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Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

Geek Tour

After a big day out on Saturday, we didn’t want to go to far on Sunday. We needed to get lunch somewhere, so decided to pop across to Palo Alto, just on the other side of the Bay.

Palo Alto pretty much defines Silicon Valley, with most of the big Internet-related companies having at least an office there, if not their main headquarters. The first place you see once you get to the west side of the bridge is the big thumbs-up ‘Like’ sign outside facebook’s HQ.

Palo Alto seems to be much more civilised than the Newark and Fremont area on the west side of the Bay; it even has proper streets with shops and restaurants on them, rather than being a load of strip malls joined up with dual carriageways.

After a brief visit to the Apple store, where I was given some misinformation by one of the lower-ranked droids, we picked up some lunch from a fancy French-style pastry shop called Paris Baguette, then tried to decide where to eat it. Since I knew we weren’t far from Moffet Field, I thought it might be worth heading over there to see if NASA had a visitors centre, and we could perhaps get a closer look at Hangar One.

Unfortunately, “due to the unique way in which NASA is funded”, there is a visitors centre, but it’s not very big, and you certainly can’t get very close to Hangar One as a regular visitor. You get a much better view from the freeway, but you’re not allowed to stop there, so I had to content myself with wandering around near Moffet Rail Station (the best place we could find to park), and taking photos through the barbed wire fence like some kind of industrial spy.

As we were in the right sort of area, we thought we might as well continue doing some geek-style train-spotting. Next stop, then: Apple’s headquarters, at One Infinite Loop (geek humour). This was smaller, duller and  more corporate than we expected, but apparently they’re building some kind of new spaceship-style offices at a much larger site nearby.

After Apple, the only place we could go had to be Google. After a few missed turns, we eventually found some of the interesting bits of the (huge) Google campus. First interesting sight was the conference bike; I hope whoever’s steering doesn’t have to take minutes too! The appropriately-coloured Google bikes were parked all over the place, for employees to use to get between different parts of the campus. Then we spotted one of the most photo-worthy areas, the building where Android is “developed”, with models outside representing each release, each of which is code-named after a sweet or dessert: Cupcake, Donut (not in these pictures), Eclair, Froyo (frozen yoghurt, hidden behind Cupcake), Gingerbread (same barber as me), Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean.

We thought about stopping at facebook for a photo on our way back to the hotel, but our mutual decision was ‘meh’. Although we did wonder if it would be possible to turn their thumbs-up sign upside-down…

 
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Posted by on Wednesday 14 November 2012 in California

 

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Perfect Blue Buildings

(OK, the buildings aren’t blue, and the song’s lyrics aren’t relevant to the content of this post, but I was trying to find a California song title and was getting bored of looking…)

A quick look at the place we’re working in. I can only take pictures of the outside, because some companies aren’t too keen on photos being taken inside, in case you accidentally capture something on a whiteboard that could be useful to a competitor.

Apparently these buildings used to belong to Sun Microsystems. Most of the interior is much as you’d imagine a Silicon Valley office to be:

  • most of the desks are in cubicles. I can see three other desks from mine, if I turn around. If I lean back in my chair I can just catch a glimpse of people walking past;
  • free tea and coffee (a selection of each); free snacks (pretzels, cookies, cereal bars, noodles, etc.); free soft drinks;
  • some “interesting” furniture… or perhaps it’s an art installation. This office has some benches that look like they’re made of cardboard versions of those expanding tissue Christmas decorations that everybody used to have;
  • social area, with pool table, table tennis, and air hockey. I haven’t dared try this yet, too much danger of broken windows;
  • unusual names for meeting rooms. This being a company that deals with catastrophe insurance, the meeting rooms have names like Peril, Catastrophe, Earthquake, Liquefaction, Epicenter… best of all, Godzilla!

The last photo is nothing to do with the offices, it’s just a photo of this evening’s starter to show the sort of food that we’re having to suffer. I hope you all feel sorry for us.

 
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Posted by on Thursday 8 November 2012 in California

 

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