Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seoul gone from Google Maps? Nope.

Get ready to cringe, because this article basically Seouls you:

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Friday that it recently discovered Google’s online map service did not properly mark Seoul as South Korea’s capital, or the Dokdo islets at all, and asked the American tech company to resolve the issue.
Google Maps showed the capitals of neighboring countries including Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei clearly marked, but when zoomed out failed to show Seoul, according to the city government.
Even when the map was zoomed in, Pyongyang was marked as North Korea’s capital. However, in South Korea only Seongnam, a city outside Seoul in Gyeonggi, was marked.
[Korea Joongang Daily | Dokdo can’t be searched for on Google Maps]

South Korea shows rather blank, compared to its
neighbors, in what seems a reverse of this iconic image.

I like how the tone of this article implies that this was somehow a slight of Korea by a big bad American multinational. "...asked the American tech company to resolve the issue..." (!) Nothing could be farther from the truth. Like with most things, this non-controversy stems from a very boring cause:

지도를 업데이트하기 위해서는 타일링(Tiling)이라는 작업이 필요한데, 대한민국의 경우 국내법 준수를 위해 다른 나라와는 다른 별도의 작업이 필요합니다. [SPH | The reason Seoul is missing from Google Maps]

As the post above points out, it is Korea's own National Security Law that prevents Google from pushing updates to their map tiling in a timely fashion. The map tiles for Seoul were recently updated (thank God) but because of the archaic laws demanding mapping data be stored/processed within South Korea's borders, the update was delayed while local partners took care of it. 

Lest you get uselessly upset about this sort of thing (like I do), you're not alone. Koreans themselves find it annoying that even North Korea receives better coverage on Google. 

So if you too find navigating in Korea difficult thanks to the pretty terrible quality of Google Maps, don't blame the big bad G. Blame those in government who still think its 1952 and that somehow keeping it illegal to export maps will make Seoul safer. For crying out loud, I've been in apartment complexes that directly overlook military installations. I could snap a few photos with my phone, even through binoculars if so inclined, and Snapchat them to Kim Jong-Un, but I can't get simple driving directions. 

Oh, and by the way, I love how that Joongang piece complains:

Right now if you search for Korea’s easternmost Dokdo islets on Google Maps, the map will take you to the Dokdo Museum on the nearby Ulleung Island.
Only by searching with the Franco-English name for the islets, Liancourt Rocks, can the Dokdo islets in the East Sea be located on Google’s online map service.
The same results are found when searching in both English and Korean on the online map service.

Well go ahead and search "Dokdo" on Naver, and what do you get? The famed islets? Only if you scroll down in the auto-fill list. Go ahead and just do a quick-and-dirty "Dokdo" search on Naver. Please do. And what do you get? Korea's national pride? No. Your local branch of Dokdo Tuna restaurants. 

"Dokdo" search on Naver returns 독도참치

But please, tell me more about how Google is slighting Korea. Especially with disparaging comments like:
“Korea is one of the most important markets, as it is in (the)top five nations with the largest number of developers for Google Play,” Jamie Rosenberg, vice president of Google’s digital content, said at its first Google Play event for partners and media in Seoul. [Korea Herald]

Outright shocking. We need to ask the American tech company to cease this outrageous rhetoric. And now that all this righteous anger has given me an appetite, I strangely have a sudden craving for tuna...

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

KT and Expedia partner for unlimited data roaming

It looks like KT is offering customers traveling abroad a free unlimited data roaming promotion. That's pretty huge, since I can still remember visiting home and having to choose my data-dates carefully, as it was 10k won each day for such service. A quick check shows that that is still basically the case. But before you get too excited, there are of course some conditions:
  1. You have to be staying in a hotel charging over $100/night (not one of these)
  2. You have to book that hotel stay via the promotional Expedia site
If that's you, read on to see how to take advantage of this promotion. 

How to get KT's Unlimited Data Roaming

Olleh unlimited free roaming data promotion

Step 1: Get the Coupon Code

You need to visit the special promotional page on the Expedia site. There, you just need to sign-up for the promotion with your name and email address. 
The "official" link is below, but it's all in Korean.
Luckily, you can just change the URL to get it all in English.

Step 2: Reserve your Hotel

Make your hotel reservation. Be sure to use the special link below.
NB: If Expedia ever starts displaying in Korean you can change it to English by adding &langid=1033 to the end of the URL. This is safer than clicking "English" as that may remove the KT-promotion-specific URL coding. 

Step 3: Enter the coupon code

Now when it's time to pay for the reservation, be sure to enter the coupon code you got in Step 1 into the billing information. After that double-check your itinerary, which should now say "Data Roaming" or "데이터로밍" or "Data Unlimited Free", etc. 

Step 4: Show your itinerary at the Airport Data Roaming Center

When you show up at the airport for your flight, stop by the KT Data Roaming center and show them your itinerary. They should do the rest. 

I'm not a translation expert or anything, but it says 예를 들어, 5박을 하면 5일, 10박을 하면 10일 데이터로밍 무제한 혜택이 제공되는 것이죠, so it looks like this is valid for your entire hotel stay. In other words, stay 8 days and get 8 days of unlimited data, for example. 

Also beware that some hotels are excluded from the promotion. 

I haven't tried it yet of course, even though I'm a KT customer, mainly because the last time I left Korea was well over a year ago now. I'm due for a nice tropical vacation. Maybe if  when that time comes, I can use this offer to sit on a nice beach, sip a nice cocktail, and continue building my Clan like I do on the toilet at work. 


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Korea is #1 in Dropbox syncing

It turns out Korea ranks #1 when it comes to Dropbox users who "use their Dropbox accounts on at least two devices."

 Here are the top syncer schools globally:
  1. Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (South Korea)
  2. Universitat de les Illes Balears (Spain)
  3. Seoul National University (South Korea)
  4. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (Netherlands)
  5. Yonsei University (South Korea)
The top 20 list for syncer schools is dominated by Korean and Spanish universities: Six of the top 20 are in South Korea. [Dropbox Blog | Collaborators and syncers]

I'm a bit surprised by this. I personally haven't really noticed much personal cloud-based file-sharing going on. Now online webhards are a different story, but that's not exactly file-syncing, just TV show and movie downloading. As for personal cloud-based storage, even though the tech scene here is pretty advanced, it's just not something I've noticed a lot of. I think Dropbox themselves noticed this, as you can see in this recent interview. I'm cutting a lot out of the ansewer, but here's the part I found interesting (my highlighting):

Many Koreans tend to use N-Drive and cloud services provided by their telecom carriers like SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, as most of them connect to cloud service via smartphones. In this sense, Korea seems like a somewhat closed market. [...]
We are surprised that Korea is so advanced in a lot of ways, but we found that people aren’t using any of these cloud services and it’s great. We have an opportunity to make things better for a lot of people and it’s a big open market for us.
[Korea Joongang Daily | Dropping in to Korea's cloud storage scene]

He can say that again. The telecoms offer some outrageous amounts of free online storage, but I have yet to interact with anyone, either professionally or personally, who uses their telecom cloud storage at all, or some of the similar services. Remember, I'm just talking me here. Don't take it as statistical fact. 

Now I have sent/received plenty of large-sized files via Naver N-Drive. I would guess N-Drive syncing would be more popular. Anyway, it seems students at some of the best Korean schools (KAIST and SKY!) are fans of Dropbox and its multi-device convenience. I'd be real curious to know what kind of files they're syncing, and whether it's actual academic work, or just movies and TV shows. I can imagine some kid on the subway Wi-Fi streaming Naruto, which he grabbed off a web-hard from his desktop, to his Note via Dropbox. 

Then again, as I talked about before, it was also KAIST that came in #1 for nighttime Dropbox syncing. Now, I don't know what kind of files they are streaming so heavily and so late at night. I'll leave that up to you. Bottom line: KAIST students really seem to like Dropbox. 

Or, here's another possibility: It could just be that KAIST/SKY students are wealthy enough to own multiple mobile devices, and even though Dropbox itself might be more popular outside Korea than inside, non-Koreans may simply run Dropbox on a single computer as cloud-backup (like my parents do) or just sync between home and work computers.

So overall, if I had to make a guess, I'd say Koreans' tendency to have multiple mobile devices and ubiquitous high-speed wireless internet help it to beef up the numbers in terms of data streaming/syncing that not many other countries could match. Dropbox use might just be a small piece of a larger file-streaming pie. 

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Friday, November 6, 2015

MBC's 360° VR video "Shine or Go Crazy" (빛나거나 미치거나 VR), and more 360 VR fun!

Here's a pretty cool follow-up on Korean 360° VR videos. A few months back I had read over on the K-Bizwire that MBC was producing a virtual reality Korean historical drama.
SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Korea Bizwire) – MBC has announced that it will produce an action drama based on virtual reality (VR), and reveal it on September 5.
The drama ‘Shine or go Crazy VR’ is an offshoot of ‘Shine or go Crazy’, which was aired early this year, starring Jang Hyuk and Oh Yeon-seo. The story will be the same, but the program was shot in a way that will make viewers feel like they are actually in the drama. [Korea Bizwire | MBC Produces Virtual Action Drama]

Still shot from the 3-D 360° VR version of "Shine or Go Crazy"

I don't know anything about this "Shine or Go Crazy" and I'm not a big fan of Korean historical dramas, or Korean dramas at all, but I'm a sucker for 360° videos, and as far as I can tell nobody has written up anything in English about it since that Bizwire piece, so I'll give it a look here. I just so happen to have a Google Cardboard viewer which you can get on G-market for under 5,000원 for a cheap one.

MBC has their own Android app [Google Play | MBC VR] that features some of their VR content, but I don't recommend downloading it. It says that it's compatible with both Google Cardboard and some knockoff called PAPER360 but honestly I couldn't get the focus right with my Cardboard. Additionally, it requires you to download the viewing file first, and the full 7-minute clip of "Shine or Go Crazy" is over 400MB. Don't bother with the app then, when all of the content currently in the app is available on MBC's VR YouTube channel for convenient streaming.

I'll embed the full 7-minute clip below, or you can click here.

Note that there is about a minute of introduction, during which your "VR" experience will turn into presentation mode, where you'll feel like you're just looking at a screen in a movie theater because turning your head will only show blackness around the screen. Just let it play, and the full 360° immersion will start. The nice thing of having it stream from YouTube is that even without an actual Cardboard viewer, you can still get the 360° experience by moving the phone around.

(Spoiler alert) The "story" is basically just some action fighting scenes, including some guy getting thrown into a river then some ghost princess fighting two men. Sorry, I don't care enough about the plot to research it. I found myself looking around at the old Korean architecture to my top-left while the martial arts were going on to the right. At the end there's an explosion and someone comes and stabs you. (End spoilers*) Again, the interesting thing here is probably not the plot, but the lovely immersive scenery.

[*Did I really just put a spoiler warning on this? On this? I always told myself that when I start taking this blog too seriously I'd shut it down. Cool off, bud. You're getting dangerously close to adding "kimchi" or "Seoul/soul" to the title. ]

If I've got my facts straight, it looks like the company that produced this is a start-up called "mooovr" (not "moo V.R." but "moo-ver/mover/무버"... somebody needs to do something about these names), and here's a shot from their Instagram of them filming these scenes:

Mooovr has a variety of other 360 VR videos over on their YouTube channel which all worked fine in my Cardboard, including one of the roller-coaster at Seoul Grand Park and a, um, eye-catching VR performance of K-pop girl group Stellar's "Marionette", which is pretty hot even in 2-D. You know, if you go for the whole girls-dancing-in-underwear thing, which you know you do.

And speaking of which, you know what that means. As I wrote about before, Bambino, the group now famous for that viral gyrating no-panty GIF, was first to this brave new world*Stellar now joins Bambino as the two K-pop world leaders in sexy 360° VR entertainment. You know what the next step is, guys. You always thought it would be Japan that brings us immersive VR pornography, but I'm putting my faith in Team Korea here. President Park has always said that the creative economy will be Korea's biggest growth engine. You can bet that 3-D, 360° VR "entertainment" like this that "grows" my "engine" will be the real economic bonanza. Don't believe me? Check out the 2:12 mark in this video. Or better yet, check out the entire concept of this video. I'm telling you, it's just around the corner.

[*Technically the girl group Laysha, who just made headlines yesterday for a particularly raunchy performance, had a VR video released earlier this year, but we have to draw the line somewhere. A few girls dancing in VR does not a K-pop act make. So for me, although the line is thin, I'd say Laysha are still in "amateur" territory while groups like Stellar and Bambino are more well-known, bearing in mind that "well known" is a relative term. Now if you want legitimately well-known, I'd have to say the boy-group Infinite, releasing their own 360 video back in July, which was even featured by Google.]
So keep an eye on these YouTube channels, and keep your Cardboard VR viewer handy. Last time I looked at this topic, there were no more than 5~10 Korea-related VR videos on the 'Tube. Take a look now and you'll see how explosive this niche has become.

YouTube Channel Review:

YouTube - MBC VR
YouTube - mooovr
YouTube - 베레스트(Verest) 360 VR

Happy 360 VR viewing, and remember to keep both hands firmly on the 3-D viewer headset, wink wink.
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