In an epic travel-planning failure, during the last 14 days I’ve found myself in Tokyo and then Århus, Denmark, to talk in public, mostly about Android, but mostly really to learn things. Here are some of them.

The Tab · As in Samsung Galaxy Tab, of course. I’ve found it to be a fine road machine, suitable for listening to hours of music on long plane flights, drawing you-are-here maps of strange cities, staying on top of email, and even doing some emergency short-form writing on a high-priority internal document.

But at this point in history its primary use is starting conversations. Obviously, when you’re surrounded by Android-lovin’ Japanese geeks at Google Developer Day Tokyo, you’re going to draw a crowd. But I also got chatted up by lots of random strangers, notably including my waiter at a restaurant in the Copenhagen train station.

Which has revealed a feature that the Tab needs; a button in Gmail called “in strange hands”. The device is profoundly shareable, but mine has my Google email, full of threads that are distinctly not for public eyes. So I need to switch to disable that while letting people look at interesting web sites or play games or check stock prices or whatever.

Two Tokyos · In Tokyo, I spent my time orbiting between Google’s offices, which are in Roppongi Hills, and the Google Developer Day venue, the Kokusai Forum near the Yurakucho JR station. The contrast was sort of mind-boggling.

Setting up for Google Developer Day
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Setting up for Google Developer Day

Setting up for Google Developer Day

Roppongi Hills might have been a neighborhood once, but now it’s an upscale shopping/office/hotel combo. The decor is intensive, the crowds gaijin-heavy, extreme fringe fashion statements mingling with finance-biz suits, the elevators whisper-quiet, the hotel rooms straight out of Wallpaper, the restaurants expensive.

The Tokyo International Forum
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The Tokyo International Forum

Abstract views of the Tokyo International Forum

Yurakucho, especially around the JR station, is kind of grubby and low-rent and funky; the suits are sarariman-basic not Zegna, the street fashions are from the street not by way of any catwalk anywhere.

We went out for dinner twice at cheap-and-cheerful-and-good little joints down by the station, one general-purpose izikaya and one upstairs yakiniku. There’s something uniquely attractive about a row of Tokyo restaurant storefronts, glowing and inviting on a side-street off a side-street as dusk falls.

The decor wasn’t much, but the food tasted great and came fast and the beer was ice-cold. I picked up of the checks; that restaurant sent five hungry Googlers away stuffed and glowing for what two would probably pay back at Roppongi Hills. That’s my kind of Tokyo evening.

goto;? · I was in Århus for JAOO, a popular high-quality conference that’s been running for fourteen years; I believe the name at one point stood for Java and Obect-Orientation or some such. Århus isn’t the world’s easiest place to get to, but they still managed to draw a speaker list that included James Gosling, Dan Ingalls, Bill Buxton, Rob Pike, and lots more names ongoing readers would likely recognize.

Dion Almaer talking about the Web Platform

Dion Almaer presents on the Web as a platform. Dion is always excellent. His slide is funny if you enlarge it.

This year, they rebranded the conference as “goto;” (yes, with a semicolon); I was puzzled both by the choice of name and the fact that they changed it at all. A bit of digging revealed a concern about that letter “J”; apparently looking Java-centric (which, to be fair, JAOO isn’t any more) is now seen as a liability. My goodness.

Dinner party in the former Stables at JAOO in Århus

Here’s the dinner party, which, along with all the other conference meals, was held in a former military stable across from the conference center. Quite a place.

I also have found my mind turning in idle moments to language design, in particular what the semantics of a goto; statement, sans target, might be. Hmmmm.

Androiders · Gosh, they’re nice. In particular, when beating me up over some shortcoming in the platform or Android Market, they take the time to mix in reassuring noises about their general happiness with being involved. Well, most times, anyhow.

But they’re building a lot of cool stuff; my favorite was this sort of of deranged live-wallpaper some Japanese guy has almost finished; it puts a cartoon of Miku Hatune on your screen. Miku chatters occasionally, and when you switch over to the next screen, pretty soon she strolls along and shows up there too. When your battery runs low she gets all tired and sad. You can interact with her a bit if you know Japanese.

Android Robot from RIC

Nifty animated Bugdroid robot on display at GDD Tokyo. You can read about it in English or Japanese.

Of course, a whole lot of these guys are all about games, and the Galaxy Tab is just totally great as a game machine.

Denmark · I have concluded that three days in Århus in October is not the best way to fall in love with Denmark. It was grey and chilly and flat.

A canal in Århus

A downtown canal in Århus.

A West-Coaster like myself can’t help but be struck constantly by the lack of ethnic variation; I’m really not used to being in a place where almost everyone hails from more or less the same gene pool, which by the way is mine too. They’re not just white, they’re extremely white.

Cuisine has never been a Scandinavian strength; things are getting better but for sure it’s not like being in Tokyo. I will say, though, the people seem awfully nice and the trains are great. I really must get back at a better time of year, because lots of people whom I respect are very big on Denmark.

Sword at a bar/restaurant in Århus

Sword, laid out on top of the bar at Castenskiold in Århus. Apparently it’s for opening champagne in the traditional way. Some of us wondered whether it was a good idea to have a weapon on display in a drinking establishment. I suppose the sense of fair play makes it work; if there were two swords, that’d be a problem.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: PaulN (Oct 07 2010, at 16:28)

Why not instead of a 'demo mode' for gmail, actual multi-user functionality in the OS? To me, the singular most interesting element of tablet computing is the opportunity to pass the device around, facilitating collaboration. The ideal tablet OS would encourage this.

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From: Emilian Bold (Oct 07 2010, at 16:49)

>The device is profoundly shareable; needs a button “in strange hands”.

Guest account on OSX is a perfect solution for this kind of situations. If I am somewhere and I need to share my laptop for some browsing, I don't want the temporary user to see my emails or browsing history nor do I care to see his.

Portable devices even moreso need a "Guest/demo account" feature as out personal data it much more concentrated and accessible there: email, contacts, photos, web history -- all a single tap away.

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From: Lars Olsson (Oct 07 2010, at 18:41)

You said:

"Cuisine has never been a Scandinavian strength"

Maybe not in the old days, but things have seriously improved. Have you ever heard of Noma, voted the World's best restaurant in 2010?:

http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners/noma

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From: rama roberts (Oct 07 2010, at 19:35)

How cool would it be if the “in strange hands” feature was based on biometrics, and was all done automagically without a manual switch over?

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From: Tony Jansen (Oct 07 2010, at 22:27)

Indeed, biometrics (fingerprint reader components do USD $5 currently) and a default guest account for unknown users would be the way to go here, where of course the feauture would need to be enabled by owner.

Awesome device btw, although i wish it wouldn't be so expensive.

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From: Adam Sloan (Oct 08 2010, at 15:03)

I was in Denmark in the late 90's to install an electro-mechanical art exhibit at the Louisiana museum, a 30 mile train ride up the coast from Copenhagen. You could see Sweden across the water. Very grey and flat indeed, winters must be something else! I think this was late summer and I was ready to see an iceberg float past. Cool Scandinavian furniture and phone in my residence cabin.

As a vegetarian it was a challenge, seafood is the main course for all meals I think but it was nice to have a beer for lunch every day at work. Was invited to a high-end restaurant my last day, the chef didn't know what to do with me. Made something with mushrooms I think.

Not used to traveling the jet lag killed me. Couldn't get to sleep all night and then 8AM arrived and I finally dropped, only to have to get up at 8:30, ugh. I still remember the zombie feeling all day while trying to do tech work.

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From: Therese (Oct 10 2010, at 14:59)

It was very nice to meet you at the JAOO conference - your presentation "The Mobile Imperative" was one of my favorites and the nice talk we had over beers at Castenskiold gave me something to think about.

You are so right that October doesn't do good things to Denmark. You should see it in summertime - then the Danes are beautiful happy people in the sun with beers. Personally I must say that the cold is one of the reasons that I am leaving Denmark - just coming back for the summers.

Hope to see you at next year's JAOO/GOTO (even though Denmark is cold and grey that time of year)!

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From: Eoghan (Oct 11 2010, at 09:22)

Aarhus might be ethnically pretty homogenous to the naked eye but is in fact one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Denmark with 12% of the population being immigrants. On the other hand 98.5% of the Tokyo population is ethnically Japanese (according to my highly scientific googling on the subject!). Just an observation....

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From: Alex Cruise (Oct 12 2010, at 10:22)

A privacy *aspect* (in the AOP sense of a cross-cutting concern) is an *excellent* idea.

This would probably cover it:

- Configurable labels, a reasonable default set (public, work, family, private)

- A configurable, system-wide default label

- A configurable, per-application default label (all data created by this application should be...)

- A per-datum label/category setting, like on old PalmOS

- A privacy lock UI option that lets you click a checkbox for each label that should be shown/hidden

This would also mesh well with the "remote wipe" feature that overreaching corporate IT occasionally inflict on people's personally-owned devices: Sure, go ahead and delete the stuff on MY PHONE pertaining to THIS ONE EMPLOYER.

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From: Val (Oct 14 2010, at 17:57)

I found that the way to fall in love with Denmark is to go in early September. I went to Aarhus for the first time in 1998 for 2 weeks of training and spec workshops at CCI, a newspaper publishing systems vendor based there. The first week overlapped with their End of Summer festival -- what a blast! After maintaining even weight for years, I gained 8 pounds in 2 weeks! Weather was great, people were gracious and beautiful, and we had excellent food, both local and imported. Loved the countryside, too. Can't wait to go back.

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October 07, 2010
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I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.