Author Archives: mjones

A Tour of Google’s Boulder Faciilty

So to answer your first question, no, I don’t have any photos. When the area LadyCoders group met for a two-day weekend Bootcamp sponsored in part by Google (who donated meeting and cafeteria space), we were asked not to take photos anywhere but in the meeting room. That made sense. Employees had left behind code, notes and plans on walls and whiteboards. Although the company was not paranoid about visitors seeing and stealing inside secrets, diplomatically it was better to ensure that whatever code is at Google stays at Google.

As for the beautiful work environment, all the stories you have read are absolutely true. Employees sit on a variety of ergonomic chair styles. Using outdoor themes, work areas feel light and spacious. They are organized in open clusters rather than dull, enclosed cubicles. The radial-design work areas give each employee his or her own domain while leaving them open to communicating with other team members. However if someone feels the need for an isolated place in which to decompress, there is a separate, quiet area with curtained-off sections. You can choose one with an easy chair, or a lounge chair, or one providing just a cushion on the floor. The latter would be perfect for a yoga-break in the middle of the day. And there is a totally private room for nursing mothers which they can use whenever needed.

Since the Google work style is one of collaboration and team effort their environment is designed to foster this. Conference rooms feature video-conferencing equipment so that interaction with people at the main Cambridge office can take place easily. From large to small and intimate, each has a different Colorado-themed style. One is even located inside a colorfully painted VW bus! You have probably heard about the ping-pong tables and rock-climbing wall. In addition, there are comfortable break/snack areas with all sorts of healthy food. The cafeteria looks out onto a beautiful atrium where groups can can sit at picnic tables during nice weather.

I’d give my right hand to work there (except then I couldn’t keyboard as fast). I don’t foresee that happening, though, since competition is fierce for those jobs. And commuting would be impossible in the winter, anyway.


But it would be great to work in a place where groups have an annual competition to decorate their own work areas. The latest winner by a large margin was a team who used a tropical bar theme and created the actual bar structure along one wall. Thanks to generous donations from some local breweries they hold real, not virtual, happy hours there for all the employees.

Google gave all Bootcamp attendees a pair of knee-high socks. Maybe I’ll take a picture of that and post it.

A Periodic Table Using HTML5 Canvas

Yes, I did it! To explore the graphic possibilities in HTML5, I reviewed my college chemistry where I always meant to memorize the Periodic Table of the Elements. You can see the results here. That is assuming you have a recent, capable browser.

I created the table using the new "Canvas" element which creates graphics on the fly using Javascript. This falls somewhere between the precision you get making a graphic in Photoshop and the convenience of putting something together quickly using HTML, CSS and Tables. For comparison purposes, the little color-code chart below the table was created using a simple HTML Table. If you print the page, you will probably have your background printing turned off so you will not get the colors in those notes. The Periodic Table itself, however, will keep its background colors just fine. At least that has been true of the printers with which I have tried it so far.

Each one of the squares in the Periodic Table is a separate canvas including the several large, blank areas containing notes. Although it looks like the table has one, big blank area, a separate blank Canvas is necessary for each row to keep spacing right. I did not try to incorporate the Canvases into a huge HTML table for spacing purposes. The whole idea was to get away from using tables for layout.

So far, I can either align the big blank areas to make boxes on the right line up perfectly, visually, or make them come out perfectly when printed, not both! In addition, there is a slight difference between Firefox and Explorer in the way they render the data, including the manner in which they send it to the printer. On an Android, although better than expected, the text which I had sized and placed so carefully on each Canvas, became slightly larger; this meant that occasionally a right-hand letter was cut off at the edge.

As for size, a screen shot of the chart saved as a medium jpg uses 253KB. I was able to get it down to 154KB using the lowest quality setting. It did save as a gif with 91KB. But the second two didn’t look at all good. The actual php file, which is only 138KB, looks better than any of the saved graphics.

Next Canvas project — Pie Charts!

The End of Typos and Carpal Tunnel

Well, maybe the title exaggerates just a little. However the voice recognition capability built into HTML5 opens the door to a lot of possibilities. If you are using an advanced browser such as Google Chrome11, try using speech data entry on the Contact Page. You don’t have to actually send the message.

Although you can speak more quickly than you can type, you can read more quickly than you can hear. Therefore, I predict that in the future data input will be verbal but error messages, or any kind of messages, will continue to be visual.

Then we have the question of accuracy. I found that the contact form was capable of understanding common names and a wide variety of words. It even correctly typed "Bonjour", though it made other French words and phrases into the closest sounding English words it could find. Is someone more likely to say their address and phone number incorrectly or type it incorrectly? I am guessing that a slip of the fingers is much more common than a slip of the tongue. Regarding zip codes, though, it’s a toss-up. Nobody gets their zip right!

With databases, as with computer programs, the saying is really true, "garbage in, garbage out". So I’m optimistic that, in the future, database administrators will need to spend less time cleaning up web-entry mistakes.

How to Pronounce “”

The first half of the domain name is inspired by the words: compend, compendiary, compendium.  Compend rhymes with attend, befriend, commend.  Per, the definition of compendium is as follows:

noun, plural com·pen·di·ums, com·pen·di·a [-dee-uh]
1. a brief treatment or account of a subject, especially an extensive subject; concise treatise: a compendium of medicine.
2. a summary, epitome, or abridgment.
3. a full list or inventory: a compendium of their complaints.

And data is, well, data, pronounced [dah-tuh].  Technically it is the plural of datum; however many people use it as both singular and plural.

So the pronunciation of compendata is [kuhm-PEN-dah-tuh].

If you have earphones, click compendata.