Thoughts of a geek

4 October 2010

More requests

Filed under: Computers, Electronics, Me, music, thequotebook — Tags: , , , , , — qwandor @ 2:34 am

Continuing on from my last post, here are some more topics people requested me to write about.

xyzzy and Craig both want me to write about working at Google. Hmm. Well it is a fairly good place to work. We get free breakfast, lunch and dinner in the office, Monday–Friday, plus there are microkitchens around the place with snacks and drinks. The food is pretty good too. Typically at lunch in the main cafeteria there will be 2 or 3 choices of meat (at various times we have had roast duck, roast beef or lamb, lamb cutlets, beef steak, various kinds of sausages, sausages wrapped in bacon, chicken, turkey, I think there was even kangaroo steak one time), some choice of fish or other seafood, vegetarian dishes, roast and/or boiled potatoes, rice, a range of cooked vegetables, various salads, sushi, a couple of flavours of soup, bread of various sorts, crackers and cheeses, a hot pudding, cakes or cupcakes or other cold desserts, fruit, and a range of drinks. There is a machine to squeeze oranges into juice which is fun to watch. There is not nearly so much selection for dinner unfortunately, and not so many people stay for it. Breakfast is pretty good though. If you happen to be in London, come for lunch! We get to have up to two social guests to eat at the office each month.

Food aside, the work has been fairly decent. It does take a while to get used to all the systems and technologies, as Google have a lot of internally-developed tools and systems that nobody else uses, and have had to put a lot of work into making everything scale bigger than pretty much anyone else. Writing a web application that could cope with being used by everyone on the Internet, many simultaneously, from all over the world, does pose some challenges over just designing something for a few hundred people. I still have a lot to learn. Unfortunately nothing I have worked on so far has been launched yet, and it is unlikely that any substantial part of it will be launched publicly until sometime next year.

Working at a global company with tens of thousands of employees is certainly rather different to working at a small place with between 10 and 20. The ratio of actual developers to support roles (legal, HR, recruitment, management, sales, facilities, and probably many others that I do not even know about) seems to be quite a bit lower. I am not too sure what differences can be attributed to differences between England and NZ as I have only worked at the one company over here. I guess there are more big companies over here though, being a bigger country. I do find that there is not so much chance to chat with my colleagues about anything outside work, though that may be at least partly due to the fact that I knew about half of the guys at Innaworks already before I started working there, though university and Interface.

As for what skills I use from my studies, the data structures, algorithms and complexity stuff was certainly important in passing the interviews and getting the job, though so far at least it has not been all that important day to day.

I think that answers most of Craig’s questions. xyzzy also wanted to know about “some project you’ve embarked upon in your spare time! your take on what really matters in life!”. Unfortunately I have not been working on any terribly exciting projects in my spare time since I moved here. I did just recently order a Bus Pirate, in the hopes of hooking some sort of I2C devices up to my computer and having a play. That has not yet arrived yet though. It is also not clear whether there are proper drivers for it to let it work with the usual Linux I2C infrastructure, or just userland stuff.

I have made a number of updates to theQuotebook in the last month or so, most notably finally getting the new style ready to launch. I am working on a new feature to allow quotes to be added by email, and Twitter support may also follow if I can work out a good way to design it and find a suitable Twitter username that is not already taken.

I also did some work on a web-based client for Fridge a while ago. It is implemented using GWT, and talks directly to the XML-RPC API that the other clients use, so it supports all the same features, including Interfridge. You can try it out if you have an account on the Memphis fridge or any peered fridge.

So what really matters in life? Probably not Slayer. God, I think, though I am not sure quite how. People seem to be fairly important. I wish I got to spend more time interacting with people constructively, perhaps sociably as well. Finding good community and good friends is hard. Knowledge is also important I think. Do more maths, people. And some science if you like.

Before I stop for the now, Richard asked me (twice!) to write about Slayer, so I guess I should do that. Richard seems to be a little bit obsessed with Slayer, though I am sure he would assure you it is purely in an ironic way. I am afraid I do not now much at all about them, so I will be looking up what I can. informs me that Slayer are “a thrash metal band from US, formed in 1981 … credited as one of the ‘Big Four’ thrash metal bands, along with Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth”. They seem to choose deliberately controversial topics for their songs, which is not uncommon among such bands. I am pretty sure Metallica are better. Perhaps you can tell us more, Richard?

I think that will do for today. Next up: books, culture and language if I can think of anything to write about them, and probably not a vat of hot chocolate.

10 August 2009

Tweet your quotes

Filed under: thequotebook — Tags: , , — qwandor @ 6:48 pm

I have not done all that much on theQuotebook lately, but I did add a minor new feature a few days ago. (Perhaps you have noticed? Probably not.) There is now a link on each individual quote page to post the quote to Twitter. So, if you add a particularly funny quote of you friend and want to share it further afield, try tweeting it!

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.

8 July 2009

Updates to theQuotebook

Filed under: Computers, thequotebook — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 9:46 pm

I have made a few updates to theQuotebook over the past few weeks (well, okay, months). For those who have not already noticed:

  • You can now get an email when you are quoted, or when someone comments on one of your quotes (either a quote that you added or one that you said). This will be enabled by default the first time you log in. Users who have been created to be quoted but have not themselves logged in to the site will not get any emails. I originally implemented it so that they would get emails and so could see when they are quoted and log in if they wanted, but this was changed on request from a user. Let me know which way you think is best.
  • It is now a bit easier to sign up if you do not already have an OpenID, as the site now has an option on the login page to get one from myOpenID. The link there will sign you straight in once you have it, thanks to myOpenID’s affiliate programme.
  • It is possible to use some basic formatting in quotes and comments. You can make text *bold* and _italic_ like so, and also use BBCode if you are familiar with that. The formatting options for quotes are fairly limited, but comments allow most BBCode.
  • There is are now Atom feeds for comments as well as for quotes, so you can subscribe to both in your favourite feedreader (I recommend Google Reader) and keep up with them without checking the site all the time. To subscribe to the quotes and comments on your quotebooks, go to the home page, make sure you are logged in, and then click the RSS feed icon in your web browser (in Firefox it is a little orange icon in the address bar, right-aligned after the URL).

There have also been many minor improvements, such as the ability to add a new quote straight from the page for each quotebook, rather than having to click a link first.

Looking forward, we will hopefully have a new style for the site in the not-too-distant future (thanks to Daniel Sherson). If you are particularly curious, more plans and ideas may be found. Or, of course, you could talk to me.

Comments, suggestions, ideas and other feedback are of course welcome. I make no promises about doing what you say, but I will certainly be happy to listen to anything.

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