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New geek toy – Casio GB-X6900B (2013 model) G-Shock

Posted by Madbot on Sep 22, 2013 in Japan, Madbot Madness, Techno

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Madbot says:

With all the talk about wearable tech and smart watch from Samsung, Sony, and Apple, there was already a number of smart watches on the market. One is by non other than my childhood favorite,Casio.

Casio released their bluetooth enabled watch in 2012 under the G-Shock line. Instead of the pitiful battery life of other smart watches where they barely last a single day, the Casio units boast battery life of up to 2 years. Impressive, right? The key difference is the Casio units do not have a full graphical screen like the others. Casio therefore avoids the “smart watch” tag and calls these simply “bluetooth enabled” watches.

The pre-ordered unit GB-X6900B arrived this morning and setup, while far from being intuitive, was completed without too much pain. The watch pairs with either Android or iPhone via bluetooth and the G-Shock app.

This 2013 version offer some extras over the original 2012 model. Functions include:
– Notifications (as in watch beep and vibration) when the phone receives a call, email, or social network (Facebook, Twitter, etc) notifications,
– Music control. Forward, back, play/pause via 3 of the 4 watch buttons. Can also map volume up/down if you prefer. Each button can be remapped to different function via the app.
– Phone finder. Misplaced your phone but the watch is still connected? Trigger the phone finder on the watch and your phone will make itself known by screaming blue murder.
– Link alert. Watch notifies you if phone becomes out of range, eg., if you’re about to accidentally leave your phone (or watch) behind.

Android phones get the additional ability of SMS notifications. iPhone does not appear to allowed this. Email notification is “dicky” as it’s not done by the phone mail client. Instead, you configure email accounts in the G-Shock app and the app logs into the mail account periodically to check if you have a new mail. Hope Apple stop being a dick and loosen up the restriction soon. My iPhone 5 would really appreciate this. Thanks!

While out and about on the bike this afternoon, the bluetooth enabled watch became useful quite a few times. It reminded the wife of her nail appointment was coming up while we were at lunch via our shared calendar. Notified me of a couple of Facebook notifications that were mildly amusing – although I turned it off after the 3rd time. The most useful part of all, it vibrated away when the wife rang. The phone was in my pocket or in the bike pouch – without the watch vibrating (I turned off the beeping) I would not have heard the phone ring and then end up in tons of trouble with the good wife.

This function will be most useful at work (on the few occasions when I wear it in to the conservative setting..) where the phone stays in silent mode most of the time. Wife is already suggesting I wear it even at home.

Oh, and the watch looks fantastic..! The usual G-Shock look that is chunky, techie and the big G symbol remind me of Gatchaman (aka. Battle of planets or science ninja team). Wearing it secretly satisfies my childhood fantasy.. ;-). The wife doesn’t share my enthusiasm but she tolerated it and was glad I don’t plan on talking into the watch, Dick Tracey style.

Pre-Ordered via Amazon Japan for around US$150. The other model GB-6900B is a smaller and cheaper version with the same functions. Each model comes in 3 color variations different for each model.

Update: The phone finder can play a song on the phone or a number of sound effects regardless of silent mode setting. While it’s going off, you can double tap the watch face to stop the sound. Unfortunately the tapping aspect is not working for me. Need to press a button to stop phone finder. Could this be a bad unit..?

Update 2: Received a replacement unit from Amazon JP and still the same problem – no tapping. This got me thinking more.. And the result is: the manual is wrong. The manual says you tap the screen, but if you follow it, nothing actually happens. Instead, tap on the face frame and magically, it works! The tapping needs more force than you would expect, say compared to an iPhone with touch screen. It’s ok to be tough – this is a G-Shock after all. I am guessing the tapping triggers the same movement detector used to put the watch in power saving mode – since the watch face is not a touch screen.

Now to return the replacement.

Update 3: Updated to iOS 7.02 this morning and the watch no longer connects with the iPhone. The app shows “searching” for the watch. But when the app tries to “connect” to the watch, the bluetooth symbol flashes as if it’s connecting, and then drops out. It then does this in a loop while the watch gives up and shuts off its bluetooth. Tried deleting the partnership in the app, restart the phone, etc and nothing worked. In the end, here is how I got it to work:

1. In G-Shock app, delete partnership.
2. On iPhone, go into Settings/bluetooth. Delete any watch partnerships. There should be one.
3. Restart iphone.
4. After iPhone starts up, go back into G-Shock app to connect the watch. iPhone will ask you for confirmation, say yes. That should be it!

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Android 4.3 – I can’t believe it’s not butter

Posted by Madbot on Jul 27, 2013 in Madbot Madness, Techno

Madbot says:

Not bad Google, not bad. The ‘original’ Nexus 7 of mine enjoyed initial dedicated love and attention for several months where I faithfully carried it to work everyday – in case I have a need for it. I enjoyed discovering more Android with it and doing things Steve would never let me do on the iPhone and iPad. It was a real performer compares to the other Android tablet – Asus transformer. I was charmed by project butter and became one of the converted.

However, as time wore on and patches after patches got loaded, the butter knife became blunted and the 7 lost performance fast. Over time, I discovered it needed a minimum 2gb of free space to function in a barely acceptable speed. Even then, some apps were still extremely frustrating and switching between apps infuriated me more. Even the simple act of bringing up a keyboard could take seconds. SECONDS! Using some iPad 1’s at the office made me ask myself why I ever left Steve’s world. Sure, I later discovered having 3gb of free space made it slightly more tolerable – but then why would have to put up with this?

The Nexus soon joined the Transformer in a pile of wasted technology.

But now Android 4.3 is out and installed, initial thoughts were happy ones. Apps are more smooth and while it’s not as iPad-like, it’s certainly made the overall experience more enjoyable.

I still question why it takes a second to bring up the keyboard – and I had given up on Swype and those cool keyboard apps to switch back to the default in the name of performance, yet the lag is still there.

But you know what? Using the (original) Nexus is enjoyable again. It has brought back the smile on my face. Well done, Google. Can we keep the butter going now? It really should stay as part of Android’s bread-and-butter. Keep up the quality!

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Android 4.3 here I come

Posted by Madbot on Jul 27, 2013 in Madbot Madness, Techno

Finally, Android 4.3 arriving OTA (over the air) on my Nexus 7.

Hope this brings the performance back on par with project butter.

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Gawker Media and truncated blog (RSS) feeds

Posted by Madbot on Jul 21, 2013 in Human Observation, Madbot Madness, Techno

So Gawker Media does it again. After chopping its blogs feeds and place the contents behind ‘Read More’, and realizing it doesn’t work, the feeds were returned to their full glory albeit you had to jump through a couple of hoops to find them.

I am a heavy user of offline RSS reader, therefore relies on the full content feed. Last week, Gawker Media does it again and truncated the feeds unannounced, without so much as a ping to its readers.

Well, it’s been a good run. I stuck with Gizmodo, kotaku, and lifejacket for many years. It’s now time to switch fully to Engadget, joystique, and .. I dunno what replaces Lifehacker. It’s a pity as I have enjoyed the humor and the sometimes silly and relaxed style of Gawker Media writers. But clicking through ‘Read More’ for each article is like having to stop and start your engine at every red light.

So so long Gizmodo, so long kotaku, and an in-advance farewell to Lifehacker.

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Nexus 7 – detailed (negative) impressions after 1 week.

Posted by Madbot on Aug 19, 2012 in Madbot Madness, Techno

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Madbot says:

The Nexus 7 has been out for a month and I tried hard to get a unit out here in the land of the rising sun. Alas, all attempts failed and ended up ordering he 16gb unit over eBay for around 30,000 yen (around US$375) including shipping. Expensive? Hell yeah but I had high hopes for this little tablet.

The unit arrived soon enough – under 48 hours from New Jersey to Tokyo. Very impressed with Fedex. Happily teared open the box and here are the thoughts after regular heavy usage in just a smidge over a week.

Overall:
Absolutely love this little tablet. It is fun to use, light and easy to carry due to the form factor, and hell it made my iPad 1 feel like a dinosaur.

However, it does have some potentially serious issues.

What I loved about it:
– Gorgeous screen
– Small(er) and light(er) form factor.
– Fast, fast, fast!

What I didn’t like:
– Build quality. The unit is generally built well however mine has one serious fault – the touch screen sometimes stops responding over certain areas. The condition was so weird that I thought something was stuck in my finger tips causing the screen to not register the touch.

A quick search found many others also reported the same problem. Since this was purchased over eBay and Nexus 7 isn’t out in Japan yet, I don’t really want to go through the troubles contacting Asus. There are definitely good days and bad days with the screen and in fact it is happening right now.

Here is one person reporting a completely dead screen.

– Google Play – I wondered why my Google Play store screen looked so bare when compared to the advertising and I had no idea what the $25 credit was all about. After some more searching, apparently the credit only applies if your IP is from the country where the Nexus 7 is available. Similarly the contents available are restricted by looking up your IP.

Others reported a bug where you can factory reset the Nexus 7, create a new gmail account and associate it with a new credit card – and everytime you do, you will get the credit. Giving this a shot using Hideman (a simple VPN service on Android) turned out to do the trick and managed to buy an app with the credit.

– Can’t read USB/SD. This wasn’t a deal breaker as the tablet can be rooted and hacked to read SD and USB keys – however, it requires rooting the device and that means a loss of warranty. With the screen problems, I just didn’t want to take the risk.

So for those of you who want one but haven’t got one yet – wait for v2 of Nexus 7 after the build issues have been ironed out.

This is such a fun tablet and gave me very high hopes about Android’s future, I am not even interested in the rumored Apple iPad Mini anymore. 🙂

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High tech buddas

Posted by Madbot on Jul 2, 2012 in Japan, Madbot Madness, Techno

Madbot says:

There’s a reason why they never found copper wires in ancient China and Japan. They had wifi, it’s all wireless..!

Just check out these ancient buddhas with their gadgets.

Buddha texting

Buddha working on laptop.

Buddha talking on cellphone

Buddha listening to Walkman.. or is that an iPod?

All right, I kid, I kid. these are not ancient buddhas.. but just a few years old. But pretty cool right? 🙂

 
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Enjoying social interaction with online gaming

Posted by Madbot on Jul 1, 2012 in Madbot Madness, Techno

With the many multiplayer games played over the years, some worked really well and others not so much. Here is a quick look at some of them.

1. Everquest.

I got into EQ after moving to Japan and using it as a way to continue staying in touch with friends – but on a deeper level than emails. For anyone who has played, EQ took a significant amount of time investment and at the time it was the only real player on the market.

Many fond memories of questing with old and new friends. Luckily, most of the not-so-fond memories of raid wipes, xp loss have faded.

2. City of Heroes

After leaving EQ behind, friends and I jumped onto a new MMO, City of Heroes. Refreshingly, it filled our characters with power and purpose to battle evil. More importantly, our characters can now wear dashing costumes and make funky dance moves. What a difference it was to EQ where my toon spent most of the time sitting (to regenerate mana).

3. World of Warcraft

WoW – the MMO that blew all others away. Oh many 3 years of my life went into this game. Numerous max level toons, epics, and raids too many to count. Many friends from before EQ, during EQ, and after EQ joined online for some epic adventures. It had everything. The fancy costumes, epic equipments, fun skills, dance moves, and awesome boss fights.

Guilds formed and died in the years invested in the game. Some people got married, and some went separate ways.

On smaller scale, many squad/team based games on PC and consoles were also fun. X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Star Craft, Diablo. In the early days it was not straight forward to set up multiplayer sessions, but once successful, the extra efforts made the fun all the more worthwhile. It has’t always been this simple as just logging on and join.

One game that has consistently kept my attention for the past few months is Mass Effect 3. As much as I hate the random upgrade kits, it’s like a drug that I find difficult to resist.

On the other hand, Star Craft 2 and Diablo 3 have not done so well with me. I had no trouble playing Mass Effect 3 with complete strangers – in fact I have never played a session with a friend. However, Star Craft and Diablo felt like sessions I needed to play with old friends. With the difficulties in arranging everyone playtime, group sessions had been few and far between. With the single player campaign over, I struggled to maintain interest to keep playing even on more difficult settings.

Other games:

There have been huge developments on web based games. With the PC and console platform based games, investments in extra hardware and software, and their maintenance, are usually required. The web based games broke through this barrier and required only the basics like a computer with internet connection. Many like Yahoo Scrabble, and Farmville let users use real world money as credits to game or purchase enhancements, and provide deep entertainment values to the non traditional gamers who do not have the interest or capability to invest and maintain the gears needed just to start.

Also.. these can be great at the office during “downtime” – assuming your IT gurus have not blocked them.

So after these years of gaming with friends, here is my theory on what aspects work better than others to keep us playing.

  • Co-op/squad based – encourages the spirit to work together.
  • Progression in perceived value – better gear, game progression, bragging rights, medal/achievements. When done right, these can replace a boring or non-existent story and help to establish a common goal and interest.
  • Easy to get started – Xbox has done an amazing job. I still struggle with some Steam games and need to setup private VPNs that dont always work or have lag problems.
  • What doesn’t work so well with the social gaming:

  • Head-to-head – these can be fun with strangers but with friends there is always the possibility that feelings will get hurt.
  • High barrier of entry – these not only include hardware and software, but also the learning curve such as skills and level.
  • Grind needed – Repetitive game play with the little or pointless goals and progression. Honestly, it’s like watching the same movie again and again. It becomes torture after a while. I am looking at you, Diablo 3.
  • Let’s hope more games are released with the good parts..!

     
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    Unboxing and quick look at Casio Edifice EQW-A1100DB-1AJF

    Posted by Madbot on Jun 18, 2012 in Madbot Madness, Techno


    Birthday present time again. How time flies..!

    Casio has been sponsoring the Red Bull F1 Racing Team for a few years now and the Edifice (means sky scraper/large building) line promoted as the watches worn by the team.

    Gotta tell ya, the watch looks pretty amazing. I liked this one for many reasons (solar power, radio controlled time, etc) but also it looks just awesome. The squarish windows, instead of the normally round dials used in other watches, gave this watch a different look. Casio has a more expensive Oceanus line of watches that also look amazing. In the end, this one looked more different and turned out to be the watch I decided to go with.

    Interestingly, because this is a Casio, wife called this a “toy” watch. To her and her father, the proper Japanese watches are Seiko and Citizen. For me, Casio was my first “serious” watch after my Mickey mouse watched died after 1 month. And that Casio digital watch just kept going and going. No amount of drops and bangs by the hands of a primary school boy stopped it and nothing couldn’t be fixed by a battery change. In the end the band broke and that was how I moved to the next watch and eventually away from Casio. The G-Shocks popped on the radar every once a while but none really grabbed me. Here I am again with a Casio, my long lost friend.

    Here is the required unboxing video. 🙂

     
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    Windows8 successfully running on OSX Lion (MBP) via Parallels!

    Posted by Madbot on Sep 14, 2011 in Madbot Madness, Techno

    Madbot says:

    Got Windows 8 Preview running on a Macbook Pro of all things. Could not imagine this happening just a few years ago. To top it up, this is one of the easiest Windows installs I have ever done. Heard a few others having trouble with installing it in VM but no trouble here.

    Need: Parallels. I am running v7.0

    A few easy steps:

    1. Download Windows 8 Preview ISO from here. My download speed averaged 4mg/sec. Microsoft seems prepared for it at least from my node of the Internet.

    2. Create a new virtual machine. Set it to load from disk image (point it to the ISO you just downloaded, duh). Press Next. Parallels will complain the installation wants more than the disk space available – it did for me.

    3. Allocate resources for the virtual machine. I allocated 2 core, 4g RAM and 16gb for hard disk. This seems to be similar to the Samsung tablet Microsoft was issuing at Microsoft Build. Geez, I really want one of those to play with..

    3. Press a series of “Next”s and set specify the 16gb disk partition you just created to install Windows 8 on and let it do its thing. See screenshots below. The questions are pretty standard that a normal user can easily navigate.

    4. Head out for dinner.

    5. When you come back, the screen has now changed to an unfamiliar GREEN. Answer some more questions on whether you like to share information with Microsoft and Windows update preferences.

    6. Key question – would you like to logon using a local account (standard PC) or a Windows Live ID (aka like chromebook)? Windows Live ID is the default and has some sync features that Microsoft didn’t say much about. Local account is meant to be like the traditional approach.

    7. Some more “Preparing your PC”.. and then viola! It’s done..! Now go play..!

    First thoughts:
    – Desktop as an app works, and I like it.
    – General Metro GUI – Not bad, I can get used to it. After years with 2 iPhones and an iPad, this looks pleasantly refreshing. Very tempted to get a Windows Mango phone now and even more for a tablet/laptop. This is a solid, SOLID, competitor to iOS and Android. I would be tempted to run Win8 on a Macbook Air or the new ultraportables coming to the market.
    – Weather – wow pretty!
    – Disk space – Wow. 16gb partition has only 4.79gb free after the installation. Ouch!
    – Could not shutdown smoothly. Froze on a black screen. Forced shutdown.

    One final note: running Windows8 on Macbook Pro Lion with Parallels is a surprisingly pleasing experience. The 3 finger side swipe to move between OSX and Windows8 is delicious. Bravo to the 3 companies (Microsoft, Apple, and Parallels) involved.

    So there you go. That’s the initial thoughts. Next step – let’s what I can do(work) with this little beauty.

    Here are some screenshots taken along the way.

    Answer standard install questions:


    It was nice of Microsoft to include all the international keyboard types. Japanese included. Here you see the drop down box options inside the Parallels window running on OSX Lion.


    Selecting disk partition.


    Time to head out for dinner.


    More questions – very Microsoft.


    Windows Live ID vs Local account. Microsoft defaults you to Windows Live ID.


    Preparing My PC…


    Success..!

    I think.. I think I am experiencing culture shock going from the Microsoft blue to .. this green.

     
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    Farewell, little pig – Shuttle K45

    Posted by Madbot on Jul 25, 2011 in Madbot Madness, Techno

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    Madbot says:

    A sad day.

    Moved the little pig out of the server room “cabinet” a few weeks ago into the study to help its temperature during this hot Tokyo summer.

    Discovered yesterday the Shuttle K45 (lovingly nick named The Little Pig) was powered off. Attempts to power it on were in vain. Power would kick in for a second to spin the fans and flash a few LEDs, then nothing – powered itself right off.

    Today, changed the PSU but the same result. Unplugged the hard disk, ram, etc but all the same. Dug around the net to see the K45/K48 had been suffering a high death rate at around 18 months of age. Mine was around some over 2 years and looks like the MB gave in.

    There is a lot of talk on the bulging or venting capacitors that cause K48 deaths, and one on the board does look somewhat like me after a good feed of curry.

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    So looks like the only thing left is to salvage the parts. Opted to replace it with a QNAP TS-419P+ instead of another PC. The mini mac will take over some of the home server duties.

    Farewell little pig. You are a beautiful machine. Sad to see the manufacturer failed you.. You will be missed.

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