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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.