Geek Heaven, Akihabara.

I certainly miss the technology and gadgets that I encountered each day in Japan, Especially now that I am manufacturing tablet devices for education.

With broadband connections ten times faster than the U.S. and 90 percent of the population owning mobile phones, it is not surprising that Japan has its own “Electronic Town.”
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Called Akihabara, it is the center of “otaku” or geek culture in Tokyo.

In this “geek heaven” it is possible to buy anything from spy cameras to underground computer games.

“Tokyo is the hot bed for new electronics in the whole world,” said Serkan Toto, Japanese correspondent for the Tech Crunch news blog. “Japan is a very advanced technology-wise, it’s a nation of early adopters.” Japan’s electric town is a covered market stockpiled with any and every kind of electrical component a dedicated geek could dream of.

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Radio Street is a must for the hackers and makers among Japan’s cadre of geeks who are seeking components to start or finish a DIY electrical project.

“You can come here and build to your heart’s content,” says technology consultant Steve Nagata, who is also known as the “King of Akihabara”.

For Mr. Nagata, Japan’s long-standing obsession with technology springs from a wish to understand what is behind lots of gadgets.

“It comes from a deep interest in things around them and wanting to find out how things work and know what each component does,” said Mr Nagata.

Akihabara hosts more than just component shops. Finished goods are on sale too. Those willing to rummage can find anything from old radio tubes to audio recorders, high-end surveillance equipment and the low end too, such as a tie with a built-in camera.

“This is a very big part of Akihabara, the surveillance equipment with every kind of camera from professional grade to little teeny cameras that you can stick into all sorts of different things,” said Mr. Nagata.

The equipment itself is legal but how you use it may definitely run afoul of certain restrictions”. “You really never do know when someone is watching you,” he added.

As might be expected Akihabara reflects the thriving underground, homemade software culture in Japan.

“This is a garage software industry for anyone from individuals to small clubs or a company that produce and sell unlicensed software,” said Mr. Nagata. “There are exact look-alikes to completely original software, this stuff is just as impressive as major console software.”

The products cost less than the titles from the major gaming brands but, said Mr. Nagata, making money is not the main aim for the folk behind the software.

“This is very much a labor of love, something that they do out of their affection towards a particular character or style of gaming,” said Mr. Nagata. “It’s their attempt to fill the world with something that they want to exist in it”

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Lost Next Gen iPhone…a Marketing Ploy?

Watching Apple’s every move is a spectator sport. And the spectators have been agog this week over reports that tech blog Gizmodo was in possession of a lost prototype presumed to be the next generation iPhone.

Apple lent credence to the reports when Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Sewell sent a letter to Gizmodo Editorial Director Brian Lam formally requesting the return “of a device that belongs to Apple.”
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Reports circulating online say that Steve Jobs himself called Gizmodo asking for the phone back. Apple would not comment for this story. Gizmodo returned the phone to Apple Monday night.

Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen, who examined the prototype and took it apart said that “what I saw inside is as final as you can get without putting actual serial numbers on it. But Apple is known for doing a couple of final prototypes…and Jobs can change his mind at the last minute. Even if this isn’t the final one it’s darn close to what you’re going to see.”

Tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies concurs: “It’s mostly likely that was truly a next generation iPhone. Whether it’s the final engineering version is a question. I don’t know now if the form and function changes.”

If Apple sticks to the timeline established with earlier models, a new iPhone would be shown off in June or July.

The prototype that was in Gizmodo’s possession apparently differs from existing iPhones in several key ways, both feature-wise and cosmetically. It includes a front-facing video chat camera, an improved regular back camera, a camera flash, a better display, a micro-SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, and more. It will also no doubt run the previously announced iPhone version 4.0 software, which among other new features will permit you to run multiple apps at once.

The lost phone saga began the night of March 18, according to Gizmodo, when an Apple software engineered identified by Gizmodo as Gray Powell inadvertently abandoned the device on a bar stool in a Silicon Valley beer hall. Another patron ended up with the device and apparently tried to return it to Apple. Gizmodo says no one there took him seriously. But Apple knew the device was missing and by the next day had remotely wiped its data.

The phone eventually ended up at Gizmodo, which paid $5,000 to the person who found it, in Chen’s words “to do the due diligence to make sure it was real.”

Bajarin believes Apple will change the rules about any unannounced prototypes leaving the building.

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Here is what we learned from the booboo…? Marketing plan?

What’s new

• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It’s unclear if it’s the 960×640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the “Connect to iTunes” screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

What’s changed

• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery

Are You Too Old To Twitter?

Never. Twitter has come of age and is even being used to report news.

There are so many great new ways people are using twitter and twemes today. Building on earlier data about flash online communities, people are now organizing groups, not just for quick events, but for causes and things they firmly believe in.

Freetibet is a great example of people determined and passionate about a cause using the power of twitter and twemes to get their message out.

Another example is the tweme #quotable.
Have a favorite quote? Use the tag #quotable and share it. Or place the quotable widget on your site.

This was a great way to inspire others and recognize those nuggets of wisdom or moments of genius.
On those days when things just don’t seem to be going well, it’s a nice to review the tweme and pick out some inspiring quotes.

Mother’s Day there is the tweme #mom to recognize the funny and precious tales of mothers.
There is even a tweme called “I’m the Mom Who” or “I’m the Mom Whose”

While there may be a few guilty confessions in there, the goal is to gather funny sayings from your kids
throughout the day, or recount funny scenarios, not to pour your guts out or tattle on anyone (including yourself!) in 140 characters or less.

Here is an example:
I’m the #mom who has the 4-year-old son who wants to buy his preschool teacher a gift certificate “For Zales, for diamonds!”, for the holidays.

I think that all of these new uses encourage groups and tribes to think about ways you can organize, recognize and inspire others!

Social media tools are quite powerful and small ideas can blaze through the networks and have incredible impact!
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