nine-to-five noodle ninja 

Sony to Ditch UMD Movies?

I wondered if this might happen: UMD Movies for PSP Now on Endangered Species List

Only one year after Sony launched the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in the U.S., rumors are brewing that production of feature-length movies based on the PSP's proprietary Universal Media Disc (UMD) format will come to a screeching halt.

Since the launch of the PSP, sales of UMD movies have gone from underwhelming to almost invisible, prompting experts to predict that the end is near.

Part of the reason Sony is having this problem, said Mukul Krishna, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, is the proprietary nature of the UMD technology. While most other developers are moving to open formats that offer greater interoperability, Sony's focus on developing its own technologies ties users down to a single device.

"Anyone who is going for anything proprietary is shooting themselves in the foot," Krishna opined. "Unless it is a very niche market, it makes no sense having a proprietary format."

Will Sony ever learn? First they invent an MP3 player that doesn't play MP3s (which they had to phase out when, surprise, no-one bought it), then they sneak malicious, non-removable spyware onto their customers' computers and, when caught, lie about it. (Also, be sure to check out their amazingly invasive and restrictive end-user license agreement (EULA) from around the same time.)

And now, yet another attempt to force users into purchasing proprietary formats comes back to bite them on the ass. Well done, Sony. How long before they just split the company right down the middle?

NB: The article doesn't explicitly mention the UMD's future as the media for PSP games, only movies...

Posted by chris at 12:25 PM | Permalink

Heehee heehee heehee heehee heehee heehee heehee

We rearranged our office layout a little while back and the net effect for me has been a horrendous increase in neighbouring chat levels. Actually it's not the chat that I mind so much as the high-pitched Japanese female giggling, which is of sufficient volume and frequency (in both senses of the word) to drive me slowly insane. It's become so embedded in my psyche that it seems to have morphed into some kind of subconcious trigger; I just have to hear one of my colleagues *start* to giggle, even quietly, and I'm immediately furious. Bah.

Enter Noise, a handy little application for the Mac (OSX 10.1 or higher) that plays nothing but static, all day long. It's bliss. It sounds a bit weird to start with, but you soon get used to it and it's extremely effective at blocking out the sounds of any hyenas that might be mating nearby.

Now if I could just find an application to block the smell of their bento lunches... I tried downloading Pong, but it didn't quite work like I hoped.

Posted by chris at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Powerbook tattoos

I've flirted with the idea of getting a tattoo for ages, but never taken the plunge. Ultimately I know that no matter how cool the Wipeout 3 Pirhana logo would look emblazoned on my taut, muscled, twenty-mumble-yr-old shoulder (and I think we can all agree that "not terribly cool at all" is the answer), one day I will be a saggy old bastard with skin droopier than a lappet-faced vulture's wattle.

But now, courtesy of Boing Boing, I think I have the answer... get my PowerBook tattooed instead. There are only a few designs on the site so far, but it looks like they can put pretty much anything you want onto the lid.

If $200 is a bit steep, then $30 will get you a text-only etching on the back of your iPod. Mine would say, "I need recharging already."

Posted by chris at 08:04 PM | Permalink

Clever uses for Flickr #1: Business card archive

The excellent Lifehacker (my new new favourite - apologies, Hanzi Smatter) pointed me towards this innovative method of indexing your business cards using Flickr. This could be really useful, especially here in Japan where meishi (名刺) are proffered upon you at the slightest opportunity.

Now if only there was some way to have each card appear automatically on Flickr, complete with accurate meta data, no matter how drunk you were when you were given it. That would be something worth seeing.

Posted by chris at 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


I saw this a couple of days ago and immediately wanted one - a sledgehammer-operated keyboard.

It's an art installation, sadly, not a working product, but there have been a couple of e-mails I've sent this year that could have benefitted from being pounded out letter by letter with a 14lb tempered-steel Wilton. D! E! A! R! Space! M! O! R! O! N! ,! Carriage return!

Actually, that's a point, how do you shift? And I guess you'd need a couple of similarly armed mates to help you reboot. But cool nonetheless.

[link via Boing Boing]

Posted by chris at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

iPod Subway Maps

Heh - this won't work on mine as it doesn't have the photo feature, but any city-dwellers amongst you with a photo-displaying iPod should check out these downloadable subway maps - very smart. I would install the Tokyo and London ones, if I could. But I can't.

Thanks to Dave for the link.

Posted by chris at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

To bounce or not to bounce?

As I mentioned earlier, and as anyone who has met me even tangentially (sorry) over the past 20 months could probably tell you, I bought a Mac almost two years ago, and fast became one off those annoying Mac people who tell everyone they meet to join them in switching away from the Dark Side.

However, I only started using the Mac to handle my e-mail a little while ago. (My PC has all my archived mail for both Tokyo Tales and the Kanji SITE on it, y'see, so I was in no hurry to transfer it all. But anyway.) So I'm now using the Mail software that comes as standard with OS X, and really liking it. It took a while to get used to the advanced settings, and the search function doesn't appear to be as flexible as on Outlook Express, but I think I've got it sorted.

One thing that Mail has that Outlook Express didn't is a "Bounce" option. Let's say you receive a piece of junk mail; Mail allows you to right-click and fake-bounce it back to the sender. So the spammer gets a "This mail could not be delivered" message from your address. Pretty neat, huh? So I bet the spammer will take my address off his list now, right?

Er, no. I was a little skeptical as to whether this would work or not, given the amount of spam that's sent with forged "From:" headers, so did a little research this evening. And it appears that the general consensus is, "don't bother". There are a number of convincing arguments, but here are two biggies:

Firstly, you're probably not bouncing it back to the actual sender; most spam comes from faked addresses. (These are amazingly easy to forge; it's just like writing a fake "Return to sender" address on the back of a real-world envelope. And we've all done that at some point, haven't we? Don't answer that.) So you're actually sending a "Undeliverable mail" message to someone who doesn't deserve to see it / won't understand it / is getting thousands of genuine bounce messages anyway and is already plenty pissed off with having their address hijacked without you rubbing it in any further.

Secondly, even if your fake bounce message did reach the actual spammer who mailed you in the first place, it's highly unlikely that he's going to take the time to prune his list down. The list he's using most likely has a ton of expired addresses on it, and so he gets hundreds or thousands of bounces every time he fires up the old spam cannon* - bounces which he ignores, because a) they might work next time and b) he just doesn't care.

More cogent arguments here and here.

(It does feel awfully good, though.)

Posted by chris at 10:48 PM | Permalink

Things I Have Been Doing Since We Last Met #4 - Switching to a Mac

Two years ago, wanting to replace my aging desktop PC, I overcame my longstanding Apple apathy (Applethy?) and bought an Apple PowerBook, the 15" aluminium edition - and I haven't looked back since.

There were a number of reasons for the switch, which I will perhaps detail at a later date. For now, all you need to know is that the Apple OS X operating system is every bit as intuitive and user-friendly as everyone says, that it's much more stable than Windows, and that it will interact perfectly happily with Windows PCs and file formats.

Plus - and I'm sorry, but this does matter - the hardware is gorgeous. If it was gorgeous but sucked ass, or was ugly as sin but kicked ass, that would be one thing. But gorgeous *and* an ass-kicker? You need one of these beauties.

Posted by chris at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tokyo MacWorld 2002

Macworld was good fun on Saturday; I'm sure that had there actually been any corporate hospitality areas offering hot and cold running toga'd virgins and as many free iPods as you could carry away, our VIP passes would have got us in without a hitch. As it was, Dave and I had to settle for walking straight in to the main exhibition without paying - which, we both agreed, was preferable to a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. It was a bit like that part in Wayne's World where Wayne and Garth manage to get backstage passes - without the the bouncers, screaming groupies or Alice Cooper, obviously.

Lots of good Mac toys to play with; plenty of oohing and aahing over the PowerBooks and Harmon Kardon speaker sets - and the 10gb iPod was, of course, very strokable. Of particular interest, though, was the dual screen function that seems to be built in to some Mac graphics cards - you can plug an external monitor into the back of your PowerBook, say, and work off two screens at once - or, rather, a single screen displayed across two monitors. I imagine it would be useful for Dreamweaver, Photoshop or other apps that use lots of floating palettes - you could stick all your palettes on the laptop screen and have your main window maximised on the larger monitor, for example.

Also fun was the software on display from, as demo'd by their very personable CEO, Larry - it takes a normal digital photo of your face, applies and iterates an algorithm to identify your features and then *plink* - instantly renders you in surprisingly effective 3D. You can then be grafted into other software programs - chat clients, video conferencing apps, Quake-style shoot'em ups, etc. Here's a shot of me auditioning for the NASA space program; compare it to this real-life piccie and marvel at the accuracy. The software was clearly unable to cope with the size of my real-life proboscis, though, squashing it somewhat and giving me the air of a boxer who's walked into one too many fists. When they get the full release working it'll be invaluable for those of us who yearn to pick our noses gratuitously during long videoconferencing sessions. On bad hair days. In our underwear.

Posted by chris at 11:18 PM | Permalink


Snapshot of Chris at 5:00pm this afternoon:
lifelong DOS / Windows user; can get by on a Mac when necessary but not a big fan of the OSs, or the styling, or the fact that they crash all the time and can't seem to manage their own memory allocation the way Windows can; the Titanium G4 PowerBook and new iMac seem pretty stacked and obviously look quite cool but, well, why make the change - especially when Steve Jobs has just stood up the afternoon before and announced that Japanese iMac prices are to be raised by ¥20,000? No thanks.

Snapshot of Chris at 5:30pm:
eagerly browsing the Apple Web site; wondering how easy it would be to network his PDA and his three home and office Wintel machines with a (purely hypothetical, of course) AirPort (or possibly a Bluetooth chip) and PowerBook; looking forward to playing with the new 10gig iPod and wondering if he can get away with wearing his "Fuckintosh" t-shirt in an ironic manner the next day.

What a difference two free VIP passes to the Macworld Expo make.

Posted by chris at 12:54 AM | Permalink


I want one of these very badly. Very badly indeed. Not because I have any real use for it - just because I'm a card-carrying early adopter who missed the chance to buy a folding keyboard for his PDA first time around. Now I can skip that clunky mechanical phase (actual physical keys? with mass? that move up and down? are you mad?) and move straight into the virtual.

(Link courtesy of my cousin Rob, who clearly needs his own blog.)

Posted by chris at 10:39 PM | Permalink

You've got britpop

That's frustrating - about 25 seconds into What Do I Do Now by Sleeper, there's an effect which sounds exactly like Outlook Express's "new mail" chime. I'm sort of attuned to it now, but what with that and the AIM "opening door" creak about 40 seconds into Basement Jaxx's Crazy Girl, it was a mildly unsettling morning.

I need a longer playlist.

Posted by chris at 08:53 PM | Permalink


Whoa... I am getting seriously excited about my new Muji stapler. I think I need to realign my priorities.

It is particularly fine, though... it has an indicator to alert you to the fact that you're running low on staples (because heaven forbid you run out unexpectedly) and a particularly ingenious mechanism to retract the spring-loaded slider-pusher-feeder-thingy automatically when you open the casing to reload. And this is even before we consider the rangefinder apparatus (I swear I am not making this up), slung under the cartridge housing. Nail those staples in exactly the same spot with unerring precision, time - *kerchunk!* - after time - *kerchunk!* - after time! (*kerchunk!*) A new career in infomercials beckons, clearly.

Posted by chris at 11:26 PM | Permalink

Mobile Media Japan blog

Just happened across Mobile Media Japan, a blog covering the Japanese wireless Internet industry. I have an i-mode keitai myself, which I'm dimly aware that I don't use to its full potential; the resource page has some good guides to the various English-language services, though, so I can see my currently modest bills rocketing upwards in the near future. No plans to buy one of the new 3G phones yet, though - tempting though the maximum transfer speeds of 384Kbps (walking) and 2Mbps (loafing) are...

Posted by chris at 11:23 AM | Permalink

Wired magazine: Japan-tech special

Cappuccino, BLT for breakfast at my desk. Bleary eyed, tired, systems at 70% functionality and rising slowly. Database normalization and Web site plumbing. Welcome back to Monday morning.

A shot in the arm for anyone similarly affected: the Japan-tech special edition of Wired that I mentioned a while back has come on line; of particular note is a cool piece by William Gibson giving us his take on Tokyo's futurama. Go read it while I check out cnn on my i-mode cellphone.

Posted by chris at 12:43 PM | Permalink

I'm going to have to call myself, aren't I?

Bollocks - where is it?

The only downside to having a cellphone that only needs recharging once every couple of weeks (if that) is that it becomes much easier to misplace the recharging cradle in the meantime.

Where. The hell. Did I put it?

Posted by chris at 05:23 PM | Permalink

William Gibson in Wired 9.09

Wired's been excellent this month - a series of articles on Japan-tech, including a great little piece by William Gibson on his private Tokyo:

Shinjuku at night is one of the most deliriously beautiful places in the world and somehow the silliest of all beautiful places - and the combination is sheer delight. And tonight, watching the Japanese do what they do here, amid all this electric kitsch, all this randomly overlapped media, this chaotically stable neon storm of marketing hoopla, I've got my answer: Japan is still the future, and if the vertigo is gone, it really only means that they've made it out of the far end of that tunnel of prematurely accelerated change.

The entire edition will be available on-line, maddeningly, on September 11th, so set an alarm in your palm pilot or keitai now, or just buy the print version.

And why do I never bump into Douglas Coupland and Michael Stipe in the Shibuya Tokyu Hands? Bah.

Posted by chris at 11:52 PM | Permalink

New toy

Hee hee hee. If I sound at all like a kid with a new toy over the next few days, then... um... it's probably because I *am* a kid with a new toy.

Today's shiny bauble purchase is a Sony digital camera, to replace my crappy little Kodak APS. It seems to work pretty well at first glance, though it also looks like it gets through batteries the same way I get though pocky sticks, i.e. at an alarming rate. It's only a 2.1 megapixel model, but that's all that my drunken bar-going friends and I require - I've still got the Olympus for quality analogue shots, anyway.

Evidence to be posted on-line shortly...

Posted by chris at 07:15 PM | Permalink

PHP possibilities

Ah, I seeeee... so *that's* how php works... riiiiiiiiiiight. The conundrum of the infrequently updated right-hand-sidebar is sol-ved, methinks.

Posted by chris at 02:35 PM | Permalink

A scanner darkly

Right. That does it.

After nearly three hours of scanning photos on one of the office Macs, I have reached a decision: I will buy a digital camera. There - I have spoken.

Posted by chris at 05:50 PM | Permalink

Virus-like activity

Well that explains it. Next time I get virus-like activity on my hdd and think, "Hmm, time to run scandisk", I have to stop myself and think "virus-like activity is probably a virus" instead.

Here's a short list of things that you should never try to economise on. Always buy the highest-quality variant you can afford of the following items:

  • medical insurance
  • toilet paper
  • internet connection
  • vodka
  • audio speaker wire
  • anti-virus software
A short, but distinguished list. Disagree? That's half the fun.

This razzinfrazzinscrassafrazzin virus, sircam, sends itself to everyone in your mailbox (sorry, guys) with a random file from your hard drive (well, er, *my* hard drive, specifically) attached, renamed with an unrecognisable double file extension, such as .xls.pif or similar. Whatever you do, don't open the damn file unless you run a site which accepts e-mailed pictures of kanji from random strangers and you think you're being sent some weirdass Mac-formatted graphics file for analysis. Or if you fancy having your hard disk contents eaten from the inside, of course.

I found a would-be fix this morning and it's now waiting patiently in my bag, saved on a reassuringly low-tech floppy and wrapped in an envelope clearly labelled "virus-like activity is probably a virus".

This, kids, is how we learn.

Posted by chris at 03:41 PM | Permalink

Napster upload fairy

What the hell is up with my hard disk? I get up super early this morning to do a bit of kanjisite work before, um, work work, and I get a "drive c: is full" message. Wtf? There was a gig free the night before, I'm sure - only four hours earlier, actually. And now it's 15.3 meg. Grrr.

Has the Napster upload fairy been visiting? Am I running a secretive underground militia while I "sleep", unaware that my supposed insomnia is in fact masking large periods of data entry each night? ("The first rule of Access 2000 is: you do not talk about Access 2000.") And, if so, can I get Edward Norton to play me in the film?

So I delete a few movie trailers (had to ask myself if I really needed that U-571 trailer any more - or even at all in the first place), no more than 400 megs' worth, and suddenly: kapow! 1.6 gigs of prime real estate, mine for the taking. Confused. If I pull all the wires out of the wall when I go away for the Fuji trip this weekend, I'm safe, right? Right?

Posted by chris at 02:24 AM | Permalink

Gadet is as gadget does

Just been downstairs in the street, checking that my tent still works okay. It's Fuji Rock Festival time next weekend, and the tent hadn't been unpacked since... er, last year's festival, actually. I was afraid that it might have gone all mouldy, or that the cockroaches might have found refuge from my gas bombs deep in its folds but, thankfully, no.

It took about ten minutes up and five minutes down (though to be fair, I didn't actually break out the pegs - they tend not to work too well on tarmac), and folded up without a problem afterwards. It's so slick (a mere two poles, and the entire thing packs up smaller than your average toaster) that I think it deserves to be classified as a gadget: a sexy canvas and steel gadget.

I *wish* I had had one of these when I was in the boy scouts. Damn.

Posted by chris at 04:28 PM | Permalink

Tacky Shinto

Blogger's new spellchecker function is pretty good - thanks Ev - even if it does turn "Takkyu Ishino" into "Tacky Shinto".

"glowstickers" become "bootlickers", though - a fitting punishment, if you ask me.

Posted by chris at 05:10 PM | Permalink


Many many things happened last week, during the Visit of Brother, that I haven't had time to write about yet - but I was saving this particular piece of news until..... now! The ChrisCam has arrived.

Dad's been badgering me to get a webcam for ages - since I arrived in Japan, actually - so we could videoconference with each other. I know, the phone is enough for most people, but we're gadget freaks. If there's a walnut that needs cracking, we'll choose the GPS-calibrated, voice-activated, night-vision targeting sledgehammer with automatic shell harvesting mechanism over the plain nutcracker any day of the week. As long as it's Palm-OS compatible, of course.

The dream was realised on Sunday - Dad and I are chatting away, waving at each other in our dressing gowns, trying to measure the time delay ("Okay, I'll count to ten slowly and you try to join in.... ready?") and of course he calls Mum in to behold the wondrous technology. See what we have built! We are more then men: we are alpha-geeks. Mum takes one look at the screen, broadcasting and receiving real-time video from six-and-a-half thousand miles away and says,

"It's very slow, isn't it?"

Dad and I just grinned at each other.

Posted by chris at 11:54 PM | Permalink

Mouse rugs

If you're the kind who uses their computer while doing two or more of the following:

  • wearing slippers
  • smoking a pipe
  • muttering about "kids these days"
  • wearing a cardigan
then you clearly need one of these. Also permissable for those with a keen sense of kitsch...

Posted by chris at 03:01 PM | Permalink

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