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January 2nd, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Education, Events, Technology

LearntoCode“Learn programming” is a very likely entry in the average geek’s list of new year’s resolutions. But while resources abound to learn to code on your own, taking a class and asking questions is probably better for those in a hurry.

And if you’re in a real hurry, this weekend’s “Firehose Learn2Code” workshop is for you.

The brainchild of Marco Morawec (who founded the “Firehose Weekend” series in Boston before moving to Honolulu) and co-taught by Boston-based software engineer Ken Mazaika, the three-day intensive workshop is described as “perfect for non-technical people itching to build their own Minimum Viable Product (MVP), learn to code and finally attract a technical co-founder to their startup idea.”

From setting up your development environment on Friday evening to learning to code and creating a working app all day Saturday and Sunday, the workshop will cover popular coding tools like Ruby on Rails, HTML5, CSS3, Github and Heroku. The cost is $250, but with talented coders earning that much in an hour, it seems like a reasonable investment for someone seriously interested in getting their feet wet in software development.

(For a deeper dive, there’s the newly formed DevLeague, offering a 12-week course for $8,000 launching later this month.)

The “Firehose Learn2Code Workshop” is offered through Pacific New Media at the University of Hawaii, and you can register online.

We interviewed Morawec on Bytemarks Cafe last month, and you can learn more by listening to his segment (starting at 07:30) here.

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January 1st, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Video

Happy New Year! With the arrival of 2014, I’m resolving to blog more often… a resolution I’ve failed to keep for the past several years, but it’s worth another shot. The first thing I was looking forward to share in 2014 is my complete 1 Second Everyday video for last year.

The video was created with 1 Second Everyday, an app that was launched on Kickstarter. With it, I was able to piece together one-second daily clips recapping 2013, including glimpses of things as exciting as Comic-Con, and as mundane as driving home in rush-hour traffic. Some moments were obviously captured in a panic at the end of the day, lacking anything more interesting than what was around me moments before going to bed. And some were definitely planned, meaningful events that I knew I wanted to be a part of this compilation.

It’s a compelling retrospective for me, of course, and something I think I’ll enjoy even more as time passes. I’m especially intrigued by how important the natural sounds of each moment turned out to be. I can close my eyes and just listen to the seconds, and see in my minds eye much more drawn from my memory than was captured by my iPhone.

But this video, or at least videos like it, apparently resonate with others, too. It conveys many facets of someone else’s life in a way that photo albums or blog posts can’t. It’s not a pure, honest documentary, of course, but it somehow feels more real.

The geek in me can’t help but note that there are a few technical glitches in the video. Missing date stamps, missing audio for a few days, and probably other things I haven’t noticed. These are mostly my fault, as I upgraded early to iOS 7 (which was very glitchy and crashy), before the 1SE developers were ready for it. In fact, up until recently, a lot of users were unable to get usable video out of the app at all, as Apple had made a small, undocumented change to its iOS video codec. Fortunately, most (but not all) of these hiccups have been ironed out… just in time to create countless “year in review” videos.

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November 11th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology

Jolly Pumpkin LogoFor most people, fishing is a relaxing pastime that offers an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and a few moments of peaceful reflection. For everyone else, there’s “Grenade Fishing Jr.,” a playfully explosive new game from a Honolulu developer.

Available for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), “Grenade Fishing” is the creation of Jacob Pollock of Jolly Pumpkins Productions. Pollack’s day job is as a materials engineer at local research and development firm Oceanit.

“Grenade Fishing” lets anyone go “blast fishing,”  the environmentally disastrous but virtually amusing practice of replacing poles, hooks and lines with explosives. The game takes specific advantage of accelerometers, allowing players to control the action by tilting and turning their devices.

Abe the bear (replacing Aloha Cat from the first incarnation) is the star of the show. Players first aim his grenade into the water, then after the blast, rock Abe’s boat back and forth so he can catch the falling fish in his mouth. Notes the game’s initial announcement:

It is a skill-based “quick-fix” action title with 18 levels and a “hand-drawn” feel. The fun of the game comes from the thrill of blowing things up and the challenge of the engaging live-action gameplay. It features realistic physics simulation, water dynamics, and fish behavior and has a unique “tilt-to-zoom” feature. Things get pretty interesting when the waves get big and the fish get smart.

Just released last week, the $0.99 game hit the top of the charts in the iTunes App Store for in the paid sports game category, and ranked in the Top 20 of all iOS games tracked by TouchArcade.

Pollock was born in San Francisco, grew up in West Virginia, and graduated with a PhD in bioengineering from UC Berkeley. After a brief stint at a West Coast medical hardware firm, he came to Honolulu over a year ago to work at Oceanit.

While he says he enjoys mobile app development, it’s definitely not the top line on his resume.

“I consider myself an inventor, mainly in materials science, and I have multiple peer-reviewed academic publications, book chapters, and issued patents,” he notes. “I do programming in my free time.”

Even so, Pollack says he’s been making game since he was eight years old, programming adventure games in BASIC on a Commodore 64 computer.

“This was before I picked up an ATARI-2600 game console at a garage sale for $20,” he adds.

With an eye toward computer animation and physics simulations, Pollack said the he dreamed up “Grenade Fishing” a decade ago. Back then, Flash was a popular platform for game development, but it wasn’t ideal.

“I finally picked it up again last year after I got an iPad and realized that I could actually write apps for it,” he says.

With “Grenade Fishing” released to the world, Pollack says he wants to do even more in mobile app development.

“I would like to build a small team here in Hawaii to operate a game house that produces high-quality indie titles,” he says.

For more information on “Grenade Fishing,” visit the official site at GrenadeFishing.com, or visit the game’s official Facebook page. It’s available now for $0.99 in the iTunes App Store.

Grenade Fishing Screenshot

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November 5th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Art, Events

Fringe Festival

Honolulu will again join a global celebration of the arts with the Oahu Fringe Festival, which has now grown to a three-day event since it first landed in Chinatown in 2011.

Fringe festivals are part of a tradition going back to 1947, where the first Edinburgh Festival Fringe was held in Scotland. There are dozens of events across the country, and our local festival aims to span the Pacific.

“We are fortunate to again have a variety of acts which is central to Fringe,” says organizer Misa Tupou, who originally hails from New Zealand. “We’ve got theatre with storytelling, puppetry, improv, dance (Tahitian, hula, ballroom), and multi-media works ‘Kardia’ and ‘Etched.’”

Nearly all of the performers are from Honolulu, save Bonnie Kim from Hilo (with a Korean folktale puppet show) and storyteller Katy Rydell from Portland, Maine. And Tupou says he is glad to see solid female representation.

“Most of the acts and shows this year have been created by women, or have strong women involved,” he says. “This is isn’t to say that [wasn't true in] other years… but certainly this year it is noticeable.”

One of the highlights of this third year’s festival will take place above the ground.

“[We will have] aerial dance inside NextDoor… the aerial artists will construct their aerial structure inside NextDoor,” Tupou says. “This is a first for Fringe, an exciting prospect.”

The aerial performance kicks off the opening celebration, followed by “fringe bites,” five minute previews of many of the acts that will be featured throughout the festival. Tickets for each performance are available online; for more information, visit the Oahu Fringe website.

Photo courtesy OahuFringe.com.

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November 5th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Gadgets, Reviews, Technology

Snugg iPad mini case

Any Apple fan knows that getting your hands on the sleek, shiny gadget is just the start of the fun. Picking the right accessories is also part of the adventure, and while I generally keep it simple, I know people who have half a dozen cases and covers for their tech toys, one to match every occasion and outfit.

I love my iPad mini, which quickly made the regular-sized iPad seem big and unwieldy. And Apple’s own Smart Cover was perfectly fine for what it was: a basic sturdy flap that held on to the iPad with magnets. It frequently came loose in my already cluttered backpack, though, sparking periodic hunting trips.

I wasn’t in the market for anything new, but the folks at accessory maker The Snugg offered to send me a sample case to review. Their stuff seemed well regarded, and their blogger outreach robust, so was happy to take them up on their offer… especially after learning that their Snugg iPad mini Leather Case Cover and Flip Stand came in green.

The Snugg iPad mini case is solidly built, with sturdy panels and clean seams. It is decidedly not a full leather case (it’s described as “PU leather”), but has just enough of a thin textured skin that gives the feel and faint smell of the real thing.

The iPad mini is a, naturally, snug fit, and feels pretty safe inside the case, which makes carrying the iPad mini feel like carrying a nice bound notebook. With the case on, the iPad mini fits comfortably in the hand, and a notch in the back allows you to tuck the open cover into an elevated stand to allow for easy typing, or stand it up for hands-free viewing.

The only Achilles heel is the exposed edges and corners of the iPad, which means you could still see a dent or nick if you drop it on its edge. But that also means all ports and controls are easily accessible, rather than buried under case panels or kludgy pass-through nubs. The Snugg case also has a wrapped elastic hand strap in the cover and a loop for a stylus, but I don’t see myself using either.

The list price of this case is $39, though as of this writing it’s priced at $29. Considering the fact that Apple sells its magnetic rubber flap for $39, it’s a good buy if you’re looking for what the Snugg offers. And keep in mind, the company makes cases and covers for dozens of tablet and smartphone models.

A quick note, though: the new iPad mini with the high-resolution Retina screen, just announced last week, is a little thicker than this original iPad mini (7.5 mm thick versus 7.2 mm). Though Snugg wouldn’t say, this current case may be a little too snug for the newest model. Just be sure to check the website before ordering.

The company let me keep the case, and I’m keeping it on my iPad mini, replacing my iPad mini Smart Cover and plastic back case. It makes for a thicker device, but so far I’m liking the more substantive feel it offers.

Check out my Snugg iPad mini case photo gallery (taken with my iPhone, of course) on Flickr:

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October 26th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Business, Hawaii, Technology, The Web

IslandFunder Logo

Last night brought the official launch of IslandFunder, a crowdfunding startup focused specifically on Hawaii projects.

The gala event, at Five-O Bar and Lounge in Waikiki, featured Jason Alan, Jahlivity, and Rebel Souljahz. But while it was the coming-out party for the startup, the site already has funding campaigns underway: a catering company, a skateboard company, ocean cleanups, and a statewide tour for a reggae band.

David and NickIslandFunder was founded by David Rippey and Nick Von Wiegandt. Wiegandt attended Maryknoll School and Chaminade University, and along with Rippey runs local web design firm Biz Revamp. Rippey took a more unusual path to his latest Hawaii project.

“I was born here but attended high school in California and studied Business Organizational Management at Abilene Christian University [in Texas],” Rippey explains. He was able to attend ACU, his “dream school,” on a football scholarship, but after a career-ending knee injury, he returned to Hawaii and the entrepreneurship program at UH.

His studies led to starting a web design company. And a trip to Europe last year, during which he came to admire the efficiency and economy of Germany, inspired him to “make epic things happen here locally.”

Knowing the challenges that everyone faces, from tech startups to artists, he started True Innovation Hawaii in July, and got to work building IslandFunder.

“I just want to bring amazing ideas to life; things that help the community and better the lives of others,” he says. “I put the Islandfunder project together because I saw a need to develop a platform for this idea.”

IslandFunder Front Page

Of course, Hawaii has seen several successful crowdfunding projects using the largest platforms out there: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Juicies (raising $240,000 in round two, with five days left to go), Ti2 Design, Snapzoom, Pow Wow Hawaii, Naked Cow DairyTealet, R&D

“Sure there are other crowdfunding platforms out there, but Hawaii needs [its] own,” Rippey replies. “We need a place where we can come together and fuel our money into projects we want to see happen.”

While he’s not aware of other state-specific crowdfunding platforms, he notes that “Hawaii to me is another country when it comes to marketing strategies.” And he feels that very few locals know about crowdfunding, something that IslandFunder can change.

IslandFunder is open to projects that are more about helping the community than about making money. Teachers can seek support for their classroom projects, for example. And emphasizing local innovation is key to its founders.

“Shop local and build local is a huge movement that’s growing, and the coffee shops are filling with entrepreneurs everyday working hard to make their dreams happen,” Rippey says. “Some of the first campaigners on Islandfunder are start-up companies I met while buying a cup of coffee at Capital 360 Café.”

Using IslandFunder doesn’t mean not using Kickstarter, he notes.

“Get the community first at Islandfunder, then try and reach the world with another platform,” he suggests.

Rippey says he was inspired by the speed of progress and competitive energy he saw while visiting California.

“I hope to bring that motivation to Hawaii, but [to] compete with each other to build each other — in the end, your competitor is always your neighbor,” he said. “I know Hawaii can innovate the local entrepreneur world… to compete with the mainland companies.”

Rippey says that IslandFunder isn’t about making money, and that fees are set as low as possible.

“Nick von Wiegandt and I put all our money into this site, and the last thing we thought about is when we will get it back,” he says. “Our concerns right now are what can we do to make a difference and how can we make the campaigns on our site a success.”

Check out IslandFunder.com, or connect with the site on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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October 21st, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology, The Web

Juicies+

One of Hawaii’s earliest Kickstarter projects is back with a vengeance. Juicies+ is the follow-up to Juicies, a set of colored smartphone charging cables launched in 2011. And while that first project hit a few bumps in the road, the numbers for the sequel show solid confidence that founder Laurens Laudowicz will deliver.

With 10 days left to go, and only one stretch goal to give the project a boost, Juicies+ blew past its $40,000 fundraising goal in under 26 hours, and has now raised over $226,000 in pledges from over 6,500 backers.

Of course, the original Juicies project also saw a strong start.

Launched on Kickstarter on Earth Day in 2011, Laudowicz was looking for just $5,000. He ended up raising over $22,000 from over 1,600 backers. Burt Lum and I featured Laudowicz (and Fernando Pacheco of Pimpbot) on Bytemarks Cafe the following month in a show exploring the crowdfunding phenomenon.

Unfortunately, it would take more than a year for those colored cables to be manufactured and shipped, during which time Apple announced that it was changing its device connection hardware from the 30-pin design it had used since 2003 to the current Lightning cable design. With the 30-pin Juicies prematurely relegated to older devices only, Laudowicz argued that they’d still be useful for a couple of years, and introduced 30-pin USB versions mid-stream, making the cables work for other devices as well.

Suffice it to say, the delay drew a fair amount of criticism, and when all the colored cables were finally shipped, Laudowicz bared all in his final update.

“I had never manufactured electronics before, I didn’t know the actual cost of the products I was going to manufacture, [and] I was afraid to share what was going on when things got hard and took longer than expected,” Laudowicz admitted. “I am very glad that I started the Juicies project when I did, and I will never regret it.”

“I gained so much experience from it and I am very proud that I did not give up,” he adds.

Now, Laudowicz is building upon those hard lessons and his proven persistence with a new-and-improved charging cable. Taking its cues from the industrial design of the latest Apple iPhone, Juicies+ are heavy-duty, tangle-free woven anodized aluminium cables. They’re described as “simply the cable Apple should have made.”

Gold JuiciesAnd to go with the new gold-colored iPhone, the stretch goal (unlocked when fundraising blew past $120,000) introduced a gold-colored cable.

Thanks to the contacts and procedures from the first go-round, Laudowicz is confident the new cables will earn the coveted certification of Apple’s MFI program. But for non-iPhone users, MicroUSB cables will be available out of the gate.

Juicies+ has netted coverage across the web, from Techcrunch to CNET to Cult of Mac. And with the Kickstarter campaign running through Oct. 31, you have until the end of the month to put in $18 for your own Juicies+ cable.

Extra: Listen to Laudowicz and fellow Kickstarter veteran Mike Bond of Ti2 Design discuss their Kickstarter experiences on the Sept. 18, 2013 episode of Bytemarks Cafe.

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October 9th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Business, Technology

Gibi

Gibi Technologies, founded by two sisters from Honolulu, is in the running to have its pet-finding gadget and app boosted by the nation’s largest retailer.

The Gibi is a waterproof, rugged yet lightweight GPS device and accompanying mobile app to track lost pets. And the device has already persevered to be among the top 20 finalists in Walmart’s second annual ‘Get on the Shelf‘ contest, one of four in the ‘Great Gadgets’ category.

Gibi was co-founded by Synette Tom and Sheree Loui, sisters born and raised in Kahaluu and graduates of Castle High School and the University of Hawaii. Last month, the startup earned a spot in the second round of the Blue Startups accelerator program here in Honolulu.

But Gibi has a chance at national exposure through the Walmart competition, which will give winners a marketing boost and a shot at selling their wares on Walmart.com.

“We are developing a pet GPS location service to help people quickly, accurately, and reliably find their missing pets,” Tom explains in an email. “According to the American Pet Products Association and humane societies ,1 in 3 pets go missing in their lifetime and 4 million are euthanized each year, because owners cannot be identified.”

With the Gibi on a collar and the app on a smart phone, a push of a button will bring up a Google map with the pet’s exact location.

In the Walmart contest, they are up against the Goji Smart Lock, the Cookoo Watch, and the Solar-Breeze pool cleaner. And voting in the “Great Gadgets” category begins on Monday, Oct. 14, running for three days.

“We would greatly greatly appreciate support from our home town, Hawaii… the great Hawaiian ohana,” Tom writes.

Voting will begin with the posting of a video featuring the slate of gadgets, and if you want to receive an email to be notified when its released, you can sign up on the placeholder page.

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October 3rd, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Business, Environment, Food

Vote for Hawaii's Favorite Green Restaurant

One Hawaii restaurant will be crowned the state’s best green restaurant in The Nature Conservancy‘s annual Nature’s Plate Awards. The finalists, selected from public nominations submitted last month, are:

  • Greens & Vines (Honolulu, HI): Formerly Licious Dishes, the restaurant makes healthy eating a joy, reflected in chef and owner  Sylvia Thompson’s motto: “Share the Lifestyle.”
  • Hilo Bay Café (Hilo, HI): A locally owned restaurant committed to the belief that sustainable products with local and organic ingredients are better for the earth and for you.
  • Hukilau Lanai Restaurant (Kapaa, HI): Known for the freshest island fish and use of local products and produce, offering consistently excellent food at reasonable prices, nightly live music, and an outstanding wine list.
  • Kohala Burger & Taco (Waimea, HI): Opened in November 2010, the vision for the restaurant was to utilize fresh and local ingredients that embraced Hawaii’s grass-fed beef supply and abundance of fresh, line-caught wild fish.
  • Town Restaurant (Honolulu, HI): Recipient of the Hawaii State Governor’s “Green Business of the Year Award” in 2009, Town is a community gathering place that seeks to reconnect people to the food they eat and those they eat with.

Vote for Hawaii’s favorite green restaurant before Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. [Hawaii Grinds]

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September 27th, 2013 by Ryan Ozawa · Art, Media, Technology

nude magazine

Matt Luttrell (former managing editor of FreeSurf Magazine) and Chance Carpenter (of Silhouette) are launching a quarterly, bi-lingual magazine and free companion iOS app called ‘nude.’ They say: “Surfing is an elegant endeavor that was born, practiced, and perfected here in Hawaii. Our goal with nude is to cohesively portray surfing’s beauty, history, and elegance into a publication that will speak to both surfers and non-surfers alike.” The magazine, which debuts Nov. 1, will be distributed at select locations across the state, as well as in Tokyo, Sydney, and New York. But the app is already available, and will feature video teaser trailers every Friday. [Hawaii Star]

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