An observation…

•August 26, 2009 • 1 Comment
DVC00068

Here's an example of what I'm talking about; They call this a chicken teriyaki rice bowl.

In Vancouver there’s an absolute ton of Japanese/Sushi restaurants on every major street, however most of them aren’t run by Japanese people. Korean-run ones tend to serve less meat/substance in their dishes and use vegetables for filler I noticed, as well as generally using pre-made bases or otherwise for their dishes. All the all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurants are also actually run by Chinese groups since it’s more of a Chinese thing to stuff yourself until you can’t eat anymore I guess. The actual Japanese-run ones seem to be frequented by Japanese people and the food is quite good, but the setting is generally a hole-in-the-wall-type affair which turns off other kinds of people from the restaurant reviews I see. Just a few thoughts.

Phở

•July 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I always wondered why there were so many pho places in Vancouver, considering most of them aren’t that great. A lot of them have small serving sizes or use pre-made soup bases. For those who don’t know, pho is Vietnamese noodles in beef soup, with random stuff thrown in. Anyways, pho is good when made right!

Went to a pho place yesterday, a lot of you might have seen it right next to Surrey Central Station.

Went to a pho place yesterday, a lot of you might have seen it right next to Surrey Central Station.

I love this place since their bowls are huge and their soup is good. The service is fast, the prices are good, and in asian style they only take cash(read: no sales tax).

I love this place since their bowls are huge and their soup is good. The service is fast, the prices are good, and in asian style they only take cash(read: no sales tax).

Put the new cars into service faster!

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Running MKII 2-car trainsets should be a crime since they are always so packed, even late at night! The design of the cars just makes it worse since they sacrificed standing room for seating. Just a quick snapshot of my commute home between 7-8PM.

Being squeezed against the door corner is *not* fun.

Being squeezed against the door corner is *not* fun.

Queen Elizabeth Park

•July 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had these for quite a few days now  but stuff keeps coming up so…yeah.  I won’t caption each photo since theres a ton but just a bit of info on Queen Elizabeth Park: It’s built into an old quarry but it’s also quite elevated so the views are pretty good in addition to the nice Garden and surroundings. It’s also only 10 minutes away from downtown, another example of the natural surroundings of this large city.  Anyways, I took these photos after going to the West End to hit up a ramen bar with a friend before busing to the park. Also picked up something on the way that I’ll go into detail later on. That said, heres the photos:

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Beginners/Vancouver Keitai Guide

•July 6, 2009 • 21 Comments

Been working on this for a while now, but here’s what in my humble opinion a guide that should have all you need to start using a keitai, or at the very least gain a general idea.

General FAQ

What is a ‘keitai’?

Keitai is the word for cell-phone in Japan, and since we’ll be dealing with them, it’s easier to say keitai than Japanese  cell phone every single time, and so it’s what people who use them generally call it. The main providers in Japan are Docomo, Softbank, and KDDI. A big difference between Japan and other places around the world is that the phones are specifically made for a provider by a manufacturer. For example, around the world manufacturers make phones and then a provider will elect to carry it. In Japan, each model is tailored/made for a specific provider. One of the big draws with keitais is how advanced they are in features as well as how rare overseas keitai users are for the most part. The Japanese market is more function-phone oriented than the more smart phone-favoring foreign market. That’s not to say though, that keitais lack smart phone features: they can do email and most data functions on Japan’s world-leading high-speed network.

Can I use it outside of Japan?

Generally, yes. Countries in Europe and Asia in general have similar if not the same frequencies for their cell phone networks, so it ought to be compatible. The situation in North America is a bit messier with things all over the place but you can still use it. An exception is phones by KDDI, since they use a totally unique network structure that isn’t compatible with others.

Are the phones unlocked? What features are there?

Yes and no, mostly no. You can indeed use a phone for calling and messaging, the two most important things you really need it for. Another thing available is the multimedia functions such as the camera and the ability to playback music (with certain things I’ll mention later) and view pictures and video. You do, however, lose anything that involves or requires data such as 1-seg, GPS, email, and internet functions since these are locked down tight or require Japan-only network stuff. One more thing to mention is that the ‘unlock’ is through a hypersim/sim unlock and in the case of Softbank will require an additional software unlock for multimedia features. Older phones are a different situation and many software unlocks/firmware flash solutions exist for them.

What’s with the form factors on Japanese phones?

Something people may notice is that almost all the phones in Japan are long and slender flip phones. They may flip differently such as the cycloid on the SH-01A, but they are for the most part flip phones Even if they aren’t they still keep the long, slender look. If you don’t like it, then keitais are not for you.

Do they have English-language support?

Yes, all the newer keitais have a language to set the language for the interface to English. Another tip is that you can find the user manuals for all Docomo phones here: http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/…nual/index.html

Do keitais support the T9 text input system?

Unless you get a phone manufactured by NEC, your phone will not have T9 support for texting.

How do I get a keitai?

With other import things, you can either order it online or buy it from a local specialty import store if you’re lucky. One thing to watch out with local keitai stores is that their prices may be quite steep. This is balanced out by having a local place to come to with problems and a warranty of sorts, while if you buy it online you’re completely on your own if problems occur. I’m not familiar with stores in other places but I’ll describe how to get one in Canada in detail.

Help, my keitai didn’t come with a power adapter!

An oddity of keitais is that they don’t ship with power adapters or anything. However, Japan is ahead with the fact that all phones by every manufacturer use the same data and charging port they call FOMA. Because they all use the same adapter, they expect you will already have one. If you don’t you have to buy it separately. Another note is that I recommend you get a spare battery to go with the phone, especially the newer models, since they have lower battery capacity and suck up power really fast if you use their features a lot.

I can’t get signal on my phone anymore!

If you can’t get signal on your phone and it says (圈外) in the top, that means you need to do CPR on the phone. This is another one of the drawbacks for keitais since it pretty much means you have to have two phones with you at all times, and the second one has to be a local phone which is often your old one. Here’s the procedure for CPRing:
1. Take your simcard out of your keitai and put it in your local phone, and turn it on.
2. Make a call to make sure you got a signal, and after that turn the phone off and put the simcard back into your keitai.
3. Turn the keitai on and you should have signal. If not, try restarting the phone a few times. If it continues, rinse and repeat.

Another note is that your sim unlock might not support 3G communication at all or only outgoing calls and not incoming. In that case, go to the keitai settings menu and make sure the phone is set to connect to GSM only. With newer phones and sim unlocks, the CPR issue has been cut down for the most part. One more thing is that you have to set the SMS provider number for your keitai, otherwise you can’t receive SMS messages.

How do I get music to work/transfer media onto the phone?

For music, you must buy a data cable and connect it to the computer, as well as a microSD card. To transfer music, you also have to use windows media player and have the phone set to MTP mode in the options menu. There is no other way to transfer music onto the phone since Japanese providers like to lock everything down and thus don’t like mp3s. For other media such as video, it’s a very large hassle because you have to follow their file/name structure. Check the manual for your phone for specific details.

What are these Unicom/Fareastone branded phones that look like keitais?

No, these aren’t fake or counterfeited phones,  Sharp actually exports slightly lower spec versions of their phones to Taiwan and China. The big kicker is that they are unlocked so no CPRing or anything, but they do carry a slightly higher pricetag.  Even unlocked though, Taiwanese Keitais do not support American 3G frequencies (850Mhz) but rather only support the international standard of2100Mhz, so you won’t get 3G anyways. Chinese keitais lack 3G altogether since China is only recently getting their 3G systems up and running so in the future it might get added, but still likely in the wrong frequency. That said, you can indeed get data at GPRS speeds so it’s better than nothing. Like I said earlier though, the phones are lower-spec in ways such as screen, camera, and general features. The form factors and designs are largely carried over though, and Sharp has shown an increasing willingness to port over newer features to their Oriental exports.  Examples are the Chinese SH9120C and the Taiwanese WX-T923. Of course, there are plenty examples of counterfeit keitais out there, but they are pretty shoddily made to the point of being obvious fakes.

Canada/Vancouver FAQ

How do I get a Keitai in Canada?

As mentioned before, you can either buy it online or in a store. If you buy it from a local store you will likely get some sort of local support or warranty as well as the convenience of not having to import it yourself, which is balanced out by the higher price you will pay for it. Buying online has two methods: either buy from an online store or import directly from Japan. Buying from a store that is located in the same country as yours gives many of the benefits of a local store, but you do pay more. I’ll mention how to import directly from Japan below.

What if I want to import directly from Japan?

Warning, this is for more advanced users. It is a lot more troublesome to do so but you are rewarded with a much more affordable price. If you are going to physically be in Japan for a trip or something, you’ll want to visit a white rom shop or have someone who lives there help you get it since foreigners without residency cannot buy cell phones or get contracts. The online method is as follows: Seller in Japan->Middleman Service->You. The reasoning for this is that most of the Japanese websites you can buy keitais from do not ship outside of Japan. A middleman service will allow you to use their address by proxy and will handle payment to the seller in return for a commission off the sale. Keep in mind you will also have to pay for higher shipping and customs/duty if applicable. In Canada, you’ll probably pay a hefty sum at customs, and you’ll be paying for the phone in yen so the CAD->YEN conversion rate might hurt you at times. Even with all the extra fees and hassle though, the price will often be at the very least $100 lower than buying from a local store. Here’re some middleman service providers:

http://www.rinkya.com/
http://www.shoppingmalljapan.com/
http://www.japantodoor.com/

Will my phone work in Canada?

If your phone has either 850Mhz or 1900 Mhz GSM, or 850Mhz 3G support, then it will work in Canada with the proper sim unlock.

What about sim unlocks?

A sim unlock is a small chip you’ll slide into your phone between the sim card and the slot. For the most part, you can get sim unlocks from any online or local store; the prices will be the same. A bigger issue is whether your provider/sim card is compatible with the sim unlock or not. In Canada, the only guaranteed provider that will work with keitais is Rogers/Fido. Telus/Bell have recently launched HSPA 3G networks but it is still unconfirmed whether the sim unlocks that are currently available will work with their sim cards. Here’s some common sim unlocks that are floating around:

i-smart-phone 2009: Everything but the 4000 series. 3G might be available when used with a 3040 series simcard.
3G-SIM: Everything but the 4000 series. 3G is not available.
iNex: All versions. A note of caution, this sim unlock is very thin and many users accidentally break or snap theirs. 3G is available. However, this is the only sim unlock that is virtually guaranteed to work with any Rogers/Fido sim.
Mr.Sim: All versions. A lot of people end up getting one of these from Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. This unlock is a reprogrammable one whose abilities depend on what chipset version and what firmware is loaded on it. I do not recommend this for beginners. 3G is availible with 3040 series.
CNsimcard: All versions. 3G is not available. Very reliable, you do not need to CPR often.

Are there any local keitai stores in Vancouver?

There are but they are few and far between. Here’s two of them:

Times Digital: Located in Crystal mall in Burnaby, this store has virtually everything you need to get started with a keitai. They carry phones, sim unlocks, and accessories such as chargers and adapters, as well as screen protectors. However, as mentioned their prices may be a bit steep.
Mobile DNA: This is the store that used to be on the 2nd floor at yaohan, they moved into lansdowne centre and rebranded themselves as a Bell store. They sell phones and unlocks, but do not carry accessories. As stated, they are located in Lansdowne Centre in Richmond.

Some notable websites:

http://echigoya-honpo.com/ A keitai website with a local rep in Vancouver. In fact, he is probably the only provider of Softbank software unlocks in the area.

http://www.canadajphones.co.cc/ This is another keitai website that is based in Vancouver. They do not have local pickup but they do have a local representative to deal with.

http://www.unlocklink.com/ A Toronto-based keitai website that offers local pickup in the area.

How’s the signal strength or reception in Vancouver?

If you have 3G, the only places you won’t get signal are deep underground or in the skytrain downtown. You’ll rarely lose signal in a building on 3G. With GSM, the signal is much weaker and you’ll lose it indoors or in basements a lot.

Anyways, that’s it. If this does help you in any way, all I ask is that you drop a line here saying that so I can feel gratified >.>”

Updated November 9th, 2009.

New Skytrain Cars!

•July 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Lucked out and managed to hop onto the new test set for the improved MKII trainsets.

dvc00016

You can tell the new MKII skytrain cars apart from the others by the new paint job that Translink has adopted for their buses as well, in addition to the new destination signs on the ends.

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Crystal Mall

•July 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Apparently when they developed it, the mall was supposed to be multi-cultural. Guess it wasn’t as planned since it turned into Chinese+bits of other East Asian stuff. Anyways, heres a walkaround:

img0953p

Okay so not the mall itself. It's the Metrotown Branch of the Burnaby Public Library which is right across the street.

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