Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

The second in Doc's series of reports on this year's trade shows.
Gems in the Midst

I missed a lot at CES, unavoidably. For example, it was hard to find Booth 22200 when the banners on the ceiling pointed to 22100-22175 on one side of the hall and 22300-22350 on the other. But there were fun places to pause between here and there. One was Nisus, which makes a little camera that shoots 4-megapixel still pictures, records and stores MP3s, shoots digital movies (even at VGA resolution) and costs just $199. They were doing brisk business at the booth when they weren't busy goofing around. The same went for the folks at NeuTrino Technologies, who have a complex and useful Windows-based desktop software product. I tried to convince them to re-deploy their stuff for Linux but didn't get my hopes up, even though it was clear they take Linux seriously.

It also was fun to see all the LCD and plasma TV screens, which generally looked impressive but continue to be priced way too high for most of the market--but not so high that the haven't made the market for conventional TVs, even "HDTV-ready" ones, terminal. That's why prices for old-fashioned picture-tube TVs are falling toward zero. If you're still into TV, now might be a good time to buy one. I saw in a recent Consumer Reports that the top-rated TV of any type, including plasma and LCD, was a Sony WEGA tube model. (The KV-34XBR910, to be exact.)

Looking Around

As you might guess from the photo galleries I publish along with articles like this one (see also, Linux Lunacy Geek Cruises (2001, 2002 and 2003); OSCon; Apachecon; and Digital ID World), photography is one of my preoccupations. In fact, I began my journalism career 33 years ago as a newspaper photographer and reporter. Since then my specialty has become candid photography, although I enjoy a nice sunset a much as the next lens wrangler.

But I've avoided getting a good digital camera; partly because they're still too expensive and partly because my practical needs are outside the scope of just about everything I've seen from the digital camera makers. For one thing, I shoot a lot of presentations at trade shows and other events (such as Linus' talk on the last Geek Cruise), and I need a long zoom lens to get tight shots of presenters and presentations (an enormous help for note-taking). I also shoot a lot of candids that take advantage of the flip-out viewers that are standard on camcorders and increasingly rare in digital cameras.

My base requirements are simple: 1) long zoom, 8x optical at the minimum; 2) flip & pivot display; 3) small size, so it's easy to carry in a laptop bag or a large pocket; and 4) ability to shoot good pictures in low light. High resolution is nice to have, but not it's not a prime necessity.

So far, the only cameras that do all four of those things have been camcorders that also shoot stills. That's what you see in the archive links above. Most of those were shot with my Sony DCR-PC120BT or its stolen predecessor, the DCR-PC110 (nearly identical, except for the 120BT's BlueTooth, which, in the Sony tradition of hideous UIs, is unusable). The resolution is only 1.55 megapixels, but most of the time that's good enough for the Web. Its built-in processing has a lot of compression artifacts and the color is far from the best. But the Zeiss optics are excellent, and on the whole it does a good-enough job.

At both Macworld and CES I stopped by the Olympus, Canon and Nikon booths to see what they had this time around. The only camera that came close to meeting my needs was the Nikon Coolpix 5700. I loved the way it felt and the size, which is smaller than it appears--it's almost pocketable. But it's still a lot of money I don't have, so I think I'll wait.

______________________

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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Ubiquity???

Anonymous's picture

"So, it's clear that Linux is fast becoming a pure infrastructural commodity--like the air we breathe. Why promote what's best taken for granted? Thus, take Linux's decreasing visibility as the inverse of its ubiquity"

Um, how about it's a sign of possibly rampant GPL violations? Or maybe still Fear of Microsoft? Don't say the L-word too loud! And what about us poor schmuck end users, who just want this ***** to frikken WORK on Linux??

Don't send Doc to any more shows, send someone who will ask hard questions, and come back with some solid information.

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Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

Anonymous's picture

Nobody at either booth knew if Linux was involved in their systems; but at trade shows like this one, what sells isn't tech. It's girls. XM drew a long line of fans looking for autographs from Juli and Tiffany, the "seductive hosts" of Playboy's Night Calls show.

http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/graph/?host=playboy.com

According to netcraft Playboy use Solaris.
Draw your own conclusions.

Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

Anonymous's picture

Hi this is HanishKVC here.
I want to inform u that u might have missed some linux based products at CES.
As I work for a company which makes Digital Media product designs and also act as ODM from India called Fedtec. We were part of the TI booth at CES. We had on display WORKING CONCEPT product of Digital Video Recorder and Multimedia Jukebox based on TI's DM270 chip on display, which was running our port of uclinux for this dual core ASIC consisting of ARM and DSP with some programmable accelerators for video processing. These products support mpeg4 encode/decode, mp3 enc/playback, Divx support, mjpeg, jpeg support (all these use DSP and Accelorators). Also gif is supported but this uses ARM only.

We support multiple OSs like vxworks, uitron, linux, ucos, stlite, nucleus etc in our products. However at the booth we had 2 products running uclinux and one running uitron.

In general we get many requests from product companies asking for product designs based on linux.

Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

davemc's picture

While this is interesting in the identification of the new "cool" stuff, the lack of Linux mentions is not newsworthy. For any infrastructure to be successful, it must be omnipresent, or as mentioned in another comment, kind of like power cords.

Years ago, I made a statement that "Linux won't be important until no one cares." (as an example : (http://www.linuxjournal.com//article.php?thold=-1&mode=flat&order=0&sid=...) ).

Now that we can simpy accept Linux, we can move on to the new battle for the last mile minds, the home user, the business desktop, the average game player.

Many of them don't mention Linux for the same reason...

Anonymous's picture

...that they don't mention having power cords. It's kind of taken for granted.
But for the brouhaha it would cause, this almost makes one long for an avertising clause in Linux's licence. Perhaps for the next show we can print some "built on Linux" stickers to tag participants' banners with.

Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

Anonymous's picture

If linux is used everywhere in embedded applications, I bet
the amount of GPL violations is staggering.
Will the GPL be powerless in the future, just because
of the sheer amount of violations?

Ron

Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

Anonymous's picture

Unications web site does not yet show the medic-center, that I could find.

Re: Hunting Penguins in the Desert: The CES Report

Anonymous's picture

Found the hidden link - another site
http://www.uni-wlan.com/

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