Looking for the latest back-to-school laptops might have shoppers wondering if the sales associates, themselves, should be going back to school.


That was the appearance, at least, when several retail stores in the Sacramento, Calif. area were visited to see if staff knew a basic piece of information about Intel Core processors. Always purposely standing in front of a first-generation Intel Core system when approached by a sales associate, we asked this question: "Can you please show me notebooks with second-generation Intel Core so I can buy my kid the latest technology for back-to-school?"


Our findings were mixed, and likely disconcerting for Intel.


"Badges" on second-generation Intel Core products have a golden holographic stripe near the center.


For background, second-generation Core processors, previously known by the codename "Sandy Bridge," have been supported with strong marketing since they launched in January, so it was not unreasonable to expect solid knowledge on these products across the board. Plus, even sales associates with minimal training can spot a second-generation Core system two ways. Perhaps the easiest is by the sticker on the laptop itself; "badges" on second-generation products have a golden holographic stripe that Intel internally calls the "kink." (Stickers on first-generation systems have a peel-back-looking die-resembling treatment on the upper-right corner.) The other way to identify a 2G Intel Core is by the model number; if the name starts with a "2," as in "i5-2410M," then it's a 2G CPU.


All perfectly clear, right? These were the responses:


"This one here is second generation," said Ernest at the Staples in Roseville. Unfortunately, we were looking at a first-generation core i3 Dell Inspiron. Given a chance to correct himself, he was asked, "Are you sure this is second generation? It has the old sticker." Ernest replied, "It's an older model with a new processor." Say what?


"Oh, you're looking for laptops with Sandy," said Alexa at Fry's Electronics in Roseville. She meant "Sandy Bridge," of course, but even still, it's a codename, not a component. None of Intel's processors have Sandy on the chip, whatever that is. The hole she dug got deeper the next time she spoke. "All of our Intel laptops are second generation." Alas, we were conversing directly in front of an i5 Toshiba notebook bearing the first-generation sticker, and there were three other 1G laptops on display.


First-generation Intel Core stickers are identified by a peel-back-looking, die-resembling treatment on the upper-right corner.


"We've got a couple of older models on the other side, but all of these here are the newer ones," said Nick of the Best Buy in Roseville. When the customer brought to Nick's attention a first-generation i3 HP Pavilion notebook on the supposed 2G-only side, a system that was misleadingly running an on-screen graphic with the new sticker, Nick said, apologetically, "I've got to look into that."


Despite claiming that every Intel notebook on display was second-generation, Raj at the Office Depot in Roseville overlooked a first-generation i5 HP Pavilion on the opposite side of the aisle.


So that's four major retailers that could have sold a customer on a second-generation Core notebook when in actuality the purchase was anything but. Another store made an even more dramatic error. At the Wal-Mart in Folsom, sales associate Justin correctly stated that the description of the i3 Sony Core on display indicated that this was a 2G model. However, the little sign didn't match the product, a Sony Vaio with Intel's basic-grade Pentium processor. "Well, that's not right," Justin said, embarrassed.


While discrepancies, misinformation and embarrassing mistakes were found at some stores, others shined.


"All of these are second generation, except that one," said Kris at the Staples in Citrus Heights, pointing out a first-generation HP laptop with the older sticker.


At the Office Max in Folsom, Rudy correctly stated that his store has two 1G models with the others being 2G.


In a secret shopper survey, sales associates at major retailers in the Sacramento area were asked a basic question about Intel’s two generations of Core microprocessors.


"Those three are second generation and those four are first generation," said Cory at the Staples in Folsom, and he was right. So was Anthony at the Costco in Folsom when he said the only Intel systems customers will find there have second-generation Core processors.


And then there was Matt at the Best Buy in Folsom. Not only did he correctly differentiate between the two iterations of Core on display in the notebook section, but he proactively touted the features of the newer generation, including the benefits of having graphics integrated on the chipset.


"But does it have Sandy?"


Matt looked puzzled by the customer's question. Then after a brief awkward pause, he figured it out.


"Ah, you're asking about Sandy Bridge," Matt said smiling. "That's another name for second-generation Core."


No back-to-school needed for that sales associate. Unless he's the teacher.


Former BBC Executive heading up Intel's Consumer Electronics efforts; On management, smart TV and life


When Intel went looking for a new leader to replace departing executive Eric Kim as head of the Digital Home Group, they went to someone who knew very little about silicon.


But through his work at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as director of the Future Media & Technology organization, and Microsoft, where he drove a wide variety of digital media initiatives, Erik Huggers is no stranger to digital media innovation.

In the following Q&A, Huggers, a native of The Netherlands, talks about why he joined Intel, how the company needs to get into the heads of digitally savvy teenagers, and why his new user experience design team is in London is a key asset.



Since joining Intel 4 months ago, have you ever asked yourself, "What have I gotten myself into here?"
On day one. I'll tell you the honest truth. Let me first say, I do not regret joining Intel for a second. I've been overwhelmed by the warm reception I've gotten.



When I was at the BBC as an executive board member in a media and entertainment company, you get a certain set of privileges when it comes to office spaces.


I had a proper executive suite on the top of the building, lots of windows, a living room set up in my office, projectors, televisions. That's how it's done for those companies for the last 90 years.


When I arrived here on day one and they showed me to my cube on floor five [in the Robert Noyce Building of Intel's Santa Clara, Calif. headquarters], I literally thought, what have I done?


I'll adapt, don't get me wrong. But the delta on day one between the executive suite and my new cube (laughs). I had a bit of detox to go through, I think.


So when I moved [in 2007] from Microsoft to the BBC I had people in front of BBC Television Centre dressed up in these chemical nuclear suits picketing against my appointment.


At Intel, I've only been warmly welcomed by colleagues and folks around the business. And so far, it's been an amazing 4 months.


During your short tenure at Intel, have you seen areas where we can improve?
As someone who's been here for 4 months, I don't claim to have tons of wisdom. I was surprised by the number of steering groups and meetings that happened. Some of these meetings are like professional debating societies, where there are armies of Intel people talking about incredible minutia. I would've thought we would be fleeter of foot.


In these meetings, I am surprised by the number of people doing email. If you don't want to be in a meeting, get out. Don't do mail. Close your laptop.


One of the things that I really learned being in the media industry directly and indirectly for 15, 20 years now, is that what those industries do really well is put the audience at the heart of everything they do. I don't think that's what we do today.


What we talk about is valid stuff like the next process node, or putting more transistors on a die, or can we do more gigahertz or flips or flops or whatever we measure, and we get really excited — for good reasons. But what's more important is: What does this stuff enable for the consumer?



And I'm not talking about the people who buy our technologies and build end-products. I mean the person who buys the end-product. How is what we build valuable to a 15-year-old who's completely connected?


We need that hardcore technical super-engineering capability that we have in spades here. But we also need the audience insight.


Finally, I'm a big supporter of our investments in software development, and I think that's absolutely critical. We need to attract the best possible engineering talent in order to take a bit more control over our own destiny as a company.


Can you talk more about user experience?
Everyone talks about user experience at Intel these days. I've come to the conclusion that most people don't know what they're talking about.


We have great talent inside Intel, don't get me wrong. Genevieve Bell and the team [Interaction and Experience Research (IXR) group in Intel Labs] clearly get it.


We need to bring top talent that can execute on that user experience and design piece into Intel so that starts to influence our culture, our way of thinking, how we think about products, the audience. So, we just hired a user experience design crew in London.


Why London?
Here in the Silicon Valley, when it comes to those sorts of skills, it's impossible for us to — well not impossible — but it's very difficult for us to compete, because you're competing with Facebook, Apple, Google. We don't have that same sort of competitive situation in the UK right now, and traditionally the UK has been a hub for design talent.


Plus, the people that I've been able to attract I know very well, because they worked in my organization. These are the guys that have designed industry award-winning services across television, telephone, tablets, PCs.


I think bringing that expertise into Intel will influence the direction of travel for whatever we do in next-generation silicon, next-generation software, next-generation services, so that we start with that audience in mind, and then we work our way back.


So in 2 years, where do you see smart TVs and Intel's play?
My hope is that our play in smart TV is going to be more than just silicon. Silicon is absolutely a critical element to get right, and I would argue that the silicon engineering team has performed miracles.


Just having that platform in your living room means nothing if there's no content, no services, no applications, if there isn't a vibrant ecosystem of third party ISVs and media companies who target that platform as a means of reaching the consumer and building a viable business.


So is DHG only about smart TV?
I think it's important to realize that we have some pretty interesting early momentum. Getting Comcast to work with us is a huge milestone. Getting other service providers to take us seriously, like Free in France, a wonderful success story, and Sony on Google TV. As Intel, we're going beyond the PC. We have early glimpses of what that world could look like in DHG. We have shipping products, we have customers.



My entire career has been dedicated to digital media. And consumers do not care whether it's consumed on a TV, a PC, a phone or a tablet. It doesn't matter.


Consumers today are hungry for taking control over their digital media consumption.


And so to me, DHG is not just about television. DHG can potentially help the rest of Intel with our digital media ambitions.


How would people at the BBC and Microsoft describe your management style?
In some cases, if a project is going completely off the rails, maybe the management style is slightly more autocratic and directive and hands-on and micromanaging. In other cases, you have a great leadership team in place and they're ticking along quite well, it's much more coaching and supporting and helping resolve blocking issues. I don't think there's such a thing as a single style.


Dutch people are very direct, and they call it as they see it, and I think that's very important.


Is there some area of management that you've had to improve upon?
No one's perfect. Everyone has opportunities to improve their day to day work, the way they interact with others. I think everyone always has to work on communication style and over-communicating, because just because you think something doesn't mean that everyone automatically understands what you're saying.


What I've found is that when I get bored of the message, that's when it really starts to ring through with other people.


Who was your best manager?
Two individuals that I have in mind were both entrepreneurial, self-starters, not afraid of managing up or managing down.


They also were able to create teamwork, group spirit, and didn't necessarily pit their best people against each other. A bit of creative tension is good, but animosity and negativity, that's simply not good.


What made you decide to come to Intel?
[President and CEO] Paul Otellini convinced me that he was absolutely, completely, and utterly dead serious about moving Intel beyond the PC.



The PC was going to remain critically important as were servers, but he was dead-set on making sure that we as an organization were going to be successful in phones, in tablets, in television, and whatever other form or factors comes along. We're going to move from a PC company to be a compute company.


How do you balance work with life?
I'm passionate about what I do. This is not for me about a paycheck. I want to be part of an organization and contribute to an organization and lead an organization that has the ambition to change the world, change the industry.


When you're mission-driven like that, putting in the long hours doesn't matter. You're passionate about it, you love what you do, you enjoy it, that's what gets you out of bed every day. And so, work/life balance is tough, but I'm fortunate that I've got a brilliant wife who's very understanding and forgiving.


How do you relieve stress?
What I do is I talk all day with customers, with partners, with employees, with colleagues. To relieve some stress, I like to be quiet. Maybe simple stuff like watch a movie or go for a walk.


What are your hobbies, besides traveling?
I'm passionate about technology, keeping up-to-speed with the latest and greatest of what's happening on the web, what's happening with consumer electronics. I get the latest widgets and gizmos and try them out.


My wife is a Formula 1 fan, and because of her, I get kind of forced into it.

Two employees in Intel's Corporate Quality Network have been running a remarkable chip experiment, 2,150 feet beneath the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico.


Matthew Kirsch and Norbert Seifert stand by the head of a large drilling machine deep inside the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Plant in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy


Norbert Seifert and Matthew Kirsch have been testing how susceptible some of Intel's server devices are to very low-level, low-energy radiation—which can lead to tiny software-correctable errors. These blips occur at an extraordinarily low rate (the exact figure is confidential) but for mission-critical server parts, Intel wants to keep them as rare as humanly possible.


Their experiment required that they periodically squeeze into a cramped elevator in pitcjh-black darkness, then descend to the bottom of a salt mine nearly half a vertical mile under the Chihuahuan Desert.


On the earth's surface, it's tough to tease apart the effects of low-level cosmic radiation (mostly neutrons) that streams in from outer space, from another kind of low-level radiation (alpha particles) that regularly emanates out of mundane stuff like your desk, your wristwatch or even a banana.


Or chip 'packaging' materials, i.e the materials that the tiny slices of silicon are placed into so the chips can be attached to a motherboard.


That's why they wanted to check it out in a radiation-free environment. So Intel got access to the U.S. Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a super-deep salt mine where the U.S. Government plans to store uranium waste -- permanently. With half a mile of solid rock overhead, radiation gets neither in nor out.


Down at the bottom of the WIPP, Seifert and Kirsch hooked up a large array of 45nm SRAM devices and began collecting "soft error" data. They monitored the data from Hillsboro, Oregon for a full year.


It turns out that more than 90 percent of all ionizing particles that cause these rare soft errors in logic chips come from the "outside world"—not from the silicon itself or its own packaging.


In the mission-critical server world, this is important data.

Andy Wallace remembers clearly what life was like living in Portland, Oregon before he had the 'Take Me Home' button on his iPhone's PDX Bus app.


Intel employee Andy Wallace, recently called a digital hero by the Oregonian, created the free iPhone app PDX Bus in his spare time.


Eight years of commuting to work some 250 miles each week had Wallace often sprinting from his public light rail stop in order to catch the right city bus. Relying on quick feet and good timing, he would have to make what he calls "a perfect storm of connections" or else get stuck taking the long way home.


"I have about 1 minute to catch my bus," said Wallace. "I wanted to know if I had to jump off at the train and run to catch the bus, or not."


Wallace knew there had to be a better, smarter way. So he created an app for his iPhone and submitted it to the iTunes Store.


That was back in 2008.


Today PDX Bus is in its 6.0 version. It has become Wallace's gift that keeps giving as he breathes new life into the app, refining it through 15 iterations so far. He even changed it from a closed to open-source app and recently won two awards from CivicApps, a Portland area-based organization that encourages citizens to actively participate in local government.


According to the iTunes store description, PDX Bus "was developed as a volunteer effort to provide a service for TriMet riders, the developer has no affiliation with TriMet, AT&T or Apple."


What it doesn't say is that the developer is an Intel employee who does all this in his spare time. Intel has over 15,000 employees in Oregon, many of whom volunteer and contribute to various other projects in the community. But Wallace's App may be one of the more unique contributions.


"I have a problem with lost weekends fiddling with the app instead of doing yard work," Wallace confessed. "I have to stop myself, really. If I have a new idea, it can take over evenings and weekends until it's done."


This labor of love has become an essential tool for iPhone-carrying commuters who swear by it.


PDX Bus is "a must for any Portlander," wrote Amy Wink in a review posted in the iTunes Store.


Another reviewer, Jennifer Rienella, wrote: "I really don't care about getting my [driver's] license back thanks to this app!"


"In an era of service cuts and changing schedules, Wallace is a digital folk hero," wrote The Oregonian earlier this year.


That's quite a distinction for anyone living in Portland, a city known as much for its savory microbreweries as for its Internet-savvy culture inspired by geek engineers and hip marketers.


The PDX Bus app for iPhone pulls in live arrival and departure data from public busses and trains managed by Portland’s TriMet.


Wallace, 40, is an Oxford University graduate who moved from London to Portland about a decade ago after landing a job in Intel's LAN Access Division.


"It helped having my co-workers as beta testers," said Wallace.


At Intel he also learned how to manage the open-source software licensing process, which he says can be complex.


"You practically have to be a paralegal to know how to walk through the minefield of rules," he said.


Wallace built the PDX Bus app in 2weeks during the 2008 Olympics, when he needed something to do during events he didn't like watching.


It was during a period of time when it was becoming popular and easier to build apps for the iPhone.


"I was fiddling around when I noticed that TriMet had developed a mobile Web page with an open Application Programming Interface (API) and thought, 'Perfect, I'll use that to write an iPhone app!'"


TriMet was the first transit agency in the nation to openly share its schedule and arrival data with third-party developers, according to the Oregonian.


Schedules and live tracking data from TriMet are shared publicly online, allowing commuters to know up to the minute when and where to catch the next bus or train.


That TriMet API is funneling through the Internet hordes of live data, which is constantly coming from the 52-mile MAX light rail system with 85 stations, 79 bus lines with over 7,000 bus stops and the 14.7-mile WES Commuter Rail. A Linux-based backend computer system powers the data transmission, according to Wallace.


Today on the TriMet App Center, PDX Bus app is one of 38 free and commercial mobile apps using TriMet's open data API.


"When you sign up for TriMet's API, they give you a key that permits only 20,000 users a day," said Wallace. "But last summer they told me that my app kept breaking the daily limit."


TriMet raised the limit for PDX Bus to accommodate 120,000 users each day, an indication of how popular the application has become to people in the Portland Metropolitan Area, which has a population of nearly 2.3 million people.


Portland was recently ranked #5 in the U.S. News and World Report's 10 Best Cities for Public Transportation. The city was praised for providing "riders with a variety of travel options, including buses, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, and an aerial tram."


Public transportation is a way of life for many people in Portland. It's also a source of civic pride. Last year, public buses and trains travelled 500,000 miles and stopped nearly 1 million times to pick up passengers each week, according to TriMet.


"I use this app multiple times daily to evaluate my commute options," posted PDX Bus app reviewer "Portland Flier" in the iTunes Store.


PDX Bus integrates lots of useful features. The Take Me Home button uses GPS, Google Maps and TriMet's live data to find the best way home from where every a commuter is around Portland. Favorite Trips can be bookmarked and saved, which allows them to be accessible even when an iPhone loses its cell tower signal.


The idea for one of the simplest and possibly most useful features came from Wallace's boss at Intel.


The PDX Bus app can find and save best bus and train routes in the Portland area.


The Night Visibility Flashing Light button at the bottom of the app is designed for easy use at night by riders to signal bus drivers to stop and pick them up.


"I had to do that one," he laughed. "But it's actually one of the most famous features."


"Somebody told me that they use the Flashing Light every evening to scare the cats so they don't run out the door when she gets home," chuckled Wallace.


There's also Rider Alert, something that can help out-of-towners know when they've arrive at an unfamiliar stop. It's also helping people get some shut eye.


"I've been waiting for someone to add a GPS proximity alarm to a transit app for a year now," wrote Joshua Linden-Levy in the comment section on iTunes. "This is awesome, now I can nap on the train!"


Wallace says that the Trip Planning feature took the app to a new level of usefulness, allowing people to plan ahead so the travel details were ready at the touch of a button.


Shake the device and arrival times are refreshed.


"When I'm going downtown, I can quickly check to see if I have time for a coffee," said Wallace in a video interview with Good. "You can quickly decide if you can get a coffee or have to run to the bus."


Wallace is surprised that people liked using the PDX Bus app even though TriMet has a website optimized for mobile browsers. He's even more surprised by the amount of suggestions and feedback he gets from friends, co-workers and people who share on Twitter @PDXBus and on the PDX Bus Facebook Fan Page.


"I get a lot of feedback, and it's mostly from people asking if I can create an app for their city," he said. "But usually other cities don't have the backend technology needed to support an app like PDX Bus."


What about an Android version? That's another common question Wallace hears.


"I just don't have the time," he said. "Android requires a very different programming language. I don't have anything against Android. I just don't have the enthusiasm to do it again. The same goes for MeeGo and Intel's own AppUp store. "I just can't muster the enthusiasm now," he said.


With mixed feelings, Wallace says that PDX Bus has been taking a lot of his time.


"If I could, I'd like to generalize it so it works in other cities," he said. "But it would require APIs like what TriMet provides. They're very advanced for doing that. They are quite cutting edge."

We've seen ad signage double as free USB charging stations for a few years now, mostly at airports, but never before at bus shelters. A new out-of-home media buy by Vitaminwater is touting the product's "energy-boosting" properties with shelters equipped with a 5-volt battery-powered USB port. So far users of smartphones, iPods, gaming devices and other gadgets are getting a literal charge of the signs in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston. This advertising first from ad shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which won Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater brand account in May, is yet another example of the ubiquity and longevity of the 17-year-old plug-and-play interface developed by Intel engineers with assistance from peers at a half-dozen other companies.

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