Valve & Facebook’s unique corporate culture (and they’re making >$1M revenue per employee with it)

Here are two great reads on corporate culture at two companies that are making well over $1M revenue per employee. And since they’re both in the software business, with very little to no production cost, and close to 100% margins, that’s a nice revenue number per employee to have.

Inside Facebook’s Internal Innovation Culture

Valve’s handbook for new employees

Besides their very flat corporate structure, the following two similarities stood out to me:

1. Learn by making


We’re very much a build and prototype culture. Ideas presented on slides just don’t “stick.” It can be hard to judge something if you’re not part of the process of making it.


Everyone is a designer. Everyone can question each other’s work. Anyone can recruit someone onto his or her project. Everyone has to function as a “strategist,” which really means figuring out how to do what’s right for our customers. We all engage in analysis, measurement, predictions, evaluations.

The Lean Startup approach is similar, where the first step is to figure out the problem that needs to be solved and then develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible.

2. Move around


Teams at Facebook often physically move around their desks and furniture to focus on hatching fresh ideas by joining new groups. The new office space we’re building will have moveable walls and furniture so workers can feel nimble and ready to switch gears, building on the current Facebook practice of reconfiguring desks and chairs.


You’ll notice people moving frequently; often whole teams will move their desks to be closer to each other. There is no organizational structure keeping you from being in close proximity to the people who you’d help or be helped by most.

And that just makes a lot of sense.

Mobile phones hit 3GHz

I’m very happy with my Macbook Air. It’s fast, small, stable, and looks great. The processor inside is a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5. Now, I’m of the generation that still vividly remembers replacing a 4MHz Intel 8086 with an 8MHz equivalent NEC part, so 1.8GHz is fast. I know, clock speed isn’t everything, and it’s just as important how much work the processor does per clock tick, but still. It’s similar with cars. The power-to-weight ratio says more about performance than the number of horses under the hood. But everyone still wants to know how many horses are there, and it says a lot about the performance of the car.

And now ST-Ericsson tells the world that they’ll be showing their latest mobile phone processor at the Mobile World Congress next week running at 3GHz. That’s quite a bit faster than my laptop! And it’s got a quadcore processor inside. And an LTE modem! And it’s a part that will spend most of it’s life inside the pockets of my pants running off a small battery. I’ve been saying it for quite some time, mobile phones are more powerful than laptops. Some things my mobile phone has that my laptop doesn’t: a high-quality camera, 2 actually, an always-on data connection, and GPS navigation.

ST-Ericsson has been struggling over the last few years, are they back now?


Mobile World Congress 2013

It’s that time of the year again, only a couple of weeks to go until the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona kicks off. I’ll be meeting many of my friends and old colleagues there, it will be great to catch up with everyone.

Some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  • Last year Nokia introduced their 41Mpixel camera phone. What’s new in camera land this year?
  • Huawei about doubled their presence each year, what did they do this time?
  • The Dutch Mobile Networking Event – the Dutch party to be at, run by Caroline Spek
  • What’s new in accessories? Will we see new wrist accessories? What’s next, a bluetooth ring?
  • How many new phones will be waterproof like Sony’s?
  • What’s up with the latest displays? Can we bend them? Will we go higher than full HD for mobile? Anything new that lowers the power consumption or increases the quality?
  • Is anyone able to challenge ARM? They’re pretty much a monopolist in mobile.
  • Will Imagination Tech position their recently acquired MIPS products for mobile?
  • How is mobile app development evolving?

Looking forward to see you there. Please don’t hesitate to contact me in case you’d like to meet.



Super cameras out of a spray can

Researchers from the Technische Universität München have developed a new generation of image sensors that are 3x more sensitive to light than the conventional CMOS versions, with the added bonus of being simple and cheap to produce. These sensors can be manufactured without the expensive post-processing step typically required for CMOS sensors, which involves for example applying micro-lenses to increase the amount of captured light. Instead, every part of every single pixel, including the electronics, is sprayed with a liquid polymer solution, giving a surface that is 100 percent light-sensitive. Changing the chemical compound turns the sensor into an infrared sensor for night vision.

In short, better and cheaper cameras that also work at night. Me want.

Read the full story

Internet numbers, numbers and trends

This is an excellent “State of the Internet” type of overview by Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Some highlights:

  • iPad growth was 3x iPhone growth in the first 10 months after market introduction
  • Android adoption is 6x iPhone adoption rate
  • Only 20% of mobile phone users use Internet-enabled phones, still a lot of growth to go
  • Mobile Internet traffic is now 13% of all traffic. In India, there’s more mobile than desktop traffic
  • After 244, Encyclopedia Britannica went out of print in 2012
  • From asset-heavy to asset-light: Hotels to Airbnb, CDs to Spotify, and FTEs to Freelance
  • USA household debt about doubled in 10 years

Coolest iPad external keyboard.

I’ve found it! Here’s a video of the coolest external keyboard for the iPad in action.

Great job Austin Yang.

Retailers watching customers with eye socket cameras

Interesting article at Fast Company

As if store mannequins weren’t creepy enough already, shops like Benetton are peppering their storefronts and shop floors with dummies that have a camera embedded in a single eye socket, that will watch while you shop.

They’re at eye level, and customers tend to pay attention to them more.

I’m used to exactly the opposite: showing off the security cameras to deter shoplifting. The eye socket cameras are much more tricky, and are a clear step toward a future where cameras are embedded into many objects around us. Be prepared to be watched.

Continue reading

Samsung’s 4+4 core mobile SOC

From the EETimes article:

Samsung will describe the first mobile applications processor to use ARM´s big.little concept at ISSCC in February. [...] Samsung will detail a 28-nm SoC with two quad-core clusters. One cluster runs at 1. 8 GHz, has a 2 MByte L2 cache and is geared for high performance apps; the other runs at 1.2 GHz and is tuned for energy efficiency.

Intel’s CEO to retire

From Intel’s press release:

Intel, under Otellini´s leadership, achieved notable successes in areas of strategic importance. During this period, the company:

Nobel Pixels

This year’s Nobel prize for Physics was awarded to Kao, Boyle and Smith. According to the press release, Boyle and Smith “invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD“. We’ve all used digital cameras that include such sensors I’m sure, so indeed this was a major achieved. Interestingly, there’s a bit of controversy to this award, as there often seems to be.

Touchy 3D UI pixels

Apple’s commercial success of their touch interface has spawned a bunch of companies doing their best to top the Apple’s Touch experience. Here’s a notable one, which can actually be installed on a Windows machine, given you have a correctly enabled touch panel.

Will the mouse really go away?

One mm thick pixels

Microsoft’s new media player the Zune HD has many new cool features: an all you can eat music license, a touch UI, 720p video and an HD radio. Coolest thing though is the OLED display. This teardown shows it’s a mere 1mm thick. That’s about what your hair grows in two and a half days.

Unlit pixels: Sony’s new OLED walkman

Sony released a new Walkman with an OLED touch screen. OLEDs don’t have a back light, so this player should last a lot longer than players with back-lit LCDs. LCDs typically consume half of the energy of a portable device.

Panoramic pixels

Out of the blue, my friend Jonah sent me this picture taken from a kite.

1. It’s a beautiful picture, taken on a beautiful island, on a beautiful day, at high tide.
2. I spent two summers in the home “De Wokkel” in this picture. Now a few years later a friend of mine who lives a continent away sends me a great aerial photo of the place. Does chance exist?
3. This very sharp picture is taken from a kite, apparently something very hard to do. Were any special techniques like super resolution used? Will we see image stabilization and super resolution techniques become standard features on our cameras soon?
4. There’s an interactive panoramic version of this photo available from the author here. It takes a while to load but it’s worth the wait.
5. Bonus points if you spot a car in this picture. Visitors can’t bring their cars to the Schiermonnikoog island, and most of the locals don’t have one either.

Mirrory pixels

IMEC just announced a new 11 megapixel CMOS-manufactured micro mirror array. Texas Instruments is quite successful with its DLP micro mirrors frequently used in projectors. IMEC now claims twice the pixel density of competing technologies.

Yet another pixel post-processing acquisition

Sigma Designs acquires Gennum, ST acquires Genesis, Zoran acquires Let It Wave and now IDT acquires Silicon Optix. Silicon Optix was another company that focused on developing the highest quality video format converters. This acquisition is a bit different from the others since IDT doesn’t have any digital media application processors for set top boxes or Blu-ray players that need integrated post-processing functionality. Instead, IDT is likely to get synergy out of this acquisition by combining the post-processing products with their mixed signal consumer video products.

Parallel painty pixels

Every engineer loves Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters, and now we video engineering guys have a reason to love them even more. Here’s a clip showing a display Adam and Jamie built that uses 1100 paintball guns to draw a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa with a refresh rate of 80ms. They only refresh once, though.

Audio-focused pixels

Liquid lenses have been around for some time. Varioptic applies a voltage to a lens made of water and oil to change the optical properties and achieve focus or zoom. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute created a new optical system using a liquid lens and a small speaker. Instead of applying a voltage, they apply sound to move the water droplets to achieve a focusing effect.

Varioptic hasn’t really made an impact on the camera module market yet. Will Rensselaer’s technique finally bring liquid lenses into mass production?

Another pixel post-processing company acquired

Some time ago I wrote about post-processing companies being acquired by larger multimedia companies such that they can address the whole video pipeline, from image capture to display. It’s a bit late, but for completeness sake I should really mention that another post-processing company was bought by a bigger multimedia company: Zoran buys Letitwave for $27M. Let it wave had Prof. Stephane Mallat on its staff, a world renowned expert on using wavelets for signal processing.

Watery pixels

In Canal City, a big mall in Japan, they built a cool new display that drops water in such a pattern that it displays images.

We’ve now seen wooden pixels, ping pong pixels and watery pixels here. What’s next?

3D pixels

3d display from Seiko Epson:

L.A. lab forms 3DTV group

Philips 3D solutions sells 3D screens since 2005

New Epson LCD technology: 3D without glasses?
Epson says it has developed a new high resolution 3D LCD display which offers extra freedom for viewing, including not needing special glasses to enjoy applications like movies and games. There is no word yet on when this prototype will actually make its way to retail shelves.

Big and expensive pixels

Today I was at the popular Mediamarkt electronics store in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where I saw the “largest TV in the world”; a Panasonic 103 inch plasma display. That’s well over 2.5 meters diagonal for us metric-centric people. It’s got 1920×1080 spatial resolution with 12-bit per color channel resolution. The price tag was also quite hefty at 79,999 Euros ($120,000 dollars). For such an amount you can buy 200 22″ flat screen TVs instead. If my math serves me right, that makes for a 580 inch (14.4 meter) diagonal TV. Quite a bit bigger and with a much higher spatial resolution.

I was surprised that the display didn’t look more grainy though, even when standing relatively close by. In displays the Megapixel race doesn’t follow the same pace as in the image sensor world. Still, with such large screen sizes, will we soon need to capture, store and transmit video with bigger than 1920×1080 resolutions?

Direct pixel manipulation

The below video shows a new intuitive and simple way of browsing through video material. Instead of browsing through time, by dragging the scrollbar or time bar, you can simply drag objects in the video. The video says it all. Funny side note: first author of the publication is Pierre Dragicevic. More videos and information here. You can even download their free “DimP” player.

Cloaking device


Sensitive pixels

Rohm and AIST in Japan announced a new type of image sensor that they claim provides 100x the light sensitivity of typical CCD or CMOS sensors.

Lossy versus lossless pixels

The other day my dad — who speaks English okay — thought “lossless” meant “loose less”. That’s what prompted me to write this entry. There are two different ways of compressing video (and this holds for audio too). Lossless and lossy.

When compressing a video sequence with a lossy method, then decompressing it again, the decompressed images will be close to the original, but not quite the same. Even when using a low compression factor, where the decompressed images can’t be distinguished from the original simply by looking at them, there is a difference, which can be computed. Almost all of the video compression methods we use today use such a lossy method, where the least important image data is thrown away.

In the lossless case there’s no data lost. The compressed/decompressed images are exactly the same as the original. There’s a big penalty though: lossless compression methods don’t compress very well. The resulting files take up much more space or bandwidth. Lossless image or video compression methods are still used though, for instance in the medical field, and when storing fingerprint information.


$/pixel article in Taiwanese magazine

Indexed pixels


Pixel compression trends

I recently ran across this Google Trends utility that keeps track of the number of times that certain terms are used on the web. Click on the image to see the trends of MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and H.264, showing that H.264 clearly passed MPEG-4 in 2007.

Any trends in the world of pixels that you’d like to add? Please leave a link to them into the comment section.