CES 2016 travel-tech report: Where did the battery anxiety go?

Something bizarre happened at this year’s CES, my 19th in a row: Neither my laptop nor my phone ever got into the red-line zone that leads me to start frantically searching for a power outlet.

My phone is only a few months old and so offers much better battery life than its predecessor, but my laptop is the same old MacBook Air I’ve had since 2012. Maybe I’ve learned something about power discipline; maybe the butt-in-chair time required to write all the stories I owed to various clients ensured sufficient opportunity to keep my devices topped off.

CES 2016 gadgetsI’m going to go with the second explanation.

Also strange: I never needed to break out the travel power strip I always bring to CES.

I did have one lesser power scare: I left my phone’s charger in a restaurant, and it’s not like I can count on random passerby having a USB-C charger. Fortunately, I’m not a complete idiot and had an extra USB-C adapter cable on me, and the restaurant’s staff found the charger and had it waiting at the hostess stand when I stopped by the next evening.

But while the electrons may have been obliging for once, other tech annoyances persisted. OS X’s curiously inept multitasking left my laptop locked up by runaway browser processes more than once (does the phrase “Safari Web Content” make your blood boil too?), while my phone twice showed a no-SIM-present error that I elected to dispel with a reboot.

Bandwidth was mostly fine except for Thursday, when neither my phone nor the two LTE hotspots I’d been testing as part of an update to a Wirecutter guide could get any useful bandwidth in the Sands. I had to camp out on a chair next to a loading dock to get back online.

The Nexus 5X’s camera was a massive upgrade over the Nexus 4 imaging hardware I carried last year, but I still took the bulk of my photos with my aging Canon 330 HS. I’m pretty sure that this is my last CES with this camera–although it still takes better photos overall than my phone, its lack of a built-in panorama mode is annoying, and I’m sick of invoking its photo-plus-video “Hybrid Auto” mode by mistake.

While I’m figuring out what camera will replace this Canon, I also need to think seriously about the software I use on my computer to edit and share pictures taken with a “real” camera. Apple’s Photos is a good image editor, but as an organizer it’s awful. Because its broken sharing feature ignores photo titles and descriptions when uploading images to Flickr–and because you can’t right-click a photo in the app to jump to its Finder folder–I had to export all 74 shots in my CES album to the Finder, then drag and drop them into Flickr from there.

If Apple doesn’t fix this app, I need to use something else. But what? Please share your own suggestions–and no, I’m not going to buy Photoshop for this–in the comments.

 

Weekly output: CES (x2), T-Mobile BingeOn, OLED TVs, Samsung Family Hub fridge, FAA and drones, UHD TV, patent trolls

As the following inventory of stories should suggest, I was pretty busy at CES. If you need further proof: My notes from the show exceed 8,000 words. I had delusions that I’d have the energy today to go through my photos from the show and caption, edit and upload the best of them, but that’s just not happening this evening.

1/5/2016: What Is CES, Anyway? A Quick Guide for the Perplexed, Yahoo Tech

This was the one post out of all these that I filed before making my journey to Vegas.

1/6/2016: Tip: How to Quit T-Mobile’s BingeOn Service, Yahoo Tech

And this is the post that I should have also written in advance. Instead, I finished it in the Mandalay Bay press room Tuesday afternoon.

CES 2016 OLED report1/6/2016: LG’s See-Through, Rollable OLED Screens: Here, But Not Cheap (Yet), Yahoo Tech

This wasn’t on my original story budgets, but LG’s presentation–and the broader issue of OLED’s long-term relevance–was interesting enough for my editors to accept my suggestion that I file an extra post about this.

1/7/2016: Samsung’s Family Hub Smart Fridge: Would You Believe It Keeps Beer Cold, Too?, Yahoo Tech

The headline came to mind almost right away, and the rest of the post (for once) mostly wrote itself. In the interest of full disclosure, we own a 2014-model Samsung fridge that has no connected apps onboard but which also does a fine job of keeping beer cold.

Make drone-registration post1/8/2016: FAA: Over 181,000 Of You Have Registered Your Drones So Far, Make:

This is the first thing I’ve written for Maker Media’s site. It went up later than I wanted because a) I took my time writing it and b) the newsroom got hit with a round of layoffs. Ugh.

1/8/2016: The State of Ultrahigh-Definition Television: Will This Be the Year It Makes Sense to Upgrade?, Yahoo Tech

My annual state-of-the-TV report from CES had me feeling more charitable about UHD’s prospects than before–but still not interested in upgrading until at least next year.

1/8/2016: Consumer Electronics Industry to Government: Do Something About Patent Trolls, Yahoo Tech

This panel Friday morning had a great lineup (hint: anytime you can hear NewEgg’s Lee Cheng rant about patent trolls, show up), and then I had the chance to quiz U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director Michelle Lee afterwards.

1/8/2016: CE-NO thank you: 5 things I could do without from CES, USA Today

My thanks to my editor for suggesting a CES angle that hadn’t already been completely picked over; my apologies to the guy whose name I misspelled in the piece for reasons I completely don’t understand (see my comment on the story for the details).

Things I did not get around to doing in five days of CES

LAS VEGAS–Another CES is in the books for me. I’m departing a day later than most people, and I still did not have time to cross everything off my to-do list. I’m not going to say I missed all these things, but the show still feels a little incomplete without them:

GoPro clusterAttend CES Unveiled: The show’s opening reception is always a total zoo, but it also represents my first chance to say hi to all the tech-nerd friends I haven’t seen in months. Unveiled was never going to happen once my tardy booking of flights (meaning, Oct. 4) left no reasonably priced options that would get me into Vegas in time for the event but not with hours to kill beforehand.

Take a taxi or a shuttle van: With Uber and Lyft finally operating throughout the city and even picking up passengers, I did not have to bother with either McCarran’s horrendous taxi line (with a ripoff $3 credit-card-payment surcharge waiting at the end of the ride) or the long wait for a shuttle van to depart. I did, however, have to learn that there’s a floor 2M between floors 2 and 3 in the T1 parking deck, on which you must meet a ride-hailing service’s vehicle.

See the opening keynote: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynotes have been more substantial than average at CES, but I didn’t finish a few work chores in the Mandalay Bay press room Tuesday to get to the Venetian in time for this year’s presentation. I’ll have to watch it when I get home.

Get to Pepcom’s Digital Experience: This reception is a great way to catch up with a wide variety of smaller exhibitors and get a decent meal, but a Yahoo Tech team dinner had to take priority.

CES security stickerHave my bag searched: This year’s CES was supposed to involve screening of everybody’s bags. But the security-pocalypse we all dreaded never happened. Nobody ever searched my bag on any of the times I entered a CES exhibit, not even when I got a green “Security Approved” sticker placed on it Tuesday morning. I am fine with that; I faced a much bigger risk every time I had to cross six- or 10-lane roads designed with an “Auto über alles” mentality.

Take a show shuttle from the convention center: I only took one of the official show shuttle buses Tuesday morning. The rest of the week, I either walked to the convention center (I found an Airbnb room only 10 minutes’ walk away) or took city buses up and down the Strip.

Ride the monorail: Not staying in a giant hotel on the east side of the Strip made this high-priced but traffic-independent ride irrelevant on most days. I should have taken it Thursday night, though; going from the convention center to the Cosmopolitan by bus took about an hour.

Strip trafficSee VR porn: This is apparently a thing now, and I did not clear time in my schedule–in the interest of science!–to attend the demo my friend Sascha Segan wrote up at PCMag.com.

Test-drive the Chevy Bolt: I had to blow off an appointment to test-drive this compact electric vehicle because I needed to finish writing a couple of stories. Read my Yahoo colleague Daniel Howley’s report to see what I missed.

Gamble: Not staying in a hotel with a casino waiting downstairs severely lowered my odds of getting in any blackjack time. And by the time Friday night’s events were wrapping up, I was too tired anyway. Considering that I had the Terminator for a dealer the last time I gambled here, that may not be the worst thing ever.

Weekly output: 2015 tech fails, apps versus mobile sites, 2015 in tech policy, CES newbies, OS X Keychain, how to read CES stories

 

A few stories I’d filed earlier went up this week, lending a false sense of my output. Tomorrow, I depart for my 19th CES in a row, and even after all that experience I’m still not quite sure what I’ve signed up for.

USAT tech-fails column12/30/2015: Tech fails: The year’s worst consumer gadget calamities, USA Today

My editors elected to run the column that appeared online last week in Wednesday’s print edition. Can’t lie; that’s still neat.

12/30/2015: Tip: Does That Site Really Deserve To Be An App On Your Phone?, Yahoo Tech

I’ve had this topic on my story-ideas list for a while, and now it’s finally posted.

12/30/2015; The Year in Technology Policy: It Wasn’t All That Bad!, Yahoo Tech

My latest take on this evergreen end-of-year topic found me in a better mood than usual.

12/31/2015: Tip: How to Cut Old Passwords Out Of Apple’s Keychain, Yahoo Tech

Like my other tip this week, this was something I’d had on my mind for a while.

1/1/2016: CES 2016 Survival Guide: What Newbies Need to Know, Yahoo Tech

You’ve read earlier versions of this how-to here in 2011 and 2013. This time around, I think I did a better job of monetizing my thoughts.

1/3/2016: How to read the hype of CES, USA Today

This weekend’s column takes another break from the usual tech-Q&A format to offer advice about interpreting the impending deluge of CES coverage.

Weekly output: Sling TV, 4K TV, net neutrality, future of search, i.amPuls, TiVo-to-TiVo migration

I’m back from CES and feeling a little tired–as well as confused to see no work events on my calendar this week that will require me to leave the house.

1/5/2015: Hey, Cord Cutters: Dish Network Wants You, Yahoo Tech

Dish Network’s $20/month Sling TV is the CES 2015 product I am most likely to purchase with my own money. I thought I’d be waiting years longer to get a chance to pay for online viewing of ESPN without a cable or satellite subscription attached.

1/6/2015: 4K TVs Are Coming for You, Even if You Don’t Want Them, Yahoo Tech

4K UHD TVs, meanwhile, remain the CES product I’m least likely to spend my own dollars on. But I’m getting resigned to the fact that the industry is moving this way regardless of what I think.

1/7/2015: FCC Chair: Strong Net-Neutrality Rules Are Coming, and Soon, Yahoo Tech

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the commission would vote on “Title II” reclassification of Internet providers as common carriers, the thing I and many others have been suggesting for years as a solid foundation for net-neutrality regulations. This is an amazing comeback story.

1/8/2015: The Future of Search, CES

My hour-long panel with Samsung senior director Ryan Bidan, Yelp product manager Travis Brooks, and Moz CTO Anthony Skinner wasn’t as wide-ranging as that title would suggest: We were trying to focus on how increasingly self-aware mobile devices and “Internet of Things” smart-home gadgets could further chip away at our privacy, provide more useful information or do both.

Yahoo Tech Puls hands-on report1/8/2015: I Tried Will.i.am’s PULS Band, the Most Unusual Smartwatch at CES, Yahoo Tech

Sitting down to talk shop about wearables with will.i.am was not on my calendar that morning. Instead, I saw the Puls logo outside a meeting room, asked if I could take a look at the hardware, and was somewhat confused to be told to stand and wait while inquiries were made. Then they ushered me in, the gentleman in question emerged, and I got a first-hand look at a “smart cuff” that has little in common with smartwatches as we know them. I have an interesting job.

1/11/2015: How to transfer shows to new TiVo, USA Today

This column started with yet another round of holiday tech support for my relatives. When I saw that much of the scant documentation for a migration from one TiVo to another existed on other sites, I thought there might be a story in that. When I saw up close how tedious the process got, I was sure I had something to write about.

If you still somehow haven’t had enough CES coverage, please have a look at my Flickr album from the show.

1/12 update: I can’t believe I forgot to mention my own panel. 

You can leave me voicemail

My phone’s been doing something weird over the past few weeks: It’s been ringing and buzzing with incoming calls.

Missed callsAnd not just any calls, but those in which the callers don’t leave a voicemail when I don’t pick up. I don’t pick up because it’s December and calls from tech-heavy area codes–206 and 415, I’m looking at you–usually mean CES PR pitches that, by virtue of referencing something happening weeks from now, do not require my immediate attention.

I keep wondering if one of these calls will break with the pattern and leave me with a voicemail summary. Instead, I only get Android’s after-the-fact identification of the PR agency behind the number. What happened? Was the caller on the verge of leaving a brilliant little soliloquy before he or she had the iPhone stolen. Did an attack by a bear interrupt things? I can only wonder.

I whined about this on Twitter, and one PR rep responded that he didn’t want to annoy journalists by adding yet another voicemail to their queue. I get where he’s coming from. But here’s the thing: A voice call without any here’s-what-you-missed followup (could be voicemail, could be e-mail, could be a tweet) basically reads as “my message is so important that I will not say it unless you drop everything to hear it in real-time.”

And that’s not something I want to do when I have this many to-do-list items to finish before CES.

Look, I have visual voicemail through Google Voice; playing messages is not that painful, and GV’s automatic transcription often makes it amusing too. Besides which, at the moment I can’t seem to get anybody to leave me voicemail. So if you do, PR friends, you can tell your client how this one weird trick made your message stand out from everybody else’s.

Why yes, I did get your CES PR pitch.

I’ve gotten seriously behind in my e-mail, even by my usual pathetic standards. To save time, I will use this post to answer an entire category of messages: e-mailed requests for my time during CES in Las Vegas next month.

CES 2014 tablet manAre you still going to CES?

Yes. Why should this January be any different from the last 16 17?

Will we see you at our press conference?

Good question! On one hand, the waits to get into big-ticket press conferences (that are more like lectures, what with the lack of time for Q&R or even hands-on inspection of these products) often preclude going to earlier events. On the other hand, I don’t know what my various editors will want me to do. Sorry, it’s complicated.

Would you like to schedule a show-floor meeting with [giant electronics company]?

Yes, probably. When one company’s exhibit space is a large fraction of an acre, getting a guided tour of the premises can be a real time-saver. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, I will soon. Probably.

Can we schedule a show-floor meeting with [small gadget firm]?

Most likely not. The point of vendors paying exorbitant amounts of money for show-floor exhibit space is to provide a fixed target for interested attendees. So as long as you’ll have somebody there who can answer questions, I’ll get to you when I can. Hint: Telling me where to find your client in your first e-mail helps make that happen.

This general outline of my CES schedule may also be of use:

  • Tuesday, the first full day of the show, I probably won’t go further than the Central Hall of the LVCC.
  • Wednesday will find me there and then in the North Hall.
  • Thursday will probably be the soonest I can get to the South Hall’s two levels and to the Sands exhibit space.

We’re scheduling meetings at [someplace not at the convention center or walkable distance from it]. 

You do know how much CES logistics suck, right? The odds are not in your favor, not unless some attendance-required event pulls me off the show floor and near your event.

Can we set up a meeting at [ShowStoppers/Pepcom]?

Those two evening events, in which an outside PR firm books a hotel ballroom, rents tables to various gadget vendors and caters food and beverages so journalists can have dinner on their feet, constitute an efficient use of my time because I don’t have to find these companies and find time for them. Can we please not then get all OCD by booking a meeting inside an event at a spot inside a location?

Any interest?

I’d make fun of this follow-up, but I’ve used the same lame line when checking up on freelance pitches to potential clients.