14 Years at Intel

14 years ago today I signed on as a “Blue Badge” Intel employee (I had been a “green badge” contractor for 9 months prior). I tell people I don’t feel old enough to have done anything for 14 years, and that’s true. I was only 22 when I started. I moved to Oregon for this job, so I can’t even really say I’ve lived in one place for that long.


I have worked on a lot of really cool stuff in those years – from software localization to server administration and monitoring to building wikis, podcasts, and live video broadcasts to exploring new ways to connect and engage with people online (earning the title “social media guru” along the way, which still haunts me ) to community management and event organization and managing high traffic developer sites and understanding the metrics that go along with them. Not to mention the themes of education, exploration, experimentation, and authentic human connections that have been the foundation for it all. Whew.

I’m eligible for my second “sabbatical” – a wonderful benefit (8 weeks paid leave) that comes around every seven years – but I’m deferring it until I finish my Masters degree in Adult Education next June. I’m so excited for what the future holds I feel a little silly. There are so many cool, exciting, worthwhile things to work on that every time I think about it, I feel spoiled for opportunity. Here’s to learning, stretching, and continuing to work on stuff that matters.


At SIGGRAPH in L.A., Watching the Future of Computing Unfold

I’m at the SIGGRAPH 2008 conference in Los Angeles this week. My group, Intel Software Network, has a lot of cool stuff going on this week around the recent paper that was published on the Larrabee architecture.

I just put up a post on the ISN blog, about the history of SIGGRAPH and the ACM, and then waxing a bit philosophical about Larrabee and the future of computing as we know it:

I can’t shake the feeling that the Larrabee Architecture paper that was just published by the ACM, written mostly by Intel engineers, is one of those landmark events in computing. I’m really not trying to add to the hype that’s already surrounding Larrabee. There’s enough of that already. But it really is going to be a huge leap in computing. Imagine that in a couple of years, instead of having one, or two, or maybe four cores, your computer could have a Larrabee card with 24 or 32 (I’m guessing – this number isn’t final) programmable x86 cores that can be set to any task that benefits from massive parallelism (like, say, making that 3D game you’re playing look REALLY pretty and smooth), along with 8 “bigger” traditional Nehalem (I mean, Core i7) processor cores that do the things your current single or dual core processor does. Oh, and with Hyperthreading, all of those cores can run more than one thread, which makes them appear as even more “virtual” processors to the operating and software that use them.

How in the world are operating systems, applications, and games going to have to change to deal with this massive shift to many cores and many threads?

I’ll be posting more, and helping to get some videos of the cool stuff here at SIGGRAPH posted quickly to ISN’s video site, Take Five, so keep any eye out over there for any cool stuff I come across.

It’s things like this that make me love my job! πŸ™‚


Bit Stories 2008-07-02: Recording Screwups,, Linux, MIDs, and NetMeeting

Here’s this week’s show! Have a listen, and check out the download/subscribe links and detailed show notes below.

This week’s show is only 30 minutes long and weighs about 28MB (it’s a 128kbps MP3). You can download the file directly, listen using the streaming player above, or (BEST OPTION!!1!) subscribe to the Bit Stories podcast feed in your favorite podcast aggregator (like iTunes). If you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get each show delivered automatically as it becomes available – probably once a week or so, with the occasional bonus video or audio segment thrown in for fun. Plus, we’ll love you forever if you subscribe! πŸ™‚

Bit Stories Podcast Recording Setup

Here are some free form notes from today’s show:

  • Yet Another Audio Setup
  • Embarrassing Confession: We recorded the last two shows using the built-in mic on my MacBook Pro, instead of the elaborate mixer/condenser mic that we have set up. Because I’m an idiot. The saving grace? It sounded pretty darn good! πŸ™‚
  • Have developers let the Tablet PC community down?
  • Brian paved and reinstalled Windows XP on his Samsung Q1 UMPC
  • Why XP instead of Vista? Not quite enough horsepower.
  • Josh has done the same thing (gone back and forth between XP and Vista) on his Asus R2H UMPC
  • Speaking of mobile device operating systems…
  • What the heck IS Moblin? Is it an OS?
  • Moblin is a stack of tools to help create OSes and applications for Mobile Internet Devices. It’s sponsored by Intel, and hosted by Intel Software Network
  • Ubuntu Mobile Edition (UME) sneak peak is out there, if you have a Samsung Q1 Ultra
  • Brian feels that he won’t be able to use a Linux-based MID because of the lack of mature ink/handwriting input support
  • It’s really hard to do an ink interface well
  • Will Atom-based devices ever have the horsepower to do handwriting well? Is this a hardware or a software problem?
  • Do open source projects do better when there’s a common, widespread demand and need for the result (like a web browser)? Do enough people in the open source community need and/or want good ink and handwriting support to motivate them to write it? Would enough people use it and care about it to make it worth their time?
  • Since Mobile Internet Devices are all about the Internet, having a good browser is going to be essential.
  • Windows versus Linux on these small, pocketable internet devices.
  • In general, lack of UI “polish” in Linux applications is a deterrent for non-geeks to adopt it.
  • Brian’s “essential” applications on his Samsung Q1: Microsoft Office, Firefox, and Microsoft Money
  • Is Firefox the exception to the “Linux applications don’t have a good interface/user experience” stereotype?
  • How easy is it going to be to “install any app you want” on the upcoming Linux MIDs?
  • The challenges of adapting applications to devices on smaller screen.
  • UMPCScrollBar – a great little app that lets you scroll windows around the smaller UMPC screen, so you can get to the “Install” and “OK” buttons that get pushed off the bottom of the screen.
  • Intel Software Network’s mobility community makes tons of resources, tools, and smart people available for people writing applications for these devices. Take advantage of us!
  • Without great software, Intel products are just a bunch of really tiny hot plates. πŸ™‚
  • Have we discovered the REAL reason Intel has chosen not to deploy Windows Vista? Is it because NetMeeting is no longer there? Microsoft stopped distributing NetMeeting in 1998 – TEN YEARS AGO. But Intel lives and breathes NetMeeting – old habits die hard. (Update after the show: according to Wikipedia, Microsoft released a hotfix that allows you to download and install NetMeeting on Vista. Guess we were wrong! πŸ˜‰ )
  • Macs do Screen Sharing, based on VNC, but there’s NO way on a Mac to participate in a NetMeeting call, because it’s a closed, proprietary Microsoft protocol.
  • Google Docs is GREAT for live collaboration.
  • PowerPoint is a great presentation tool, but it is NOT a collaboration tool! It gets abused WAY too often. PowerPoint abuse starts early – Brian’s 7th grade son is already doing it!
  • New recording time – Wednesday morning instead of Friday afternoon. Hope this gets the show out faster, and Josh and Brian perkier.
  • Josh’s morning voice – he’s not a morning person. Brian gets up at 5:30 AM.
  • Stuff we didn’t get to this week: Brian dips his toes into the world of Twitter and FriendFeed, and next week is iPhone 3G day! Come stand in line with us!

The show is picking up steam – we’re hitting our stride, and cranking them out. Many, many thanks to our listeners – we love you guys! We love connecting with people through the show, and getting to know who’s listening. But the only way we can do that is if you talk to us, so leave a comment, email us, or find some other way to say “hi”, and let us know what you think of the show! πŸ™‚


BitStories 2008-06-13: Josh and Brian Ride Again! iPhone 3G, Netbooks, and More

Hey, remember TinyPodcast? No? Well, Brian Jarvis and I (Josh Bancroft), two guys who happen to work at Intel, started doing a weekly podcast way back in 2004. Basically, the two of us geeked out about the latest mobile devices, cool software, and technology news and rumors, and recorded it. It was moderately popular, and some people actually complained when it tapered off…

Well, we’re back! And we’re under the Bit Stories banner now. I work for Intel Software Network, and I’ve had the idea and intention for a while now of doing a show there like Brian and I used to do. Now we’re actually doing it.

If you haven’t listened before, this isn’t some professionally produced, slick, marketing message controlled by our corporate overlords. We’re just a couple of geeks who love gadgets, phones, computers, the web, and software, talking about whatever’s new and cool. We try to make the audio sound good, but it’s always going to be a little rough around the edges, and we’re OK with that. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Come have a listen.

In this show, we talk about the following, in no particular order:

  • The iPhone 3G announcement – its features, whether Brian is finally going to cave in and get one, how AT&T is raising prices on the plans just because they can, how we can’t wait to see what comes out of the App Store, and everything else we can think of. We’re a little obsessed. πŸ™‚
  • Netbooks vs. regular laptops vs. Tablet PCs (with the tangent typing vs handwriting discussion).
  • Where we want to take the show – we don’t have grand plans – we pretty much have always played this by ear, but we’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions (or complaints!) you have, so we can keep it interesting.
  • And a whole lot more I can’t remember right now!

The show is about 38 minutes long (we try to stick to the magic 40 minute length), and weighs about 35MB (it’s a 128kbps MP3). You can download the file directly, listen using the streaming player in this post, or (BEST OPTION!!1!) subscribe to the Bit Stories podcast feed in your favorite podcast aggregator (like iTunes). If you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get each show delivered automatically as it becomes available – probably once a week or so, with the occasional bonus video or audio segment thrown in for fun. Plus, we’ll love you forever if you subscribe.

Are you thrilled that the show is back? Mad that we changed something? Think we suck for being gone so long? Just want to say hi? Post a comment, and let us know! Seriously. We crave the validation that your feedback brings. You have no idea how fragile our self esteem really is… πŸ˜‰


I’ve had it with the Intel Cafeterias. Full boycott in effect.

My relationship with the cafeterias at Intel’s Jones Farm campus (where I work) has been declining for a while. Or, more specifically, with the company that runs them, Bon Appetit (warning: Flash crap and music on their site). I’m now officially boycotting them.

At first is was just the constant price increases – every few months, the price for everything would just creep up a little. Way faster than the rate of inflation. 90 cents for a bag of chips. A buck thirty for a Rice Krispie Treat. Eight bucks for a salad (as reported by Michael Brito).

Then there’s the guilt trip they try to put on you. There are always posters and table tents and all kinds of stuff all over the place about how you’re killing the Earth if you don’t eat the nice, sustainable, locally grown, Gaia-approved stuff that they serve. Maybe that’s why they keep raising prices – all that fancy organic local stuff must be more expensive. Nevermind the fact that I always felt like they were browbeating me for my eating habits. I don’t want a sermon from the cafe. I just want lunch.

Earth Day was the worst. It was one of the few days that I decided to go over to the JF5 cafe for lunch. They have a grill there, and I can get a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, without having to leave campus. It was a circus on Earth Day – they were charging extra for paper cups, had a big display showing “this is how much cardboard JF throws away every day!!!1!” It was a Big Deal(TM). I got in line for the grill, and when it came my turn, I asked for a cheeseburger. Only to be told that they weren’t serving beef that day. “Why not?” I asked. “Because it’s Earth Day” I was told.

What? What does beef have to do with Earth Day? I still don’t know. The best I can come up with is that cows contribute to global warming through their, um, methane gas emissions. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t it make sense to EAT MORE COWS?! That day, that’s what I decided to do. I jumped in my car, burned some gasoline to go to McDonald’s, and did my part to reduce greenhouse gases from cows by eating a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I’m happy to do my part. πŸ™‚

That was the last day I tried to eat a meal in an Intel cafeteria. Up until today, I’d still pop over there in the morning for an occasional bagel or a donut or something. But that’s been getting worse and worse, too. They’ve been stocking less and less stuff, with the end result being if you don’t get there bright and early (before, say, 8:30 AM), they’re probably going to be gone. I’d understand if they just occasionally sold out, but it’s pretty consistent, and I’ve corroborated it with others who have noticed the same thing.

The last straw came this morning. I was quite hungry, hadn’t had breakfast, and it was 9:30 AM or so before I got a chance to walk two buildings over to see about getting something to eat. When I got there, the donuts, bagels, and other breakfast items were completely gone. “No problem” I think. “I’ll just get a string cheese or something.” Nope – the cooler case was completely empty, too. I was pretty hungry, and didn’t want to waste the trip, so I ended up with a bag of chips and a Rice Krispie Treat, both priced about a quarter more than if I had bought them from the vending machines. *sigh*

So, I’ve decided to expand my cafeteria boycott, and just not go there anymore. I’ll go out for lunch, or just skip lunch (which I do half the time, anyway). Burn a little more gas, probably eat a little less healthy, but I’ve had it with them, and I’m voting with my wallet.

I realize I’m complaining about pretty petty stuff here. Please take this in the spirit it’s intended – I’m venting, ranting. Not expecting to change the world. On the other hand, I’d love to hear any “you think YOU’VE got it bad” stories in the comments. Let’s commiserate! πŸ™‚


Digg Labs Arc Screensaver on the TVs at Intel JF1

Digg Arc Screensaver on Intel JF1 TV

Someone (it wasn’t me, even though I run this very thing as my own screensaver!) installed the Digg Labs “Arc” visualization screensaver on one of the wall-mounted TVs in Intel’s Jones Farm 1 (JF1) building (a.k.a where I work, a.k.a. The Workplace of the Future, a.k.a. Ikea Hillsboro πŸ˜‰ ). I like it!

If you haven’t ever seen it, it cycles through new stories as they are submitted to Digg (it’s more complex than that, but I don’t understand exactly how it determines what to display), and shows “diggs” (votes) for the stories as they come in (the arcs around the outside). There are a few other really cool visualizations available from Digg Labs – check them out if you’ve haven’t before.

I run this as my screensaver, because I think it’s a really cool way to keep a finger on the “pulse” of what’s happening on the web. If any kind of major news breaks, it’s always all over Digg, so you’re sure not to miss anything. Wisdom of Crowds and all that. I sometimes substitute an RSS visualizer (like the one built into Mac OS X) or Flickrvision or Twittervision or something, for variety. I figure my screensaver should do something useful, rather than just showing pretty colors. On the Mac, I use an awesome little free screensaver app called IdleWeb that lets you display any web page as your screensaver. I’m sure something similar exists for Windows.

If you know the kinds of stories that show up on Digg, you know that once in a while a, um, Not Safe For Work headline will slip in there. But it’s no worse than the little news headline ticker that’s usually running on these TVs. I’ve seen headlines about murder, pedophiles, abortion, and celebrity scandals run by on the “official” display. Digg is no worse than watching CNN, if you ask me, and far more timely and interesting (and informative!).

I’m sure someone official is going to notice this and remove it sooner or later. Though I think it’s MUCH better than the canned Intel propaganda PowerPoint slides and canned TV “news” streams that the TVs are usually displaying.

Actually, that’s not exactly right. It’s better than the blank video windows, random error messages, and “Content Expired” warnings that these TVs are usually displaying:

Java Updater Crashed on all the Intel JF1 TV PCs
Your Content Has Expired!

Anyway, like I said, it wasn’t me, and it’s going to be interesting to see how long it stays there before someone gets all worried about it and removes it. Maybe it will pop up again later, turning into a battle for control of the TVs that we stare at all day! πŸ™‚


Exclusive: 23 minutes of hands-on with the Lenovo and Aigo Mobile Internet Devices

OK, so I’m a couple days late, and I know I’ve been teasing you with photos and videoappetizers“, but I hope the quality/content of these videos makes up for it. While I was in Shanghai, China last week for the Spring 2008 Intel Developer Forum, I stayed a few extra days to work with the Intel Software Network China team, with the hope that I might be able to score some hands-on time with some of the Mobile Internet Devices that were shown for the first time at IDF.

There are only about 20 MIDs in the world today, all prototypes, and they were pretty much all at IDF. As you can imagine, access to them is jealously guarded, and they were pretty busy being shown off, participating in photo shoots, etc. My access to them got postponed, rescheduled, and moved around a lot, until one afternoon, we got the call. “You can come play with the MIDs if you can be here by 5:30pm.” It was 5:00pm, and Welles and I jumped in a taxi right away, headed for the Intel Software group’s Mobility Enabling Lab. I didn’t have time to go back and get my “big boy” professional video gear, so these videos were shot on my pocket Aiptek Go-HD camera, secured by a GorillaPod. I think they turned out pretty well.

Big disclaimer: the Linux-based software for both the Lenovo and Aigo devices I used is NOT final – there are some features that aren’t implemented, and performance optimizations that haven’t occurred. This is NOT how they’re going to be when they’re released commercially. There are crashes, slowness, and missing features in these videos. Think of this as a preview of the foundations of the software – what it’s capable of in general. Then squint your eyes a little and imagine the final version, a little more polished, sitting happily in your pocket. πŸ™‚

First up, here’s a 13 minute video of the Lenovo Ideapad U8 Mobile Internet Device (MID). It’s one of the more unique hardware designs, with it’s flared end, special limited edition Beijing 2008 Olympic color scheme, and hardware number pad, for T9 text entry. In the video, I take a detailed look at the hardware (Intel Atom processor, two cameras – the rear one is 2.0 megapixels, SD slot, GPS, USB ports, etc.), and spend some time poking around with the software/user interface:

You can download the high quality (640×360) MP4 version here – the file is about 153 MB. You can also embed/share the video on your own blog or site by grabbing the Show Player code from the video’s page on or by clicking “Embed” in the show player above.

Next up is 10 minutes of video with the MID from Aigo. I cover pretty much the same aspects of this device in the video as I did with the Lenovo Ideapad – hardware (sliding QWERTY keyboard, two cameras – the rear one is 3.0 megapixels, MicroSD slot, USB ports, “Smart Key”, etc.) and software and user interface. The Aigo device looks very similar to the Gigabyte MID, which has been floating around, making appearances. So much so that I suspect they’re manufactured by the same OEM, but I didn’t get any concrete information on this, so I’m just speculating. Here’s the video:

You can download the high quality (640×360) MP4 version of this video (117 MB) here, and get the embed code to share the video on your own site/blog on the video’s page on, or by clicking “Embed” in the show player above.

Now that you’ve seen the videos, I hope some of your questions have been answered. And, no doubt, you have new questions. I’ll do my very best to get answers for you, so post your thoughts and questions in the comments below. Thanks for being patient while I got these videos ready. I have a TON more video content that I shot at IDF, and that will be coming out as it gets processed/edited. But this is the juicy stuff, so enjoy! πŸ™‚


An Appetizer: Video of the Lenovo and Aigo MIDs at Intel Shanghai

I’m working on the video I shot while I was at the Mobility Software Lab at Intel Shanghai yesterday, getting some face time with the Lenovo and Aigo Mobile Internet Devices. I posted the photos late last night (thank you all for the comments!), and ever since then, you’ve all been chomping at the bit to see the videos. I have good news and bad news…

The good news is, I just posted an “appetizer” video, with a quick look at the MID hardware, comparisons to the Fujitsu and Samsung UMPCs (and my iPhone), and a glimpse of the lab. It’s about 2.5 minutes long, and you can watch it right here:

The bad news? The really detailed videos I shot of the UI and applications on both devices are too long to go up on YouTube (which has a 10 minute limit). I don’t want to cut anything out of the videos – I want you to see everything I saw. And I’d really like to have higher quality for the videos than what YouTube allows. But since my video service of choice,, is blocked in China, I can’t upload the videos until I get home. My flight leaves in about 18 hours. It won’t be long!In the mean time, please accept my apologies, and this “appetizer” video as a token of my love, along with the promise that the real “meat” – the UI video you’ve been waiting for – is coming soon. Over 20 minutes of it. And it will look better than YouTube. πŸ™‚

Thanks for being patient! πŸ™‚


World Exclusive: I got to play with the Lenovo and Aigo Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) at Intel Shanghai

There are only about 20 Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) existent in the world. Most of them were in Shanghai last week for the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). 10 of them were in the Mobility Software Enabling Lab at Intel Shanghai, where I got special access today to shoot photos and videos, as well as some hands on time to play, with the Lenovo Ideapad U8 MID and the Aigo MID. They also had some other devices around for comparison – an old prototype UMPC with a pivot screen, a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC, and a Fujitsu Lifebook UMPC. And I threw my iPhone in a few of the photos for size/comparison’s sake.

I’ll post a more detailed writeup of my impressions of the devices soon, as well as the video of the time I had with them (summary: the Lenovo Ideapad U8 looks and feels wonderful in my hands – I WANT one!). I spent several minutes on video with each device, examining the hardware and UI/software features. Right now, thought, it’s almost 1 AM, and I need to get up early to do a blogging training with the Intel Shanghai software guys. But I wanted to get these photos up and available as soon as possible.

Please post any comments or questions you have either in this post, or on the photo’s page on Flickr. I want to answer all of your questions, but I’m going to sleep for a few hours, and don’t want to miss any of them. Please be patient, and I promise I’ll answer all questions. πŸ™‚

The entire set of 33 photos is available in this photoset on Flickr. Feel free to browse through all of the photos (bonus photos: some shots of the Intel Shanghai sales offices, which occupy floors 22-24 of the ShanghaiMart tower). Click here to view as a slideshow, and you can see full size/resolution versions of every photo on Flickr by clicking “All Sizes” on the photo’s page.

And now, the photos! Here are some that I think turned out best – be sure to check out all 33 photos in the Flickr set!

Aigo and Lenovo Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs)
Aigo and Lenovo Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs)
Fujitsu Lifebook, Samsung Q1 Ultra, Lenovo MID, Aigo MID, prototype UMPC
Stack: iPhone, Lenovo, Aigo, Fujitsu, Samsung
Stack: iPhone, Lenovo, Aigo, Fujitsu, Samsung
Keeper of the MIDs, Lenovo Ideapad U8