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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.

Loko I'a App Loko I'a App Loko I'a App Loko I'a App

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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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