Archives for January 2010

Looking back ten years

Ten years ago this month I paused working on my Ph.D., eloped to a courthouse to marry my lovely wife, and went for a hastily organized honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean. Then we packed up everything we owned and drove from North Carolina to California to join a small start-up called Google. That means this month marks my ten-year anniversary with Google, too.

Evan a husband with a thick skull like me learns a few things over the years. So here’s a little piece of advice for the software-engineer-husbands out there: take a few days off for your ten-year anniversary. πŸ™‚

If you’re expecting an email reply from me, please be patient. I’m spending some quality time with my wife.

Live-blogging the Nexus One phone

– The official web page for the Nexus One is
– There’s a YouTube channel for the Nexus One.
– And here’s the official blog post about the Nexus One.

I’m sitting in the Googleplex waiting to live-blog the Google Android event today. I’m on a seven day Twitter diet, but Chris DiBona is live-tweeting the event. Added: Ryan Block also live-blogged the event. Danny Sullivan is also live-blogging the event.

I noticed that T-Mobile just announced that they have upgraded their 3G network to HSPA, which has a peak speed of 7.2Mbps. Added: and Rhapsody just joined the Android family.

Mario Queiroz (VP, Product Management) is up to put things in perspective and look back at the history, e.g. the introduction of the G1. The Open Handset Alliance just added 13 members (e.g., China Telecom, Freescale). From 1 device on 1 carrier in 1 country to 20 devices on 59 carriers in 49 countries and 19 languages. Four major software releases in 2009 (e.g. Cupcake, Donut, Γ‰clair). To help prevent fragmentation, Google introduced a compatibility test suite. I believe Mario said that Android users search (surf?) up to 30x more than conventional phone users.

Mario says that it’s time for the next step in Android evolution. Mario is taking a moment to send shout-outs to some great devices like the Droid and the Hero. One of the questions they asked was “What if we work even more closely to bring devices to market that showcase the great software technology in Android?” So today they’re announcing the Nexus One, “where web meets phone.” Intended to be a “superphone,” an exemplar of what is possible with a phone. The Nexus One was designed in close partnership with HTC. Mario is introducing Peter Chou, the CEO of HTC.

MG Siegler is also live-blogging the Nexus One event.

Peter Chou asserts that the phone is very thin, fits well in your hand, and has a gorgeous screen, plus a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU. “It pushes the limits of what’s possible on a mobile phone today.”

Mario is back on to introduce Erick Tseng, Senior Product Manager to do a deeper dive. 3.7″ OLED screen, 800×480 screen, 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. Trackball has a multi-colored LED (bluetooth = blue, other information could have other colors). The N1 also has Light and proximity sensors. It’s 11.5 mm thin, (“thinner than a #2 pencil”), and it weighs 130g. 5 megapixel camera and flash. Records video in Mpeg4. Syncs pictures to Picasa, and can upload video to YouTube. 3.5mm headphone jack. Stereo A2DP support. It can have an inline remote. Two microphones to do noise cancellation.

The Nexus One can have custom engraving in the metal bezel/band on the back on the phone.

“With the hardware, we think we have half the story.” Now Erick is moving to talk about software, the other half. Nexus One runs on Android 2.1, which includes Maps navigation, Facebook integration, and Quick Contacts (ability to switch between contacts and have a seamless view, regardless of where the contact is coming from).

New features in Android 2.1:
– Better customization. Five home screens. A new widget has weather and news. The widget knows where you are and auto-tells you the weather. Clicking through shows you the temperature over the course of the day. Live wallpaper. Shows a home screen that looks like a pond. Touching the screen makes water ripple.
– Media and 3D. New 3D framework in Android. Live wallpaper is one, but the app launcher also turns 3D. Apps scroll away off the top in 3D like the text in the beginning of Star Wars. A new gallery app from working with Cooliris. Tipping the phone makes the photo gallery tip. You can also view your photos clustered based on time, date, and location. Photos can be sync’ed to Picasaweb.
– Voice. [I can attest to this: the voice recognition is pretty amazing, and will only improve over time.] Demo with “Navigate to Ikea”. Android 2.1 adds voice recognition to every text field in the device. Erick just demoed sending an email by saying “Check out this new voice keyboard! I just hope this demo works.” and it worked perfectly, drawing the first applause of the day from the room full of I’ve-seen-it-all journalists. πŸ™‚
Bonus! Erick is demoing a version of Google Earth with 3D by flying around some mountains in the north bay. Then he uses voice to fly to “Mt. Fuji” in Google Earth.

Erick hands the stage back to Mario. Mario is talking about how to get the phone, and emphasizing that Google wants simplicity. You can buy the Nexus One with or without a plan. Today, you can purchase a phone with service from T-Mobile USA from . They expect to add more operators, devices and countries on that url.

A bonus announcement. Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and Vodaphone in Europe have also signed on to this program. On you can get a 3D tour or click on individual icons to see what the apps look like.

Price is $529 unlocked or $179 with T-Mobile USA service. This “coming spring,” the Nexus One will come to Verizon. You will need a Google Checkout account to buy the phone. On the site, you can enter two lines of laser engraving and you see a live preview of what the engraving will look like.

Mario emphasizing that the buying process is designed to be easy, simple and fast. I think Mario said that you can ship to the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong immediately, and more countries will follow. The Nexus One is the first phone you can buy from, but more devices (HTC and Motorola were specifically mentioned), operators, and countries will come into the ordering process. They’re providing demo phones later today so that people can do in-depth reviews.

They’re showing a video now, which was pretty spiff.

Now they’re doing Q&A. Sanjay Jha is stuck in traffic, but will join when he can make it.

Q: Robert Scoble Why only 512MB for app storage?
A: We provide a way to protect against piracy. But in the future, we’ll provide a way to put apps on the

Q: You can order today–does it ship today?
A: Yes, it ships today.

Q: It only works on T-Mobile?
A: No, it can take any GSM SIM. On AT&T, you can slip in your AT&T SIM card from your iPhone and use it today. You’ll get EDGE speed instead of 3G, but it will work fine. [That’s how I’ve been running my phone.]

Q: Is this phone an iPhone Killer?
A: The message isn’t to iPhone/Apple folks, but to consumers. The goal is to produce a great phone that people will like.

Q: Which inventory does the phone come out of?
A: Google is the merchant of record. Google is working with HTC to manage the logistics of shipping.

Q: Marketing and App Market for the Nexus One (noted that Apple does a lot of TV advertising)?
A: Initial marketing is primarily online. Will also continue to iterate to improve the Android market.

Q: Why was it necessary for Google to design the phone instead of HTC?
A: It’s HTC’s work building a really great phone.

Q: Will other software features of Nexus One make it to (say) the Droid.
A: Within a couple of days, we expect to open-source Android 2.1.

Q: What will convince people to buy this phone vs. other smartphones?
A: This is hour one of operation. The phone is solid and provides a very good experience. We intend to keep innovating, plus to add more operator plans, more devices, more countries. Andy noted that the original question was “I can buy an iPhone for $99, so why would I buy this?” but mentioned that there’s a larger world outside the U.S., where ~50% of the time people buy a phone unbundled from a service plan and without a subsidy.

Q: Google isn’t known for retailing–color on how to make a dent in a tough business?
A: This is about providing an easy, complete solution. Working with handset partners to get a great phone out to consumers quickly and more choice. “It’s another channel; it’s not intended to replace existing channels.”

Q: What’s the revenue model–per phone, money on ads?
A: When we think about new ways for people to access the internet, mobile is huge. This phone is a lot like a laptop as of 4-5 years ago. This can be just the next front of ads. The objective is less to make a ton of money per phone unit and more to provide the best possible Google experience we can.

Q: Support for tethering to a PC? Wifi?
A: Wifi is supported. It’s just a technical issue to add support to tethering. Sounds like they intend to add tethering?

Q: Missed this–something like what if there’s too much success and operators can’t handle the data.
A: Work closely with partners.

Q: Is the physical keyboard dead?
A: HTC believes that different people have different preferences, and the strategy is to serve whatever people want. This phone concentrates on the form factor. Mario notes that is a channel that will add more phones over time, so if people want a keyboard, different devices can show up in the web store (perhaps the Droid, for example).

Q: Does this mean that Google will be selling more products online?
A: Other mobile phones may join .
Q: Beyond mobile phones?
A: Jokes about small cars, lava lamps. πŸ™‚

Q: Other phones being sold?
A: They want the best possible mobile experience. The bar is raising on devices; not every device will show up there. They don’t want to flood; they want the experience to be simple, clean, and nice.

Q: Other countries?
A: They will add other countries (e.g. soon.

Q: Why is multitouch not supported in the U.S.?
A: HTC Droid Eris does support multitouch. We’ll consider it.

Q: Mike Arrington When will Google Voice launch?
A: [He then went straight into the next question, so this got skipped.]

Q: Is there something awesomer coming next month? Or should be wait?
A: “You’re going to be waiting a long time if you’re waiting for the next one.” But also mentions that manufacturers are always rolling out new ones.

If you are an existing T-Mobile customer, it asks if you want to e.g. switch your plan, port a number, etc. You can see your next month’s bill so there’s no surprises.

Q: Danny Sullivan: What’s revolutionary about this? Why launch a phone that doesn’t support everything? The pricing seems boring and conventional. “I want the revolution from Google–where is it?”
A: Andy says that globally the plans are quite good. “Before you can revolutionize the world … you have to have a mechanism by which you’re selling the product.” Andy says this is the first baby step along that path.

Q: Will anyone be able to touch the phone at a retailer partner?
A: Right now it’s online only. We’ll iterate over time. Whatever makes sense for consumers, we’ll offer them options. But no other comment at this time.

Q: Difference between superphone and smartphone?
A: Openness coupled with easy app market, solid ecosystem, GHz processor, gigabyte storage. As powerful as your laptop was four years ago.

Q: Will subsequent phones support “world mode”? (GSM + CDMA, UMTS?)
A: Yeah, we’re very focused on that.

Q: Developers, app store?
A: Carrier billing was just added, will continue to improve.

Q: Projections about sales?
A: [Doubt they’ll do this.] They didn’t comment.

CEO of Motorola just said that Nexus One is a good phone. Droid will get software update.

Sanjay Jha is happy that will provide a new channel to get to consumers. “I don’t see it as threat.” It might result in an expansion of the marketplace. Peter Chou thinks it’s good for the industry, and a new model. Sanjay thinks this is an expansion of the ecosystem and a good thing as well.

And with that, my laptop is dead, so I’ll stop. Here’s the official blog post.

Book review: Freedom, by Daniel Suarez

I recently got to read Freedom, the new book by Daniel Suarez, and can highly recommend it. If you haven’t read Suarez’s earlier book Daemon then you should read that Daemon first. If you have read it, Suarez picks up where the first book ended.

Daemon and Freedom are set in a future tantalizingly close to the present. In Daemon, a software tycoon and game designer named Matthew Sobol is dying. Sobol writes a program called the Daemon that scans news sites on the web for stories about his death. When the Daemon detects (via the web) that Sobol has died, it springs into action.

A wider audience can enjoy Daemon, but computer science and techie folks will especially enjoy how plausible some of the ideas are. For example, the Daemon initially stays below the radar of the government by recruiting from within a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), which skews toward a younger demographic and not older FBI agents. As someone who has seen weird, emergent behavior like this, I can understand why a bunch of people on the web enjoyed Daemon.

Freedom continues the world of the Daemon, but now we learn that the Daemon might not be all bad; it might just be ruthless in changing the world. Freedom pushes the concepts of Daemon even further: members of the guerrilla resistance fight against copyrighted DNA and for sustainable next-generation energy. They also share a private augmented reality. The new members of the “darknet” also share an interesting reputation system that’s a bit of a cross between Whuffie and PageRank.

You can enjoy Freedom for the action (there’s plenty of that, especially later in the book), but the “idea density” of Freedom will leave you thinking afterwards. Recommended, especially if you like Daemon or other books like The Truth Machine or The Unincorporated Man.

Doing the “Digital Cleanse”: no Twitter for a week

John Mayer had a good post about a “digital cleanse.” The idea is to step away from the busy, buzzy world for a week. John mentioned four ideas, but I’m going to try just one: “no use of Twitter or any other social networking site”.

That’s right, I’m going Twitter-free for a week. I don’t really use Facebook, so that’s not a problem. The only other social networking website I use is FriendFeed, so I’m cutting that out too. To keep me on track this week, here’s what I did:

  • Tweeted that I was doing the digital cleanse and changed my Bio line to mention that I was doing the digital cleanse.
  • Removed all Twitter apps from my mobile phone.
  • Removed the Twitter and FriendFeed shortcuts from Chrome’s new tab page.
  • Hard-coded a bunch of websites so that I can’t even access them. In Linux, you can type “sudo vi /etc/hosts” and add the following lines:

    What these lines say is “Computer, when you try to use the domain name system (DNS) to resolve to an IP address, hard-code the IP address to be” Note that is a special IP address that corresponds to your own computer. In essence, these entries make it impossible to browse to Twitter, Facebook, or FriendFeed. You might need to reboot your computer too for the settings to take effect.

I’m thinking that I might blog a little more now that I’ve stopped tweeting for a week, so I’m doing one extra step–I’m linking my blog in Feedburner so that when I publish a blog post, it will tweet a link to that blog post. Here’s how to do it:
1. Log in to and click on your blog’s feed.
2. Click on the “Publicize” tab and then the “Socialize” service on the left.
3. Add your Twitter account and select the options you want. Here’s how it looks:

Tweeting from FeedBurner

Then click “Save” and that’s all you need to do.

So far, I’ve been Twitter-free for twelve hours. In that time, I’ve
– worked out
– taken down our Christmas tree, chopped it into sections and put it out on the street
– typed in three months’ worth of data for a project that I’m working on
– taken down our Christmas lights and packed them away
– stored all our various Christmas decorations
– run a couple loads of laundry
– put out the trash
– gone shopping and had a couple meals with my wife
Oh, and written a blog post. We’ll see how the digital cleanse works for the rest of the week. πŸ™‚