After I walked out of lunch with the Nivens, I reached into my daypack for my work cell phone. (The building that houses Trellix Corporation seems to be impervious to most radio waves, so you can only use a cell phone from a company that will put a repeater inside the building. I have one such phone, but still use my old AT&T Nokia for personal calls.) I couldn't find my work phone. I dumped out everything in my bag, but still no phone. Yech! I must have dropped it somewhere. I quickly called Barbara at work, our office manager, to ask her to turn the phone service off until I found it. Then I thought: maybe someone found it. I'll call the lost phone's number and leave information on the voicemail.

I used my other cell phone to call my lost phone. Sure enough, a familiar voice answered: the cab driver I had so hastily abandoned a few hours earlier. It turned out he was just about to drop off a fare in front of the Convention Center. He remembered what I looked like once I mentioned the beard and flannel shirt, and gave me his cab number. I walked the half block to where the cabs were and waited for one with his number. There he was with my phone in hand. After he got paid by his passenger, I bent down to get the holster that I also lost in the floor of his cab. I gave him a small reward as a token of thanks and took his picture. He gave me his card with his email address on it so I could point him here to see it. I called Barbara and canceled the service cancelation.

So, the moral? Cab drivers are nice, good people (this isn't the first successful cab phone retrieval I've been involved in...). Wireless helps in ways you never think of (like calling the device you've lost to ask it where it is).

 
My hero Hermie Elkins, his cab rides away
I went to see the meeting room where several Israeli companies banded together to exhibit. (I'd seen some nice trinket at lunch and was told you'd find it there -- I did.) Lots of interesting products.

     
Israeli pavilion: Entrance, 400 dpi portable scanner, diagram of using the scanner, converting web pages to wireless-friendly
One product I especially liked given the newfound relevance of pens and digital ink (thanks to Microsoft) was a portable pen digitizer. You plug this little black box into a PDA and use a special pen to write near it. The strokes are picked up by the sensor. It could sell for under $100, just like the PDA keyboards. Trying it, it seemed like a pretty good digitizer. The specs say 200 samples/second with .25mm resolution. Quite good. (The Microsoft tablet has only 133 samples/second.) They are aiming at those languages that don't work well with keyboards.

A device somebody else told me they liked was a desktop 3D "printer" that made plastic models. I didn't see it operating.

     
e-pen digitizer for PDAs connected to a RIM, 3D printer and samples
Other things I saw included a hand OCR scanner. You just drag it over text and the recognized text gets "typed" into your word processor. The funny thing for me was feeling this wasn't that interesting because it didn't run with a PDA, only with a full PC/laptop. The show got me into the "handheld" mood. Another strange thing was watching a demo of a product I was somewhat familiar with, but listening to it all in Hebrew. I walked into the middle of a demo where both people were speaking Hebrew. I know a little Hebrew from years back, but my vocabulary isn't very good. This is where it got strange: all of the "key" words were English, so understanding was easy. "Design", "Site", etc. I guess this is why English can be a common spoken language for a variety of things where the important parts (key nouns and verbs) are all common based on the term used by the inventor of the technology. The connecting words could be any other language that you have some proficiency with, like Spanish, or even Hebrew.

   
Handheld OCR, listening to a demo in Hebrew
Back to the show floor.

 
More costumes, Microsoft's Ballmer looms big in the booth
I went to the Sony booth. I heard they had some cool examples of using their MemoryStick flash storage devices. They had a prototype camera up in a glass case, and a tiny music player to hold.

 
Prototype tiny camera, music player
There was a section of the Sony booth where they showed a product from a subsidiary, eMarker.com. Seeing my "media" badge, the booth person spent lots of time with me and gave me a press kit. This is a very clever device. They have a $20 handheld thing that has a single button on it. If you hear a song on the radio you are interested in, but don't know the title or artist, you press the button. There are dots on the device's LCD screen, and they go off one at a time each time you press the button, indicating how much storage is left. When you get to a PC, you plug the end of the device into a USB port (no wires needed -- just pull off the cap and a USB plug is revealed). Call up their free application (Windows 98 only right now) and access their free service and you see which song it was, listen to clips, buy CDs, etc. The technology behind this is very simple and very clever. They just save a time stamp and the application accesses an existing, constantly updated database that has the playlists of over 1,000 radio stations. I've ordered one (Amazon and others sell it) and will put up a more complete essay about what we can learn from this at some later point. Watch my log.

 
eMarker device to find out the title of a song on the radio, info on PC screen
Sony had other display things, like very flat, very high resolution video monitors and very thin LCDs.

     
Sony large screen, high resolution flat picture tube, thin LCD, and pen tablet screen
I walked around and saw more stuff. CNN had their studio high above the floor again. Xerox bought the Tektronix printer group and moved their color printing stuff up to join the Tektronix folks. Xerox was showing their color printers, including the wonderful 850 (we have two here at Trellix), and the new 790.

   
CNN studio, Tektronix/Xerox color printers
The last booth I got to before things closed was the Canon one, where I finally got to fondle a Canon D-30 digital SLR. They are in such demand and short supply that the Canon people had to put their own units on display (I noticed the name sticker on the back of the camera matched one of the booth people). When I picked it up I asked if there was one to try -- this one didn't have a memory card in it. It turns out it was supposed to have a card -- booth "shrinkage" I guess. They took a storage card out of another cheaper camera and let me try it. Nice, but heavy with the big lens.

Like all the other pictures, notice how I hold things in my left hand. I'm right handed, but I took all these pictures holding my camera in one hand (my right) and the object in the other.

Canon D-30 SLR
In the Canon booth I ran into Douglas Mechaber, a freelance journalist whom I've run into before at these conferences. He drove his new car in from California, and offered me a ride. I accepted. On the way we ran into Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe who joined us, since he was going the same place Doug was, to the Silicon Northwest party/expo. Like all those other "pavilions", this was a place (and party with food in this case) where many companies can come together to attract press and other visitors. I decided to join them. It turn out that my media badge wasn't enough on its own to get in -- I needed to be on a special list of approved publications. Luckily, there's lots of confusion at these things, and I was eventually able to walk in anyway and get an appropriate badge.

While waiting in line, we ran into Cheryl Currid, a consultant I've known from Comdex activities I've been in. She had a toy to show off: one of the wrist cameras. Before I could check it out carefully (I did see a small B&W picture on it), I got swept up in a wave of people and got in to the main room. All I know about the camera is what you see here.

 
Cheryl Currid and wrist camera
Here are some pictures of part of the ballroom. I ate dinner with Hiawatha, and then made my way around looking at lots of the booths.

 
Exhibitors at this "party"
One of the exhibitors was showing the latest version of the Sony AIBO robot "pet". You can speak into its ear and tell it to "sit" or "stand" (it worked, even in the loud environment, if he shouted). It has sensors to know when you pet its head (reinforcing a behavior), and lights that show how it's "feeling" (adding to the tail wag). It's actually cute when it moves.

 
Sony robot AIBO "pet"
It was time to go back to the hotel. I decided not to go to the Chili cookoff: I just couldn't spend another late night. As I walked out I ran into some people who were taking a shuttle bus back to the Hilton, which passed by my hotel. I hitched a ride and went back, and worked a bit more on this journal before going to sleep. The next day I left Las Vegas.

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