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May 6th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Science, Technology, Video

Space, the final frontier, was the theme of this week’s appearance on Hawaii News Now, chosen in honor of UC Berkeley astrophysicist Alex Filippenko. Filippenko, who is known worldwide for his scientific achievements as well as his efforts to bring astrophysics to the masses, will be our guest on Bytemarks Cafe tomorrow afternoon, and is the featured speaker this Saturday in the Explorers of the Universe lecture series organized by the UH Institute for Astronomy.

For our TV friends, we featured three space apps:

Exoplanet AppExoplanet [App Store] by Hanno Rein, astrophysicist at Princeton University. The app is a beautiful, interactive guide to over 1,700 planets and counting, plus rich details on planets and moons in our own solar system. The app lets you zoom way, way out from Earth to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. You can get push notifications of new exoplanet discoveries, and even link the app to your Philips Hue light bulbs to change the color of the light in your room to match that of the atmosphere of a distant planet.

StarWalk [App Store, Google Play Store], a perennial favorite that combines astronomy with consumer technology in an irresistible way. The “augmented stargazing” app helps you spot over 200,000 stars, planets, constellations and satellites in the night sky. StarWalk won an Apple Design Award in 2010, was named among the Best of 2012 in the App Store in 2012, and continues to be one of the most compelling space apps out there.

SatelliteSelfies, an app concept entered in the 2014 NASA International Space Apps Challenge. It’s a simple game that presents a satellite image and asks you to guess where on Earth it is, and it is the brainchild of Kailua High School graduate George Uno (now living on the Mainland). He entered it in NASA’s “Where On Earth” challenge, and public voting just closed yesterday. SatelliteSelfies made the final cut, and now just two apps are left in the running for the Global People’s Choice award.

Want to explore the cosmos in greater depth? Tune in to HPR2 89.3FM (or streaming live via the web and mobile apps) at 5 p.m. HST to hear our conversation with Alex, and get a preview of his Saturday talk, “The Big Bang Theory, Inflation, and the Multiverse: An English Major’s Introduction to the Birth and Early Evolution of the Universe.”

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May 2nd, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Education, Hawaii, Media

KCCStudent speech on college campuses is again being challenged in Hawaii, with two separate stories surfacing in recent weeks: the administration take-over of Kapi‘o, the student newspaper at Kapiolani Community College, and a lawsuit filed against UH Hilo over restrictions placed on the distribution of literature on school grounds.

They’ve definitely stirred up memories of my college journalism experiences… including serving as editor-in-chief of the weekly student paper at UH Hilo (Ke Kalahea) and the daily student paper at UH Manoa (Ka Leo).

First, on the slopes of Diamond Head, the student newspaper Kapi‘o is being shut down.

“With heavy hearts, we are sad to announce that the Kapi‘o News has met its end,” reads the announcement on the publication’s Facebook page, explaining:

On May 16 this student run campus publication will be departing Kapiolani Community College forever. This decision was made by the school administration who wanted to move Kapi‘o in a new direction. In the future, the Kapi‘o is turning into a place to post outstanding student work, and other events as deemed important by the school. This way a writing/editing staff is no longer needed. All decisions are going to be made by KapCC faculty and staff — therefore we will no longer be a student publication.

The last assertion is key, though it is in dispute.

In my view, a “student publication” is run by students, one where students decide — for better or worse — what gets published.

Don’t get me wrong, this autonomy can lead to trouble. I got into my fair share of it at both college papers that I ran, sparking many scoldings and even a couple of petitions and protests. But that kind of real-world independence and its consequences are the whole point of the college newspaper experience.

The KCC administration seems to be questioning the relevance of the student-run operation because (1.) journalism-specific courses are not currently being offered at the school, and because (2.) the things being published don’t exhibit the “quality” they expect to see. In other words: KCC student journalists can’t be trained, and what they’re publishing sucks. So the school’s solution is to take back the keys (and apparently divide up its nice office among other departments), and instead set up a “student life website” where the grown ups can pick and choose what student work represents the “excellence” they want to showcase.

That’s a load of baloney. Yes, a student newspaper can make a college campus look bad. Sometimes that’s because the student journalists are bad. And sometimes that’s because the student journalists are doing everything exactly right.

I should note that I did graduate with a degree in journalism… but decided to go that route after getting involved in student publications. When I was filing three stories a day for Ka Leo, I still harbored delusions that I was going to be some kind of scientist.

What was the KCC Board of Student Publications thinking? As it turns out, nothing.

Yes, there’s supposed to be a publications board to decide how to allocate the student fees that go to support them ($10 per student per semester), but the campus has been operating without one. So after a new faculty advisor was appointed late last year, he proposed converting Kapi’o into a faculty-curated outlet. And the plan was approved by KCC Vice Chancellor Mona Lee and Chancellor Leon Richards.

Three administrators, it seems, decided to overturn a primary platform for over 8,300 student voices.

“This is a student news organization funded by student fees, and the students deserve their independent voice, not a student life web site run by administrators,” commented Donovan Slack, a Kapi‘o alum who is now a Washington correspondent for Gannett. “I went on to become an award-winning investigative reporter at The Boston Globe before landing here in D.C., and it all started at Kapi‘o.”

“That is terrible,” commented Robert Lopez. “I’m an investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times and my first reporting experience was at Kapi’o. It all began there for me at KCC’s Diamond Head campus under Winnie Au.”

Lopez then asked if the student body is planning to protest. Others (including myself) urged some kind of action. Alas, it seems only current and former student journalists are getting riled up. And there’s been distressingly little attention paid to the Kapi‘o shutdown. Here are some links:

“We have far from thrown in the towel,” a Kapi’o student representative posted on Facebook. I’m glad for that. And maybe a printed student newspaper is no longer a relevant format for publishing in this day of blogs and Facebook pages. But it’s clear that whatever form student-run media takes at KCC, it won’t be the outlet that had been carrying the student voice for decades.

UH HiloMeanwhile, on the Big Island, UH Hilo is being sued for its “excessive restrictions on the rights of student organizations, and limited student speech in open areas of the campus.”

Merritt Burch, president of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UH Hilo, dared to step away from the group’s assigned space behind a table to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution in the Campus Center Plaza.

She and her fellow YAL members were told that UH Hilo policy forbids approaching students that way, and were later referred to the campus “Free Speech Zone.” A zone at the lower edge of campus on the banks of a muddy ditch.

The fight was reminiscent of a free speech battle that a few Ka Leo veterans and I found ourselves in after launching an independent student paper in 1997. It was called the University aVenue, with a handful of students reporting, taking photos, doing the layout, selling ads, and — after getting it printed — distributing it on campus.

Of course, we figured the best place to get copies into the hands of students was at Campus Center. And that brought us into the crosshairs of Jan Javinar, then interim director of Co-Curricular Activities, Programs and Services, who told us we could only distribute our paper in designated “free speech areas.”

Long story short, after a little attention from the media (and help from the Student Press Law Center), we were allowed to continue to distribute on campus. At least in our case, it didn’t come to legal action.

Now, UH says it is has “initiated a review of the policies involved and the manner in which they were enforced. We will make any changes that are needed to ensure that free expression and First Amendment rights are fully protected on that campus and throughout the University of Hawaiʻi System.”


Update: KCC student enrollment updated from 2,500 to 8,300.

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April 29th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Art, Events


Hoping for a new chance to “relive our hanabatta days,” three local organizers are launching what they hope to be an annual expo for comic and toy collectors this Sunday (perhaps fittingly, the day after “Free Comic Book Day“).

The Hawaii Comic & Toy Expo is the brainchild of Francisco Figueiredo, Carey Ishizuka, and Steve Valenzon, and will take place on Sunday, May 4 at the Ala Moana Hotel. More than 20 dealers are participating, and there’ll be a midday appearance by the Pacific Outpost of the 501st Legion (since it will also be “Star Wars Day“).

Figueiredo sells vintage comics and toys on eBay and has participated in the Hawaii All-Collectors Show, and Ishizuka organized toy and card shows in the 1990s.

“[We] saw a need for a ‘pure’ comic and toy show where comic and toy dealers can sell their stuff and where collectors could find those hard to find items in one place or buy that toy they played with as a kid,” Figueiredo says, something Hawaii hasn’t seen for more than 20 years.

The expo is also aimed at showcasing local comic artists: Sam Campos (creator of Dragonfly & Pineapple Man), Kevin Sano, Theodore Lee, Andy Lee (Chinatown Cop), and Kanila Tripp — the latter two having also worked for Marvel Comics. They’ll be sharing and selling artwork and even offering custom artwork.

Participating dealers include Jelly’s and Charisma Industries, and attendees will be able to pick up comic books from the Silver Age to the Modern Age as well as vintage and contemporary toys like Hot Wheels, Maisto, and Matchbox die-cast vehicles; Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Marvel, DC, Kikaida, Godzilla, and WWE Wrestling action figures; and more.

“The plan was to create a small show and let the public and collectors enjoy it, with plans to eventually grow the show and bring down other comic artists and celebrities from the mainland for next year and future shows,” Figueiredo says. “But still keep in it small with focus on local talent, allowing them to feature their art and sketches.”

Admission is $3 (free for children under age five). For more information visit the website, call (808) 384-7800, or email

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April 26th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Education, Events, Technology


Next Saturday, the Cyber Hui is hosting its Cyber Hui Celebration at The Box Jelly in Kakaako, presenting trophies to the to three teams from the Kukui Cup cyber security scrimmage (not to be confused with the other Kukui Cup competition). As a virtual competition, the school whose computer systems were targeted in the exercise was the infamous Kukui High School.

Cyber Hui is a community of cyber security pros dedicated to sharing skills and knowledge with high school and college students. Their goal is to inspire local students to become the next generation of cyber security professionals.

In addition to recognize the Kukui Cup winners, the Saturday celebration will offer an opportunity to recap the last CyberPatriot competition and prepare for the next. CyberPatriot, created by the Air Force Association, is “the premier national high school cyber defense competition.”

And, of course, there are prizes. Middle and high school student participants are eligible to win a Raspberry Pi and Shakacon tickets.

For those unable to attend in person, the Cyber Hui celebration will also be streamed live online.

The Kukui Cup cyber security scrimmage included seven high schools, with the students playing the part of the Kukui High IT staff. They were responsible for finding and securing vulnerabilities on Windows 7 and Windows 2008 operating systems, as well as competed in 10 time-based challenges.

The top three teams were Iolani High School, Sacred Hearts Academy, and Mililani High School.

It was an all-volunteer event coordinated by Michael Herr, Jake Ross, Scott Atta, and Jason Yeo with support from the Hawaii state Department of Education, Air Force Association, AFCEA, and Referentia.

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April 24th, 2014 by Ryan Ozawa · Technology, Television, Video

On this week’s “Geek Beat” segment on Hawaii News Now, we featured more locally-grown apps. Of course, we could barely scratch the surface in explaining each, so here’s more background on RouteView HNL, Pic-A-Papaya, and The Plant Doctor.

RouteView HNL

RouteViewThis app for iOS allows a simple and elegant way to check the view from the City & County of Honolulu’s traffic cameras. The original RouteView app was a web-based app, born of one of the state’s first “hackathons” (and supported by open data), and part of a slate of citizen apps promoted by the city.

But RouteView HNL, created by James Wang‘s local mobile development shop Slickage, moves the app onto iOS. For $0.99, you can easily scan the roads between you and your destination (provided it’s covered by the city’s camera network), and even save your regular drives for easy reference.


Pic-a-PapayaPapaya ringspot virus, that wiped out half the Big Island crop of papayas in the 1990s, is now relatively rare. But researchers at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources want to know where the disease still persists in Honolulu. So they’ve created the ‘Pic-a-Papaya” app for both iOS and Android to help papaya growers to send in photos of their plants for a free diagnosis of papaya ringspot virus, or PRSV, and help create a map to show the distribution of infected plants.

The app (and accompanying outreach program, which includes the ability to request free papaya plant seeds) is aimed at determining how many papaya plants growing in home gardens or public areas are infected with PRSV, susceptible to the disease, or are genetically engineered.

The Plant Doctor

The Plant DoctorAlso from CTAHR, The Plant Doctor is a free app for iOS and Android that allows users to take photographs and submit descriptions of sick plants anywhere in the world, and get a free diagnosis and suggestions to manage the problem.

The immensely simple app basically prompts you to take photos of the plant in question and send them in via e-mail. At the other end is just one person, Scott Nelson of CTAHR. It’s not a particularly scalable arrangement, but it’s pretty cool to know that you can get free information and advice from “a professional plant pathologist with a Ph.D. and more than 20 years of experience in the science.”

We talked to Nelson along with Julia Parish of the Oahu Invasive Species Committee on this week’s Bytemarks Cafe, exploring how technology can help address invasive species in Hawaii.

Bonus: Photo Play Hawaii

While we were at the Hawaii News Now studios, they were a couple of other interesting guests. First, they were hosting the Harlem Globetrotters, who are performing and visiting schools across the state this week. And they were also playing with a cool slow-motion video photobooth from Photo Play Hawaii. As you might guess, mayhem ensued.

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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.



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


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


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


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


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, 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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