Thursday, March 30, 2017

Find Ryan on KakaoMap #카카오맵

Kakao is running a fun and simple contest right now to promote KakaoMap.

KakaoMap 3D Skyview Find Ryan Event! 

(3d스카이뷰 라이언을 찾아라! 이벤트)

Here's how it works:

  1. Find Ryan in KakaoMap's 3D Skyview
  2. Screenshot it and upload it to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #카카오맵
  3. (Potentially) win free Starbucks

Multiple cute Ryan stickers (50) are shown on the map in multiple locations around Seoul if you zoom in using the 3D Skyview mode (not the plain Skyview mode). Here's my entry:

Kakao Friends "Ryan" appearing in the Gangnam area on KakaoMap

And yes, I sort of watermarked it so you thieves can't just reupload it yourselves. I know your cunning plan. I guess you could just crop it, but come on, get in the spirit and enjoy the contest. I didn't zoom in for this screenshot, but trust me the 3D view is actually very cool and you can waste a good 20 minutes browsing and zooming around enjoying the neat immersive imagery.

Contest duration 2017.03.29 ~ 2017.04.17
Winners: 1000 people
Contact: Winners contacted via Facebook/Instagram Messenger by 2017.04.19

You can see plenty other examples at the hashtags:

"Let's Find Ryan and Drink Starbucks!"

And if you need the app, download it here:

Read more ...

Friday, March 24, 2017

Naver's revamped homepage for 2017

Naver is restyling their main homepage next week. According to a pop-up that's appearing on the site, the new style will come out for desktop users on March 27. But you can see it right now at

Here they are side by side for comparison:

Naver homepage, Before (L) and After (R)

And here they are up-close, as seen on 2017-3-24:

Naver new style homepage, to launch 3/27

current Naver homepage

Looks nice and sleek. I like the soft gray background and offset center.

By the way, this preview version has actually been available since  March 13, but I only noticed the message yesterday.

Read more ...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A chat with "Naver i": Naver's AI virtual assistant

Naver has a new beta feature you can access right now on your phone in the Naver app. They call it Naver i (네이버 i) and it's basically their version of Siri or the Google Assistant. You can use natural language to get information like news, weather, or perform searches, but you can also converse and joke with it.

I tried it out, so keep reading to see my conversation with it.

What is Naver i and what can it do?

Right now, it's basically a chatroom that you can launch from either inside the Naver app or from a homescreen shortcut that it will offer to create for you.

If you've chatted with the Google Assistant inside Google's Allo app, it's basically the same thing.

You chat with it in natural language, either by speaking or typing, and it tries to parse your query and return relevant information. Ask it about news, weather, stocks, web searches, etc. It can also open apps on your phone.

Here are some official promotional samples, but you can see the full set here:

Stocks and Exchange Rates

Image: Naver

Here are some special cards returned when you ask "Samsung Electronics stocks" or "US dollars exchange rate."

Location Recommendations and Song Identification

Image: Naver

Here on the left it was told a very complex sentence: "Show me great restaurants with calm ambiances popular with 20 year-olds around Garosu-gil [Gangnam hotspot area]" and returned a Naver infocard with recommendations including quick links to call or get directions.

On the right, someone asked "What's this song?" and Naver i listened and identified it as Ed Sheeran [barf] and includes links to play the song now or watch the music video.

Enough official imagery. I decided to give it a try myself. From here on, all imagery are screenshots from my phone.

I told it "hello" and it said "haha nice to meet you"

Help list

Say "Help List" and it brings up a carousel of topics you can get help with. Clicking each one will show multiple sample queries. 


- Translate "cat" to English
- Cat

- "I really like Mexican food" in English
- I love Mexican food
- Ooh~~~ that's right!
 - Searching for "Ooh that's right"

[Looks like didn't quite get my meaning there. It turns out though I had to later enable "conversation mode" which I hadn't done at this point yet]


 - Show me Lee Hyori videos
- Here are Lee Hyori videos I found

Notice that these videos all came from Naver's own streaming video service, Naver TV. That feels somehow walled-gardeny, but I guess it's not any different than Google bringing up YouTube results.

Weather and News

- Hello
- haha nice to meet you
- Who are you?
- I'm a nice person.
- What's the weather like?
- Current weather is cloudy.

And a weather info card appeared, showing it's cloudy, 3 degrees warmer than yesterday, highs-and-lows, etc.

- And tomorrow?
- Tomorrow will be rainy in the morning, and cloudy in the afternoon.
- Today's news
- Here's the recent news

Here I was testing to see if it would understand context. If I said "tomorrow" would it know I meant the weather? It did. Nice.

And of course it brought up news article cards.

My funny conversation with Naver i

Browsing through the help cards, I realized that Naver i limited some of the cutesy responses I expected, and that you can enable its more chatty side by telling it to begin "Chat Mode".

Here are some of the interactions I had with it.

- Chat with me
- Chatting mode on! From now on I'll just chat. To turn me off, please say "let's stop chatting".
- Oh really? Then, what's your name?
- My name is Naver i
-How old are you?
- Look at the clock hehe
- Not funny
- Don't go! :-(

Was "look at the clock" this thing's idea of a joke? Somebody needs to turn down the playfulness vector here. 

- Come run away with me
- I have someone already. I can't be a two-timer.

Coy mistress...

- Do you know English?
- I'm curious. Teach me.
- Do you know "cat"?
- Yeah I know it, hehe

Uh... ok...

- Like cats?
- Yeah, me too.
- No, do you like cats?
- I like you.
- Got a girlfriend?
- Yes.
- Really? Who?

I guess my cat question was misunderstood. Maybe it thought I was saying that I like cats. Cute that it says it likes me, but then who the hell is this girlfriend? I have to get to the bottom of this. Is this the "other" he mentioned?

- Really? Who?
- I'm in love...
- What is your girlfriend's name?
- It's "Naver i"
- That's your name, isn't it?
- I'm Naver i.
- dot dot dot
- I didn't understand you.
- Right

Not sure what happened here. I'm not exactly a native Korean speaker though so maybe I phrase things weirdly? 

- Are you a man or a woman?
- I'm neither man nor woman. I'm an AI bot hehe.

- Hmm
- Who?
- Sam
- Ooh... pika pika? Pikachu? Oki Oki Okinawa? Piya piya Kandabia?

I have no idea what that was about. It started quoting Pokemon? I don't know about the Okinawa reference, but apparently the Piyapiya thing is a line from the old children's cartoon Dooly. Anybody have any clue what "Sam" has to do with that?

- What did you say?
- I'm asking you.
- My name is Sam. Nice to meet you.
- You too. You look well.
- What's my name?
- You should know that... hehe
- Ha, right.
- Ha.

I was trying to see if this thing would remember my name, as the Google Assistant does along with lots of other details about you. Maybe that sort of memory will come later.

- OK, you're getting kind of boring.
- No, don't! I'm still learning, is all.
- OK, I'm sorry.
- It's OK.
- I love you.
- Really? hehe
- Well, I'm off to sleep.
- Sleep well ~ Dream about me ~
- 😊

After all that back-and-forth, push-and-pull romance, it ends with a very flirty request. Not sure how I can dream about an AI bot though. Maybe it will become embodied like this.

- :-) 
- What'd you do that for? What did I do wrong?
- Nothing, good night!
- OK then, bye... pleasant dreams!
- ^_^
- You express your love so violently! I love you too, dear customer! *-_-*

I can't understand why it thinks I'm violent, or why it thought I was angry when I clearly used a smily face. Maybe it has some bugs still. It's just a beta after all. Or maybe it doesn't like me speaking to it in banmal? How are you supposed to speak to an AI? I'll be damned if I'm going to use 존댓말 to a machine.

Anyway, you can see that I'm not very clever about talking to this thing. I personally think chatbots are annoying gimmicks. But I know you could do better, and maybe get it into some funnier or more interesting convos. So here's how you can.

How to enable Naver i

This thing is already built into the Naver app. Inside the settings, go to the "Labs" options (it's now a sort of flying saucer type icon). There's a toggle switch there under the Naver i lab, as seen below. Once that's set, a shortcut can be added to your home screen or you can access it by the little blue "i" icon that will now be in the bottom corner of the Naver app.

Final Thoughts

You can read (in Korean) about this feature, and see more screenshots, at these Naver Blogs:

I'd guess this is not a final product. Will it be incorporated into this new Clova platform that Naver's subsidiary Line has brought out? It would make sense, since Google is doing the same with its Assistant and its Home line. Anyway you can read about Clova lots of places:

Have fun chatting with Naver i, your new 24-hour language exchange partner.

UPDATE: Naver has released a promo video showing Naver i in-action:

Read more ...

Friday, March 17, 2017

Kakao releases "Star Player" Android emulator

Kakao has launched a new free full-fledged Android emulator called "Star Player" (별플레이어). Currently there's a Windows PC version for download at ~300MB, and they say a Mac version is coming soon. It's all in Korean, but the set-up is simple so a very basic level is all you need. So if you want a free, powerful Android emulator on your PC, let's check this out.

Promotional image for Kakao's StarPlayer. Image: Yonhap

Gaming on StarPlayer

The app is ostensibly for playing battery- and data-heavy Kakao games that would burn your hands off if you fully immersed yourself. Some of these games are Starcraft-level already. However judging from the FAQs, you should be able to use it to play other games too.

They also include some warnings like of course not every game will work with this, especially those that aren't optimized for large-screen viewing. And other paid games or in-app purchases may not work right. Finally they recommend PC hardware of at least an Core i5 with 4GB RAM. Like I said, some of these Kakao games are intense. Koreans don't screw around when it comes to hardcore gaming.

Here are the screenshots via Kakao showing the process.

Set-up process for StarPlayer. Image: Kakao

Installing and using StarPlayer

I tried it myself. The process was fairly painless.

  1. Download the installer and run it. I had that "jumbled text" encoding problem, so had to follow my own advice to fix it so I could know what I was clicking. Once installed, the program will sit in your system tray until called on. During the installation you can set it to auto start-up when the computer starts-up or not. 
  2. Log-in to the StarPlayer site with your Kakao account (*required*)
  3. You can now browse their game list. Find one you like (I went with 병아리 키우기 because that's more my style/speed) and click the big 게임하기 button.
  4. Chrome will ask you if you want to open StarPlayer-type links in StarPlayer. Say yes.
  5. StarPlayer launches in Windows.

Now the game will need to download into your emulator via the Google Play Store, meaning first you need to set-up your emulator just like you would with a first-time use of a new Android phone. Here's the emulator in action on my laptop.

Screenshot of StarPlayer emulator running on my computer

Honestly, the emulator was very sluggish on my old Pentium laptop. Now I understood their i5 spec. It's not just the games: this thing seems a near full Android OS. It took at least 30 minutes to go through all this at sluggish speed, and I ended up needing to get to sleep, but not before I got the full Play Store working:

Screenshot of Google Play Store on the Kakao StarPlayer emulator

So overall, it looks like I really only needed my Kakao account to launch that game to launch the emulator. Once that was done, I could fool around with the emulator all I wanted. The catch is that you can't launch the emulator stand-alone (at least I couldn't get it to open). Bookmark a game page in your browser and 게임하기 it anytime you want to open the emulator. With Play Store access like this, it looks like you can basically do whatever you want from there on out. So go play around with it and explore.

Final thoughts

This looks pretty promising. It's nice that a major corporation like Kakao has released this. Sure there are plenty of other Android emulators out there, but mostly from individual developers and modders and you can't be sure how stable or secure it is. But for the love of God, follow their recommendation about a Core i5 processor or higher. Otherwise the lag will drive you crazy.

And once again, download it here:
Read more ...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Links: Naver Whale public beta, KakaoMap for iOS, SM goes YouTube Diamond

1. Naver Whale open for public download 

Naver Whale is out of private beta and the public beta is available for anyone to download. Well the Windows version anyway. Mac and Linux are "coming soon" as is the mobile app version. You can see my main post about Whale browser here:

Download this Whale for yourself here, but beware it's all still in Korean for now.
You can also get the offline "full" installer here.

Here was a bit from a piece I thought was amusing:
Whale has been developed by Google's open-source web browser platform, Chromium. More than 100 internet browsers have been developed by using source codes from the platform. "At first, we started developing the browser with our own technologies," said the Naver official. "But the strategy of sticking to in-house technologies did not work to improve user-friendliness, so we scrapped the decision."
Korea Times | Naver beefs up rivalry against Google, MS over web browser
I'll let you make your own witty comments about Korean UI stereotypes. In all seriousness, it's a strong, decent app, and worthy of your trial. 

2. KakaoMap available now for iOS

The old Daum Maps app for iOS finally followed its Android cousin and became updated to KakaoMap 1.0. It doesn't have an English interface yet like the Android one does, but it's coming. 

Here are the official screenshots promoting it:

KakaoMap 1.0 for iOS. Image: Kakao

Download it here at the iOS App store:

3. SMTOWN hits 10 million subscribers

And just for fun, the SMTown YouTube channel has reached over 10,000,000 subscribers, earning them a Diamond YouTube Play button.

Image: YouTube Korea blog

From "oldies" like SES and TVXQ, to Girls Generation and Super Junior, to F(x) and EXO, they're a third of Korea's trifecta of entertainment megacorps. And yes I left out Red Velvet, because they're way after my time. Sorry girls. I'd be more like a grandpa fan than an uncle fan to you.

Read more ...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Aju Business Daily's RSS feed

Aju Business Daily is the English version of the Aju News news content site. They offer RSS feeds for each of their Korean news categories, but I couldn't find an English feed publicized.

Luckily I found one here:

I couldn't find category specific feeds though. If you can find them, let me know.

Read more ...

Friday, March 3, 2017

Naver Whale browser IE plug-in compatibility mode active, but limited 1-2 years

Here's some news on that IE-compatibility feature that's being baked into Naver's upcoming Chrome-rival browser Whale. Over on their Whale browser development blog, Naver posted an interesting detail about the browser's handling of Internet Explorer type plug-ins. Naver's end goal is to eliminate the feature entirely, but incorporate it as a stop-gap measure for up to two years on certain essential sites.

Really this is just an update to my previous more in-depth post about Whale browser, but I figured anybody who reads this blog might be interested in this update. 

First a quick review.

Quick review: IE Plug-in Compatibility Mode


This was the option I found in the settings for a special Plug-in Compatibility handler, that was still grayed out and unable to activate in whatever beta version I was on at the time.

It was a special Plug-in Compatibility handler. If you can't see the highlighted text in the screenshot, it reads:
플러그인 호환 모드
플러그인 호환 모드를 사용하시면 금융,정부,회사 업무 사이트의 호환 문제를 해결해줍니다.
플러그인 호환 모드 사용하기
So basically, a feature that lets Internet Explorer style plug-ins work in a Chromium-based browser. It specifically says it's for financial, governmental, and corporate sites. Remember that Swing Browser's whole purpose was this ability, which I noted here.

Plug-in Compatibility mode is now Active

Well, in the latest beta (I'm currently using the beta), the option is active and functional.

Plugin compatibility mode setting

Here you can see the setting is active. It reads:

플러그인 호환 모드를 사용하시면 금융,정부,회사 업무 사이트의 호환 문제를 해결해줍니다.

So again, it's working for financial, government, and corporate sites. You can edit which version of IE it mimics. I like how 7 is the default. You can edit the list of sites that will automatically use this mode to add your own, but it also includes a pre-populated list

Here's that full list:

  • 대법원인터넷등기소
  • 국민건강보험공단
  • 고용보험
  • 국민연금관리공단
  • 근로보험공단
  • 민원24
  • 홈택스
  • 나이스
  • 넷마블
  • 한게임
  • 다음게임
  • 엠게임

So basically a list of government tax and insurance sites, and some game sites. I wondered if other sites, like the registry for making an appointment with Korean immigration, would be supported too? I suspected some people might need this on a site like for making immigration office appointments. So I tried added it manually and fired it up.

Whale thinks is a malware site

OK, well I didn't expect that. Whale's automatic malware detection flagged it. Talk about a Confucian conflict here. How dare this young hip little browser insult the ancient and creaking HiKorea government portal site. Let's go ahead and click "I like to proceed dangerously" or whatever. installing an Active X plugin in a Chrome-based browser!

Pretty cool. Just like old times on real IE7, I get the toolbar warning thing about installing the add-on. I didn't get a screenshot of the installation process, but it went fine, both the ActiveX plugin and the anti-keylogger. Unfortunately, I couldn't log-in. Not because of a plug-in issue, but because I forgot my own ID/password. Crap. I'll have to sort that out at some point.

(Note that the HiKorea site is not actually black. I'm a one of those men who uses a dark high-contrast theme for Windows. I wouldn't have to if Microsoft would just make a nice global dark theme for Win 10 already. I spend a lot of my day, evening, and even night in front of a screen, and don't want my eyes burning out.)

I know most banking sites have their own downloadable .exe security apps for Chrome users, but if for whatever reason you can't get yours working, maybe give Whale a try. But not for long, which brings me to...

Whale's Plug-in Compatibility mode is on the chopping block

Don't get too attached to this feature though. It looks like this plug-in compatibility mode will only be operational for up to two years. From a recent Naver blog post:

웨일은 1년 안에 본 기능을 지원 중단하는 것으로 목표로
최대 2년까지만 지원할 예정입니다.
[출처] 플러그인 호환 모드|작성자 웨일 팀
플러그인 호환 모드 : 네이버 블로그

So even Naver thinks this is a stop-gap measure that they plan to phase out. That's a good sign, since it suggests many major sites that would require it will instead be updated to more open standards. Maybe we're really finally seeing the last stage of the Active X era.

You can see my fuller post about Whale browser here,

Read more ...