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“The tyrrany of qwerty” December 21, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan, Personal Blogroll, technology.

Gen has a post titled as above, referencing an article in which he was quoted.

As comments are still broken chez Kanai, I’m got to write about it here. (Gen: hint. ditch MT ;-))

Gen writes:

My quote is:

“To a certain extent, Asia is a slave to the alpha keyboard, [..]”

I’m pretty sure I said qwerty keyboard, but I’ll let Jeff slide 😉

I’d posit that Jeff’s liberal quote is more accurate. It is not really QWERTY that is the problem, as Dvorak or Maltron or any of the other proposed keyboard layouts which also assume alphanumeric requirements are equally “guilty”.

Gen’s quote continues:

“Many input methods for languages like Chinese and Japanese require knowledge of the Roman alphabet to use, which is crazy when you think of it. Imagine if the PC was developed in China and everyone in the rest of the world needed to know Chinese before inputting their own alphabet. Well, that’s the case for a lot of PC users in China and Japan.”

The more important point is this. Japanese input does not _require_ any knowledge of the Roman alphabet. OK, so Gen said “many”, but to ignore the fact that Japanese PCs come as standard with an ability to input text based on the Japanese alphabet is glossing over a not so trivial detail. All common keyboards sold in Japan have letters of the Japanese alphabet assigned in parallel to the alphanumeric markings (and there are plenty of keys to cover the entire Japanese alphabet. Typically the space bar is also shortened to add a few extra buttons to do things like hira/kata switching). You can even buy keyboards with markings which gives more prominence to the Japanese alphabet than the roman alphabet. I bet Gen’s Macbook has a US keyboard…. 🙂

And as for the software side of things, all common OSes understand the key mappings required to type in Japanese. (And creating a new driver for any new input device is trivial)

I know literally just one single person who actually uses Japanese alphabet input in preference to phonetic (roman alphabet) input on their PC, though.

The current Japanese keyboard format is the so-called “old” JIS format, they actually tried to popularise a newer version but they killed that off due to lack of traction….

I guess if we were to design a Japanese keyboard from scratch, would it contain keys in 5 rows rather than 4? (to reflect the traditional set of 5 grouping in the Japanese alphabet) Do we set up the groups right to left in the traditional layout, or do we go for a layout which is closer to the existing JIS layout? Do we even want to bother in the increasingly heterolingual world we live in? Would there be a real productivity increase?

Rakuten launches English language site (sort of) December 18, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, Japan.

Rakuten, Japan’s largest on-line shopping mall, has launched an English language service.

Sort of.

The top page has been translated, but that’s it. Not very useful, really.

Rakuten has previously announced that it is setting its sights on overseas expansion, and I guess this is the first tiny step in that direction.

But is this the right way to go about it? English language users might stumble upon the English site, and will quickly see that the rest of the site is not translated. And they will likely never return. First impressions count, and I feel this particular piecemeal approach will be counterproductive.I’m sure they’re currently dealing with the backend fulfilment and logistics issues, and they probably wanted to show some visible signs that they are indeed planning to target non-Japanese audiences. A cynic might say this is an IR play.

New English language Japan tech blog opens December 14, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan.

Asiajin launched yesterday, claiming it the first English language blog written by Japanese authors dedicated to “Web Services/Companies/People Reports from Asia”.

I guess I could claim some obscure niche first for myself too, if I were to insert multiple qualifiers. lol

Anyway, being serious for a moment, I think it is a good thing for the Japanese tech community, providing for overseas exposure, given how little effort is made to address the market outside of Japan by most Japanese emerging tech companies. The fact that one of the co-authors is somewhat of a high profile blogger in Japan might give it a bit of an advantage starting out.

I do hope that the authors whose names are attached to the posts do continue to write their own posts. There are instances of blogs (which shall remain nameless, at least for now) which were originally penned by one person but have (without any disclosure) become group efforts with the owner farming out the writing to ghost writers. Not that the Japanese internet and blogosphere are renowned for their integrity….

I’ll withhold any extensive critique on Asiajin’s content until they hit their stride, but the content available thusfar is ho hum. Not much actual commentary or analysis.

So we now have blognation Japan (although what will happen to that is uncertain, given the recent troubles at blognation HQ) and Asiajin, two different English language perspectives on Japanese tech.

Good luck to them.

Looking back at my original reason for starting this public blog a couple of years ago, I too hoped that I would be able to cover interesting Japanese tech, more than I actually do at present. I guess the bottom line for me was that I found little which was really worthy of exposure.

English language blogs posting “serious” content beyond lightweight (sometimes copyright infringing) content scraped from other sources gives me more material to build on. A part of me hopes these blogs will be positive cheerleader blogs so that I can present an alternative angle…..

The Chief Cabinet Secretary on the pensions issue December 11, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Politics.
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Nobutaka Machimura, Chief Cabinet Secretary in Yasuo Fukuda’s current cabinet, finally comes clean about the promise the LDP gave to voters ahead of the election (which they lost anyway).


We didn’t mean that every last case was to be completed by the end of March, but it was an election so we said that “we will complete it all by the end of the financial year”.

Oh, OK then.

That is a pretty staggering admission, though.

If that is’t a clear confession of an attempt to mislead the electorate (which failed miserably anyway), I don’t know what is.

I suggest that the people within the cabinet who made the commitments take responsibility, and not in the typically Japanese “I will take responsibility by persevering and delivering on my original promise (albeit with a grossly revised schedule)” fashion.

If the media had any balls (and weren’t in bed with the political circus), they’d drag up every instance of footage they have of LDP members during the election campaign insisting that they would get the problem resolved by March, and call for all their heads.

There is one critical difference between being a political commentator talking head on TV and being the Minister for Health, Labour and Welfare. The public expects accountability in the latter, especially when making bold promises. (In an ideal world, the former would also be held accountable for their words too, and we’d see much less of clueless idiots like Norio Minorikawa (Mino Monta for people watching TV), but I don’t see that happening any time soon)

We may see an election sooner than most pundits thought, although the thought of the inept (and in-fighting) DPJ coming to power, backed by conservative trade unions (in Japan that isn’t an oxymoron…) isn’t likely to produce much of a change in my book.

Global Warming Summit December 6, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Energy, Environment, Travel.

No, I’m not in Bali.

Unlike approximately 10,000 participants (from 190 countires) of said UN summit on global warming.

Anyone see the irony of transporting all those people by plane to a resort island to discuss global warming? I won’t deny that there are cases where face-to-face meetings are invaluable if not absolutely necessary, but 10,000 people???