CES follow-up: How a few reporting tools fared
When I get back from my annual trek to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, two things are in store: catching up on sleep and evaluating how new hardware and software functioned in that stressful environment.
This time around, I don't want to talk laptops and cameras, as I did in 2009 and 2008. I used the same camera and same basic model of laptop this year, so instead I'll assess how one gadget and a few programs and services worked out during the show.
* Since the PR folks at Verizon Wireless encouraged me to keep the Motorola Droid I reviewed in November for a little longer, I elected to use that for most of my show-floor e-mail, Web access and note-taking.
This experiment was not a complete success. I still like the Droid -- for one thing, it seemed to have fewer connectivity issues than iPhones on AT&T's network -- but a week of tapping away on its slide-out keyboard left me irritated over its lack of a separate row of number keys. I was also annoyed by the Droid e-mail program's inexplicable inability to file messages into separate folders on my mail server, which left me with a cluttered inbox.
* Since the Droid's Android software doesn't include a memo-pad program, I decided to try out Evernote's software for the show. This yielded much worse results: While I love the idea of having the same notes accessible and in sync on a computer and a phone, Evernote's Android release was a mess. Editing a note saved online required first opening it, then selecting "Edit" from an onscreen menu; if I I hit the Droid's "back" button by mistake, a dialog asking if I wanted to discard my changes had a "yes" button as the default selection. Worst of all, it sometimes failed to save my changes. I'm not using this program again unless it gets a major bug-fix release.
* For notes I wanted to publish in real-time, I set aside Evernote in favor of Twitter -- which, aside from one exception you see in the photo above, stood up to high levels of traffic extremely well. A big reason for Twitter's utility in that role is its mobile site, which requires no add-on software and works even on primitive phone browsers. That made it easy for me to jot down a quick note while standing up or even walking. (Amazingly enough, I only walked into one person while phone-typing during the entire show. Neither of us sustained any injuries from the collision.)
* For sitting-down e-mail access, I installed the new, somewhat improved Mozilla Thunderbird 3 on my laptop -- unfortunately, the day before my trip. I say "unfortunately" because Tbird can need a full day to finish indexing the contents of a large inbox. And since it was still finishing that job over the first day of CES, it was frequently sluggish and unresponsive. Afterward, searches for old messages were much faster than they'd been in Thunderbird 2. But I found it faster still to read and respond to new messages on a phone.
* Once again, I used Google's Picasa program for photo and video editing. As in prior years, it was fine for image work, but this time it failed completely at exporting a compressed copy of a video for Web publishing when it somehow silenced the clip of my walk through the CES show floor. I had to turn to the Quick Time X program included in Mac OS X Snow Leopard, which retained the soundtrack in a file that looked as good as Picasa's output but took up less than half as much disk space.
I'll close with two other tips for reporters contemplating their first CES: Wear hiking socks, not anything dressy, with the most comfortable shoes you own, and carry a couple of Clif Bars for when you inevitably have no time to eat lunch.
Any other questions on how I covered the show, or suggestions for applications I should have used instead? The comments are yours ...
January 12, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories: CES 2010 , The business we have chosen
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