To help me survive the chaos of CES 2008, I thought it would be useful to employ the help of three gadgets I had used only sparingly. CES gave me the opportunity to put these technologies through some production scenarios and see how useful they could be in the real world.
OQO Ultra Mobile PC
I have been testing the OQO since December in preparation for a full product review. I decided to bring the OQO to Las Vegas as my primary note-taking device during press conferences and briefings at CES. Because the OQO is a device that you primarily type with your thumbs (like a smartphone), I was skeptical about whether I could truly type fast enough with it to make it useful for taking notes -- and I was prepared to switch to paper if it didn't work. However, it worked great.
I ended up using shorthand and took notes for about 90% of my meetings at CES with the OQO. I just wish it had better battery life. I had to plug in several times throughout the day to keep it alive.
Jawbone Bluetooth headset
I'm not an avid user of Bluetooth headsets, and like many of my colleagues I get a little annoyed when I see people wandering around wearing them when they aren't actually on a call. During CES I used a Jawbone -- the only Bluetooth headset I've used that has actually worked as expected -- and it proved to be invaluable for two key functions.
First, it allowed me to simultaneously talk and access my smartphone at the same time. In the past, I've had to take a call and then tell the person to "hold on" while I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at my calendar or looked up an e-mail. Having the ability to talk and access my calendar at the same time was critical at CES because I had to make and change multiple appointments on the fly.
Second, the Jawbone allowed me to walk around the show with the headset on when I was expecting a call. It was so loud on the CES show floor that it was impossible to hear my phone ringing, and even vibrating was not very useful because of all the distractions. However, I could still hear the phone ring when I had the Jawbone on because it sent a ring to the ear piece. So even if I looked like one of those headset users I usually shake my head at, I was thankful that the Jawbone helped me avoid missing important calls.
3G Internet access card
You would think at the Consumer Electronics Show that fast, reliable Internet access would be universal. But like most conferences and expos, Wi-Fi is spotty at CES. Therefore, I decided to try out EVDO Internet access at CES so that I could (theoretically) jump on the Web whenever I needed to, no matter what the state of Wi-Fi was at any given location or any given moment.
Verizon Wireless set me up with its Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U modem. UTStarcom sent me its UM150 wireless broadband modem, which it was promoting at CES. The UM150 was also set up to run on the Verizon Wireless EVDO network. I used both of them with a MacBook Pro laptop and they came in very handy several times when I ran into lulls in Wi-Fi connectivity. I also tried out the Sprint EVDO network by using the built-in WWAN adapter in the OQO, and it turned out to be useful as well. All of these connections got under 1 Mbps in bandwidth, and I experienced some general spottiness with all them. I wouldn't recommend any of them as a primary Internet connection, but it was very helpful to have them as a backup when needed.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).