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February 26th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Media, Pop Culture

Sci-fi fandom is buzzing with excitement with this week’s release of the official main trailer for yet another “Godzilla” movie. As usual, the film footage featured in the promo is being picked apart scene by scene, and eagle-eyed movie geeks in Hawaii caught a second or two of a scene filmed in Waikiki.

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At about 0:50, people flee a large wave crashing up Lewers Street. HawaiiIRL shared some photos on Flickr of this scene being shot back in July 2013, and my friend Stephen posted some great behind-the-scenes video:

The production company also brought wreckage and carnage to Waikiki Beach.

This KITV report includes a few plot hints, and suggests that 20 percent of the film would be set in Hawaii. Of course, anything can happen in the editing room.

“Godzilla” stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, and Ken Watanabe, and opens May 16.

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February 12th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Hawaii, Startups, Technology

Paying for Pizza with DogeCoins | Courtesy Eric Nakagawa

Wow! Such Amaze! A cryptocurrency launched largely for laughs is already starting to shift into a serious business, and Honolulu is feeling some of the first ripples.

Dogecoin is a form of digital currency similar to bitcoin, but it’s inspired by an internet meme involving photos of Shiba Inu dogs and funny captions written in broken English. But only two months after it was created, dogecoin is already the third most valuable cryptocurrency in the world.

Of course, “valuable” is relative. Because of their relative abundance compared to bitcoins, dogecoins have so far been worth just a fraction of a cent each. But that makes them an ideal currency for micropayments and thus a fun way to support your favorite content creators and friends.

One of dogecoin’s many fans is Hawaii-born entrepreneur Eric Nakagawa, who founded internet meme site I Can Has Cheezburger  and the travel startup Simple Honey. The latter was acquired by OpenCoin, perhaps not coincidentally the developer of Ripple, the second most valuable cryptocurrency right now. Nakagawa has been positively giddy about the spread of dogecoin, using Twitter-based service TipDoge to donate tens of thousands of dogecoins to dozens of people (including me).

DareShare Dogecoin ContestThough he’s now based in San Francisco, Nakagawa is in town in part to serve as a Startup Weekend judge. And he’s been spending part of his time back home spreading the word of dogecoin, gifting them to every Startup Weekend organizer and participant he can find.

He has also partnered with the local app DareShare to offer a 50,000 dogecoin prize (about $40 at today’s valuation) for the funniest picture posted with an Olympic theme.

To enter, you’ll need to download DareShare from the App Store and submit a funny picture inspired by the Sochi Olympics in the “Dogecoin Contest” category. The winner, determined by user votes as well as by Nakagawa and DareShare founder Hoala Greevy, will get 25,000 dogecoin to keep and 25,000 to go to support the non-profit of their choice.

Finally, just yesterday, Nakagawa successfully purchased a pizza (and beer) using dogecoin, an act that’s becoming a trademark milestone among digital currencies. He used a Twitter-based dogecoin tipping system to trade 10,000 dogecoins for a pizza and a beer from JJ Dolan’s pizza in downtown Honolulu.

J.J. Dolan and Eric NakagawaNakagawa’s announcement of his purchase quickly earned him nearly 800 votes in the dogecoin section of Reddit.

“I am working with his tech team and drafting a how to guide for selling Dogecoin to restauranteurs,” he explained in the thread. “When this post gets to 1000 uprockets, I’m donating 10,000 doge to charity!”

And while dogecoins are flowing freely and largely for fun, there’s clearly excitement over the possibility that they may also see a significant rise in value over time.

“The first thing ever bought with Bitcoin was a pizza for 10,000 BTC,” reads the top comment. “If you look at Bitcoin’s peak historical price, that was a $10,000,000+ pizza that someone ate.”

Photos courtesy Eric Nakagawa/Imgur.

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February 11th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Social Media, Technology, Video

This morning’s “Hawaii Geek Beat” segment on Hawaii News Now focused on a couple of new offerings from Facebook as the massive social networking site celebrated its tenth birthday.

First, there were the “Look Back” videos that compiled a photographic retrospective of users’ history on Facebook (here’s mine, fittingly starring my wife Jen).  If you needed any more evidence that a picture is worth 1,000 words, these videos showed how compelling they can be — even though every one used the same music and same template.

It was a great gift for Facebook users (even though Google+ did it first)… and a few days after they were launched, Facebook added the ability to edit the photos and posts used in the video.

Secondly we talked about Facebook’s new “Paper” app (not to be confused with the highly regarded “Paper” app for drawing and sketching). It was a ground-up rethinking of how one might interact with the content on Facebook, and it offers a beautiful, clean design and a very touch-centric interface. In addition to a pretty way to navigate your friends’ posts, though, Facebook added human-curated news channels, hoping that people will turn to it (rather than Twitter) to find interesting things to read.

Facebook smartly left its original app alone for people who prefer the standard newsfeed, but “Paper” may very well be Facebook’s future.

Finally, we had to talk about Flappy Bird, the incredibly popular, incredibly frustrating mobile game. No sooner had it gone viral and taken over the world, its creator, Dong Nguyen, decided to pull from the app store on Sunday.

There were conspiracy theories about how it got so popular so fast (I think being featured by YouTube star PewDiePie last month was key), and why he decided to kill it after earning an estimated $50,000 a day (some suspected Nintendo threatened legal action over similar graphics, but it seems like he just got overwhelmed). But the game was a hit, and its creator reminded the world, “I still make games.”

My Flappy Bird high score is 11, by the way.

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February 9th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Events, Hawaii, Startups, Technology

The first Startup Weekend Honolulu of 2014 wrapped up tonight at The Box Jelly, with the final pitches and judging closing out 54 hours of creativity and entrepreneurial activity. And the winners are:

Honorable Mention: Tidy Panda

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An app to fix the bad roommate problem, sorting out chores and facilitating communication while generating revenue through sales of household supplies. jokingly described by one attendee as a “passive-aggressive application with the potential to cause more murders than Gacy.”

Third Place: Karat

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An app that simply displays the current value of a Bitcoin. “Digital currency doesn’t have to be complicated,” the team says. “In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Let’s make things simpler.”

Second Place: NameHub

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Spearheaded by Mark and Tiffany Quezada, ”Discover domains, grow ideas,” is the slogan. “A community where you can share domain names and discover the ideas floating around in your network.” As a domain name hoarder, this was my favorite.

Winner: Green Apple

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An app to crowdfund school supplies to help teachers who inevitably buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets. Teachers would create a registry or wishlist and parents and the community would support them by buying the supplies for them.

You can watch tonight’s pitches here, courtesy the Social Media Club of Hawaii.

Judges for this round included Eric Nakagawa, co-founder of I Can Has Cheezburger and SimpleHoney (acquired by OpenCoin), Steve Markowitz, angel investor and co-founder of MyPoints.com, Bernard Uy, co-founder of Wall-to-Wall Studios, Meli James, program manager of Blue Startups, Devin Egan, co-founder of LaunchKey and Startup Weekend Las Vegas winner, and George Kellerman, partner at 500 Startups.

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January 28th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Government, Hawaii, Technology, Video

This morning’s “Hawaii Geek Beat” segment on Hawaii News Now focused on the increasing popularity and promise of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

While drones are frequently associated with military operations, the commercial applications of the technology are even more interesting. Over the holiday season, online retailer Amazon made headlines by demonstrating a prototype drone delivery system. A couple of weeks ago, video of the Pipeline surf break on the North Shore of Oahu, captured by a UAV, went viral.

Once a specialized technology costing tens of thousands of dollars, camera-toting UAVs are now within reach of consumers. From the $300 Parrot AR Drone to the $1,200 DJI Phantom to the $12,000 eBee drone, it’s not hard to imagine a future where these small aircraft are part of the standard toolkit for many businesses.

The FAA actually banned commercial drone use in 2007, leaving them only to hobbyists (who must still keep below 400 feet and keep away from commercial air traffic). But with massive interest from both businesses as well as government agencies (check out “Civilian Drones,” a documentary about the struggle to use them in search and rescue operations), the FAA is under pressure to incorporate UAVs into the nation’s airspace by 2015. And even that may not be soon enough. Unofficially, drones are already widely used in a variety of ways, and the FAA ban is being directly challenged.

Last month, Hawaii was designated as one of a handful of official drone testing sites by the Federal Aviation Administration, meaning the Aloha State will play a small role in transitioning UAVs from an under-the-radar hobby to a full-blown industry.

Our morning show appearance barely scratched the surface of this topic. Fortunately, tomorrow’s Bytemarks Cafe broadcast on Hawaii Public Radio will tackle it in depth. We’ll be joined by Jim Crisafulli, Director of the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development, Todd Stellanova, founder of Big Island-based Droneflow, and Ted Ralston, renown aviation expert.

Tune in to 89.3FM at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, catch the livestream on the HPR website or via the HPR app, or download the show as a podcast.

Hawaii Geek Beat

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January 11th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology

Bitcoin in Hawaii

Bitcoins have been around for five years. In 2010, the cryptocurrency was worth a fraction of a cent, an early fan spending 10,000 of them on a pizza. With the price of Bitcoins often hovering $1,000 each, those 10,000 Bitcoins would be worth $10 million. Bitcoins are now in the headlines on a regular basis (but not always for good news), and they can be spent in more and more places, including Overstock.com as of this week.

Bitcoins are a big deal among the tech set, but remain a mystery to the mainstream public. A local group, Bitcoin Hawaii, aims to change that.

Bitcoin HawaiiFounded by McKay Davis and Sam Durham, Bitcoin Hawaii LLC started as a Meetup group, inspired by the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose last May. Since then, Davis and Durham have been sharing the Bitcoin story around the community.

“To increase public awareness of Bitcoin, we have started giving free talks… the first was on Nov 12th at UH Manoa in coordination with The Entrepreneurs Club, and the second was on Dec 9th at The Box Jelly,” explains Davis in an email. “Both talks have been very well received and we are now coordinating with The Box Jelly to provide ‘Bitcoin 101′ classes on a recurring monthly basis.”

Bitcoin Hawaii also hosted the “Blockchain Bash” last week, celebrating Bitcoin’s fifth anniversary.

The group’s next Bitcoin workshop will be held on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6:30pm at The Box Jelly. And on Wednesday, Jan. 22, Davis and Durham will be the featured guests on Bytemarks Cafe on Hawaii Public Radio. I look forward to our conversation (and questions and comments from listeners!), as I’ve always been curious about Bitcoins but never delved much deeper than tech news headlines.

Even before the show, Davis was eager to answer some of the specific questions I had about Bitcoin.

Q: As Bitcoins become more valuable, we’re hearing about online Bitcoin wallets being hacked. I just signed up for Coinbase. Would your recommendation be to keep bitcoins offline?

A. That depends on various factors including your investment strategy and on your perspective of perceived risks involved with the various ways to hold Bitcoins:

  1. Storing BTC on Coinbase: The two biggest risks are hacking or Coinbase failing/going bankrupt. Coinbase is at least a U.S. company with large backing. If it were hacked and your coins went missing then you would at least have legal recourse against them. My opinion of Coinbase is very high and I would be suprised to see this happen – but large corporations get hacked all the time. I do know Coinbase has been very good in the past at refunding people’s lost coins not even necessarily when Coinbase was at fault. I doubt Coinbase is going to go under anytime either. Overall pretty safe.
  2. Storing BTC on a Paper Wallet: The biggest risk here is physical loss or damage to the private key. This includes the typical things covered by a safe: theft, fire, & water damage. Here’s a Reddit post about a person who lost 7 BTC to water damage.
  3. Storing coins in a software client: This includes a client wallets such as Bitcoin-QT, one of the many Android Apps, or Blockchain.info for iOS (the only wallet on iOS). Here you control your own keys. Coins are vulnerable to theft via physical access, such as someone taking your phone or logging into your keyboard. Unlock screens and password encrypting the wallet helps a lot in this case. There is also potential of theft via viruses or malware apps. In general, Windows OS machines are also more susceptible to exploits that can allow attackers to gain access.

Q: Which strategy do you follow?

A: I do all three.

  1. I keep my long term savings on offline wallets I’ve printed on waterproof paper and placed in my safety deposit box. This also serves to prevent me from spending them unless I go to the bank. The brilliant part of this setup is I can deposit more coins without having to go to the bank by sending to the public address.
  2. I keep a pretty small amount on Coinbase, I trust them, but I like to control my own coins. This allows me to sell back to coinbase quickly if I have the need.
  3. I keep a bit on my up-to-date and firewalled Linux desktop. I also keep a small amount for spending / showing people on my phone that I carry with me. I make sure all keys on my phone are accessible elsewhere so that if I lose my phone I can still recover the coins.

Q: Does that mean a Bitcoin can be in several places at once? Could you have a Bitcoin in your safety deposit box that’s also the same Bitcoin stored on Coinbase or on your phone?

A: The short answer to your question is an emphatic ‘yes’. The ‘coin’ is really just a balance of the sum of all transactions in/out of an address stored in the public ledger called the Blockchain. When someone ‘holds a coin’ they are really just holding the ‘private key’ which enables the digital signing of transactions moving the balance out of that address (i.e. spending the coin by sending to another public address). Without that private key, it is impossible to forge a transaction moving a balance from an address. The private key is a 256-bit random value, usually encoded as a 52-character string (like ’5JGqzQLXcBw154hUatR6CX5ibbs7eyEWfCpu7otbTonHVU1GjKU’). So, that private key can be stored on my computer, my phone, and a piece of paper simultaneously. Spending it anywhere in the world will be recorded in the shared Blockchain.

“I’m sure that explanation just brings more questions, huh?” Davis adds. ”You’re also welcome to come to the Bitcoin 101 talk.”

For more information, head down to The Box Jelly on Jan. 16, tune in to HPR2 on Jan. 22, or visit the Bitcoin Hawaii website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

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January 10th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Government, Video

I work at Dole Cannery in Iwilei, an industrial neighborhood just outside downtown Honolulu. The area has seen more and more development over the years, with warehouses being replaced by business offices and high-rise apartment buildings.

Along Iwilei Road, a block away from Aala Park (also known for homeless activity) on one side and the Institute for Human Services (the island’s largest homeless shelter and service provider), a homeless encampment was established and continued to grow through the latter half of 2013. At the same time, across the street, Senior Residence at Iwilei was being built, a high-rise apartment building.

My coworkers, some of whom have to walk along Iwilei Rd. from bus stops on N. King street, would regularly report on the size of the encampment, which eventually took over the pedestrian path and forced people to walk in the street. There were news stories over the holidays, and apparently growing complaints from area residents and businesses.

Iwilei Homeless EncampmentThis morning, the City & County of Honolulu (with support from the Honolulu Police Department and the state Sheriff Division) swept in to clear the encampment way. It was a large operation, requiring dozens of city employees and law enforcement officers, and involving a seemingly endless parade of refuse trucks.

What came out of these tents was impressive. Large pieces of furniture, from full-sized beds, dressers and desks to a leather sofa, an ornate, museum-style mirror, and a safe. Many, many tents, several bicycles, and countless wooden pallets. The homeless people that were living there carried away what they could. A few stuck around to watch, and one couple arrived on the scene too late to retrieve their belongings. The man eventually talked his way into a few minutes to grab some items, while the woman started capturing the scene on her phone.

It’s an increasingly familiar sight across Honolulu’s urban core, with homeless encampments gradually growing until they become too large for government officials to ignore. Once cleared from one neighborhood, the homeless relocates to another, biding their time until the next city raid.

After tweeting about the raid (describing it as a police action), the city’s communications director Jesse Broder Van Dyke emailed me the following:

The police are there to keep the peace and don’t get involved unless there is some sort of incident. All of the enforcement of the Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance and the Stored Property Ordinance is done by a crew from the Department of Facility Maintenance. They remove and store items that are obstructing sidewalks or other city lands under the two ordinances. In your video, you can see the DFM crew removing the items while police stand by. In addition, the State Sheriffs also provided support for today’s enforcement action because some of the lands in that area are under state jurisdiction.

Some other information: Mayor Caldwell has increased these enforcement actions in response to community complaints. DFM crews now enforce several days a week and various times of the day, at unannounced locations where the city receives complaints.

Since 1 July 2013 (when the Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance went into effect) city crews responded to public complaints regarding sidewalk nuisances on over 200 occasions at the following locations (some locations were associated with multiple complaints with corresponding multiple enforcement actions):

  • Inha Park
  • Kapiolani Blvd-Atkinson Blvd
  • Thomas Square
  • Aala Park
  • Pauahi St
  • Smith St
  • Maunakea St
  • Hotel St
  • Kukui St
  • Kuwili St
  • Pine St
  • Sumner St
  • Ala Wai Promenade
  • Kalakaua Ave-King St
  • Washington Middle School
  • Kalakaua Avenue at the site of the old Hard Rock Cafe
  • Ilalo St
  • Ahui St
  • Koula St
  • Olomehani St
  • Ohe St
  • Makahiki Way
  • Kalo St
  • Coyne St
  • Coolidge St
  • King St
  • Kalakaua Ave- Kapiolani Blvd.

This list was compiled last week and may not include this week’s actions.

The mayor’s Office of Housing works with homeless service providers go to the sites in advance of the enforcement actions and offer shelter space and assistance to those who will accept it.

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January 5th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Events, Photography

DSLR Video Workshop by Hawaii Shoots

More and more, people are using the cameras on their smartphones instead of dedicated cameras. Indeed, several generations of iPhones remain the most popular camera models on Flickr, with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II squeaking into the top five.

But in the same way that cameraphones have put pretty good photography within reach of the average consumer, today’s “pro-sumer” DSLR cameras — including Canon’s latest models, the Rebel T51 and EOS 70D – are becoming increasingly powerful tools for making cinema-grade movies. DSLRs are empowering a whole new generation of independent filmmakers, and are even being embraced by established Hollywood directors and cinematographers, including the people behind box office megamovies like “The Avengers.”

If you got a new DSLR for Christmas, or if you’re looking to cross the threshold from still photography to video, the Hawaii Shoots gang have a workshop for you. “Intro to DSLR Video” is their first program of 2014.

Cinematographer, photographer, and world-traveler Jeremy Snell will join Hawaii Shoots founder Brad Watanabe of Berad Studio will be teaching the introductory workshop at The Box Jelly in Kakaako. The cost to attend is $15.

Find more details on Facebook, or register through Eventbrite. For an example of DSLR cinematography, check out the following short by Snell, titled “RICO.”

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January 4th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Business, Events, Media, Politics

Deadline Film Series

Hawaii’s media landscape remains in constant flux. Last year brought the end of the Honolulu Weekly, and the launch of HuffPost Hawaii. Hawaii-based entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar is building First Look Media (with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and others). And Hawaii was where NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had his crisis of conscience, his leaks of widespread government surveillance programs still making headlines.

Next week brings a film and conversation series called “Deadline,” hosted at Interisland Terminal‘s closed but not-quite-dead R/D space in Kakaako. There’s also a companion publication, a collection of essays authored by journalists and media commentators. Contributors include my Hawaii Open Data co-founders Burt Lum and Jared Kuroiwa, as well as Ikaika Hussey (The Hawaii Independent), Gene Park (Civil Beat), James Cave (The Offsetter), and Jason Ubay (Hawaii Business).

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, organizers will screen and discuss “Good Night, and Good Luck,” on Thursday, Jan. 9, “A Fragile Trust,” and on Friday, Jan. 10, “All The President’s Men.” Individual passes cost $8, and an all-access pass (that includes a printed copy of the essay collection) is $15.

Find more details on Facebook, and Register online.

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January 3rd, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Environment, Gadgets, Technology

Loko I'a AppHeʻeia fishpond, located north of Kaneohe, is the largest remaining native Hawaiian fishpond on Oahu. Fishponds were once abundant in ancient Hawaii, dating back to the 14th century, and today they are valuable cultural and natural resources.

The Heʻeia fishpond is also one of the most thoroughly studied spots on the island. To make that research more accessible, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology has launched Loko Iʻa, an iOS app designed “to engage a broader community in learning about scientific research, environmental stewardship, Hawaiian culture, and community restoration” there.

The app includes interactive tours, science, photo galleries, and audio about the area. There’s a mix of scientific and cultural information and data connected to several sites around the fishpond, much of it featuring the restoration work of Paepae o Heʻeia, a private non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the fishpond.

And thanks to geolocation, app users can visit the pond and follow a self-guided walking tour around Heʻeia fishpond.

The app, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store.

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