27 December 2008

iPhone Japan Upgrade - Address Book problems

I just upgraded from a different Softbank phone to an iPhone here in Japan (and so far, I love it). One glitch I encountered that may bite other people, though, is the character encoding of the address information file.

Softbank, if you ask, will upload all of the address information from your old phone to the Softbank website, where you can download it as a CSV file. First off, you have to do that from the Japanese-language website, so it's not trivial for English readers: go to http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/iphone/sync_memory/ and click on the button near the bottom that says "今すぐ移動する".

This will take you to a login screen. Although I had a printout of the username and password from the Softbank store, that's not the username/password it wants. You should have received a message on your phone which contains the username/password you actually need. Once you enter that, you can download your information as a CSV file.

The basic idea here is a good one: now that you have a CSV file, you can import those contacts to your Address Book application on Mac OS X, and from there you can sync with the iPhone. The problem I encountered is that the file from Softbank is in Shift-JIS character encoding, but the Address Book app on Mac OS X wants UTF-8 encoding. If you try to directly import it, you'll get garbage (or at least, I did).

There are probably some utilities that can convert it (on Windows, I would have used SakuraEdit). But, since I know Python, I just used a tiny python script:

% python

import codecs
# SAB_20081228.csv should be changed to whatever name you downloaded
# from Softbank
f = codecs.open("SAB_20081228.csv",'r','sjis')
fo = codecs.open("SAB_20081228_utf8.csv",'w','utf8')

Now I could import the converted file to Address Book and I was off and running!

And the App Store is really cool.

21 December 2008

Only in Japan

So today I took a long bikeride up the Tama river, turned back at Noborito and followed the Odaku-sen back to Shimokitazawa. At Chitose-funabashi, I saw a form of entertainment that surely must be limited to Japan.

They were having an opening ceremony for the new "hiroba" (wide place), and there was a stage with a performer and a crowd of a couple hundred standing around (like a lot of suburban stations on weekends there were also an assortment of vendors selling various things from stalls). The performer's main gig was... he could imitate (very well) the announcements that you hear in trains and train stations when you travel in Japan.

"doa ga shimarimasu" -> The doors are closing
"densha ga mairimasu" -> The train is arriving
"kore wa nagano yuki joetsu shinkansen" -> This is the Joetsu Shinkansen bound for Nagano

Sometimes he just sort of riffed on these, other times he would simulate a complete journey (he took everyone on the Shinkansen to Osaka at one point). For the shinkansen especially, he threw in sound effects of the Shinkansen at various speeds. He could do both male and female voices, although he mostly did male; he could also copy the English announcements you get on the Shinkansen and other major lines.

The crowd applauded politely after each segment. Sorry to those of you dying to go see him yourselves, I didn't get his name ;-).