Saturday, December 29, 2018

Kaigai Manga Festa 2018

A month ago, I had the chance to visit the Kaigai Manga Festa comic exhibition for the first time. It was collocated with Comitia 126, a famous periodic manga convention held in different cities of Japan throughout the year.

The event took place at Tokyo Big Sight and the entrance fee, which included a catalogue book, was 1000 yen. For some reason, the entrance was free after around 13:00.

One of the main attractions was the live drawing event by Kim Jung Gi (@KimJungGiUS, @kimjunggi_jp). This was actually the second time I watched him drawing live, the first time being at Nakano Broadway. During his performance, Kim usually answers various questions from the audience and the commentators. It must be hard for him to concentrate!. Then, Risa Kageyama translates his words into Japanese.

This time the canvas was a bit hard to see, so the process was projected on a big screen. The way that Kim Jung Gi draws is mind-blowing. It looks like he has the whole composition inside his mind and he can start drawing from anywhere without any reference lines.

This was the final result. Kim is not really that good at drawing cute anime-like girls. His style is closer to the kind of artists that used to publish on the Heavy Metal magazine. I guess that was a character related to the sponsor of the event, the Fun's Project Channel, an excellent website with educational contents for artists and creators. There are more pictures and a video on Kim's Twitter account, make sure you check them out.

Apart from Kim, other notable artists such as Sean Phillips or Duncan Fegredo attended the convention. I also took the opportunity to walk by the booths in Comitia 126 and discover great artists such as:
I also found interesting some commercial sites with booths in the event such as:
Finally, I learned about a tool in Blender called "grease pen" that I need to check.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Google Cloud Next in Tokyo 2018

Last month I took a day off from work to attend Google Cloud Next 2018 in Tokyo. Artificial intelligence and cloud computing are two topics that I love, and this event was great to catch up with the latest developments.

The event was divided into two physically separated areas: one for developers and another one for business. I only attended the former. The stages were pleasantly illuminated, and in general, everything was well organized.

There were numerous technical sessions during the event. Thankfully, Google released an Android application that made it easy to reserve a seat and receive notifications in real-time. Talks were videotaped and published a few weeks ago on Google Cloud Japan's Youtube channel (see the sessions playlist). Unfortunately for non-japanese speakers, the videos are all dubbed into Japanese, and there is no option to select the original audio track :(

Apart from the sessions, there was a spacious booth area for attendants to learn about Google Cloud services through demos (e.g., JapanTaxi's demo) and example architectures (e.g., architectures for game backends).

The next day, I attended another event, organized by GCPUG (Google Cloud Platform User Group) Yokohama, that hosted 2 great presentations by Mete Atamel (Dialogflow) and Felipe Hoffa (BigQuery).

Conclusions: Google Cloud Next was exciting, and I learned a lot about cloud architectures and recent developments in machine learning services such as BigQuery ML. Check out other reviews here and here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Techbookfest 5

This is the second time I attend a Techbookfest (技術書典) event, and I have to say that I loved both of them. Techbookfest events are events with booths where software and hardware fans can sell their own publications.

The events are quite popular. During the first few hours, you can expect a long queue of people ready to buy their favourite publications before they get sold out. The first event I attended was Techbookfest 2 and it was held in Akihabara. I remember having to wait for a couple of hours in the rain. Techbookfest 5 was held in Ikebukuro. There was a long queue as well but at least it was sheltered.

There were many interesting circles (a person or group of persons in charge of a booth) in Techbookfest 5. Personally, I bought a publication related to a 3D modeling software I have been learning for a while called MagicaVoxel. It seems that the author has also published a book on Kindle called 3D dot modelling (3Dドットモデリング) and has its own voxel webpage. I also bought a publication about creating your own cartridges for the old Game Boy by Nicolli. There was also a similar circle specialized on the Game Boy advance (GBA). I also got a publication related to GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) whose author used to convert a ramen picture into a curry rice one. Finally, I bought another publication about modeling and 3D printing a robot that was then imported into ROS.

Conclusions: Techbookfest is a really nice event if you like software or hardware technical stuff. I hope I can participate as a book writer in the future. I was happy to see that many booths offered their publications in digital format, for example through taimen or booth.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Climbing Mt. Ryoukamisan

I recently climbed Ryoukamisan (両神山, yamap, yamareco, yamakei)with some friends. Ryoukamisan is a mountain located in Saitama, near the Chichibu district. It is part of the 100 famous Japanese mountains.

We used the the Hinataooya (日向大谷) route to get to the top of Ryoukamisan and then went back using the Nanatakizawa (七滝沢) route. Here you can download my GPS log. You can also get information about similar trips from here, here and here.

With its 1723m I would say that Ryoukamisan requires a bit of hiking experience. There are quite a few steep areas that will require you to use the chains anchored to nearby rocks. When we arrived at the top everything was cloudy. For that reason, I can't tell you if the views are good or not.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this mountain is its Shinto shrine and its relation with various Shinto deities.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tokyo Game Show 2018

My first game console was a Chinese imitation of Nintendo's famikon, called Nipondo. My second one (actually my sister's) was a Nintendo 64. I loved Super Mario 64, Diddy kong racing, Wave race 64 and many others. My third console was a PSP. I enjoyed playing Ridge racer and Daxter on it. And that was it. After that, for a period of more than 10 years I haven't played any game.

I thought I wanted to catch up with that, so I visited the Tokyo Game Show 2018. The exhibition was held in the Makuhari Messe, in Chiba (not Tokyo!), and concentrated a number of big game makers and indie studios as well. According to this report, there were around 107,310 attendants the day I went, on Saturday September 22nd, which was open to the general public.

The exhibition was divided into several halls, and there was a very useful map at the entrance that indicated the location of each exhibitor. The largest game makers had amazing booths with quality lightning, multiple events, and even television coverage. There were also many cute models promoting the games and getting the attraction of all cameras.

However, I preferred the booths of smaller game studios because it was easier to see their games without all the bells and whistles. In particular, I loved the indie games section in the international hall.

One of the most popular platforms was the computer (e.g.: Steam, browser and Windows games). I had never used Steam before, but right after the event I opened an account. The other main popular platforms were mobile (206 titles for Android were exhibited); Nintendo switch, which has the most interesting games for my taste; and the PS4.

Conclusions: participating in this event was a good experience. There was a total of 668 exhibitors and 298,690 visitors. There was so much to see that I probably missed many interesting spots. Here is a complete list of exhibitors, the games they released, their genre, and the platforms they support. Next, I am planning to explore Steam and I would love to try some games on the Nintendo Switch.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tooi sakebi (Spanish translation)

Serial Experiments Lain is a Japanese anime from the late 90s that combines a great cyberpunk atmosphere with important questions about identity in a virtualized world.

Although the anime is quite silent at times, both its opening and ending (see above) songs are really awesome. The opening song, Duvet, was written in English by the British band Bôa. The ending song, Tooi sakebi (遠い叫び), was composed by Reichi Nakaido, also known as Chabo, and the lyrics are written in Japanese. I found the lyrics translated into English here, but I couldn't find them in Spanish. Here is the translation into Spanish and a romaji version that I wrote for you to sing along. You can find the Kanji version on the website that published the English translation. I omit that version here to avoid possible copyright violation issues.

Tooi sakebi
Lamento lejano

Nan no tsumi mo nai hazuna noni
A pesar de no tener ninguna culpa que yo sepa

Nanraka no batsu wo uketeru
Estoy recibiendo una especie de castigo

Jibun de maita tane de mo nai noni
A pesar de que no es ninguna semilla que yo haya plantado

Sakimidareta hana tsumasareru
Me hacen arrancar las flores (florecientes)

Shiranai koto to mo ieanai ga
No puedo decir que no lo sé, pero..

Katabou ka tsuida oboe ha nai
No recuerdo ser complice de nada

Jiyuu wo takaku kawasareta ki mo suru ga
Aunque me da que me han hecho pagar demasiado por mi libertad

Kokoro made yasuku utta oboe ha nai
No recuerdo haber vendido hasta el alma tan barato

Hey Hey kutabatte osaraba suru made
Hey Hey hasta que caiga muerto y diga adiós

Hey Hey dare no te ni mo kakaranai
Hey Hey no habrá quien me alcance

Tooi yoru wo urotsuiteru
Merodeando en la noche lejana

Shiranai darou eien no narazu monotachi wo
Probablemente no los conozcas, los villanos de la eternidad

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Disassembling a Bluetooth speaker

As you may have noticed from my previous post, I am a fan of disassembling devices with the purpose of learning.

I got this nice Bluetooth speaker as a present from Redhat during a conference in Japan. It works by pairing your phone with the Bluetooth speaker to play music. The speaker provides three push buttons (volume down, play, volume up), a USB interface to charge the battery, a power on switch and a microphone.

The speaker's body is made of ABS plastic and covered by a rubbery silicone wrapper with a nice matte finish. The wrapper has a suction cup to stick the speaker to a surface. Let's look inside.

The body is held together with screws. The speaker and the microphone are glued to the top part. The printed board has pads for an extra microphone and LEDs. I suppose they left them there to customize the final product depending on the price. Finally, the lithium battery is glued to the bottom part.

The speaker is connected to the chip at the lower side of the board, an LTK8002D audio amplifier made by LTKCHIP TECHNOLOGY (ShenZhen). The brains of the Bluetooth speaker are implemented using the AC1533D83234, an SoC (System on chip) made by ZhuHai JieLi Technology (Zhuhai City). From what I could see by inspecting datasheets of similar chips, it (probably) contains a 32bit RISC CPU, GPIO pins, PWM, ADC, DAC and Bluetooth capabilities.

Conclusions: the way the Bluetooth speaker works is quite easy to understand. First, the SoC gets its power from the battery through a voltage rectifier (on the top side). The SoC also uses an external oscillator circuit to generate its own clock signals. The 3 buttons (and LEDs) are connected to the GPIO pins. When the switch is on and we press the play button, the SoC will receive audio data from our phone through the Bluetooth antenna which is printed onboard. Then, the SoC will convert these audio data into an analog signal, adjusting it to the current volume level. Finally, the SoC will forward the signal to the speaker through an audio amplifier. The most interesting part from disassembling this device has been finding and reading the website of ZhuHai JieLi Technology (thanks to Google translate!). I didn't even know this company existed. I wonder how many more companies and chips from China are left for me to discover.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Pinguchan: Let the game begin!

A year went by since I published my first children's book. Today I am publishing my second one: "Let the game begin!".

This book is quite different from the previous one:
  • I created it completely on my computer, using Clip Studio Paint.
  • The artwork has a very different style and was created under time pressure.
  • It contains 34 pages in total (the previous one had 15).
  • It is distributed with a free license (CC By 4.0). For example, any individual, schools or commercial publishers can freely modify, print and distribute the book as long as they satisfy the "attribution" condition in the license.
  • Anyone can download the book for free in PDF.
  • And more importantly, I got the help of many amazing friends who translated the book into their native languages. One of my goals was to get the book translated into languages with a small speaking community. Those languages aren't usually commercially attractive compared to major languages (e.g.: French or Russian) and for that reason, many families can't read books to their children in their native language. If you are interested in contributing a translation please put a comment below this post or send me an e-mail.
Please, download the book in any of the following languages:
  • Spanish es_ES (PDF), original work by Daniel Sangorrin
  • Japanese jp_JP (PDF), translated by Misaki Sakashita
  • Malagasy mg_MG (PDF), translated by Andoniaina Andriamiandrisoa
  • Bulgarian bg_BG(PDF), translated by Strahil Pastuhov
  • Basque eu_ES (PDF), translated by Borja López Vicente
  • Korean ko_KR (PDF), translated by Hee-joon Woo, reviewed by Song-yi Baek
  • English en_US (PDF), translated by Patty Tiburcio
  • Taiwanese zh_TW (PDF), translated by Liya Su
  • Polish pl_PL (PDF), translated by Tytus Wojtara
  • German de_AT (PDF), translated by Tytus Wojtara
  • Uzbek uz_UZ (PDF), translated by Sherzod Zakirov
  • Portuguese pt_BR (PDF), translated by Koichi Aizawa
  • Chinese zh_CN (PDF), translated by An Haixing
You can see below a few pictures from the creative process and some initial sketches with characters that never made it to the final book:

I am a volunteer for a local group that promotes multiculturality by reading children's books in multiple languages. For example, here I am reading "The very hungry caterpillar", written by Eric Carle, in the Spanish language.

 Being able to read your own book and see the reactions of children is an amazing experience.

Conclusions: first, I would like to thank my friends for their altruist translations. By comparing different translations I could learn many words and realized that all the effort spent in the translations was really worth it. Second, despite the time pressure, I think I managed to deliver a nice children's book. It is true that I cheated sometimes and copy-pasted some of my artwork multiple times, but overall I think the result is good. I have to say that I am really enjoying the experience of reading my book in front of children and families. Finally, it would be really great if the book was used by schools or individuals around the world. I want to promote the minor language versions as much as I can.