MY CES JOURNAL
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FRIDAY, JANUARY 7
As the final day of my temporary "employment" with CNET comes to a close, I am happy to share with you one more consumer's-eye-view of the spectacle that is CES. From miles of walking through crowds to rainy weather in Vegas, this truly has been a unique experience for a modest barbecue lawyer from Indiana. I only hope I can get through this entry without dozing off. I just did some serious damage at one of the many buffets here in Vegas, and it's nearly nap time.
After finishing our busy schedule on Thursday, the Backstage Pass crew was invited to attend an exclusive CNET Experience party at the glitzy Ghost Bar in the Palms Hotel. Some of my fellow Backstage crewmembers informed me that members of the cast of "Real World Las Vegas" had once worked at the Ghost Bar, but I had to take their word for it, as I had much more hair the last time I watched an episode of that show. Needless to say, this place was superclassy, and the free drinks with light-up CNET plastic ice cubes were top-notch.
I began my second and final day with a slightly late one-hour shuttle ride from my hotel to the convention center. Las Vegas is deceptive; you usually assume that if you can see something, it shouldn't take long to get there. However, this city appears to have more traffic signals per square mile than any other city in the world, along with an unseemly amount of traffic that these signals control.
Upon exiting the shuttle, I was promptly greeted by a chilly rain. If I have to hear ONE MORE PERSON, native Las Vegan or not, tell me it never rains in Vegas, I might just lose it. It was for that reason I told my wife only that I had actually seen snowflakes on my way to check-in at the CNET trailer.
I met up with a few other members of the Backstage Crew (we should be releasing our first album in the spring, yo), and we paired up for our video segments. Prior to heading out, however, we were called over by CNET editor in chief Patrick Houston. It seemed that he wanted our opinions on the CNET choices for the Next Big Thing Awards, just to make sure the editors hadn't missed something. Here was the guy whose face I see smiling from my in-box every day, asking me what I thought. I began to picture my mug at the top of a regular CNET feature page, "Technology and Barbecue," covering Microsoft's pending release of Windows XP Hickory-smoked Edition.
I quickly remembered that there was work to be done, as I had to decide which products I would like to feature in my video segments. As I stated yesterday, I was looking for the unusual, something different. For this reason, and because they had neat visuals, I decided to go with Optima Batteries for my "CES 2005 Automotive Product Will Liked Best" pick.
Any number of articles out there discuss the benefits of flip-down, pop-up, headrest LCD screens, dual 12-inch woofers, and 1.21 gigawatt amps, but who's got the guts to cover car battery technology at CES 2005? CNET, that's who. Besides, you'll need one of these Optima batteries, with more cranking power and double the life, in order to power your home entertainment system on wheels, not to mention its resistance to vibration, meaning your battery will still be pumping juice long after you've rattled the last body panel off of your vintage Renault Peugeot.
Panasonic ToughBook eLite
My second product choice should also be no surprise, if you've been following along since yesterday. Taking top honors as the "CES 2005 Computer Will Liked Best" was the Panasonic ToughBook eLite. Luckily, the knowledgeable folks in the Panasonic booth were happy to tell me more about this adorable little product, the only magnesium-alloy laptop with a DVD/CD-RW and weighing less than three pounds. The gunmetal gray, coupled with the "secret" disc compartment under the wrist rest and touch pad, truly gives this machine that secret-agent feel.
Its size is deceptive, however, as this is a rugged little fella. While you probably shouldn't play frisbee with it, the ToughBook eLite's magnesium-alloy case and shock-mounted hard drive will allow it to survive everyday bumps and knocks, as well as occasional falls off the coffee table, not that I'd know anything about those, of course. To top it off, the eLite has a listed battery life of a whopping 5.5 hours. I'm sensing a battery theme here.
After helping expert camerawoman and fellow crewmember Clare Perretta capture her video segments (be sure to check them out, as Clare somehow got an interview with Debbie Gibson, of '80s pop fame), it was back to the trailer to say good-bye to my short-term coworkers. It was truly a bittersweet moment, excitement coupled with sadness, which ended only when I remembered that my wife and I had to go wait in the rain for the Number 6 shuttle for our one-hour-plus ride back to our hotel, which we could see out the shuttle window before we even left the convention center grounds.
I can't thank the CNET staff and crew enough for giving me this opportunity. While I like to think they got their money's worth in volunteer labor, I am incredibly appreciative of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the latest and greatest tech products, while being able to tell exhibitors that I was working with CNET. I had a wonderful time as an honorary member of the CNET team, despite walking what seemed like 50 miles through crowds of hundreds of thousands of attendees. Hopefully, this won't be the last you see of me on these pages, and don't forget to purchase the Backstage Crew's new album when it is released, as I'm sure you wouldn't even consider trying to download it for free.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
This is Will Doss, one of CNET's Backstage Pass winners, with my first day of coverage of CES 2005, live from Las Vegas. My areas of assignment are automotive technology and computers, and I'll be bringing you a true consumer's-eye-view of the show.
I began my trek in the automotive hall, and it pretty well summed up my first trip to Vegas: sensory overload. Let me give you a quick approximation of the experience, and please forgive the run-on sentence you are about to experience, as it is necessary to truly embody the spirit of this event.
Automotive technology consisted primarily of H2's and Dodge Magnums hopped up with more LCD screens than you could possibly view; swimming-pool-size woofers; and colored neon and LED lights under the vehicles, in the speakers, and everywhere else they didn't already have an LCD screen, all with security systems and remote starters. All of the actual vehicles looked like the Fast and the Furious on steroids. And what booth wouldn't be complete without models signing posters of themselves in various states of undress posing with whatever "equipment" they happen to be endorsing?
Given this shock to the system only hours after stepping off the plane, I decided to search out the unusual--something different--in automotive technology. One interesting product was a portable navigation and MP3 player from Pontus. They had a variety of models, all about the size of an iPod. Imagine being able to find your way around, either in your vehicle or on foot, all while jamming to your favorite tunes. While the storage capacity is somewhat limited at 256MB of ROM and 64MB of SDRAM, I still found it to be a nifty integration of multiple functions.
MotoSat digital satellite receiver
Another unique product family was the mobile digital satellite receiver from MotoSat. Intended primarily for RV and commercial use, these gadgets, which come in multiple flavors and sizes, allow you to view your digital satellite TV or access the Internet while on the go. To top it off, they are self-adjusting, so you don't have to hang out on the roof yelling back and forth at your wife as you adjust the dish for optimal signal strength.
The third product I took interest in was a new automotive/marine battery design from Optima Batteries. While conventional batteries feature a large number of lead plates bathing in acid, Optima has revolutionized battery design by coiling twelve 99.99 percent lead plates wrapped in Glass-Mat separators, similar to a blanket. They had a contraption similar to a house-paint mixer shaking the dickens out of one of their batteries to demonstrate their superior resistance to vibration. In the end, their batteries are said to offer significantly higher-cranking amps, as well as more than double the life of conventional batteries.
Scosche's pimped "spinner" speakers
The flashiness of the automotive technology area was nicely summed up at the Scosche booth, where, in addition to general car audio and award-winning woofer/enclosure systems for the 2005 Ford Mustang, they featured "spinner" speaker grille covers, just in case those spinners on your 1989 Escort's wheels weren't flashy enough.
After spending plenty of time in the centralized automotive area, I ventured out to find the land of computers in the vast expanse that is CES. Luckily, I got some pointers from the friendly and helpful staff at CNET, as well as a bit of needed direction from CES staffers, all of whom have been exceptionally kind and helpful for this first-time Vegas visitor.
When it came time to tackle computers, I encountered a bit of a quandary. While computers were everywhere, your conventional laptop machines were actually somewhat difficult to find. It seems that everyone is integrating computer technology into things like home audio and video, along with automotive, but where were the actual old-fashioned computers? Even more elusive were desktops, as the only one I saw is right here in the CNET trailer, where I am typing this blog.
Fortunately, I did find a few laptops out on the floor, even though they weren't as nicely segregated and organized as the automotive technology "wing" of CES. Panasonic has a very nice ToughBook Elite, which even comes in four exciting colors: red, white, black, and "gunmetal," which is a polished silver. This notebook was small, very thin with a tiny 10.6-by-8.3-inch footprint. One of the most interesting features was the location of the DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. A small slide button on the side popped open the touch pad and the left-front hand rest to reveal the hidden drive, truly maximizing space while providing a little James Bond-esque flair to a very rugged notebook.
Qosmio's multimedia notebook
The other laptop that caught my eye was the Qosmio (KOZ-mee-oh
), which was as visually impressive as it was hard to pronounce. This appeared to be a normal notebook computer from a distance, but further inspection revealed a full-featured media center, with TV, DVD, and music at the touch of a button, without the need to boot up your Windows system. The image quality was fantastic, and although Qosmio is another blending of technologies, I considered it enough of a computer to include it in my search.
So it is that my first day at CES 2005 has come to a close. As a true layman with not much more than enough know-how to be dangerous, I hope I have given you an idea of my experience so far. Overwhelming
doesn't begin to describe this technogeek dream vacation. I only wish I could more vividly convey the enormity of this event and the amount of walking you have to do. Despite my aching feet, I am very excited to bring you more coverage from a barbecue lawyer's perspective, all courtesy of the ultimate tech Web site, CNET.com.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
Welcome to CNET's consumer coverage of CES 2005 in Vegas, baby. I am Will Doss, Bar-B-Q lawyer and one of six lucky winners who will be sharing our experiences with you in (nearly) real time through CNET's multimedia blog.
As a first-time contest winner and tech writer, I'll be sharing a true consumer's-eye view of the 2005 CES with you, focusing on computers and mobile (automotive) technology.
Although my career focus is in law, I spend a substantial amount of time working with computers in a variety of capacities, from online legal research to graphic and Web design. I look forward to exploring all of the gadgets and advancements in personal and business computers, from minor innovations to CNET's Next Big Thing in computers, as well as 11 other categories.
As a small-business attorney, not only do I wear a multitude of hats, I also spend a considerable amount of time on the road. I will bring you all the info you can handle from more than 270 mobile electronics exhibitors at CES 2005. Be sure to stay tuned for more consumer coverage of CES 2005, brought to you by CNET!