Posts filed under '8. Linux Tips'

My Recent Job Interview with Google at the ‘Plex’

Outside The GooglePlex

Well I kept it a big secret from you all because I didn’t want to jinx myself – but I was invited recently to an interview with Google (it was the ‘exciting little company‘ I spoke about a couple months back in a post about an upcoming interview).

The position was to be based at Mountain View, California, and as part of the great Webmaster support team – along with neat and very bright people like Adam Lasnik, Vanessa Fox, Aaron D’Souza and Matt Cutts.

The position was ‘Webmaster Trends Analyst’, something I felt uniquely attracted to – I’ve a strong background in stats (from my undergraduate degree and time running scientific trials with the Sugar industry), have run several ecommerce sites and have a Master’s Degree in Computer and Comms Engineering – as well as being a regular poster on the Google Webmaster Forums – so I love hearing about what other folks are up to.

It was an exciting opportunity – so accordingly I took some valuable time off my PhD to prepare – before hopping on the plane for the 13 hour flight to San Francisco.

It was a great experience, but unfortunately I didn’t get the position.

I was disappointed.

As I wrote to one of my contacts about it:-

“so, either I’ll start looking for work again or I’ll bite my bum, put the pedal to the metal and get back into the PhD.

G was going to be a great fit because working with people like yourself would have been a ‘learning’ experience rather than just a job – I hate the 9-5 ‘office worker’ style culture of uni, but love the learning side.

My main problem when it comes to being hired is that of previous job experience..

I start to look like a jack of all trades but an expert at none.

Imho I thought that would be what would get me the job with G, as I’ve been told it makes me a pretty powerful educator – and a great interface between nutty engineer / scientist types and the general public.”

But let me take a step back here for a moment – I need to emphasise that I found the whole experience incredibly rejuvenating and irregardless of the fact I wasn’t successful, I still feel honoured.

If Google were to turn around today and say they wanted to employ me, I’d say yes in an heartbeat.

Why? Because any company that actually recruits internationally for a position known as ‘Webmaster Trends Analyst’ is a company that has a conscience. I don’t see such a position advertised at Yahoo. I don’t see such a position advertised at MSN… actually, I don’t see such a position advertised ANYWHERE.

When I was going through the interviews, one of the interviewers (and I hope I’m not out of line here) actually spoke about the fact that Google pulls together information from heaps of different resources (blogs, forums etc) on a regular basis and tries to quantitatively (from qualitative signals) assess ‘webmaster sentiment’ – and use it as an early warning system to alert them if things (like an algorithm change for instance) have had any unforseen impact. That made me sit back and go ‘wow’.

I count myself very lucky to have been interviewed by a great company with a social conscience like Google and dearly hope an opportunity pops up soon and I get another crack at it (You can contact me if you know of one).

But enough of that – the whole experience was a complete blast – let me show you a few photos.

This first photo is the centre of the Googleplex – it’s a neat place. I like the fact that I seem to have captured a black crow in mid-flight right below the Google sign 🙂

The GooglePlex

Took this photo on a toilet break at the ‘plex’ – judging from the pace of the interview I figured that time is a commodity in short supply at the googleplex, but this pic (right above the urinal) really rammed it home “Testing on the Toilet” – an A4 page giving thought provoking code tips to the engineers. 🙂

“Testing on the Toilet” - Google takes their debugging seriously :)

I got the opportunity to do a fair bit of sight seeing while I was there…

Highway 101

The Golden Gate Bridge (with me in front of it).

You’ll notice in all of these photos that I’m wearing one of two shirts – bloody Qantas sent all my luggage to Helsinki on the way over, so I had only a pair of shorts, a pair of moleskins, the shirt I wore on the plane and one I bought for the interview (this one) for the whole trip – don’t get me started about QANTAS.

The Golden Gate

Across the Golden gate bridge from San Fran is a beaut spot called ‘Reyes Point’ – here’s a photo looking back towards San Fran from there (with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background).

A View From Reyes Point Across the Bay to Golden Gate Bridge

A pretty flower at Reyes point – I believe the plant is called Pigface – why, I don’t know 🙂

A Pretty Flower - Why do they call this plant ‘Pig Face’?

A ‘Hummer Limousine’ – Wow!

Hummer - Limousine

Another pretty flower in San Fran (are you a REAL Aussie! That’s so COOL! I want a photo with you!!) – the people were very friendly at “Kell’s Bar” – I love a good Irish Pub, and this one was a beauty – it’s just off Columbus.

Friendly People

The owner (right) and head barman of Kell’s Bar..

The Staff at Kell’s

They shouted me quite a few Guinness’s – here I think that magical brown ale is starting to have its curative effects 🙂 (I am not too sure whether the spooky red eyes were caused by the camera or the Gazillion pints of Guinness)

16 Gazillion Pints of Guiness Later..

The morning after – one of those famous cable trams in San Fran.

One of those Cable Car’s San Fran is famous for

My Hotel was right in the centre of SF (Sutter and Powell) – I got it for a nightly rate of like $69 – it was fantastic

My Hotel

Just a pretty picture of one of the brass fire hydrants they have all over the place in San Fran.

Just a Pretty Picture

Some San Fran street art- this was in Chinatown – San Fran has the best Chinatown I’ve seen in any international city – I felt like I was back in Beijing.

Some San Fran Street Art

On the way out of San Fran – you can see the city itself and the Bay Bridge top RHS.

I loved San Fran – it was such a vibrant colourful city – I hope to go back there someday soon.

San Fran From Above - on my way home

QANTAS strikes again – I had to wait 18 hours for my flight back – by the time I took this photo (the time on my watch is AM by the way) we’d been locked in LA airport with no food or refreshments all night waiting for our plane which was recursively only going to be ‘another twenty minutes’ all night.

Some rather unfortunate baggage handler had managed to run into the wing with the mobile stairs, causing severe damage to the port side aileron.

I felt sorry for the parents with little kids – the time on my watch is AM – roughly 20 hours after the plane was meant to leave.

Bloody Qantas.. 5am in the morning - still waiting

33 comments June 18th, 2007

How to implement a random time delay in perl?

Hi folks –

I’m currently designing a crawling script – aka a scraper, robot, whatever you want to call it. It is perl based, running off ubuntu linux.. Don’t worry folks – I haven’t headed to the darkside – this is for research purposes only.

My aim is to crawl a large forum consecutively, and essentially save a copy of every page I find in a mysql database..

The script was going fine for about half an hour, and then it stopped – hit with a captcha to continue, with a message like “We have detected you are an automated script, if you aren’t, please enter this number to continue”..

Now, I’m thinking that the target server may be seeing a strong, steady load from my IP, and that’s what is causing the problem..

Logically, I’m hoping that if I add a random delay (10-30 seconds) between crawling pages I might get around this issue…

Problem is.. how to implement this in Perl?

I’m thinking something along these lines..

$oldtime = (time + 10);
while (1) {
  if (time > $oldtime) {
  $oldtime = (time + 10);

But I’m damned if I can remember how to make a random number in perl.. If anyone has any ideas, please offer them up! if not, I’m gonna have to send my requests through TOR, which is going to be a headache..



6 comments May 6th, 2007

SOLUTION – ‘/bin/sh can’t access tty; job control mode off’ error

Hi Everyone,

Recently I had the displeasure of trying to install the latest version of Ubuntu – Feisty Fawn.

Displeasure, you say – isn’t Ubuntu the easiest Linux distro to use? Well, yep – it is easy to use but there seems to be a common problem heaps of people are experiencing with version 7.04.

The “/bin/sh can’t access tty; job control mode off” error

This error pops up when you first boot Ubuntu. I’ve been grovelling around the net trying to find one single solution to the problem, but it seems there are several solutions. Basically, what’s happening is Ubuntu is looking in the wrong place for your installation. There are some complex and time consuming solutions to the problem to do with editing grub and the/etc/fstab file, which I’d recommend you avoid.

Some Solutions to the ‘job control mode off’ error

So, here I present my summary of the ‘non-technical’ things you can do to correct the “/bin/sh can’t access tty; job control mode off” error and get your distro working. I’d suggest you follow these various alternatives step by step.

  1. Pop a blank floppy disc in your drive at bootup.
  2. and/or enter your BIOS (often achieved by pressing escape at system startup) and change the boot order of your system such that your hard-drive boots first, then CD-ROM and then Floppy (if you have them).
  3. Ditch the LIVE CD/DVD – and make sure you have the right distro for your system.. are you running an AMD x64 system like me? Try this version of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. If you are running an INTEL based system, try this version
  4. Little known fact – there are ‘alternative’ iso’s available that (I believe) has different drivers that often correct the problem, and handle installs on older systems better. You can get the Feisty Fawn Alternative Version for AMD64 systems here, or the Feisty Fawn Alternative ISO for Intel systems here.

A More Technical Solution..

If those tips don’t work, try the more technical alternative here.

The actual error presented is usually as follows –

Loading Ubuntu, please wait…

check root = bootarg cat /proc/cmdline
or missing modules, devices: cat/proc/modules ls /dev
ALERT! /dev/hda3 does not exist Dropping to shell!

BusyBox v1.1.3 Built-in shell (ash)

/bin/sh can’t access tty; job control mode off.

All the best,


25 comments April 30th, 2007

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