of the bamboo tubes. Have a look at the video!

Beehome – Two weeks later

The beehome is standing since two weeks: the number of bees hasn’t increased by a lot. There are probably two or three bees which are flying in and out the small bamboo tubes, but there is no continuous buzz. On one hand I’m relieved, on the other I start wondering where all the other bees have gone. Already “installed” in the beehome, you should receive 15 bees as starting population.  Probably it will take some more time for them to completely develop.

In any case there have been impressive changes in the small hive: multiple tubes have already been closed by the bees with mud, which means that they are already filled with eggs!

At least six bamboo tubes have already been completely closed by the bees. Inside the tubes the bees place eggs and once finished they “close the door” with mud.

As I was there checking the progression of the work and tube counting 😉 I had the opportunity of recording the following video, which is very sweet. I’m not sure if this behaviour is an exchange of information regarding flowers (direction, distance, …) or if it  is a part of the mating process, still is very sweet to look at. Enjoy!

Swiss Folding Team: riprende il sostegno alla ricerca!

Ho scoperto questo progetto quando ancora andavo all’università: si tratta di un’attività a fin di bene in cui si regala all’Università di Stanford la potenza di calcolo dei propri computer quando non sono in uso o quando non viene sfruttata al suo massimo: il progetto si chiama Folding@home (a volte abbreviato anche come F@H o FAH).

Come funziona?

Si tratta di installare sul proprio computer un piccolo programma che è in grado di collegarsi con l’università, recuperare i dati che devono essere elaborati (definiti come Work Unit) , eseguire i calcoli ed infine inviare i risultati al laboratorio. L’intervento dell’utente è richiesto unicamente durante l’installazione e serve per indicare il proprio nome/soprannome, il codice della squadra e una passkey (fornita dall’università) che permette di identificare univocamente l’utente.


Per scaricare il programma si può usare questo link.

Swiss Folding Team – Numero di squadra: 3129

Per aggiungersi alla squadra Swiss Folding Team si può inserire il codice 3129 durante la fase di iscrizione. Ad oggi la squadra è piccola e necessita di nuovi membri, fatti avanti dunque 🙂 Sarebbe fantastico poter diventare un punto di riferimento a livello Svizzero e per raggiungere questo obiettivo è necessaria la collaborazione di tutti, anche di te che stai leggendo, sia per prendere parte attivamente al progetto o anche per condividere questa idea con altri amici!


Per chi volesse si può controllare il proprio punteggio o quello della squadra sul sito Kakaostats.

Un po’ si gioca, un po’ si compete…

L’università è stata brava a sfruttare la competizione per far diventare la donazione più accattivante: come avete visto poco sopra per ogni Work Unit (WU) completata si riceve un punteggio: tanto più in fretta si accumulano punti, tanto più si sale in classifica.

… ed un po’ si impara! Più in dettaglio, che cos’è Folding at home?

Si tratta di una ricerca scientifica, eseguita dal Pande Lab presso l’università di Stanford, che ha l’obiettivo di individuare il processo con il quale le proteine assumono determinate strutture tridimensionali.

Perché è importante studiare questo processo?

Malattie come il Parkinson, Alzheimer, il morbo della mucca pazza e diverse tipologie di tumori potrebbero essere causate da proteine che, durante il ripiegamento su se stesse, incontrano delle difficoltà e assumono strutture scorrette che impediscono lo svolgimento della loro funzione. Studiando il processo si vuole capire come mai succedono questi errori.

Cosa ha ottenuto la ricerca sino ad oggi?

Il gruppo di ricerca, il cui direttore è Vijay Pande, è riuscito, a simulare la corretta formazione della proteina NTL9:

Di seguito un altro video che racconta come si è evoluto lo studio delle proteine:

A questo link è invece possibile leggere a quali risultati si è arrivati su molteplici delle malattie trattate.

Ma l’università non ha accesso ad un super computer per poter fare queste simulazioni da sola? Non sarebbe più efficiente?

Ho provato a fare una brevissima ricerca, che non ha nessuna intenzione di essere esaustiva, ma solo quella di dare un’idea: da quanto descritto in Wikipedia, risulta che il Centro Svizzero di Calcolo Scientifico ha una potenza di calcolo pari a 16 petaflops.

La soluzione distribuita scelta dall’università di Stanford sembra aver toccato la soglia dei 90 petaflops. Anche con tutte le approssimazioni del caso trovo il distacco veramente molto, molto grande e a favore della soluzione del calcolo distribuito!

Heating system: pressure loss

It is a few weeks that I have noticed and increasing loss of water pressure. Everything started three weeks ago, when I decided to stop the heating of the house since it was getting warmer and warmer. In that occasion I discovered that the pressure was lower of almost 0.5 bar.

I have already spoken with the plumber but he is not too sure about the reason why our heating system is loosing so much water in such a short time without leaving any kind of traces on walls, floor, whatever.

Now I have filled the system again in order to reach a pressure of about 2 bar. I’ll keep observing the manometer and see how fast it declines.

I’m starting to think that the expansion vessel might be not working correctly anymore. The name of the make is Pneumatex, while the model is Statico SD80.3Here some further specifcations.

Many weeks later I decided to try to solve the issue: have a look at the follow up!