Irony is a word that is no doubt found in every language. A case in point is the widely accepted view that English is the lingua franca of the Internet. Unfortunately, while this expression nicely captures the linguistic dominance of English, the term itself originates in Italian. Despite this quirk English speakers unquestionably dominate the Web, but it’s no linguistic desert for the rest. Spicing up the cyber offerings for Japanese speakers, Google recently launched a Nihongo version of its famed book search engine. This is the not-without-controversy service that allows you to search for a book and read an excerpt of it for free, perhaps even eventually prompting you to loosen the purse strings and splash out the cash on some literature. The new addition to cyberspace can be accessed at: books.google.co.jp/
Leaving your mark: Rakugaki.in augments the creative Internet experience in Japan in a completely different way. The recently launched Web site, at rakugaki.in/, lets you draw graffiti all over your favorite YouTube videos without having to go to the trouble of uploading or editing anything. The site is the brainchild of Satoru Yano, who created Jimaku.in, which enables you to write captions for your YouTube video, and Moza Moza Movie, for self-created stamps — or “mozaiku,” that you can use to censor parts of the DIY video experience.
Compact memories: Printing at home offers a degree of convenience and personalization to the digital photography experience. Canon has tapped into this with its range of photo printers and has now taken the convenience factor to a new level with its latest Selphy model, the CP740. Like many of its ilk the CP740 produces 10 cm x 15 cm prints directly from a camera or memory card. Its real distinguishing feature is size, being small enough to fit in your hand or a large pocket. Beyond its dimensions the printer sports the now standard features such as two-inch color LCD display, red-eye correction and a varied menu of direct printing options. It supports CompactFlash, Microdrive, Memory Stick cards (in their standard, Duo, Pro and Pro Duo permutations), SD card, multimedia card, MMC (both mobile and plus), mini SD card, SDHC and its mini version and RS-MMC. If you are still not satisfied, an adapter sold separately allows you to use the xD-picture card and micro versions of the memory stick, MMC, SD and SDHC cards. The compact printer is slated to hit the market in a few months with a price tag in the bit-over 10,000 yen range with more information at: cweb.canon.jp/cpp/cp750/index.html
Cook does it all: Instead of size, Zojirushi is pinning its claims to your wallet on the virtue of versatility with its multitasking hot plate. In essence it’s a multiple grill that folds outs to offer a handful of different cooking surfaces, allowing you, for example, to grill steak and vegetables at the same time. It doesn’t entirely neglect the joy of compactness as the whole contraption folds together into one neat bundle that when paired with its protective cover rather resembles a pregnant sandwich toaster. The top model, the EA-ES65 will retail for 25,200 yen with its sibling, the EA-EA55 available for 21,000 yen with details to be had at: www.zojirushi.co.jp/corp/news/2007/070705/EAES.html
Looking good and doing good: Cool is a word that applies to more than just the looks of these electricity adapters from Gilles Belley of France. Plug a device in to one of the adapters and when it doesn’t need any energy for over three minutes then the power is cut off, thus easing the burden on both your wallet and the planet. The adapters look like L-shaped pieces of white plastic with the plugs nicely hidden out of view. The short end of the L sets on the edge of a desk with a pretty pattern of blue lights along the top. The lights come on when whichever gadget you have attached to the adapter is being delinquent and using power behind your back. If you ignore the advice then the plug takes action on your behalf. The devices are expected to save about 10 percent of a user’s energy usage, the power most gizmos use in standby mode. Check them out at www.gillesbelley.fr/en_gillesbelley/en_works.html. Trust the French to make Apple look like clumsy designers.
Getting the small picture: Microscopes have evolved so far from the simple peer-at-the-slide types beloved of childhood to the point that it is hard to believe the latest creations are the same species. Thanko has put its considerable imagination to good effect with the Nandemo Microscope. Looking more like a hand-held telescope, the USB-powered (big surprise) device allows you, with the help of its attachments, to pry into just about any confined space that captures your interest, such as the inside of your mouth or the forest (clump of trees?) that your hair resembles up close, with the image projected on your computer. It sports a 1.3-megapixel CMOS censor, to help you take snapshots of the tiny view of your choice, and adjustable LED lighting. The microscope is available for 12,800 yen at www.thanko.jp/usbmicroscope/