Austin gets ready for SXSW (pictures)

South by Southwest begins on Friday, and thousands of geeks and film buffs are arriving in Texas' capital for the festival. Convention halls are still empty, but workers are toiling away.

Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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Marriott lounge in progress

AUSTIN, Texas -- The geeks are coming, the geeks are coming. But they're not here yet.

Tomorrow, the Texas capital will be swarming with thousands and thousands of geeks, and thousands more film buffs. It's South by Southwest (SXSW) time, after all, with the SXSW Interactive and Film festivals about to kick off.

But before the hordes descend, there's a lot of work to do, and a lot of rooms and halls that will be overrun in just 24 hours are sitting empty right now.

Just across the street from the Austin Convention Center -- ground zero for SXSW -- are two Marriott hotels, the Courtyard Marriott and the Residence Inn. The hotels plan a comfort lounge for attendees, but as of Thursday afternoon, things like armchairs were still wrapped in plastic. By tomorrow, the area will no doubt be packed with people.

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Early registration

Those who show up at the SXSW registration desk on Friday will no doubt encounter long lines and tons of people impatiently waiting in them. But on Thursday afternoon, there were no lines at all. ProTip: Get to Austin on Wednesday and register Thursday.
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Bags at the ready

If you've followed CNET's coverage of SXSW over the years, you know that a staple is showing SXSW's goodie bag setup. While the bags are not laid out on acres of floor anymore, they are still impressive to look at.
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Registration desk

All is calm Thursday afternoon at the SXSW registration desk.
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Chairs in bags

Inside the Austin Convention Center, six chairs destined for some company's lounge area are still wrapped in plastic.
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Empty corner

A corner in the main area of the Austin Convention Center is nearly empty on Thursday afternoon. By tomorrow, this area will be jammed with convention goers.
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Main hallway

Believe it or not, SXSW veterans, this is the main hallway at the Austin Convention Center. By tomorrow, it will be nearly impassable, but Thursday it was a ghost town.
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Chevy area closed

One of the big companies on hand at SXSW this year is Chevrolet, which has, among other things, a lounge area by one of the main convention center entrances. But the area was still closed off early Thursday afternoon.
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Looking down into the Chevy lounge early Thursday afternoon revealed a number of the company's employees discussing final preparations.
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Just a couple hours later, the lounge was open and filled with attendees.
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Step right up

If you're hungry at SXSW and want to grab something from this food truck, parked outside a main entrance to the convention center, you will no doubt have to wait quite a while for your food. But not on Thursday, when this man was the only one eating.
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Microsoft Studio setup

Once SXSW is in full swing, Microsoft will be hosting hundreds of people at the appropriately named Microsoft Studio. It is advertised as a "must-see space for attendees to collaborate, innovate, fuel up and recharge during the day, and party along at night. There's something for everyone — daytime meetups, evening parties, and more, all featuring Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone!"

But that will all have to wait. On Thursday, workers were still feverishly putting it all together.

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Construction everywhere

Okay, this isn't directly related to SXSW coming to town, but everywhere you look near downtown Austin, there is massive construction going on. And surely, the popularity of the conference has helped convince developers to modernize and build up the downtown area.
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At a nearby restaurant, a sign advertises the Mouth by Mouthwest concert series and fundraiser.
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The film festival runs concurrently with SXSW Interactive, and by tomorrow, there will be tons of film buffs -- and a few celebrities -- outside this theater on Congress Ave. Not today, though.
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Startup Crawl tables

Though not an official SXSW event, the Austin Startup Crawl will no doubt attract hundreds of eager entrepreneurs. On Thursday afternoon, workers at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin were still setting things up.
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Gear at the Omni

Tons of sound and lighting gear sit in boxes in a meeting room at the Omni Hotel, which is just one of many official SXSW venues around Austin.
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Fixing the stairs

Workers fix the carpet on the stairs at the Omni, no doubt in preparation for the arrival of thousands of SXSW attendees tomorrow.
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Nespresso dome

A gold-colored dome, put up for Nespresso, will likely be welcoming tons of SXSW attendees.
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Empty at Stubbs

One of the most popular SXSW party venues is Stubbs. There will be huge parties here, with thousands of people. But not today.
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3M Idea Exchange

Just across from the Austin Convention Center, the 3M Idea Exchange still has fencing blocking the entrance.
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AT&T experience

SXSW attendees will be able to have a multi-faceted Austin experience by stepping inside this interactive space. On Thursday afternoon, AT&T workers stand around, finishing its setup.
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AT&T has to be hoping that SXSW attendees don't see this on the interior of the interactive space. But during setup, it's fine.

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