The Pulse 2

Back to Contents of Issue: August 2003

The best of J@pan Inc's newsletters

Attain CoolOne
Japan is gadget heaven. Who else but the Japanese would have come up with the inimitably-named "CoolOne" -- not a new digicam from Nikon, folks, but a washable keyboard. Oh yes. Many's the time I've been working hard at my PC only to glance down at the keyboard and see remnants of the morning's croissant and coffee breakfast lurking bug-like in the crevices between the keys. Or seen the keys drenched in sweat and other fluids after marathon late-night sessions (of the gaming variety, of course) alone in my bedroom. Happily now, help is at hand. The CoolOne is a bit pricey at JPY48,000 but is a full 101-key, USB and PS/2 keyboard and, thanks to its silicon keys, is fully waterproof for washing under a running tap, or can even be swabbed down with alcohol. Which, in my case, is often how it gets dirty in the first place. Bizarrely, however, maker Attain thinks it'll prove more useful for nurses, "clean room" engineers and the like who can't actually help their keyboards getting all messed up in the course of the working day and, anyway, can always blame someone else.

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Apple G5
As the second biggest market in the world for Apple, Japan is bound to get all excited about this one -- the new Power Mac G5. Just in case you're not really a Mac man (or woman, of course), here's the skinny: It's the world's fastest PC (that's personal computer, folks, and not some damning insult against Mac fans) and the first one in the world to "break the 4 gigabyte barrier." It does this by running two 2GHz processors in tandem and, thanks to the adoption of AGB and PCI-X for massive bandwith (PCI speeds from 33MHz-133MHz and throughput from 266MBps-2GBps), this machine doesn't just look mean; it plays mean, too.

Said to outpace any Pentium 4 Intel can chuck at it, the new G5 desktop's AGP 8X Pro bus allows throughput of 2.1GB/sec, allowing Apple to stick mega-powered graphics cards, such as the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra, in the systems.

The connections are souped up too, with a FireWire 800, three USB 2.0, a Gigabit Ethernet and optical digital and analog audio ports.

There are three models available (1.6GHz, 1.8GHz and that dual 2GHz model), all boasting the DVD-R/CD-RW Superdrive, three PCI slots, and ADC and DVI connectors ready for Airport Extreme that can also be configured to chat with your Bluetooth gadgets if you like.

More impressively still, the G5 is a study in design. It looks amazing; it's impressively efficient in the use of space inside the box, and it's easy to upgrade. Who isn't going to want one?

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Sharp LC-22AA1
Sharp has released a whole new range of its sexy Aquos televisions, all with a built-in 1-bit digital amp. The flagship 30 and 37-inch models claim a world's first by incorporating a digital high vision tuner, capable of a 1,366 x 768-dot display. What's more, the 30-inchers put out a stunning 1,280 x 768-dot image.

That's OK if you have half a million yen to drop on a new TV. If you don't, you might want to take a look at the LC-22AA1; a 22-inch widescreen model with a low-reflection, super-black TFT LCD display, putting out an 845 x 480-dot image, viewable thru 170-degrees in both planes and with a contrast ratio of 500:1 and brightness of 450cd/m2.

The AA1 has a built-in BS and terrestrial TV tuner, virtual Dolby surround sound piped out through what Sharp calls an "under speaker" (although all that actually means is it's positioned underneath the screen) and GRT, whatever the hell that is. It could be ghost reduction technology, but I might have made that up. And it's table-ready, at only 10.2kg.

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Cube51 CPU PC
They're those funny looking Cube PCs, and they're wearing their summer colors. Ah, ain't that sweet? But, more accurately, the cube actually comes with seven different "face plates" which its owner can easily switch, as the mood takes him. Or her, probably. And those colors are: Sunshine Yellow, Classic Red, Dolphin Blue, Forest Green, True Black, Passion Orange, Pearl White. Lovely.

The small-footprint (200x300x185mm) Cube PCs incorporate an "Ice Technology heat pipe" in the casing, to keep the cubic PC cool as well as silent, and, possibly less importantly, there are a bunch of different models for you to choose from, depending on your needs. The sub-JPY100,000 Cube51 CPU PC has a Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU, 256MB of RAM, a 60-gig hard drive and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, which is a great start.

And if that's not enough computing va va voom for you, check out the Cube51-CPH, toting a 2.66 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512 MB of PC2100 DDR RAM (expandable to a max of 2GB), an 80GB hard disk, FX5600 128 MB GeForce video card and DVD/CD-RW combo drive, all for JPY129,800. All cubes have Ethernet and (three!) Firewire, or IEEE 1394 ports, and a USB 2.0 socket and run on the Windows XP Home Edition OS. The new Cubes were being sold initially on the company's Web site, then in the stores themselves from late June.

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HeavyMoon naviPod TT-NI-01/02
HeavyMoon has just come up with a wireless remote control unit for use with Apple iPods. We've been having a think about this and can only assume that a wireless remote control unit for a handheld, portable audio player might be necessary for people who, for example, have such hugely fat fingers that, once they've slipped their iPod into their coat pocket, the sheer diameter of their pudgy digits prevents them from stuffing them back in there to retrieve the unit. Or, perhaps, they're so used to using a remote for the TV that they want to walk into their living room, put the iPod on the unit next to the TV, then walk somewhere else -- back to the sofa, say -- and use the wireless remote to spark it up. As opposed to, and clearly this is a ridiculous notion, keeping the handheld, portable iPod near their actual hands and using said hands to operate the unit.

Anyhow, once the "naviPod receiver" infra-red receiver unit is connected to the iPod, owners can use the "naviPod controller" (see what they did there?) to wirelessly control the iPod. Because the connectors changed when the iPod models changed, there are two versions of the naviPod -- the TT-NI-01 for first and second generation iPod owners and the TT-NI-02 for the third gen iPod. Next, we'll be bringing you trans- parent sheets of plastic to fit over your car windscreens. Because we can.

Thirdwave NC602
Here's a couple of portable MP3 players and memory storage gadgets for your enjoyment -- the Japanese seem to love 'em, that's for sure. This one here's a music player and (detachable) USB Flash RAM key drive, permitting the playback of MP3 files at 32-320kbps and going strong for eight to 12 hours on a single set of batteries. There are actually two different versions available: the 128 MB NC602-128MB, which costs less dinero, obviously, and the obviously named NC602-256MB which, oh, never mind. Both work with any flavor of Windows and, because Apples are way cool until they start horribly and irretrievably crashing for no reason 7 million times a day, any Mac too. Their dimensions are a lithe 73x35x16mm and, thanks to the USB 1.1 interface, won't be needing any tiresome cables or drivers to get working. Looks-wise, they're identical to the Nomad MuVo in every respect -- but Creative's machine won't be suing or anything cuz the NC602s are much bigger and harder (at least the 256 MB one is) and will kick its head in.

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A Crime for the Ages
The Japan Magazine Publishers Association unveiled a campaign in early July to put an end to what it calls digimanbiki, or digital shoplifting. The publishers say people have been using their camera-phones to take pictures of magazine pages in bookstores. The digital shoplifters usually shoot a picture of a page with important information on it -- say a train guide or a recipe or a particularly interesting photo -- and leave the bookstore without buying the magazine. The association will launch a campaign that equates this sort of act with shoplifting.

The publishers say this new campaign against digimanbiki won't affect the time-honored tradition of tachiyomi, where shoppers stand around a bookstore for what seems like hours and read. Those people, the association contends, may end up buying the magazine. (By the way, if you're reading this at a bookstore, please go directly to the register and plunk down your JPY800. Thanks.)

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