How To ~ English PC in Japan

Getting a New English Computer in Japan

Buying an English PC in Japan doesn’t need to be a pain. Here are the options I’ve found.

Get a Mac

Yepp. The shortest way to an English laptop or an English desktop in Japan is to get a Mac. You’ll get a fashion accessory, some street cred with geeks, and a machine that supports 30+ display languages out of the box. Plug it in, go to the System Preferences/International, drag “English” to the top of the list, log out, log in, setup done. 5 minutes of your time, no extra cost, and you have an all English PC. Voila.

Budget tip: Go see it at the Apple Store if you have one nearby, then buy it online at Amazon; it’s cheaper there.

First Mac? Get a Mac Mini. It’s made for “switchers”. Use your current monitor, keyboard, mouse. Don’t forget the VGA monitor adapter if you still use an analogue monitor.
Require a laptop? Get a MacBook Air. The small one and the slightly larger one are both excellent; decide based on size requirement and budget.
For both the Mini and the Air, add an optical drive only if you require one.

Amazon tip: Click on the “Show this page in English” link towards the upper right hand corner of the screen if it comes up in Japanese.

English Windows PCs

All is not lost if you’re a stubborn masochist and require a Windows PC in English.

Go for a Dell

Give Dell a call. I heard they sell English OS PCs in Japan at no extra cost(to be confirmed – will be updated soon). That would be an English Windows 7 Home Premium, or similar, so you won’t be able to switch to Japanese later.
(Gosh I can’t believe I’ve put that brand name on my blog. Sacrilege.)

Build Your Own With Windows 7 Ultimate

I’m yet to see any English Windows versions for sale in Japan. (If you know how to get hold of one please share in the comments).
That leaves us with getting Windows 7 Ultimate. Only Ultimate and Enterprise let you switch languages. Microsoft must hate expats.

The “DSP version” is the cheapest. It’s targeted at system builders and it’s the equivalent of the OEM version in the western world. Around 20,000 yen at Amazon. It’s supposed to be bundled with hardware you’ll put inside the PC. Amazon overcomes this by throwing in a few hundred yen’s worth of hardware, such as a USB card or LAN board. Clever. Windows won’t check for that specific hardware, so don’t worry if you don’t have a use for it. Just nail it to the wall or something. It’s still substantially cheaper than the standard retail version of Windows 7, which is a cool 33,000 yen at the time of writing. The difference? The license agreement. It doesn’t let you move the DSP version to an other PC. Once installed, that’s where it stays. (Re-installation on the same machine, and hardware upgrades are possible of course.)

Of course you could just download a copy off file-sharing sites for free. I wouldn’t fault you as I believe MS is discriminating against expats and international families and they need to sort themselves out. Switching languages has been a standard feature in OS X for ages. Actually in all Unix based systems, even before that. Microsoft is like 10 (20?) years late in the game, yet they have the face to charge extra. They can eat the results of their own poor planning and marketing for all I care.
I can’t, however help you in that any further, so don’t even ask. Sort activation and the updates out yourself, K? 😉

Leave comments below! Anyone call Dell for me, I’m really procrastinating on that one!

Yahoo Auctions Japan Review & How To

I’ve been using Yahoo Auctions for a while to get hold of the most elusive parts. The PowerBook G4 memory, for example.

Yahoo Auctions is a seller’s world. The seller can remove bids, filter out certain bidders, be slow and lazy without penalty, and so on. Kind of like eBay in reverse; eBay caters for the buyer, Yahoo Auctions caters for the seller. I think it’s the cultural context. Customers in America can go to amazon, or any number of online places to buy stuff. So eBay works hard to convince them they’re safe and cheap. Sellers in America, on the other hand, can’t really go elsewhere to sell their stuff, as far as I know (Feedback in comments please; I’ve only lived in the US for a year and that was a long time ago).
In Japan sellers can just go dump all their stuff at the nearest recycle store. No packaging, no hassle, instant cash. There are nation wide chains such as Hard Off, and lots of independent shops. Space is at a premium, affinity towards shiny new things is at a high, and the recycle stores cater for the excess. So Yahoo entices sellers with the prospect of getting more for the stuff. Self-prolonging auctions squeeze every last penny out of the buyers. Where do buyers go to find stuff? I don’t really know. The recycle stores I guess, but going beyond what’s locally available there are not many choices. eBay Japan croaked years ago; Bidders.com is substantially smaller.

Today I finally received a RAM module I waited over a week for. It’s dead. I sent the guy a refund request. It’s not a big amount. I’m really interested in how he’s going to approach the situation. It’s a learning curve and a cultural experience. 😉

Most annoying thing is not the money, but the time I lost. Now I have to start searching all over again. “Time is money” is a lie; money can be lost and earned again, time, once lost, can not be “earned back”. /me is ~annoyed

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.

Follow-up 2011.11.21
The dude replied politely, and refused my request, pointing out there’s no warranty on things sent by kuroneko mail-bin. That’s because kuroneko mail-bin is uninsured, and if it’s lost, then I can only claim the postage back, and that’s understood. Making it no-warranty whatsoever is a bit dodgy for me. What do you think? There was no damage to the packaging. RAM modules are not killed that easily (unless you static damage them).

So what can I do to get my money back? Nothing. I could go to the police or sue him, but short of that, zilch. Yahoo Auctions provides nada buyer protection. Seller is king and buyers eat dirt. I can’t even leave him a negative feedback, because I’d get a negative back; looking at our numbers it would hurt me more than him.

So what do I do? Move on.. takes me off the hook and leaves him there. Best thing I can do.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Sony Type F VGN-FS22VB ~ Beautiful 15″ Notebook (SOLD)

“Wow this looks like new”, is what I thought when I first got it. It exudes quality.

It’s called the Sony “Type F” VGN-FS22VB. I guess they couldn’t just call it Leslie or Pikachu, but that’s a lot of letters and numbers. Plus I can’t help but wonder how they came up with those exact 3 letters. Anyway, the brilliant 15.6″ widescreen with high contrast and solid, dark blacks had me hooked. So kind to the eyes. It also came with a docking station that has more connectors than a suitcase full of netbooks combined.

The speed wasn’t exactly stellar, however.

I quickly maxed out the RAM, and then decided it deserves a faster CPU.

For some strange reason it only had a lowly 1.4Ghz Celeron.

I can imagine Sony staff arguing. “Let’s make a quality laptop!” “No it has to be cheap!” “Quality!” “Cheap”..”

I wish they would have made up their mind. Like all things made by a comittee it ended in a compromise; a Mercedes with a lawnmower engine. Brilliant.

Getting hold of the CPU turned out to be a major hassle.

First of all the availability was not exactly great. It takes Pentium M CPUs, the fastest of which is 2.26Ghz. I tracked various offers on Yahoo Auctions for a week, and found that a 2.0Ghz Pentiom M goes for 2500, a slightly faster 2.13Ghz for 5000, and a 2.26Ghz for 7500. When available, that is.

Therein was the dilemma. Do I get a “kind of fast” 2.0Ghz CPU, or pay double for 5% more speed? Or triple for 10% more?

After minutes of thinking I arrived at the conclusion. “Sod it”, I thought, and went for the fastest one. The dude sent it uninsured so I was a bit worried, but thankfully it turned up after a couple days. Installing it was a snap. Mind you there wasn’t any of the usual dust buildup on the CPU fans. Either it wasn’t used much, or Sony has some kind of fairy magic that prevents dust from sticking to the fan. Having used it for a couple months now, I lean towards the latter.

One last niggle was the broken power supply connector. Physical damage, last owner tripped on the cord probably. (Tip: get a Mac notebook with a “magsafe” connector. Those are immune.) Luckily the socket wasn’t fixed on the motherboard, and was relatively easy to replace. There was just one replacement part available on all of the Internet… luckily it worked. I found I tend to attract the correct stuff to make PCs work. 😉
P.S. Just for a laugh I did ask for a repair estimate at the Sony store in Nagoya. They wanted 15800 yen just to take a look at it. Then they’d quote for the part on top of that. I guess they’d rather sell new stuff than do repairs.

Price: yen including shippingSOLD

Hours spent: 6+

Difficulty rating: 40% – the challenging part was getting hold of the CPU

 

PS. A useless bit of trivia: when researching this machine I found out by accident that VAIO stands for Video Audio Inter-Operation. I hope it doesn’t require an operating room.

Apple eMac 17″ – A Practical Style Statement

I love restoring vintage Macs, and this eMac was an adventure.

Back in the day it was the budget alternative to the high-end LCD panel-sporting “lampstand” iMac G4. The “e” stands for education; originally it was only available for the education market. Same speed and spec but as the iMac G4, but with a traditional display instead of the then-new LCD, it’s price point was hard to argue.

I loved both the colorful round iMac G3s and the LCD iMac G4s, and the eMac looks something like a bastard child of the two. Fell in love with it and had to pick it up at the Hard Off (what a name!) recycle store when I came across it. Crossed fingers that it’d power on when I got home. They said “dengen hairimasu” which means it doesn’t explode in colorful fireworks when connecting the mains. No information beyond that. I was hopeful. 😉

It did power on, and got into an archaic OS X, I think it was 10.2. It was stable surfing the net, so I got down to business.

First of all it required a DVD drive to allow installing a newer OS X, so I naively started to install a DVD Writer. I was expecting the bottom case to come off as with iMac G3s. Not! It was the most difficult optical drive replacement I’ve ever done. Have to remove the cover (while being careful with the power-button on the side), speakers, main fan(!), motherboard (!!), screen control circuit (?!?) and finally the hard drive to gain access to the optical drive.
I imagine the optical drive was the first component they started with at the factory, and built the rest of the PC around it.

It was fun in a strange way but I never want to do it again. I guess it explains why there are so few upgraded units around, and why these are routinely tossed out when the optical drive dies.

It deserved more RAM and I went hunting on Yahoo Auctions. 2 of the 3 modules I bought worked, and RAM memory was upgraded to 768Mb.

Then I’ve spent some time on the Internet tracking down a model specific Mac OS 9.2.2 install CD. The standard CD does not work, as I quickly found out.

Wiped the hard drive, repartitioned it, and installed Mac OS 9.2.2 and then OS X 10.4 Tiger using the newly installed DVD Writer. As a final touch I made Mac OS 9.2.2 available for use with “Classic Mode” under Tiger.

 

Stats:

  • Hours spent: 8+ (lost track)
  • Difficulty rating: 100%

Points:

  • Runs “Classic” applications natively or from under OS X 10.4 Tiger
  • Rock solid performance under OS X
  • Syncs new iPhones, iPods, iPads
  • Great for office work, audio, DVD playback and copy

 

Now it’s gotta go. Desk real estate is precious, want space for the next one.

Specifications and upgrade options

Price is 11000 as advertised/ask!
No shipping abroad unless you pre-pay me in cash (figure that one out, Nigerian scammers).

 

Call Sandor on 080-3073-0096 

Email Sandor at “sandor[at]pc-rescue-japan.com” (replace [at] with @)

Use Contact Form to Message Sandor re:eMac 17″

 

You may find this interesting. Amusing even.
The Original Specification Sheet from Apple (covers all eMac models)

Apple PowerBook G4 “Onyx” (SOLD)

I got this this 15 inch Apple notebook from a gaijin-san who’s moved back home. It is one of my favorite PowerBooks, a titanium-clad model, codenamed Onyx.

It still has use value, so I decided to give it the TLC it deserves.

After cleaning away the muck on it I took out the original 20 GB hdd, the 2x256mb RAM, and put them on Yahoo Auctions. Maybe someone can use them. I wanted to be more respectful to a PowerBook that’s still going strong, and showing no signs of the typical PowerBook faults (broken hinges, faded screen, etc).

Shockingly I pocketed 1000 yen. 😉 Small change compared to what I was about to spend. I splashed out on a ridiculously expensive 512mb PC133 RAM module, the largest of its kind. The top of the line stuff is always expensive, even used.
I was crossing my fingers really. There’s no way to check compatibility before buying. That’s why I only bought one.

It did work, as I later found out. 640Mb (512+128) of RAM at the ready, I prepared a 40GB hard drive which I’ve pulled from a dead NEC laptop.

Instead of putting it in the target machine straight away I decided to get tricky. This PowerBook is 550 Mhz. That means OS X 10.5 Leopard won’t install on it. Apple set the minimum speed at 867 Mhz for Leopard. (I think it must have been the marketing guys.)  Luckily I have a Power Mac G4 desktop, a legendary 933 Mhz “Quicksilver 2002“. I hooked up the laptop hard drive using an adapter, and Leopard installed without a hitch. Updates all done, I moved it back to the notebook, which booted without issues on 1st attempt. Office 2008 and various other bits installed it’s now one of my daily used Macs. Lucky!

Once in use I got hold of an other 512mb PC133 RAM module to max the RAM out. This time it cost even more. Ouch. Well, it’s worth it anyway.

The last touch was the wireless network module. I bought one some time ago for stupid money on Yahoo Auctions. Then I put it in my eMac. Which – as I later found out – was kind of pointless. I seldom run around with a desktop. 😉

Current configuration is 1GB RAM, 40Gb HDD, Wireless and CDRW. It’s fine for browsing the net and daily office tasks. So much more rewarding than a Windows PC. Macs are just more smiles for the buck. 😉 I’m happy I got great results for the time and money invested.

Update 2011-11-19: My last Macintosh LC is gone! Oh my gosh for hours I’ve been without a classic Mac environment in the house. PowerBook to the rescue! Mac OS 9.2.2 installed without a hitch from the internal CD drive. That’s a good workout for the slot-loading disk muncher; that’s a pass as far as read testing goes. Now with Classic back in place I can enjoy stuff from the Macintosh Garden again.

Update 2011-11-22: Ah it’s gone. It was good while it lasted. Waved a teary goodbye and put the eMac back on my desk as the Excel 2008 PC. I’ll have to install Classic on the eMac sometime.

Welcome to PC Rescue Japan!

Here is where I rant and rave 😉 where I just write about whatever crosses my mind, or my workbench.

If I come across something that may be useful or entertaining I’ll just post it here.

I’ll also answer frequent questions, so feel free to ask (use contact form)

Who Am I?

Hi, Sandor here. Thanks for visiting. Computer trouble in Japan? You've come to the right place!


I am 34 years old, and have been fixing computers since 1994, since before I finished high school. Then I got a degree in Computer Science, had my own PC shop, worked at a top laptop maker in England. Then I came to Japan; it's what I always wanted to do.


I pride myself in providing the best service possible and by being honest about my work. I now service all of Japan by a simple mail-in system. Use the "Contact Me" tab on the top menu to get in touch.


Contact Me

Testimonials

Sandor is the best! If you are someone, like me, who needs to have computer stuff explained ‘like you are a 6 year-old’, then you have come to the right guy! I was having trouble with my wireless modem hookup and also needed to upgrade my RAM memory….Sandor very carefully explained what I needed to do, he even found me some videos on YouTube to help me along. If he thought my questions were silly, (and believe me, I’m sure they were!!), he was very polite and made me feel not so naive in the ways of the computer. Thank you so much Sandor…..I will share your name and this site with anyone who needs the help!! Debbie Kuroiwa, Nagasaki City, Japan


Hey Sandor thanks for the Mac advice and for getting me the hard to find parts for my iMac G4 so quickly. You really saved the day. Thanks again. /RF/ Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan


Hey Sandor: Just a quick note to say thanks for diagnosing fixing my computer so effectively (and so cheaply). I am writing you from my computer now, and it is still running strong! Much gratitude.

Doug Colbert from Anjo, Aichi, Japan


As a truly satisfied customer - I heartily recommend the services of Sandor to anyone having PC related issues. Of all the people I have dealt with regarding PC related issues in Japan – he is the best. Not only is he an expert in his field – but he aims for the most cost effective solution. I have truly benefitted from his good advice & constant updates and genuinely admire his integrity. What more can I ask for ?

Anirvan Mukherjee ( Vice President - Nomura Securities Ltd, Tokyo )


Hi Sandor! I must to say, we have never met as good computer expert as you are! You were the first, who solved our problems as we wanted to, as we needed to. Your work was always quick, professional and practical. And: you never wanted to organize our computer liking yourself! :-) Since you moved to Japan, we all the time hope, some time you will go back to Hungary!

Ági and Gábor from Budapest, Hungary


...He worked well within the team and his attitude and performance was of a very high standard. He was a very honest and reliable member of the team.

Neil Chauhan, my former boss at Rock Direct, UK


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