a Day in Macau

For the first day in Macau , we didn’t bother to visit typical tourists attractions but the casinos.

This adventure happened on Sunday April 22 2012.

Quick facts

Even tough macao has its own currency Macau Patacas ( MOP ). They accept Hong Kong dollars ( HKD ).

Macau is one of the two special administrative region (SAR), the other being Hong Kong. Official language is portuguese. But English is spoken as much as in Hong Kong = not very well but good enough to have directions.

If you’re coming from Hong Kong, bring your passport. My main complaint is the inefficiency at the customs, add one hour in the waiting line.

From HK to Macau/Macao

The boat travel takes one hour on TurboJet ( others may be as fast) . Since Macau used to be Portuguese and Hong Kong British. Even tough they belong to China now.They have separate immigration systems. So you’ll need to fill a form and your passport will be stamped. Yep if you came to Hong Kong for a visa SORRY. I’m surprised at HK departure, no one checks if you have your passport. The customs entrance takes another hour. That’s the big complain. If Macau wants to attract more tourists, why not just skip this step ?

After the port exit, we didn’t bother to take a paid taxi or paid tour guide. There are plenty of free bus to the hotels. The hotels have casinos. If you want to see the typical Macau monument : St Paul’s Church Facade …  If you want to feel casino, have a great buffet, then take the free bus. We took the latter path.

The bus took us at the grand Lisboa hotel. As you’d expect all casinos / hotels are lavishly designed.

grand lisboa hall interior

Casino/hotel ambiance

I had been in Las Vegas long ago, I was underage. But I did remember the ambiance, the sound coins dropping , free cocktails … The casinos were filled with people.  Macao casinos are nearly empty on a Sunday. In some cases , there were as many clients as staff. But most are BIG players and spenders : few slot machines,  plenty of poker tables. Unfortunately photography is forbidden inside gambling area.

The casinos from outside and inside look splendid. This one is taken at  the fountain of the Wynn ( 永利 shui li).

Buffet

Like all casinos , you ‘d expect a great buffet. We spent zero on gambling, we went to Macao for one reason: luxury buffet. BTW HK Dollars are accepted.

Look at the freshness of the sushis. FYI The red drink is watermelon juice ( I don’t know how why it’s so red )

lunch at MGM Grand Buffet

Fresh sushi at MGM Grand Buffet

fresh seafood

From outside

From outside

This buffet is under the transparent arch. At this time , a construction was ongoing for Buttefly Pavilion.

butterfly expo

Macau outside

Few more photos of the day.

One day certainly is not enough to discover Macau . Is it worth to spend a day ? Depends if you’re more than a week in Hong Kong , yes.

on the way back to Terminal Ferry

 

Hong Kong facts

Hong Kong ( 香港  Xiānggǎng ) means “fragrant harbour” . Been there in 2010 for a week and now 2012 for a week, walked past a dozen times avenue of stars. Some interesting facts I spotted from local friends who showed me around. For westerners, some local customs strike first and that’s part of the travel experience.

Locations

Lodging alone is the biggest spending. Most tourists stay in Tsim Sha Shui area ( southern tip of Kowloon ). Personally I don’t recommend to stay at Chungking Mansions.

Hong Kong people tend to judge social status from the place you live :
– New Territories = countryside
– Kowloon ( except Tsim Sha Shui ) = normal people
– the Peak on Hong Kong Island = riches

What Hong Kong streets look like on causeway bay

Causeway Bay street on Hong Kong island

Things to see

You don’t need spend a lot to enjoy Hong Kong tourist spots. A ride on the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Shui to Central costs only 3 HKD. It takes only 8 minutes : the instant you set the foot onboard until you land a foot on the other side of the sea. There you can see Hong Kong skyline ( better at night for the light show )

Hong Kong skyline

Tian tan Buddha ( visited on foggy day on April , not the best timing ) on Lantau island ( airport )

Victoria Peak or simply “the Peak” on Hong Kong island .

Eating manners

In dim sum restaurants, an empty large bowl and hot water may be served before eating. Nope this bowl is NOT to put food by-products ( bones ) . Its purpose is to wash utensils in hot water or tea. As a safety precaution, some locals may think dishes are not clean. How to do it properly ? Pour the tea in   in the large bowl. Wash the tip of chopsticks in the bowl. For tea cups, pour the tea inside first then bath in the large bowl.

There is no strict rules like the tea ceremony. But rest assured, cases of food poisoning are rare in Hong Kong. This practice arises in areas of Southern China : Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Taiwan.

In higher end restaurants , a set of two chopsticks black and white are given. Black chopsticks are used to take food from mutual dishes to one’s plate. White ones are meant to carry food to your mouth.

Cuisine style

In Hong Kong it’s Cantonese style, the popular chinese cuisine in overseas restaurant. But it tastes different ( cannot describe by words ) on place.  Here is a glimpse of “oddities”

Below is the “creamy yellow bun”  and its alternate names are “steamed creamy custard bun” ,  奶黃包 (Nai huáng bāo) . It’s yellow egg inside, creamy and sweet. This one is a bit oily.

There is also the HK eggball, a version of “gaufre”

Shopping

Hong Kong is heaven for shopping. It’s tax free and you can almost anything. For electronics , it’s the best place  to buy. For example Apple products are the cheapest in the world. I bought a mac book pro for 9088 HKD (890 eur ) at the IFC Apple Store. In my country it would be 1150 eur. That’s more than 20% discount. How come ? Shenzhen , the world factory ( remember Foxconn) , is nearby. And Hong Kong is tax free. Ironically it’s even more expensive in Mainland China for products “made in China”, because the Chinese government put purchase taxes.

There is also an electronics market for computer hardware located at Sham Shui Po.

Airport

On Landing. When you land in the airport, take the Airport Express to go either Kowloon ( 90HKD ) or Hong Kong Central (100HKD). Then take the taxi or bus to join the place you’re staying. Taxi line can be very long at  station on raining days. I waited for nearly one hour for a 10 minutes ride. Probably it’s better to check if the bus is stopping at your hotel.

When leaving. HK’s airport is a model of efficiency. Luggages checkin are available at Airport Express stations (Kowloon, Hong Kong Central ) . No waiting lines. The stations themselves are shopping centers. The ride from Kowloon to airport takes 20 minutes. So after checking your luggages , there is still time to visit Hong Kong and arrive at the airport one hour before boarding. So great I’m used to arrive 3h before the flight thanks to Paris CDG airport.

Kowloon checkin

check-in luggages at Kowloon Airport Express station

In the airport itself , there are plenty of shops and food in the airport. The terminals are LONG, the longest I’ve seen. For this reason alone, I advise to arrive earlier.

 

Post SMS release Facebook

I’ve been thinking for long about an app to share SMS on facebook. Now I’ve done it.

What’s the use ?

Well I had a long SMS conversation once with a girl ( over 200 ) . I wanted to save all the text messages on my device. I found SMS backup from Christoph Studer and an improvement SMS backup+ from Jan Berkel. People save and restore their SMS because they cherish these memories . Just like photos, you don’t only store them on the hard drive. Once the photos are exposed , people get satisfaction when others comment on them. So why not for SMS ?!

Since the iPhone’s Message app , reading/writing SMS is a conversation.  I wanted a way for people to expose their SMS . The text as they received or sent, no SMS should be altered once in the box.

How to use

This icon will be used on Facebook wall.

You’re familiar with Message type app , it works the same way. The first page is like any SMS app : SMS grouped by contact. Click on one item and all the SMS exchanged with this contact are displayed. Then select the SMS you want to share.

screen story

For the moment , you can post the SMS from your Android smartphone to facebook . Top  preview in your smartphone . Bottom what it looks like on your facebook wall.

Note : share SMS that won’t embarrass anyone. That’s common sense. You don’t upload nudes photos of your friends . After all it’s up to you.

Permissions

The app is asking for three permissions :
– SMS , to read your SMS shared across all the applications. So a SMS received or sent by another app will be present in “Post SMS”
– Contact to join a phone number with a person name.
– Internet to access the internet of course.

Is it malicious ? I could still record user’s personnal data. No I don’t . Anyone can check the data packet exchanged from my app.

Next

Currently what I think is lacking :
– Sometimes a phone number is shown instead of the contact name. This bug happens when the number was saved as local number , but the SMS has an international number . Ex : French number 0611223344 is converted to +33611223344 . Each country has its own rules.
– Single Sign On ( SSO ) , you already have the facebook app installed , login into. You still have to login again. BTW I don’t catch your password .
– a notice for message posted or failed. There is a little window that pop up for a few seconds. I have an idea how to better integrate with the UI .

Download

If you find interest, the app can be downloaded here

Please share your impression in the comments.

 

Free mobile : un mois après

Un mois après être abonné chez free, je suis satisfait de la qualité pour moi rien n’a changé. Pas de conso excessive. Il est temps de faire un bilan.

Qualité du réseau

Rien à dire comme les autres. Mais ces derniers jours j’ai remarqué que la qualité s’est dégradé. Par moment il n’y a pas de réseau pour certains. Un collègue m’a demandé si je captais la 3G au bureau, pour moi pas de problème , lui ne captait rien sur iPhone 3GS.

J’ai rencontré un problème en appelant un mobile Orange le 5 Mars entre 16h et 20h dans Paris 13 . L’appel n’aboutit pas dans les  deux sens, ca faisait bip bip bip et “échec de l’appel” = ca se coupe au bout de quelques secondes sans laisser d’appel manquant au destinataire. La barre de réception était au maximum. Pourtant on a pu s’échangé des SMS et j’ai pu appelé d’autres numéros.  Pas testé si c’est d’autres Orange.

Itinérance / Roaming à l’étranger

Lors d’un séjour a Londres, mon mobile a switché sur “Orange UK” , “3 UK” . Je pouvais recevoir des appels , recevoir des SMS. L’itinérance est activé dans paramètres. Mais la 3G ne passe pas. C’est mieux que c’est Orange où l’itinérance étranger n’est pas activé par défaut dans Origami. J’ai pu envoyer des SMS en Russie ( sisi ) , mais une réponse du correspond renvoie “l’echec de l’envoi”.

Malgré qu’un pays est coché comme ouvert dans la grille des pays actifs et que le tarif du roaming est également publié et le roaming dans le dit pays ne marche pas, ce n’est rien d’autre qu’une information trompeuse pour attirer les pigeons.

Mais je me demande pour les frontaliers si ca marche et à quel tarif .

 

Musical Mamma Mia! at Prince of Wales Theatre London

Every time I visit London, I see a musical show. In 2003 with my parents, we saw Les Misérables booked the same day. On the 2nd trip in 2008, my company  sponsored a weekend London to see Gone with the Wind. The overall (eurostar, hotel, theatre tickets ) cost was a bargain, so most did not even show up. Ever since it’s become an habit to attend a musical live show in London. When my father wished to go there, he asked me what musicals shall we attend ? I first searched for CATS not available. Then my eyes caught Mamma Mia! . I remembered the film starring Meryl Streep , Pierce Brosnan and of course the seventies ABBA hits.

If you visit London , there are plenty of attractions during daylight. London’s nightlife clearly beat Paris hands on !! You have to see a West End show . Even tough Mamma Mia! worldwide is staged in Brazilian, Japanese, Korean, French or Italian … I prefer to stick to the English version because the lyrics stay to the original. And somehow dubbed version sound strange at least in French. So if you’re in London or Broadway, take the chance to see this show.

The show is at the Prince of Wales Theatre , close Piccadilly Circus station , nearby to Soho area. Plenty of restaurants to dine before or after.

We booked the seatings in the stalls for 81 pounds per person . My seat was left to a group of three Swede blondes , country of ABBA. Like me they prefer the English version. Here is what the Prince of Wales interior look

during the pause

The plot is about Sophie preparing her wedding on a Greek Island. She wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but doesn’t know who he is.  Sophie discovers her mother ‘s diary and finds intimate dates with three men. Sophie believes that one of these men is her father and, three months prior to the wedding, sends each an invitation to her wedding writing in the name of her mother, Donna, without letting the unsuspecting latter know.

Unfortunately cameras are not allowed during performance. The actors were the same in the following photos.

Sophie and her three possible fathers : Sam , Bill, Harry ( left to right )

Sophie on her bachelor party

The play came after the songs. The story is written around the ABBA songs.  My favorites are : “Mamma Mia” , “Dancing Queen“, “Our Last Summer“.

Tanya

It’s definitely worth to watch it if you’re in London. The actors are great singers & dancers and it’s packed with energy. Great entertainment!! For more information about tickets  go to their website

The next day, I saw “The Wizard of Oz” , I enjoyed it but not the same excitement as Mamma Mia! .

Afterward I re-watched the film. The live show was much more lively & funny. The song sequence, text script are the same .  I remember at the end the funny dialogue.
Sophie: ” I don’t care if you slept with hundreds of men .  You’re my mum”
Donna: ” I haven’t slept with hundreds of men”

Sounds like Greece would be great destination.

 

28 twenty eight

I’m turning 28 this year. This the the first time I blog on my birthday

The year 2011 , I switched to a job which brings me closer to my goals. I travelled to 5 countries. In my  twenty-eight year , I have some resolutions :

  • turn some of my Post-it ideas into products available on the App store or Android market. Something useful to me and users.  Of course have direct feedback from them.
  • develop some skills. I love reading on personal development . But I also started to follow Stanford CS193P course on iOS development.
  • try to improve my Mandarin speaking and writing. That will be a big one.
  • travel cities I’ve never been to and blog about interesting facts in a short format not really à la Anthony Bourdain style. But trying the “off the beaten path” spots. Learn a few words in the visited country.

After reading Matt Mullenweg’s blog , I made a donation for fundraising clean water in Africa. Here is what I wrote in the comment

Happy Birthday Matt ! January 12 is my birthday and I’m turning 28 too.
Once I met you in WordCamp Paris, I asked what inspired you to create WordPress at such a young age. It was passion. Ever since you’re my ideal entrepreneur (would love to travel around the world and meet fans) that’s why I’m supporting your charity. For my birthday, I’m buying this gift.

 

Désimlockage Orange IMEI non reconnu

Client chez Orange sur forfait Origami depuis un an, mon smartphone HTC Desire est SIMlocké ( la puce d’un autre opérateur n’est pas accepté par le mobile ) Tout est expliqué ici http://assistance.orange.fr/desimlocker … e-2839.php  . Simple, il suffit de suivre les instructions. Non , le désimlockage est un long parcours du combattant. Voici mon parcours réglé en une journée.

Chacune des solutions  en dessous noté de 1 à 3 a été testé. 1 et 2 ne marchent jamais.
Passez directement au 3 qui a débloqué mon smartphone . Mais il existe des variantes car le menu a changé depuis vendredi 13 janvier . 

EDIT : en dernier recours la solution 4, si vous connaissez une boutique  qui débloque.

1) Espace client Orange

Je me connecte avec mon numéro de tel et mot de passe recu par SMS ( hé je consulte pas mon compte Orange ). Je rentre mon IMEI à 15 chiffres identiques en tapant *#06# ou en regardant derrière la batterie. Une fenêtre me dit :

Ce numéro d‘IMEI n‘est pas reconnu par Orange.

2) Composer 740

L’espace client ne passe pas. Je compose le 740, un serveur vocal, depuis mon mobile avec personnalisation Orange avec sa carte SIM Orange. Je suis les étapes en écoutant le serveur vocal. Raccourci tapez : touche 2 Autre que mes numéros favoris , touche 6 Désimlockage.  Je recois un SMS qui est la 1ère étape sur 4.

  • Etape 1 Je rentre une adresse email
  • Etape 2 numéro IMEI
  • Etape 3 patientez environ 15 min
  • Etape 4 Message : “Orange Désimlockage – Etape 4 sur 4: Ce mobile n’a pas été acquis avec cette ligne . Il ne peut être désimlocké automatiquement. Service Client au 3970”

La blague !?! Ce mobile est brandé Orange avec sa carte SIM Orange ( qui est le numéro de ligne ) . Et l’espace client dit que l‘IMEI est pas reconnu par Orange. Euh Allo , c’est vous Orange qui m’avez donné ce smartphone et la SIM. Soyez pas de mauvaise foi en rejetant la faute sur le constructeur.

3) Composer 3970

Munissez-vous du numéro client et IMEI sinon c’est retour case départ. Attention l’attente est gratuite au 3970, mais la conversation est décompté du forfait. Le service 3970 est ouvert de 8h à 20h du lundi au samedi. La finalité est d’arriver à joindre un conseiller qui va demander: numéro client , IMEI  et le reste que normalement tout le monde connait :
– Numéro de la ligne
– Nom de la personne ayant souscrit à la ligne
– Sa date de naissance
– Son adresse postale
– son adresse email (facultatif)

Dans sa stratégie de rétention , Orange a changé le process . Il y a des variantes à tenter . Garder en tête le but c’est d’avoir un conseiller Orange.

3.1 Ca passe pour moi

Raccourci tapez :
touche 2 autre que mes numéros favoris
touche 7 Désimlockage

Ca va passer en boucle tapez plusieurs fois sur 7.  J’ai attendu 9 minutes, et enfin je tombe sur une conseillère . On me donne un code à 8 chiffres. A l’insertion d’une carte SIM non Orange, je devrais entrer ces 8 chiffres pour débloquer le mobile. Ce que j’ai fais après et ca marche. Avant de raccrocher je demande à la conseillère : “Vous savez où je vais aller ?” , j’entend “OUI” en rigolant.

3.2 Nouveau Menu

j’ai lu cette  variante ( lire le 1er message de Cyberclic )

Appelez le 3970 avec un autre téléphone que le votre
Indiquez le numéro de la ligne que vous souhaitez desimlocker
Faites le choix 6
Faites le choix 9
Patientez avant d’être mis en relation avec un conseiller Orange

3.3 Simuler une résiliation

Il parait que le 3970 a changé de menu depuis vendredi 13 janvier. Solution rapportée par Marinn

Finalement j’ai “simulé” une résiliation de forfait afin d’être en ligne avec un conseiller, qui m’a dit que j’ai bien fait de procéder ainsi ;) Il était même très sympathique et était mort de rire quand je lui ai demandé s’il se doutait de la raison de ce désimlockage … Alors j’ai enfin eu ce que je voulais et merci pour ce topic !

Bon courage aux prochains !

4) Boutiques “pirates”

Il y a des boutiques pas très catholiques dans le nord de Paris qui proposent de déverrouiller le simlock . Je vous laisse le soin de les trouver. Ce sont des boutiques indépendantes. Oubliez les chaines PhoneHouse, SFR  …

Attention, il n’y a pas toujours de garantie. En cas de mauvaise manipulation, vous ne pouvez pas vous retourner contre le constructeur ou l’opérateur.

Etrangement je fais plus confiance dans ce genre de pratique à l’étranger qu’en France.

Conclusion

Passez directement à l’étape 3. Incompréhensible que les moyens automatiques mis en place ne fonctionnent pas. Au départ , je pensais être une rare exception. A la lecture de ce forum http://forum.lesmobiles.com/orange/imei-non-reconnu-desimlockage-t74803-160.html .  Les clients possesseurs d’un iPhone4 , iPhone 4S, BlackBerry , …  tout le monde rencontre ces difficultés. C’est ça la stratégie de rétention des clients chez Orange. Sans parler de leur surcouche sur Android qui ralentit tout et leurs applis inutiles dont ils espèrent facturer “les pigeons”.

Je vais passer chez Free mobile à cause d’un ras-le-bol des pratiques d’un cartel . Sur leur site pour connaitre votre RIO ( nécessaire pour le portage de l’ancien numéro ) il suffit d’appeler le 3179 quelque soit l’opérateur . Serveur vocal qui dicte le RIO et en plus je reçois un SMS avec le RIO. C’est simple en moins de 60 secondes. Pourquoi le désimlockage n’est pas aussi simple que ça ?

Je vous invite à poster dans les commentaires vos (més)aventures avec le type de smartphone, le type de forfait et si vous êtes chez un autre opérateur.

EDIT : un mois chez Free, la vie n’est pas si rose mais je suis satisfait du réseau voir http://raychenon.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/free-mobile-un-mois-apres/

 

Prague facts

After passing a few days in Prague during new year eve and walked over a dozen times on Charles Bridge  , some interesting facts :

  1. Prague castle (Pražský hrad) is the biggest ancient castle according to the Guinness book. Built in AD 879, the main castle itself is not as big as Versailles , Buckingham palace, Bangkok Grand Palace.  What they call Prague castle is the area ( 7.28 hectares ) surrounding it : St. Vitus Cathedral, Vladislav Hall, golden lane …. The neighbourhood Hradčany is composed of shop souvenirs , churchs, palace …
  2. Czechs drink the most beers per capita ( nearly 160 litres annual). Is it because local beer is cheap ( one pint costs 30czk ) and of good quality ? Maybe but not only. Ordering water in restaurant is more expensive than beer, so people generally tend to choose beer over water.
  3. Czech cuisine loves meat (pork by excellence ) and beer . In fact, it’s hard to find food for vegans.  Even Anthony Bourdain is begging for vegetables . My favorite dessert : Trdelnika rolled pastry caramelized over charcoal . My Czech friend told me , Trdelnik just started a few years ago in touristy spots. The pastry originates from Transylvania under the name Kürtőskalács in hungarian.
  4. Tipping is expected  in restaurants. But you have to know how to do it. In most culture , clients leave some money on the table after the server gives back the change. Czechs  round up , so the server gets directly the tip into his/her pocket.
  5. The subway system is really deep. The escalator at Náměstí Míru station is about 100 metres long and is the longest escalator in Europe. The communists were worried that Prague might be targeted so they built the subway deep underground to doubly serve as a nuclear bomb shelter.
  6. Avoid Taxis. First the city is walkable. Second taxi drivers are rip off. According to my Czech friend, some used to be prisoners and others are related to mafia. If you don’t have enough cash , they will force you to redraw at the automatic teller machine.
  7. The christmas market is the best I’ve seen.  But nothing really beats the atmosphere here in the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí ). Shops with mulled wine , ham, Trdelnik again . Though this year 2011 , it didn’t snow . That’s what a Christmas market should be.

Sensitive subject

palladium toilet

Last and most interesting, I met an expat in Prague. What he’s doing for a living ? Porn films : behind and in front of camera . Prague is second city after Budapest for making porn production . Men do love Czech female look . The country is open minded. As a former Soviet Union member , the cost of living is lower than western counterparts.

For more photos check my album http://www.flickr.com/photos/photosray/sets/72157628722439523/with/6662869763/

 

Prague en chiffres

Après avoir passé le nouvel An dans la capitale Tchèque

  1. Le chateau de Prague (Pražský hrad) est le plus grand au monde. Il s’agit d’une cité médiévale composée boutiques, monuments et bien sur du chateau, et palais.
  2. Les Tchèques sont les plus grands consommateurs de bière au monde par tête . L’une des raisons , la bière local est bon marché et de bonne qualité. L’eau dans le restaurant coûte plus cher que la bière , les gens ont naturellement tendance à choisir la bière.
  3. La cuisine Tchèque a très peu de plats végétariens. La plupart ont de la viande (porc par excellence ) .  Mon préféré : le Trdelnik est une patisserie enroulée sur une broche et glacé de sucre.
  4. Le pourboire est attendu dans les restaurants. Mais la plupart des touristes ne savent pas comment s’y prendre ( enfin rien n’est indiqué dans le Lonely Planet pour Prague ) . Les Nord Américains laissent le pourboire sur la table après que le serveur a rendu la monnaie. Les Tchèques au moment de payer arrondissent la note au dessus , la serveuse empoche directement le surplus comme pourboire.

Question délicate

palladium toilet

Rencontre avec un expatrié Français. Ce qu’il fait : producteur et acteur de films XXX. Prague est la 2ème ville pour la production de films pornos après Budapest . Le physique des filles plait beaucoup aux consommateurs . Le pays est ouvert . Les salaires sont plus bas qu’en Europe Occidental .

 

Google interview guerilla : my story

For most people the name Google is a verb for “search on internet” or there is now a saying ” Always use Google before you open your mouth”. For most software engineers , it remains the king of the hill in hi-tech. Most of my knowledge reading come from Google engineers. I once encountered Romain Guy, an engineer on the Android team. Then later I discovered stackoverflow.com a Q&A exchange for programmers, where Jon Skeet is a living legend. The guy spends 20% of his work time on Microsoft technologies, and he knows way better than the team who designed them at Microsoft. Personally for me, Google is by far the most selective of all tech companies. It’s the McKinsey of the high tech.

Last year around November 2010 , a technical recruiter from Google contacted me, he was scouting on any networks . At least I looked good on the paper. But what about the real stuff ? I did not respond because I heard rumors about their interview and had other priorities.

But in July 2011, I saw a job update that may interest me. One was from Google  Paris, where I’m living. As far as I know , a software engineer position at Google in Paris is rare they only have marketing. (though today they just had a new office opening ) . Grabbed myself  ” You’re going to regret it , Ray for the next 10 years if you let this occasion slip” . Some friends say it’s just a company, no myth behind.

Before you send a resume

I got many job offers previously without reading a how to write your resume, preparation at a job interview. But still for me Google is another beast. I purchased “the google resume” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. In fact I learnt some truths : when you write about past experiences put quantifiable accomplishments . Had I known before, I’d have done it for previous positions.

This post is also interesting in this regard http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/GuerrillaInterviewing3.html

Interview 1 phone screen

Well I admit, I almost did nothing during the day the resume was sent and the first contact from Google staff: 2 weeks passed. I should have studied. Someone from Zurich arranged for time schedule on 20 minutes phone interview. We agreed on  November 4 Friday “In Paris, your resume was turned down. I’m a recruiter in EMEA, based in Zurich”. Turned down Paris, the place I applied to. Zurich it’s even better . I saw the cost of living   , the pay is more than double and cost of living is not as high. That’s worth it.

She said she saw on my resume “automatic testing” . They have open positions on the Chrome team for automatic test . Google Zurich is the biggest office and the main engineering force in Europe. Not what I was expecting. Rather than saying “yes” to enter the boat and hope to land later on the dream job. I stayed true to myself :
“As great as Google is, I’m not really interested in Chrome. Don’t you have exciting projects on mobile Android, Maps .. ?”
– Don’t worry . If you want I can forward your CV to London, it’s the main mobile expertise in Europe.
Yes great. She answered several questions and presented the company in general.

Interview 2

After the weekend I received an email from London.

With her agenda, we agree for an phone interview Thrusday 10 November.  I booked a room conference at my work place. Day d , just a few minutes before some dumbass take my room.
– Did you check on Outlook the planning ?
– yeah but we need it now . So who is on the phone ?
– it’s a girl. ( white lie ; can’t say it ‘s for a job interview )
– well you don’t have the priority.

Don’t be afraid to postpone for your phone call. The recruiter will understand it. Luckily November 11 is a day off in France . We chatted what interest me and the open positions.
– So we have a smallish mobile team for Youtube. with her Eastern European accent .  Because technology changes fast , we are looking for people who can adapt fast and have a strong core understanding. You will write on google docs. The code you write must be compilable. Are you comfortable with Big O notation, algorithms and data structure ?  You’ll get these at the technical interview.
– Oh actually the recruiting is so fast. I wanted to buy more time to study. I practiced on “Cracking the coding interview” by Gayle Laakmann.
– OOOHHH so you already prepared yourself. Do you know people at Google ?
– Not personally , Jon Skeet answered some of my questions. And I bought Reto Meier ‘s book . I mentioned both because they’re working in London so she may know them.
– AH GOOD, I will give you some resources where you can prepare for the interview.
An hour later, she sent a list of topics the engineer might ask.

Technical warm up

For this one, I took 2 weeks of revision. Most topics are common place in Computer Science program : singly/doubly linked list , sorting and searching …
Others I maybe knew : trees & graphs , red-black tree,  stacks & queues … Others I never heard of such as NP-complete .

Or the infamous “estimate how many  golf balls can fit inside a bus school ?” . Not hard once you know how to deal with Fermi problem .
I practiced the problems for a few hours before sleeping. By practice I mean : coded in developer tool & tested it , wrote the same code on paper, wrote on google docs.
The syntax highlighting , code completion make life easier . It’s like comparing write Chinese with pinyin on the keyboard, and handwrite the Chinese characters on the whiteboard.

I didn’t have  to sign any NDA . I was emailing some friends about the content of google interview with gmail . Hope big brother is not watching 🙂 , they don’t care .

Interview 3 : real stuff

The day Monday 28 November at 10 am UK time. The engineer was late by at least half an hour.
– So I want you to check whether a #@## puzzle is correct or not ?
– what kind of puzzle ?
–  #@## puzzle .
– Can’t you just write your question ?

I prefer the Eastern European accent than the thick native English speaker accent . He sent me a link . Oh I understood : a sudoku puzzle. I barely know the rules. I asked:
– So what are the constraints ? Each number from 1 to 9  is unique on each row and column . Other contraints ?
He gave me a hint each 3*3 small grid contains a unique number from 1 to 9.

Obviously the grid is a two-dimensional array of integers. I wrote the method to check uniqueness on the row. Idem on the column.
No impression of conversation, I was stressed to have silence during my writing.

At the end , he asked what I didn’t do . I answered :
– Check the extreme case values : what the puzzle contains negative numbers or greater than 9.
– check the size of the puzzle .
He seemed satisfied to hear these answers.

After this, in retrospect I found more efficient & shorter ways to solve the problem. Though I don’t think I can do it in 30 minutes .
But in the privacy I could do it much more efficiently. Not my lucky day.

45 minutes is short. But if you think what about you can accomplish during this time frame.
In the afternoon, I went to work. My manager scheduled a meeting at 5pm to know my work progress, I had 3 hours of work so 4*45 minutes. I was as productive as having worked 8 hours this day.

Next

A week after, the london recruiter contacted me. On the phone she said : ” Sorry about the delay, the software engineer was …  But we decided not to go further . We can’t thank you enough for your interest in Google’s careers and unique culture; we hope you will remain enthusiastic about our company.”

Anyway I would not like to work Mr Sudoku , not my fit . But I feel energized by the smartness of engineering at Google. You really feel the engineer driven  culture. But still felt it was more about luck.
You’re tested on a small set of knowledge . It’s more about to have encountered the type problem before you’re asked. Brain teaser like : “Why are man holes round ?” , if you read it once, you know the answer . Otherwise it’s almost impossible to answer it or it takes much longer.

No creativity tested, they don’t value design skills . Steve Jobs would not get even a job at Google  if he passed the standard interview . Come on, his inventions are leading the industry. His presentations make fans excited. Does he know Cocoa API  and Big O notation ? No.

I have the feeling they don’t care much about what you did previously. The sudoku guy admitted he didn’t read my resume.  It leaves many holes in the recruiting process . It’s more relevant to test a candidate on the field he/she will be working on. Ask a marketing person on sorting algorithms tells a lot about the ability to perform, huh ?  Anyway I’m glad I went through the interview. At least I know how to prepare for the next interviews either Google or others.

And to demystify their eliteness, the folk who speak at conferences & publish books only represent a very small minority .

Wisdom

In working environnement no one needs to know about the fancy algorithms . In real life, most IT professionals have a buzzword  of keywords in their resume . But very few know how to implement themselves. It’s just magical. And the truth some bozo have these words in conversation and CVs, but never applied them. They’re the kind of people who talk about cloud computing because they have iCloud devices but never understand the most basic of distributed systems.

And worst in the entreprise IT world , managers have the reasoning the outcome of project is proportional to the number of people involved. The more people you have, the more things can be done. Especially on consulting side where more people equals charge the customer more  ==  more money.

Quote People who Get Things Done but are not Smart will do stupid things, seemingly without thinking about them, and somebody else will have to come clean up their mess later. This makes them net liabilities to the company because not only do they fail to contribute, but they soak up good people’s time.

Writing code is not just interpret the requirements, but the talent to implement and ship a product. There are some fields where an individual can accomplish more than a group of people. Take football for example , anyone can kick the ball , a few can score a goal, much fewer can score against pro players . Lionel Messi , one the top football player, will score better than ten random people picked in the street. So the number of players is more important than individual talent ?

Anyway I feel better to invest time in learning the fundamentals because they still stay true over time . While technologies get depreciated pretty quickly, 1-2 years . Android 1 came out in 2008. Android 4.0 was released in 2011. A lot is not backward compatible, a lot new features arrived.

At least I have six months  to prepare ( if I don’t have a better opportunity before ) , instead of 2 weeks . I hope you enjoy this reading. Feel free to reply.