September 20, 2009

A visit to the family grave

We are currently in a three-day off period in Japan. That means people are busy going to their ancestral homes and whatnot. R.'s family invited me along with them to go to the family grave at the Eko-in temple in Ryokoku.

I've done this a few times now. I thought it would make sense to write down what a family grave visit in Japan entails. First, you have to get there. I drove there, which was a bit of a trick. Because of the holiday, the place was pretty busy and we had trouble getting a parking place. We eventually got into the temple grounds though, and said hello to the head priest. A few months back he did a ceremony for R.'s grandfather and apparently the family knows him well.

You have to fill a bucket with water, and also should pick up some incense and leaves. I am not clear on how you get those things; the other family members always just got them somehow. The leaves or incense might be for sale, I'm not really sure. Then you head out to the grave. I don't know if it is because this is Tokyo, but the graves are all in small concrete plots. They should contain ashes, but I am not really sure about any of that. They are quite close together compared to what I would expect from an American graveyard. Once you find your grave, you take water from the bucket and fill up the central reservoir that is on the grave. Then usually in some pre-determined order (age / seniority of some kind) you splash water from your bucket on the grave. Pull a leaf off of the branch of leaves that you got in advance, and dip both sides in the water reservoir, then place it on the grave. Then you say a prayer for your ancestors. Then the next person does the same thing. I know they explained this to me before, but I am not really sure what the water and leaves represent. I think the water is a simple thing: to cool the spirits down. That grave gets hot in the sunlight. I might be mis-remembering though. I don't know what the leaf represents, but let's say life of some sort. After everyone has had a turn, you are done. Mission complete. It is actually very nice. I like that there is a set ritual for things. I don't know if that is the case in America. Well, you bring flowers, and say a prayer. Maybe it is similar.

Also, we visited the temple interior and said a prayer there also before visiting the grave, but I don't know if that is common.

The temple, Eko-in is in Ryokoku, where they Sumo matches are held. It is an interesting temple, with a few famous people there, and a large monument to past Sumo wrestlers that is still used by modern day sumo wrestlers to pray for power. One of the interesting residents is Nezumi Kouzou, a famous thief. I was told that you are supposed to chip shavings off of his gravestone and put them in your wallet, then you will also become rich. I definitely took them up on that; they have added a stone especially for the shaving bit, because the old tombstone kept disappearing over all the years. So it is nice that they accommodate people like that, both respecting the past and making realistic concessions (also, probably making money.)

There is also a little shrine there for cats, but I didn't really understand the story behind that. Something about a guy who had a fish shop, then got sick. Somehow, the cats brought him money and he was able to recover thanks to that, and really liked cats. But then some neighborhood thug beat up his cat (?) and it died, and he commissioned a grave for cats. Or something like that. You can try to figure it our here if your Japanese is any good.

After visiting the temple, we went to the Mitsukoshi in Shinbashi and had a very nice lunch at the Shark-fin Chinese restaurant. Overall a very nice day.

September 15, 2009

Busy lately, but weather is looking up

I have been pretty busy lately. I haven't had much time for reading, or the blog, or translating, or extra-curricular programming.

I've been getting up at 6am and running most days, and the weather is really great for it now. As long as you avoid the typhoons, it is a bit cool and usually sunny. On the days I don't run, I try to go to the gym at night, since I am cutting my monthly ($130!) gym membership down to a pay $15 each time you go plan. I had been going about twice a month since my friend and gym partner went back to the states, so it seems to make sense.

Except that once I made the decision to kill my membership this month, I've been going twice a week, which is the break-even point. Ugh.

Well, once I make the change I have an economic incentive *not* to go to the gym, which probably isn't a good thing, but at least I should be able to save some money.

Also, next week we have holidays on Monday through Wednesday, and since we don't have any plans we can do what I think is the most exciting thing possible for the vacation: stay home! I love my new (well, it has only been a year) apartment, and there is so much I can do around here (clean up, work on computer stuff at home, read, translate, go jogging, cook, watch tv (american and japanese)) etc. that it just sounds like so much more fun than planning a trip to any of the standard Japanese places that will be absolutely packed on the holiday.

I do think we will try to get out at least to one temple or matsuri or at least Akihabara or something though.

September 14, 2009

Added a book list on the right

Added a book list running down the right-hand side of the blog.

It is provided by Library Thing but I have also been playing around with's Reading application. It doesn't yet seem to provide a nice badge of books that I've read recently though. (Neither does Library Thing, I can only order it by the date I entered books, which is close enough for now unless I want to go back and fill in more books.)

September 9, 2009

Mister James, McDonald's and MOS Buger

An interesting article on the McDonald's "Mister James" kerfuffle. Nice video with an alternative view pushing people to Mos Burger.

September 6, 2009

Lev Grossman's "The Magicians"

Last week, I finished Lev Grossman's "The Magicians". I have a few things to confess. Well, more than a few, but we will limit things to only relevant confessions for this post. First, I've never read any Harry Potter books (wait, what kind of page is that Amazon? I appreciate the link to Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter but that is a strange page you got there. I should dig up the link to the series page I guess. Maybe later.) I haven't read any Harry Potter books because they sound like bad Young Adult fiction to me. I like good Young Adult fiction (see, for example, Garth Nix's Shade's Children, or for that matter, anything by Garth Nix. I am also interested in Zoe's Tale but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.)

Anyway, the point is that Harry Potter looks like bad young adult fiction to me. I have watched one or two of the movies, but never with my undivided attention (I'll divide my attention on just about any crappy thing, wait two of those are actually pretty good…) and definitely not with any sort of anticipation. Well, Cho Chang was cute.

So, I have a bias against Harry Potter. I also have a love-hate (hate-hate?) relationship with alternate-world fiction but lately I have been finding examples where I actually enjoy it. (Also, see Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber for an exemplar of the genre.)

A few weeks ago, I noticed the book "The Magicians", and picked it up. I never got around to reading it until it showed up on one of my blog feeds. I can't remember now which one it was, but the tagline was "What if Hogwart's Academy was real, and real people went there?"

Now this is interesting. What if you put real people into unreal situations? I am somewhat fascinated with this topic; I kind of feel like I have made my life into a study of this topic. I wake up every morning thinking "I can't believe I live in Japan" - which is when you get down to it, an unreal situation for a regular joe from New Jersey. Not even a regular joe, but a somewhat under-achieving nerd. So I am interested in this topic. Even more, this is one of those good examples of science fiction / fantasy where the setting, while unreal, is itself not the main point. The main point of the novel is about the characters: how will these people react, and what will they do?

The central question of "What is the point of it all?" comes into full focus when you have characters that are, in their universe, masters of great power, and who can conceivably do whatever they wish. What then is left but a philosophical discussion about the point of life, the universe, and everything?

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. I would love to see a follow-up, because the characters were interesting, and the universe was developed enough that now I think it would be interesting to see further adventures in it.

Other points of interest: Lev Grossman is a literary critic at the New York times. Shouldn't he be qualified to write a good book? I think he did. Also, the Amazon book page has an interview with him. Cool! I didn't know they did that. I didn't know that's books editors had a blog on books either, but now I do and I will follow it. (What's that? An interview with China Mieville? You had me at word one.)

Naoko Ogigami's "Glasses"

So, R. and I watched two movies (three, but I am not counting "A Nightmare Before Christmas", which we watched while I was working yesterday) this weekend. The first was Kamome Shokudo, directed and written by Naoko Ogigami. I enjoyed it. The second was "Glasses", also by Naoko Ogigami. I have seen two of her movies now, and am pretty sure that she has a distinctive, slow, good-hearted feeling movies.

This movie was also a good movie. I am seriously reminded of Jim Jarmusch movies, so I'm excited to get a few of those and see what R. thinks. Mystery Train is pretty high on the list, that is one of my favorite movies (I didn't even know it was Jim Jarmusch until many years later.)

Anyway, I don't really know what to say about this movie except that it is very atmospheric, slow-paced, and relaxing. I came away from it feeling happy and satisfied, and also somewhat confused about the application of Chekov's Gun to the movie (I was derailed by the Biology teacher information) and now wonder about the validity of story fabula theory applied to modern independent cinema.

I guess that is one thing that keeps us on our toes; when we go and see a hollywood film, the twists and turns of the plot are expected so much that we can hardly be surprised (or are surprised by the lack of a turn) - so when you enter into the realm of less constructed (more constructed?) stories that all just breaks down.

Anyway, good film. Has a nice Japanese expression in it, which managed to cause a minor fight between my wife and I (only in the sense that my Japanese sucks, and her randomly generated picture is a totally hilarious bean.) So, recommended!

Although honestly, it isn't like I'm going to spend ten or fifteen minutes writing about something sucks on my blohg. Am i?


Remember that. Similar to "An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away", a Plum a Day wards you from the dangers of the day.

Kagome Shokudo

In English: Kamome Shokudo

Last night, R. and I sat down to a nice evening movie. We rented a few things at the start of the weekend, and I was actually pretty excited to watch a Japanese-only movie with her, one of her choosing. She chose Kamome Shokudo, a Japanese comedy set in Helsinki.

The big surprise for me was that it had English subtitles. While I really wanted to listen only in Japanese, when the subtitles are there it is just too easy to read. I was glad for them too; some portions of the dialogue are in Finnish.

The movie is really nice; a slow-paced, dialogue-based ambiance-drama. It explores questions about living in a foreign land, which is of course very interesting to me, as a foreigner in a foreign land. A critical claim of the movie is that Japanese people prefer Japanese food (and possibly that Japanese food is the best kind of food.) That actually comes up a lot here, and I am sure that R. would back it up. Since I like Japanese food, this isn't really a problem, but it is always a little surprising to me when the idea of having say, Italian food for lunch and then also dinner is shot down. I don't actually consider pizza Italian food, or spaghetti for that matter, but that's ok. I'm pretty used to eating Japanese food twice in a day by now, so I guess I've become used to things here. I do sometimes want to have American food once or twice a day. Guess I have to start cooking more.

There is also a character in there that is the typical Japan-obsessed kid who studies the language a bit and tries to speak Japanese whenever possible. It is interesting seeing that character portrayed from the Japanese point of view.

An interesting parallel they draw is between the Japanese and Finnish cultures, portraying Japan as busy and stressful while Finland is laid-back and easy-going. The discussion around that concept, and why the characters thought they would be better off in Finland is interesting.

It was a fun movie; I recommend it.

August 30, 2009

A relaxing evening on the balcony

Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, the weather cooled down enough in the evening to go outside on our balcony. R. and I live in a small Tokyo condo in a large highrise. We are about halfway up on the 14th floor. One of the really nice things about our place, I think anyway, is the view we get.

So sitting out on our balcony, sipping a beer, we played a game: "What can you see?" I had to answer in Japanese, and R. had to answer in English. It was a very fun and relaxing way to pass the hour (we clearly are not going rapid-fire with this thing.)

So, what can we see?

The Monorail. Coming and going. I love watching the monorail roll past our place. We look down on it, but you can surprisingly see very clearly into the cars, and have just about enough time to wonder what is going on in the lives of the people as they commute from one place to another on the past's impression of the mass-transit-system-of-the-future. Also, about every one in five trains is the "Pokemon" train with cool pockemon paint schemes. The swooshing sound the monorail makes as it goes by is strangely soothing. Monorail is the same in English as in Japanese.

A four-lane highway, two coming, two going. This is kind of annoying because it can be loud. We are far enough away that it isn't too bad, but we don't have our windows open generally because of the noise. Late at night people zoom by in loud cars playing the real-life version of "Tokyo Drift". A surprising number of the popular-in-Japan motorcycle-sized scooters have ground effect lighting. They are fooling nobody. Highway / kousoku dourou 高速道路.

A canal. Just beyond the highway and monorail we have a canal. It is a nice canal. Fairly wide, calm looking. I get lost staring into it watching the motions of the ripples on the surface, and the reflections at night can also be mesmerizing. Sunset and Sunrise are also nice. R. called it a river, which you can do, but I usually go with Canal. In Japanese kawa 川 (river) or more correctly unga 運河 (canal.)

Bridges. Crossing over above-mentioned canal. 3 over our canal that we can see, and then one massive bridge off in the distance, the Rainbow Bridge. I once did a run through Odaiba with a leg over and back on the bridge. It is a nice bridge, and big. World-class sized.

Boats. More specifically, party boats known as Yakata Bune. Not too far from where we live, these things cast off for a night of drinking, food, and fun cruising around Tokyo Bay. They are particularly fun to watch as they slowly float by because they have lots of lanterns and lights that make nice reflections in the water. English: Party boat, Japanese Yukata boonay.

A big park. Across the canal there is a large park. Lots of trees and a nice jogging path. I usually run 3-6km weekday mornings there. Park / Koen (公園).

Traffic lights. About 4 of them. Shingo (信号).

Cranes, the boat-unloading variety. Many of them. Right beyond the park is Tokyo Bay. Lots of boats come in and unload their cargo there. So we have a kind of industrial view that I waffle over. I really like the industrial wasteland Bladerunner-esque vision of the future (from the past) but also would like to have a better view of the bay. If only we were 10 more floors higher. I kind of like the cranes though. In Japanese and English: crane.

Tokyo bay. As above, we don't have the best view of it, but it is there. Tokyo Bay / Tokyo Wan (東京湾).

Buildings. Skyscrapers. Highrise towers. Lots of them. Mainly from Odaiba. In Japanese: bi-ru. We don't have a view of the main part of Tokyo, but we do see a lot of city lights and stuff. It is nice. Lots of blinking red lights.

A Ferris Wheel. It is very hard to see, because we are looking at it side-on, and it is behind some other cranes and lighted things, but there is a large ferris wheel on Odaiba that lights up in different colors. When it does its colorful flower impersonation you can tell that it isn't a normal crane or tower, but is something more festive. In Japanese: Kanran-shya (観覧車).

Airplanes. We live pretty close to Haneda, the Tokyo domestic airport. So they swing a bit low a few miles out. We can't hear them, but they are fun to watch. In Japanese: hikouki (飛行機).

A giant Gundam statue that was built over on Odaiba for a limited time. There is lots of coverage of this over the web, and you actually can see it from our place if your eyes are very good or you have some binoculars or something. It just looks like a big blur of light at night. The same in English as Japanese: Gundam.

There is also a lot of construction going on, so we have some of those things to watch as well. Construction in Japan is pretty interesting. They create lots of jobs for people. For example, right out in front of our building they were working on the power system - laying new wires under the road or something. There were about two people doing the work, but five people directing traffic for them. Also, one or two robot sign-waver guys. In the US, they would have just set up the cones and stuff, and not worried about people to direct other people around. Over near where I work, there are two people who just stand at the start of the construction site and say "Sorry for the inconvenience" every day. All day. That is all they do.

August 1, 2009

Best wishes to Sasha and his family

I was shocked to hear today that my ex-officemate and friend, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, was hit by a falling tree branch in a freak accident in Central Park yesterday. I hope for a full recovery.

July 30, 2009

Sigh... But hooray for's backups!

So this morning on my Mac started to do strange things, like say "Can't delete message server does not allow operation (moving to folder "null")" or something like that. I don't really remember. Things looked strange too - for some reason my trash can icon for my main email account had turned into a world icon, and all the folders were duplicated under that. Strange. So, I did what any under-caffeinated, not-thinking person would do at 6:30am, I deleted the folders.

Then my entire mail server disappeared. After I clicked the "this will delete files on the server and is a non-recoverable operation, and are you really sure you want to do this? Like, seriously? McFly?" button. Maybe that wasn't exactly what it said, but it was close.

So it looks like for some reason got confused, thought my entire mail hierarchy was supposed to go under the trash can (I vaguely remember this happening once before and I know that I needed to set the trash can up using the "Use this folder as..." function) and aliased things there. It also was syncing and re-downloaded everything to be under the trash can, which was what clued me in. Along with not being able to delete email.

So I don't know what happened there. But I did wipe out my entire email account. Which goes back to maybe 1999 or so. That is bad.

I run my mailserver on a virtual private linux box from, with whom I've been very happy.

Anyway, they take weekly snapshots of the disk image, and have an easy process to restore to a backup image (they keep two it looks like.) So I restored to the backup image. I probably lost a blog post or two (maybe not though, I haven't been writing much lately) but anyway, I regained my many years worth of email. So hooray for rimuhosting! And boo for me.

July 4, 2009

OLPC Screen, Mary Lou Jepson keynote

I have a OLPC, and I really love it. I have been using it a lot lately for ebook reading. The most remarkable feature of the computer is the screen. It is a normal LCD display (a bit lower resolution than the ones that are popular on most computers now) but if you press a button, it jumps up into a high resolution black and white only display.

Even better, if you turn off the backlight, it becomes a reflective only high quality black and white display.

It looks beautiful for text, and is sunlight readable. The Kindle screen is better, but the OLPC screen is still very, very good. I really want to buy a netbook with one of these. The only thing that is lacking on the OLPC is the keyboard. So a normal factor (10" or so) netbook with a good keyboard and this screen (still with the tablet style function so we can do ebook reading) would be completely killer for me.

Go watch this video which has an interesting keynote by Mary Lou Jepson on the OLPC. Interesting. Nice. The comments are crazy though. Really you need to see the screen (and perhaps use it, try to read on it) to believe. It is very nice though. Maybe not a revolution, but something I would really like to be see become commercially available. (Keep watching Pixel Qi I guess?

Stripping DRM from Ebooks

I found a good post on how to remove DRM from ebooks at They have a link to some python scripts that can remove DRM from some forms of ebooks as long as you know the PID for the book that you bought.

This morning I purchased Brandon Sanderson's "The Well of Ascension", the second book in the Mistborn series. I found the first book during's launch ebook giveaway, (you can get it too!) and really enjoyed the book. I wanted to read the rest. (Apparently, I might not be the only one.) So I checked online, and I could get the second book for about $14 from Fictionwise. Sounds great. The only problem is that the books they sell there have DRM, Digital Restrictions Management. I am not able to read books that are encrypted with DRM on my preferred ebook reading platform: FBReader on my OLPC with Ubuntu installed on it. So I decided to try to remove the DRM. That would restore my rights as the owner of the book to archive it, so that I can read it in a month, six months, five years, or twenty years. As long as I ensure that I have the regular unencrypted file and software to read it, I should be fine.

If I did nothing about the DRM I would only be able to read the book on the computer that I used to download it. A 15" notebook. It isn't really all that portable.

I was able to strip the DRM as outlined in the link above, but the resulting mobipocket file came up empty when I tried to load it on FBReader. Bummer. So I tried another approach. I took the unencrypted mobipocket file, and loaded it up into the OSX Stanza ebook reading software. Then I saved it again as an ePub file, a more open format. That did open ok in FBReader, and now I can read the book that I purchased on any hardware that I like.

I am a bit disappointedthat I needed to pay $14 for the book. I would have preferred $7 or so since I do not get a physical copy, but ebooks are actually more convenient for me. On the book is actually $7.99 for a new, physical copy (or the Kindle copy, which I am not able to buy, but could use if I could after stripping the DRM) that includes lots of costs for printing, shipping to warehouses, distribution, whatever. Ebooks are a lot simpler when it comes to distribution: you ship them over the internet, with perhaps some up-front computation to encrypt the book using some sort of DRM scheme. Costs would be lower without the DRM. Customers would be happier because things are easier to use. People who want to buy books probably are not the people that are going to go and upload the files to the internet. People who just want to get the book for free can already do that. I can't see how DRM is really helping the industry, but that is the standard for books right now.

Thankfully, it is now possible to get non-DRM'd music files, from Amazon or Apple's iTunes store (but you need to make sure the stuff is iTunes plus still I think?) Hopefully video will go the same way.

I would really like to get a Kindle but I won't do that until I can get one that works in Japan. Until then I will make do with what I have. Even once I get a Kindle though, I would like to make sure that my books do not have DRM on them so that I have control of my files, and what I can do with them is not dictated by a third party (regardless of whether or not I think that the system is reasonable enough, and non-intrusive enough to use.)

BTW, you can use the MobiDeDRM if you get the Kindle PID (type '411' from the Setting menu, according to this blog post.)

Review of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire

I got Mistborn: The Final Empire in's ebook giveaway. I hadn't heard of Brandon Sanderson before, but I really liked this first book. I read through it in about three or four days, which is pretty good for me because I have not had the time to just read for fun lately. I usually grab reading time on the subway and whenever else I had a few spare minutes during the day.

So, what did I enjoy about the novel? It is a fantasy novel, which is on my list of fun genres. The characters were very memorable. Most importantly it has a self-consistent view of magic, that seems to have a logical and sensible set of rules. The story also does not seem to be set up to be saved by a bunch of kids who have unexplained powers; there are smart people behind the plans to save the world that know what they are doing. There is also a young kid in there, but it seems reasonable enough.

Also interesting is the set-up of the story and the "big evil", which is not just a bad guy doing bad things for the sake of it. Read the book. It is both fun and interesting.

So much so that I've gone and bought the second book in the series. And plan to buy the third.

June 29, 2009

Tokyo Giants vs Yakult Swallows and Cosplayers

On Sunday, Risa and I met with my friends T. and M. for a Tokyo Giants vs. Yakult Swallows baseball game. T. is a huge Giant's fan, and I've gone with him once a year to see a game. I was excited to go this year because I hadn't seem him and his wife in quite a while, and it was the first time I would go to a baseball game with my wife.

We got to the stadium pretty early. Strangely, there were lots and lots of people dressed up in anime costumes. So-called "Cosplayers". Risa and I ran into the American Version in Seattle where I commented that I thought that American anime nerds were pretty low, lower than the Japanese ones because it isn't even their culture. But Risa countered today with her appraisal that the American nerds are at least learning something about the Japanese culture (outside of their own) while the Japanese nerds were just nerds. She's got me there. (Of course, I have to confess that I myself am a huge nerd, and probably incurable.)

Anyway, I snapped a few shots, but I didn't really feel like trying to do the full question and shoot treatment. I did talk to one group, who didn't seem all that happy to talk to me, and found out that there was a … "thing" for "people" that "dressed up" like "that", and it was not related to the baseball game. I was pretty clearly not in the target audience (you were either someone in a costume, or an overweight balding man with an awesome DSLR taking pictures of the cute girls in costumes, and I didn't fit either of those categories.)

Anyway, on to the game.

The Tokyo Giants are my favorite Japanese Baseball team. I don't really like baseball. I'm a huge basketball fan, but don't really care too much about baseball. I enjoy a game with friends though. I'm a Giant's fan not by default, but because I have a good reason: I hate the Hanshin Tigers with a fierce passion, and that means I am by necessity of Tokyo Giant's supporter. I definitely have to see a Giants - Tigers game sometime soon. Anyway, I have enjoyed all the games I've seen live.

This game was no exception. Before I knew it, it was the 7th inning. The Giants demolished their cross-town Tokyo Jinguu rivals, who have an open-air stadium right near where I work. I prefer Tokyo Dome though because it is a dome and as humanity has developed better and better technology I am all for using it to keep us out of the rain and humidity, which Tokyo has in abundance, especially in the rainy season, which it is now.

In the end, the Giants won 7-2 (wow!) and we went to dinner, and drank a lot, and then went to a bar and drank more.

The next day at work was difficult.

June 25, 2009

Kindle DRM Complaints

I am really interested in a kindle. I plan to get one as soon as they release a version for Japan. That might be a while, but that is ok, I can wait. The wireless feature is just killer and I would hate to import one and be without it.

I am a bit worried about the Digital Restrictions Management on it - you should read Stallman's prescient The Right to Read if you haven't - but generally think the Kindle offers a reasonable tradeoff. I would vastly prefer no DRM, but Amazon's approach is good enough for me.

Still, I am glad to see other people complain about the issue. See, in particular, this post about DRM on the kindle, the followup, and an open letter to Jeff Bezos on DRM.

In the meantime, I have upgraded my OLPC to a newer firmware and version of Ubuntu. It can sleep now so it should be more useful for me for reading ebooks, but I haven't finished the setup (getting Japanese to work) and testing FBReader. I'll post on that once I get all that set up.

June 20, 2009

I hate Fujitsu (AKA upgrading the hard drive on an artificially limited Fujitsu Machine)

My mother-in-law's laptop is "broken". The laptop is a Fujitsu FMV-Biblo MG50S, if you check the page there you will see there are a few others with similar specs. I took a look at it last week. A quick check of the hard drive (first on list of things to check because "I can't put any more pictures on it") and that is the problem: 30GB on a 30GB drive. Nice.

Summary: I hate you Fujitsu. Marketing droids added a hidden something somewhere (looks like it was hiding on the MBR) that made Windows see only 30GB of an 80GB drive, and when I did a clone to a new hard drive (160GB) it showed up as 30GB. So to be clear: when cloning a drive using CloneZilla, PNG, or Acronis True Image and the like, if you copied the hidden MBR your new 160GB drive would show up in Windows as only 30GB, even though the Disk Utilities management program would show the full disk size.

Absolutely crazy. Click the "Read More" link to read more about this insanity. For the impatient: do not copy the hidden MBR and you will be fine. Also, I now prefer Clonezilla to PNG. And the GParted boot CD rocks. Also, I hate Fujitsu. If you need to buy a new laptop you really should only consider Apple (coupled with a TimeCapsule) or ThinkPads. For netbooks, do whatever you want but back them up somehow.

read more (1450 words)

June 16, 2009

Emacs longlines-mode

I have been a fan of auto-fill-mode (and flyspell-mode for that matter) for a long time. Unfortunately, when I think about it I much prefer free-flowing text. The problem with auto-fill-mode is that it will throw \n characters into your text file when you need to wrap lines. Most email clients will automatically wrap text, and will do it at the size that is best for the user. Or at least, that is the theory.

Anyway, I just discovered longlines-mode. This mode in Emacs will wrap long lines (hence the name) but does not insert \n characters into your text file. Also, when you copy text, it copies as long unbroken lines. So this is really nice. I wonder why it took me so long to find this mode?

It makes me wonder what other marvelous mysteries emacs is hiding from me.

June 13, 2009

Using NTT DoCoMo's P906i as a tethered bluetooth modem for internet access with Mac OSX 10.5.7

So say you have a nice phone, like the DoCoMo P906i, and an unlimited packet package for your phone. (Hey, I do!)

Wouldn't it be nice if you could use your phone for internet access with your computer? You know, what they call tethering? That sounds super cool. Since my phone has bluetooth, it is theoretically possible to have the phone in my bag, computer in my lap, and tell the computer to connect to the phone then get to the internet that way. It turns out that this is possible.

DoCoMo has a page (not that I can find it now) that says as long as you use your tethered computer for (light) web and email access they won't get after you. They definitely say no file access though. Actually, it looks like they want you to join their Mopera service which lets you access the internet on your computer. It works overseas as well. If you don't you can use a separate internet access plan for your phone, but it has a bunch of stuff written there about needing to pay separate fees and to arrange for an internet provider. You can also just use FOMA which is their standard data access plan as far as I know. I finally found the page that shows what you can use and it looks pretty good. You can't do streaming video, peer-to-peer, VOIP, and online games but most other stuff looks good (mail and web is what I am primarily interested in, but they make a point that flash videos are ok. Also system update and some other stuff like that.) This page isn't the one I found earlier this morning which had cute pictures of things that you could and couldn't do, but it has the information, so that is good to know.

So, knowing that this is possible I was interested in doing it. First up: my Mac. Why? Because I looked into doing it on linux initially and that is super hard. So let's see if Apple can get this right.

1.1 Pair your phone and OSX

The easy part: set your computer up to talk to your phone.

Open up the Bluetooth Preferences control panel. Make sure that "On" and "Discoverable" are checked.

On the P906i open up the Bluetooth control application. On my phone that is on the Menu button -> Life Kit -> Bluetooth. Click the Search button (upper-left softkey, the mail key on my phone, サーチ.) The Bluetooth devices in your area should show up. In my case, Blanka, my MacBook Pro shows up, so I select it (center menu button) and it says that this device is not registered, would I like to register it? (未 登録機器です 登録しますか?) So of course I check the "YES" option. It then asks me for my phone's password (端末暗証番号は? 4 digits, enter your own) and asks to enter the bluetooth passkey.

Then at that point I should be able to see a thing show up on the MacBook, but it can not find it because the phone has not turned on bluetooth yet. Really. So you can fix this by going to the 4th option in the Bluetooth list (ダイヤルアップ登録待機 - wait for a dial-up registration) then click the "+" button the Mac to add a device. Have it search for phones (or any device) and when you see your device click it. It will take you to a screen saying that it needs to get some more information about your phone. Let it do that. It will probably time out and give you an error. Back to the phone, put it back in the waiting for dial-up connection mode, then go back and press the "continue" button.

Then your phone will pop up a confirmation about a connection from your mac. Click yes, then it asks for your password, then the passkey for the bluetooth. The Mac should through up a passkey now. Enter that. If things go well, you get a screen that says "Access the Internet with your phone's data connection". Make sure that is checked and click "Continue".

It might ask you to store some stuff in the keychain, let it do that. You should get a screen that asks for your Phone Vendor. Select NTT DoCoMo. The phone model, use "P/FxxxiX (Bluetooth)". For Username and Password you can use anything I believe. Probably best to keep both less than 8 characters and no special characters. For "Phone Number" enter "*99***1#". Apparently when you are overseas "*99***3#" should work. I like to keep the modem and bluetooth icons in the menu for easy access. Click continue, then Quit. You are done!

To start the internet connection, click the modem icon in the menu bar and "Connect Bluetooth". Keep your phone handy if you need to do something there. For me I didn't have to do anything. The phone just went into a magic bridge mode. Seems to work ok.

According to my phone connection is like, a Skateboard level. Good for small movies. Maybe. A bit faster than ISDN but that's about it. It says 301k. Checking with which is a better tester, it says 357 ms ping, 0.35 Mb/s download and 0.24 Mb/s upload. I seem to see from 10 KB/sec to 40 KB/sec in this super short use, so that sounds reasonable to me.

Just for comparison, on my Fiber connection, I get a 12ms ping, 35.71 Mb/s download, 18.77 Mb/s upload.

May 29, 2009

Friday 2009-05-29

The plan is to leave at 6:30am to get to the airport by 7:30am to catch our 10:30am flight back to Japan.

We were about ten minutes late leaving. Not bad! We got gas, returned the car (which took extra long due to my rental car exchange / return mixup previously) and got to the airport. We did a bit of shopping, and then headed to the gate.

Things went pretty well. The flight back to Japan went a lot faster than I anticipated. I spent some time reading, watched "Robots", played some of the Battle for Middle Earth, and napped a bit. It really went much quicker than I expected though.

On the flight back Risa was feeling pretty bad, and had had a cough for the past few days. We filled out our H1N1 mandatory health questionnaires and when we got to Narita were pulled out of the line to consult with a doctor. He gave Risa the OK because apparently Hawaii is on a list of places that isn't problematic for them, and they made her put on a mask. I don't really think that is going to help too much, but whatever. They tried to put a mask on me, but I declined.

We made it home via the usual (longer and arduous) route, and started some unpacking. Risa went to her parent's place to get dinner, but I stayed home because I still wasn't feeling too well from the flight myself. That happens a lot lately; I don't feel like eating after flying. I was able to watch three more episodes of Battlestar Galactica while she was gone though, which was great, and then I went to sleep.

Trip complete!

Go to Page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25