Quick Update + Revitalizing the blog

Okey, it’s been a while… again. So the current state is:

I was finished at Yamasa at end of November, and have been traveling in Taiwan since then. Going back to Japan next week for more traveling there, and preparing for my JLPT language test at the beginning of December.

Regarding blogging, I’m just too lazy for the big updates with the pictures and everything, so I’m thinking about some new solutions for micro-blogging. Making it easier to just blog a simple status update with an icon/picture or something. Will put up more info when I find a solution I like.

October 20, 2007 at 17:37 Leave a comment

Japanese Culture Day

Bus with cat girlSo this saturday I woke up, feeling bored, and decided it was time to take a trip to the closest big city, Nagoya. I biked over to a friend and we got on the next train. First stop was Kanayama, virtually in Nagoya, and more practical then Nagoya station if you want to take the subway to the shopping district in Sakae. As my friend hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, we decided to look outside the station. I’ve stopped by Kanayama a bunch of times, but never really investigated the area outside. We ended up discovering a Choko Cro! They have amazing chocolate croissants, so that was a good start. We then took the subway to Kamimaezu, closer to Sakae.

Odin Sphere on displayIn Kamimaezu we started our pilgrimage by visiting the nearby game stores, bookstores and manga shops. I ended up buying my first japanese computer book, 「C#ゲームプログラミング」(C# Game Programming), yes I know it’s a silly title, but the contents didn’t really look that bad. In the game store, after drooling for half an hour, I ended up buying Odin Sphere, which looked really pretty. I’ve also missed playing 2D platformers, so even though it cost more than three times the used games I usually buy, I caved in the end. The graphics are really stylish.

The last place on our trip was a figurine/model/robot/doll shop. I really just tagged along because my friend wanted to check out some robot model kits, but the shop was really amazing. The shop itself was huge, and everything was jam packed with resin figures, robots, do-it-yourself doll kits and stuff i wouldn’t be able to name. For hobbyist model builders (with focus on anime characters or robots), the place was a dream. Too bad I have no skill whatsoever in that area, and still haven’t finished building the Gundam model I got 6 months ago… It’s still cool to see all the displays with beautifully airbrushed resin figures and dolls with handmade clothes though. I will try to take a picture of the name and address of the place next time I visit. Sadly they don’t allow pictures from inside though…

To top off the japanese culture day, I of course had to watch anime copied onto my cellphone on the train back. It’s kinda hard to focus fully on anime when there’s always lots of cute japanese girls on the train though. It’s good to have days when you fully realize how nice it is to be here and remember why you came to Japan.

Oh, and if you wonder about the picture at the top, it’s just a random bus with a cat girl encountered on our trip, fitting well in with the theme of the day, japanese culture.

June 4, 2007 at 22:28 5 comments

Pizza Update

Seems that Pizza Hut Japan have got their online ordering system in order now, so I could recently just order a pizza using the web interface and not have to go through the hassle of calling them using a flaky skype call… Yay!

May 26, 2007 at 15:53 Leave a comment

New Shiny Gadget, 812SH

Metallic blue 812SHYay, I finally caved in and bought a new japanese phone. I’ve been playing around with an old-ish prepaid one for a while now, but finally I have a 3G-enabled toy that can do all the fun things you kinda expect a new japanese phone to be able to. I ended up getting the Softbank 812SH (Pantone) produced by Sharp (in metallic blue), which I kinda liked. I ended up having to pay 23000 yen upfront for the phone and initial fee though, since I only went with the one year subscription, not two, of Softbank’s White Plan. I also bought a SD Micro card to be able to put stuff on the phone from my computer.

When I first started fiddling with it, I only had the provided japanese manual with abbreviated english information, so I had to search the web for info on supported formats for music and video. As I’m using Ubuntu I didn’t want to depend on using the utilities for windows on the supplied CD. As the phone wouldn’t play mp3s or any video-stuff i threw at it initally, a search revealed it should play AMR, MPEG-4 audio and 3GPP video. That led me to Tim Niemueller’s page, Convert Video to 3GPP, that detailed how I’d have to recompile ffmpeg to enable AMR-support. After some playing around I managed to use mencoder/mplayer/ffmpeg to encode some sample video clips that played nicely, and also using faac I could encode MPEG-4 audio files, well really AAC in an MP4 container. Today though I also found a complete english manual on Softbank’s site (yay, Softbank), that has some info on the supported formats. What I’ve been able to do so far is encode 176×144 pixel video clips using the modified ffmpeg, but I’m hoping to find a way to make 320×240 clips, and doing it without resorting to a custom built package.

Update: Using -vcodec mpeg4 when encoding with ffmpeg you can get around the size-restrictions, enabling 320×240-clips. I also increased the bitrate of the video 256 kbit/s, which gives pretty good video quality. Now I just need to check if recompiling ffmpeg with libfaac-support will let me me make 3GPP files with MPEG-4 video and AAC audio, which should be playable by the phone. I seem to be somewhat stuck by using AMR, as that seems to force me to resample the audio to 8000 Hz before encoding.

Update 2: I was able to add AAC-support to ffmpeg, but nope, so far I haven’t been able to play the videos with AAC audio on the phone, only videos with AMR at 8000 Hz… ack. It’s really annoying as this review seems to indicate it’s possible, but each time I try to play my AAC-spiced movie, it just complains “Cannot play.”

Another thing I haven’t been able to do yet is run Java-programs supplied on the SD card. I’m probably able to download and run stuff that you have to pay for, so I assume it’s a deliberate restriction to create a marked for Softbank to sell small utilities on their site. But if anyone reading this has a small hint on how to do this, please drop me a note.

I’m also stuck on having to use low quality AMR-files as ring tones. It can play AAC audio, but just not as a ring tone…

May 18, 2007 at 00:10 5 comments

Train Scenery


Just thought I’d post this video of some random train scenery as seen when going south from Nagoya. Not that exciting, but I know some people are interested in seeing some more everyday aspects of the day to day life here. And it’s nice posting something random to procrastinate homework…

Update: After converting the video to mpeg2, youtube finally managed to use it…

May 15, 2007 at 23:37 2 comments

Pouring Down Again

Okey, I’m giving the impression now that it always rains in Okazaki, but truth be told, we’ve had a couple of wonderful hot summer days. Today though it started raining hard, water washing over the streets, thunder rumbling, kinda fun, and I’m really glad I wasn’t outside. I had planned getting my bike fixed, but instead stayed indoors chatting, keeping dry… Luckily it seems that the worst has passed now, and some rays are getting through the clouds.

May 10, 2007 at 15:22 1 comment

Random Food and Buildings

Random housesBy request from mip I just added lots of pictures of random buildings and some food on my flickr-page. Nothing particularly exciting though, I guess the food so far consists of a crepe and a pizza bought at the local supermarked.

May 9, 2007 at 19:22 2 comments

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