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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A “Sputnik” Moment” Obama Pledges to Make Tech a Priority.

President Barack Obama made technology innovation a centerpiece of his economic agenda during an address to Congress…I hope he is serious because I think the USA is “seriously” lagging behind.
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His speech compared Google and Facebook to Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, and Obama declared that “the first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

In an eyebrow-raising rhetorical flourish, Obama said that America had reached its “Sputnik moment,” referring to the Soviet satellite whose 1957 launch embarrassed the United States and eventually spurred President John F. Kennedy to vow to beat the Soviets to the moon, a race the United States won.

“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” Obama said. “We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people.”

In order to pay for his ambitious innovation agenda, Obama said he would ask Congress to cut billions of dollars in oil-company subsidies.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,” Obama remarked to laughter. “So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” He said exactly what I have been thinking for years.

Energy was a key component of the speech, and Obama laid out a far-reaching 25-year plan that he said will “give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.”

He also said that within the next five years “we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.”

“This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls,” Obama said. “It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

At one point, Obama seemed to scold Congress for letting China and India make such competitive gains against the United States in technology innovation.
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“Just recently,” the president observed, “China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.”
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I do realize that this road with its gleaming solar panels passes many people below poverty level but China is working to become a powerful country.

Better late than never, right?

Obama Once Again Uses Tech in Race for Presidency

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When Barack Obama announced his choice for vice president on mobile, the real payoff may come during the next few months — one text message at a time.

Obama’s campaign plans to break the news of the Democratic candidate’s vice presidential pick to people who have signed up to receive e-mails and text messages from the campaign. It should give Obama’s team access to tens of thousands of cell phone numbers that could be used to mobilize voters under 30 on Election Day.

“What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican strategist who specializes in technology.

Obama’s electronic outreach is the most prominent example of a larger movement by members of Congress and political campaigns to present their message and connect with voters through text messaging on cell phones, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, and the microblogging site Twitter.

Apple’s 3G Instruction Video an Advertisement?

One of the most talked-about aspects of the Apple iPhone 3G is an approximately half-hour instructional video on Apple.com that lovingly details each new feature and function. But if you really think about it, it’s a 30-minute advertisement, said Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
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“Even though it’s educational and you’re giving people an experience, it’s this really sort of deep immersion in Apple’s brand and approach and there’s huge value in that. How often do you get more than a minute of customers’ undivided attention?” Golvin asked.

The educational strategy is not the first time the company has done this, but it’s the longest tutorial to date for Apple.

The biggest takeaway may be in how effective it is at building interaction and engagement with customers who are either preparing to buy or are thinking about it.

“Anytime you have advanced technology it’s important to help consumers understand how to use it and the benefits you get from it. And I think this will be an important tool moving forward,” said Josh Martin, senior analyst within the media and entertainment unit at The Yankee Group.