Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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Flowers Outside The Ginza Apple Store

Flowers Outside The Ginza Apple Store

It’s more than a week since Steve Jobs sadly passed away, and outside the Apple Store in Tokyo’s most famous shopping district of Ginza, tributes continue to pile-up in the form of flowers, cards, post-it notes and even half-eaten apples. I’m sure it’s the same outside Apple Stores all over the world – I just thought I’d post this to show that Japan is no exception. Devices here have been hugely popular, although a little bit slow to get started, and up until now, only available on one carrier, Softbank. All this is set to change with the release of the iPhone 4S (the iPhone 4Steve) as it will be available soon also on AU, a really popular carrier with a good brand image. This may be why pre-orders and early adoptions of the 4S in Japan have smashed the previous record set by the iPhone 4. It might also be attributed to the death of Steve Jobs pushing this release to the fore. And of this I think Steve Jobs would be very happy; even in death he was launching and promoting the Apple products he loved so much.

 

Tokyo Metro Staff Using iPad

Tokyo Metro iPad

As part of their Metro Smile initiative, Tokyo Metro are introducing iPads for station staff to use in order to help people navigate the complicated subway system. They can plan routes, zoom and pan an interactive network map, and also access station plans that show the exits and platforms, etc. I think this is aimed at people from out of town, tourists and the elderly. I could never see myself ever needing to use this service. If you’ve got an iPhone, this service is completely redundant, and even if you haven’t, I would say the map above the ticket machine is enough for people who’ve been living in Tokyo for any period of time. The fact that they are using iPads though, shows how the Japanese have really embraced Apple products, since the iPhone and iPad came out especially. In that sense, I’m all for it – regardless of how useless it is to me.

You can see it in action in this follwing clip:

(Sorry, Nihon Television don’t allow embedding.)

 

Muji Notebook App

Muji Notebook App

Could the new app from Muji entitled Muji Notebook be a success? And more to the point, could it be useful for web designers? I actually think it might. At least it’d be good for notating wireframes and draft layouts on an iPad. You could even use it when doing so in the presence of the client. Moreover though, this app is a good idea for anyone who wants an electronic version of what Muji sells in their stationery section – plus a lot more besides: see the promotional video on YouTube for more info.

Available on the App Store.

 

Tokyo Metro iPhone App

Tokyo Metro iPhone App

I saw an advertisement on the train for a new iPhone app developed by Tokyo Metro, so I decided to download it. You won’t be able to ditch your Jorudan (Norikae Annai) app just yet, but it’s a worthy addition to your tool set for navigating around Tokyo. You can search for your nearest station (Metro only), explore the map of the Tokyo Metro network, find information about in-station facilities and exits, see a map of the inside of each station, and of course plan your journey from one place to another by Metro.

When you fire up the app, you are presented with a screen showing the symbol for each metro line. From here, clicking on the appropriate icon will give you information on service disruptions. This page is therefore totally useless unless in the event of some huge natural disaster as I’ve never experienced any service disruptions during my journey in the 3+ years I’ve been here. Another word of warning is that you will probably need to read some Japanese to use this app properly. Most of the functions are pretty self-explanatory, but the route planner is somewhat hard to find, but if you tap around you should work it all out.

As I said, this won’t replace your main Tokyo train app, because you can’t get the time of the next train and you can’t get the time of the all-important last train. Also, it doesn’t cover any other lines apart from the Tokyo Metro. It’s still worth downloading though I think, and the design is not too bad (better than Jorudan for sure).

 

The Way I Work

The Way I Work

I don’t usually put techie stuff on here, but I wanted to talk about what, in my view, is the best web development environment you can have for a freelancer or a small team, especially if you’re pushed for space and have a restrictive budget. Now I don’t care what other people think but I believe that if you’re involved in designing interfaces and user experiences, and especially if you’re in any way involved in typography, you should be on a Mac. I live in Tokyo, so space is at a premium, therefore I use a MacBook Pro to save space and also to give myself the option of working in a cafe or while traveling. After all, with the right amount of RAM the MBP is as powerful as a desktop, give or take. Having said that, for design work the screen on the laptop is probably not sufficient, so I also have an Apple Widescreen Cinema Display. I usually run the MacBook Pro in clamshell mode when it’s connected to the Cinema Display, although it is of course possible to use the laptop screen as a second monitor. I have a wired network at home because speeds are reliable that way, and I don’t want to be bathed in constant radiation living in such a small apartment. At the center of this is the network hub which is in turn connected to the broadband router. The network hub allows me to easily add other machines to the network should I be working with someone else on a project and also connects to the server which is a Mac Mini. The Mac Mini is perfect as a server as it is small, silent and energy efficient. The great thing about Mac OS X is that I can schedule it to shutdown and startup at any given time. Right now it automatically shuts down at midnight (I seldom work past that time nowadays) and then restarts at 8.00am. This saves power and is therefore better for the environment. When the server starts up, Apache and MySQL start up automatically too and I don’t have to do anything. The server sits on a bookshelf and has no keyboard or mouse connected to it. If I need to administer the server, I just open up Mac OS X’s screen sharing feature and do everything through there. Backups are made through Mac OS X’s Time Machine to an external HD, so client’s work and all other data on both the workstation and the server is safe should anything happen. Couple this with SVN version control for scripts and it’s all I will ever need for my home development environment. It’s not even that expensive!

 

Apple Store Regent Street

Apple Store Regent Street

When I came to Tokyo I was most impressed by the Apple Store in Ginza, but, come to think of it, I’d never been to an apple store in the UK, other than the distinctly unimpressive one in Birmingham’s bullring. So, I was impressed when I saw a pic of the Regent Street store in London. The NY store still tops it, but I thought I should be less Tokyo-centric for a brief moment and share the pic.

 

Mac Hack

Mac Hack

There’s a special place in my heart for the old Macs – I used to use Apple computers throughout university, back in 1996, and the boxes were still beige and the logo multi-coloured even then. Well, Macs have come a long way since, but the retro Apple look is ever popular – so one enthusiast (or team of enthusiasts, I’m not sure) has created this! It looks antiquated but it’s running Mac OS X Tiger! That must have been tricky.

 

Fliqlo

Fliqlo

I’ve been using this retro flip style clock for my Mac recently. You can get yourself one over at 9031.com. I’m liking their retro site with the floppies etc. To install (if you use Mac), drag the .saver file out of the disk image and directly into the screen saver pref pane.

It’s certainly very useful to be shown what time it is full-screen whenever you’re not using your computer, but I’m still looking for a screensaver that just says the words “GO TO BED”.

 

Leopard at Last

Leopard at Last

I was holding off upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard (v10.5) because I thought some versions of my installed software would cease to function in the new operating system, namely: Cinema 4D and my aging copy of After Effects. I had some time over Christmas, so I finally got it installed and, suprisingly, everything continued working! I upgraded After Effects anyway as this also needed doing, and cleaned up my files and folders. It feels so much better with my machine cleaned down and up-to-date. Better put it to use I suppose. Leopard is incredible by the way, and I advise everyone using an older version of OS X to bite the bullet. It’s not as dangerous as you might think.