Archive for the ‘Relocation’ Category

ADSL Setup in Shanghai

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

So here I am trying to set up an ADSL connection in the place we moved into.  The owner had been paying for ADSL for quite some time, so presumably it worked.  But neither of the two Ethernet connections in the house seemed to have signal in them, so I ended up calling the ADSL repair folks.  In Shanghai, this means China Telecom.

The repair guy comes over, tests both Ethernet ports, and verified that there indeed weren’t signals coming out of them.  He then goes into the phone panel in the house and begins disconnecting all sorts of wires.  It’s a mess in there, a veritable bird’s nest of thin-gauge technicolor wiring.  But no matter.  He starts cutting and ripping them all out.  Finally, he connects two tiny wires together.

Back upstairs.  Now testing the phone jacks.  Doesn’t work in the office.  No worries, let’s try the guest bedroom.  Ah, the phone line seems to work there.  Let’s now connect an ADSL modem to it.

Great.  Everything now works from the guest bedroom.

Me:  “Great!  Can we now get it working from the office?”
Phone-Love:  “How about you just use the Internet from here?”
Me:  “The guest bedroom?  I was thinking of using the computer from the office… it’s the one with the Ethernet port, right?”
Phone-Love:  “The port’s not working.  The phone line there’s not working either.”  It, by the way, doesn’t seem to cross his mind that his chop-job in the garage might have had anything to do with this.
Me:  “But isn’t the point of the Ethernet port that our network connection should come through it?  Can’t we get that working?  Or at least the phone line in the office?”
Phone-LoveDead serious, with no self-detected I’m-From-China-Telecom irony.  “That’s not my job.  The phone line upstairs is broken.  Not sure what that Ethernet port was for.  Why don’t you just use the guest room to access the Internet?”

If it’s not the China Telecom guy’s job to get a phone line working, I’m not sure whose job it is.  But no matter.  Here I am, coming to you from the guest room.  That’s not all — there’s more.

I bought an ADSL modem from Metro City, a mall in Xujiahui that sells all sorts of computer goods.  (It also has a fabulous food court in the basement for those marathon shopping trips.)  If you’re going to buy an ADSL modem, I’d highly recommend getting one that has an English interface.  The local brand, TP-Link, does not have English menus.  So good luck there — you’ll probably recognize one or two familiar-sounding terms, like DHCP or NAT.  But the rest won’t be usable.

I pat myself on the back for being smart enough to get a D-Link, whose interface is indeed in English (mostly).  Herein begins the fun.  I plug in the ADSL modem, enter my username and password, and nothing happens.  No Internet.  I look around the menus and discover that I might need to modify “VPI” and “VCI” numbers (which apparently vary from carrier to carrier).  Onto the phone to China Telecom speedy helpdesk.

Me:  “Hello, I’m trying to get an ADSL modem configured for use on your network.”
ADSL-Love:  “You don’t need to configure anything.”
Me:  “I’ve put in my username and password, but there’s still no connection.”
ADSL-Love:  “Oh, right, you do need to put those in, but then it’ll work.”
Me:  “It doesn’t.”
ADSL-Love:  “It’ll work.  You don’t need to configure anything.”
MeAt this point, instead of trying to articulate the reality of the absolutely nothingness that was going on in my office guestroom, I take a different tack.  “What are the VCI and VPI settings for China Telecom’s ADSL?”
ADSL-Love:  “You don’t need to know those.  You don’t need to set them.  You know, for those settings, you should call your modem manufacturer.”
Me:  “But aren’t those settings carrier-dependent?  The manufacturer wouldn’t know those, right?”  “Carrier-dependent,” by the way, is a gross exaggeration of what I said in my second-grade-level Mandarin.  The literal sentences were probably something more like, “Aren’t those switches which I here set modem only you know?  Not modem maker?  You have numbers?  VCI, VPI?  Capiche?”
ADSL-Love:  “No, you don’t need to set those.  Your manufacturer can help you.”

As you’ve probably guessed, D-Link has absolutely nothing to say on this subject.  Rightfully so, since those settings are indeed carrier dependent.

To save you new-to-Shanghai folks some ADSL Love of you own, here are the critical settings you need to know:

Protocol:  PPPoE
Channel:  PVC0 (that’s channel zero)
VPI:  8
VCI:  81 (decimal, or 51 hex, depending on your router)

These settings will only work in Shanghai for ADSL.  Other parts of China are sometimes run by different carriers.  The parts that are China Telecom outside Shanghai may have different VPI/VCI settings.  In those cases, you don’t need to configure anything.  It’ll just work.  Or you could call your modem manufacturer.  Heheh.

For a full (though possibly outdated) list, search online for “china telecom vci vpi.”  There are a variety of sites that list ADSL settings worldwide (primarily for Linux drivers, apparently).

Tips for international moves into Shanghai

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Several tips related to international moves into Shanghai:

  1. The movers may be overeager in what they include.  Many people have told us tales of movers packing their trash bins, complete with trash, right into their shipment.  If you don’t have things clearly labeled, it’s quite possible that something will be packed accidentally.  You should be present during packing so that only the right things get moved.
  2. Zero food is allowed.  In addition to the obvious things (e.g. beef, fruit, live lobster), Shanghai prohibits pretty much anything that counts as food.  Canned goods, baby formula, and even spices aren’t allowed.
  3. Customs can take a long time.  Sea shipments can take 6-8 weeks to arrive and clear customs.  Even air shipments can take 4-8 weeks (yes, weeks, not days).  In our case, the air and sea shipments are forecasted to pretty much arrive and clear customs at the same time, begging the question of why air shipments exist at all.
  4. Writeable media invites customs delays.  In a twist of irony, China’s customs inspectors are particularly sensitive to the transport of writeable computer media (e.g. writeable DVDs and CDs).  Having these disks, even if they’re blank, will incrcease the chances of your shipment being delayed in customs.  So leave the stack of 100 CD-R’s behind.  They’ll probably be tempted to look through every last one of them.

Move Part One completed

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Move 010Move 005Our belongings are now bound for Shanghai.

Over the past few weeks, and especially in the past few days, we’ve been intensely packing in preparation for our move to Shanghai.  Our packing strategy was easy.  Since most apartments are fully furnished in Shanghai, we didn’t need to pack any furniture.  We only packed personal belongings and a variety of things related to the baby.   We made the moving process easier for the movers by separating things into three types of piles:  things to send by air, things to send by ship, and things we’d carry in our luggage.

Move 003 Move 004

By the early afternoon today, an unusually cold day in Seattle, our goods were driven away in a Graebel moving van towards warmer climes.

Move 007Move 006

Move 008Move 009 

Car insurance while you’re gone

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

So you’d think that maintaining car insurance for the cars you leave in the US would be an easy thing.  It took me no less than seven phone calls in order to sort this out.

What you need to do depends on whether you’ll be selling your cars, storing them, or loaning them to friends.

Selling

If you plan on selling your car, most people say to leave a few weeks’ buffer.  I ended up selling our Honda Accord in two days using Craigslist.  Here are more tips on how to sell your car fast at a good price.  Remember to call your insurance company immediately after selling the vehicle so that you don’t keep paying to insure it.

Storing

If you’re going to store your car, insurance gets tricky.  Several insurance companies have storage plans, where you only pay comprehensive (e.g. in case your car is stolen, or your house collapses on it, etc).  However, requirements differ between companies.

I was told by one agent that I needed to take a photo of the odometer before and after storing it to prove that the car hadn’t moved.  Never mind how fishy that sounds, given that I could in theory just take two digital photos right now and submit one as the “after” photo.  Not that I’d do anything as shifty as that, nor do I recommend it.  I just mean that the rules make no sense, like the one where the TSA now requires you to take off your shoes because one guy tried to bomb a plane with his shoes, as if you’d take a page from that well-worn book.  Thank goodness no one has tried to bomb a plane with their underwear yet.

Storage plans end up cheaper by a wide margin since you’re only paying comprehensive coverage.  However, the companies I called all required that the vehicle be stored at your home.

When storing a car, you’ll need to do a variety of preparation, like emptying the gas tank, prepping the engine, etc.  The web has a variety of resources outlining what you’ll need to do.  The other route is to have a friend start up the car once a week or so for 10-15 minutes.  Although this isn’t as good for the car as driving it around, it at least keeps the engine cycling.  If you go this route, you should probably remind your friend that reversing the car doesn’t reverse the odometer, if your friend hasn’t seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Loaning

If you loan your car out to a friend, you may need to get them put on the title as the registered owner in order to get insurance.  The companies I called would not insure a friend for the long term (e.g. one year) if they weren’t listed as the registered owner of the car.

There’s a big difference between the registered owner and the legal owner on a title.  The legal owner is the one who really owns the car.  In cases where there’s a car loan, the legal owner is usually the bank.  The registered owner is the one actually driving the car, paying tab renewal fees, and getting insurance.  In the case where you’re loaning the car to a friend, you should remain the legal owner.  Your friend, as the registered owner, can get his own insurance on the car.

Maintaining yourself as the legal owner also helps you to avoid any sales and use taxes.  For instance, in Washington state, every time a car changes hands (legal owners), there’s a hefty 9% tax on the market value of the vehicle.  Changing just the registered owner costs you just a minor fee ($15) instead of having to pay the huge sales and use tax, and is perfectly legit as long as you plan to remain the legal owner of the vehicle.

One car sold, two more to take care of

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

DSC_0114 In preparation for our relocation, we wanted to sell the `98 Honda Accord (the same one referred to as “too fast, too furious” in this article on Microsoft’s site).  It was my first car so it had sentimental value.  But alas, we weren’t driving it much, and the insurance alone cost over $500 a year.

I considered selling it on eBay and on craigslist, and in the end went with craigslist because it was free.  The whole transaction took all of two days to complete, from listing the ad all the way to signing the title over to the new owners.

Tips for a quick, well-priced sale:

  1. DSC_0111 Get the car detailed.  I spent $200 at Derek’s Detail in Seattle,  and even met Derek himself.  The important part is to get absolutely everything cleaned.  I got not only a wash and wax, but alsoDSC_0106 the interior shampooed and the engine touched up.  This makes a ten-year-old car show like new.  Remember that most people in the used market are seeing several cars a weekend, all about theDSC_0109 same age (and perhaps even the same make and model) as your own.  Appearances make a huge difference.
  2. List with additional high-res photos.  Craigslist only DSC_0107 supports four very low resolution, low quality images with each ad.  It continually surprises me that such a poor user experience can become the dominant classifieds site on the Internet, but never mind.  I uploaded nine DSC_0112 high-res photos to another hosting site, and linked to it directly from the ad.  This no doubt set my listing apart from the many other Accords being sold at the same time.  I was contacted by at least six people within 24 hours.
  3. Pay your loan off.  Buyers don’t want to deal with the bank.  If you still have a loan on your car, you won’t be able to complete the sale directly with a buyer.  Instead, the bank has to get involved in order to get the title transferred.  You can lose a buyer this way.  The guy who ended up buying my Accord came straight from dropping out of a deal where the seller still had an outstanding loan on the car.
  4. Check your competition.  There are probably several similar or nearly identical cars to yours being sold at around the same time.  You should price yours accordingly.  People seem to espouse one of two strategies when your car is nearly identical to others being listed:  price low, or price high.  The Price Low camp believes that by doing so, you’ll generate more initial interest and close the sale faster.  The Price High camp believes that Craigslist is full of low-ballers, such that you should start your price high in order to be in a better negotiating position.  I’m in the Price High camp.  By standing out above the competition with a great listing (including photos) as well as a detailed car that showed a lot better, I made a sale at a price that was better than I expected.  Since you can always adjust your price down later, I think it can’t hurt to start high.
  5. List strategically.  Say enough (like the critical points), but don’t say too much.  You want a chance to interact with potential buyers, to form a connection and to get them to feel invested in the transaction.  For this reason, someone recommended omitting the VIN from my listing, which turned out to be a great way to start a conversation with potential buyers.  If you are the first and only owner, definitely state that.  Many buyers find that appealing.
  6. Maintain a strong bargaining position.  If you’re in a rush to sell, the best thing is to have both the cleanest car and the best listing in the bunch.  Don’t let your time crunch negatively impact your bargaining position.  You always want to maintain more than one live lead so that you can let potential buyers know that others are in line.  Schedule aggressively by being available to show the car, but also by stacking up potential buyers on the same day so that you’re in a position to walk away from a bad deal.
  7. State all known issues.  Here’s where I’d differ from many sellers.  I believe that a 100% disclosure policy actually sells better and faster.  When showing the car to a potential buyer, I point out absolutely everything:  tiny dings on the door, a small crack that’s been patched in the windshield, low tire treads, etc.  By doing so, you’re not only being high-integrity, you’re also quickly building trust with the buyer.  That trust is what closes a sale quickly and at a good price.

Remember that certified check fraud is becoming more common.  So a bubble-jetted check that looks like it’s from Wells Fargo doesn’t actually mean anything.  I’d recommend cash, PayPal, or going with the buyer to his bank to witness the certified check being withdrawn.

Lastly, once the car is sold, you’ll need to register the sale with your department of motor vehicles as well as with your insurance.