Wednesday, August 31

Crackbook

Shortly before starting my job at Google, I had invested a little time into writing a Chrome extension called Crackbook. It helps against wasting time on the web by delaying access to selected sites (see this XKCD cartoon for an illustration, and check out the hint too). Because access is just delayed rather than blocked, you are less likely to just disable the tool after a while, which is exactly what happened to the other tools I tried to use.

Having found a little free time in the evenings, I have just updated the extension. If you use Chrome, please try it and give feedback!

The extension also collects anonymous statistics on what domains people tend to mark as junk and how often the domains are hit. Some very basic results are available at crackbook.info. Now that a fair amount of data has been collected, a deeper statistical inspection is in the plans. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 2

Amazon Kindle 3

For the past couple years I had been reading very little, two or three books a year.

For the past month my average has been two books per week.

The culprit is the Amazon Kindle 3 I bought during my stay in the US. I just can not recommend it enough. For starters, it is quite affordable at $139. The image quality is wonderful, and reading in daylight or even in direct sunlight is pleasant. This is a welcome change from a backlit screen as the eyes get noticeably less strained. The format of the device is even more convenient than of a real book (the size is perfect for plain text, start thinking about the Kindle DX if and only if you intend to read PDFs). The Kindle is quite thin and convenient to hold (and you do not need to keep it from closing as with paperback bindings). Battery life is on the order of weeks. Extra functionality (e.g., web browsing) is available, but not convenient, but that is almost an advantage as distractions are kept at bay. The Amazon store is great, I have already shelled out over $50 with little remorse (my time is much more expensive than the measly $9.99 a typical book costs). There are quite a few free books around too. And to top it off, the "screensaver" with pictures of writers is a very nice touch.

The Kindle is also useful for going through longer articles you would normally be reading on your laptop. The Chrome extension Send to Kindle has worked well for me, do check it out.

The most important drawback of the Kindle is that it is slow to turn pages, so it is not easy to browse a book. Turning a page takes a second or so. This is extremely annoying when reading in non-linearly, e.g. taking in study material, when you constantly need to go back to check up details of previous material. A PDF interpreter is available, but the screen is too small to show a full PDF page (a Kindle DX or an iPad would probably be better) and scrolling is painful because of the delays. Wireless seems to drain the battery noticeably, there have been a few cases where I forgot to turn it off and found a dead Kindle a few days later. I wish the WiFi connection would manage itself intelligently somehow.

The Kindle drove the point home for me that dead-tree books will be going the way of vinyl soon, much sooner than I had expected. And for good reasons. Go order now if you do not have an e-book reader yet (and do not forget to order a sleeve too, given the time you will be spending carrying the device it will come in very handy).

Wednesday, March 16

Google Munich

It looks like I have made it through most of the hurdles of the Google hiring process, and I should be starting my new job at Google's Munich office soon. Now I just need to haul my stuff to Munich and get the paperwork done. It sure looks like this is going to be a very interesting year.

Sunday, March 6

Trip to Bay Area coming to an end

My trip to the Bay Area is coming to the end. It has been surprisingly productive. Here's some things I have done in the nearly two weeks I have been here:

  • got acquainted with San Francisco
  • interviewed for a job at a startup
  • visited Stanford University & Berkeley University campuses
  • visited Google Mountain View and San Francisco offices
  • hanged out with folks from Google, from Twitter and from some very promising startups, also a Stanford professor, a researcher from Berkeley and a Berkeley undergrad student, among others
  • hanged out with people from The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
  • spent a day biking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
While I am getting a little travel-weary, I know I will be sad leaving this place.



    Wednesday, February 23

    Off to San Francisco!

    The interview at Munich seemed to go well. Well, at least, I had fun. We'll see how that turns out.

    For now, I'm off again for another job interview, this time to Palo Alto. This will be my first time to the West Coast, so I have postponed the return flight for two weeks to familiarize myself with the proverbial area. If anyone's from around the San Francisco Bay Area, I would be very happy to meet over lunch/dinner/beer!

    Wednesday, February 16

    Interviewing with Google

    I somehow made it through Google's phone interviews in one piece, and now they are flying me in for an on-site interview in Munich (Germany), which will take place tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

    I will be landing in Munich in a few hours, and today I am free to look around the city. Anyone from here up for lunch or a beer?