Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The Best and Worst of 2007

Happy New Year. 2007 has come and gone and now is a good time for a very brief review….


Hawaii Superferry 12-13-07

The Hawaii Superferry arrived in the islands and finally set sail on a close to regular schedule on December 13 after an aborted start in late August. I was so luck y as to be on that “return to commercial service” trip as a freelance photographer for a media outlet. The bumpy ride going over to Maui was memorable and the return nearly as smooth as silk.

The voyage was the culmination of my personal documentation of the Superferry as it plowed through a sea of controversy from the time it was built, arrived in the islands and subjected to court orders and a special legislative session, which in the end, cleared it for service. Today despite bad weather, the Superferry is making regular trips between Honolulu and Maui in what hopefully will be a success story for the new year.

Another highlight of 2007 was the spectacular air shows offered by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Thousands of island residents turned out to watch the government sponsored aviation aerobatics as talented fighter pilots from these elite squadrons entertained the public in their own unique way to get young people interested in a military career. I was lucky enough to snap off several hundred photos at the Thunderbirds show from Magic Island Beach Park in Honolulu.

The University of Hawaii Warrior football team was certainly made big news for islanders as they went through their football season relatively unscathed while compiling an impressive and record setting 12 – 0 win-loss regular season…. the first for the U.H., and the best and only unbeaten regular college football team in the country. The U.H. Warriors put their unblemished record to the final test today as they play for the BCS Sugar Bowl title in New Orleans against Georgia.

I Flew Go!

The local inter-island airfare war continued throughout 2007. Mesa Airlines’ Go! set the agenda for low inter-island fares that came tumbling down to $1 on one occasion. I was lucky enough to make trips to the Big Island at fare levels of $9 and $19 each way this year. The big 2 airlines, Hawaiian and Aloha hated the fare war enough to take Go to court. Hawaiian won their case and Aloha’s set for trial in April 2008. Feisty Go! is still around, selling discount fares for $39. The fare war is good for consumers and the local traveling public.

The design for the Hawaii Quarter was unveiled. In late 2008 the last in the 50 states series will be minted and feature a design of the 8 Hawaiian islands and King Kamehameha on the reverse side. While Hawaii’s quarter was to have been the last in the series, another half dozen or so new designs will also be forthcoming to commemorate the territories and the District of Columbia quite possibly in 2009 and continuing to 2010.

In late August Hawaii sky observers were treated to a clearly seen and highly visible total eclipse of the moon. I was lucky enough to capture a series of photos of this heavenly phenomenon without pesky clouds blocking my view.

Apple introduced the iPhone, iPod Touch and new iMacs. Mac OSX version 5 was also released. Apple stock ended the year at $198 per share as they became the 3rd most popular selling computer maker in America. joined the digital music fray by offering DRM-free, downloadable tracks to compete with Apple’s iTunes, which this year also offered selected DRM-free tracks from mainly Capitol/EMI. Music downloads without DRM is a good thing. Let’s hope this trend continues into 2008 and beyond.


For those who are concerned about their pocketbook, 2007 certainly got off to a very bad start. On January 1 the State’s General Excise Tax climbed from 4% to 4.5% , hitting nearly every consumer in the wallet as the cost of final goods and services are rendered. What do the public get out of the .5% (more properly read 12.5%) tax increase?

2007 Small Business Hawaii Conference

Funding for a choo-choo train line to be built by the City and County of Honolulu to the tune of at least $6.4 billion dollars. This will be a rail line that will travel from West Oahu’s Kapolei community and finishing off somewhere in Honolulu near or at Ala Moana Shopping Center. The tax train to nowhere will become an even bigger headache in the years to come as more and more of our money are taken away to build a railroad that is supposed to alleviate traffic congestion but really won’t. The government knows that but they keep on moving with this choo-choo train fantasy.

Thanks Governor Linda Lingle for letting the tax increase bill get by without a veto in 2005. Thanks Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has gone against his mantra of “do we need it” “can we afford it” and “can we maintain it”…. Our “mess-transit” nightmare will continue unless the Mayor and current council members up for reelection in 2008 are tossed out and replaced. It is my hope that groups such as Let Honolulu Vote and prevail in the ongoing issue of mass transit, the rail tax and the Mufi train to hell.

Other bad news for 2007:

Hawaii was still rattled by earthquakes long after the big one in 2006 shook us statewide on an early Sunday morning.

Big storms and heavy seas delayed the launch of the Hawaii Superferry. Humans bent on seeing the service not happen made worst storm waves by using the legal system to shut down operations in August before the legislature and governor intervened with a new law to exempt the service while a required Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is done.

Airline prices may climb in 2008 as Mesa Airlines lost its case against Hawaiian Airlines to the tune of $90 million in federal court. Should Mesa’s Go! leave the Hawaii market, island travelers and consumers will be whacked with severely increased costs to travel to another island.

Lastly property taxes continue to rise as we all get assessed for higher values as scores of developers and speculators push the cost of owning a home beyond what our dwellings are actually worth. Go figure.

Let’s hope that 2008 can be a better year where cost can be reigned in and more free market principles take root. Remember it’s an election year and it is another chance for the public to throw out the old cronies of the “tax and spend” generation.

Have a Happy New Year!

Comp USA Closing Soon

Comp USA Honolulu

The Comp USA chain of stores were sold off to Gordon Brothers Group LLC, a liquidator that specializes in business closures and sales. The entire chain will be closed with some of the stores sold off to other retailers. Speculation is that this Honolulu location will be one of the stores sold instead of totally shutting down.

Nevertheless, there will be “Going Out of Business” sales at all stores, though at my visit yesterday, prices were more or less the same as they always were. I expect deep discounts to start showing up as we get closer to the Christmas holiday and most definitely after that if the stores are still open. The consumer vultures have already started to circle the dying carcass of this once thriving retailer.

Will I miss Comp USA? Probably not. I prefer to go to BestBuy these days and being a Macintosh owner and user, I usually end up at the Apple Store or local retailer MacMouse Club which is located just up the street from Comp USA.

Photo: Comp USA Honolulu taken on Dec. 10, 2007. More photos at this link.

Hawaii Superferry Resumes Service December 1

Hawaii Superferry

Hawaii Superferry will relaunch its commercial service on December 1. It was announced on Friday afternoon by Hawaii Superferry as discount tickets went on sale at their website for $29 per person, each way during a promotional period from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20. After that Superferry will be pricing their fares at $39 each way to March 12. The fare structure only covers passengers but does not include the fuel surcharge which is being waived during the promotional period.

Superferry service will only be available between the islands of Oahu and Maui. Hawaii Superferry is not sailing to Kauai until potential secuirty problems can be worked out with the community there.

I hope it is smooth sailing for Superferry as they resume their interisland service to Maui and Oahu. The fare structure for now is good, right in line with the interisland airlines. I can understand them continuing to charge at least $55 for a standard vehicle since cars, vans and SUVs are fairly large.

Superferry service resumes after a long legal battle which included a convening of a special legislative session and a new law signed by the Governor in order to get the vessel running while an environmental study is conducted. The Superferry issue has been a galvanizing topic in Hawaii for several months with most of the public overwhelmingly supporting the service.

Sony Expo Showcases Latest Tech


The annual Sony Hawaii Expo was held this week at the Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom. Highlight of this year’s Sony Expo was the desktop Sony OLED flatscreen TV (shown above). The hallmark of this high tech wonder is its small size and crystal clear high definition picture. The screen itself is thinner than a compact disc jewel case.

Another hyped product at the Sony Hawaii Expo is the new Sony Rolly MP3 player. It is a new portable device that is shaped like a little barrel and moves to the beat of the music. The speakers on this device are positioned at both ends and open up with winglike flaps on each end. The device will not be marketed in the U.S. and is aimed only at consumers in Japan. If it were sold in the U.S. the price would be at around $400.

Face recognition “smile” technology for Sony Cybershot cameras were also a new this year. The new Cybershots can sense when a person smiles and fires only at that time. People were happily smiling for the demo at the Sony Cybershot booth. There were many other Cybershot digital still and video cameras that were also on display for consumers to play with.

I was most interested in the small super zoom, SLR-like cameras that I may want to get in an effort to find a capable SLR-like digital camera without all of the weight and bulk.

Last year’s hot product, the Sony Playstation 3 was almost like a has-been this year. Yes, there were displays of the venerable Playstation 3 for people to use, but the crowds around those stations were not very big. Sony is still marketing the Playstation 2 which is still the most popular game console of all time, despite Nintendo running away with the market lead on their new generation Wii product.

I am still interested in perhaps getting a Sony PSP, mainly for the fact that it can surf the web with its wireless internet feature. Another wifi device that was touted last year, the Sony Mylo, was nowhere to be seen this year. Sony still sells the device.

HDTV are the big products Sony is pushing this year as the Expo was dominated by flatscreen high definition sets all over the place. Going hand in hand with that were several Sony Blu-Ray HDTV DVD players. the pictures on the sets and from the players are incredibly clear.

Don’t know if I am ready to sink money in either of these technologies, especially Blu-Ray since it is locked in a format war with the rival HD-DVD. Beta vs. VHS all over again. I’ll wait for the dust to settle on this one.

Overall the Sony Expo was a great little venue to check the latest technology from one of the most popular electronic companies on the face of the earth.

Sony Rolly
The Sony Rolly MP3 player. Sold only in Japan.

Honolulu Sony Expo
People clamor around the latest Sony digital cameras.

Free Wireless In Honolulu

It seems the City & County of Honolulu is leading the way in offering free wireless internet through Honolulu. It is announced today that all Satellite City Halls will get free WiFi access points installed by next month. The service is being offered by vendor Skywave. The service for the Satellite City Halls will cost the taxpayers $8,400 a year.

There are several places in Honolulu that feature free wireless hotspots. Several are run by the City including many areas in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, selected city parks, sections of Waikiki (it is funny to see people at the beach with their computers), the Blaisdell Center and on the city’s metro commuter ferry, The Boat.

Other free hotspots that I know of include many of the common areas and legislator offices of the Hawaii State Capitol, the Hawaii Medical Library, Comp USA, the Apple Store, MacMouse Club, and the Kahala Mall center court.

Subscribers of Oceanic Cable’s Roadrunner Service and Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL service also get free wireless at several other places in Honolulu.

Thunderbirds in Hawaii

Thunderbirds 1430

Thunderbirds 1430

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds are in Hawaii in observance of the Air Force’s 60th anniversary. The Thunderbirds gave Honolulu residents a real treat today during their two “practice” shows held at 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. off the shores of Waikiki. While all the action was in the Waikiki area, everyone in Honolulu were aware of the Thunderbirds’ presence as their F16s streaked across the Hawaiian skies. It was a great show that attracted thousands of residents to the beaches and the tops of buildings to get the best view. Supposedly an even bigger show is scheduled for Saturday, September 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Thunderbirds 1430

Thunderbirds Crowd

Some of the crowd at Magic Island who turned out for the fantastic Thunderbirds show.

More photos at this link.

iPhone in Hawaii

Hawaii will probably be one of the last places where people in the United States will be able to get the highly anticipated Apple iPhone. While I am a big Apple fan and user of Macs and iPods, an iPhone is not a device that I am getting anytime soon. Sure there is a coolness factor associated with it and I am sure it is laden with all kinds of features including video viewing, music playing, web surfing, text messaging and well… talking on the phone too.

Frankly I don’t own a cell phone and may be one of the few people in the world that choose not to own one. The iPhone as cool as it may be, will not push me into the ranks of the millions of cell phone users.

For those waiting in line… “good luck”. I hope you get one today. For those who will wait for later or wait forever, but who want to see what all the fuss is all about, check the following video feed from Hawaii:


Ryan, a self professed geek and early adopter will hopefully be lucky enough to snag one of the coveted iPhones and share his experience with all those who have or want one. Enjoy!

2007 First Hawaiian Auto Show

2007 First Hawaiian Auto Show

Everyone loves new cars. The sights, the smells, the power… the prices… well not everything. This weekend thousands of people flocked to the annual First Hawaiian Bank Auto Show held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. I attended the auto show and took a lot of photos, not to mention sat in a few of the display cars and checked out their features and prices. The annual display of motor vehicles presents the public with an opportunity to look, touch and sit in brand new cars without all of the hassle associated with going to a new car dealership.

Photo: Chevrolet Corvette.

More photos: Mel’s Auto Show Page | BuzzNet | Flickr

Apple Store Opening at Kahala Mall

Hawaii’s second Apple Store will be opening at Kahala Mall on Saturday February 10. The 5,000 sq. ft. store will be larger than the first Apple Store which opened in 2004 at Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center.

As usual, Apple will be giving away free T-shirts to the first 1,000 people who visit the new store. There will definitely be a long line of people waiting to be “the first”. I won’t be one of them.

I love Apple, have owned and still own several Macintoshes as well as iPods. Waiting in a long line to get a free t-shirt is not my idea of spending quality time on a busy (for me) weekend. Also since I live closer to the original store, there is no practical reason for me to shop at the Kahala Store which is several miles away from my location. I know what the products are and I can get em close by.

Still, I wish all those who like to go to these kinds of opening day events the best of luck. Have fun, buy a Mac or an iPod. Aloha!

E-Waste Day

It was E-Waste day at the University of Hawaii today. This day was set aside by the U.H., the State Department of Education and Apple Computer. The public had a chance to get rid of their e-waste and not worry about sending it off to the landfill. Supposedly the e-waste collected will be shipped off to the mainland or somewhere, and have their components recycled.

It was a good opportunity for me to get rid of some of my household clutter. Among the items that I finally got around to letting go were the following:

Macintosh II computer, Macintosh Centris 650 computer, Sony Betamax VCR, Sony single play CD component player and various miscellaneous electronics and computer items.

Now I have more room. Next I need to get rid of some of my old books and perhaps my “newer” old computers such as my Powercenter 150 and Power Mac 9500. I also have perfectly fine Mac SE and Mac Plus compters lying around. Anyone interested in buying these? I may sell them for a song.

There is talk that some people would like to see a computer recycling tax be levied upon the consumers of Hawaii for every computer or TV they purchase. This is a bad, bad idea. Hawaii already has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. We are already being taxed for way too many consumer transactions. The general excise tax is going to rise on January 1. Do we need a computer tax or as proponents would like to refer to it, a “computer recycling fee”? No!

Volunteer and corporate efforts such as today’s E-Waste day are great ideas and should be implemented more often. A mandatory new tax is not. It will only add to the cost of living and doing business in Hawaii.

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