SoftBank plans for new iPad

SoftBank has just published their new deals for iPhone owners wanting to buy one of the newer iPads.

The mechanics of the plan are the same as for the iPad 2 campaign last year, you get a full rebate on the 16GB model’s price, but that applies only on the data plan charge. So if you use less than the 100MB free allotment of 3G/4G data, you will still have to pay at least the iPad’s price (split over 24 months).

Now the big differences with the iPad 2 campaign we had last year:

  • The iPad 2 3G model used to be offered by SoftBank for the same price of the WiFi only model at Apple. This is not the case anymore. You will pay a ¥10,960 to ¥10,800 premium for the 4G model over the simple WiFi model.
  • The access to SoftBank WiFi hotspots which was included for free before is now charged at ¥490 a month.

This makes this campaign plan much much less interesting than its predecessor.

3G or 4G speeds?

Additionally, the page adds an enigmatic note next to all mentions of 4G

日本国内ではSoftBank 3Gエリアのみで、ご利用いただけます。

Inside Japan, can only be used in SoftBank’s 3G area.

I suspect this is a shrouded way of saying that the iPad sold currently will only work with SoftBank’s 3G network, corroborating other sources around the web that it is incompatible with 4G LTE network bands used outside the US.

Is Softbank’s new iPad 2 campaign worth it?

Updated 2011/11/09 — see bottom of the post

For the iPhone 4S launch, Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s CEO, decided to go all out to keep his customers from going to aU by KDDI.

Fun Fact: during his keynote on October 7th, one day after Steve Jobs passing away, Son-san declared tearfully that these campaigns were his gifts to spread the Steve’s “art work” (he used the word 作品 as opposed to 製品) to as many people as possible.

One of these campaigns is for the iPad and it’s description is very confusing. See the figure below:

Many people take this to mean that you can get a 16GB iPad for free, ¥0 per month, if you are already a Softbank iPhone subscriber. That’s not true because ¥1,860 monthly discount on the second to last line only applies to the communications charge and not to the iPad hardware monthly cost. Going to the cost simulation page shows this well: your minimum monthly bill is still ¥1,860 (the cost of the 16GB iPad 2) and the data plan is free up to 100MB.

So in the end we get a free data plan if we don’t use 3G internet (almost don’t use it, 100MB a month wouldn’t get you much farther than regular email checking). That sounds like a classic mobile operator swindle: giving you something for almost free and then hammering you with extra high fees whenever you go over the pathetically low usage limits. Let’s look at the data plan details:

So yes, free for 100MB, capped at ¥4,980 over 111.5MB or you could choose to just pay a flat plan ¥4,410 every month whatever your usage. You end up paying a ¥470 premium for the flexibility of paying nothing the months when you almost don’t use 3G… Is that actually a good deal? I put the numbers into Numbers to see:

  • iPad 2 16GB + ZERO data plan under 100MB usage per month: ¥22,320 per year
  • iPad 2 16GB + ZERO data plan over 111.5MB user every month: ¥63,540 per year
  • iPad 2 16GB + FLAT data plan: ¥56,700 per year

So over the course of a year you would be saving money only if you stay under the 100MB cap for more than 3 months.

Is that a good deal? If you only use the 3G for emailing in the train and turn off the modem when not in use (letting it check your mail every 15min in the background would significantly bump your usage) then it could be. But having already an iPhone, do you really need to check your email on your iPad?

Myself, I will probably pass on that campaign. What would really be interesting would be a tethering option for my iPhone at a reasonable price… Well reasonable would really be ¥0 as I consider I’m already paying for the bandwidth and how I use it is none of Softbank’s business. An “acceptable” price would be maybe ¥1,000.

Please tell me in the comments what you think about this campaign.

Update: Very good point added in the comments by Maddy. If you get an iPad from Softbank for that campaign and remove the SIM card, never to use it again, you still get to download the Softbank WiFi roaming profile that lets you connect to all Softbank / FON / YahooBB / Tokyo Metro access points for free (that’s a pretty extensive network in Tokyo) and a GPS to boot. That’s a clear advantage over buying a WiFi only version from Apple for the exact same price.

iPad 3G and Pocket WiFi alternatives in Japan

So the pricing for the iPad in Japan are out. It seems even devices sold at the Apple Stores will be SIM-locked to Softbank, breaking many hopes of seeing DoCoMo come into the picture and shaking things up a little.

This has definitely not changed my thoughts on the device, it would very much piss me off to pay twice for 2 iPhone and iPad data plans.

This morning, my buddy @kuriburi who is more enthusiastic than I am, called me from the line at the Softbank shop to discuss the situation. Interestingly enough, people were fleeing in droves after receiving the pamphlet describing the full pricing… We entertained the thought that it might be more interesting to buy a WiFi version and get a Pocket WiFi device from data plan specialist eMobile.

@kuriburi left the Softbank line and we started gathering data from the web:

And after crunching numbers here are the results, first for the iPad 64GB version:

And for the iPad 32GB version:

It still seems the Softbank’s default option with integrated 3G is very aggressively priced compared to the competition. But if you can limit yourself to less than 300MB of 3G data per month, you can save up to ¥9.000 on the 32GB iPad over the 2 years contract period. Not much for sure, but some people might be interested…

Note: we have not taken into account the eMobile Super Light data plan because a 3MB/month data plan will not let you do anything but access email (and then without pictures) which does not count as a full usage of the device.

Note 2: here’s a link to the spreadsheet, if you see anything wrong with the data please notify me in the comments.

Activate tethering on Softbank iPhone

A friend of mine, @kuriburi, just sent me this to publish for him, so here you go:

So it was the news of the day: Someone managed to activate tethering on an AT&T iPhone 3G by means of a “carrier support file”, a.k.a. “ipcc”. Here in Japan, the story was a bit more tricky : Softbank declared that they would not support tethering on their network and had no plans to do so in the future either.

softbank-tethered

Nice! So, with those brand new Macbook Pro without any pc express card slot, how are we supposed to use Softbank’s data cards? This bothered me to no end thus I went on a search for a Softbank carrier support file that I could modify somehow. I stumbled onto this very interesting post on a Japanese blog that talked about the same thing, but with a beta version of the iPhone OS 3.0.

OK, well, doesn’t hurt to try with the official release, right?

Now I need to get my hands on that damn file. Turns out, it was right on my hard drive at work since August 2008. So I went to work and modified the file (which incidentally is just a bundle in a zip archive with a special extension) and tried to update my iPhone with it. The steps are simple :

  1. in the Terminal, execute defaults write com.apple.iTunes carrier-testing -bool TRUE
    on windows, execute C:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.exe /setPrefInt carrier-testing 1 in a DOS window
  2. plug your iPhone to your computer via the USB cable
  3. in iTunes, display the summary page of your iPhone
  4. while pressing the “alt” (option) key, click on the “check for update” button
  5. you will be presented with a finder window. Locate the Softbank_jp.ipcc file, select it
  6. iTunes will now update your iPhone with the modified carrier settings
  7. Once finished, unplug the iPhone, go see into Settings>General>Network, and voilà! screenshot

Oh, before I forget, if Apple or Softbank issues an update through iTunes, wait a bit before updating… you never know…

Update: I updated the link with the latest file from @kuriburi that activates both tethering and MMS. よろしく!

Update: This IPCC file does not work with 3.1 update. If you value your tethering, do not upgrade yet.

Business cards and QRcodes

Still on the same line of thought as my previous post, I was designing my 名刺 – well, more of outsourcing the design to my brother – and had a hard time with QRcodes that might be interesting to some people.

my meishi

So I wanted my business card to have the classic human readable info on one side, and machine readable on the other. Not so impressive in Japan where QRcodes are everywhere but I like it.

So I did a little reasearch and hit a pot-hole: there is no universal QRcode vCard equivalent standard. As explained here, DoCoMo and SoftBank/au each have their format which are not cross-compatible. So you have 2 solutions:

  1. Make your code a URL link to a .vcf file on your website. Has the advantage that you can change the data without reprinting the cards, adapt the file format to the phone via referer checking and log access (I’d love to see business card conversions in my Google Analytics stats). Downside is conversion is not as easy and you’re not sure if the phone will be able to read the vCard file.
  2. Combine the 2 vCard-like formats in a single QRcode. No stats, but this will work in all phones if you follow my instructions.

I’ve looked into the second solutions and found out by testing that you can combine the 2 formats in one QRcode but only if you put the Softbank/au type first. I guess it cannot have any characters (even a linefeed) before the MEMORY: tag. Then you can use a line of dashes to separate the 2 and make it more easily readable. The end result should look like that:

MEMORY:
NAME1:Doe John
MAIL1:john.doe@softbank.ne.jp
MAIL2:john@doe.com
TEL1:+818036542234
------------------
MECARD:N:Doe John;TEL:+818036542234;EMAIL:john.doe@softbank.ne.jp;EMAIL:john@doe.com;;

Paste that into a QRcode generator and you will get a nice PNG image like this:

QRcode vCard for John Doe

I’ve tested it in 3-4 keitais and it worked nicely. Try it with your phone and tell me the results.

Web Identity and business cards

With the recent talk of business cards, I decided to make me some personal 名刺 for use in non-corporate context. I used to have some – home-made by my graphic designer brother – but even those were linked to one of my activities, co-founder at MacBidouille.com, and not 100% personal.

This all got me thinking of my web identity – the face I show to the web, which in this day and age is the only world that matters. I am lucky enough to have a rare name, rare enough that I am pretty sure me and my cose-related family (8 people) are the only bearer of this family name. So when you search my name on Google, all the results are actually related to me, myself and I.

However, when looking at these results, the top ones are my profiles at various websites such as LinkedIn or Flickr. Although these are mine and I define what is written there, I do not have 100% dictator-like control over them. This bothers me a little…

openid

So I started working on my webpresence portal, a website that defines me and should eventually become the nº1 search result for my name. It will be the website I write on my business card, and although it currently only shows links to stuff I do, I have plans to expand it with new functionalities: a portfolio and make it an OpenID provider for starters.

Update: Google now offers 10.000 sets of business cards to their Google Profile users.

google-businesscard

They are kinda lame and cool at the same time. Anyways, they do no ship to Japan so I won’t get one. My design is better.

Business card at a job interview

Expanding on my previous tweet, this is of course from a Japanese “business practices and manners” point of view…

american psycho - business card scene

When arriving at a job interview, as with any business meeting, your interviewer will usually give you his 名刺. It is considered polite in Japan to accept it with 2 hands, bow, place it neatly on the table and answer by giving out your own 名刺.

Note: to anyone about to work with Japanese people: always have at least 2 dozens business cards with you at all times!

But in the case of a job interview, should you present your business card if it is from your current employer? In a way, you are betraying your company by looking for a new job. Moreover, the guy already knows you, he has your resume on the table already…

I’ve always been confused with this and am not sure of the appropriate behavior. Maybe I should make myself a batch of personal business cards for such occasions where it is not acceptable to present yourself as your business-self:

Superman – associate @ SuperFriends

As opposed to:

Clark Kent – reporter @ DailyPlanet

Funny dog toys from Japan

I’m going back home to Paris with the girlfriend for a week after Golden Week so of course the usual shopping lists start dropping in my mailbox. They are mainly filled with tech related stuff and gadgets that are quite a bit cheaper than in France (with a VAT at 20%, it’s hard not to be competitive…) – like digital cameras, or just not available anywhere but in whacky Japan – like USB humping dogs.

But this time I got something really original. My brother asked me to bring him back a special chewtoy for dogs that he wants to offer to a friend of his. I found the design so cool and original I wanted to share it with you guys.

doggy-teethdoggy-lineup

There are 4 different types and they go for ¥238 on Rakuten. Pretty awesome.

Custom Django filters in Google App Engine

You want to create your own custom Django filters in App Engine without running a whole Django stack? Here’s how in a few lines of code.

First create a specific python file to hold your custom filters at the root of your application. In my case I use customfilters.py like this:

import re
from google.appengine.ext import webapp

register = webapp.template.create_template_register()

def escapeimg(body):
	return re.sub(r'

', '[IMG]', body)

register.filter(escapeimg)

Then in your main application source file, call the following line outside of the main() definition, for example just after your modules loading:

"""Load custom Django template filters"""
webapp.template.register_template_library('customfilters')

You should then be able to use the new filters you registered in customfilters.py straight away in any of your Django templates without any % load foobar % call

How to print without a printer in Japan?

Living in Japan, we are often faced with tough quandaries, for example: in a typical closet sized Tokyo apartment, having a printer at home can take up a valuable portion of your living space. But then without a printer, you’re often stuck in problematic situations, like last weekend when my girlfriend had some last minute changes to do to her resume and I wasn’t at work to print it for her.

7eleven Net Services

But no worries! In the land of the combini on every city block, 7eleven is here to save the day. After registering on the Netprint website from Fuji Xerox, you can upload any document (an Apple Word document will fail so save it as a PDF first) to the web application that will give you an 8-digit code that you can write down or send directly to your keitai. You can then walk-in any 7eleven in Japan, go to the printer machine, select ネットプリント and type that code. 20円 for a black&white A4 print, 60円 for a color A4 print.

JLPT results

I received my 日本語能力試験 (otherwise known as JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test) results today after more than 2 months.

JLPT result sheet

No surprises, I passed. Actually I got a nice 87% but it was only level 3 which is not that hard. I probably could have made level 2 with a lot of work and dedication, but I didn’t feel like investing so much in that last year.

Here is the official description for level 3:

The examinee has mastered grammar to a limited level, knows around 300 kanji and 1,500 words, and has ability to take part in everyday conversation and to read and write simple sentences. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 300 hours and after completion of an elementary course.

Le bamboula de Proust

bamboulaHier ma mère a achetée des nouveaux gâteaux (elle a dû encore se gourer et prendre une boîte au pif comme elle fait une fois sur deux).
Intrigué, je goûte un de ces étrange biscuit et soudain, alors même que je croque cette préparation sableuse qui se transforme immédiatement en pâte au fort goût de chocolat beurré… *ssshhh*… telle une vague de tsunami sud-est asiatique toute mon enfance me revient d’un coup en mémoire.

Ce sont des BAMBOULAS!!! Les fameux gâteaux bannis pour cause de connotations racistes et pro-colonniales. St Michel les a renommé Roudor Chocolat mais a gardé la même recette.

roudor chocolat - le bamboula des temps modernes