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.”
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”


Japanese “Manga” Newspapers Report Current Events in Graphic Detail

This would be prefect for the USA papers as we have such dramatic headline news stories…Oil spills, Tornados, hostage situations.

Japan is newspaper-crazy. Its biggest daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, has 10 times the circulation of The New York Times. They have their own baseball team the Giants!

For now just as in the USA, young people in Japan aren’t reading newspapers as often as their parents. But the Japanese seem to have a solution: Manga No Shimbun, (Manga Newspaper), an online outfit that covers the week’s events in comic book form.

Here is a translated version…
These aren’t the funnies or political cartoons—they’re actual news articles about everything from foreign policy to pop culture to murder trials. The site employs more than 100 manga artists to cover breaking stories, updating 10 or 15 times a day. Graphic style varies—some pieces are in color, others black-and-white; some are realistic, some exaggeratedly kawaii (cute).

Manga News is also available via an iPhone app and will come to Android and other mobile platforms later this year. There’s even talk of international versions.

Good idea, especially if Astro Boy gets elected to parliament or Speed Racer runs for President! But given the reduced literacy in our schools here in the USA we may have to create text books like this

iPhone tracking function…is our privacy all but gone?

When I first saw the MacIntosh 1984 Super Bowl spot I had really no idea that big brother would be placing a tracking device right in the palm of my hand…well it is 2011 and by now you have probably all heard the stories about the iPhone tracking function.

If you’re worried about privacy, you can turn off the function on your smartphone that tracks where you go. But that means giving up the services that probably made you want a smartphone in the first place. After all, how smart is an iPhone or an Android if you can’t use it to map your car trip or scan reviews of nearby restaurants?

The debate over digital privacy flamed higher this week with news that Apple’s popular iPhones and iPads store users’ GPS coordinates for a year or more. Phones that run Google’s Android software also store users’ location data. And not only is the data stored — allowing anyone who can get their hands on the device to piece together a chillingly accurate profile of where you’ve been — but it’s also transmitted back to the companies to use for their own research.

Now, cellphone service providers have had customers’ location data for almost as long as there have been cellphones. That’s how they make sure to route calls and Internet traffic to the right place. Law enforcement analyzes location data on iPhones for criminal evidence — a practice that Alex Levinson, technical lead for firm Katana Forensics, said has helped lead to convictions. And both Apple and Google have said that the location data that they collect from the phones is anonymous and not able to be tied back to specific users. But hey remember that movie Eagle Eye? I don’t trust anyone these days…do you?
But lawmakers and many users say storing the data creates an opportunity for one’s private information to be misused. Levinson, who raised the iPhone tracking issue last year, agrees that people should start thinking about location data as just as valuable and worth protecting as a wallet or bank account number.

“We don’t know what they’re going to do with that information,” said Dawn Anderson, a creative director and Web developer in Glen Mills, Pa., who turned off the GPS feature on her Android-based phone even before the latest debate about location data. She said she doesn’t miss any of the location-based services in the phone. She uses the GPS unit in her car instead.

“With any technology, there are security risks and breaches,” she added. “How do we know that it can’t be compromised in some way and used for criminal things?”

Privacy watchdogs note that location data opens a big window into very private details of a person’s life, including the doctors they see, the friends they have and the places where they like to spend their time. Besides hackers, databases filled with such information could become inviting targets for stalkers, even divorce lawyers.

Do you sync your iPhone to your computer? Well, all it would take to find out where you’ve been is simple, free software that pulls information from the computer. Carumba! Your comings and goings, clandestine or otherwise, helpfully pinpointed on a map.

One could make the case that privacy isn’t all that prized these days. People knowingly trade it away each day, checking in to restaurants and stores via social media sites like Foursquare, uploading party photos to Facebook to be seen by friends of friends of friends, and freely tweeting the minutiae of their lives on Twitter.
More than 500 million people have shared their personal information with Facebook to connect with friends on the social networking service. Billions of people search Google and Yahoo each month, accepting their tracking “cookies” in exchange for access to the world’s digital information. And with about 5 billion people now using cellphones, a person’s location has become just another data point to be used for marketing, the same way that advertisers now use records of Web searches to show you online ads tailored to your interest in the Red Sox, or dancing, or certain stores.

The very fact that your location is a moving target makes it that much more alluring for advertisers. Every new place you go represents a new selling opportunity. In that sense, smartphone technology is the ultimate matchmaker for marketers looking to assemble profiles on prospective customers.

What do you guys think?

Drive-in Movies

Tonight I passed an empty lot where my childhood drive-in theater used to be….I am visiting my old home town and the whole experience brought back lots of great memories.

The drive-in theater was the creation of Camden, New Jersey, chemical company magnate Richard Holiingshead Jr. whose family owned and operated the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden.

In 1932, Hollingshead conducted outdoor theater tests in his driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue in Riverton. After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard, he set a 1928 Kodak Projector on the hood of his car and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his car windows down and up. Blocks under vehicles in the driveway enabled him to determine the size and spacing of ramps so all automobiles could have a clear view of the screen.

Following these experiments, he applied August 6, 1932, for a patent of his invention, and he was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537 on May 16, 1933. That patent was declared invalid 17 years later by the Delaware District Court.

Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933, on Admiral Wilson Boulevard. He advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states.

Early drive-in theaters had to deal with noise pollution issues. The original Hollingshead drive-in had speakers installed on the tower itself which caused a sound delay affecting patrons at the rear of the drive-in’s field. Attempts at outdoor speakers next to the vehicle did not produce satisfactory results.

In 1941, RCA introduced in-car speakers with individual volume controls which solved the noise pollution issue and provided satisfactory sound to drive-in patrons.

The drive-in’s peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spreading across the United States. Among its advantages was the fact that a family with a baby could take care of their child while watching a movie, while teenagers with access to autos found drive-ins ideal for dates…some of my best dates of all time were at the drive-in…I won’t mention any names but you know who you are.

During their height, some drive-ins used attention-grabbing gimmicks to boost attendance. They ranged from small airplane runways, unusual attractions such as a small petting zoo or cage of monkeys, actors to open their movies, or musical groups to play before the show. Some drive-ins held religious services on Sunday morning and evening, or charged a flat price per car on slow nights like Wednesday. The price was a dollar per car during “buck” nights in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the UK a pseudo-drive-in has been launched where the cars are provided by the theater. It’s sponsored by Volvo. The urban Starlite Drive-in is inside the Truman Brewery in hip East London where the urban population will get the chance to watch classic films in a fleet of convertibles served by roller-skating waitresses.

Love it…maybe it will catch on…

Your private data pays for ‘free’ Facebook and Google

Free isn’t free. In fact while you read my blog some brand team is probably making notes about the type of materials you have been reading! Yes perhaps Xanga too has some type of tracking.

“The cost of reading the New York Times for free is being tracked. The cost of being on Facebook is being Data Mined,” Peter Eckersley from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, comments came at an event organized by Google at its Washington, D.C., office to mark Data Privacy Day — an international effort by governments and businesses to draw attention to the issues surrounding individuals’ online privacy.

A seemingly constant stream of breaches have given the issue fresh visibility this year, and prompted lawmakers and regulators to consider new mandates aimed at protecting

Google touted the new “two-step verification” option it will be rolling out to all accounts within the next few weeks.

The new opt-in setting gives users a second security wall. When someone logs into a Google account for first time from a new computer, a code will be sent to the phone (typically a mobile, but a landline will also work) associated with the account. That code is required for access — a step intended to keep out intruders who have obtained the account’s password.

Facebook also launched new data protection tools this week. The biggest was a “safe browsing option” that integrates the HTTPS protocol for secure connections. That technical tweak will help solve a gaping hole that lets hijackers grab control of FB accounts accessed through public Wi-Fi hotspots.

“The thing that you should know about ‘http’ is that it’s fundamentally very hackable,” Eckersley said. “If there’s an ‘s,’ you have a good chance of protection against those kind of threats.”

In this case, though, it was a bit like bolting the barn door after the horses have fled. Facebook posted its new security tool the day after Mark Zuckerberg’s fan page was hacked!

“No Easy Decision” by MTV.

MTV is airing a new program called “No Easy Decision” that features a former cast member from “16 and Pregnant” who decides whether or not to have an abortion.
The program is drawing national attention because abortion is not usually presented on television and of course it is an extremely volatile subject especially where I live in the “Bible Belt.”

A young black woman named Markai, who was on an earlier episode of the teen pregnancy show and is already the mother of one child, becomes pregnant again. The special aired on December 28 at 11:30 p.m. and will follow Markai through her emotional decision of whether to have her baby.
I believe the country may finally see more about abortion decisions and even more about the abortion process itself than they may have ever seen anywhere before. And judging by the news coverage of the program this week it is forcing a serious dialogue.

The “16 and Pregnant” program has been a ratings bonanza for MTV and many Hollywood and media blogs have focused on that fact, saying the decision to concentrate on abortion may be an attempt to snag more.
But when reality television meets teen pregnancy, has MYV gone too far?

I don’t think so, I believe the program shows that today’s society and its views are a far cry from the days when pregnant teens were packed up and sent away. Just a few decades ago, early pregnancy was seen as a stain on a family that was often elaborately hidden. All of us from that generation know a story or two of girls who went away to live with family elsewhere.

Here is MTV’s stance on the matter

“‘MTV has a long history of reflecting the lives of our viewers with
 compelling reality stories,’ Tony DiSanto, MTV’s president of
 programming, said in a statement. ‘16 & Pregnant’ follows the journey of six young women going through an immensely life-changing experience at such a young age. Each episode tells a new, unique story and shows the real-life challenges they face from dealing with family and friends to school and finances as new mothers. This is the real secret life of an American teenager.”

Of course this “true life” style of docudrama, not a manufactured situation, could make an uncomfortable time in their lives unbearable.

Some Pro-Life advocates point out that the show’s website only links to pro-abortion groups, including the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which promotes sexual education over abstinence, and the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

On the other hand, it is encouraging to have a show discuss pregnancy in an honest and open manner.

Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told reporters that she applauded the idea. “The stories in ’16 & Pregnant’ are full of hope, heartbreak,and real-life consequences and should be a must viewing for teens nationwide.”

If it’s as honest and supportive as she seems to think, perhaps it will be a constructive addition to the conversation.

What do you think?