My Day At The Googleplex

In July, I had the very unique opportunity to travel to the San Francisco area to attend a one-day conference at the Googleplex. Getting an up-close look at a major Tech company is something I consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it really opened my eyes to the sheer size of the company as well as the tech industry and its culture.

So what is the Googleplex?

The Googleplex is more than just Google’s headquarters. It covers an extensive area, with numerous buildings. Here, take a look for yourself: Googleplex on Google Maps.

On the day of the event, we caught the shuttle from the hotel to the Googleplex which takes you through part of the Silicon Valley. I’d have liked to explore a lot more, but as it was I saw quite a few buildings with signs of companies I recognized. And after a short drive, there we were!


Google, at last!

Google Partners All-Stars

The conference was the Google Partners All-Stars 2015, an event for agencies that achieved certain levels of success. Most of the people I met were either business owners, or people who ran or worked in the online departments of advertising agencies. I may have been the only software developer there, but I was happy to take things in from a development perspective.


A huge thank you to Savvas Kyriakides of Savvy Search Marketing Ltd for inviting me to go as part of his team. This was an amazing opportunity to learn about Google directly from the people who are involved on a day-to-day basis, as well as talk about new ideas, business strategy, and more.

The conference was packed with information on Google’s latest advertising technology, as well as a few really great talks on topics like how Google encourages innovation.

Google Culture

Spending one day, most of it in a conference hall, didn’t allow me to see too much, but I did see some of the culture and was really impressed.


The picture above is one of the cafeterias. Actually, it was more like a buffet with a huge salad bar, Indian food, fajitas, drinks, and more. I came to realize that this was set up for Google employees to eat — for free! And there isn’t just one. The conference attendees were split into three groups, and based on the size of the Googleplex and number of employees, my guess is that there are more.

My understanding, based on observation and inquiries, is that Google employees get breakfast and lunch, and I even heard there are to-go suppers.


And it goes far beyond the food. This is a photo of the courtyard next to where we ate lunch. There’s nice outdoor furniture, a beach volleyball court, two big smoker BBQs, and in one area they had an area set up for massages. Free, I assume.

So yeah, the culture around Google is amazing. I get the impression that employees spend most of their time in and around work, and that it’s more of a lifestyle rather than a job, so this type of environment and benefits really matter.

The Googleplex

After the conference, we got a walking tour of the Googleplex which took us around some of the main buildings and to the Google Store.



GPS proof that I was there!


Another taste of the Google culture. Looks like a great place to sit outside for lunch.


And the last stop, the Google Store, where you can find just about anything with “Google” printed on it. I was pleased to find an array of reasonably priced items in addition to the expensive bags and clothing.

That’s it! Overall, a really fun day in a unique location. Obviously, this barely scratches the surface of what is actually there at the Googleplex, and I can only imagine what exists behind the scenes that your average person doesn’t get to see.

1 Infinite Loop

On my recent trip to the Silicon Valley, I was fortunate enough to be able to make a side trip to see the Apple headquarters. Finally getting to visit the well known “1 Infinite Loop” was as rewarding as might be expected, and at least I can now say I’ve been there.

1 Infinite Loop

See this location on a map, and use Street View for a look around.

Unfortunately, getting a photo is about the most you can do. Despite the word “Visitors” on the sign, this only applies to people with an invite, and the only way to get past the entrance is if you have a host and are able to print a badge at one of the self serve stations.

Lastly, a tribute to Apple from the good old days on a related note:

20 GOTO 10

Travel Tips

If you want to visit the Apple Headquarters, here are a few quick tips:

  1. Plan for about 15 minutes to look around and get a photo. If you feel like walking the loop, you could probably do it in about 15 minutes. Sorry, wish there was more!
  2. The parking lot is huge, and I saw no visible notices about where or where not to park. It seemed safe enough to find a parking spot for a quick visit.
  3. I read about there being a store, but I didn’t see it. As it turns out, the store is under renovations. Watch for it again in the future.

Google Cardboard

This Virtual Reality viewer is one of the most unusual and interesting items I received at a recent conference at the Googleplex. It consists of a cardboard frame that you get to fold yourself, two lenses, and a magnetic button trigger. The front opens up, allowing you to place a smart phone inside, and if running the correct software can create a really great display.

Google Cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer

There are apps that let you do all sorts of things, from a virtual rollercoaster, to looking around on Mars, to navigating the streets around Paris. The educational and entertainment, and even business possibilities here are huge, and I’m surprised this isn’t more well known than it is.

This technology is meant to be open and available, and you can download printable templates to build your own. Of course you’ll need a few special items such as lenses, but all components are available to your average consumer. For those who want to jump right in and perhaps get something more solid than cardboard, you can find a number of viewers available online.

Read more about Google Cardboard:

Mobile-Friendly Websites Now Required

Mobile-friendly (also known as “responsive”) websites are a big deal these days, but Google is now making them a requirement if you want to be placed well in search results.

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use this convenient tool on Google’s site: Mobile-Friendly Test

If your website doesn’t pass the test, email or call me to discuss your options.

Debugging PHP Files From The Command Line

Here’s a handy tip for debugging PHP files when all you get is a blank white screen. You know something is wrong, but it isn’t telling you what. This is a common problem when editing custom template files for WordPress.

Error output can be configured by modifying the php.ini file, but this may not always be accessible. Another way to have PHP tell you where it’s having a problem is by going to the command line and running it there:

    $ php -l report.php 
    Parse error: parse error in report.php on line 834
    Errors parsing report.php

There it is: “line 834″. It’s a quick and simple solution, and should work for just about any PHP file.

Dealing With A Hacked WordPress Site

If your WordPress site gets hacked, it’s usually pretty obvious. More than likely, your website shows nothing but a message from the hacker, often accompanied by some loud music.


Luckily, in most cases, the damage done to the site is merely visual, and finding and replacing a couple of key files is enough to get the site back up and running. However, you should also take steps to find out where your site was vulnerable and resolve those issues to prevent it from happening again.

WordPress has an FAQ especially for all of this. Read it first and determine whether or not this is something you can deal with yourself. If not, give me a call. I’ve dealt with a number of these and can get your site back online quickly.

iPhone 5: Workaround to Faulty Buttons

According to this engadget article, Apple has started a new program to repair, for free, iPhone 5’s with faulty sleep buttons. I’m currently using an iPhone 5, and it isn’t my original one. That one had a faulty button, which Apple simply swapped for a new one when I brought it in, but that might not be feasible for the long term.

If your iPhone has this problem, and you need to get by for a couple of days before getting it to Apple, here is a temporary fix that will keep you going. This will also work for you if your Home button isn’t working right.

The solution is a feature called AssistiveTouch. Open the Settings app, go to General, then Accessibility, where you will find an entry called AssistiveTouch. If you haven’t delved this deep into your device’s settings before: Welcome. Open it, and activate the option:


Immediately, you’ll see a glowing button appear on the screen, which you can position anywhere on the outside edge of the screen by dragging it around. Say hello to your second Home button. Go ahead, spend a minute zipping it around the screen just for fun.

When you tap it, you’re presented with a number of options:


Tap Device, and select Lock Screen. Not the most elegant solution, but at least you’ll be able to lock your device. You’ll notice the various Home button related tasks you can perform there as well, plus a whole bunch of other actions like changing the volume, getting to the multitasking screen, or taking a screen shot.

Good luck with your device!

Starbucks Launches New App, Not Update

Starbucks updated their app recently, but instead of going through the normal process of updating their existing app, they launched a completely new one.


Old icon, new icon

I’m sure there was a specific technical reason for doing this, but it means that unless you open the old app and see the update notice, you won’t automatically get the new version. Head over the App Store, search “Starbucks”, and download the new app. It’s much more streamlined and is free of some of the visual bugs that made the old one look bad.

Tremor Tracker 2.4

My latest update for the Tremor Tracker app was just released to the App Store.

Tremor Tracker 2.4

This version adds a couple of new features, addresses some bugs, and implements a few visual changes to match the iOS 7 display. Also, as you can see, it comes with a new icon for a more distinctive look.

Click the image above to view the app on iTunes and download it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch!