D2 Vanguard

Seems like the only time I post on my blog anymore is when I’m talking about VR but oh well, so be it. I ran across a demo of the D2 Vanguard from 3Glasses in Akihabara the other day and gave it a run. The D2 Vanguard is basically trying to be a cheaper Oculus Rift (at around 400 USD) and to be honest, they have done it well. It’s been about a year since I tried the Oculus so my comparison may be crappy but the D2 Vanguard was hanging in there. The first thing that impressed me was the weight — it’s extremely light! The adjusters for the lenses and whatnot also worked well. The resolution wasn’t bad I don’t think but it didn’t compare to the Oculus. I noticed when you focused on particular objects you could rather notice the pixels. Also, and this may have been the hardware it was running on, but I was getting the occasional white flash when looking around. Beyond that though, it was very good, and very immersive. The demo they had setup massively sucked though, which was disappointing. But, they did get the proportions right so I felt like a proper adult in height! As an aside, the FOV is supposed to be similar to the Oculus I believe but it felt a narrower to me horizontally. It wasn’t bad by any means though.

On the topic of VR in general, every time I demo a headset the lack of a proper input method really annoys me. If you take your hands off the keyboard for a second you basically have to lift up the headgear so you can find it again — and it’s a pain. I get that headsets are probably the most important thing to get VR off the ground right now but I get the feeling the lack of good input methods are going to end up holding things back from he technology really taking off. Hoping the powers at be have some stuff in the works at least though.

Budget VR

I recently read about Google cardboard and thought it was such a cool idea! I took a look on the internet and noticed already a million spin-offs, including this one, the GP 3DVR which runs from about 30$ from Amzaon:


You plop your cell phone in the front of it running some VR software as so:



And just amazing — 30$ VR that works! Very fun to play with. There is an extremely limited amount of software at the moment (and the vast majority of it sucks balls) but the Zombie Shooter demo I downloaded was rather impressive.


The head straps are nice and it holds the cell phone well. The side adjusters (distance) are great but I found the angle adjuster on the top rather useless. Other downsides are the foam on the top that kind of sticks into my forehead and the holes on the side that let too much light in:


But the lenses are very good and it has fantastic magnification. You really can’t bitch for 30$.

In short, it will never of course be the Oculus but if you want to play around, it’s not bad at all. I still can’t believe the stuff I was dying to get my hands on as a kid will run you this cheap these days — it’s just a completely different world.

Fat 25


Just got back from the Fat Wreck Chords 25 year anniversary show in Tokyo and it was utterly insane. Just so many good bands. The floor wasn’t guarded off so I actually managed to get right up near the stage for pretty much every set — except when it started getting closer to the end because I was just completely worn out. I pushed my way through the pit to the very front for Lagwagon but that about did me in — the whole damn front section just went nuts and I got more than a good few kicks to the head. And I’m actually pretty sure Officer Bradford from Masked intruder smashed into me once in the Good Riddance mosh pit.

One thing I love about the fat bands is they are all extremely good live — much better than the recordings even in most cases. As an example I never really listened to Swingin’ Utters much in the past but they really impressed me in concert. And when Hi-Standard came on the place just exploded — they absolutely killed it.

The Tony Sly tribute at the end was somewhat sad but it was very cool to see all the bands come together and play No Use For a Name covers. His daughters were at the show as well — and they all sat on the stage during NOFX (while Fat Mike went on about his balls and whatnot). The “Soulmate” cover with Hi-Standard / Strung-out was definitely one of my favorites.

But… I’m soooooo tired. Just seeing one of those bands can be exhausting but seeing one after another all day is just murder!

Low Expectations

The gym I had been going to for some time now closed down so I had to shift to another (more snobby) one down the street. The one I had been going to just had a weight room and you could pay each time you went which was rather nice. The new one I am going to has more amenities, such as a swimming pool, sauna, etc., which luckily I can get no use out of because I have a tattoo (in Japan tattoos are still associated with gangsters so it’s common for them to refuse membership for people with tattoos to gym’s and boathouses). Also it has the added benefit of being more expensive.

Anyhow, the first month had free membership as part of a campaign so I got the most expensive one where I can go whenever I like. And of course, I’m have been trying to make some use of that meaning trying to go after work and whatnot, even if that means just popping in for 30 min or so. And you know what? It’s interesting: when I paid by the session I always wanted to get the most out of it and would try to go for 1-2 hours at a time but now that my goal has been just to essentially show up, I have been going like nuts: 4 times this week. Seems like there is something to say for lowering your expectations.

Note by the way even when I go, I end up being there for about an hour anyway. But saying I’m just going to pop in for a bit seems to get me in the door.

Oculus Rift

I went to Akihabara tonight to demo the Oculus Rift (Developer Kit 2):

2015062303In actuality this is really the second time I did a demo; the first time I was just so blown away that I didn’t really get to think about it like the proper dork I am — so I went back for take two:

2015062301I’ve been a bit of a sofa VR fanatic since way, way before VR was ever a popular topic. I remember owning and reading through quite a few dry and boring research manuals as early as middle school, when the universities where still making prototypes using mirrors and bicycle helmets.

Growing up in the country and before the internet, it was always hard to get much information on VR, and down near impossible to actually see it in person, so I was really excited when I finally got the chance to try it. And I remember when I did so, I was extremely, extremely disappointed:

The field of view was so small it was like looking through binoculars, the graphic rendering was crap, and it was so fuzzy you could barely see anything unless you squinted. It was so far removed from what I was hoping for that I pretty much starting writing up my expectations to be a bit of a pipe dream.


But, if I had to sum up the Oculus Rift in one sentence it would be this:

It’s real VR, as I imagined it for the first time back as a kid, and it is just really, really cool.

The graphics are good, impressively sharp, and it has an amazing field of view — so much so that I could even see things in my peripheral vision (mainly upwards and downwards, but I imagine it would have been improved if I took the time to adjust the straps). The headset was deceivingly lightweight and reasonably comfortable — probably much more so than it looks in these photos. It was also very, very immersive.

The demo I ran was a model of the inside of a skyscraper in what looked like Tokyo, and you could see some flying cars off in the distance from the terrace, or look up through the open space in the building to hundreds of floors going upwards.

Looking up actually made me feel a bit dizzy, but looking down was where I first starting noticing issues: mainly that the ground was way too close and I felt like I was three feet tall.

I remember John Carmack mentioning this in a speech once actually — that one of the hardest things about porting games over to VR was that the sense of scale gets all out of whack. It was probably made worse by the fact that I was standing when I was trying it, but I definitely noticed the same in the demo I was running.


The other major weakness that I found was image skipping when I swung my head at a semi-fast rate. If you turn your head at some speeds, the image jumps a bit as if it can’t keep up with the rendering. Interestingly enough though, if you go a bit faster, than it seems to smooth out and you don’t notice it. I’m not sure if this is down to perception or if they have added some sort of smear to fool your eyes. It leads me to suspect that you have to have some mighty strong hardware to support a smooth viewing experience though.

All in all, I think the technology is the start of something amazing and I’m really looking forward to how it gets developed over the next few years. And if anyone needs a birthday idea for me…

Blogging Is Dead

Or maybe not — I’m not terribly sure. It’s been dead for me for quite a bit now. It feels like it has been partly replaced with twitter (because of the low commitment needed) but probably more so with Facebook — just because what you write pops up in people’s timeline’s without them having to *gasp* actually go visit people’s pages.

But there is one side that isn’t covered for and that is just the writing for the sake of writing even if no one is around to read it part (which has always most definitely been the case with this decently long-running blog of mine). And I do find myself missing that part lately.

Summer Festivals

We went to the festival at Irugi Shrine last night:

And then yet another festival today. I really do love summer in Japan.

Car Project #2: Touch-up Paint

Now that I finished with installing the etc device, I figured it was time to move onto car project #2; namely trying to touch-up some of the bad bumps and scrapes.

Here is what I was starting with:

I went to Autobas and picked up some touch-up paint and clear coating. I found the correct color from the maker plate under the hood and matched the code and maker to the paint.

Here is what it looked like after the first layer:


Much better!

I did a second coat as well to try to fill in some of the deeper scrapes:

2014071303Not as noticeable of an improvement but there is some there. If you look at the scrape at the very bottom for example you can see it looks much less obvious.

Anyhow, I figure I’m going to give it one last coat and then put on the clear coat. Will take some more pictures to compare.


I did a lot of coding today for some reason. I wrote indexing code for the little PHP KB I was playing with some months back:

And I wrote a simple text command parser for no reason whatsoever. Just in one of those moods I guess.

Oh and I went climbing again today. Climbed my favorite 4-kyu overhang and started working on a new 4-kyu. On the new one, I made it to the next to last hold on-sight but couldn’t pull off the last as it was a bit of a reach and I was having trouble finding a place for my feet. Oh and because I suck, that’s the other reason.


The wifey’s dad was wanting to get rid of his old car so we convinced him to give it to us instead. The only catch was that we had to take the bullet train to Gifu, pick it up, and drive it back to Tokyo. It wasn’t too bad — just about a 4-5 hr drive.

Anyhow, as the car is a bit older I’ve been doing some work on it. One chore on my list was to setup a ETC device. ETC stands for Electric Toll Collection and comes rather standard in cars in Japan these days. Most of the major highways are toll roads so it’s an utter pain to have to pay with cash. Also, you get cheaper fairs when you go electronic, and can even save up “mileage points” for further discounts if you register — not to mention the other points you get as it charges to your credit card.

So I called up a car shop to get an estimation and they told me around 35,000 Yen (350 USD) — which I just wasn’t having. At that rate it would take close to a decade to payback in cost savings.

So I did some research and decided to try to do it myself. Here are there general steps:

  1. Buy an ETC device
  2. Get it “setup” for your car
  3. Install it
  4. Get an ETC card to use with it

There are two types of ETC devices: one-piece units and ones with a separate antenna. The one-piece units completely sit on your dash, are cheaper, easier to install, but are obviously visible. The latter are a bit more expensive and harder to install, but you can hide the main unit. I went with the later.

I was seeing these things sell for up to 15,000 – 20,000 Yen at Autobacs which is utterly ridiculous to me. You can get them online much, much cheaper. I got an insanely good deal: I found a place online selling used units + setup for 4,000 Yen. This is what I went with ultimately. It’s a older unit apparently, but who cares — they all basically do the same thing.

“Setup” is essentially programming the unit for your car. This tells it what class of car to charge for among other things and you need to submit your registration to get it put in. There are some places online that will do this for about 2,000 Yen if you pay for the shipping (which means I got my unit for basically around 2,000 Yen!).

Now for installation — this is the fun part:

The unit didn’t come with instructions so I downloaded them online. It takes a ground, B+, and ACC so I decided to split the B+ and ACC off my stereo wire harness and hook the ground to the frame. Note most people doing this in Japan apparently go for the fuse box but I took a different route.

I bought a pack of U connectors and some double-sided tape. I was also rather unsure of the wire harness format so I ended up buying a cheap 1,000 Yen multimeter as well to test (even though the spec I found on the internet ended up being perfect).

So first the antenna: I put some clear double-sided tape on the rear of it and stuck it behind my rear view mirror, right next to the car seal already there. Then I took my fingers and pushed the wire under the roof all the way around the driver’s side, down near the fuse box, and then across to the center console. I was able to do it all without pulling anything off and without any tools but a screwdriver to help push the wire in. It worked better than I thought to be honest, you can’t see the wire at all.

Next the power:

I pulled off the center console, unscrewed and pulled out the stereo, and detached the wire harness from the back of it. Using my multimeter, I tested for the B+ and ACC wires by putting the ground probe against the frame and sticking the red probe against the different connectors. Both the B+ and ACC wires test for 12V — the difference being that B+ (meaning battery) will have a constant 12V even if the car is off and the keys are out, and the ACC (meaning accessory) will only have 12V when the keys are in, when the car is running, and NOT when the car is cranking. Note some ETC devices only need one or the other of these.

I pulled some tape back from off the harness wires and attached the appropriate ETC cables (referencing the downloaded instructions) using U connectors:

U connectors are awesome by the way: you just clip them around preexisting wire, stick a new wire in, and clap it down. This pushes a piece of metal through both wires connecting them together without having to cut or mess with the original — and it insulates the connection with the plastic of the connector. Really convenient for patching off preexisting cabling.

I did this for both the B+ and ACC wires but didn’t bother with the ground. I just striped off some insulation from the wire, loosened a screw on the frame, and attached it behind a washer.

And finally, the ETC unit itself:

I pushed all the wires through the center console so they were popping out in the floor of the drivers seat, and then put the console back together. My plan was to mount it to the center console but I had I thought when I was doing it: i.e. “fuck it.”

I just wedged the whole unit up under the plastic of the center console. Didn’t use tape or anything — it was stiff enough to hold and you could still see the indicator:

Then “peep!”

As for the ETC card, I currently have a JCB credit card and they offered a ETC card attached to the account for a small, one-time setup fee. I can’t remember off-hand but it was about 1,000 to 1,500 Yen. Then I went here and registered for the mileage service (that I am still waiting on).

And thus concludes my overly detailed account of the adventures in ETC. Now I just got to get the nerve to actually try it out. Note by the way how bad it would suck if I pulled into the ETC lane on the interstate and it decides not to work.