Author Archive for Tim Tijssens

Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 First impressions

Testing our click and grow for the first time
We received our new Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 yesterday as a Christmas present.
The Click and Grow is a smart garden that grows organic fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers inside an appartment with a minimum of effort. Therefore, it uses a led lamp, smart capsules and water to grow plants inside.
First of all, we wanted the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 because we were disappointed about the poor quality of herbs in the supermarket. Furthermore we also wondered how to grow plants inside during winter and how we could eat more healthy and organic. We ordered our Click and Grow 9 on the site of Click and Grow and received it 2 weeks later.

On the box it came with the following quote:
“if you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life,
become a gardener”

Unboxing and setting up the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9.

After the unboxing, the only thing we had to do is place the lamp on top of the smart garden and plug it in.
The capsules delivered with the click and grow are extremely easy to use. First, we placed the capsules with the smart soil in the plastic goblets and clicked them into the click and grow. Next step was to fill it with water and wait … until we can eat our fresh, organic and house grown vegetables. We are growing tomatoes, peppermint and strawberries.

click and grow smart garden 9 capsules how to

click and grow smart garden 9 capsules how to

In total, it took us 10 minutes to get our click and grow up and running.
We have set up our Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 in the kitchen but we are thinking to move it to our stock room because the light is very bright. You can use the click and grow in any small and even dark place to grow your own fresh plants.
We’ll keep you posted!

Beside our Click and Grow we are both passionate about Gardening indoor or at an appartment so check out our other Apartment Garding tips and the Xiaomi Plant Sensor review

Xiaomi Plant Sensor review

I have been keen on keeping my plants healthy, especially since I want them to purify the air. In this way i can reduce the usage of my Xiaomi air purifier and my electrical bill.
Last summer i decided to go Travel again in China, and i wanted to bring back some Xiaomi gadgets. So before i left back to Belgium i quickly asked my Chinese friends to order a Xiaomi Plant Sensor Flower Care from Taobao.

Looks and feel of the Flower Care.


The device it self is fairly minimal with a small light and the symbol of the Plant sensor.

Since i bought the sensor in china, i had some issues setting up the device which i will explain you how to deal with later in the article.

Beside the Mija app you can also use the original Flower Care app but i advice you not to do this, since the app adds no additional value.
When you have connected the device, you can easily search for the latin plant name and it will cross search for the plant in the Database.

The big advantage of this is that it will automatically adjust the parameters specific to the plant.
The Flower Care has a CR2032 button cell battery inside which will last approximately one year. After this you can easily replace it by opening the device and changing the battery.

The Flower Car itself exists of two parts: the sensors for the soil and the chips and the sensors for the environment. The plant sensor itself is around 12 cm long. The bottom part of the sensor is responsible for measuring the fertility and the moisture. The top part contains a temperature sensor and a light sensor.


Setup Of the Xiaomi Plant Sensor.

Important! Depending on if you have the international version or the chinese version the setup will be different.

For the Chinese version you first need change your timezone to a place in Mainland China like Shenzhen. and use a VPN to connect to Mainland China. Else if you do not perform these action it will not find the Plant Sensor

Open the MIJA or the flower car app.

Hit the plus button in the top right corner search for the Flower care or scroll down.


Xiaomi Plant Sensor Setup.

Xiaomi Plant Sensor Setup.

Select the flower care.

Normally now the flower care will show up in the list and you can the select the plant that it should monitor.


Overview of the Flower Care

Xiaomi plant sensor FlowerCare monitored plant

Xiaomi plant sensor FlowerCare monitored plant

When you have added the device you should wait around 10 minutes to make sure the sensor gets all the different data accurate and the data has not been polluted by the air around it.

After that you will get an overview of the Sunlight, Moisture, Temperature and the Fertility. you can go into more details inside the Mija app when you click the different icons.

Xiaomi Plant Sensor Flower Care Fertility

Xiaomi Plant Sensor Flower Care Fertility

After you click the icon of like above(Fertilitity) you will get an overview of the current value and what the recommended value is.
The thing i love is that it also suggests how you can improve this value. Like in the picture above i should add more fertilizer when i water the plant.


Xiaomi plant sensor flower care report

Xiaomi plant sensor flower care report

You can also gather a report which will show you the overview of the sunshine, fertility and other data over a couple of days.
In this way you can clearly see if the plant has been lacking sunlight which it is in my case.

You can also click the top right corner and click the options to get more information about the plant or about the sensor.

Xiaomi Plant Sensor Plant Overview.

Xiaomi Plant Sensor Plant Overview.

Here you can clearly see how well you took care of the plant.

So should you buy the plant sensor?

Well if you can buy it a chinese retail price like i did it definitely a big recommendation.
However if you look to import the sensor it become more expensive and you should consider that if you need a lot it might become expensive in general.


Xiaomi air purifier 2 review

So last year i decided to purchase an Air purifier. This had been playing my mind for a while so started googling around and ended up choosing the Xiaomi Air Purifier 2.

So why made me choose for this air purifier above the others:

  • Sleek design.
  • Being able to use and application on my phone.
  • HEPA filter quality

What is the difference between the Xiaomi Air purifier 1 and 2?

The difference between the Xiaomi Air purifier 1 and 2 is that the 2 is slightly smaller and less noisy, however this also means that the 1 can handle a bigger room in terms of air movement.
The filters in both devices are exactly the same. When you buy the Xiaomi it comes with one filter pre installed and an Chinese plug.
So keep in mind that you might need an adapter for using it, or changing the cable like i did.

Why did i need an Air Purifier ?

I sometimes have a shortness of breath and exactly when the flower seasons start, i have to take my inhalers and other medication more intensely.
By buying the air purifier i hoped that would help me use less medication and create a healthy living environment.

Beside this, i don’t live that far from the ring around Brussels and since sometimes the PMI values of Brussels are near Shanghai and Beijing, for this reason i decided that this would be a good investment.

Conditions beside filtering air.

Beside filtering the air i wanted to be able to control it with my phone. The air filter has the Xiaomi home app which can be controlled by and I Phone or Android. It can be configured in a way that it monitors the air and the depending on the quality goes into a more intense cleaning mode.
It can also be used in combination with other Xiaomi home devices, like for example if you open a windows the cleaner automatically turns itself off.

The Air Purifier has 3 modes: quiet/sleep /automatically and high.


The Design of the Xiaomi Air Purifier.

Xiaomi Air Purifier 2

Xiaomi Air Purifier 2

The device itself can fit easily in every modern room, you would be able to say that it was inspired by the MUJI air Purifier, but than that would be in a good way. It is made in plastic.  The design i would describe as slick and minimalistic.

How does the Air purifier work?

The Air gets sucked in from the bottom in an 360 degree way and then gets sucked trough the filter and gets blowed out from the fan on top. For the device two types of filters exist. The standard filter is made into three layers consisting of an primary filter which holds back the major particles, then is the high density EPA filter that filters the Pollen and PM2.5 , than the last filter will clean the air of formaldehyde, odors and more.

Noise levels of the Mi Air Purifier:

On the most quiet mode the device is almost unbearable, i kinda use it also to generate a white noise and help me sleep. on the Turbo mode its almost the sound of an small vacuum, but keep in mind that you wont use this stand normally.

So does it work and should i get one ?

Well before i got the air purifier i had to live on my inhalers and medication to even live indoor after i opened the window for a while.
After i got it and turned it on for around 30 min i could start noticing the difference and i was able to breath normally and more comfortably.

In September i moved to a new place which was newly built and contained lots of dust and building chemicals remaining(Paints, other chemicals and so).
And in the first days i had problems as well breathing and i was coughing the whole time, well after i moved my Air Purifier in house i immediate started noticing the AIR feeling cleaner, headache reducing from the chemicals being filtered out and finally being able to breath normally again.

Afterwards i also invested in plants that clean the air for chemicals also and now my house perfectly pure 🙂

Find more information on the Xiaomi Website


Indigo lijiang

After having a wonderful stay in the Intercontinental and having a quick 2 day trip to Shangri La staying there at the M-Gallery. We decided to hit back to Lijiang and stay at a the Indigo Lijiang hotel this time. The hotel is located in the old part of the town. So you will be sleeping in an UNESCO heritage site.

Indigo Lijiang Entrance

Indigo Lijiang Entrance

Why should we change Hotel?   I mean we where really happy at the Intercontinental and i am part of the ambassador program.
Well on the internet i had read its one of the most beautiful hotels beside the Intercontinental and the Indigo is themed in the tea horse caravan trail.
So before i came back i quickly went to the Indigo and asked what are the benefits of being an gold ambassador IHG member at this Hotel ?
At first i did not get an answer which was a bit disappointing (but i am sure they were keeping the surprise).

So as soon as we came back from Shangri La and stopped in front of the Hotel with our Jeep.
One of the Hotels staff came to and said “Welcome Mr Tijssens”.
I was just so  amazed by this, i really love it when i get a personal approach, already feeling happy i went inside and decided to check in.

The Lady who was checking us in informed us:”Thank you for being gold ambassador” we upgraded you a couple of levels and gave you our private villa.

I was absolutely stunned. Never had i had such a warm welcome. I have never been in Indigo before but if they are all like this they have a big chance of becoming my favorite Hotels.

Together with her we walked to our villa and even in the road towards the hotel you could see the typical chinese symbols for longevity.  Arriving at our “home” we walked through a small gate and saw our neighbours relaxing on the shared teras. As soon as we opened the door we said wauw this is just beautiful. Everything was decorated in Horse Tea route style. From the Welcome Fruit basket that was shaped like a horse saddle too the subtle leather carpet.  In the beginning i did not even realize there were no beds so was amazed  i turned around and saw that there was a second floor. When going up you could quickly see the round bathtub and beautiful big bed. Als by making use of the natural light of the windows the room was beautifully lighted. you could see right into the old town from the windows.

Indigo Lijiang Bedroom

Indigo Lijiang Bedroom

Indigo Lijiang Bath

Indigo Lijiang Bath

There is no lounge in the hotel and some facilities are shared with the Intercontinental which is just across the street.

As for breakfast there is great choice for Western food, but you can also enjoy the local breakfast which is absolutely delicious.
You just explain what you want and they make it and bring it to your table.  There is really no question too much for the staff.

Together with the Intercontinental Lijiang this is still my favorite Hotel.




Arriving in China

I started my big adventure the 22nd of January and I was looking forward to arriving in China. I planned everything from the places i wanted to visit to agreeing the companies with the university and the apartment i am going to stay in. I Spend planning everything since almost a year back. Although this can be a pain in the ass when dealing with Chinese people they just don’t see why you should plan so far ahead they have the mentality of wait as long as possible and then push everything as quickly as possible.  So the last weeks my apartment was being taken care of, I would get picked up from the airport, I saw I was going to work with an Intel Software Partner. So this all got me reassured and excited.

Side note this is the second article a series of doing my internship in China.

So more ready than I would ever be I was waiting to board and start a new chapter of my life.

So after a not so long flight from Brussels to Dubai  on the Boeing 777 which I absolutely loved. I waited for the glorious king of the sky the Airbus A380. After a quick nap and some chatting with my fellow passenger I arrived in Shanghai, desperately searching for the Skyline from the plane.

Having collected my baggage I was searching for the teaching assistant. A bit jet lagged but well prepared and with a good mood and recognizable T-Shirt from the university I found him under a minute. After a quick introduction we decided to leave for Hangzhou. When chatting to him he told me he never been to Shanghai, guess I was lucky than that we quickly found our way around the airport.  As soon as we waited for the bus I noticed not that many foreigners took the regional busses. So more people were a bit curious about me and secretly took some pictures I found it kinda funny. If I had spoken more chinese at that time I would have talked to them and asked about their lives because I am as curious about them as they where about me.

I noticed some of the chinese people are well-known the Western apps on their iPhones. I saw snapchat and Facebook pop up more than once(a lot of the chinese people have alternative apps or know how to use google in China).  Unfortunately i saw a girl was not feeling that well  and i saw many of the chinese started talking to her. I asked my Chinese friend what was wrong with her. He told me she felt a bit ill and felt a fever coming up. So i asked him whether she had any medicine to help her feel better.  Suddenly she replied in English to me, no I don’t trust the chinese medicine, so I asked what symptoms she felt and decided to give her something that would help reduce the fever. After a 3 hour bus ride we arrived in Hangzhou where we exchanged the bus for the Subway.  after a quick ride and 5 min taxi drive to Zhejiang Gongshang University.  We arrived at the Campus “Hotel” where I would spend the first nights.  More about that in the following blog post.




Doing an Internship in China

This is going to be a series of blog post about my internship in China. Most of them will be a critical look at the western and chinese world. This series of articles also lead to my bachelor thesis. which I did for Howest where I recently graduated majoring in Advanced Computer Sciences.

My internship was in China, in the city of Hangzhou, in the Zhejiang province in the e-
commerce startup. I also want to thank everyone who helped me in and outside of China.

Tim Tijssens on the Great Wall when doing his internship in China

Tim Tijssens on the Great Wall when doing his internship in China


Why did I chose to perform my internship in China?

I first came across  Zhejiang Gongshang University during the three weeks SEPP. This was the first time i went to China.
There I have had the pleasure, of taking an introductory course in the Chinese way of life.
In the course of this stay, I discovered a land of beauty and opportunities, and con-sequently I wanted to return once more to the amazing country.
Moreover, as a result of my previous visit, I believed I possessed the necessary back-ground information to start an internship in the People’s Republic of China.
During my 4-month internship, I saw in real life what I have only studied up until now.
I expected it to be a good preparation, to start working afterwards in a European or global context. Therefore, I think this international internship was the perfect stepping-stone to a possibly bright cosmopolitan future.
With the aftermath of my international internship, I hope I will be able to give advice to improve the communications between Western and Chinese Companies. To help those to be even more specialized, specifically concerning the manner in which the Asiatic world handles technology development.

However, the main reason is that I hope to stimulate an international career. Above all, I treasured the prospect of working for highly motivated computer experts, and networking with Chinese developers and gaining practical skills relevant
interest in developing a career outside of my Belgian context.

i will add an link to the article when future articles have been posted.


Google Returning to China ?

Is Google Returning to China ? it sure looks like that way. There are multiple indicators that are showing that google is planning its return to China.

Of course China is huge market and google is willing to take a share in this market. Most of the services are officially blocked in China but for some reason Ad words still works.

I noticed it when looking on multiple pages at the adds and doing an inspect element on the ad that they originate from google and  that ad words still works.

Recently Sundar Pichai had an interview with Forbes about the future of Android in China. Android is huge in China . But no Android devices uses Google Services in China. Most of these devices are using the App Markets from Xiaomi or Baidu.  This is a huge market they are missing out on.

One of the questions asked in the interview was Would you like to re enter the Chinese Market ?
And the answer was: Beside the issues Google had in China in the past they also see a lot of opportunities.  There is a big demand from Chinese Developers on the Google Play store. Simply said the don’t see China anymore as a done market but rather as a market with huge opportunity’s in which they want enable their platform and services.   When asking when that would happen  he responded with no comment.

But recently Google posted multiple Jobs on LinkedIn for a position in Beijing.

Google Returns to China posting jobs on Linked In

Google Returns to China posting jobs on Linked In

In total 7 Job Categories have been posted for China

We can clearly see that one involves android so that might point out that google is serious trying to get back in to business in China.

Google Returns to China posting 7 job functions on LinkedIn

Google Returns to China posting 7 job functions on LinkedIn

China and Google had quite a history together

Some of the events even date back to this year .  You can read the most important events here.

Google Blocked in China History


Google said that the  Chrome browser and other products will not recognize security certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China’s internet authority anymore .  This problem originated from the fact that unauthorized security certificates where being issued for several Google Domains.  This lead to a security issue where it was possible to perform a man in the middle attack.

December 2014

Gmail officially blocked in China.

June 2014

Gmail Temporarily blocked in China and Calendar and Translate, Google Docs are being blocked in China


Google is fully blocked according to the website GreatFire



Google Removes it self fully from China after hacking attacks  originating from China.

All Google Traffic from China is being redirected to Google Hong Kong

This might also interest you.

Alternatives to Google Services In China

 30 Days free VPN


Google Services in China

I have to admit I am heavily invested in using the Google Ecosystem, I use an android phone with the Google play store(currently the One Plus One CM11S), I use Hangouts when I am traveling to keep in touch with my family, Google translate for some basic words,  Google maps and so on. But when I knew my internship was confirmed I realized, hey Google does not work in China or at least not without a work around.
So I started thinking how do I move everything outside from the Google services to another Cloud service. Another solution was to use a vpn the whole time. But China is cracking down on VPNs and most of them are not so stable. I do use Expressvpn  which fortunately works in China. But I think it’s just easier and better for the future in case I ever change ecosystems. You can get a 30 days using my sign up link.

Calendar: The Calendar of Google is awesome its simple and does not need any knowledge just select the dates, invite the people ,add the location and its done. And the most convenient about this was that the app is cross platform.

So I started to look around for an alternative and found Sunrise. I used Sunrise before but lost interest since Google updated their calendar.But i decided to give it a second chance and I have to say Sunrise is awesome it has cross-platform apps, syncs with other calendars so I let it sync with my icloud and my Google agenda. And the most awesome part are the plugins. They have plugins for Google Tasks, Evernote, Facebook, Eventbrite and Foursquare. I love the Evernote and Foursquare plugins it’s so useful to see where you have been some days at what time if you don’t have a calendar event for that day. Also their suggested calendars are very useful. I can easily check the public holidays or when the next episode of Game of Thrones is released

Google Keep: Its minimal, so minimal and that’s why its awesome. Just write down the note and that’s it.

But since i switched to Evernote I cannot change back to Google Keep again, the tasks, the reminders, the different notebooks everything is convenient. And just saves me a lot of time and thoughts. I even write down my costs instead of writing it in Excel.

Google Maps: I admit I cheated I kept using Google Maps in the beginning I just downloaded the offline maps of the Cities I am in China but then I discovered Baidu Maps. If you are familiar with icons you can use this app without understanding any Mandarin. It so useful you just  enter the destination, choose the way of transport and youre ready to go. it even shows you which busses you need to take.

Google Play is easy to replace because there are many alternative app stores available but i chose the Mi Market which originates from Xiaomi.
Xiaomi has recruited many people that had a lot of experience in the industry. From apple , microsoft and Google. The Current vice president they even recruited directly from Android where he had the same position.  Xiaomi is a big player in China and also in the world.
When writing this article it is the 3rd largest cellphone maker in the world. For the moment they have only launched in the Asian market but announced that they will offer their accessorizes in Europe and America.  Describing them as a cellphone company is no longer correct they are better fitted as an Internet of Things company.

Google Hangouts:  the app could have been easily replaced by Whats app but it’s more convenient to use Wechat. Wechat is a Chinese made chat that is very similar to Whatsapp but is enormously popular in China and Asia.

It’s slowly getting a foothold outside of that. Its owned by Tencent worlds 4th largest internet company. And it’s just like Hangouts Whatsapp and Messenger Merged but with a sense of privacy. The Messages you send are not stored into the cloud so if you don’t back them up and lose your phone you will not able to retrieve them. and for the sms part I just replaced it with the default messenger app because Hangouts recently started freezing in China.

Because it’s not always as easy to get a Taxi, especially in Hangzhou i use Uber.  you have a lot of different  transport option in Uber including boats. I will write an article later dedicated to using Uber in China.

And finally instead of watching Netflix and YouTube i watch Youku. Youku is  a Chinese streaming website where you can watch user generated content but also movies and tv shows. The Great part of this that most English movies and Tv Shows on Youku are free.  They also have a VIP zone which allows you to watch movies that are currently playing in the cinemas and let you watch advertising free.

Funny part about Google Services in China are that most of them are blocked but somehow i still can see Google adwords working on some websites.


Visiting Alibaba Headquarters Hangzhou

In the second week of my internship, I mentioned to my boss that I was very interested in a job or visiting Alibaba. By the end of the week my boss had a surprise for me; he knew somebody in Alibaba and arranged that I could have a small visit to the company. Alibaba itself is located in the Zhejiang Province in Hangzhou in the Binjiang District. For those who are not familiar with the company Alibaba is best known outside China for its the biggest IPO so far noted. But what’s more interesting is the way the company reached this IPO. In the Peoples Republic of China Alibaba is best known for its website Taobao and Tmall, the best way to describe it is as a mix of Ebay and Amazon. Everyone knows it and purchases lots of items on it, from household appliances, Food to Cars and so on. Alibaba has also got many other websites and is invested in many other Companies/Websites. The investments I find most interesting are Youku, Meizu and Ouya, Lyft more about those later.

Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba has been influenced by many in San Francisco and in the Silicon Valley area. You can clearly see this when visiting the company that it has similar styles to Google and VMware campus.

Taobao Alibaba Headquarters Hangzhou

Taobao Alibaba Headquarters Hangzhou


The visit to the company itself.
Beware you need an invite to be able to go to the company, it’s not accessible anymore for any visitors.
The Company is located in the Binjiang district and is known among the locals as Taobao city.
When entering through the main gate we were friendly greeted by our contact. She is a young ambitious woman who is responsible for the Customer Relationships. Unfortunately we were not able to go into the company itself but had a small introduction around the campus and the visitor center. The building style has a similar style like the ones in silicon valley. Especially like Google many aspects are the recognizable, like for example instead of the Google Bikes they have they Ali Bikes which can transport you easily at the campus. The Campus has a small supermarket, Starbucks, Gym.

Orange Bikes of Alibaba in Taobao City

Orange Bikes of Alibaba in Taobao City

When arriving in the main visitor hall the first thing that you notice is the Orange Super Car. Similarity  to a Lamborghini can’t be ignored. The story goes that all items of the car had been bought separately on Taobao and then were made into this car.

Alibaba Lamborghini

Alibaba Lamborghini

Alibaba’s Future expansion

I wondered now Alibaba has almost dominated the whole e-commerce of China what their plans for the future are. Are they interested in the Western Markets like Europe, America and so on?
According to my host for the moment there is no interest in Europe. The most valuable markets after China are Russia and America.
I think the idea of a platform like Taobao would not work so easily in Europe. I don’t think Europeans would be preparing to talk to a buyer each time the buy something online. We buy online to save time and review our items before. But in China, things are different you cannot judge the quality so easily and thousands of people sell you the same products. Even prices are not the same for everyone and are negotiable. I think the idea of this to most western people would be a nightmare just the fact that you paid more than somebody else for a product the exact same day.

Moving to China

Hey everyone, since starting my studies at Howest I always wanted to have an international career. After the China From Within Project where I was a Teaching assistant in the Spoken English Promotion Project (SEPP) I knew I wanted to have my internship in China. Last year I visited San Francisco and visited a lot of technology Companies like Google, Nvidia, Github,.. and that made my interest in the Chinese software development even bigger. After my internship I hope to start working at an International Company outside of Belgium.

In January I moved to China for my internship. so far it has already been an adventure. I will stay in China for a period of 6 months. After a smooth flight from Brussel to Dubai with Emirates and from Dubai to Shanghai Pudong. I arrived at the people’s republic of China around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. a bit jet lagged I was welcomed by a Teaching assistant who had never been to Shanghai. After searching for the bus stop we were on our way to Hangzhou. After an hour bus ride we arrived at the University’s Hotel (Don’t expect too much about the word Hotel it’s just looks like a dorm room). But because everything closes at spring festival I could only stay there a week and then I needed to move out and find my own place. So I immediately started checking hotels and ended up with the Ibis Hangzhou which only cost 20 Yuan more than the University Hotel.
although it’s a university not so many people speak english so I decided to take my mandarin course and study at the nearby coffee bar. My plans for the next days where to explore the area and meet some people so more on that in the coming posts.

Xinchang Pagode

Xinchang Pagode