January 30, 2018

Thoughts on EVO Japan 2018 from a volunteer

The crowd watching losers pools SFV Day 2
Ultra David
James Chen
Sajam and Tasty Steve
With Skisonic
SNK King of Fighters cosplayers
With Yumesuke2016 as Laura
MissShinoBee as Elphelt
MissShinoBee as Elphelt
Marn
Justin Wong
Oil King
Oil King
EVO Japan 2018
With FightingGameESL
HiFightTH
Fubarduck
Cory Bell and junjunmjgirly play an intense set in SFV Day 1 Pools.
Akihabara Esports Square setup
Preparing Takoyaki at Akihabara Esports Square
Preparing Takoyaki at Akihabara Esports Square
Making Takoyaki at Akihabara Esports Square

I've been playing Street Fighter for a long time. I first encountered it in probably 1991, in the back of Aljon's Pizza in West Windsor, New Jersey. I didn't know what was going on, but I loved it. At one point, I figured out how to do Guile's flash kick: you had to block down for a bit, then wiggle the joystick from the back corner to the front corner, then back to the back corner, the up and a kick. In those early days, if you knew how to do a move, you didn't tell anybody and you kept that tech to yourself. Ever since then, I've been playing some version of Street Fighter, or Darkstalkers, or some fighting game.

Ten years ago when I moved to Japan, I was pretty busy with post-doc research, and then I joined a company, and threw a lot of my energy into that, then I got married, we had a kid, and while I was playing online matches (THawk in all the SF4 versions, Zangief in SFV) at some point I wanted to get back into the Street Fighter community. So I started to look around, and found out that Twitter is where all the information is now. So I set up an account and started looking around. I actually first found out about the Tokyo FGC from the Jump In Podcast when Kim 1234 mentioned that there is a weekly gathering at Akihabara Esports Square. I've been going ever since.

When I saw on Twitter that EVO Japan would be a thing, I knew that I couldn't miss it. So I signed up when that opened, and then I also volunteered to help out as volunteer staff. I was pretty sure I wouldn't get out of pools, and since I know Japanese well enough I thought I could contribute to making the event better in some way if I joined as staff. I was pretty excited when they accepted my application, and I was in.

I took two days off of work – there was an organizational meeting on Thursday the day before EVO that I had to attend, and of course I needed to be free all Friday. I had to work out childcare arrangements for my son, and did that. So what are my thoughts overall?

1 The Good

Overall, I had a great time at EVO Japan. It was exhausting - I had two 12-14 hour days on my feet the whole time, didn't have time for lunch either day, and was running around like crazy. It was really fun though. I really enjoyed meeting with and talking to other fighting game fan enthusiasts, and the atmosphere in general. I loved that there were side tournaments, some of which were run on arcade cabinets. I wish I had time to watch some of the USFIV tournament. Writing this up, I'm a bit sad that my list of good things is much shorter than my list of things that can be improved, but that is not a reflection of my overall experience. I had a great time, and would absolutely do it over again in a second.

  • A huge turnout for lots of games. I primarily play and watch Street Fighter, and there was immense turnout for that game.
  • For the number of people, and how much reliance there was on volunteer staff, things ran well. I don't think there were major mix-ups, and things went smoothly for the most part. Almost all the volunteer staff were themselves FGC players, and it really showed in how the community pulled together to pull of this logistically intimidating event.
  • Lots of people from all over the world came, and I think really enjoyed Tokyo.
  • Lots of places to eat / shop near the venue. Some 24 hour places too.
  • The event was streamed on Twitch with English commentary. Also, a second stream from Capcom Fighters covered most of the Street Fighter matches with English commentary.
  • I liked the exhibitor booths that were there, and the preview of Soul Caliber was great.
  • A really great atmosphere for all players involved - people were friendly and approachable.
  • Entry was free. Free. Are you serious!?

2 The Bad

While I really enjoyed EVO Japan 2018, and have nothing but good feelings about it, there are some things that can be improved. I really think that these are improvement opportunities, and in no way do I buy into the theories that the event was run for advertisers or media (I've been reading things like that on twitter). I'm not hooked into the world of the TOs and runners for this, but I know that some of the people involved on both the US and Japan sides are themselves home-grown FGC veterans and enthusiasts.

One thing you need to keep in mind about EVO Japan is that Japan is a country that loves their laws. In particular, there are laws about gambling that make it impossible to collect an entry fee and also have a pot to payout to the winners. I'm sure there is some way around this, but Tokyo Cup didn't have a prize because of those laws. EVO Japan was free to enter - which is amazing - but I think because of that, they had to gather most of their capital from advertising and exclusive streaming agreements with e.g., OpenRec TV and AbemaTV. I think the overall size of the venue was due to the overall expense, and also since this was the first EVO Japan, an underestimation of interest. (The Sai tournament did happen last year, but I feel like that wasn't a proper estimator for the interest of an EVO Japan event).

So here are some things that I think could use some improvement.

  • The venue was a bit difficult to find. I'm more or less fluent in Japanese, and I had some trouble finding the venue. Once you make it to Sunshine City, getting to the Convention Halls is still quite a hike through the shopping complex. You get dumped out onto the first floor, and you have to know that Hall A and B are on floors 3 and 4 (I think). I should have talked to someone about putting up signs in English telling people where to go.
  • The venue was too small. Running pools on the first day - about 2500 SFV entrants - was tough. We had one machine for each pool (this is ok) with about 8-10 people per pool. There was nowhere near enough room for 8-10 people to stand around the machine, since we had eight stations on a table, and another table not too far behind that. It was very hard to get to your pool if it was in the middle of the table.
  • There weren't enough seats in the venue to sit down. As a volunteer I was on my feet 14 hours a day, and that is expected, but there wasn't enough seating for people in general.
  • Overall, I don't think the organizers did a good job of communicating in general, and in specific communicating in English. When I volunteered I thought I would be involved from a much earlier stage crafting signs, information, templates, things like that, but I didn't hear anything about organization at all until the day before the event.
  • Confusion over pool numbers. On the first day, the stations were numbered with three digit numbers, but pools were denoted as (A|B|C)##. It took me a while to understand what the relationship between the pool numbers and station numbers was. A future run should have a simpler to understand system, like "Morning XX", "Afternoon XX", "Evening XX" where XX is the same as the number on the station.
  • Confusion over where pools were for people that made it out. There was a lot of confusion over where players should go once they made it out of their pools. As someone running one of those pools, I didn't know until about 10 minutes before I ran the pool. The best advice I had to give people was to wait by their station for someone to call your name. This is something that was addressed on the second day where with Tekken people got cards that said what pool they would be in, so I'm glad to see that an adjustment was made.
  • Confusion about what time players would play. This is something that generally happens I think, but I wasn't able to tell people when they would play. I just ran the pool in Winners up to Winners Final, and then ran the Losers. I'm not sure what could be done here. I think it would be great if Smash.gg could integrate a notification system to call players when they are up or when they would be the next match.
  • Volunteers were not organized in any way. I expected that a few days before the event, I would be told that I am running pools XX and YY, and where and when they were. That didn't happen. We gathered in the morning right before the tournament started, and were told to just go stand in front of a station. Confusion was the order of the day. That said, I think we did manage to run all the pools and there weren't many problems with it, but it was not what I could call planned or organized.
  • No breaks for Volunteers. Since we didn't have a schedule, we just were left on our own. I had to leave early one day and couldn't run an evening pool, so I just informed the blue shirted guy and took off. I hope things went well. It would have been better if we had volunteer schedules, so I would have had time to eat.
  • Not enough exhibitor booths. I liked the booths that they had. There just were not very many. I wanted to buy some of the specialty stuff, like the nice Sanwa stick, but it sold out pretty quick. Also, as a volunteer I had no time at all to actually look at what they had.
  • No artists alley? I can't believe they didn't have a big artists alley to feature all the great anime and manga art in Japan. The crossover potential is huge. It boggles the mind. There was one booth selling a manga which I bought (and got signed!) If there is another EVO Japan I really think they should think about getting a much larger space for exhibits and artists.
  • No organized after-parties? I've always wanted to go to Bar Fights. I didn't see any Gooteks out there setting up fun stuff to do. I know BAS was setting some stuff up, but that is more or less personal connections and friends going out. I would not have the stamina to go out and do something, but I'm sure many other people would be interested. Especially because the tournament ended early for a US tournament. Why did it end early? The last train! So events have to run on time or people might get stuck far away from home or hotels.
  • Talking about hotels, was there a venue hotel with a discount rate? Another missed opportunity.
  • Not nearly enough planning for who does what for the volunteers. I mentioned this before, but I'm shocked that we were able to pull this off with the lack of planning we had. In the morning of the first day, the volunteers were asked "What game do you know?" and then they went and ran those pools. This is something that can be determined ahead of time.
  • Not enough casual setups. I saw this complaint on twitter a bit. I know that it was possible to play casuals, but all the setups were used in official capacity at one time or another (aside from the BYOC area - which I was glad they had space for).
  • Not enough sticks to lend out. In most of the events in Japan, they are either held at an arcade (so you don't need to bring a stick) or setups are provided with sticks (because who wants to lug that stuff on a super crowded train to work just so you can go play a bit on the way home?) We had some people who didn't have sticks, and I think there were only about 6 or so available to lend out. There wasn't a system for that either. Of course, I think some good can come of that, because that forces people to talk to others in their pool and see if they can find a stick to borrow. In Japan, having an excuse to talk to someone is often necessary to start conversation, so that might have helped start some friendships. I know when I went to WNF last year, I didn't have a stick, and since Salilou let me borrow his stick I've really wanted to pay back that favor, and we've become friendly since. I suspect many Japanese were expecting that they wouldn't need to bring a stick though, and I certainly didn't see any official communication about that.
  • Really hard to watch matches. If you wanted to spectate pool matches, or later on streamed matches on Day 2, there was just no good way to do that. At some point a projector was set and that helped a bit, but the place was jam packed.
  • Lack of coordination between the EN streamers and TOs. I ended up being the intermediary between the stream station for US Twitch on Day 2 and the TO. I only did that because I wanted to be involved in the SFV stuff day 2, and when I went to talk to the stream staff, they didn't have any plan for how to move forward. So I stepped in and tried to help out. This is also something that really should have been worked out far in advance.
  • On the second day, since I noticed that there was confusing over who to talk to if you only spoke English, I recommended that we put on tags or stickers or something on people who were bilingual. We then split our group up (all eight of us!!) over all the games that were running. Those were some ghetto tags too. I hope it helped a bit.
  • Not enough tickets for the finals. Not much more to say about that.

3 The Personal

The rest of this post is probably not interesting to people, but please do read on if you want to hear about things that just got me super excited.

I'm not particularly good at Street Fighter. I've got a Platinum/Gold Zangief, and a Silver Rashid. I really enjoy spectating Street Fighter though, and am familiar with most of the players and commentators. I love living in Japan, but I'm married to a Japanese woman who doesn't really care for games, so I can't talk to her about those things. It is very easy to get homesick and miss things from America (Pizza is one of them - hit me up if you want to know the best NYC style Pizza places in Tokyo). I really enjoy listening to UltraChenTV, The Gauntlet, and The Jump In on my commute to work. So meeting some of the people behind those things is something I was really looking forward to. While I also would like to meet players, I worry that top players are going to be preoccupied with preparing for their games, so I don't really want to bother them.

3.1 Commentators *

I was very excited to have met some real luminaries from the commentary world. UltraDavid from the UltraChenTV show and commentary fame took the time to chat and take a photo. I ran into James Chen on Day 1, but was in a real rush to get home so I could pick my son up from daycare. I actually butted in to his conversation with MajinObama (sorry about that!) to get a picture. I also met Sajam and Tasty Steve together. Last year I went to WNF in July and met Sajam there, and he was a really nice guy then. Steve is the most excited and hype person I have ever met. Both great guys. By the way, if you are interested in learning more about a variety of fighting games, check out The Recipe on CrossCounterTV. They talk about a bunch of different fighting games in an easy and accessible way. I also ran into skisonic who is another commentator that I enjoy.

There are lots of other commentators that I would have liked to chat with - Logan-sama, Jiyuna, MajinObama, Rynge, Rip, Zhi, etc. I was just super busy and didn't have a chance to wander around.

I sometimes hear people talking about who the best commentators are, and I just don't get that entire conversation. There is such a wide range of information and ways to express yourself that I can always find something to appreciate with the different commentators out there. I absolutely love when Zhi and MajinObama are on the mic because of just how "inside baseball" their discussion of Japan can be. I'm actually watching the Twitch replays of the Jump Off right now, and having a desk of 4 people talking about a variety of games is just so much fun.

What was a unifying theme about all the people I interacted with at the event is that everyone was kind, and we all have a shared passion about fighting games. You just can't under-sell how important that is.

3.2 Cosplayers *

I met some commentators, that was cool. I also met some cosplayers! That was cool too! First up, I snuck by the SNK booth before the event opened and got a picture with some of the cosplayers there. When I was running pools on Day 1, there was a Laura cosplayer in a pool behind me, and we chatted a bit. Very friendly. I was worried she might give me a knee to the groin. I also ran in MissShinoBee as Elphelt. I have GGRxd but I am just terrible at that game. It is beautiful though, and it is really nice to see that brought to life. Finally, I got a shot with Cory Bell in Sakura cross-play. That outfit is amazing. I think he could have gone into a Konami arcade and actually worked there for a bit before anyone figured it out.

3.3 Game players *

I met some players! Marn was in my pool, and had I won my first match I would have had to play him. Of course, I didn't. Still, Marn was really nice. If he has a bad rap, I don't know that would be. I met Justin Wong! He has been writing up a lot of cool stuff about his adventures in Japan, and he has got some great information. I always like to see people who appreciate Japan come out here. I met Oil King! His fashion is on point. I took a picture with Infiltration (the EVO Japan winner!) and Gllty! I didn't talk to either of them much, but Gllty is a regular at various Tokyo events and puts in real work. She's great. Infiltration seems like a nice guy too. I met up with Cory Bell, a Zangief that I've been following for a while. He's a fun guy.

I met Powell - this is a relatively unknown guy outside of Japan, but he's a Master Ranked Cammy from Nagoya. He came by the Esports Square event on Sunday and I got to chat with him a lot. He is a hilarious guy. He was talking about how he wanted Tokido to win so he could say he was the only one to have beat him. He also talked about how he was able to pull the ladies after his tremendous performance, but when I asked him how many he said "Uh, I took like, 3 back to my hotel!" I don't buy it, but this is one fun guy to hang out with.

3.4 People I didn't expect to meet *

One thing that surprised me is that some people came up to me and introduced themselves. There is absolutely no reason anyone should be interested in me, but I guess because of my Twitter Account some people know who I am. My goal with that twitter account is to make information about fighting game events in Japan more accessible. If I had known earlier about what was going on in Tokyo, I would have been much more involved from the beginning. The way things used to work though is that players hung out in specific arcades, and you just had to know what they were. E.g., everyone knows about the Shinjuku East Gate Namco, but how did you learn about that? I also think it can be very intimidating to approach famous players when you are just some random Joe Donuts in the silver league. So what I'm trying to do is put out information about FGC events in English as I see it fly by on Twitter.

Which also makes me want to mention that I think Twitter sucks as a general communication and archival medium. I've been running this blog of mine since 1999, and if I ever want to find anything on it, it is indexed and I can get back to it. I can write more than 100 or 200 characters or whatever. I can put cogent thoughts together to form a cohesive argument. Twitter is not good at any of that. But Twitter is where everyone is at. That said, check out Burning Meter for archiving and adding your own FGC tech. I'm much more optimistic about that kind of approach. Sadly, once it gets popular hosting will cost too much and it will probably die (unless they go the advertising route, which I am fine with).

So, I use twitter, but I'm not an ardent fan. I was surprised then when Jun-ichi of Fighting Games ESL fame came up to me and introduced himself! I've been following him for ages and his tweets are an invaluable resource for people looking to learn Fighting Game Japanese. That said, man, I should put a webpage together of all his tweets or something.

I also met HiFightTH who puts out amazing clips for fighting game action all the time. I can't believe he does all of that himself. I met The Sentimental Typhoon who also translates interesting stuff every now and again. I met FubarDuck who made me think that maybe I can make some positive contribution to the FGC. These were all unexpected meetings, and I really enjoyed chatting with these guys. There are also other people I follow that do interesting translation on twitter, and I hope I get a chance to meet them in the future too!

3.5 I met Seth Killian *

Finally, I know I made a separate section for this, but I met Seth Killian! I've known of this guy (and Bob Painter, and Graehm Wolfe, and …) and a whole bunch of other since I started with street fighter from the venerable days of alt.games.sf2. What a nice guy.

I also ran into one of the Cannon brothers, and I'm ashamed to admit that I don't know if it was Tom or Tony. He even told me, but I've since forgotten. These guys (well, Tony I guess) single-handedly developed GGPO, the best online fighting games latency hiding system out there. Super crazy.

That said, I'm terrible with names. One day, HDJammerz stopped by Akihabara Esports Square, and I asked him if he was Infectious. Ugh.

3.6 Super Hype Games *

I saw some great games. One that sticks in my mind was on the first day, when I saw Cory Bell's Zangief take on junjunmjgirly's Ken. junjunmjgirly is the bassist in a super-popular rock band who is into fighting games. That match was super fun, because everyone watching was totally into it. While I was doing my volunteer duties, I didn't get to see many matches, but I'm watching stuff slowly later on in the archives. Just being around all these great games was lots of fun though.

3.7 Sunday casuals at Esports Square *

On Sunday, since I couldn't get tickets for the finals (who could!?) I helped Kagechi set up for a casual session at Akihabara Esports Square. He set the place up so you could relax and watch what was going on the big screen easily, and also planned to do 500 yen all you can eat takoyaki. A lot of people stopped by. In fact, a record setting number, and we actually had to turn people away so we didn't run foul of fire hazard regulations. Kagecchi was super bummed when James Chen and UltraDavid stopped by but had to be turned away. About 170 people came by, when on a usual night it is closer to 60. It was lots of fun, and the Takoyaki was great. I had a great time chatting with players from around the world and Japan. Verloren and Powell ran some pretty intense mirror match Cammy sets, and it was generally just a fun time all around.

If you are even in Tokyo and have time on a Wednesday night, drop by Akihabara Esports Square from 7pm. It is always lots of fun, and they are happy to see new people there.

3.8 Final words *

I had a great time at EVO Japan, and really hope there is another one. I think there are many things that can be improved, and if I'm in any position to do so I will work to the best of my abilities to help. I think overall people had a great time, and I'm convinced that Japan is a great destination for major tournaments because it is a great tourist destination in its own right, and has a long connection to fighting game history.

Some of the problems I think stem from the lack of really large tournaments in Japan because of the gambling laws, and also because traditionally people have just run their own tournaments in arcades in a kind of off-the-cuff manner. Events like EVO really need a lot more forethought and planning - and I'm not saying that didn't happen for EVO Japan 2018, but I think there could be a bit more.

I had a great time, and I hope you did too. If you ever come to Japan, feel free to hit me up on twitter or otherwise. Have fun, and watch out for overheads.


December 27, 2017

Fighting game events in Tokyo around the EVO Japan timeframe (that I know of)

2018 February and March Fighting Game Events in Tokyo

I'm super excited for EVO Japan. It will be my first EVO, but I'm not sure that counts. I've been living in Japan for the past ten years, and regularly go to the Fighter's Crossover (that's the name) Street Fighter V weekly event at E-sports Square (that's the place).

I want to gather information about events that will happen around the EVO JP timeframe. I'll ask people I know - I personally only know much about Street Fighter - and keep this post up to date.

I'm not going to list EVO Japan or side tournaments here, but if you are interested see the EVO Japan side tournament section. There is Anime Evo Japan, which includes MVCI, and I was surprised to see a SF3 Cooperation Cup special.

The arcade scene is vibrant, and you are likely to find competition at any arcade, but some are more well known than others. You might want to check out

  • Mikado Arcade, Map Takadanobaba
  • Taito Station Shinjuku East Exit, Map
  • Various arcades in Akihabara, Club Sega, Hey!
  • Various shops in Akihabara like the retro game store Super Potato, Map
  • Play Spot Big One 2nd, Map. Out in Chiba, but good place for 3rd Strike or Melty Blood. (Thanks Arlieth!)
  • Game Newton, Map. Lots of ST setups.
  • Your Warehouse, Map Kawasaki (For the crazy design)
  • Game Bar A Button, Map
  • This JP travel guide with a list of arcades and the scenes they are known for, compiled by 310.venom
  • Maybe a maid cafe or something? They're everyhere in Akihabara.
  • This Sagat themed store about Saga-ken in Ginza 3F commn ginza, inside Ramo Frutas Cafe. Operating from 2018-01-22 to 2018-01-28, 10am - 9pm.

Justin Wong wrote a guide to Japan so check that out too. Lots of good practical information about what you should do to prepare. Get a suica card, how to get a pocket wifi, etc.

Date Game Event Location Comments
2018-01-05 Fri. Multiple Shot Bar Lucy All Night Games Shot Bar Lucy, Map Shot Bar Lucy 11:30pm - 5:00am SFV / Tekken / others
2018-01-05 Fri. SFV Friday Sky Studio Sky, Map 2pm - 8pm via @fridayskyjp
2018-01-06 Sat. SF3 Cooperation Cup Hulic Hall Tokyo, Asakusa-bashi  
2018-01-07 Sun. SF3 Cooperation Cup Hulic Hall Tokyo, Asakusa-bashi  
2018-01-07 Sun. SFV Sunday Sky Studio Sky, Map  
2018-01-09 Tue. KOF KOF Tuesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 19:00 to close
2018-01-10 Wed. SFV Fighter's Crossover (FCA) Akihabara E-sports Square, Map Regular weekly
2018-01-10 Wed. MVCI Marvel Wednesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map Also board games
2018-01-12 Fri. Multiple Shot Bar Lucy All Night Games Shot Bar Lucy, Map Shot Bar Lucy 11:30pm - 5:00am SFV / Tekken / others
2018-01-12 Fri. SFV Friday Sky Studio Sky, Map 7pm - 11pm
2018-01-14 Sun. SFV Sunday Sky Studio Sky, Map  
2018-01-14 Sun. VSAV Mikado Savior via @mikadosavior Mikado Arcade, Map Sign up 14:-15:00, single elim tourney
2018-01-14 Sun. SFV Shot Bar Lucy SFV Event Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 12:00pm to 8:00pm. 3000yen, 2000 after 3pm.
2018-01-16 Tue. KOF KOF Tuesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 19:00 to close
2018-01-17 Wed. SFV FCA Casuals day Akihabara E-sports Square, Map Update to S3 on PC
2018-01-17 Wed. MVCI Marvel Wednesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map Also board games
2018-01-18 Thur. SFV FCA Casuals day Akihabara E-sports Square, Map Update to S3 on PS4
2018-01-19 Fri. Multiple Shot Bar Lucy All Night Games Shot Bar Lucy, Map Shot Bar Lucy 11:30pm - 5:00am SFV / Tekken / others
2018-01-19 Fri. SFV Friday Sky Studio Sky, Map 7pm - 11pm
2018-01-19 Fri. Tekken7 Bakushi's Tournament Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map Casuals run by staff named Bakushi, from 19:00
2018-01-20 Sat. SFV FCA Casuals / Open tournament Akihabara E-sports Square, Map Casuals from 12:00 to 21:00
2018-01-20 Sat. Multiple Shot Bar Lucy Practice Session Shot Bar Lucy, Map Shot Bar Lucy probably from 17:00
2018-01-20 Sat. Tekken7 Female character tournament Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map Casuals run by @take6919, from 14:00
2018-01-20 Sat. GGXrd Mikado Tenkaichi Budokai3 Mikado Arcade, Map Takadanobaba Redeption bracket from 2pm, stream, @joniomikado27
2018-01-21 Sun. Tekken7 Chloe only tournament Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map Casuals run by @hibiki961, from 14:00
2018-01-21 Sun. SFV FCA Casuals / Open tournament Akihabara E-sports Square, Map Casuals from 12:00 to 21:00, random 3-3 tourney
2018-01-21 Sun. SFV Sunday Sky Studio Sky, Map From 2pm to 8pm
2018-01-21 Sun. Multiple Shot Bar Lucy Practice Session Shot Bar Lucy, Map Shot Bar Lucy probably from 17:00
2018-01-23 Tue. KOF KOF Tuesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 19:00 to close
2018-01-24 Wed. SFV FCA Casuals Akihabara E-sports Square, Map From 19:00 to 23:00
2018-01-24 Wed. MVCI Marvel Wednesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map Also board games
2018-01-24 Wed. Tekken7 Wednesday Tekken7 @ Namco Sugamo Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map From 20:00
2018-01-25 Thur. SFV FCA Casuals Akihabara E-sports Square, Map From 19:00 to 23:00
2018-01-25 Thur. Multiple Fighting Games Festival Studio Sky, Map 13:00 to 23:00, 2000yen for 2 hours, 3000yen all day
2018-01-25 Thur. Tekken7 Tekken7 Ladies @ Namco Sugamo Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map From 17:00, run by @meee5otk ladies only?
2018-01-26 Fri. SFV Shot Bar SFV Event Shot Bar Lucy, Map 1pm - midnight, 3000yen, 8pm - 2000yen, 2 drinks via LucyFightClub
2018-01-27 Sat. Multiple Fighting Games Festival Studio Sky, Map 13:00 to 23:00, 2000yen for 2 hours, 3000yen all day
2018-01-27 Sat. VSAV Vampire Savior Monthly Mikado Arcade, Map Takadanobaba Via @Kengallon
2018-01-28 Sun. Multiple Fighting Games Festival Studio Sky, Map 13:00 to 23:00, 2000yen for 2 hours, 3000yen all day
2018-01-28 Sun. SFV Special FCA Akihabara E-sports Square, Map From 13:00 until later. Kotatsu + Takoyaki + casuals.
2018-01-28 Sun. Multiple Mikado Arcade viewing Mikado Arcade, Map Normal arcade. DO NOT use stools / cabs for viewing.
2018-01-28 Sun. Multiple Special event Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 13:00 to midnight, 3000yen, 2000yen from 18:00.
2018-01-28 Sun. VSAV Vampire Savior Free Play Play Spot BIG-ONE 2nd, Map Saitama 500yen from 14:00 to 17:00, 200yen from 16:00.
2018-01-29 Mon. Multiple Fighting Games Festival Studio Sky, Map 13:00 to 23:00, 2000yen for 2 hours, 3000yen all day
2018-01-30 Tue. KOF KOF Tuesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map From 19:00 to close
2018-01-31 Wed. SFV Normal FCA Akihabara E-sports Square, Map From 19:00 to 23:00
2018-01-31 Wed. MVCI Marvel Wednesday Shot Bar Lucy, Map Also board games. From 17:00.
2018-01-31 Wed. Tekken7 Wednesday Tekken7 @ Namco Sugamo Namco at Sugamo Stn., Map From 20:00

December 17, 2017

Alan's 6th Birthday

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Today, 2017-12-16, is Alan’s sixth birthday. This year, instead of getting lots of presents, Lisa’s planned a nice trip for him. Since Alan really loves trains (what six year old in Japan doesn’t?) this trip is a train-focused trip. His birthday conveniently fell on a Saturday, so we were able to take an overnight trip to a Onsen.

We had an 8:24 Max Toki Shinkansen on the Joetsu line. The Max Toki E4 series of trains is amazing - two floors of seating, carrying about 1634 people when two eight car trains are connected together. I have always wanted to ride in one of those trains up on the second floor. Lisa got us reserved seats in the upper floor - the upper floor are all reserved, and the lower floor is open seating - and we were off. The trains are actually on the way out, and will probably be withdrawn from service sometime in 2018. Right now these monster E4 trains are only in use on the Joetsu line, and all the previous lines that had used them are using newer trains that can go faster. These trains can only go 240 km/h (150 mph) which isn’t fast enough for Japan I guess. The fastest Shinkansen run at about 200 mph now, and around 175 mph is pretty common. I wonder if the newer trains will also be double decker; I somehow doubt it because so far I haven’t seen any plans for those, and they are likely to re-use existing designs I think. Who knows though? The Shinkansen are really popular in Japan, and a lot of effort is put into them, so maybe they will make another really high passenger capacity train.

We took the Shinkansen to Takasaki, which was about an hour out of Tokyo. From there we took a special weekend-only Steam Engine train. It ran from Takasaki (a reasonably large city I think - population of about 370,000 people) to the end of the line at Yokokawa. That place has a population of about 600 people unless I am reading the PDF that I found on the web somewhere wrong. At any rate, it was a small little town.

When we pulled into the station there was a local high school Taiko group playing Taiko as we came in. It was super cool. Even though it was cold outside, they were out there in short sleeves banging up a storm. We watched them for a while, and got lots of pictures of the train and the local mascots (Silky-chan and the Gunma-ken mascot) and then we went out to a local train attraction: The Usui Pass Railway Park. I couldn’t find any English information about it, but it was a large park (or maybe museum - you had to pay a fee to get in) that had lots of train related stuff. Lots of older trains, you could go inside some of them, and lots of small trains and other things for kids to ride. Which all cost money, but that is to be expected I guess. We walked around and saw some cool old trains, and even rode on their gear-toothed rail car. There is a local track that goes up into the mountains that uses a gear toothed rail apparently - there is a long hiking path that takes you to some scenic spots on it - and the place is a bit famous for that I think.

After our time in the train park, we went to get lunch at a place that has been doing Station lunch boxes for the longest amount of time in Japan - 150 years or so. They have a special lunch box called the "Kamomeshi" that was pretty good! The place was called Onogiya I think.

We took the steam engine back to Takasaki, but before the train left there was another performance by a local high school Taiko group. The steam train only runs on weekends, and each time it comes there are different groups doing things. The ones that were announced on the board were all Taiko groups, and sometimes there would be those local characters, or maybe not.

From Takasaki we took a local train back to Isobe. Apparently Isobe is the place where the Onsen mark was popularized. We had a nice dip in the Onsen before dinner, and played some card cames (Sushi Go and Uno) before having dinner and retiring for the night.

In the morning, we had a nice breakfast at the Onsen, and then took the train back to Tokyo. That means catching the once-an-hour local train from Isobe, and then transfering at Takasaki to the Shinkansen for Tokyo. We again rode on the E4 series, but this time it was a single eight car train instead of two of them connected together. We had non-reserved seating this time, which meant that we sat on the bottom floor of the train. You have very little view from the bottom floor - you mostly just see the wall of the Shinkansen track, and when you pull into the station you are literally at level with the platform. It is a bit surreal watching people’s shoes walk by.

We then took the usual train route home from Tokyo station, made it back in time for a leisurely afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and had a nice dinner with them. I got a cake at the local cake shop, and we did the Happy Birthday thing. All things considered, quite a success!

December 9, 2017

2017.11 Trip to Korea

Alan at a gate
Lisa, Alan, and Dave at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Lisa, Alan, and Dave at Gyeongbokgung Palace
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Guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace
When we were visiting New York over the summer, I met with lots of friends. While we were having dinner with Lena, a good friend of mine from grad school, she mentioned that she and her family would be going to Korea in November for a kind of Thanksgiving. Since Korea is so close to Japan - it is less than a three hour flight - and we haven't done much travel close to Japan, I made tentative plans to fly out to Korea so we could meet then.

We actually did make the plans, and spent about four days in Korea. We had lots of great food, although not many food pictures made the cut here. The first free day we had - a full Sunday - we headed out to Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was really nice. There were volunteer college students (I think? Maybe they were high school students?) giving tours in English, and our guide was very nice. She gave us some of the historical background on the palace, which of course I have promptly forgotten. The grounds of the palace are really nice.

After the tour and walking around, we went to a local place for lunch that has well-known dumplings of some kind. It was very nice. On the walk back to the subway we passed the Palace again, and were just in time for the changing of the guard, so we got some pictures and videos of that too. Very colorful, super neat.

Nanta
Adventureland at a clothing store
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Chicken in a pot
Great Congee for breakfast
We went to see a play called "Nanta" while we were there. It is a kind of action comedy play where the cast uses physicality to convey things to the audience, and they don't have many lines so you can enjoy the play without regards to language. The play was very funny. I enjoyed it a lot, and our five year old son thought it was hilarious. I definitely recommend checking this play out if you have kids.

We were able to meet my friends Lena, Ben, and their newborn for lunch, which was great. We had a really delicious Korean BBQ lunch at a relaxed pace. Afterwards, we headed to the North Seoul Tower. I think it probably has a more official name, but it is a tower overlooking the city, and has great views. They were doing a collaboration with Disney for Mickey Mouse's birthday apparently, which Lisa liked. We bought some postcards at the shop, and were able to mail them off from the tower itself, which was fun. We rode a cable car to and from the tower, which Alan enjoyed. There was also a strange elevator that traveled on a rail more like a train than an elevator which was also pretty cool. Otherwise we spent a lot of time eating lots of different Korean food. It was really good! I wasn't a big fan of the squid that was still moving around while you are it, but otherwise quite nice. For some reason there are coffee shops all over the place in Seoul. I couldn't believe how many Starbucks there were. It was really fun taking a short trip to a nearby country though, so I'll see if we can't try to do more of that kind of travel in the future.

Alan and Dave at North Seoul Tower
Alan and Lisa at North Seoul Tower
Lisa, Alan, and Dave at North Korea Tower
Alan sent a postcard from the North Seoul Tower
Lisa and Alan at North Seoul Tower

November 26, 2017

2017.10 October (work) trip to Taiwan

Dave in Taiwan
Alan eats some dumplings in Taiwan
Alan stands in front of some art
<Taiwan cityscape in the rain
Alan on a hippo statue
Alan at a Zoo
The Family at a fancy Beni-hana's restaurant
Alan and Lisa make and launch a hot air balloon
In mid-October, 2017, I took a trip to Taiwan for work. We left on a Friday afternoon, I worked Saturday through Monday, and we left on a Tuesday. While I was doing work stuff, Lisa and Alan went around Taiwan and did some fun sightseeing stuff. I got to look at the pictures afterwards - I wanted to back them up on a machine locally, and then upload them to Amazon Drive Photos, which is where I back up all out pictures. So I'm seeing a lot of these things for the first time myself.

Basically, while we were there we ate some good food - I really enjoyed the dumplings and the fried rice, I'm not as sure what else Lisa and Alan were eating - and Lisa and Alan took some trains and went around to different places. They found a Zoo, and had a fun time putting together a paper lantern that they launched into the air. It was raining almost the entire time that we were there unfortunately, but Lisa and Alan made a go of it. I think they had a good time, and it was interesting visiting another country for a short period of time. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been working the whole time!

October 31, 2017

Tokyo's Fighter's Crossover -Akihabara- 100th Anniversary Team Ratio Tournament

-Fighter's Crossover- Akihabara is a weekly gathering, usually on Wednesday, at Akihabara's E-sports Square for Street Fighter V players. It is organized by Kagechhi, and this weekend he ran two tournaments celebrating having held 100 of these locals. The second event on October 29th was a "Ratio" Tournament. You build a team of 2-3 people, and can spent a total of 11 points on your team. Each character costs a certain number of points:
  • 6: Ibuki, Akuma, Rashid
  • 5: Guile, Karin, Cammy, Zangief, Necali, Boxer
  • 4: Birdie, Dictator, Urien, Lara, R. Mika
  • 3: Abigail, Ken, Dhalsim, Chun-Li, Nash, Claw, F.A.N.G., Menat, Ryu
  • 2: Alex, Ed, Kolin, Juri
You need to have at least 2 people on your team, and no more than 3. You can see the results and teams here.

The winning team was Noguchi's Guile, Yossan's Juri, and Crusher's Birdie. I have no idea what their team name means. ("Demanding receding hair" - it looks like there is a twitter account with that name.)

There were two teams with two people, the other 30 had three people. The top 8 teams were:

  • 1: "Demanding Receding Hair": Noguchi (Guile) Yossan (Juri), Crusher (Birdie)
  • 2: "displeasure120%": Kichi pa-mu (Zangief), Hagejin (Abigail), GAMEtoHITO (Dhalsim)
  • 4: "We have all 5!": Azuma (Urien), MON (F.A.N.G.), Yukimayu (Laura)
  • 4: "Bison Line": Vanao (Boxer), Reiketsu (Menat), yuba (Nash)
  • 8: "Your opposition is all snacks": Kinoko Boxer (Boxer), Takenoko no Sato (Chun-Li), Gafuro (Nash).
  • 8: Ratio 9: DNG Tachikawa (Dhalsim), Rolling (Ed), AW Nemo (Urien)
  • 8: Team Tachikawa Parasite: Ikahara (Cammy), Takeuchi John (Rashid)
  • 8: Torikizoku F Pro Group: Willy (Dictator), EmuEmu (Zangief), Gerand (Kolin). Torikizoku is a chain of bars.

Other interesting teams: "It's Ryu! Ryu!" with three Ryus. "Low Cost" with a 7 point team of Ryu, Kolin, and Alex.

You can watch the entire five hour tournament here.

I really enjoy how Kagecchi tries different things - different formats, sets up different tournaments (beginner tournaments < 7500 LP, platinum and up tournaments, completely open tournaments) and works to foster a sense of community. If you are ever in Tokyo and looking for some Street Fighter, stop by sometime. Check the schedule and drop by. If you see an old American with a beard, say hi!

Tokyo's Fighter's Crossover -Akihabara- 100th Anniversary 2-2 Team Tournament

-Fighter's Crossover- Akihabara is a weekly gathering, usually on Wednesday, at Akihabara's E-sports Square for Street Fighter V players. It is organized by Kagechhi, and this weekend he ran two tournaments celebrating having held 100 of these locals.

While most people are watching Canada Cup, I thought it would be fun to write up a little about this more local street fighter action.

First, an overall summary of what happened. On Saturday, Kagecchi ran a 2-2 team tournament. There were 48 teams for a total of 96 people. It was a single elimination tournament, Waseda-style, 6 pools. Winner of each pool goes to the top 8, with two more teams coming from a playoff between the remaining 42 teams. The overall winner was the "Million God" team of Kin-devu's Zeku and Suiha's Chun-Li.

If you want to check out all the teams check Kagecchi's blog post.
This highlight from team Power Harrassment and the 3rd Generation E-sports brothers is pretty cool (<1 minute.) You can watch the entire 6 hour team tournament here.

I'll call our a few teams I thought were interesting.

UltimateJohn: Vanau (Boxer) and Takeuchi John (Rashid) lost in round 2 of pool 2.
The "Anti-Nauman team" had Fumity (Akuma) and Anman (Urien) come out of Pool 1.
Pool 5 had "Team Guilty" with Yossan (Juri) and Machbo (Necali) lose out in round 2 to pool winner "Power Harrassment" Noguchi (Guile) and Nanai (Dictator).
Pool 6 had team "All 1 Ed" with DNG Tachikawa (Ed) and tool (Ed).
It also had team "New Skills" with Kichi pa-mu (Zangief) and EmuEmu (Zangief).

September 25, 2017

2017 November 23 Red Bull Tower of Pride SFV Tournament in Tokyo, Japan

This November, Red Bull is running a very interesting Street Fighter V tournament in Tokyo. The format is unique, and looks like a lot of fun. You can find the website here: https://www.redbull.com/jp-ja/events/red-bull-tower-of-pride but all the information is in Japanese. I've translated the details page, and rules and regulations in case anyone is interested.

read more (1198 words)

June 10, 2017

RAGE Volume 4 grand finals

This weekend (July 10th, 2017) was the RAGE e-sports Street Fighter V grand finals. I didn't have a chance to go, but am watching it afterwards on openrec.tv. I thought I would keep some notes as I watch the archived video. You can sign up for a free openrec.tv account easily enough, and a free account is able to watch archived videos once (seems strange that they only let you watch once, but that is enough for me.)

When I checked out the live stream, they had an English and a Japanese version, but I'm watching the Japanese version just for fun. Check the videos portion of the rage-esports account if you want to watch too.

They said this tournament (which has spanned a few weekends already) has the highest payout of all domestic Japanese tournaments. If you assume 100yen to the dollar (close enough, but it is actually a bit more) then they are paying out over the top 8 finishers, $20,000 for 1st (plus a Tag Heuer watch), $5000 for 2nd, $1500 for 3rd and 4th, and $500 for 5th through 8th.

By the way, in Japan none of the local weeklies have any sort of payout, since it would be viewed as gambling here and runs afoul of some laws.

I really like the production values here - very nice produced interviews before the matchups where they talk about their character, what they are doing, and a bit about their opponent. I didn't know much about Ponzaman or Mishie so that was cool to see.

In Momochi's introduction I love how he explained that he wants to be the strongest in Japan, and since Daigo uses Ryu and he wants to beat him, he thought using Ryu's rival Ken would be a good idea. And he thinks Ken looks cool.

Overall results, for those who are curious:

1. GRPT|Fuudo (R. Mika)
2. AW|Nemo (Urien)
3. GRPT|Haitani (Necalli)
4. DNG|Itabashi Zangief (Zangief)
5. Kichipa-mu (Zangief)
5. Mishie (Laura)
7. FOX|Momochi (Ken)
7. Ponzaman (Rashid)

May 15, 2017

Tokyo Offline Party 5

A few months back I went to Tokyo Offline Party 4. Tokyo Offline Party 5 was this weekend, and I wanted to go, but was unable to due to family obligations.

What is Tokyo Offline Party? It is an event run by Buttonmashers and Shinobism, Momochi and Chocoblanka's company. Tokyo Offline Party 5 had a 3 on3 Street Fighter V tournament, and might have had some other stuff going on as well - there was a Hearthstone tournament at Tokyo Offline Party 4.

Chocoblanka posted up a few pics on twitter, this one talking about how they partnered with Red Bull and were able to use Red Bull hall in Shibuya for the event. She seems to be pretty happy about how there was room for casual setups, and nice sofas to relax in. She also talks about a casual setup for ladies only which is a cool idea, and I think they ran a ladies only side tournament that she was in. I didn't see results for it though.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to look through the results and talk a bit about who as there. The main stream was on momochoco's channel, and the sub stream was on the shinobism channel.

The overall winner was "Wonder Project J" from block P with duke (Urien), Majorboy (Kolin), and ty_ty (Dictator). I'll run down the winner of each block, and any other notable players I know.

Block A was won by the group "タイステ星" which I guess is short for Taito Station Stars, referencing an arcade. The group consists of Alienware's Nemo (Urien), inco (Birdie), and Nishikin (Necali.)

Block B was won by "Power of Darkside" with Initial Kyousou (Laura), Mizuha (Chun-Li), and MOV (Chun-Li).

Block C was won by "Trashbonbi Style" with trashbox (Birdie), bonbi (Kolin), and Shiki (Ibuki).

Block D was won by "Mimorin's Bodyguards" with Gafro (Boxer), Mishie (Laura), and Oremo (Ibuki).

Block E was won by "The Young'uns" with Nauman (Ken), John Takeuchi (Rasheed), and Haitani (Necali). Nauman was joking on Twitter that Haitani said he would totally join the young kids teams, and he did.

Block F was won by "GunMaruGuchi -Revenge-" with Gunfight (Alex), Marko (Karin), UGPs Mizuguchi (Urien).

Block G was won by "Ponpoime" with Ponzaman (Rasheed), oppoi (Ibuki), and Harumy (Ibuki).

Block H was won by "Melty Blood Army" with Menma (Akuma), Garu (Boxer), Surume (Necali).

Block I was won by "Detective N suppressors" (?) with DNG Tachikawa (Ibuki), Fumiya (Boxer), Kobatake (Claw).

Block J was won by "Super Big Brothers" with PSK (Cammy), Kichipa-mu (Zangief), and Macchi (Cammy). Kichipa-mu is a really fun Zangief - he was at the recent KVO x TSB SFV team battle and got second place, largely based on his Zangief play.

Block K was won by "This players had been deleted." with Syogepi- (Ibuki), Tyler (Zangief), Deletemonster (Karin). This pool also had Crusher (Birdie)'s team with Nanai (Dicator) who are both quite good, and apparently a team with Echo Fox CoolGrayAJ.

Block L was won by "LP Fraud" with rintaro (Chun-Li), Takaroom (Karin), and sasajima (Rasheed). This block also had Shinobism's team of Momochi's pupils, Yamaguchi (Ken), Haku (Guile), and Johnny (Karin) who lost out early on.

Block M was won by "Blue League PR Dept." (?) with Deo (Laura), Agomi (Birdie), Azmx (Urien).

Block N was won by "These characters were balanced by kindergartners" with Kindevu (Urien), Vanauo (Boxer), Ando (Urien). There was a team with Reiketsu playing Cammy, so maybe not the well-known Claw Reiketsu.

Block O was won by "Pon chichi's" with Ponchi's (Claw), Bower (Kolin), and rinta (Akuma).

Block P was won by "Wonder Project J" with duke (Urien), Majorboy (Kolin), and ty_ty (Dictator). This pool also had a team with GameWith's Eita (Ken) but they didn't make it.

January 14, 2017

Tokyo Offline Party 4, and a bit Itabashi Zangief commentary

Last weekend I went to the Tokyo Offline Party 4 event at Haruimi Passenger Terminal. I didn't have a team, so joined two others who needed someone to fill out the 3 vs 3 Street Fighter V team event. I was matched with Eleichi and Ryo, two nice young gentlemen. I had played with Ryo once or twice at the Akihabara e-square events, so that was nice.

I had a lot of fun at the event. Our team (満足) lost in our first match, but we had a good time, so no problem.

I really enjoyed watching some of the Zangief play. Kichi pa-mu in particular was lots of fun to watch. I've been going through the stream a bit, and thought it would be neat to see what Itabashi Zangief had to say while he was on commentary.

https://www.twitch.tv/momochoco/v/113487600?t=05h38m01s Itabashi Zangief hops on the mike to talk about Zangief. Tokido shares commentary with him. I'd like to give a loose translation of what they are saying. Someone asked Itazan to hop on the mike because "Kichi pa-mu", a Zangief player, is currently on. Kichi pa-mu was super fun to watch - his Zangief play was a bit crazy, and was super exciting. Where this clip starts, he just beat Oosu's Karin and Fuudo's Mika from Fuudo's team (World of Tanks.)

I didn't get permission from anyone, and this is just a loose translation. I'm no fubarduck and don't translate in any professional capacity, so any mistakes are my own.

Tokido: I'm commenting now, but our other commentator, Kazunoko, has changed.
Itazan: I was summoned.
Tokido: Yeah, there's a Zangief match now. Just how strong do you think Zangief is now?
Itazan: (Laughing.) You think so?
Tokido: Just how strong do you think he is now?
Itazan: I've been using Zangief for a long time now. So. I think we might have an argument about this.
Tokido: I think he's super strong now.
Itazan: I've heard a lot of people think that. But yeah. A big thing is that Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li got weaker. It's important that he can beat them now.
Tokido: It wasn't all that bad before but, on the other hand, now I think Guile is a real problem.
Itazan: Yeah, there are some new problems.
[The match with Chun-Li starts here.]
Tokido: I think he can do ok against Chun-Li.
Itazan: If he gets close. Ah, he got close. Yeah, that's it.
[Zangief won the round. There isn't any substantive commentary. Kichi pa-mu wins, and Tokido is called out to his match. Another person comes to do commentary.]
Person: Zangief's really strong.
Itazan: [Itazan smiles] Well, you know, he's ok. Kichi pa-mu was strong so he won. You should praise him.

Itazan had a few other things to say, but mostly just joking around. It's really fun listening to all these players (Tokido, Itabashi Zangief, Kazunoko, just seems like whoever is around that Momochi and Choco can press into service for a bit) comment. I've got to watch the final four with commentary - it was lots of fun in person but I want to hear what Momochi and Choco have to say.

Anyway, lots of fun. If you are a street fighter fan in Tokyo, definitely check out the Tokyo Offline Party when they run the next one.

October 25, 2016

Amazon cloud drive, photos, rclone, and odrive

Maybe a year ago or so (I forget when it was announced) Amazon introduced a new program for their Cloud Drive service. It was $12 a year for unlimited photo storage. I thought that was ridiculously cheap, so I signed up.

I had some complaints about the service, but nothing major. Mainly, there wasn't a native way to save my iPhoto library to the cloud. The service is only unlimited storage for photos, so you can't backup metadata, just your pictures. The web client is the only way to do uploads, and that would sometimes drop a file here or there. That meant I couldn't upload my entire library in one shot - I wouldn't know which photos were dropped. Also, the files are stored based on file name, which doesn't work well for me. In my iPhoto library I have lots of files with the same name from different camera. That doesn't matter in iPhoto, since it uses a file hierarchy and the names don't conflict, but Amazon Cloud Drive puts all photos in the root of the drive, so you can overwrite older files with the same name with newer files.

I eventually exported my iPhoto library to files with album names or dates or something in the filename, and slowly, over a few weeks, uploaded all the files. For $12 I was very happy with that.

Then I got the iPhone app, and photos were uploaded automatically. That is great!

A few weeks ago though, I got an email from Amazon saying that they are discontinuing the service. I wasn't surprised. It was a great deal for the price. They offered a chance to change to unlimited storage for $60 a year. That is also a great deal. So I switched to that.

I didn't do much for a while though, because I didn't have a good way to get files into Amazon Cloud Drive.

But then I found RClone, which bills itself as Rsync for the cloud. And it basically works like an rsync. Since I switched to unlimited storage, that can support directories. rclone worked great for me, I was able to back up a lot of personal data that should be offsite, and also do a real back-up of my iPhoto library. Nice. So I highly recommend the combination of rclone and Amazon Cloud Drive.

One thing that I would really like is the convenience of Dropbox to be able to keep files in sync. Amazon Cloud Drive is really just a big place to put files, but it doesn't have a way to do sync across files. There is a solution that can help with that though: odrive. odrive is a service that lets you add cloud storage providers (Amazon, Google, Dropbox, and others) and then it will manage those files for you. It allows for sync on top of the services that it supports. So by installing the odrive client on my machines, I now have an easy way to sync files between those machines. Another great thing about odrive is that it doesn't download everything. I have 172GB in my Amazon Cloud Drive right now, and I don't have that much space on my machines. At any given time I only want to work with a small set of files. odrive will create placeholder files and only downloads things as you need them. So I can set up one folder that I am currently working with as actively synced, and the rest of the cloud drive doesn't take any space on my machine. It is very nice.

The free client doesn't automatically keep a folder in sync, so while placeholder files will show up, I might have to click on them to download the files, but that isn't a big problem with my workflow. The free client also might only support one or two accounts, but since I only need one account, that is fine by me.

I still have some complaints about Amazon Cloud Drive - mostly that the pictures are dumped into the root folder, so I have maybe a hundred thousand files in there, but otherwise I'm very happy with the combination of Amazon Cloud Drive, rclone, and odrive working together. Check it out!

September 12, 2016

Family trip to Kobe

Friday, 2016-09-09: Arrival in Japan

Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle

On September 9th, my father, sister, and her two children arrived in Tokyo for a two week visit. It is rare for family to come all the way to Tokyo, but my dad is going to the International Semiconductor Laser Conference and it is held in Kobe, Japan. Alana and her kids were able to come with him, so we're having a kind of family reunion in Japan!

Since dad is going to Kobe, the whole family will come with him for the first few days. They arrived on Friday night, and L. graciously went to pick them up in our mini van. By the time they arrived back at our place, I had picked up Alan and finished with the day care parent-teacher conference. We all sat down at about 18:30 and I re-heated some Costco pizza. I had also ordered two rental futons, and we were able to lay out half of the living room as a large sleeping area. Our visitors fell asleep almost immediately, which was great, because the following day would be a big travel day.

Saturday, 2016-09-10: From Tokyo to Kobe

We planned to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kobe. Alana and Dad both bought JR Rail Passes for a week, and our kids (Alan 4, Aurelia 2, and Scout 5) are young enough to not need a seat; they can ride on an adult's lap. There was a 9:10 train that we could ride. We did have one complication: the plan was to stop in Nagoya for lunch to meet family friends. I had arranged all of that, and purchased non-reserved tickets for my wife and I, so all we had to do was get to Shinagawa station sufficiently early to exchange our JR rail passes and catch the train.

There is a bus stop right near our house that takes us to Shinagawa station, so we caught that at about 8:10, and got to Shinagawa station at about 8:25 or so. Unfortunately, the JR Rail Pass voucher exchange doesn't open until 9am at Shinagawa station! So after all our planning to get there early, we did a lot of waiting. Also, I didn't remember, but the JR Rail Pass only allows you access to the Hikari and Kodama trains, not the fastest (and most frequent!) Nozomi trains. The Hikari train that would get us to Nagoya in time for our lunch was sold out of reserved seats, so we just had to take our luck on non-reserved seating.

We were able to make it to the platform in time for the 9:11 Hikari train, so that was fine. But the train was at capacity, and the seven of us had to stand! And it was literally standing room only! The kids were able to find a little cubby hole in between two sets of seats, so that was great, but the rest of us stood. Luckily, about and hour and a bit after departure at Shizuoka station many people got off, and we secured seats. The Shinkansen is a really great travel experience. I highly recommend it.

We arrived at Nagoya in time for lunch, and had a very nice lunch with the Maeda family, Mr., Ms., and their daughter Ryoko were able to make it. After a relaxed lunch, we caught another Shinkansen on to Kobe, where there was a complimentary shuttle bus to our hotel, the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel. Interestingly, my dad came to this hotel in 1983 for the same conference with mom just when the hotel had first opened - they were still apparently finishing a few things up at the time! Thirty years later it is still a nice hotel.

We were all pretty tired, so we took a walk to the nearby mall and got dinner there. The complex there has a ferris wheel, and from the hotel you get a very nice view of it. The ferris wheel has a neat lighting system which they use to put on little shows every once in a while.

I also snuck out after Alan fell asleep and got a drink with my Twin Sister at the View Bar which has, as expected, a nice view. (Keep going down to see more text. And pictures.)


Sunday, 2016-09-11: Himeji Castle

Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Trip to Kobe and Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle shrine
Himeji Castle Plaza
Himeji Castle
Sleepy cousin
Hello Kitty Inari-zushi
Steak House / Meriken Park Oriental Hotel
Meriken Park Oriental Hotel Steak House
300 grams of Kobe Beef
Some vegetables and salt for the beef
Flame cooked Kobe Beef
Flame cooked Kobe Beef
Delicious Kobe Beef

On Sunday, we took an organized trip to Himeji Castle. It is about an hour away from Kobe by bus. We stopped first for lunch at a hotel, and did the standard Japanese buffet lunch thing. They had an ice cream machine, and real ice cream too, so everyone left happy.

The castle itself was great. The grounds of the castle is quite large, and we had a long walk to get there from the parking lot, but it was a very pretty walk. The castle itself has six levels, and very steep stairs up each level. The interior itself doesn't have much in the way of exhibits or history to see, but it is all very old. The wood is worn completely smooth. Alan really enjoyed having us pull him along the floor, skiing style. There is a nice model of the grounds on the first floor, and a few other things scattered around, but as you ascend the floors get smaller and smaller. I'm actually really curious about how the castle was itself used on a day to day basis back three hundred years ago. Did the Shogun live at the top? It is fairly difficult to access!

The crowd was pretty heavily, and we actually got split up into a few groups as we went. Lisa, Alan, and I arrived at the top and there is a small temple there. We made a small donation and then headed down. Going down takes a while too - the stairs are no less steep.

On the bus ride home, Alan fell asleep on his cousin's shoulder. Lisa and I went to the Sogo department store and got some Onigiri for dinner. Not the super cute Hello Kitty inari-zushi! Alana and dad at the stuff we got them, and then Lisa, Alan, and I decided to try the super fancy restaurant at the top of the hotel that specializes in Steak. In particular, Kobe Beef. The three of us went up, and had a very nice dinner on the Teppan-yaki grill with a personal chef. The dinner was cooked in front of us, and our Chef was very nice. He was kind to Alan, and made a special large fire presentation for him. The vegetables were great, and the beef was delicious. It was very tender, and just melted in my mouth. It was great with the salts, and there were also some sauces (Ponzu, Soy Sauce, and Wasabi) if you preferred those. The view from the restaurant was very nice, with a nice view of the bay and boats. After cooking the meat, the chef cooked up some delicious garlic rice. I was super stuffed from the earlier lunch buffet, but I finished all the meat. And a good portion of the garlic rice, but not all of it. I was sad to leave it, but thought that was the smarter choice for the evening.


September 7, 2016

Street Fighter V at E-sports Square in Akihabara, Tokyo

E-sports square in Akihabara
E-sports square in Akihabara
E-sports square in Akihabara

On Wednesday I went to e-sports Square Akihabara for the first time. I've been meaning to go for over a year. It is an e-sports Cafe, and every once in a while (once a week?) they run the "Fighter's Crossover" event. That currently seems to be focused on Street Fighter V, which I enjoy. It is out in Akihabara, a place where I almost never go any more - even though I would like to. Akihabara has changed since my seminal memories of the place when I went at the young age of 13 - there were electronics everywhere, and not a maid or anime thing in sight.

The e-sports Square is a quick walk from the Akihabara JR Station. I didn't know anyone there, but the staff were welcoming. You just have to sign in with a little bit of information (in my case, name and age.) They didn't need proof of my age, but I guess that would change if you were younger-looking.

They give you a little card on a lanyard that tracks when you enter, and you can charge drinks and food to it as well. You pay on the way out. They have two hour, three hour, and all day plans.

When I got there it was pretty empty, but after an hour or two the place filled up. I think there were close to 40 people. They had about 30 SFV setups - most of them were head to head, so you had your own screen and played someone sitting across from you with their own screen. There were LP limitations on some of the setups, so there were some systems for beginners, some for intermediates, and the rest were unlimited. The signs said that you should play best 2 of three, and the beginner and intermediate machines only let you have a 5 game win streak. The other machines were winner stays on.

I had a lot of fun, and I'm going to try to go back in the future. Late night Akihabara on a weekday is pretty crazy. There were lots of lights and some maids were still out. That place is weird.


April 28, 2016

Using a Japanese Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 with OSX El Capitan

I recently got a new compute for work. It is a MacBook Pro, and will be replacing a linux desktop I've been using. I've been a longtime user of a Japanese Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 v1.0 keyboard. I want to keep using this keyboard. Unfortunately, El Capitan doesn't really recognise the keyboard. It works, but something things are missing. Primarily, the 半角/全角 (hankaku / zenkaku, usually it toggles Japanese input on and off) button doesn't do anything. Also, a few other keys (primarily 無変換 - muhenkan - and a few other Japanese specific keys) do nothing.

That doesn't work for me. I really want to be able to switch on Japanese input with key in the upper-left hand corner of the keyboard under escape. I also want to map the 無変換 muhenkan key to another command key, because that is a natural place to contort my thumb for the command strokes. By default the windows key acts as a command key (that is ok, but not in a useful position) and I always map the caps lock key to a control key for emacs usage. I like that Apple has that as a simple setting in the keyboard settings.

Some other buttons on the right of the keyboard (変換 henkan and カタカナ ひらがな katakana/hiragana button) don't work, but I don't use them and can't think of anything useful to remap them to.

This was really bothering me, but luckily someone out there in the world has had the same problem, and developed Karabiner (https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/) a tool for key remapping, and sell (https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/seil.html.ja) a tool to let my keyboard actually send key codes for some of those keys.

This site http://qiita.com/bibio/items/b45faf78eeae5ab163d6 clued me in that perhaps setting things up to send key codes would be possible. Karabiner has a nice key event viewer that I could use to see that there were no key codes when I pressed the keys. Seil has some options to enable those keys. And with a few quick clicks, my keyboard is working in a reasonable way now. Yay!

Karabiner_prefs

Seil_prefs

February 10, 2016

2016-02-06 Trip to Sapporo.

Kiraito Ramen at Kiraito Modeled after the ruins of St. Paul at Macau Sapporo Shinkansen Sapporo Snow Festival Sapporo Snow Festival Art igloos Sapporo Snow Festival Shinkansen Sapporo Snow Festival Attack of the Titans Sapporo Snow Festival Ski Slope

A long time ago, back in October of 2015, I heard that a new Shinkansen was being built that would connect Tokyo to Sapporo. Good news! Actually, reading the information in Wikipedia (hopefully that stays about the same as when I read it) what is opening in March this year is the Shinkansen up to Shin-Hakodate, and the extension all the way to Sapporo isn’t supposed to be complete until 2030!

At any rate, that also means though that a luxury train that goes from Ueno to Sapporo overnight called the Cassiopeia, would be discontinued. That is too bad. Two or three years back another overnight train (I believe from Kyoto to Tokyo, and then maybe on to Saporro) was discontinued. When I saw that on TV I thought it would be super cool to take the family on a trip on a train like that. So once I heard that the Cassiopeia would be discontinued, I really wanted to get a reservation on the train for the family.

So I looked into it. Turns out a lot of people had the same idea as I did. So JR instituted a lottery system for reservations. I looked at the schedule, and thought about what would be fun to do. Since I also have always wanted to go to the Snow Festival in Sapporo I arranged for a two day (or three depending on how you looked at it) three night stay (including the train, if we got that) in Sapporo. I figured it would be easier to get train tickets on the way back to Tokyo instead of on the way there, so I decided to fly there, and take the train back. JR takes reservations a month before the actual date, so I had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Until I heard back in January at some time that we didn’t get the reservation on the Cassiopia train. Well, we did still have the airline reservation and the hotel reservation, and the JR travel agent could help me set up a train trip back to Tokyo, so I arranged for that. I was a bit rushed on the phone, and later realized that I should have done something a bit different - instead of flying there on Saturday morning, then taking the train back to Tokyo on Monday as I would have with the Cassiopia schedule, I should have taken a train to Hakodate and stayed overnight there before completing the train journey back to Tokyo. As it is now, we will have three trains: Sapporo to Hakodate, Hakodate to Shin Aomori, and Shin Aomori to Tokyo, taking a total of about 10 hours! Still, Alan likes trains, and so do I, so I think we’ll still have a great time.

So on Saturday morning, we got up at about 6am, and started to get ready to go. We had a 9:30am flight from Haneda airport to Shin-Chitose airport. There is a bus that goes from basically right in front of our house to Haneda airport (the Keikyuu Limosine) so we caught that at 7:39am, and got to the airport at about 8:00am. We exchanged our vouchers for the flight, and hung out at Haneda airport for about 40 minutes before boarding. The flight to Shin-Chitose took all of an hour and a half (compare this to the ten hours or so it will take for us to return on five different trains!) and from Shin-Chitose we could take an express airport train to Sapporo that takes about 39 minutes. Normally we could, but there were so many people with the same idea that we had that the first train departing was already full, and reserved seats for the next one were sold out. We lined up and waited the 15 minutes it took for the next train to come, and somehow managed to real seats for all three of us.

Of course, Alan left his bag back at the airport. I knew we should have made him take his backpack instead. (We called the airport later and they were kind enough to mail it back to our house, so we should see it again at some point.)

We got in to Sapporo and checked in to the hotel - it was only a few minutes walk from the station. A very cold walk. We then went out in search of lunch. Alan wanted to try some Ramen, and Lisa had some recommendations from friends who had lived in Sapporo. We went to a place called “Kiraito” ramen, in a neat shopping arcade two stops away from Sapporo station. It was really good! It was a small Ramen place that had only four things on the menu: Miso Ramen, Salt Ramen, Soy Sauce Ramen, and rice. The rice is just normal white rice, so it probably shouldn’t even count as a menu item. It was really good Ramen though. I’m not a professional ramen eater, so I couldn’t give you a review of the place, but it was good. I’m sure people more familiar with Ramen would be able to tell you the difference between a typical Ramen you would get in Tokyo compared to this, but I certainly can’t. I’m not even sure if that was typical Sapporo ramen, or what that would be.

After lunch, we headed over to Oodori park, where the Snow Festival is held. They have a lot of stands selling things, and every block or so there is a big snow sculpture. There were lots of people. You can only walk in one direction, so be careful about that. If you see a thousand people walking in the opposite direction that you are going, you should cut through the park and go to the other side. We got our picture taken at the big Church modeled after some church in Macao, and saw a few more sculptures. I wanted to check out the Shinkansen sculpture, and that was pretty cool. We were getting really cold though, so we walked back to the hotel, and picked up some pocket hand-warmers and foot warmers for the second try in the afternoon. On the way back we cut through a park that had a whole bunch of igloos with art installations inside. It was really neat! They were also passing out hot conbuchya (conbu tea - basically salty seaweed tea, not my thing) and hot Calpis (hot water mixed with Calpis - surprisingly good!)

After a bit of break, we headed back out. It was dark out now, and a bit colder, but with a whole bunch of hand and foot warmers and a back warmer strapped on, it wasn’t as bad as the first time out. Since it was dark now, many of the larger sculptures were using projection-mapped projectors to add color and animation to the sculpture. The one for the Shinkansen was really cool! There were lots of people though, and I was getting mad at people who would push by my while I’m holding up Alan so he could see.

We planned for dinner at a fresh fish Izakaya, and headed out that way. One the way we stopped at the exhibit near the start of the park sponsored by the White Lovers confectionary group. It was a huge ramp and they have a snowboard exhibition. A whole bunch of snowboarders were doing tricks off the jumps and stuff there. What was really amazing is that the first kid down was 10 years old, and he did a back flip in the air. A ten year old kid. That is just crazy. Apparently, kids can start (and often do!) snowboard or skiing lessons here from age 4. Wow.

We were getting pretty cold again, but instead of walking to the restaurant above ground, we decided to pop down into the Sapporo underground. The underground is really amazing, about the length of two train stops, from Sapporo station to Oodori station. It goes all over the place. We were able to walk about 95% of the way from the park to the restaurant.

Dinner was at a small Izakaya with a real local vibe. I wish people hadn’t been smoking there though. That is unfortunately a common complaint in Japan though. I discovered a new Japanese food that is totally disgusting and that I will avoid in the future. イカワタのルイベ. It is basically taking the guts of a squid, and freezing it, and then slicing it thin. Maybe they do some other things. It is disgusting. The rest of the food was good though, very nice Sashimi, and some good fried chicken and fish. I ate too much, truth be told. We took the underground back to the hotel and rolled into bed.


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January 30, 2016

2016 January trip to Nagano

HiSE 1000 On the way to Yudanaka A small shrine in Yudanaka Rising moon in Yudanaka shopping street Breakfast Breakfast
2016-01-22 Today I took half a day off to pick up Alan early from Daycare so we could meet up with Eric and Claire at Tokyo station. The plan was to go to Nagano, and more specifically Yudanaka. We are staying at the Yamazakiya Ryokan, which is near the Shibu Onsen area. In fact, the right across from the Ryokan there is an onsen run by the town that is free to enter.

To get there we had an adventure! We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Nagano, and from there we took the Yukemuri express train on the Nagano Dentetsu to Yudanaka station. The Yukemuri train is very interesting - I thought that I had seen a train similar to it before. After some investigation, it turns out that the Yukemuri train is actually the old Romance Car 1000 HiSE trains from the Odakyu line. They apparently sent these older trains to the Nagano Dentetsu railway back in the early 90s. Nice to see them still getting some use! This particular train, the HiSE 1000, was built in 1986 and stayed in service until about 2012. The Japanese wikipedia entry on them is unsurprisingly much more detailed than the English one. I really like that these older trains (but not as old as I thought! I was guessing late 70s!) are still being used on a smaller rail line.

From Yudanaka station it was a quick 5 minute ride to the Yamazakiya Ryokan. The owner Akira is really nice, and came to meet us in his van. It is a nice two story Ryokan, pretty small with the family that runs it living in it. They have two (or three?) cute kids that are running around and look like they would like to play with Alan.

Across the street is an onsen. They warned us that it was pretty hot, 42 or 43 degrees C. That is what we keep our bath set to at home, so I figured it would be fine, but wow, either their thermometer is broken or ours is. That onsen was HOT. After a dip in the Onsen we went out to dinner. Just up the road was a Ramen place, run by an older woman. We were the only customers and she seemed a bit worried at first, but once we spoke some Japanese she was a bit relieved, and we got some ramen, fried rice, and gyoza. Pretty nice! We had a nice dinner, and chatted with the owner for a bit. She was very friendly and happy to talk. As we left she gave Alan two little cookies and a huge Fuji apple. We got back to the Ryokan a bit late, near 9pm. Alan really wanted to eat the apple, so he went at that for about 30 or 40 minutes, and at that point I forced him into the bath. The Ryokan has onsen too, and the temperature there was much more reasonable. It was great actually. Alan enjoyed it a bunch too. We got back to the room and did the standard bed routine, but when I turned on the TV “Kiki’s Delivery Service” was just starting and Alan was super interested in it. We watched for just a little bit before bedding down at 10pm.

Alan slept soundly until I woke him at 7:15am. We agreed at breakfast at that time because the plan for Saturday was to go to a nearby Ski park and play in the snow. We had a nice breakfast at 7:30am consisting of standard Ryokan fare: some fish, rice, a nice soup, maybe some pickled vegetables, a nice mountain yam, a small vegetable salad, and some tea. It was nice quite nice. The grilled fish was Salmon I think, and also great.
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April 20, 2015

Packaging up a Java application on OSX with recent versions of Java

So, I've started hacking on a very, very old project of mine that is a Swing-based Java application. I got it running again on OSX but things have changed a lot since I last was doing much coding on it. It used to be that Apple vended Java for OSX, but now Oracle does, and the way that you package up a Java application as an OSX application has changed.

Oracle has some documentation on how to package up an application, but I have to admit that it took me a lot longer than it should have to get this to work. First, Oracle distributes an Ant task for packaging the JAR. I don't use Ant for my project. Actually, I don't remember how I was packaging up the application before. I think I just hand-crafted some directories and dropped an Info.plist file in there that worked.

I was a bit intimidated by that, but it does look like someone has done things by hand. This also looked pretty complicated.

So I ended up installing ant. I had previously installed homebrew on my machine, so that was as simple as "brew install ant". Then I needed to put together a build.xml. I know a bit about that, but not much. I use eclipse for this project, but haven't done anything smart with how it is set up. It just uses the default java builder. I think I even have it set up to put the compiled code in the existing directory structure with the Java files. Not really great. Anyway, I made a simple build.xml that pulls in the libraries I need and some other resources. When I tried to run the resulting application though, I get a failure:

LSOpenURLsWithRole() failed with error -10810

That was not helpful. Running from the command line didn't help, just output that error. Running via java -jar did help though: it couldn't find some classes it needed. Oh, right, I need to set the classpath in the Manifest file. So if you get that error, check to see if your classpath is set correctly. Remember that when you run something via -jar, the -classpath option is completely ignored, and it takes the classpath from the JAR's manifest file. Here is what my final build.xml looked like:

<project name="GMAO" default="bundle-GMAO" basedir=".">        
    <taskdef name="bundleapp"
             classname="com.oracle.appbundler.AppBundlerTask"   
             classpath="../GMAO_libs/appbundler-1.0.jar" />
    <!-- See the lib reference here, this is why you need to use the lib directory! -->

	<path id="build.classpath">
	  <fileset dir="${basedir}">
	     <include name="lib/*.jar"/>
	  </fileset>
	</path>

	<pathconvert property="manifest.classpath" pathsep=" ">
	  <path refid="build.classpath"/>
	  <mapper>
	    <chainedmapper>
	       <flattenmapper/>
	       <globmapper from="*.jar" to="*.jar"/>
	    </chainedmapper>
	  </mapper>
	</pathconvert>
	
	<target name="create-jar" description="Create GMAO Jar">
		<jar destfile="GMAOGUI.jar" basedir="." includes="**/**.class,../common/**/**.class,images/**,docs/**,*html,*xml,*xsl">
			<manifest>
				<attribute name="Main-Class" value="com.FuguTabetai.GMAO.GMAOGUI"/>
				<attribute name="Class-Path" value="${manifest.classpath}"/>
			</manifest>
		</jar>
	</target>
	
    <target name="bundle-GMAO" depends="create-jar">
        <delete dir="appBundle" failonerror="false"/>
        <mkdir dir="appBundle"/>
    	<echo message="JAVA_HOME is set to = ${java.home}" />
        <bundleapp outputdirectory="appBundle"
            name="GMAO"
            displayname="GMAO"
            identifier="com.FuguTabetai.GMAO.GMAOGUI"
            mainclassname="com.FuguTabetai.GMAO.GMAOGUI"
        	icon="images/GMAOGUI.icns">
        	<runtime dir="${java.home}/.."/>
        	<option value="-Dswing.volatileImageBufferEnabled=false"/>
            <!-- The following is important and should point to your build -->
            <classpath file="GMAOGUI.jar" />
            <!-- You can have multiple instance of classpath if you 3rd party or
                 dependent jars in different locations -->
        	<classpath file="lib/TableLayout.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/commons-logging-1.2.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/helpgui-1.1.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/jcommon-0.7.0.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/jfreechart-0.9.3.jar" />
			<classpath file="lib/jnlp.jar" />
    		<classpath file="lib/skinlf.jar" />
    		<classpath file="lib/swingfx.jar" />
    		<classpath file="lib/xnap-commons-0.9.5.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/xpp3_min-1.1.3.4.0.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/xstream-1.2.jar" />
        	<classpath file="lib/gmao_common.jar" />
        </bundleapp>
    </target>
</project>
The Appbundler documentation was useful in adding some additional properties. I know that the build.xml could be better, and I'll probably improve it, but I wanted to note it here because I know in a few years I will want to figure out why I did this.

March 28, 2015

Excruciatingly slow Swing performance while loading / painting images on a Macbook Pro Retina 13" under Java 1.8

So, in my previous post I mentioned that I was doing some profiling of a Java Swing application. The application was super slow. An operation that used to take less than a second (basically loading an ImageIcon and painting it) would take about three minutes (I timed it) under Java 1.8.0_31 on OSX 10.9.5. It made my app very slow to use. Once the image was loaded, things were fine, except some other operations (Java2D Transforms) were unusable. That made the app almost unusable under certain conditions.

I spent some time looking around on the internet, and found lots of people complaining about issues that might be related. Since this application is one that I wrote, I could change it if there was a fix out there.

Mostly discussion focused around Oracle's implementation being OpenGL only, and not using the Mac Quartz rendering anymore. That is something that I've known about since Java 1.6 when Apple dropped their own implementation. That is probably the cause of the problem, but there is nothing that I can do about it, aside from downgrading to Java 1.6, which I don't want to do because I want to be a cool guy living in cool times and using Java 1.8 features and maybe even some closures.

One thread hinted that BufferedImage of TYPE_INT_ARGB_PRE instead of TYPE_INT_RGB are significantly faster. It didn't make a measurable (wall clock) difference in my application. I was disappointed.

The actual problem seems to be with a lack of implementing VolatileImage in BufferedImage. It looks like you can use VolatileImage directly and gain back some performance, but further digging indicated that I could set the JVM Property -Dswing.volatileImageBufferEnabled=falseand for whatever reason, all my performance problems went away. That isn't super useful for software that you distribute because seriously, how many users are going to know how to set JVM properties? I guess once I get around to packaging up my software as an application again I'll be able to set that anyway, but I hope that this is fixed in an upcoming Java release.

It is disappointing to me that Swing graphics had such a horrible regression and it has apparently been around for two Java versions on OSX. I really like Swing because I can run my application on OSX, linux, and Windows (and I sometimes do!) but it doesn't seem like it is getting as much love as it used to. Which is strange, because Android is dominant in the mobile space and clearly graphics performance is good enough there for all sorts of applications and games.

March 8, 2015

Profiling in Java

I've recently started doing some manga translation again, but what that means is that I've tried to get my GMAO program running on my newer MacBook. Just trying to run the OSX app that I packaged a few years back brought up a dialog box asking me to install the 1.6 JRE. I don't really want to do that, we're in the 21st century now, and I want to run Java 1.8. So I downloaded that JRE. Still, I get the message. It turns out that the type of launcher I use (info.plist XML or whatever) is the style that Apple supported which only works with their JRE, which is only available to 1.6. And is more or less deprecated now.

So I found out that if I download the JDK (and just the JRE) I get the command line tools, and then I can pretty easily start up GMAO from the command line from the .app. Which still is far from ideal, so I guess I need to re-package it to use the new launcher format. First though, since I can at least run GMAO on the new laptop, I started to do some translation. Great.

Except, it takes about three minutes (wall clock minutes) to load a new image. That is terrible. It used to take on the order of seconds, if that. So I guess there is something in the APIs that have changed to make whatever I'm doing super slow - I know my code doesn't do anything that should take that long. So I'll have to track that down.

I installed Eclipse and copied my code over. Wow, over 800 warnings. Mostly about non-parameterized types. I should probably fix those. I'm able to compile under Java 1.8 though, so that is good.

Where is all that time going when I load an image? Let's try to profiling. So, I try to use jvisualvm. I can look at the heap and stuff, but CPU profiling is not supported: "failed to create jmx connection to target application". I tried many things, but I just couldn't get things working. I enabled some logging and a net connection was timing out.

RMI uses two ports for communication, which is pretty dumb if you are behind a firewall. Anyway, I don't think that was the problem here, I think it was having trouble finding the host to get the RMI information from.

Finally I found some java options that I could use to get the connection to work. On the JVM running the app I want to profile:

java -Xmx2048m -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.port=3333 -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.authenticate=false -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.ssl=false -Djava.rmi.server.hostname=localhost -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.rmi.port=3334 -classpath $CP com.FuguTabetai.GMAO.GMAOGUI
I was able to start up jvisualvm and connect to the JVM that way. The profiling was helpful, but didn't get me as far as I wanted. By the way, if you are on OSX and want to start jvisualvm you can just use jvisualvm, but to run Java Mission Control I had to find out where that binary was:
find /Library/Java -name jmc
/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.8.0_31.jdk/Contents/Home/bin/jmc
/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.8.0_31.jdk/Contents/Home/lib/missioncontrol/Java Mission Control.app/Contents/MacOS/jmc
Here are some other interesting notes. Using the HPROF option just showed me some garbage, it isn't accurate. See this excellent post for more information about that. This post was super helpful in tracking down my connection problems with JMX. Google might have a nice lightweight java profiler but I haven't read that yet. This stackoverflow post pointed me in the right direction for finding the critical java.rmi.server.hostname parameter (and maybe com.sun.management.jmxremote.rmi.port.) I'll probably need to look more into how to do Java app bundles in this brave new Java 1.8 world.

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