Preparing for Comdex

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After scrounging up the frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class and experiencing one of the best fights of my life (reclining seats, footrests and Starcraft: Broodwar on a Titanium PowerBook at 35,000 feet) I'm back in Las Vegas -- possibly one of my least favorite cities on earth.

Comdex is the largest gathering of computing technology companies, all demonstrating the latest and greatest products for the year to come. Mac users often walk away empty-handed, though recent developments in multi-platform standards such as USB and FireWire vastly increase the number of cool Mac compatible gadgets and do-dads at the show.

Vegas and I have had an interesting relationship. As the former Editor-in-Chief of a startup dotcom, I've been coming to Vegas for years. Many years see me here three times, but I'm never really easy in this city.

I think the problem is that I'm here to work and the city is here to divert me from that. A three block walk takes twenty minutes, past dozens of men handing out flyers for all sorts of sordid clubs while tourists from all over the world snap pictures of what only can be described as "not the real Eiffel tower," or "not the real New York City skyline." (I'll have to go see if they've modified that display since Sept. 11th.) Maybe it's because I'm never here with anyone I know, usually cooped up in a hotel room somewhere pouring over press releases and emails.

Comdex is the biggest show in Vegas and hotel prices usually go through the roof. This year though, rooms are plentiful and rates cheap. I'm writing this from a king-sized bed on the twenty-third (and top) floor of Bally's, a hotel that usually would be out of my travel budget. Behind me is a Jacuzzi tub (seats four) sunk into the marble floors, between the two rows of walk-in closets, the two sinks, dressing area and shower (stands three comfortably) that produces it's own steam from hidden pipes. The view from my twenty-foot long bay window is nothing short of breathtaking.

The streets seem much emptier than I ever remember, especially for Comdex. That's not to say that there aren't a lot of people here, there are plenty. But in years past I remember not being able to walk through the crowds at night without constantly bumping into people or saying, "excuse me" as I cut around a group of gawking technology specialists.

Security is tighter over at the main hall of Comdex, despite the fact that the show doesn't start until tomorrow. The line to the press registration stretched on for about an hour and included a bag check, ID verification and a pat-down from a security guard before entering the working press area.

The festivities officially begin tonight with two press-only events -- the first being a media/analyst preview with "an exclusive preview of the highly anticipated products, services and trends set to dominate the event this year." That is followed by a theme party -- this year it's a red-carpet movie premiere theme.

Tune in tomorrow for my report on the cool Mac products from the show and more on the state of the computer industry.

This story, "Preparing for Comdex" was originally published by PCWorld.

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