Project Ara hands-on: Mauling the Modular Mobile

Project Ara hands-on: Mauling the Modular Mobile

Whether you agree that modular phones are the future of mobile or otherwise, you can’t argue that Google’s Project Ara isn’t intriguing, and so I was keen to get my hands on the highly flexible handset. Google had three Spiral 2 devices to show at its second Ara Developer Event in Mountain View today, and while time and functionality was limited, it was a good opportunity to see how well the idea of piecemeal feature blocks works in a practical sense. Turns out, there’s good and bad as you might expect at this pre-production stage. Read on for some first-impressions.

There’s something highly tactile about the hardware, at least in its constructed state. Spiral 2 uses physical pin contacts, and the bays themselves are a tight fit: you have to slide each block in from the side – you can’t just drop it in from the top – and apply some pressure to get it into the right place.


The converse is true for when you want to remove or switch around each module. I tried doing it with my thumb, holding the phone single-handed, but it’s hard going getting sufficient traction to slide each tightly-gripped piece out.

I can imagine it improving for Spiral 3, however, when Google switches to its electro-permanent magnets. Then, I can imagine it might feel a little like a magnetic desk toy, the way the modules slot in and out; the slight resistance your fingers feel, before each block slides away.


It’s not a small phone, mind. Google said it had done its level best to keep the functional Spiral 2 endo skeleton as thin as the non-functional design mock-up, and the two are certainly close, but there’s always going to be a compromise on bulk when you separately enclose each component.


That isn’t in and of itself a deal-breaker, but it does put Ara at close to phablet size, without – in current form – the specs to match. A 720p display, for instance, pales in comparison to what we’ve seen Samsung and LG do in recent phones.

Neither is it going to take on any of the current traditional phone flagships for things like camera. Toshiba confirmed during the developer event that it’s working on a 13-megapixel camera, but right now there’s a removable 5-megapixel sensor.


There’s no front camera, either, the module above the display having light and proximity sensors but no way to take part in video calls. Admittedly you could switch them around, but it’s not something you’d want to be doing on-the-fly while an incoming Skype video call was ringing.


What Google isn’t particularly keen to show anybody is Ara actually in action. We weren’t allowed to go any further than the Android lock-screen, and touch wasn’t even working on these three particular units. Apparently that’s been corrected – last night, in fact – but the new firmware hadn’t been flashed yet.


Google has had to postpone custom 3D printing of module casings, because the 3D Systems printer tech isn’t quite ready for primetime. Instead, there’ll be dye-sublimation printed blocks, made by IDT Systems, with 300dpi detail. They look great, too: matte finish and very bright.

It’s too early to talk about whether interchangeable modules makes Project Ara more long-lasting or user-friendly than a traditional phone. Android hasn’t even been updated to support it properly, and Google is still working on both hardware and software so that things like installing apps with particular component requirements doesn’t trigger a metaphorical meltdown.


I’m still intrigued, though it’ll take proper pricing and actually living with Ara before I can be sure Google is on the right track. Still, as with many of the company’s more ambitious or off-kilter projects, I’m glad there’s someone out there actually experimenting with something out of the ordinary.


10 Skills You Need To Get A Job At Google

10 Skills You Need To Get A $100,000 Engineering Job At Google

10 skills you need to get a $100,000 engineering job at Google
Google is among the most sought after employers in the world. Engineers are the rock stars at Google — and they’re paid like one.

Interns start at $70,000 to $90,000 salaries, while software engineers pull in $118,000 and senior software engineers make an average of $152,985. But one does not simply walk into the Googleplex.

The company receives upwards of 2.5 million job applications a year, but only hires about 4,000 people.

For would-be Googlers, the Google in Education team has released a list of skills that they want to see in potential engineers.

“Having a solid foundation in computer science is important in being a successful software engineer,” the company says. “This guide is a suggested path for university students to develop their technical skills academically and non-academically through self-paced, hands-on learning.”

Here are the skills Google wants its tech talent to master, complete with online resources to get you started…

1. Learn To Code

Learn to code
Learn to code in at least one object-oriented programming language, like C++, Java, or Python. Consult MIT or Udacity.

2. Test Your Code

Test your code
It’s not just important to know how to code. You should also be able to test code, because Google wants you to be able to ‘catch bugs, create tests, and break your software.’

3. Have Some Background In Abstract Math

Have some background in abstract math
It is important to have some background in abstract math, like logical reasoning and discrete math, which lots of computer science draws on.

4. Get To Know Operating Systems

Get to know operating systems
Get to know operating systems, for they’ll be where you do much of your work.

5. Become Familiar With Artificial Intelligence

Become familiar with artificial intelligence
Become familiar with artificial intelligence. Google loves robots.

6. Understand Algorithms And Data Structures

Understand algorithms and data structures
Google wants you to learn about fundamental data types like stacks, queues and bags as well as grasp sorting algorithms like quicksort, mergesort and heapsort.

7. Learn Cryptography

Learn cryptography
Learn cryptography. Remember, cybersecurity is crucial.

8. Learn How To Build Compilers

Learn how to build compilers
Stanford says that when you do that, ‘you will learn how a program written in a high-level language designed for humans is systematically translated into a program written in low-level assembly more suited to machines.’

9. Learn Other Programming Languages

Learn other programming languages
Add Java Script, CSS, Ruby and HTML to your skillset. W3school and CodeAcademy are there to help.

10. Learn Parallel Programming

Learn parallel programming
Also, learn parallel programming because being able to carry out tons of computations at the same time is powerful.

Nokia Iconic Models

1. Nokia 7650

Nokia 7650

The oddly designed (by today’s standards) Nokia 7650 was the first ever Nokia smartphone powered by the popular Symbian Series 60 platform. It was officially released in 2002 and even then, the phone boasted of VGA camera (the first in any Nokia phone), Bluetooth, infrared remote, installable applications and a web browser.

The icon-based user interface could be navigated using the 5-way joystick while the sliding keyboard kept the overall size in check. The 7650 marked the start of Nokia’s dominance in the smartphone world. Even though the same Symbian Series 60 platform was used by other brands like Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung — it was Nokia that has the most successful run with it.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

2. Nokia 6600

November 03, 2014

Nokia 6600

This ‘soap shaped’ Symbian S60 smartphone was wildly popular the world over. It had a shape that felt comfortable in the hand and some of the design innovations included placing the answer/end buttons on either side of the screen.

It was launched in 2003 but importantly, this was the first S60 device to very quickly sell over a million units — it continued selling well in many parts of the world till 2007. Some of the highlights were an easily interchangeable outer shell (to make it look like new again if it got scuffed), Bluetooth, infrared remote, camera, compatibility with thousands of apps and the ability to expand the memory using an MMc card.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

3. Nokia N-Gage Series

November 03, 2014

Nokia N-Gage series

Identifying the need to attract a younger audience and recognizing the vast potential of the thousands of games on offer, Nokia introduced the N-Gage series in 2003. This was designed to be held sideways (like a gaming controller) and the buttons and D-pad on either side of the screen meant that you could use it to play games for hours without fatigue.

Although the hardware was nothing significantly better than other S60 phones of the time, the oddball shape is what made it popular — it was the forebearer of the mobile as a gaming platform. There were multiple versions of the N-Gage and they sold almost 4 million units in total.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

4. Nokia Communicators

November 03, 2014

Nokia Communicators

Even before the QWERTY-equipped BlackBerry became popular, there was a need for productivity phones. These business behemoths could barely fit in a pocket but still became powerful status symbols. The Communicator range (the first designs actually appeared way back in 1996) was marked by a peculiar design — they had a small screen numeric keypad on the outside but opened up to reveal a super-wide display and QWERTY keypad inside.

The idea was that they could be used as normal phones without opening the flip – but when the extra productivity was needed for a spreadsheet or long email, the device could be opened up and propped on a table – just like a mini laptop. The 9500 Communicator (2004) and the E90 (2007) were huge favourites.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

5. Nokia 808

November 03, 2014

Nokia 808

In 2012, Nokia 808 became the last of the Symbian smartphones — it was primarily a camera with a phone tacked on and even today, it can beat most of the smartphones around when it comes down to the image quality stakes.

Ten years of camera innovation led Nokia to this device, which featured a 41MP sensor, PureView technology (which used data from the 41MP sensor to create a better, lower resolution image), Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss optics.


5 Life Lessons To Learn From Azim Premji

5 Life Lessons To Learn From Azim Premji

 Azim Premj, the fourth richest person in India, is credited for diversifying Wipro, which was originally a manufacturer of vegetable and refined oils in Amalner, district Jalgaon in Maharashtra. The 69 year old business tycoon took charge at a young age of 21 and since then has been imparting many of the lessons he learnt during his career with India’s youth. BI India puts together 5 life lessons that every budding entrepreneur can learn from him.

Know Your Strength

While it is important to know one’s weaknesses, it is equally important to know one’s strengths as well. Azim Premji has followed this throughout his life and turned what was then a $2 million hydrogenated cooking fat company into the $ 7 billion company, with a presence in 60 countries. At an event organized by AIMA and Bombay Management Association, he had said that it important to cherish the good in us because it is only our strengths that helps us correct our weaknesses.

Stay Grounded

Every entrepreneur can become successful. But what is important is to not let success go to your head. Or so says Premji. He has always advised young entrepreneurs to remain down to earth because the moment one lets success get into the head, he is already on his way to failure. He has also stressed on the fact that failure is as much a natural phenomenon as success is. So, when you encounter failure, always learn your lessons and move on!

Be Far-Sighted!

The 69 year old philanthropist believes change is inevitable. And so he advises everyone to develop their own early warning system, which sets the alarm and prepares one for the changes ahead. He believes ‘being forewarned is being forearmed’ even when things are going right.

Stick To Your Values!

He has believed that one’s value system forms the core of the business. Premji has time and again emphasized on the need for sticking to values because he firmly believes that success in business eventually but inevitably follows. He has said that once you stand by what you believe and don’t compromise with it under any circumstances; he becomes resilient to stand up to crisis, a quality much adored in entrepreneurs!

Have Faith!

Azim Premji has always believed that it is important to have faith in one’s own ideas, even when everyone around tells you it is impossible. It is this faith that has helped him diversify Wipro and make it an IT giant, not just in the country but across the globe.

India’s 10 richest business tycoons

Image: Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. Photograph: Pascal Lauener/Reuters

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani continues to top India’s richest list, according to the Hurun India Rich List 2014.

Backed by a stock market boom, the number of dollar billionaires in India has zoomed to record highs at 109 from 63 last year.

Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Enterprises is one of the biggest gainers in the list with his wealth rising by 152 per cent. There are 80 new entrants in this year’s list.

India’s financial capital, Mumbai remains the ‘absolute center of the rich’ with 30 per cent of the rich followed by New Delhi and Bangalore, says the Hurun report.

Manufacturing sector is still the main source of wealth in India. While 16 per cent of the richest are from the manufacturing sector, pharmaceuticals and real estate, account for 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, the report states.

Only 67 per cent of the business tycoons in India are self-made billionaires, well below China where it is 99 per cent, finds the Hurun report.

Take a look at India’s 10 richest business tycoons…

Image: Mukesh Ambani with wife Nita Ambani. Photograph: Reuters

Mukesh Ambani

Chairman, Reliance Industries
Rank: 1
Wealth: Rs 1.65 lakh crore
Rise in wealth: 37%
Age: 57 years

Image: Dilip Shanghvi, chairman, Sun Pharma. Photograph: Reuters

Dilip Shanghvi

Chairman, Sun Pharma
Rank: 2
Wealth: Rs 1.29 lakh crore
Rise in wealth: 43%
Age: 58 years

Image: Lakshmi Mittal. Photograph: Reuters

Lakshmi Mittal
Chairman, Arcelor Mittal
Rank: 3
Wealth: Rs 97,000 crore
Change in wealth: -4%
Age: 63 years

Image: Azim premji. Photograph: Reuters

Azim Premji
Chairman, Wipro
Rank: 4
Wealth: Rs 86,000 crore
Rise in wealth: 12%
Age: 69 years

Image: Shiv Nadar. Photograph: HCL

Shiv Nadar
Chairman, HCL
Rank: 5
Wealth: Rs 78,000 crore
Rise in wealth: 41%
Age: 69 years

Image: Srichand (L), Gopichand (C) and Prakash Hinduja (R). Photograph: Reuters

S P Hinduja
Chairman, Hinduja Group
Rank: 6
Wealth: Rs 72,000 crore
Age: 82 years

Image: Pallonji Mistry (inset).

Pallonji Mistry
Chairman, Shapoorji Pallonji
Rank: 7
Wealth: Rs 63,000 crore
Rise in wealth: 24%
Age: 85 years

Image: Kumar Mangalam Birla. Photograph: Reuters

Kumar Mangalam Birla
Chairman, Birla Group
Rank: 8
Wealth: Rs 61,620 crore
Rise in wealth: 16%
Age: 47 years

Image: Sunil Mittal. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/Reuters

Sunil Mittal
Chairman and Group CEO of Bharti Enterprises
Rank: 9
Wealth: Rs 51,000 crore
Rise in wealth: 9%
Age: 57 years

Image: Gautam Adani. Photograph: Reuters

Gautam Adani
Chairman, Adani Group
Rank: 10
Wealth: Rs 44,000 crore
Rise in wealth: 152%
Age: 52 years


5 highest paid Indian IT CEOs

#1.Francisco D’Souza

CEO, Cognizant
Francisco D’Souza

Salary: Rs 73 crore ($12.2 million)

Francisco D’Souza has more than 20 years of experience in the information technology industry, in both operational and advisory roles. Effective 1 January 2007, D’Souza was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Cognizant. He oversees much of the operations and business development of the company, working closely with Cognizant clients who are using offshore resources to execute large software development and maintenance projects

#2.Vishal Sikka


CEO, Infosys
Vishal Sikka

CEO, Infosys

Salary: Rs 30 crore ($5.08 million)

Vishal Sikka, chief executive officer of Infosys has become the highest-paid professional CEO (promoter CEOs have higher salaries) in India.

He is the highest paid executive in the Indian information technology (IT) sector.

Sikka’s total annual remuneration would be up to $5.08 million (Rs 30 crore), in addition to stock options worth $2 million, the company said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

#3.N Chandrasekharan

CEO, Tata Consultancy Services
N Chandrasekharan

N Chandrasekharan

CEO, Tata Consultancy Services

Salary: Rs 18.68 crore ($3.2 mn)

#4.Ashok Vemuri

CEO, iGate
Ashok Vemuri

Ashok Vemuri

CEO, iGate

Salary: Rs 16.2 crore ($2.7 mn)

#5.T K Kurien

CEO, Wipro
T K Kurien

First jobs of 10 of the biggest names in tech

First jobs of 10 of the biggest names in tech

First jobs of 10 of the biggest names in tech

Everyone has to start somewhere. Although some of Silicon Valley’s most iconic figures are worth millions and billions today, many of them started out programming software or delivering newspapers.

Here’s a look at how some of the biggest people in tech got their start…

1. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

September 13,2014

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates started out as a programmer. He dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, but during his senior year of high school he worked as a computer programmer for TRW.

2. Apple CEO Tim Cook

September 13,2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook

One of the lesser-known nuggets buried in Yukari Iwatani Kane’s book “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs” is that Tim Cook’s first paying job was delivering newspapers in his Alabama hometown.

Cook also worked at a paper mill in Alabama and an aluminum plant in Virginia before getting into the tech space, as he said on stage at Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in 2012.

His first job in the technology industry came when he worked at IBM for 12 years just before he started at Apple.

3. Google co-founder Sergey Brin

September 13,2014

Google co-founder Sergey Brin
Before Sergey Brin co-founded one of the most important tech companies in the world, he worked at Wolfram Research. According to an early version of his resume from 1996, he worked as a coder.

4. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

September 13,2014

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

After spending the summer working at McDonald’s as a teen, Bezos and his then-girlfriend started a summer camp for kids called the DREAM Institute. They charged $600 per child, but only managed to sign up six students. Still, it shows that Bezos had the drive to start a business even at a young age.

His first job in the professional world after graduating from Princeton with a computer science degree was at an international trade startup called Fitel.

5. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt

September 13,2014

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt
After interning at Bell Labs, one of Eric Schmidt’s first full-time jobs was working for Zilog, a company that makes chips. In fact, some of Zilog’s older chips are found in gaming consoles like the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Genesis. Schmidt’s background also includes holding high-ranking positions at Sun Microsystems and Xerox.

6. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

September 13,2014

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

After graduating from Harvard, Steve Ballmer took a job at Proctor & Gamble helping sell a device called the Coldsnap Freezer Dessert Maker. After that, he helped promote the Moist ‘n’ Easy Snack Cake.

Although his early assignments at Proctor & Gamble didn’t reflect the path he ultimately took with his career, it shows that he’s a versatile salesman. In 2007, he was still able to recite the Coldsnap Freezer Dessert Maker’s slogan on stage at AllThingsD’s D11 conference: “Makes revolutionary desserts you never could have thought of before.”

7. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

September 13,2014

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Mayer’s leadership skills began to shine during her time at Stanford when she taught a computer science class in symbolic systems. Although she was still an upperclassman at the time, she took to it naturally.

Eric Roberts, a computer scientist at Stanford and Mayer’s mentor, said that she was “unusually good at it” and “extremely effective.” After graduating with her master’s in symbolic systems, Mayer became one of Google’s first employees.

8. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

September 13,2014

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

In 1994, just two years out of college, Jeff Weiner joined Warner Bros. He caught the attention of higher-ups when he wrote a report calling for Warner Bros to boost its online presence.

“I was just a just a little pisher, a nobody,” he told Forbes. He eventually became the vice president of Warner Bros’s online presence, as it still says at the bottom of his LinkedIn profile today.

9. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

September 13,2014

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg’s mentor and thesis adviser at Harvard, Larry Summers, hired her to work with him at World Bank in 1991 after graduation, according to CNN Money. She then traveled to India for a project that involved stopping the spread of leprosy in India.

After her tenure at World Bank, Sandberg worked as the chief of staff at the White House’s Treasury Department during the Clinton Administration.

10. Apple design chief Jony Ive

September 13,2014

Apple design chief Jony Ive
Before joining Apple in 1992, Ive worked at a London-based startup called Tangerine. Ive eventually grew tired of his work at Tangerine, but the final straw came when he was assigned to design a toilet for one of the company’s clients, Ideal Standard. When Ive presented his final design, it was criticized for being too expensive to build, according to Time.