So, I’m currently going through the ‘joys’ of moving from Mountain View, where I’ve been living for the last two years (while at Stanford and my first year at Google) to now San Mateo. Why am I moving? Well first of all Archstone is charging me hundreds of dollars less than Avalon offered me for my renewal (oh the joys of living in Google View), but I also wanted to live closer to the city (aka San Francisco), while still being relatively close to work and while (importantly!) still being in the sunny part of the Bay Area (locals know what I’m talking about. ‘Summers’ in San Fran can be ‘fun’).

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Anyhow, besides throwing away lots and lots of stuff (it’s surprising how much you collect over the years but never use!) and packing looooots of boxes, I just went through the process of transferring my utilities and other bills to my new location.
PG&E – check, simple phone call – took 5 minutes, cost me nothing. Grade: A
Comcast – oh dear. Was logged into my account and clicked on ‘Move?’, only to see a web form that asked me to input my current address (while being logged in! Shouldn’t your system be intelligent enough to get it yourself?) only to then transfer me to some web chat thingie to ‘answer final questions’. So I thought, ok. Can’t take so long. I don’t actually have any questions. Oh was I wrong. The chat took 40 minutes to complete, with me reciting every single information I entered before (from old to new address to service choices, 20digit customer account number and more). Grade: C for annoyance, but at least they got the job done and offered a Saturday ‘installation’. Why I have to pay $39 for the whole thing is beyond me, but oh well – at least I signed up for the 8Mbit internet thingie (god knows how much of that will effectively come through).
Citibank, American Express, Netflix – check. All online. Zero issues. Super quick. Grade: A+

AT&T – the SuperMaBellReloaded Telco. Oh my god… Where do I even start?
I wanted to move using their internet site, because they offer free moving (aka waive the $42,xx moving charge) and give you deals on the internet access, such as 3 months off and a free new modem (my current wireless modem is a non-working pain in the you-know-where, which I just replaced with an awesome Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n/Gigabit, so I’m just looking to get a regular modem now).
So what does Ulf do? He goes to http://www.att.com, only to find a weirdly put together page that doesn’t tell you anything. Well, that’s what Google is for right? A search for ‘AT&T Move’ reveals the ‘AT&T’s Mover’s One Source‘ website. Silly as I am, I’ve been using Safari on my Mac, which apparently is incompatible with PacBell’s, I mean SBC’s, no sorry, AT&Ts URL redirects (which still use sbc.com half the time). To cut a half-hour story long: at&t created an endless loop that went from Mover’s page to ‘do you want to move’ page to ‘click here to move page’ back to the Mover’s page.
Switching over to Firefox and still clicking on ‘Yes, damnit I do want to move’ about 500 times finally took me to a signup page on which you have to answer silly questions via radio buttons before going to the next screen. One of the silly questions? – You guessed it! ‘Do you want to move service?’. Urgggh, yes I do!

Well to cut another long story short: I inputed all the required information and logged into my current account to transfer service, just to get a little nice screenshot telling me that ‘an error 647’ occurred and that they are just incapable of processing my simple request. So I thought, okay, I’ll call them up, tell them that their website (which I already spent 2 hours on) is worthless and politely ask them to transfer my service. The nice gentleman on the phone took all my info, only then to inform me that the move costs $42, that he won’t waive it because it’s ‘only free when you sign up over the website’ and that he can’t offer me the internet discounts either. He suggested I should try again the next day and call back if that doesn’t work. Well, of course it still didn’t work the next day and I wanted to call back to see if the whole move-thing of my DSL line is even worth it.

A bit of background, re: DSL: The only reason I went with DSL in Mountain View to begin with was that Comcast had so many dropouts in their service (and lost packets) that could never be resolved, which made it just not usable. So I turned to SBC. When I did sign-up for DSL though they let me know that only 1.5Mbits/s would work, because I’m too far from their service station. I was flabbergasted. Living in a cute little German town with a population of less than 40,000 literally in the middle of absolutely-nowhere, my mom who barely uses the net, enjoys a 16Mbit ADSL2+ DSL line from Deutsche Telekom, whereas here in Silicon Valley – the birthplace of high tech and the hometown of the largest internet company in the world, all that SBC/AT&T actually offered me was…. drumroll please… 384Kbit/s! Yes I kid you not. That’s what they signed me up for! Thankfully I could chat with an engineer who did activate the 1.5Mbit for me, but still, even this is pathetic if you think about it.

So I called at&t again this morning, only to get another bad experience. All that was available at my new location is 3Mbit/s (not the fastest 6Mbit one they offer, which frankly at this point I doubt even exists). Getting this information though took 25 minutes of me repeatedly telling the customer service rep that, “No Sir, I do NOT have a phone number at my new location yet. I am trying to decide whether I should stay with you guys or not, depending on the speed of internet you offer. Can you please use my new address instead.”

Let’s just say, I was happy to cancel service, which interestingly enough was my best experience with at&t. It took only 10 minutes, the customer rep was very friendly and no one tried to sell me anything, nor did I have to deal with the retention department. I guess they don’t need customers. For the statistics: they now have one fewer AT&T Yahoo! DSL and AT&T local landline customer.

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Marketing cube deco contest

August 9th, 2007

Sooo… we had this little Consumer/Mobile/Developer/Apps Marketing teams decoration contest. You were free to do whatever and some of our teams put really elaborate decorations together (from PacMan to ‘the Sea’ with Nemo, fishnets and even sea weed). Well, to be frank – we didn’t find the time to go out shopping, so we went a bit overboard on the Warholy style and created a whole whale of, well, basically ourselves. And yes, I created them myself.. 😉
Today I surprised the team and got us T-Shirts too! 😉

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Okay okay. Let me first say, I was a bit… shall we say.. skeptical about the iPhone before it came out.
And if you look at a pure feature-by-feature comparison with say, a Nokia N95 – the iPhone does not stand a chance. Where’s the 3G, where’s the GPS, where’s the 5MP camera, where’s the user-expandable memory, where are user-installable apps?
But the interesting thing is: That isn’t the point.
The user interface and speed together with the slickness of the device gives you pure joy day in and day out. In fact I loooove browsing the web on the iPhone when I’m hanging out at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, sipping a yummy dry Cappuccino. Apple was able to take the WebKit developments that made Nokia’s S60v3 great and added performance and awesome usability on top of it. The touch screen interface with zooming is just beyond believable.
Now, the as with every relationship – this one is a bit of a shaky one sometime:
– Switching between WiFi and EDGE can make you drop connections, which becomes a real problem with the built-in (and otherwise beyond awesome) eMail client. In fact I have to reset the device to have the email app running after a connection change or drop.
– Battery-life is ho-hum, especially when you’re constantly using the device
– I really really really would love to be able to install ARM-compiled Cocoa apps. Apple please do. Seriously.
– I need AIM/Y!/MSN/GoogleTalk on it. Now. JiveTalk is nice for now, but really – we need native apps to make IM wonderful.

19:50 I’m exhausted and finally at home. On my way back I passed the Palo Alto/Stanford AT&T store on Page Mill and even at 19:45 (nearly two hours after sales start), the lines were wrapped around all of the building and at least 120 or so people still waiting there. So – would I do this again? YES, definitely. I had amazing coworkers that I’d now call friends with me and we certainly had a blast. While this isn’t something to do every few months or so, it definitely was a very unique experience which I didn’t want to miss. As for the iPhone: report will come later. I’m busy playing with it now! Let’s just say, I ported my number over from T-Mobile to at&t already and am LOVING the email and web browsing.
18:30 Wow – we finally made it to the Apple Store! They were letting people in in batches of about 20 and we were in the front of the fourth badge. After getting in, the process was actually really fast. They set up lots of temporary sales stations and had numerous iPhones on hand. I immediately got two 8GB models. One for myself and one for a coworker of mine, who covered me at work today, where I was supposed to interview a Marketing Director candidate. He was just on the way to the airport when we got out of the store, so he immediately directed his taxi off to Burlingame, where he had his precious phone in his hands just 10 minutes later. Now he had the most painless purchasing experience ever! 😉 For us, I have to say it was really nice to be applauded and cheered at by all the Apple employees when we exited the store. This certainly gave us a warm and fuzzy feeling. Oh, plus the weird guy offering us $1,500 for an iPhone when we got out the store. I have no idea, why no one accepted his offer.
17:10 Well apparently our lamish video didn’t make it to TGIF as planned, so I’ll just post it here instead. Also, the first 25 peeps in line just got cool Apple iPhone t-shirts. They earned it, because those peeps were here hours before us even.

16:50 Okay, it’s bad enough that we’re feeling like fools for waiting so long, but even worse: We just talked to our UI person in New York City, who just straight up walked up to the 5th Ave store and bought one without having to wait more than a few minutes…. Wow… According to him, the wait at at&t stores is ridiculously long, because they force activation IN the store for no reason, whereas Apple sells devices in less than a minute.
16:40 About 1.5 hrs more to go. The line is maybe 250 or so strong by now and we’ve sinced been joined by a fellow Googler engineer (I’ll call him Mike), who just cut in line to join us. Shame on him! 😉 Ah whatever – we’re happy to have him…
16:30 Okay, the surprise was supposed to be that we’d be reporting live to TGIF – Google’s large weekly all-hands meeting, but unfortunately the technology broke down in the last minute 🙁 We recorded a little video instead and am now trying to upload it, but time’s running out to still make that happen.
14:45 I have to say, the Apple folks are managing this pretty nicely. They just brought over water and sunscreen while their colleagues are setting up the store. About three more hours to go. Just refilled the meter in my car again. Let’s hope they won’t tow or something… Also, people are collecting garbage and selling fruit ice-cream, while we’re cool with using the adjacent Peets Coffee restroom. Funnily enough, a nice Asian girl let me go in before her and I asked her if she’s standing in line as well. Her answer: There is a line out there? … er… yea… about 200 people right now chillin’ in the sun!
14:30 We just arranged a surprise for our Google fellows back in Mountain View at 4:30. More to come.
14:00 Apple store is closing for four hours to setup and… get this… eat iPhone cake! I wonder if we’ll get some too…
13:25 The CFO of Apple retail just called a bystander here and is checking on the length of the lines here in Burlingame. It’s about 175 according to them now.
13:20 The crowd is going insane. FedEx trucks are parking in front of the Apple Store.
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13:10 First signs of getting bored are coming up in the team. But all in all we’re still holding out strong. Charles is bluetoothing me a few new pics from his Nokia N95. I just hope I won’t get my car towed off of the 2hr parking lot (I continuously fill the meter at the cheap rate of 75 cents/hour). Oh and btw… people here in Burlingame really can’t drive. Sitting next to a parking lot for 3 hrs makes that pretty obvious…That’s all I’ll say 😉
12:45 Let’s just say – that was some yummy Caesar’s with grilled chicken and sun-dried tomatoes… The line is slowly getting longer and is about 100 strong now. Of course the occasional passer-by is still mocking us for waiting in line for so long. Note to self: next time bring two pillows. I now have to decide if my back or my butt should hurt… hm… decisions…
12:10 Nice. A cool, pretty entrepreneurial breakfast/lunch restaurant just sent someone over to take lunch orders. Caesar salad here it comes.
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12:00 The kid next to me is getting paid $400 to wait in line to buy an iPhone for his cousin. Caraahaaazyyy… Also, thanks to the technologies of today, we just had a video conference with Scott in Minnesota over HSDPA and iChat.
11:55 Friendly Apple store employees just came over and handed out Smart Water bottles, claiming “This is what Steve Jobs drinks”…An Apple Fan dog also just came over to wait with us in line. Speaking of which, the line is about 80 people according to Apple folks.
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11:35 Thanks to the powers of HSDPA, I can actually get productive work done. Haven’t answered so many work emails in like… forever… Apple should have more product intros like this one…
11:30 It’s unbelievable how many people come over and ask you, why you’re waiting in line for 8 hours. Frankly, I don’t know either. Cutest story so far: the 50yr old women next to us who is here from Chicago. No, she didn’t just fly in for the iPhone, but she is waiting in line the whole day to get one. Reason why: her daughter is pregnant and really really wants an iPhone. Oookay..
11:20 Charles and Zhanna, who lives only a few minutes away here in Burlingame, just came back with an umbrella and now four Googlers are trying to somehow install it. With … er… mediocre success I guess.
11:15 We’re just here for about 45 mins and already baking like crazy. Yay for California sun… Note to self: Next time, bring sun screen and an umbrella…
10:30 The wait begins. A fearless bunch of UI and Marketing Googlers, let’s just call them Ulf, Will, Charles and Zhanna are number 50 or so in line at the Apple Store in Burlingame.
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Leaving the Google campus soon to meet up with colleagues and friends at the Burlingame Apple store. We’ll be queuing up to be one of the firsts to buy the Apple iPhone!

PS: I’m cheating with the pic. It’s not that sunny today…

Google Campus

The day has come…

June 29th, 2007

Apple Store Burlingame.. Burlingame here I come!
Tomorrow, me and a group of friendly coworkers will do our best for the team and be standing in line, like thousands of other Americans and be trying to buy an iPhone. Actually I have to buy two. One for me and one for a coworker of mine, who was nice enough to cover an interview for me, but only if I get him an iPhone. Why do I think he’s getting the better end of the deal? hm…
Anyways, after a little bit of thinking about location (at&t stores? naaa… boring, Apple Store Palo Alto? naaa… the lines would be insane, because Steve J might show up, San Fran? same story…). So finally we decided on visiting one of the lesser frequented stores in the Bay Area, namely the Burlingame one. Let’s hope there won’t be 100s of people already ahead of us, when we’re meeting there at 11am tomorrow.
I am thinking of doing live blogging from there and send out photos updates during the day. So, stay tuned for more!

Look what I saw…

May 15th, 2007

Driving down on 101 South (near the University Avenue exit in Palo Alto) a cute little billboard sign from our colleagues of Yahoo! awaits you.

Yahoo billboard

I’m wondering who they actually try to reach with this. The billboard is placed against traffic on the leftmost side of an 8-lane grade seperated highway and partially obstructed by bushes and poles, but hey – whatever spreads the mobile word is good for everyone, I think.

I won’t actually comment on the accuracy of their billboard statement. I’ll just quote Wired:
Yahoo jumps ahead of Google on mobile phone search [Reuters]
Cleverly phrased to sound like a market share story, it isn’t. It’s just one of those weird “news” stories that takes a jolly, light-hearted editorial tone, like a sports report, because the writer knows he’s just writing a fluffy marketing piece. Here, it’s about a new search app for mobiles, with which Yahoo vaults ahead of Google by delivering relevant answers, after making strides in recent months. Yahoo’s service serves up a list of actual information and flickr images (surely the only kind!). That the whole thing plasters your phone with ads is left to the penultimate graf.

PS: Too bad that the 3/20/07 quote is also a week before Google launched the new Google mobile search experience…

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

April 25th, 2007

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, emphasizing the importance of Mobile for the company at this spring’s Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. “Mobile, mobile, mobile” were the words of him this week when asked what technologies are most intriguing. “The biggest growth areas are clearly within the mobile space,” Schmidt said during a Q&A session with John Batelle.

The interesting full conference video can be found over at our friends of Youtube here .

Urgh – you know how these things go… So you promise yourself to keep up the and then your usual work habits keep you away from it. May it be blogging, doing laundry (which reminds me…) or exercising (which I finally started… a little…). So yes – work has been keeping me busy and right now it looks like this will stay that way for a while.

So, my team is looking for a Marketing Director (even craigslist and live.com it seems!). So if you feel like you’re up for the task: we’re looking to hire in our Mountain View HQ and London office!

 What else has kept me busy at Google?
– At the end of March, we launched our new mobile search experience in the US. Right now you have to click on a promo link to get to it after going to google.com on your mobile device, but this will change in the next few days and our new mobile search experience will go live as default for everyone. We’ve been building and testing it for quite a while and really do think it’s a superior solution to search on your mobile phone. Not only are those pesky radio buttons gone (are you looking for Web or Mobile Web results??), but you can also add modules such as weather or news directly onto your Google homepage and rest assured you’ll be getting the most relevant results to your query – regardless of the query type.
– Gmail has launched in 10 more languages, namely Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Portuguese (BR), Polish, Russian and (yay!) Turkish. Cok guzel!
– I was at Youtube for the first time last week. It was really cool see their still-existing startup mentality and a welcome change to the nice and cushy Google-I’ll-cater-awesome-lunch-for-you-type of my daily work. Youtube is doing really cool things in Mobile (e.g. see Verizon and Vodafone, as well as Nokia’s mobile Youtube solutions) and have even greater things in the pipeline.
I even went go-karting with one of their PMs, who – btw – beat me by lengths. Of course I kept blaming my go-kart, which had serious performance problems… er… right.. – Tons of other things that I now forgot. Geez, I’m getting old

CTIA Wireless

March 23rd, 2007

CTIA
So, tomorrow I’ll be leaving to Orlando. Running from Tuesday through Thursday, our team at Google Mobile will have a booth (#787) to show off our range of mobile products: from SMS, to Search, News, Maps and Gmail.

Say hi when you see me there!