In case you thought my last review of the Kindle was a bit harsh, I do
like my Kindle quite a bit. I purchased the Kindle 2 as soon as it came
out, and downloaded the Kindle App to my iPod Touch as soon as available
as well. My wife is now using my old Kindle 1.
The Kindle 2 fixes a lot of my issues with the Kindle 1. The next/prev
buttons are much better, I don't accidentally page anymore. The display
is faster, though it could still be faster. There still aren't page
numbers, still only location numbers. The progress bar is now very
understandable. The on/off switch is now on the top, which is a better
location, though its actually only a standby switch. The wireless
switch is now a soft-switch. The Kindle 2 is also smaller, which is
nice. I still think it wastes way too much real-estate on the keyboard,
if the device was the same depth but only a little larger than the
screen, that would be pretty nice.
Newspapers on the Kindle 2 are better, you can now skip to the next
article from within the article, for instance, and you now get more
Since I got my Kindle, I've only bought books on the Kindle. It works
well, and the convenience is unprecedented. The two biggest problems I
have are availability of books on the Kindle, and the fact you can't
read your book during take-off and landing because its an electronic
I also said last time that I wouldn't use a separate device if there was
a reader for the iPod Touch. There is the Kindle App for the iPod Touch
now, and I've used it quite extensively. One limitation is that they
don't do periodicals on it, which is annoying. Otherwise, the page
flipping is easier, its in color, its very nice. It doesn't have a
built in store like the Kindle, but it does link to the web browser for
Amazon's iphone store. One annoyance: the kindle version of books is
only available this way, if I browse the mobile store from my Pre or G1,
the Kindle version of books isn't offered. Obviously the battery life
is much shorter, and the screen size is much smaller, and its an active
display instead of the e-ink. That said, it also fits in my pocket,
which is a big plus.
I have no particular interest in the Kindle DX, I've never felt that I
needed more screen real estate.
The DRM issue is still annoying. We debated having Courtney keep the
Kindle on my account so we could share books, but decided not to since
we don't share that many books anyways.
Nextbus for Muni would be the greatest thing since sliced bread... if it
was more accurate. Maybe because the stop I get on from work
(Folsom/Embarcadero) is only 3 stops from the beginning of the run, but
the "next" times often seem random. They'll start at 4 minutes, cycle
down to 2, then jump up to 6, cycle back down to 2, then jump again.
I've seen it say 25 minutes (and I took the other train), but I hate
waiting 20+ minutes when I expected to wait <5. I especially like
how the other line running on the same track is sometimes slated to come
later than my line... but arrives earlier. How is that even possible...
well, it means that my line is stuck at the first stop, where it can be
Ranks right up there with having the train not stop because the driver
thinks its full... or having the N inbound turn into a J outbound at
Church/Duboce. Thanks for forcing the entire train to disembark and
have to hop on the next already full train.
Or the retards who insist on crowding onto the train during rush hour
who end up breaking the door. Then the train goes out of service,
everyone has to get off, and it takes like 4 more trains to even hope of
getting everyone on these full trains.
The new translink is pretty cool, though it took me two trips to
Walgreens to purchase one. The second time, I had 4 managers trying to
figure it out before they finally called some customer service number to
walk them through it. Only annoying thing: at my height, I can't read
the display when I swipe my badge, so I have to stoop down to read it.
Also, surprised that you can buy a fastpass for the translink... do you
need to swipe your card then?
My parents gave me an Amazon Kindle ebook reader for Christmas this
year. I hadn't previously purchased one because I'm unsure of the whole
ebook reader thing, and every once in a while I don't buy the latest
gadget when I'm not sure about the utility of the whole market. Plus,
there's the whole DRM aspect of ebooks that I'm not that happy to
support. Hey, if I bought every gadget that came out, then I'd be like
a junky with a habit, but if I (very) occasionally think first, maybe I
don't have a problem...
One solution for that is gifts, then its like a free hit, and who can
say no to that? I hadn't actually asked for the Kindle because they'd
been out of stock and were expected to be out through the holiday
season. My guess is they have a new version on the way, but missed the
holiday deadline and got caught between models, which I'm sure sucks for
Amazon. I had neglected that my parents shop really early, however, so
my parents managed to pick up three Kindles for the kids this year.
I started out with a test subscription to the New York Times newspaper. At the
airport, I was reading Google Reader on my G1, and came across a book
recommendation, so I used my Kindle to buy the book and started reading
it on the plane. I continued reading it on my walk/subway to work this
morning. The Kindle is fairly easy to use and pretty easy to read on.
My notes so far:
The "next/prev" page buttons are really annoying. As in, there's
almost no way to hold/move the Kindle without hitting these buttons.
Once you have the Kindle in your hand and are reading, they're really
convenient and work well, but you will hit them at in-opportune times
and have to go back.
The display is really really slow to refresh. Flipping a page on a
book isn't that fastest either, of course, but I have a completely
different speed expectation here, and its not met. Combined with
accidentally hitting the next page button, it makes it all that more
annoying to wait to flip back. Another odd thing about this is that it
feels slower to flip the page on the reader than actually going from
page to page on the internet... though maybe not on my mobile phone,
definitely on the computer.
The built-in web browser is next to useless. I'd rather use my G1,
and did this morning (to check NextBus). Well, maybe if I was
comparing it to any mobile browser besides Android or the iPhone...
Documents are partially hyper-linked, but poorly, partially
because using the links is very slow (See slow refresh) and partially
because the weird jog-dial to menu interface. With the newspaper, there
are links to the next article, to the article list, and to the section
list, but no easy way to jump to the next article when I'm "done" with
an article half-way through, and going to the article list starts me
back at the beginning of ~10 page list (see again the slow page time)
No page numbers. I have no idea how long the article I'm reading
is, how far though the newspaper or book I've read. There are some
bizarre numbers and progress meter on the bottom of the screen, but I
certainly can't understand them by using the device, maybe I'll have to
look at the guide to figure it out.
No clock. Seems silly, but so's having an electronic device in
front of me and not being able to get the date/time from it. Ok, it
does have it on the settings page, maybe that's enough.
Battery life seems fine. It lasted the first week on the charge
from the factory, and that was with reading the newspaper every day.
On/off switch location, which is on the back, is weird, especially
if you're using the case that it comes with. Just having to use the
on/off switch seems weird, this thing should be almost no power even
with the screen on, and it could just sleep completely. Instead, it has
a screensaver which changes every couple minutes, which seems even
Pricing. These things aren't cheap, and books on them aren't cheap
either. Amazon is still discounting them (they show the publisher's
digital price compared to their $9.99 price), but $10 for a book you
can only read on their device seems expensive. I don't have access to
any of the books I've recently purchased, I can only buy them through
Amazon. The NY Times sub is $15/month, which is probably higher than
its worth (when I'm not on vacation, I get all of my news from the web),
but I'm happy to help subsidize the times. You can use the Kindle as an
RSS reader, but at $1-2/mon per feed, that seems insane. You can send
images and documents to your Kindle via email... but it costs $0.10 per
I'm most weirded out, still, about the DRM. The book I bought, if I'd
bought the actual book, my wife might have read it next... or I might
have passed it on to someone in my family. Can I do that with the
ebook? No. And why isn't Amazon becoming the defacto ebook store
instead of going the iTunes locked route? I guess it worked well for
Apple, except they claim that less than 5% of music on ipods is from
Overall, my main need for "real" books and the Kindle is that over half
of my commute is underground, and I have no internet access there. Or,
the rare times I'm on a plane, no internet access and often no
electronic devices. So the Kindle was only partially good for the plane
ride (well, 5 hours out of 6, so mostly good). I still feel that if
there was a good e-reader solution for my G1 or iPod Touch, I'd probably
never buy a specific e-reader, even though clearly the Kindle is better
for reading large amounts of text than either of the smaller devices.
The thing is, I always have my phone with me, though. Anyways, I'll
probably continue to use the Kindle for a while, and if you have the
money to spare, it might be worth your while to try it out.
If you were to reduce the soda selection at a location to just three
options, which one's would you pick?
Our new vendor here at work chose Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Canada Dry
Um... wow, that really wouldn't have been what I would have expected.
Supposedly, this was done based on both a survey of the office and the
stats from the old vendor on what was drunk. The old vendor had 20
different soda options, which was probably excessive.
Possible reasons for this choice:
Some sort of weird "too many choices" voting issue where the 20+ options
before hugely skewed the numbers such that the actual most used don't
represent the overall preference.
The new vendor has a special deal with Canada Dry
The choices actually represent the new vendor's preferences
Ginger Ale was the most popular caffeine free choice... but they
weren't picking a most popular non-diet...
My old preference was actually for Caffeine Free Diet Coke, but I'm fine
with just Diet Coke, but it just seems so strange.
One of the engineers here at Google developed an application for Android
called "Toddler Lock" which turns the phone into a toy... and prevents
the toddler from doing something like calling 911. Nolan played with it
for almost 30m the first time we gave it to him. Highly recommended and
available from the Android Market.
Crush your enemies
Crush your enemies
And see them driven before you!
Original quote from Ghengis Khan:
The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before
you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in
tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and
The support conundrum, or why a smaller company can have better support
than a larger company. If you're an ad supported service, I'd say
you're lucky if your company makes $1/year per user. A back of the
envelope calculation for a friend's ad supported company puts that
number closer to $0.04/year per user, so $1/year may be high.
Providing support is expensive. A support person is going to cost
minimum $40k/year in the Bay Area, though maybe cheaper elsewhere. That
means, one support person can support 40k people. We'll say that a
support person working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year works 120k
minutes, so they can spend 3 minutes on every user. In practice, only a
fraction of users will need support, but they'll need way more then 3
minutes of it.
When a company is small, they'll start out with a small number of
support people, say 1-4. They'll also start out with a small number of
users and a small number of support questions. Those support people
will work closely with the engineers, and problems will be quickly
solved. As the number of users grow, they'll quickly out-grow the
ability of a small staff, and the support department will grow... but
eventually, someone realizes that support doesn't scale.
This is a fallacy, of course, support does scale linearly. What they're
actually noticing is that support costs quickly overrun their business
model. A single user without a real problem, just unable to understand
the product and want severe hand-holding, could take 30 years to make
back the support investment. A single real or perceived bug can result
in a backlog of support tickets that can take days just to find and
close as "known issue".
Or, they're noticing that even with linear scaling, they'll need 10k
support personnel to support a million or 10 million users, and they
Its at this point, that changes are made to the support organization.
Attempts are made to make even lower cost support, switching to email,
hiding phone numbers, grading support on how many responses they can do
instead of quality, trying to force users to figure out their own
problems by reading the FAQ or having forums where they can pow-wow with
other users to get the help they want. They'll switch from email
support to web forms where they can try and force the user to read the
documentation, or at least provide all of the information necessary to
debug their problem in one shot, instead of a bunch of "please provide
Often lost in this is how to get real bugs reported back to engineers,
especially since companies as they grow are less and less likely to want
to admit to the possibility of bugs, much less be open about their
existence and fixing them.
Eventually, users will start to complain, they'll say there's no support
available, they'll grown that they can't get someone on the phone, they
don't have a way just to email their problem to someone... and they're
right. They don't understand the support conundrum, they think the ads
pay for everything.
The odd thing, to me, is that companies which do make real money off of
customers, companies selling >$100 boxed software, or charging you
$30-$60/month, are also incapable of providing support. That's probably
due to another effect, which is the idiots drown out everyone else.
They aren't trained to give support to people with real problems,
they're giving support to people who think the mouse is a foot switch,
or who can't be told that something isn't plugged in, they have to ask
them to unplug and plug it back in.
One for the pet peeve pile: tv networks who can't keep to a schedule,
and so DVR users get the first couple minutes or last couple minutes cut
And that's just the ones who don't do it on purpose. A pox on the
networks who do it on purpose to try and make you watch the show live.
As if I'm going to correlate that this always happens with this show,
therefore I'm going to start watching it live. Not.
A double pox on those networks who randomly make one of their episodes
run 5 minutes late in a lame effort to make me miss whatever other show
I might be watching/recording next and watch their next show instead.
This tirade brought on by the fact that the premier of House last night
went about 30s too long, and so the big revelation at the end was cut
off. But, that's old news. This time, I figured I could go online and
watch the end. First, I tried Hulu, no luck. A bunch of episodes from
last season, but not the new one. Fine, its too new. Next, try
Fox.com. Nope, they want me to install some specialized player. Not.
They didn't have the episode anyways. Try again today, now Hulu tells
me the new episodes won't be online until 8 days after they air
"streaming restrictions require an eight-day delay for this series."
Lets ignore for the moment that its not streaming restrictions, its that
the license under which they get this content has these streaming
restrictions. So, in theory, its Fox that's retarded, and not Hulu.
For some reason, they don't want you to be able to catch up on an
episode you missed... before the next one airs. So, we'll try Youtube.
Pretty crappy version, from someone else who didn't get the end on their
Tivo. Probably got it from Bittorrent or who knows where else.
So, congrats to Fox. You just had to get that one last commercial in,
so your hit show got cut off for everyone not watching it live, and then
you couldn't be bothered to make it available online, so the internet
routed around your idiocy and made it that much less likely that you're
attempts to work with the internet to work.
And to top it off, I think all I actually missed were two words and
House watching Wilson walk away, hardly worth the effort.
At Google, a majority of our conference rooms are equipped with some
pretty top of the line VC equipment. Someone once told me that all new
conference rooms had to be VC equipped, but maybe that's just a rumor.
I do know, that once you start using VC, audio conferences seem like the
stone age. I looked into personal VC equipment last Christmas when my
newborn son made it clear I wasn't going to be traveling home for
Christmas for the first time in my life. The professional stuff is
outrageously expensive, making the dual projectors seem like a cheap
part of the standard big room VC equipment at work. Even a "TV Top"
setup runs to $1500 to $2500.
This struck me as insane. Practically everyone I know has a large flat
screen TV and broadband. Webcams are $100 and PCs are $400. The latest
Webcames from Logitech claim "HD" quality, and I can tell from
experience tha their RightLight technology works amazingly well. A consumer
level device should be easily under $500, possibly half that with work.
I only found one consumer level device at a reasonable price point, the
DVC-1000. It was a piece of crap, partially because its a little
old at this point. It didn't support upnp, so I had to manually open
wholes in my firewall... and then help my Dad do the same on his end.
Then, the picture was crap. It desparately needed the RightLight style
auto-contrast fixing software that my Logitech Webcam has. Even after
that, the picture quality was poor and the frames per second was near
useless. Instead, we used Skype video chat and just hooked PCs up to
the TVs. That ended up not working so well either, though we've
routinely used Skype for video chat other times without issue. Skype
mostly just works, though its interface is too focused on audio... time
to make the switch, Skype.
Going back to the conference room equipment, it has one major failing:
the software sucks. They get the video and audio quality right, but two
things are major fails: the addressbook and the layout choices. The
default interface is to dial a number... right. Instead, try to use the
addressbook. We have 40+ offices, thousands of conference rooms and
people's desktop computers... and it present it all as a very slow
alphabetical list. No hierarchy. You can prefix search, sorta. You
can bring up a search box which does substring search... except random
strings can't be searched for. It should take an engineer a week to fix
this.... The other major issue is layout. You can have multiple
locations called in, plus locations can project a separate screen
(usually a computer). And one quirk of current VC, you really kind of
need to see yourself, to make sure you're on camera, or that the group
of you is on camera. With the equipment we have, you can keep hitting
the layout button to shuffle all of these things on screen, but it never
does what you want. I don't need to see myself twice (one local, one
echo), and I certainly don't need my picture to be the largest. In some
modes, it tries to make the currently talking location the largest, but
often it fails to do that. It has no concept of room size or anything,
so often a single person location is as large or larger than a location
with 20+ people. White boards really don't work, since either their
"off screen" to one side or the other, or they're at the far end... and
you either zoom in on that and ignore all the people, or you see the
people and can't see the whiteboard. And then someone taking minutes
decides to project... and you lose half your screen real-estate to
something you don't care about, and you can't tell the VC equipment to
minimize or hide anything.
All of these are fixable, though some are harder than others. The
hardest is that everything should just work, as easy as the telephone,
at least. Some things, like the white board and large conference rooms
probably require multiple cameras, possibly even cameras which
automatically focus/zoom in on the speaker. If you've ever seen a
broadcast conference... or awards show, what you basically want is
multiple camera angles and intelligent cameras, but all automatic, no
one working all of that. The AV crew for our larger "all hands" style
multiple location conferences is easily 5-10, what we need is software
intelligent enough to give us a close approximation. And for the prices
of this equipment, that's what I'd expect.
But personally, all I need is a box that has an HDMI output, a good
wide-angle camera with intelligent assist for contrast, that can auto-scale
picture/audio quality based on connection speed, and a good intelligent
mic with echo cancellation, etc... for about $250-300. I even debated
started a company just to do it...
The "I work for a big public company" disclaimer:
The views expressed on these pages are mine
alone and not those of my employer. I am not now, nor have I ever been
employed to speak for anyone. Well, except my own company, but that's
gone now. For more information, see the Standard