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Akihabara Trip On October 18

wpeA.jpg (1982 bytes)

By Sigi Rindler(Mr. Akihabara)

Well, when I woke up at 6 AM by a loud bang, I knew that the typhoon was in full swing. A flower pot from an adjacent house was blown down on the roof of my open air garage. The rain was virtually washing the outer walls of the house in an angle of 90 dgrees.This would have been the first time that an Akihabara trip has been washed out. I rushed to the office in the next apartment and wrote e-mail to the guys who had promised to come. I said that I wouldn't be there if the rain and storm was still on, but by 9 AM I was getting ready since the typhoon had gone. I would have gone anyway, since our Pakistani member, Steven Shaik had called me an hour before because of his long travel to Akihabara.

Akihabara 10:40 (in front of the station):

The first one arriving was Daniel Scuka from Kanagawa, followed by TPC members and regular visitors Peter McMartin, Kenichi Hasui, and Alexandru Costescu. Just in time before departing we were joined by Peter Urbanec and his wife or girlfriend Leanne Cruickshank. 9 people including me wasn't that bad, considering the miserable weather a few hours before. I asked everybody what they were looking for, then we started the trip.

First we went to the Sofmap shop close to the New Akihabara Center. It used to be a shop which was dedicated to the Internet, but now it carries a bit of all, including second hand items like notebooks, video and sound cards, printers, scanners, etc. New Sony 17"/25 dot Trinitron monitors for 49,800 yen. Nobody is cheaper considering this model. Other places sell a comparable Mitsubishi model for around 48,000 yen. Don't fall for the models that cost around 40,000 yen, their dot pitch value is probably 0.28. You can see the difference! Othewise I wouldn't buy anything there since other shops have better prices.

Next was JC-World. I have never bought more than a mouse pad with built-in calculator for 300 yen, but this time they had some interesting things. Internal CD writers (even for re-writable media) from Ricoh. I already know from other TPC members that one cannot go wrong when buying a Rico, but Steven Shaik said that he is using the same model, and it works like a dream. The shop had two types, ATAPI and SCSI (34,800 and 35,800). Upstairs they were 1,000 less...Of course these are brand-new "old" models (4X read/2X write), but since I am not in the CD copying business, 45 minutes to one hour recording time for a flawless CD-ROM or audio CD is perfectly OK with me. I have heard about too many problems with fast CD-ROM writers. Although I saw these drives in other shops also, this price couldn't be undercut. Having Steven with me on the tour has probably saved me around 30,000 yen. Now I don't need the expensive Plextor gadget anymore and can use this money for something else. Besides, this CD-ROM burner can use re-writable media which is now available for as little as 980 yen per disc.

The next stop was the V-Outlet opposite of the Toshiba show room. This shop is usually dedicated to Macintosh stuff, but this on Sunday they had a variety of Lexmark and HP color printers (some 100% US models) for smashing prices. However, you are well advised to check the specs of these models on the Internet first. Another good point would be calling Lexmark whether they support these models. Many of these cheap items are so inexpensive for these obvious reasons. The warranty periods can be anywhere between 3 months and 10 months. Also make sure whether the cartridges can be purchased in Japan. Printers like these are usually collected from bankrupt companies. The outlet shops want to sell, nothing more and nothing less. The salespeople aren't very knowledgeable or talkable either. Buy the wrong model and you'll own it forever...

Next was the so called "second hand shop street". Last time I reported that Trisal had gone. This isn't the case since I went up to the 3rd floor and bought an ISA sound card (full duplex) from Creative for around 3,500 yen.

I paid and stuffed the plastic-wrapped soundcard in my rucksack. In this building are some more interesting shops that sell second hand stuff. Check them out when you are there.

Out of the shop, hang a right, and you face the big Laox Computer Kan. I must have gone a bit too fast since suddenly I heard a banging metallic sound. Daniel was so friendly and handed me the soundcard that I had purchased 5 minutes before! Bloody hell, I forgot to close the rucksack... Well, I can't say anything right now, but I might have to complain about insufficient shock proofing!<g> Last time when I fell on a slippery staircase, I had an 8.4GB hard disk for 30,000 yen in my rucksack. I didn't have the time to test this one either. Maybe I subscribe to the wrong gods or else.

It was already 13:00, so we decided to eat in a small Japanese restaurant. Daniel had the urge to order a bottle of beer and offered 100 ml for each of us. Some of the guys didn't eat and went to other shops.

The next stop was PC Bank which had gone a month ago. It has turned out that the shop has changed the name to "PC Revo", but it's still the same shop run by the Aum religion, and its flyers are printed on the same printing machine that "Za Graceful, NetBank, and probably Trisal" is using. Well, I might be wrong, but that's my own observation. LAN cards cost 1,800 yen for ISA and 2,400 yen for PCI slots. Since it was kind of crowded, I left soon. Just one block further is the "Hamburger Shop". The shop has always a few good deals. Indeed... the same LAN cards were sold for 1,180 yen and 1,280 yen. There we met the other three lost guys again. Daniel was looking for a particular router (MN128 SOHO SL10 by NTT). Here it was sold for 49,800 yen. After he left early, I found it for 1,000 yen less (PC Plaza).Since this gadget is so high in demand, further price cuts cannot be expected for the time being.

After the Hamburger shop, Daniel wanted to visit DOS/V Paradise. He walked off instead of following the leader, but then quickly changed his mind.<g>

Daniel wanted stereo headphones with a boom microphone. The shop has them for 2,900 yen with a 30-day trial CD of the voice recognition software "Naturally Speaking". It looked good, so I decided to buy one for myself. But just before I was ready to pull my wallet, Peter McMartin told me not to buy there since I could get it for 1,000 yen less at the previous shop around the corner. Thrifty as I am, I dropped the headset and dashed into the shop to find nothing! I even asked the salesman who confirmed that they didn't carry any headphones. Out of the shop and back to the other guys, looking for Peter!

In the meantime he and two others had gone, and the remaining guys were already waiting for me in front of the shop. Result: I had some calories burned but still no headset. No problem, it's not my last day in Akihabara.

Around the corner is the other Aum outlet "Za Graceful". The shop is so tiny that the salesman needed to exhibit the computer cases outside the house. From here on only 5 of us remained. Peter Urbannec is quite a computer guru (in fact, he is at the Unix level). He came in very handy when somebody had a specific question. I asked him, he told me, and I told the guy who wanted to know...who was than very impressed and happy with my great expertise!<g>

In one shop we saw this new gadget from Sony. It was a "mini laptop" from the VAIO series. The computer has a neat little video camera built in that might be ideal when using Internet telephony. Anyway, I liked it... either the computer or just my own picture. 228,000 Yen for this tiny thing is a bit stiff, however. If Sony wants to make a good business in Germany, the company would better design it with an extendable butterfly keyboard (IBM style) for German sausage fingers! I wouldn't like to type this report on its keyboard. Still, it might be handy for smaller tasks, and it is really portable.

Finally we went to a couple of shops that are not really worth to mention... except that the same keyboard adapter plugs can cost you 200 yen in one shop and 500 yen around the corner. If you have the time, spend one day for window shopping, jot down the prices, then come back again with money on another day. Note that Sunday is not exactly the best shopping day for Akihabara. A number of shops are closed, especially in the two small parts shopping centers close to the station.

Our last destination was T-Zone in the Minami Denki Building. Peter asked me where he could get books on "Perl" (programming language). I told him about the poor selection here in Japan, and especially in the reduced foreign book sections at Laox and T-Zone. I mentioned Amazon, the Internet online bookshop...

Anyway, we went to T-Zone's foreign book corner. Gee... they didn't have my favorite "Dummy for XXX" or "YYY for Idiots" series, but there were stacks of PERL books. Peter got all of the desired ones. He said that they were cheaper than in the USA! Didn't I do a splendid job, and haven't I guided you well, Peter?<g>

The last step of our tour was T-Zone's English computer section. Alexandru from Romania was looking for a laptop computer. I think he fell in love with a Toshiba model. Since it was already 4:00 PM, we said goodby and headed home in different directions.

Because I didn't visit the outlet shop at T-Zone, I went to the bigger one close to the station. There I found a Diamond sound card (P&P) that is full duplex (important for telephony). I bought it (around 6,000 yen) because I am not so sure about the condition of the one that crashed 2 meters to the concrete floor earlier in the day. Then I was spotted by TPC member Patrick Unterlerchner who had missed the tour. He was looking for a 56,000 baud modem.

One more thing. There was a big box with "Labtec Boom Microphone Headsets with N-DAT Mics". Since they looked good and cost only 800 yen, I got one. In the wireless radio section (right to the entrance) I saw a professional German-made headset from Heller with a microphone for 22,000 yen. This one is probably for a professional radio announcer. I'll see how the 800 yen gadget performs and tell you later.

Shortly before 6:00 PM I arrived at home a bit tired, but I felt that having met so many knowledgeable people was worth every minute!

See you next time again,

Sigi aka Mr. Akihabara

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

November, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN