Android is Broken

Going back in the archives, sometimes I find a photo I especially like. This photo of the Google Android Robot statue was taken back in 2012. Back then the statues were in a spot that was especially bad. They were almost constantly backlit, and constantly muddy ground despite the long drought in California.

Android Robot Statue at the Googleplex roped off with Caution Tape

I’m not sure why the Droid is surrounded by cones and caution tape. Maybe they just did a paint touch up?

In any case a couple years later they moved all the old statues to a new location (I was fortunate enough to have caught while still in preparation) that I refer to as the “Android Graveyard.” 

Now the new mascot (presently Nougat) is at the entrance to the main building at the Googleplex. The old one is “buried” at the “Android Graveyard” a block or so away.

The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation

The Death of Marshmallow

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

A while ago I wrote a little piece about the new “Android Graveyard.” Google had a sculpture garden in front of a more prominent building on the Googleplex. They moved all their sculptures (I caught them in pieces getting touch up job in the last post.) Now they are in an out-of-the way corner in a peripheral building near the Google-central.

Google Android Statue Garden, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only) (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Android Statue Garden, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only) (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

What Google started doing was unveiling a new sculpture with each OS release. Android operating system releases are named after sweets. Now with the birth of a new OS, there’s a death and a sculpture is added to the Android Graveyard.

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

This time came was the the birth of Nougat, and the death of Marshmallow.

A new statue at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, depicts Android 4.4 nicknamed KitKat with an Android Statue made of KitKat bars (Michael Halberstadt)
A new statue at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, depicts Android 4.4 nicknamed KitKat with an Android Statue made of KitKat bars (Michael Halberstadt)

Here are a few stock photos of a Silicon Valley graveyard.

The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)
The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)

Sea Level Rise in Silicon Valley

Silly Over Dramatic Dramatization of Effects of Sea Level Rise on Facebook (M Halberstadt/Urbantexture.com, Michael Halberstadt)
Silly Over Dramatic Dramatization of Effects of Sea Level Rise on Facebook (M Halberstadt/Urbantexture.com, Michael Halberstadt)

Recently I stumbled upon a story by the British publication The Guardian warning that sea level rises threaten Google, Facebook and other tech titans fancy buildings. I’m not a big climate skeptic, but this article really appeared to have some major factual errors and was designed to alarm and incite.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
(Over)dramatization of Sea Level Rise in Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)- Hey that marshmallow turned out to double as a floatation device!

First off, they start with a map of the San Francisco Bay with selected tech companies dotted along the coast- then a second map with where the coast would be with a 6’ sea level rise. What’s wrong with that picture? First off, they don’t point out that 6’ is the most pessimistic estimate for the year 2100! I’m reminded of the steamroller scene in Austin Powers.

Scientific American published a similar story in 2012 with some easily verifiable errors and some golden quotes like: “’They don’t think long-term’” (duh, the lifespan of SV companies is about as long on average as mice,) and this rather curious quote: “….Silicon Valley is 3 to 10 feet below sea level…..” There may be an exception here and there, but the VAST MAJORITY of Silicon Valley is not below present sea level, or even very close. You can poke around the map of SV with this tool for the actual height above sea level as could Scientific American if they cared to fact check anything.

Facebook Headquarters, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Back of Facebook Headquarters sing with the previous tenant Sun Microsystems , Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

Let’s put this in perspective…. Why don’t we look back about a century and ask about the status of the biggest companies of the day?

In researching this, I found that the Fortune 500 list is only available starting in the year 1955. As you might have guessed- many of the companies on that list only 61 years ago are gone or forgotten. Number one on the list was GM, that narrowly avoided collapse by government intervention a decade or so ago. I don’t even think it’s worth the time to research, but I’m assuming that many of those companies HQ’s have been bulldozed, burnt down, or more likely sold and reused for another purpose.

Another way of looking at this: If I told you that MySpace HQ was near a fault line and would likely collapse in an 8.0 or greater earthquake you would likely either 1) ask “what’s Myspace?” or b) say why should I care, they can retrofit, or move or go out of business for all I care.

Historic Garage Where Silicon Valley Was Born (Michael Halberstadt)
Historic Garage Where Silicon Valley Was Born (Michael Halberstadt)

Of the historical tech companies of Silicon Valley we have some remnants. But not much is left- including interest by the young and wealthy hipster class that writes that dribble. You can visit the house in Los Altos where the first Apple computers were built. You can see the garage where HP got their start. But if you do, you will usually only see a couple of die-hard tech fans. And most of the sites where Silicon Valley history was made are lucky to have a brass plaque. Visitors to Silicon Valley are likely to breeze past.

 (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
The “Apple Garage” where Jobs and Woz started (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now. Yet we can look at things in perspective. Empires rise and fall- so does sea level. Though we should take adequate measures to avoid problems, the fate of a bunch of the playgrounds of the ueber rich in a century shouldn’t be on our list of priorities.

Full Airspace over the Googleplex

Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)
Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)

Full Airspace over the Googleplex

On a recent trip to Google’s sprawling campus in Mountain View I had an odd encounter. Unfortunately I wasn’t well situated to document what I saw. As I was trying to get my own aerial view a crew of three showed up right next to me and plopped a drone on the ground.

For safety reasons I retracted my rig and moved over. One fellow donning a hard hat had a tether that was attached to said drone. The got it started and walked into the Quad area. I’m assuming they are Google X people, I can’t imagine that security would have let a setup like that in the belly of the beast if they weren’t at least Googlers. And in my handful of photos, I could zoom in and see a badge tucked into one of the fellows pockets.

Are they competing with Amazon? Just doing this for pure research? Fun? I don’t know.

All I do know is they got at least twice as high up as I did!

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

(With my apologies to The Smiths)

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects.  Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside.  Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!

The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….

Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Buses and bikes in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.

Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

</end rant>

 (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
(M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View.  So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Lorry I. Lockey Laboratory on the Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Stauffer Laboratories for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Hewlett-Packard Teaching Center, Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.

I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.

It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Hoover Tower/Stanford University Campus at night (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.

One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
The Chapel at Night Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

More Silicon Valley Shtick

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

After a gig in the South Bay I made a few stops to the regular hotspots today. First stop was Intel in Santa Clara. They’re basically the visitor friendliest tech company in Silicon Valley. Just happened I was driving past and thought for lighting reasons and to test out one of my lenses it might make a good stop.

My day started out a bit earlier than usual, and due to the angle of the sun and slight overcast, I thought it would be a good day to revisit the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley”, the HP Garage in Palo Alto. And once again I looped by the Googleplex, and found the cute little autonomous car nearby. And as usual they didn’t like me photographing/filming. I find that whole bit kinda funny- one of the world’s richest companies, testing their new product in a public parking lot. And not just any product, but a self driving car, news about which would interest a substantial portion of the world’s readership. Ironically given all the controversy of the Google Buses, there was a sign (I wish I photographed) prohibiting them. And Imagine if you or I were to drive a car with no plates in a public lot to test out ____?! Guess if you have billions of dollars you can close off a disused public parking lot and do pretty much anything 😉

In any case (and pardon my rant), it seemed today they were testing the new Google X car for bike and pedestrian safety. A couple of young women were apparently pretending to text and ride a Gbike in the path of the car. Another young lady appeared to pretend to be texting as she crossed an imaginary intersection. I’d be very curious to hear how all that works, not that they’ll discuss any of it with me. Like how can the car can figure out how fast a bike’s trajectory could enter the path of the self driving car.

Next stop was Facebook. I wanted to get a few shots of the sign from a few different angles. Not too exiting, but that’s my life.

Cheers from Silicon Valley….

Another Glance at Google’s New Self Driving Car

Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

Once again I stumbled upon Google’s new self driving car. This time it was in yet another public parking lot, dodging between the controversial Google Busses that park there. And once again I could see the Googler’s working on the project were not happy about my presence. The “driver” made an effort to stay in areas that I had a hard time pointing towards. None the less this parking lot had some great vantage points, including some that showed the interior quite well too.

Google’s Self Driving Lexus

An Autonomous Drive Google Modified Lexus SUV on the road in front of Google in Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
An Autonomous Drive Google Modified Lexus SUV on the road in front of Google in Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

I’ve spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the Googleplex in Mountain View here in Silicon Valley. Now and then you’ll see one of Google’s self driving cars driving by. Here’s a gallery of the Lexus version. There’s also a Prius version and a built from scratch two seater that I’ll add as a separate entry.