Meeting for Belgians at the PDC.
Last week, I got a request from Boris Rogge about setting up a meeting with all the Belgians at the PDC. So I contacted Tom Mertens about this issue. Apparently Microsoft Belgium doesn't organize a country drink like they do at TechEd Europe, but they proposed to organize an informal meeting for all the Belgians on the first day of the PDC. If you're Belgian and are going to the PDC, you can confirm your attendance to this informal meeting here.
PDC hardware requirements.
No, there are no hardware requirements for the PDC. Although nobody will notice if I look like Techno Billat the PDC, I don't want to travel with a whole collection of electronic gadgets (and what's worse, al the associated battery chargers and power supplies).
I'll use my HTC Touch Diamondboth as cell phone and as photo camera. This cell phone has a 3 Megapixel camera which is more than good enough for the occasional picture. No big and heavy DSLR camera this year. Although the HTC Touch Diamond is a very good all-round, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink device (not to mention that it is extremely light for a PocketPC phone, only 105g.), and can even be used for short web surfing sessions, it's not something you'd want to use all day as web access device.
You can never have enough reading material with you if you have to travel for 24 hours to the other side of the world. So during my previous trips to the PDC, I carried a lot of books with me, but I'm not going to carry those kilo's of books anymore. This year I'll bring my Iliad with me. This is an electronic e-book reading device, using e-paper as screen technology. It is very comfortable to read on for hours, and it weighs less than 400g. It also has a pen for taking notes, and Wifi for surfing the web. It has no keyboard though, and I don't get very accurate input using the soft keyboard nor the handwriting recognition. In addition, it doesn't come with a web browser, but there are some Linux web browsers that sort of work on the device. The combination of sub-par browser and bad text input make in inappropriate as web access device. But it does have 8 to 10 hours of battery life, so it's excellent for reading.
In the past, I never took my notebook with me, I didn't want to carry a 3 to 4 kg laptop with me all day long (and PDC days ARE long). Instead I relied on the PCs that were provided for accessing the web. But I don't want to run around to find a free web terminal anymore, there's already more than enough walking to do. On the PDC it can be useful to have your own laptop with you: In the 2005 PDC, during the keynote it was announced that a (large) number of cell phones (an HTC Jasjar if I remember correctly) were available at extremely low prices. By the time the keynote was finished, all of the cell phones were already sold to the people who could access the conference web site with their portables!
I've been reading some reviews this weekend to figure out which kind of device I'd take with me to the PDC. It has to be light and have a long battery life. That means either a netbook or one of the professional TabletPC's. I almost bought a Dell Latitude XT, but then I read in a review that it's actually rather heavy with the optional slice battery that's required to get long enough battery life. I also realized, with the expected announcement of multi touch features in Windows 7, that it wouldn't be a wise investment to buy a high-end TabletPC right now.
So I investigated the netbook options. I evaluated the following netbooks:
- Acer Aspire One A150: Cheap!
- MSI Wind: Large screen.
- Gigabyte M912: This is a very interesting netbook because it is also a Tablet PC. However, initial reviews indicate that it gets rather hot, has a low battery life and comes with no pen applications. Maybe I'll buy the next generation.
- Asus EEE PC 901: Long battery life, lots of features, and very light, just over 1kg.
So my decision is made, I'll buy an Asus EEE PC 901. It's locally only available with XP, so I don't have to choose between XP or Linux either. Hopefully I can find one with an Azerty keyboard, if not, the Qwerty version are locally available anyway.
Wifi internet access.
Now that I've decided that I'll have a decent internet access device with me, what about internet access?
There's free Wifi internet access during the PDC, but since I'll be arriving two days before the conference starts, I'd rather have some internet access earlier on. Due to the huge roaming tariffs, using GPRS/EDGE/UMTS on my cell phone is not an option except for emergencies.
I remembered from my previous visit that there's a commercial Wifi access point in my hotel (the Figueroa). I also remembered that Telenet (my ISP) provides Wifi hotspot access as part of my subscription, but I haven't used it yet. Telenet has roaming agreements with a number of worldwide Wifi providers, and it appears that Boingo, the one used at the Figueroa, is part of the roaming agreements, so I should be able use this hotspot for free as part of my Telenet subscription. We'll see.
While searching for a Wifi hotspot, I found out that Jiwire has a very nice hotspot locator. Because of it's link to Telenet, it can also be used to locate Belgian Telenet hotspots in Belgium using Microsoft Virtual Earth. You can also easily get a map of all commercial and free hotspots in the neighborhood of the Los Angeles Conference Center (LACC) for the PDC. They also have a cool Skype plug-in to search for Wifi hotspots.
So now that I'm all set with hardware and internet access, I have to do something with it. I'd like to do some live blogging of the event, both to keep in touch with the people back in Belgium, and to provide some technical content on what's been shown at the PDC. Since this website is just a bunch of ASP.NET pages without any content management system, I can't do any live blogging here. I've set up a public site here to keep in touch with you during the PDC.
See you in LA!