Blogging the Aloha State and Beyond
Hawaii Blog header image 1

October 2nd, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology, The Web, Video

Reaching Out with Neenz

The ThinkTech Hawaii multimedia empire, headed by Jay Fidell, is growing. In recent weeks, two new shows have been added to the network’s extensive lineup, hosted by two good friends.

Local community organizer L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine yesterday kicked off “Reaching Out,” featuring “conversations around the social side of the Internet.” And Dan Leuck, CEO of Ikayzo and founder of TechHui, is hosting “New Media: The Bleeding Edge,” along with colleague Tzyh Ng.

bleeding-edge

ThinkTech, a non-profit tech advocacy firm, brings its stories to print, radio, television, and the web, and also organizes local events. And in the last year, the number of shows hosted on the network has exploded, with more than two dozen hosts (from state Rep. Angus McKelvey to non-profit advocate Lisa Maruyama to dancer Willow Chang). Just looking at the log of videos posted to YouTube in the past week reveals nearly 24 hours of programming.

The debut episode of “Reaching Out” was titled “WTF is Social Media,” and featured my frequent partner in crime, Burt Lum.

Meanwhile, the debut episode of “New Media” was “Intersection of News and Social Media Technology,” and featured Gene Park, engagement editor for Civil Beat.

→ 1 CommentTags:

September 26th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology, Video

iPhone Video

Apart from adjusting to the “ludicrously large” size of the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s been smooth sailing. (I even missed the brouhaha over iOS 8.0.1, for once not pouncing on the software update the moment it was available.) As with any shiny new gadget, there are lots of things to try. With the new hardware and software came enhanced time-lapse, and slow-motion video features. On the slow-motion video front, the first and last chance I’ve had to play with it was when I walked out of the Apple Store last Friday and met up with Ramsay Wharton, a reporter for Hawaii News Now.

The 240 frames-per-second capture is pretty impressive. I’m sure it’d be even more impressive with something more interesting to watch than a geek and a newscaster dance.

As for time-lapse video, I was very interested in comparing Apple’s built-in setting against a dedicated time-lapse video app like iMotion HD. (Check out the iMotion HD time-lapse videos in this post from August 2012.) I taped my giant iPhone to the visor of my car and recorded the drive into work from Mililani to Iwilei, and the drive home.

Apple’s time-lapse video feature only runs at one speed, compared to iMotion HD’s many adjustable settings. Also, the camera seemed to struggle with focus, even with the iPhone 6 Plus’ optical image stabilization helping out. My second experiment, from a stable spot atop the parking structure at Dole Cannery, turned out much more beautifully.

→ 2 CommentsTags: ··

September 25th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Lost, People

Bonnie @andalone Craft

This was an incredible week for “LOST” fans. With the 10th anniversary of the hit TV show came dozens of tributes from all corners of the world, including a fantastic package of stories by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The Lost 2014 tour, years in the making, brought hundreds of fans to “The Island” to revel in their fantastic fandom. And while Jen and I were unable to participate directly, we were able to meet up here and there with many visiting “LOST” addicts.

Unfortunately, the fantastic “LOST” fan gathering wraps on a sad note, with news coming today that one of the show’s biggest fans has died. Cancer Gets Lost, founded by friend and fantastic person Jo Garfein, announced the death of Bonnie Craft.

Bonnie was quite possibly the world’s most dedicated LOST fan and this community was her family… Bonnie and her passionate enthusiasm will be missed, and we know that the entire LOST community shares our grief for this tremendous loss.

Indeed, Bonnie was a huge fan of “LOST.” Beyond huge, easily epic. On Twitter as @andalone, she was a constant, passionate, positive voice for “LOST” fans. She wrote extensively about the show and her massive “LOST” memorabilia collection on not one, but two blogs. In the weeks leading up to the Lost 2014 tour, she could barely contain her excitement about making the trip from Memphis, Tennessee to Honolulu.

How excited? She posted a “LOST” T-shirt every day for over 50 days, counting down to the big trip.

Unfortunately, her flight was delayed on Friday, and she wasn’t feeling well. Her fellow fans reached out to her often, but she wasn’t able to participate in much of the program. She didn’t post to Twitter after Saturday, and today her sister reached out on Twitter to try and find more information. Not long afterward, Cancer Gets Lost announced that she had passed away.

Tweets about @andalone

The outpouring of grief on Twitter and on her Facebook page is heartbreaking, yet heartwarming. Perhaps one of the more notable message for Bonnie came from Henry Ian Cusick, one her favorite actor from the show.

As one fellow fan posted on Facebook, “She absolutely would be screaming!”

“LOST” fans are truly a tight-knit and global community, in both love and loss. My condolences to Bonnie’s friends and family.

→ 4 CommentsTags: ·····

September 25th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Media, Science, Technology

Agripharmatech

For the first time in six years and over 300 shows, Bytemarks Cafe escaped from the basement studio at Hawaii Public Radio and headed out into the field to record on location. Burt and I headed over to Windward Community College to learn about the new agripharmatech program. We spent the full hour with Dr. Inge White and her lab assistant (and former student) Nyan Stillwell, and they told us about the program, their facilities on campus, and the kinds of nutritional and pharmaceutical benefits they’ve been able to derive from common backyard plants.

We were able to go on location thanks to the talents of HPR multimedia producer (and fellow Mililani High School alumni) Jason Taglianetti. He wrangled two separate setups that included a handheld, two-microphone rig that let us tromp around outside in the garden.

It was a lot of fun, and hopefully successful enough to pave the way for future remote shows. You can hear the episode here (MP3 file):

And check out my gallery of photos from the WCC visit on Flickr:

Agripharmatech Gallery

→ No CommentsTags: ·

September 24th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Hawaii, Travel

cheftedswanderinandaponderin-crop

Chef TedNoted conservationist Sam Ohu Gon III shared a photo on Facebook this morning of a blogger’s photo of himself lying on a stone at Moʻokini heiau, saying, “This is what lack of respect looks like.” He posted the following comment:

“You probably did not intend it, but your picture lying on the stone at Moʻokini heiau is highly offensive. It demonstrates a complete disregard and lack of respect of Hawaiian history, traditions, and values. It would be rather like posing as a Jew in the gas chambers in Germany, or laying yourself down on the sacrificial altar at the top of the Aztec Temple of the Sun. What were you thinking?”

On one hand, Gon is gracious enough to note that the intent was probably not to offend. Lots of people do dumb things when they don’t know any better. (Justin Bieber’s comments on Anne Frank, anyone?) And many of Hawaii’s remote, sacred sites aren’t exactly annotated with signs and plaques describing why they are significant.

On the other, the blogger — Chef Ted — is more than a tourist just passing through on a island-hopping day trip. His extensive writings are presented this way:

“Chef Ted prepares for his final act on this spinning earth rock. Currently he is on extended retreat in Hawaii, recovering from existential despair. Hopefully, this treatment will involve solutions, meaningful experience, bearing witness and adventure. I will be reporting back the stories that are everywhere.”

Indeed, the entry in question reflects a fair amount of research into the history of the heiau.

“Even before we knew the gory details about Mo’okini Heiau’s history, the place gave us the heebie-jeebies,” he notes. “Used for human sacrifices, the area feels devoid of a soul.”

Surely, the description of the stone should have been enough:

“Here in front of the heiau is the large lava slab with a slight dip in it. In front is this raised stone. It takes little imagination to see that the slab was the holehole stone, where the unfortunate victims were laid while the flesh was stripped from their bones. These bones were then used to make fishhooks and other objects. The number of Hawaiians sacrificed here ran into the tens of thousands.”

Instead, he lay on the stone and played dead in a most cartoonish fashion. Gon’s comparison of this act to “posing as a Jew in the gas chambers in Germany” is apt.

One commenter on Gon’s post said it well:

“People don’t just ‘happen’ upon places such as this. They purposely seek out heiau and Hawaiian sacred sites already knowing that it is just that – a sacred site. Whether there are signs, guides or docents are irrelevant. One should not have to know any details of how or why it is considered a sacred site in order to prompt appropriate behavior.”

I suspect Chef Ted will get a few more comments on this post and photo from January of this year. But if he truly is looking for “meaningful experience,” he’ll hopefully chalk it up to a lapse in judgement and an important lesson.

→ 10 CommentsTags: ··

September 24th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology, Television

This morning’s segment on Hawaii News Now focused on the latest iPhones from Apple (including the latest flap, “Bendgate”), the iOS update that comes with them, and finally the upcoming fourth generation of Samsung’s original “phablet,” the Galaxy Note. Burt, who is currently gallivanting around Japan, escaped the latest escalation in the “Dance, Geek, Dance!” series.

See also:

→ 1 CommentTags: ···

September 20th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology

iPhone 6 Plus

In the days leading up to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 launch, I wasn’t alone in making cardboard cutouts of the new iPhones to test the feel of the different sizes. I knew the iPhone 6 Plus was big, and that the iPhone 6 was really designed to hit the smartphone “sweet spot.” But I was drawn to the larger model because of the 2,900 mAh battery and optical image stabilization. Besides, I have friends with Galaxy Note and other large phones who insist that they quickly got used to it.

So I preordered, and lined up before dawn yesterday, and picked up the apparently scarce iPhone 6 Plus (64 gig silver). My first reaction to the real thing in the store was, “It’s ludicrously large.” Similar reactions awaited at my office. But how do I feel now, after a day or so of using it?

It still feels really big. It’s a tangibly different device than the iPhone 5/5s was, or any of the earlier iPhones, really. While this is a device category that owners of large Android phones have known for a few years, going from 4″ diagonal to 5.5″ is a real change for Apple customers compared to people who’ve seen their screen sizes slowly grow with each annual upgrade.

I’ve seen the iPhone 6 Plus in the hands of people with large, basketball-grasping hands, and in that context it looks fine. Challenges might remain when it comes to tight or shallow pockets, but those are challenges that purse or satchel carriers can ignore. I’m sure some people will do just fine with 5.5 diagonal inches of glass.

But I have little girlie hands. With the iPhone 6 Plus in my palm, resting comfortably against the base of my left thumb, my three lower fingers barely get up around the far edge. My pointer finger, meanwhile,  is just lost underneath.

And in this “safe grasp” position? My thumb barely gets to the third column of icons. Yes, Reachability mode is cool, bringing down the screen vertically, but for me, the horizontal span is the challenge. I randomly tapped the standard keyboard with my thumb, and U, H, and B are the furthest right I could reach without stretching.

And stretching not only hurts after a while, it’s dangerous.

It’s hard not to go for those keys and icons on the right side of the screen when you’re on a roll, getting stuff done while grocery shopping, waiting in line, or cooking. You just shimmy your hand a little this way, tilt the phone a little that way, then stretch your thumb to hit that ‘Submit’ button. But you know you’re taking your chances, and the satisfaction of doing it is quickly chilled by the recurring nightmare about the day your shimmy and tilt will inevitably release your expensive new phone to the ruthless, constant pull of Planet Earth.

I love the huge upgrade in screen real estate on the iPhone 6 Plus. Photos look great, videos even better, and you can get more information in a glance than ever before. (Well, if your apps are optimized for larger screens, because otherwise everything is just enlarged to the point of “comedy gold.”) And using two hands? Typing and scrolling and jumping from app to app feels almost magical. The thinness of the iPhone 6 Plus relative to its area makes this long-time Star Trek fan really feel like he’s living in the future.

The battery life is great, too… at least on day one. After a typical Saturday morning browsing around and listening to podcasts, I could be down to 50 percent by lunch on my iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus was at 89 percent when I went to pick up my wife at work at 2 p.m.

And as the camera has always been the number one feature of the iPhone for me, I’m very happy with the optics on this giant phone. I’ve only played with the 240fps slow motion, but it’s impressive, and with hardware-driven optical image stabilization, I look forward to better low-light performance (perhaps the one achilles heel of previous iPhones).

But the iPhone 6 Plus is definitely part iPhone and part iPad. It’s a hybrid that comes with a lot of advantages, and a few drawbacks. The easy one-handed use of all previous iPhones is something I took for granted, but now appreciate. And until I get better at knowing whether or not to start something that is better done with two hands, I’m afraid that I’m going to keep taking chances, and that someday my luck might run out.

→ 4 CommentsTags:

August 28th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Media, Social Media, Technology

A little over a week ago, I complained about Twitter on Twitter, annoyed that the company was starting to insert stuff into users’ newsfeeds that users didn’t ask for. While the appearance of ads and other content designed to “increase engagement” was inevitable, it was still disappointing to see on what remains my favorite social platform.

The lament sparked a bite-sized conversation with Beth-Ann Kozlovich, my producer at Hawaii Public Radio. That, in turn, inspired a longer conversation this morning on “The Conversation,” HPR’s daily morning news talk show. We talked about the various ways Twitter, Facebook, and other services mess with their newsfeeds, from injecting ads to using algorithms to promote or demote things based on what users like or don’t like. It was fun to be on the other side of the microphone. You can hear the interview here [MP3], which I’ve also uploaded to SoundCloud:

We only briefly touched on the “filter bubble,” a term coined by Eli Pariser to caution against algorithmic meddling with the information people see based on a machine’s assumption of what they want. I mention Pariser’s perspective often, and it’s a common refrain in tech circles (most recently in discussions over the way Twitter and Facebook surfaced news about protests in Ferguson, Missouri), and prefer Twitter to Facebook specifically because Twitter essentially shows you everything, for better or worse.

But over the years I’ve become less worried about the dangers of the “filter bubble.” And perhaps fittingly, the shift in my opinion wasn’t even clear to me until I shared the HPR interview on Facebook, which sparked a related debate over the effect of Facebook on journalism and the shifting priorities of news organizations. Of course, now I want to liberate that discussion from Facebook, and preserve it out here on the open web.

My friend Paul suggested that things were better in the early days of television, when iconic news anchors like Walter Cronkite loomed large over what Americans considered news. “People formed their own opinions after watching, but at least they were starting with the same set of facts,” he wrote. “Now people tend to start with only the facts they like, and partisan cable channels and algorithmic filtering will only exacerbate that.”

My reply:

That’s exactly where I think this arm-flailing over filter bubbles goes wrong. With Cronkite, you had one gatekeeper deciding what is news. I shudder to think how many stories could be so easily disappeared when a few TV networks and giant newspapers decided everything. The news editor in any town had the power to set the civic agenda, quash a movement, create a saint. How can that be better than thirty stations, or a million web streams? Everyone has a voice, is not guaranteed an audience, and may the most compelling content win.

Yes, I can surround myself with yes men and opinions that support my opinion. But man, that’s what people have done since forming cliques in caves. The fact of the matter is, we have access to more information than has ever been available in human history. Connections can be forged today with a tap on a smartphone that would simply not have been possible one lifetime ago.

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of diversity even in my “curated” Facebook feed. I don’t “Like” or agree with many things algorithmically served to me. If we were all living in padded cyber cells with nodding smiling faces, why the heck do people also say that Facebook is full of idiots, racists, and communists? We don’t all get along, and damn it, that’s okay with me.

As for the death of “real news”?

I get misty eyed over “All the President’s Men.” I believe journalists have a higher purpose and can change the world for the better. I like to imagine myself one of the dwindling generations of “ink stained wretches” that staggered across a deadline and awoke to the sounds and smells of a printing press. I have plenty of cynicism about what counts as journalism today, what the masses seek out, and so on. I definitely have days when I’m convinced the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But I also think every generation feels that way about the next. Every disruptive technology is the work of the devil, detracting from substance and meaning.

People have, IMHO, always sought distraction over reflection, trivia over hard conversations, spread rumors and hate… only the tools have changed.

Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor at City University in New York, speaks often about how the advent of the cross-country telegraph, and even the first trans-Atlantic cable, were decried as the end of thoughtful reflection and civility. “Now we’ll be inundated with too much information! Why do we need to know every little detail about life so far away, and so quickly?” You could take an op-ed about the telegraph in the 1800s, the radio in the early 1900s, and the television half a century later, swap out the name of the gadget for “Facebook,” and it would read exactly the same.

Yes, the instant availability of infinite voices makes for a lot of noise. And the internet allows for the creation of millions of caves in which extremists can convince themselves their worldview is supreme. I certainly won’t disagree that everything seems more polarized now, and that the mainstream media (and the money it makes) seems driven mostly by sensationalism and conflict. But that succeeds only because people reward it with their attention and clicks.

What I’m excited about is the fact that the mainstream media doesn’t control the message now, and that “real news” and compelling stories can be generated by anyone. There are thousands of petty, shallow celebrity gossip blogs out there. But there are also thousands of other everyday people creating and sharing wonderful stuff. Anyone in the world can see it, if they look for it.

→ No CommentsTags: ····

August 21st, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · The Web

W.B. Goodwin Community Center

One of the things that comes with running a website — or several websites, many of which have been around for over a decade — is a constant onslaught of link-building spam. It’s a familiar email pitch. “You have a great website about {x}. We have a great website about {x}. Won’t you please link to our site from your site?” Like all spam, there’s a wide range of styles, strategies, and writing quality. But whether they’re professional business pitches or incoherent not-quite-English blurbs, after a while you can get good at spotting them, and trashing them.

But a link-building request I got today was so clever, I had to give it some props… even though I still ignored it.

The email came from one Jenny Miller, the program director for a community center, saying that my website was a helpful resource for “the kids.” And by the way, here’s a link to another page that they found helpful. “Can you include it on your page?” Jenny asks. “Let me know – I’d love to show my group! I meet with them tomorrow!”

I have to admit, I didn’t just click “Report spam.” It seemed almost authentic. And giving it a second look, some care definitely went into putting the pitch together. The topic “the kids” were studying was explained well, and did tie into the topic of the page on my site being referenced (in this case, ham radio). And while there was no link or blatant invitation to learn more about the community center in question, the email domain and signature pointed to GoodwinCC.org.

I figured they were hoping the use of a dot-org address would add credibility. But surely there wouldn’t actually be a website at that domain…

W.B. Goodwin Community Center

Not only was there a website for the W.B. Goodwin Community Center, but it was a carefully crafted one. The site wasn’t just a mish-mash of random English text cobbled together by a robot or reckless copy-and-paste bandit. It looked real. Not too plain, but not too fancy. There were pages for the center’s programs for teens and seniors, an after school program, a calendar of events, even a member login page.

Could this be a real community center? It seems to have a rich history, a touching mission to “expand the minds of all the young people that come through the doors,” and even an executive director, one Roberta Davidson.

I was impressed. You had to look carefully to note that date references were vague: save half off the membership fee “until the end of the month.” Senior bingo on the third of “this month.” You’d have to be geeky enough to view the source of the login page to realize it is set up to only generate a login error. And of course there are minor missing details like a phone number, address, or map… the kind of things you’d probably look for if you were going to a community center.

All this work for a link-building operation, and discoverable only by someone curious enough to dig a little further into the backstory of an email message.

I was amused to find that Google’s autocomplete suggestions for the “W.B. Goodwin Community Center” included searches for its address and location, meaning that more than a few people tried to research it:

goodwinsearch

And, of course, I did find other website managers who took the bait.

The Richland Public Health links page cheerfully says: “The following links were provided by Mrs. McCutcheon’s Learn to Drive Class! at the W. B. Goodwin Community Center (Thank you: Carter, Julia, Amelia, Sam, Damon, and Markus).” The folks at the U.S.S. L. Mendel Rivers actually included the text of the email from Mrs. Grace McNeil and student Nicole R. on the suggested submarine-related links. Similarly, a set of links to renewable energy resources at Oasis Montana is credited to Mrs. Grace McNeil and one of her students, Jess.

Perhaps all that work building a believable website for an imaginary community center was worth it? Well played, W.B. Goodwin team. Well played.

 

→ 3 CommentsTags: ···

July 28th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Miscellaneous

Firelight Kauai

The Hawaii maker movement continues to grow, with the latest news coming from the west side of The Garden Island.

Carl Lozar of the Kauai Makers Club announced today a new offering from Firelight Kauai, a boutique gallery space in Hanapepe with laser cutting and giclee printing capability. While the facility is regularly open to visitors, it will now open its doors specifically to makers every Saturday with a limited makerspace membership.

“We can custom engrave and cut pieces large or small from acrylic, wood, glass, leather, cardboard, paper, and nearly any kind of fabric,” notes the Firelight website. “We can cut wood blocks for woodblock printing up to 32″ x 20″, and our giclee printer can print 44″ wide to just about any roll length, on canvas or paper.”

“I was down there this past Saturday and am totally amazed how fast the laser can work,” Lozar wrote. He said Firelight founder Bryon Knopf created the membership program in the hopes of gauging the demand for a makerspace on Kauai.

Knopf, who is also a Realtor, has posted videos of the laser cutter at work on YouTube.

For now, membership is $43 per month, which gets makers access to the workspace and the tools (including the laser cutter, giclee printer, compound miter saw and paint booth). Supplies are not included but are available at Firelight’s wholesale cost.

“The second Saturday of each month will be Nerd Night, there will be canned projects ready to go for the group and individuals,” Lozar noted on Facebook. “Most of these would be a good ‘Hello world’ project to teach the equipment basics.”

→ No CommentsTags: ···