To text or not to text?

Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

I’m assuming this is omitting face-to-face, which is always best, but as the next substitute:

Instant Messaging, for sure
I’m not great on the phone. If you call me and I don’t have your number, and I say “hello” and you say “it’s me”, I might not be able to place your voice, and that’ll throw me off for the whole phone call. Ask my girlfriend the first time she called me!

I guess text messages fit into this the same way, but they cost cold, hard, cash money. I have been chatting since dial-up BBS days, and we had live see-everything-you’re-typing-as-you-type-it chat back then. We used to press enter twice to say you were done and it was the other person’s turn.

I also learned bad habits with ICQ: I might send you a few short text messages in quick succession rather than save it into one message. This means my message might have cost me double or triple just because with IM if you were typing big long messages,

> you might type sentence fragments
> so the other person knew you were still there
> and hadn’t been disconnected
> by your younger brother
> picking up the phone in the other room

because back then, IM programs didn’t tell you the other user was actually typing something. You might do something like this even:

> yeah I saw that last year
> it’s oldie but a goodie

And that’d be more sensible as one SMS.

The truth about iPhone Emoji

There has been a few posts going around the internet talking about the enabling of Japanese emoji on the iPhone. I was curious, and after enabling and experimenting, here’s the truth about emoji on iPhones.

Once enabled, you get access to a staggering amount of icons! To be exact, 469 symbols, ranging from smiley faces to weather icons, flags, animal faces, (clean) hand gestures, and much more. Here’s what they all look like, screen-grabbed right on my iPhone after I put them all in an email. FYI, scaling has occurred, these are not perfect.

Diagram listing all Emoji for iPhone and iPod Touch v2.2.1

Diagram listing all Emoji for iPhone v2.2.1

The trick here is that while these icons look fantastic on the iPhone, when sent in SMS text messages and emails, the beautiful pictures you see above are sent as Unicode characters, as they came through to me via my Gmail:

These characters are part of the Private Use Area of Unicode. Which is why, if you’re viewing this page on a browser not running on an iDevice, you will see a whole slew of question marks or boxes with little letters in them, followed by the copyright, registered trademark and trademark symbols.

Doing some more research, it turns out a bug has been filed on OpenRadar outlining how Apple’s implementation isn’t even that compatible with NTT DoCoMo’s de-facto standard on ‘Pictographs’, even though it would seem they’ve implemented every single icon in that standard.

I’m not expert, but it seems that pre-Unicode, Japan standardised on Shift-JIS, a modification to ASCII that would allow the storage and display of the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana characters that make up Japanese written language. This was pressed forward into the design and manufacture of the Japanese handsets, and even into the operator’s networks, and for the time being, this means both NTT DoCoMo, the biggest telco in Japan, and Softbank, the telco serving iPhones in Japan.

NTT DoCoMo created the defacto standard on emoji on Japanese mobile phones, and have outlined the character encodings for both Shift-JIS and Unicode. Every handset in Japan supports this standard.

When the iPhone was first released, it apparently was criticised in Japan for not supporting the sending and receiving of emoji glyphs. Eventually Apple got around to it, but according to rdar://6402446, iPhone Firmware 2.2 currently implements the encoding of emoji using Unicode characters in the private use area, but not the same private use characters as the NTT DoCoMo Pictographs standard.

So it would seem that, to cut a long story short, Apple’s emoji are directly incompatible with every other handset in the world.

According to Apple, Softbank doesn’t even do translation for iPhone SMS to other Japanese handsets. It will however, translate emoji in emails, but only if you have a Softbank email address and SIM.

And because the rest of the world doesn’t have handsets that work with emoji, that’s why Apple only enables the emoji keyboard for phones with Softbank SIMs.

Still, it wouldn’t be too difficult to write a script to support emoji characters in your web app, supporting both NTT DoCoMo Unicode and Apple Emoji Unicode. Apple have done a nice job with their icons. Interesting times.


Can I are be turning Japanese, I rly think so?

So I’ve got this goal of working in Japan for at least 6 months by 2014. That’s the big goal.

To take a big step like that is a bit much, so to break it down a little:

  • Read, write and converse in Japanese at an intermediate level by the end of 2010.
  • Visit Japan for a holiday at some point between 2010 and 2014, and visit Tokyo (especially Akihabra), Kyoto and Osaka, and do tourist-stuff. Also the Studio Ghibli Museum is a must.
  • Find a job, preferably teaching web development, maybe teaching English so I can get a work visa.
  • Work in Japan for at least 6 months by the end of 2014.

Not so bad a plan, eh?  It’s quite flexible, and subject to change, but it’s the current target.

Why you might ask? Well, I’ve always wanted to learn a language, and the Japanese culture, history and lifestyle really interests me, and I’m single so I don’t have anyone holding me back.

So I’ve bought a book (Japanese Step by Step by Gene Nishi), and am keeping an eye out for beginner’s Japanese courses, so I can sign up for one that’s running at a good time for me.

I have a friendly workmate who spent a long time in Japan a few years ago who is encouraging me along. We go for lunch at Japanese restaraunts around town; he’s got many of us at work hooked on katsukari (pork fillet curry with rice)… mmm katsukari! Damn, I’m hungry now…

So I think in the short term, I’m pretty sussed. I’ll be signing up for a beginner’s Japanese course after September, and I’ve got a friend or two who I can practice with.  Maybe I’ll make friends with some cute Japanese girls in Wellington, who knows? I’m pretty open minded about the whole thing.

What is kind of weird is being 26 right now, I’ll be 33 in 2014. But you’re as old as you feel, and with me, that currently can range from 21 to 35 right now, -_-;

Anyway, does anyone out there in the world wide tubes have any suggestions on learning Japanese? Tips and tricks? Must have resources? Must visit places?

Also, anyone know how to get my Mac so I could type katakana and hiragana with a Dvorak keyboard layout? It wants me to use QWERTY instead 🙁