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Sunday, February 1, 2004

Google CEO: "An IPO is not on my agenda"

“According to a report in The Times, Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt is prepared to wait until the right moment to go public. In a round of private meetings with business leaders in London, Schmidt said Google is in no rush to float because its cash position is so strong.

“An IPO is not on my agenda right now,” Schmidt said, according to the paper.”
– Andy McCue, Google CEO: “An IPO is not on my agenda”, January 29 2004 [via Capt. Cornelius]

Getting Hired at Google

“Robin Ward had a brush with Google greatness, and the experience gave him some insight into why the company is successful.

Three years ago, before Google became a global brand, the 24-year-old Toronto programmer [Robin Ward] sent a resume to the Mountain View, Ca., company. “In the geek crowd they got a huge thumbs-up, so I thought this was as good a place as any.”

Google wrote him back saying they liked his skill set, and set up a telephone interview with an engineer (everyone involved in software development at Google is an engineer) that lasted an hour.

“It was probably the most intense, from a logic problems point of view, interview I’ve ever had.”

There was a series of three questions. Here’s one: You are given two pieces of string and a lighter. If you light the end of one piece of string, it will take exactly 60 minutes to burn all the way through. The problem is, it doesn’t burn at a constant rate so it might burn the first half of the string in one minute, then take 59 minutes for the second half. How can you determine when 45 minutes have passed?”
– Bill Doskoch, Google - Pilot Your Own Web (Digital Journal, Toronto), January 30

Project Ocean

[Project Ocean]

The New York Times reports that Google stacked up on now 100,000 computers in their dozen data centers around the world in preparation for the upcoming search wars. And:

“Google has embarked on an ambitious secret effort known as Project Ocean, according to a person involved with the operation. With the cooperation of Stanford University, the company now plans to digitize the entire collection of the vast Stanford Library published before 1923, which is no longer limited by copyright restrictions. The project could add millions of digitized books that would be available exclusively via Google.”
– John Markoff, The Coming Search Wars (The New York Times), February 1, 2004 [via John Battelle]

The Movie OS

Hollywood movies are full of glamour. Most mundane activities are simply not shown. Obviously the movie-goer should be spared from seeing the same average settings that can be seen at home, where you don’t have to pay a hilariously expensive ticket to enter, and where you don’t sit in the dark quietly holding on to your popcorn or love, waiting for something special to happen.

It can be frightening, funny, deeply sad, or just plain visual glitz to make you go “Whoo”. Well, you might go “Huh” too. Because sometimes the movie script forces mundane activities to be shown. One of the most mundane activities is using a computer, and in Hollywood those don’t look like yours at home.

Yes, the result of some of the work being done by simple humans sitting in front of a simple computer can be grand – I’m not talking about spam mails here – but the actual grandeur is not to be seen on the surface. The act of writing this blog for example involves starting up a browser that will show a white surface until I monotonously enter the blogging site’s adress. There would be no orchestra playing. No animation in the background. No excitement at all.

Not so in movies. Hollywood developed a special Operating System; the Movie OS, based on hardware known as the Hollywood PC. I will take you through an example of what is happening with this system during before-mentioned mundane activities. There’s blogging, editing a text file, looking for a document on the hard-disk (don’t forget in Disclosure of 1994, such simple act forced Michael Douglas to put on a cyber suit, only to be interrupted by a three-dimensional puppet wearing a square-shaped Demi Moore mask).

Those activities... or just searching the Internet.

When you search the Web on a Movie OS, you first speak the words “Open Search Program”. In a way the Movie OS (while showing great strength when it comes to yet unsolved Real-Life mysteries of perfected Natural Language Processing) isn’t the crown of usability – you will often be forced to write or speak in total geekalese.

Now the screen will fade from black to white and back again and mutter “Welcome Back to World Wide Search, Mr. Smith” in robotic voice. (Of course “Mr. Smith” would be replaced by the hero’s name in the movie, and heros aren’t called “Mr. Smith”.) How does the program know the user anyway? As you may have noted, every computer app on film demands a complicated process of authentification – so instead of a straight-forward Google that doesn’t know much about what we look like or where we spend our evenings, the Movie OS search engine started a full-fledged behind-the-scenes 3D face-scan.

You may wonder why such an incredibly intelligent program still speaks in this echoing harsh robotic voice instead of, well, a normal one. Such are the secrets of Hollywood PCs.

Being all authenticated, Mr. Smith is now facing a globe with little highlight-points marking popular cities. Actually, the globe is pretty much just showing the USA (in this aspect Hollywood maps are related to the the alien leader who, upon arriving on earth, always demands to speak to the President of the United States – unless he starts shooting laser guns right away, that is). The map has a slight rotating movement, because nothing in a Movie OS is ever perfectly static (thanks to the Hollywood PC, there’s also never any low-resolution low-color imagery, annoying flickering, or other modern-day artefacts).

“What are you searching for?” the computer asks.
“Give me all the names of Italian restaurants* in New York.”
“Processing... 10%... 25%...”

*Actually above search in a movie would not have been “Italian restaurants” but “the heads of crime organizations” (this system has a complete record of every person on the planet, including finger prints). But eating Spaghetti is just as boring as using a computer.

While the system is processing, we will see fine green on black curves being drawn on the USA map. This is to visualize the actual routes the packets of the hypertext transfer protocol are taking. Not that it serves any information to anyone but a hacker. Then again most computer users in the movies are more or less hackers. Definitely not your average unknowing computer illiterates like the rest of us. Or did you ever find someone on the big screen asking how to add a column to a Word table?

“Processing... 90%...”

As the final search result for Italian restaurants comes closer (yes, it takes longer than Google, but then again it looks better) we will see many images being shown full-screen for a split-second. Like, an image of JFK. Or a bomb building plan. The images are shown long enough to make your subconcsious admire the versality and informedness of the Movie OS. They are shown short enough to not make your conscious go “What the hell was that in there for”.

“Processing Complete. Did not find any results.”

Big surprise. The Movie OS will never deliver fitting results the first round. The hero will always have to try again to show he just solved a puzzle worth solving. So that we can admire him for solving it, or that we can admire us for having solved it first.

Or we might just grab some more popcorn, sip our cola, and continue kissing the one in the seat next to us. After all the Movie OS, and Hollyood films in general, don’t always demand our undiverted attention.


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