Anime Study Set Smorgasbord

November 6th, 2014

Summary: 127 new study sets for Anime series (1000s of episodes) have been added to the Sets repository, check them out!

KanjiBox’s dedicated Study Sets section is doing very well these days, with hundreds of public sets available to any user for subscription (and thousands of private ones).

I have a particular fondness for sets that compile vocab/kanji needed to tackle a specific film/anime/manga, as I think it is a great way to get the most out of an otherwise fun activity. I even posted a small tutorial on how to make your own vocab set based on subtitle files for a film.

Even though most Japanese anime series aren’t really my cuppa, I know that many KB users love them (indeed, it is even the main motivation to learn for some) and they are quite popular in the subscriptions. So, when I happened upon a massive archive of anime series Japanese subtitles, I thought it would be worth spending a bit of time on a semi-automated tool to bulk import them into KB sets.

The results so far:

– 127 new Study Sets in KB’s Anime section.

– over 3000 anime episodes (most sets contain vocab for about 20 episodes at a time).

– complete episode coverage of 10 anime series so far: Black Jack, Crayon Shin-chan, Detective Conan, Doraemon, From the New WorldNeon Genesis Evangelion, One Piece, Sailor Moon, Space Pirate Captain Harlock.

– for each series, in addition to a number of volumes covering new vocabulary words for episodes (bundled in groups of 10-20 episodes per volume), a separate set (“Volume 0″) offers an overview of common words across the entire series. This set has the added bonus of being a good starting point for people who may want to check other material related to the title (e.g., a manga version or a film adaptation of the anime).

Because even batch parsing takes time, and because there probably is such a thing as too many sets in the database (at least until I have the time to program better search tools), I had to select a few animes out of the hundreds I have subtitles for  (I mainly went for those I knew, liked and/or had heard of). I will happily take any request for other series and add them to the next batch (assuming I do have the subtitles for them). Even better if you do have the subtitles and would like me to use the batch-import tool on them: contact me.

As usual, welcoming any feedback and suggestions!

KanjiBox Roadmap 2014

January 13th, 2014

Less iOS, more Android, Online facelift, say hello to BrainBox…

Beginning of a new year seems as good an occasion to discuss where the different flavours of KanjiBox might be headed in the future:

KanjiBox for iOS

… is officially going on the back burner for the time being.

KB for iOS has reached a point where it probably packs more features than any other Japanese app out there will ever do. It is also pretty stable1 and currently runs smoothly on all supported platforms.

And yet, each new update resets the Review/Ratings count in the App Store, which gives the app a clear disadvantage against other apps that have not bothered releasing an update in years.

Based on the number of new downloads (small) and the number of new reviews/ratings in the App Store (tiny), it does not make sense to spend most of my free time and energy releasing even more updates, when there are other new projects badly in need of attention (see below).

I have therefore decided to scale back my iOS dev effort and refrain from updating the app too often (I will basically try to tie the rate of new releases to the number of new reviews/ratings).

Note: this also means that, if you are a iOS user who want to see more updates, more often, you should vote with your mouse and make sure you post/update your review (or at least a star rating) in the App Store for each new version.

New interface for KanjiBox As far as future features (whenever they may come), the current roadmap includes:

  • A spiffy new UI (with shortcuts to custom sets from the main screen).
  • More Grammar modules (see below).
  • Better progress and revision stats: showing your progress over time, giving you advice on when to update your levels and possibly sending you reminders that you are due for some practice.
  • Verb conjugations
  • Audio?
  • etc.

KanjiBox for Android

During the last few months of 2013, I explored a number of options to get KanjiBox out to Android: public API, open-source project, contracting a dev on my own dime… It all came down to the fact that paying (or dedicating the time as a skilled developer) for even a basic version of KB on Android is just not financially realistic: a close friend quoted me an amount (for a barebone version) that is about twice what KB for iOS makes in yearly App Store sales.

So instead I decided I would probably just give it a try myself. I have started very early prototyping and currently fighting my way through the horribly clunky mess that are Android developing tools2. I still don’t even have an Android device of my own to do the testing, but hope is permitted for a basic Android version of KB, sometimes in the Spring of 2014.

KanjiBox Online

With the time freed from obsessive iOS updates, I am also hoping to give KB Online a much needed revamp. Dunno yet if this will extend to the (ageing) interface, but at the very least, some new drills and options should appear soon:

  • Missing Kanji Drill
  • Cumulative levels
  • KanaDraw/KanjiDraw?
  • Full grammar modules?

Grammar Modules

I was waiting to see how the first few grammar modules did on KB before commissioning new ones3. As usual, the loud negative feedbacks managed to overshadow many positive ones: after all these years, I still have a hard time ignoring the ungrateful comments that bash KB because it doesn’t do everything for everyone for free… How dare I charge an extra $1 on top of a fully-featured app for some new optional feature?

Anyway, a few more modules should follow, including complete vocabulary sets for N5 and N4, and more advanced grammar points for N2/N1.

BrainBox

… aka KanjiBox for Chinese, Thai, Uzbek, whatever-you-want-to-memorise-efficiently…

Considering KanjiBox actually predates software like Anki, it is strange that it never made the jump to being a more general SRS software. Actually not so strange if you consider that KanjiBox is Dave’s one-man work of love, and that Dave also has a very fulfilling day job that has nothing to do with SRS or learning Japanese4. Also, because KanjiBox uses many tricks and features optimised for Japanese-learning that would not necessarily make sense in the broader context of SRS decks of cards.

But after many years of thinking about the ultimate KanjiBox-like SRS app, and how it could be so much better than what currently exists, I have finally started taking steps toward implementation.

I doubt there will be a useable prototype of BrainBox for at least another couple months. But if you are currently learning something that you think could benefit from the SRS approach, and are interested in becoming a very early beta-tester, please do contact me.

That’s all, folks

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on that program and make suggestions…

Thanks for your support and あけおめ everybody!

  1. although I do still find and fix small bugs here and there []
  2. the ridiculously high hourly rate for Android dev now make more sense than ever []
  3. these take much time and money, since they are manually compiled by Japanese teachers []
  4. Note: Dave does not usually speak of himself in the third person. He has no idea why he’s doing it right now. []

Fixing JLPT Lists

November 25th, 2013

TL; DR:

1. JLPT vocab lists suck (all of them).

2. The ones used by KanjiBox now suck a little bit less, thanks to the magic of statistics and computational linguistics.

Long version:

Read the rest of this entry »

明けましておめでとう ☆ Happy 2013

December 29th, 2012

This year, I thought it would be interesting to do something a little different to wish users of KanjiBox a Happy New Year…

明けましておめでとう!

Click on the picture for a (much) bigger version 

This composite is made of 7373 profile pictures of KanjiBox users. If you have been using KanjiBox Online in the past year with your Facebook account (and have your profile picture privacy settings set to ‘public’), then your face (/avatar) is somewhere in there!

Happy New Year everybody, and see in you in 2013 for more Japanese-learning torture…

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Gift Idea

December 15th, 2011

This year, give the gift of Knowledge to your friends and family!

Too mushy?

OK, how about:

Make somebody’s life miserable by turning them on to Japanese studying!

KanjiBox runs on practically every iOS devices ever made (iPod Touch and iPhone 2nd Gen and up, all iPad models), making it an ideal gift for those people learning Japanese around you.

Click here to gift KanjiBox via the App Store…

Note: Due to App Store restrictions, keep in mind that your gift can only be redeemed in an account from the same country as yours…

KanjiBox 2.1.4 crashes on Spanish devices

November 21st, 2011

Update: version 2.2.1 just released on the Store fixes the issue described below. If you are still experiencing any problem after upgrading, please do contact me.

Due to a major screw-up across the board, the latest version of KanjiBox (2.1.4) crashes on all devices running iOS in Spanish (no matter the country).

Help (and a bug-fixing version) is on the way (as soon as Apple approves it). In the meantime, you can read here on temporary tricks to work around the problem.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me if you run into any issue while using KanjiBox.

Sorry about that.

Support for older devices running iOS 4.2.1 + Planned Obsolescence Rant

November 16th, 2011

The last version of KanjiBox (2.1.3 currently in the store) finally cut support for iOS 3 and even jumped to requiring iOS 4.3. This was based on my (mistaken) assumption that all devices (except for 1G devices: stuck on 3.x) could at least run 4.3.

As it turns out, 2G devices (iPhone and iPod Touch 2nd generation) can only go as high as iOS 4.2.1.

Since it was reasonably little work to add back support for iOS 4.2, I just made the necessary changes, and a new update (KanjiBox 2.1.4) should soon be in the store, that supports all devices 2G and up.

Now if you are curious as to the reasons why KanjiBox is routinely forced to drop support for older devices (and why I love you but Apple loves your wallet more), feel free to read the rantish explanation below:

Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Movies with KanjiBox! (guide to Custom Study Sets)

November 4th, 2011

2012 update: Sets can now be used with both online and iOS versions of KB (and shared using the ‘Sync’ feature).
There is also a new public site where everybody can browse for sets without the need for log-in (still need to be logged-in to subscribe, edit or train with the sets).

Avid users of KB may have noticed that after being introduced in the iPhone version a while ago, Custom Study Sets have finally made their way to the Online version.

I thought I’d walk you through a cool example of what can be done with study sets in the online version. In addition to that specific example, the current post should give you a decent overview of how Study Sets work.

Read the rest of this entry »

KanjiBox 2.1.3 Sync Account: ‘Create with Facebook’ bug

November 3rd, 2011

Update (11/11/11): All Sync passwords had to be reset. Please read this announcement for details.

Current version of KB (2.1.3) has a small bug with Sync Account creation: when using ‘Create with Facebook‘ (the recommended option), after logging into Facebook, KanjiBox displays a ‘Login Failed’ message (and the account is not created).

Of course, this bug will be fixed in the next version of KanjiBox, but in the meantime, there is a simple workaround to create a Sync Account tied to your Facebook account:

  1. Browse to the Online version of KanjiBox.
  2. Log-in using the ‘Facebook‘ button (this will create your account if it doesn’t exist yet).
  3. Once logged-in, use the ‘Login info‘ box on the main page to set your email and password.
  4. Go back to your iPhone/iPad/iPod and in KanjiBox, simply enter the email and password you have just picked into ‘Sync » Login‘ panel (no need to create an account from the device).

Sorry for this small inconvenience and definitely let me know if you run into any other issue with KanjiBox.

Note: Although it is absolutely optional, tying your account with Facebook brings you a few advantages, such as the possibility to compare your scores with friends and see global rankings.

Compatibility with iOS 5 (and a few goodies)

October 19th, 2011

Version 2.1 of KanjiBox has just been approved and released to the App Store today (if you are already a user, you should get an update notice within a couple hours).

Most importantly, this version fixes a couple important compatibility issues with iOS 5 (I noticed these during the beta-testing of iOS 5 and submitted the fix early last week, unfortunately it was too late to be reviewed before iOS 5 came out). Both the crash when trying to change Level settings and the strange layout issue in the end-of-quiz High Score dialog box, have been fixed. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you encounter any other issue with this new version.

In addition to this bug-fixing, v. 2.1 brings a couple new features and improvements (see the Help section, and particularly the “What’s new” section, for more info). Most notably:

  1. A much larger Vocab database! From about 17k entries, to over 35k (with a few thousand obsolete/rare entries removed from the previous set). This should be particularly useful for those who want to make their own Learning Set.
  2. Tentative support for new languages in the kanji/vocab translations (other than English). Some levels (N5 and sometimes N4-N3) have been translated by a team of volunteers in about half a dozen languages (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Swedish, Polish…). More (levels and languages) are coming in future versions. Feel free to check the online FAQ if you want to help (great way to learn while helping others!).
  3. Many cosmetic improvements, such as the ability to change the display font…