Friday Oct 05, 2007

Getting Ready for Vegas: My Favourite Travel Gadgets

Tomorrow I'll fly to the CEC 2007 event in Las Vegas, like so many of my colleagues. CEC is Sun's annual Customer Engineering Conference where Service People and SEs from Sun gather to learn about the latest and greatest of technology.

Contrary to many of my colleagues, I love Las Vegas!  And I'm not a gambler... Over the past 10 years or so, I happened to be in Las Vegas for a couple of times before and I can assure you, it can be great fun if you just accept it for what it is: A place to have fun. My wife's and my favourite TV show CSI takes place in Las Vegas and every time I see those camera shots from the "Strip"

But work comes before fun and so I've spent the last weeks preparing a lot of stuff for the conference. Together with Dave, Franz, Matthias, and some others' we'll be backstage and act as message aggregators. For this project, I've been digging deeply into JavaFX Script and NetBeans. A most interesting experience, but more on that in a future blog entry.

The last piece of work before Vegas is the flight over the Atlantic. It'll be a 14 hour flight with a stop-over in Denver. Being a good Sun employee, I packed a couple of useful gadgets:

  • My iPod. Well, no surprise there. It'll have some of my favourite podcasts and all of my music. Don't worry, it only has music that I ripped myself from CDs I own. That's still more than 30GB, so why bother with more music than you can hear before the next generation of iPods becomes mandatory?
  • A pair of Shure in-ear headphones. Trust me, this is the best way to enjoy your iPod in an airplane and I've tried many. Sound-canceling headphones can be good, but they are bulky and I don't like killing the problem after the fact. I find it much more efficient, elegant and easy to not let the problem in in the first place. That's where in-ear headphones come in: They sit inside your ear canal and won't let the outside noise in. Plus, they are made from a company that usually deals with musicians, so the audio quality is really good, too. Really good. I can listen to soft music at a low, comfortable volume and hear a lot of details even though I'm on an airplane with all that noise around me.
  • A Nintendo DS Lite game console. I'm an old-school gamer, but I don't have much time for it. So why not play computer games on a long plane flight? Coach seat trays are just too small for laptops and Laptop batteries don't last longer than a couple of hours anyway, so game on! Some of my favourite games include:
    • Anno 1701 DS: A real-time strategy game. It places a lot of emphasis in the build-up aspect and less in the war&destroyment which is typical for the german computer game market. In other words: It feels much more like Sim City and less than Command&Conquer.
    • Pokemon Diamond: No, I'm not a 6-year-old kid, but this game is still fun as an adult. It has some RPG elements in addition to the typical round-based combat of the series and there's an incredible amount detail and complexity built into the game.
    • Elite Beat Agents: This is the funniest game I've seen in a long time. I think it may be better than Guitar Hero in many aspects, and it is portable. Check out one of the many videos on YouTube to catch a glimpse of how funny it is.
    • Nanostray: A classic space shoot-em-up. What can I say? I'm an old-school gamer...
  • A Zoom H2 portable audio recorder. I'll use it to interview people and produce a podcast from CEC. Watch this blog for details...
  • A Nokia E61i mobile phone. I finally submitted to peer pressure from my colleagues. And I must say, this is a great business phone! And the best thing is: It comes with SIP VoIP support over WLAN. This means I can call home from one of the CEC 2007 hotspots for free. Using my provider Sipgate, I can call to the US very cheaply. Imagine: Calling from the US to Germany back to the US for a couple of cent per minute thanks to the magic of VoIP...

This is it for now. It's 11:28 PM and the alarm clock is set to 5:00 AM. Gotta catch some sleep before I go...

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