Wednesday, February 1, 2012
What can I say about visiting Japan once more?
The food is still yummy, the good life is still relatively affordable, folks are polite, trains will get you anywhere you need to go for a reasonable fare, and people will do their best to try to understand a foreign tourist who only has 20 words of japanese and can't get the syntax down right to save his life.
So, I hope to fill in this year's blog entries with news of the trip, pictures and random stuff, but I fear that I will have to do most of it after the fact when I am back home.
Monday, April 25, 2011
When we last left the "build-a-bilingual XP computer in Japan" thread, I had just gifted my friend's brother in Yokohama with a $60 P4 2.4ghz rebuilt Fujitsu, running XP-pro with English and Japanese login settings. Felt good to know that if I ever moved to Japan, I would not be completely helpless. Did I mention that this was only half the battle?
It seems that Brother-san's nicotine encrusted Sony Vaio sub-desktop did NOT have a plebian 15-pin vga connector on it. OOOPS! So we just do what I do back home: grab the first monitor one sees at a junk shop or mooch one off a friend that is upgrading, or garbage pick one - right?????
Space is at a premium in Japan, chucking an old monitor out in the trash without expensive disposal license stickers is illegal - and your neighbors will shame you to death long before the some official busybody shows up with a ticket. Of course that means that no junk store will ever accept your used wonky PC system - even for free. As well, the japanese consumer does not like dirty, scuffed- up used gear, AND, you will not find a dinky PC shop close by, so forget it and buy a new, overpriced machine!
Also there is the issue of Brother-san's old, wonky computer. Sony VAIO; cost a bit in it's day: P4 1.3GHZ, could use some ram, good enough net-crawler if de-junked and given some more ram, but dammit - it keeps shutting down after 5-15 minutes! I had instructed him on how to clean the power supply and blow the dust out of the case - and he had been a real good sport and had done it. Might as well fix it! It would cost Y2000 to legally throw it away!
I had to follow through. A matter of honor (or honour as we say here in Canada)...
I had spent 35 minutes figuring out that the power supply fan was not turning, and that it was shutting down when the internal temp sensor tripped. After all this, I finally paid attention to the bios boot-up messages and HOLY CRAP! in perfect english the thing was warning me to check the power supply fan! DUHHHH! Facepalm.. Thank you Sony. Wonder why the warning was in English. Nice to get a confirmationof my diagnosis though.
Following through; cleaning the power supply had not cured the fan problem. (and yeah.. lots of safety warnings about how a PC power supply can throw 600V at you and store a nasty jolt after being unplugged - adults here, not sticking fingers onto hot stove element, etc. . .) Time to find a generic 3 wire 70mm pc fan and swap it in. Again, just look by the side of the road, and ...
Oh yeah; one does not do that here!
Did I mention that in sunny SW Ontario, scrap PC bits can be found by the side of the road - if you get to them before the metal scrappers snag them., at used stores, in dumpsters behind University buildings, at the municipal dump xfer station, etc.. Why does cheap waste disposal correlate with easy civilian re-use opportunities, while a strong recycling/ high-cost disposal regime mitigates against re-use and repair??? Oh well, never mind.
It was time for a morning PC PARTS RUN! wheeeeeeeeeee!
Now I must say at this point that my friend was being really, really, Really, REALLY patient with me. Perhaps she was getting a kick out of watching me interact with her brother, because she endured not only a trip to a huge electronics/ PC parts store, but a trip to a gigantic combined HARD-OFF, BOOK-OFF and GARAGE-OFF store! Gahhhhh! piles of too much stuff! Clutter! Tomorrows expensive gomi, today!
Brother-san was enjoying it! He got to drive us around Yokohama, and it had been an age since he had set foot in a Hard-Off store. So there we were, looking for a vga monitor, a 70mm fan and some ram. Found a nice 16" LCD for Y3000, some ram for the Sony for Y500, and a usb external CD burner for Y500. (buy it for the case! Put a newer superdrive in it, use on either machine when a dvd burner is needed, or stick a hard drive in it as a backup drive!) But no 70mm fan (3 wire). Even had the nice folks at the counter plug it all in to prove it worked - which was a good thing as our first monitor choice turned out to be a dud, even though it had been checked before putting it out on the shelf.
So now we had to go to the dreaded PC/Electronics chain store - the one with the 2 page flyers full of custom cases, motherboards, big screen TV's, etc, etc.
First mistake: telling the saleguy that we wanted a power supply fan!
OOOPs! No store in Japan is going to sell you a part that involves you sticking your pinkies into a clearly dangerous "no-user-serviceable-parts!!!!!!!" situation. Was I Bakka? As my friend translated, I quickly recovered: Bad translation! got it wrong; I need a Case Fan! Oh.. ok.. those are safe, this aisle over here... Y1100 later we had our part -even had the right connector!
The store had the full complement of high-end PC parts for building an ultimate game machine, etc. Cases, power supplies, mo-boards, the whole mess: I felt at home. Omnilingual!
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnilingual , www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19445)
. . .As well, a small moral victory: on the other side of the store in the refurb section was an identical Fujitsu mini-desktop, refurbed, worse specs that ours, going for ($180) no monitor included. My friend gets to watch me and Brother-san do an exaggerated victory pantomime, and later endless re-enactments of the exclamation I made when I saw the price for the store model. Brother-san thinks my GAHHHHHHH! noise was a hoot.
After a fine lunch at a reasonable buffet restaurant, a ride back to his place, and a bit of poking around with a screwdriver and some pliers, Brother-san now has 2 workable computers! I also brought the old wireless router that was left after I had done an upgrade for my friend (and for me too! I needed a fast wireless connection to her internet service for my month's stay) and now used the old one to do a quickie file xfer of MY DOCUMENTS over to the new beast, giving Brother-san a quick tutorial on setting up a home network.
Well, at least he can now give it away to some friend, or sell it off to HARD-OFF for Y500 ($6) without having to pay to dispose of it. I recommended installing it in their mom's room and setting the google Chrome homepage at a Youtube search for "Enka". Perhaps I went too far.
What did I learn? D.I.Y. is still very much a niche market in Japan. Almost as weird as cosplay.
And there are lots of strong structural reasons why. Fortunately with a first-world supply chain, and robust online retail and used markets, a determined tinkerer can waste hours fixing obsolete PC iron. Heck - If I this had been a Tokyo-based operation, we would have run wild in Akihabra. Rakutan, Amazon.jp and Yahoo.jp could have also supplied the parts needed, if we had another week to waste on this project.
"My job here is done!"
We had much more fun in Yokohama after playing with junk PCs. I got to see a nice local Setsubun ceremony (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun no bean throwing - please! safety first!) and spent an afternoon in Chinatown just before Chinese New Year's celebrations, ending up with an evening stroll along the harbour-front and a walk-about on the teak-wood "starship hull" cruise ship port. Remember the trekkie movie when they have to go out on the surface of the saucer section? Now imagine a dock/ building roof/ walk-way thing that is kind of like that, only made of ultra-precisely fitted together teakwood 2x4-ish planks that streches 2 long city blocks! Wow! NO SK8TBRDS Allowed!
Yokohama is NOT the comfy little bedroom community half-way between Tokyo and Narita airport that I have grown fond of -it is an exciting Metropolis with grown-up big-city attractions (and inconveniences) Next time, I will be going there. 2 hours by train from Narita. I had better learn to pack light! I want to ride the big ferris wheel!
Ps: my friend and all her folks and friends made it through the horrible 3/11 quake and aftermath. She had been planning the move to Yokohama for a while, and was not to be detered by the catastrophe. I wish her a safe, uneventful, easy move at the end if the month!
And to all in Shizu Station, who put up with her friend, the tall ambling gaijin - I thank you, and I will miss you!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
here are mine:
(assuming the flicker embedded slide show trick works...)
Of course, I am back home now, in frozen SW Ontario, trying to catch up with all
the stuff at work, and at home that was put off.
But I still have a few more posts for THIS trip, which I will get around to as
soon as I can catch my breath and do the dishes, laundry, shovel the snow,
back taxes, stuff at work, morestuff at. . . . WAugghhhH!!!! I wanna go BACK!
More info about the hot-spring snow monkeys:
This bunch found a hot spring, took it over, and became a tourist draw.
Their cousins in town pester shop owners, raid stores and hissss!!! at
visitors to temples. This group however are just relaxing.
YOU DO NOT BRING FOOD, (hanging out of your pack-sack,
like some thick headed tourist, to the hot spring - lest the
enterprising monkeys relieve you of it..
Check out the Live-Cam at:
After we got back to Chiba, we cancelled the Kyoto trip..
Friday, January 28, 2011
50$ would get you a used 2nd gen. 4Gb ipod. . .
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Of course, the best way to pay off a bunch of outstanding debts on Yahoo.co.jp is to find someone (like you friend’s niece) who has a Japan Post savings account and a Japanese credit card. (All hail Mayu! resolver of yahoo messes!). The aforementioned Kuroneko dodgy currency xfer method worked well too. My friend has declared an absolute moratorium on further Yahoo purchases, and as I am approaching my Air Canada luggage weight limit, I better comply. Future posts may involve “How to send big heavy parcels via Japan Post Sea Mail for $50, because I need to get that extra 10kg of STUFF home.
Meanwhile, I have been a busy gaijin! Visited Yokohama for a day! Did some shopping, was fêted and filled with Asahi’s best beeru at a cosy neighborhood eatery by my friend’s brother and generally had a BLAST. Did some computer maintenance, and tried to get my friend’s brother to hose out the power supply of his woefully underpowered pc. Left a replacement with him too - which will be the subject of a future extra special Dai-gaijin exclusive: “How to build a bilingual Engrish-Japanese XP professional pc system for under $50, using only yahoo auctions and your neighborhood Hard Off store.” STAY TUNED!
For now, getting ready for a long train trip to the legendary Monkey Hot springs near Nagano - home of the previous Winter Olympics.
I swear I will not jump in with the monkeys!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Ok.. so most japanophiles know that the post offices in Japan also serve as a local savings bank.
Wow.. they do everything, including deliveries on Saturdays and Sundays!
Us furreign visitors can use our alien bank cards at their ATM’s and pull funds over into yen, and only pay a small (yes, get used to it) $4-5 fee. Savings account depositors can also transfer money by ATM or internet, to each other fee of charge - a method that is popular for paying sellers when you go nuts on Yahoo.co.jp online auctions.
As a foreign visitor, You CANNOT set up a savings account, not without the residency card, as well as your passport.
That means that when you want to transfer funds to pay off that Yahoo auction, it will run you a Y525 fee, and a personal session with a confused JP clerk, far more embarrassed about their lack of English, than you can possibly be about your lack of Japanese.
To get even with them, I am sending all in-japan correspondance by Kuroneko letter at 80Y ea. - Black Cat Courrier/ Transport (kuro neko = Black Cat) doesn’t freak out when your letter is a bit over the strict edo era weight limits that JP imposes. Every 5th shop in the area serves as a kuroneko dispatch, and the local Kombini (Family Mart) is open late. They will ask you whats in the letter.. you are not supposed to tap 500 +100 Y coins into a card to send to people, to pay off your Yahoo auctions. So just say “CARDO” and shrug.