iPhone-owning students of Japanese (or of anything else that require memorisation) may be familiar with Anki, but perhaps may not be so familiar with iAnki, the mobile version.

As with Anki itself, iAnki is a work in progress, and prospective users shouldn’t expect an all-singing all-dancing iPhone App. What there is though is pretty solid, and does what it needs to do.

iAnki is not a traditional stand-alone iPhone App. Rather than installing it via iTunes, it works through Safari. Installation is pretty simple: having opened Anki on your computer start up the plugin “iAnki server” on your computer; this can be accessed over local wifi networks (i.e. your home wifi network) by local devices (such as your iPhone). Next, simply connect your device to that server by browsing to the IP address given, typically – then click on Sync.

I must admit to have had a few teething troubles to get it to sync, but once it’s done it once, it seems to work fine. You now have a copy of your iAnki cards on you iPhone (or other mobile device) – perfect for when riding the subway and unable to access Anki’s web-based version.

I’m looking forward to seeing future incarnations of iAnki – someone throw some money at the developer!

This post is an expanded version of that featured on my other blog, The Daily Mumble. Whilst not strictly Japan related I thought I’d post it anyway!

As of today, I’m offering Mumblers the opportunity to join me on my morning jog. Yes, you too can come to Komozawa Koen, enjoy the sights of the running track, go faster, go slower, go uphill, go downhill …and all without breaking a sweat. Courtesy of (what else but) the iPhone.

Courtesy of this amazing gadget and a new app, my runs (that’s different from ‘the runs’…) are now added to the social networking site EveryTrail. If I take any photos along my route, they are magically uploaded to the Google map in the correct location – I really don’t have to do much to create the little show other than press ‘Start’ when I leave the house and ‘Stop’ when I get home (and ‘Take Photo’ when I want to).

This also shows speed, altitude, and the amount of sweat soaking my T-shirt.

This morning I was out of the house by 7am, inspired by *Twinkle* who had left at 6.15am to attend a (free) morning business seminar run by the owner of a famous izakaya (Japanese bar) in Shibuya.

It was a great run, really enjoyed it!
(Click here to view the following morning jog in full or click on the map or photos)

Widget powered by EveryTrail: GPS Geotagging

Up until now I’ve been using RunKeeper. Unfortunately RunKeeper has consistently let me down, with it losing the GPS signal mid-run and thus producing incorrect statistics. RunKeeper had problems maintaining the GPS signal even in areas where GoogleMaps was working fine.

I’ve only used EveryTrail a couple of times, but I must say, I’ve been mightily impressed. It’s been totally reliable, accurate, and sexy. It also integrates with Facebook took, allowing one to easily post trips to one’s profile.

That’s what we like – a bit of social networking to get up out of the house!

Definitely gets my vote.

Download it now!

In the current economic climate we have been forced to sharpen our business focus

With this short sentence, Nokia just announced that it would stop selling phones altogether and end all marketing activities in Japan, Forbes.com reveals.

Researchers, for an approximate headcount of 350, will continue their work in the country, as the Finnish company certainly cannot afford to completely lose touch with Japan, a country at the forefront of the mobile business.

Nokia will also bring it’s high-end premium cellphone brand, Vertu, and might even create a virtual network using NTT DoCoMo’s backbone, as it was announced a few days ago.

With a market share of 1%, paltry sales in this very mature market and the economic recession looming, the number one cellphone maker was undoubtedly forced to take a bold decision, notwithstanding the huge sums it has invested to penetrate the market.

Is Japan such a different market that even the number one cellphone maker cannot succeed ?

The ‘mini-PC’ craze over the last year or so made me hungry for a taste. Being a mobile worker I really rely on my laptop, but constantly lugging around my current A4 can be a drag. Having said that, even though I’m doing more and more work in the browser I still find that I need a number of power hungry desktop applications and I was worried about moving to the opposite extreme and sacrificing power for size. I was lucky enough to be loaned a HTC Shift for a few weeks giving me chance to take it for a thorough test drive. Here’s a report on my experience.

Moving from my large A4 laptop, was at first a shock, but I’ve got to say it only lasted about a day. I was surprised how soon I got used to the change. The real proof was that even though I had the option to move back to my regular PC to get work done – I didn’t.

I don’t have problems with my eyes so the 1024×600 resolution on the small screen wasn’t an issue (other than for a few browser pop-ups that exceeded the height of the screen and couldn’t be moved). There’s a handy harware button to the right of the screen for switching to 800×480, but I doubt anyone could really get much done at this resolution. The keyboard was very useable (yes – I’m using it to write this review), although I realized how often I use the F11 and F12 keys which are missing on the Shift.

The tiny form factor really was a revelation. I ended up downsizing my work bag and even carried the Shift around in a small sholder bag on weekends (see picture below). Even though it doesn’t take much longer to pull a larger laptop out from a bag, I found that the lower bulk factor and the sliding touch screen led to me grabbing the PC more often than in the past. It’s just a shame that the battery life is only 2 hours which means that I always had to travel with the charging cable.

A Tablet PC
It’s a real shame that Tablet PCs never took off. I had a Tablet in the past and have made a vow to myself that I’ll never purchase another laptop unless it’s a Tablet. Interacting with a computer through the screen is so much more natural and relaxing. There are two types of Tablet PC screen – those that require a special pen and those that don’t. The advantage of the latter is that you can also use your finger, but these have the disadvantage that you can’t rest your hand on the screen while writing, something that irritates occasionally. The slide away keyboard, means the Shift can easily be used in Tablet only mode – this is nice when standing or when taking notes at meetings (to minimize the communication barrier effect that a screen can have).

If you do get a HTC Shift or other tablet, I would suggest investing in Microsoft OneNote, which although not as intuitive as it could be, does do a great job of migrating the function of a paper notebook to a PC. In fact, easy navigation between pages, searchable archives, easy text erase and audio notes sync’d with the text you were writing at the time make it a big improvement over paper. For the first time since I last had a Tablet PC I retired my paper notebook. This really is the future, although as with the iPhone in the smartphone market, it may take a release from Apple for touch PC computing to really take off.

Computing Muscle
Looking at the stats, there’s 1GB of RAM and an 800Mhz processor powering Vista. Unlike many others I’ve largely had good experiences with Vista and the Shift was no exception. I did make an effort to keep Skype off while not being used and downloaded Chrome for web surfing. The Shift performed fine simultaneously running Chrome, OneNote, MindManager and a few small task tray apps. On another occasion I was livestreaming using Ustream while chatting on Skype and other apps and didn’t have any issues.

The hard drive options are 40GB or 60GB. This means you do have to think twice about using it for activities that eat up large chunks of space like photos, music, iPhone sync, Google Desktop, and also be careful how many applications and add-ons you install. Still 60GB is a nice size and differentiates the Shift from the early eeePC netbooks which worryingly had less than 10!

Hardware Buttons
In addition to the resolution switcher mentioned above, there’s also a button for launching a Communications Manager, which makes turning the wifi or Bluetooth on/off just a couple of clicks. The Touch Pad in combination with the left/right click buttons as an alternative control for the mouse were at times useful. There’s also a finger print reader which I didn’t use much other than when logging in in Tablet mode.

Mobile Data
The Shift really differentiates itself from others in the UMPC category with the addition of a USIM slot for 3G data connectivity. Potentially this is very useful, except that there are no reasonable flat rate data plans in Japan with the carriers using USIMs. This will change over time and so hopefully we’ll see HTC keep this feature in future devices.

The Shift also comes with SnapVUE, which is a bit like a second low power, instant–on OS, that runs in addition to Vista. Clicking the SnapVUE button switches instantly for access to email (and other PIM data if you are synchronizing with MS Exchange). The downside is that SnapVUE can only use the cellular connection and not wifi, so it’s not much use unless you have the cellular connection set up.

Also included is Origami – Microsoft’s attempt at a new interface for interacting with a touch screen device. It runs as a separate application mainly for accessing media and internet. I tried the app a few times, but abandoned it in seconds. Maybe I need to go through the learning curve, or maybe it’s just not well done. All I can say it that I had a much different experience when I picked up an iPhone.

A VGA display adapter, SD card slot, USB 2.0 and earphone jack were all well used. I did miss the LAN port occasionally but if I was to use the Shift permanently I’d by some adapter rather than sacrifice additional size or cost.

At around 164,800 yen (e.g. at BIC Camera) in Japan ($1899 at Amazon) the Shift is certainly a bigger investment than a netbook, but if you are looking for good computing power in a super portable device it’s a fair price.

Very impressed. I actually think I could use this as my main PC. It certainly attracted a lot of attention and questions when I was using it out and about. It’s impressive computing power in a small package.

For future updates the thing I’d most like to see is a big increase in battery life. In terms of supporting services, I think the mobile carriers should be looking to add the option of reasonably priced additional flat rate contracts so that mobile workers can have multiple connected devices without breaking the bank. I’d be prepared to pay 2-3,000 yen ($20-$30) a month for an additional flat rate contract, but another 6-7,000 is too much.

Can you hear the angels singing? Been wondering why 0.0001% of the Japanese population is going round with huge grins on their faces?

Oh yes, Friday 21st November 2008 was the day that eMoji came to the iPhone in Japan.

Well, sort of.

It turns out that emoji support is only available for a) sms sent to other Softbank users (whom I know very few of and b) emails sent from a softbank email address to another softbank email address.

According to Apple:

  • If another [non-softbank] email account is used to view a message that contains Emoji, you may see “=” instead of Emoji characters.
  • If iPhone OS 2.1 or earlier is used to view a message that contains Emoji, you may see squares instead of Emoji characters.
  • The ability to send or receive Emoji is server dependent and could be inactive at different times due to the need to update the SoftBank and other service provider’s servers simultaneously.

As the emoji keyboard only appears when you compose a message with the outgoing server set to softbank

So basically, it’s a bit pants. I don’t use a softbank email address, instead preferring to use Gmail with its superb spam filter, web access, bells and whistles. (I do however have a copy of every mail sent to my mobile Gmail address forwarded to my softbank account in order to get a silent alert that I have email) (the incredibly non-useful silent email alert being something else I was hoping would have been addressed in this update).

I have actually found a way to send emoji from a non-softbank address, but it’s not really worth the trouble. In order to do this, first compose an email (including your cutey little emojis) using your softbank account, then change the server before sending. Whether it displays ok or not on the recipients phone is another matter…

I find it odd that with such advanced phones in Japan, simple services such as cross-provider SMS are not available. If we have that, I’d be going emoji crazy. As it is, the only chance I’m going to get to use them is when bugging my iPhone-enabled friend in Osaka. Poor chap.

Let’s hope that the next update to iPhone sees some of these limitations lifted. I have to remember, it’s still early days here in Japan.

The only other significant update was to Google Maps, with the introduction of StreetView. Now that, I must say, is mightily sexy, and I can see it being a fantastic tool in the ‘convert your friends to the iPhone’ toolkit. It is so smooth, just incredible.

Looks like this was more of a leak than an announcement, about Nokia’s plans for the Japanese market in 2009. The news is below and you can read more about the Vertu handsets available overseas here: www.vertu.com


Nokia to Offer Mobile-Phone Services in Japan, Yomiuri Reports
By Finbarr Flynn

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) — Nokia Oyj, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones, plans to start offering luxury cell-phone services in Japan from March, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

Espoo, Finland-based Nokia intends to start selling its high-end Vertu handsets in Japan from February, and may roll out its mobile-phone services from March, the newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

Nokia will rent telecommunication lines from NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile-phone operator, and may announce details of the service by the end of this month, Yomiuri said.

Nokia’s entry will be the first time an overseas phone maker has competed in Japan’s mobile-phone services market, the newspaper said. The Finnish company will target high-income customers by offering 24-hour concierge services that allow customers to contact customer services representatives to book plane and hotel reservations, the Yomiuri said.

Two nights ago my iPhone suddenly had an emergency breakdown. Somehow the OS became corrupted, and the only way to fix it was to connect it to my mac and let iTunes try its best counselling skills.

The only problem was, iTunes couldn’t connect with it – just kept on asking me to enter the phone’s passcode …which I couldn’t do as the phone wouldn’t let me do anything except make emergency calls. Catch 22.

(For google reference, the error message read:

“iTunes could not connect to the iPhone “*” because it is locked with a passcode. You must enter your passcode on the iPhone before it can be used with iTunes”

This all happened when I was actually in the Apple Store on unrelated business (looking at new macbooks!), but they were so busy I had no chance of seeing the Geniuses (they’re the people who fix stuff), and the sales staff didn’t know what to do. I made an appointment for the following night, and using their in-store wifi started scouring the Apple forums.

Eventually I found out how to force the iPhone into recovery mode (connect to computer, open iTunes, press both buttons until Apple logo appears, then only release the top button, hole the bottom one until iTunes recognises it as being in recovery mode and restores it to factory settings). However, after it rebooted it just came up with another error, “The iPhone “*” cannot be used with iTunes because the information required for activation could not be obtained from the iPhone”. There was nothing I could do but wait until the following night’s appointment.

This being Japan, I was kind of expecting it to take a long time to sort out. Everything here seems to involve endless form-filling – you even have to provide a notarised copy of your birth certificate in order to buy a loaf of bread. (OK, slight exaggeration, maybe.) One problem I saw was the fact that the phone is registered to *Twinkle*, and she was unable to come to the store.

What happened then really surprised me. The chap listened to my story, quickly tested the SIM card in another iPhone (it was fine) …and then reached into the drawer behind him, pulled out a brand new iPhone and handed it to me.

“Is that OK?” he asked.

“Erm, yes!” I said, with a big grin on my face.

“Oh, if you could just sign this receipt to say that Apple will pay that’ll be it”.

And that was it.

Having left the store, it was simply a case of plugging the new phone into my Macbook and leaving it for 30 mins as it restored all my settings (and 15GB of emails, contacts, photos music and apps), resulting in a brand new phone that was identical in content & settings to my old one.

Now THAT is what customer service of the future should be like. It was even accompanied by the happiest music one could hope to hear, wafting up the stairs from the live concert on the ground floor.

Of course, there are reasons why this all happened so quickly and without any fuss. For a start, they were incredibly busy, and the guy was desperate to get through the queue. For a second thing, they already had all my details to hand, as when I made my appointment I’d logged in with my Apple ID.

Still, I thought it was all bloomin marvellous, Yet another excuse to give my money to Apple.

What’s going on in the currency markets? It’s absolutely mental!

During my Year Abroad, £1 equalled 233yen.

Today (45 minutes ago), £1 equals 162yen.

I was just doing the sums – my salary here is is worth £7000 more than it would have been worth a year ago (if sent back home).

This is great news for me, as it now means that, whilst I only have an average salary, I can pay back my debts at a rate of £1000 a month, something which until now I never would have thought possible.

I’m now in the process of resuscitating my long-neglected GoLloyds account, whereby I can deposit cash in any appropriate ATM here in Japan and have it show up in my British bank a few days later (minus fees of course).

In other news, I was up at 7am today for the first of my thrice-weekly jogs. I’m find it interesting how this time round, with the goal of a mini-marathon to aim for, I’m far more motivated when it comes to getting out of bed and heading down the road to the park. It’s not a chore, it’s FUN!

But I know that there may be some mornings when it’s not quite so sunny, or I’m not feeling so enthusiastic about heading out into the cold, and for that reason I’m looking for as many ways as possible to keep me going. Timing my laps was a start, but I knew I needed something more than that…

…enter RunKeeper for the iPhone.

Basically, this app uses satellite navigation to track you as jog your course. From the GPS co-ordinates it can then of course work out your distance and speed. It also makes a note of elevation too.

The results are initially displayed on the iPhone as a bar chart, each bar (where height = speed) being one minute of movement.

That’s all very well and good, but it’s still a bit disconnected from reality. Where it really comes into its own is where you finish your run and tap on Save. Two things happen: it saves your run to your iPhone’s history for later reference, and it then sends that data to the RunKeeper website, which places your route and stats on Google Maps.

How sexy is that?!

(Unfortunately I neglected to restart it after a pause for shoelace-tying up so the data on this screenshot is incorrect (I went further and faster!))

These are the kinds of uses of hardware, software and networks that I find really exciting. They can have a real positive impact upon my lifestyle, playing on some of my weaknesses (love of tech) to overcome other weaknesses (lack of extended dedication?).

Now all I need is an app that will sync with my camera to location-tag all my photos, then I think my life will be complete!

kitanomura children playing_0348

kitanomura children playing_0355

I was sitting in Kitanomura park at lunchtime, eating my carrot and daikon salad, whilst watching the children play.

I wondered what the view from my bench might look like at other times of year, so I tapped the screen of my iPhone once, and a few seconds later was presented with a whole collection of photos taken within metres of where I sat, including one of the very bench I was sitting on. Someone else was sitting on it.

It felt a bit funny.

The wonders of modern technology.

Despite its much-maligned touchscreen, the iPhone ranks highest in customer satisfaction among business types, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ second annual survey of smartphone users. Apple’s (AAPL) device easily outscored phones with physical keys made by RIM (RIMM), Samsung, HTC (HTC) and Motorola (MOT).

Apple racked up 778 points on a scale of 1,000, according to a press release issued Thursday, “performing particularly well in the ease of operation, physical design and handset feature factors.”

The BlackBerry scored highest in J.D. Power’s 2007 survey with 702 points; this year it came in second with 703 points.

via: Forbes