Wednesday, 30 January 2008

You are old when you are a part of a museum...

Last few months I've been to a couple of “Living History” museums. What I mean by “Living History”? These were historic museums, but some parts are so recent that actually people who lived through that age are teachers themselves. Last weekend I went to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It was really interesting, especially where they showed a Railway Post Office; in this car mail was sorted while the train was riding, so letters could be delivered as soon as the train arrived to the destination! The guy who explained all this, now in his seventies, was actually a clerk, so he explained how he did his job. Actually, since the last wagon was retired in 1977, I was alive when this kind of cars existed!
In addition, 6 months ago, I went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. They have a restoration project for a PDP 1, and the teacher has actually worked with the computer when he was at university. He told the story how they found the data for a music program, but not the program itself. Amazingly this guy had written the original program, so he reconstructed it from the data! As if that wasn't enough, one of the first Google servers was on display... if you thought turning forty was a crisis, being a part of a museum is way worse!
I can imagine in thirty years being a teacher in a museum explaining the history of the Internet.
I: “So, when I was young, we communicated our computers with modems over a phone line... (young girl raising her hand) Yes, darling?”
Young girl: “What is a phone lane?”
I: “A phone is what we used to talk before we had iBlackBerry's, but the difference is that it was connected to the wall.”
Young girl: “My daddy connects my iBlackie to the wall one night a month, and it is terrible, I cannot use it at that time”
I: “Well, actually, phones had to be connected to the wall to be used....”
Young girl: “But how did you carry it to the playground, to school?”
I: “We didn't” (young girl looks perplexed, not understanding the concept of being out of touch)
Young boy: “How fast were these “phones”? How many Gbps?”
I: “My first modem was 2400 bps”
Young boy: “Ohh, 2400 Gbps is quite good”
I: “No, no, sorry for not being clear: I meant bps. That's like 1 billionth of a Gbps” (the boy refrains from asking me how we hunted mammoths)

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Monday, 28 January 2008


No, I am serious. Not only you can have gourmet meals, massages, pets, clothes, doctors and laundry at Google, you can also get a haircut. We have our official hairdressers and they are pretty good (ok, my standards are quite low, so a good haircut is whatever leaves my head on my neck without any major hemorrhages). I guess I'll need some informed opinion about it but I don't think many Googlers have a clue; it is not something simple as stellar astrophysics, Fermat's theorems or Quantum mechanics.

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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The power to change Google

So, you assumed you had to be a major player to change Google results, like Oprah or China? Think again. You can write a small stick figures cartoon and make results jump with just one picture. This picture is way beyond being worth a thousand words; it is more like thirty nine thousand seven hundred (and going up). Will this entry have the same result?
On related news, I've been watching The Big Bang Theory; I have never seen such a thing happening in real life (except the time I've played ONE board game from 1 pm to 10 pm on a Saturday, random discussions about the theory behind moving a couch upstairs and the fact that I will not allow my children to have any inheritance if they even think of using derivation to get the area below a curve).

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Thursday, 17 January 2008

The customer is always right, as long as you can rip him off

I am starting to get tired of hotels not offering free WiFi. We all know the cost of the service... U$S 99 for a router you can share among different rooms, a broadband connection that you can cap per user and some technical support. Instead, you get U$S 500 flat screen TVs and cable, that nobody really needs or wants. Amazingly, cheap hotels and hostels realize that it is a useful service they can easily provide, and give it away more often than upscale hotels. I can think of three reasons why that happens: the first two are convenient and the last one, sadly, is the most likely.

  1. Inertia: hotel chains take a long time to make a decision, since they have to check with their technical departments, ask for several quotes, discuss the quotes, negotiate an order, get it delivered, etc. while a small hotel owner just goes to the neighborhood store and buys U$S 2000 worth of equipment and some network access
  2. Not understanding the market requirements: Nobody needs Internet Access in a hotel... it will take only a couple of years until it is an absolute barrier of entry, just give it time.
  3. Cuts into their profits: this is the sad truth. Do hotels really want to replace their U$S 10.95 movies and U$S 5 a minute calls with free movies (and porn) and 3 cents Skype? I don't think so.

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I am a Mac convert...

Steve Jobs, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done,
on desktops as it is in Notebooks.
Give us this day our daily cool gadget.
And forgive us our Windows CE,
as we forgive those who Blackberry against us.
And lead us not into Office,
but deliver us from Windows. Amen.

Maybe I went too far?
Nah... A full notebook you can get in a Manila envelope?. Creating the Universe in 6 days may be harder, but not so fashionable.
I am writing this from the MacBook Pro, and I cannot get tired of saying how good the hardware is...

  • the touchpad, once you add right click, double click, dragging replaces a mouse completely (I have not used my Mighty Mouse in 4 weeks)
  • the integrated camera is amazing: I have used it today with only 2 non direct 40-watt bulbs and I was still recognizable
  • the keyboard has exactly the right size; not too small, not too big, just perfect
  • the power source and cables are completely unobtrusive (especially with US plugs that fit perfectly in the power source) and I love the magnetic lock of the plug that goes into the computer
  • the speakers are really good
  • the keyboard lighting allows you to type even in the night

The only drawbacks: it is on the heavy side, and it becomes hot if it is not in a proper table (right, you have always used it as the manual says).
It used to be a problem that you couldn't run Windows on Macs, but that is no longer the case... just search in Google and you will see how to install it with Boot Camp et al. And of course, you can always use Linux, but you don't really need to, since all the power is already there.
Now, let's look at another nifty piece of hardware: the iPod. It is so beautiful... of course, it doesn't do much more than any other MP3 player, but it is so well designed that my alarm clock was replaced yesterday with an iHome. So now, if I actually had an iPod, I could play it there. I have also seen the iPhone, and the design is just perfection, not your average clunky Blackberry, that weights 110 grams (3.9 ounces) and cannot point where you are without Google Maps or a GPS. Of course, Android is much better, but still...

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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Google food is way beyond my level...

Today dinner: salmon with lemon sauce and oysters with caviar horseradish.
I rest my case.

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Saturday, 12 January 2008

How to treat your customers...

Today I've spent my full morning looking for a VOIP service. Unfortunately, the VOIP market has only two players: Skype and everyone else. Skype is good, their payment processing is nice and you have lots of hardware, but they are missing a critical feature for me: they don't have incoming numbers for Argentina. I have looked at the Gizmo Project, which is good too, but my credit card doesn't work with them and they have disabled Paypal, so I cannot use them either; they both have strong barriers of entry to me.
I have looked at different options and finally hired a company that didn't look really good, but offered me one big advantage: No strings attached, one time payment of 15 dollars via Google Checkout. Unfortunately, the service is crappy, so I won't be their customer anymore. However, due to the low price and the one time payment (with the extra assurance of using Google Checkout) I gave them a try, and they sold 15 dollars. There are other companies who look better, but they require a 1-year-long ironclad contract, and that means I will never use them. This is what Joel meant by saying that you have to get your customers IN before you can try lock them in, or they are locked out.
In case you have not read any other common sense marketing articles, I certainly recommend Seven steps to remarkable customer service, or Joel's Strategy Letters. I know what I say, I have an MBA, you can trust me on this.

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I have described some time ago how we ate in Google, how much weight we win, and how that is evil. Well, we have the gym of course. Most probably you are joking about us using the net in the gym. It happens you are right. Our bicycles and treadmills are network enabled, so you can compare your efforts, times, calories spent against other athletes. Amazingly (or not) this is the first time were I see Googlers having the worst scores by a large margin.

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After a really long hiatus, I am writing again. Last months have been pretty hectic, so I am taking a chance to write about some Google perks I had not used before. This time, it is the gBus. There have been some comments about it, but I don't know how many people have written first hand about them. As a matter of fact, this is as first hand as it gets: I am writing this on the bus, using the wirelesss network. gBus etiquette is strict: you can either sleep, use the computer or talk in a really low voice (because people are sleeping or using their computers, and those activities rank higher in Google's pecking order).
The bus is not your run-of-the-mill bus. It is actually closer to a Limo than a bus, with the leather seats, tables, carpets, etc. I guess I have never driven a car as luxurious as this Limo. In my case I am commuting to San Francisco, so my choices are an hour in the crowded highway getting mad at drivers, or fifty minutes relaxing in the bus in the pool lane... The choice is quite clear, isn't it?
My main complaint: my MacBook Pro doesn't fit in the seat tray in front of me, its screen is too wide.

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