Updated 06/04/01 – new remarks are in RED
When was the first time that you heard that there were Microsoft FanFests
happening in different areas across the country? I remember hearing something
about it late last year, and thinking of how much I would love to go to
something like that! But it seemed like they were only happening in places like
New York City…
When I heard rumors of a Microsoft
country-wide tour this year, and the possible FanFests to accompany it; I
figured that this would be my chance to participate and see what it was all
I don’t know about your situation in the town where you live; but I am just
about starved for some intelligent PDA conversation. I have some friends locally
that have begun using PDAs in the last couple years, but since they generally
expect me to know everything when they hit a snag; I have been
longing to be around people that know way more than I do, that can teach me
some new tricks. I figured that if anywhere, a FanFest would be the place!
Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Microsoft was not going
to make a pit-stop in San Angelo, Texas. Although we locals fondly refer to it
as "The largest city in the United States without an interstate", that
alone would be a good enough reason for Microsoft to not even think about it.
The point of this was that I knew I was going to have to travel to see the
road-show. I just didn’t know how far it would be, or which Texas city might be
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tour would stop in Dallas. Since
it is only about 270 miles (4.5 hours) from me, it was highly preferable to a
city like Houston, at about 400 miles (8 hours) away!
So on Thursday, May 24, at 9:00 am I loaded up my car and headed to
Of course, in planning my leave time, I forgot to take into consideration
that for the last 100 years, I-30 in the middle of Downtown Fort Worth
has been in the midst of some heavy construction. I should have figured that it
would still be going on, and that I should add an extra 30 minutes to an hour
for my driving time.
Needless to say, when I pulled up at the Hotel Intercontinental in Addison, it was 2:00
on the dot. This was the time that I was supposed to be in the Executive
Briefing: Wireless & Mobility class!
As I drove through the completely packed parking lot, I couldn’t help but
notice the huge Microsoft Mobility Tour Semi, parked in a corner of the hotel’s
lot. It had its sides fully extended, and was humongous!
Thinking it might save a bit of time, when I pulled up at the hotel’s drive
through, I went ahead and allowed the valet to take my car.
I needed to change and shake off the road grime so I went ahead and checked
into my room, which by the way, was very nice and well appointed. Call me easily
impressed, but since I drink a lot of coffee I was happy to see that the
coffee-maker in the bathroom had enough filter-packs to get me through several
sittings! So with coffee brewing, I changed into clean clothes and checked my
e-mail on my Sprint PCS phone.
Now this is the part of my story where you have to realize how conflicted I
am. I use an iPAQ everyday as most of you already know. It is my favorite PDA
(for now, anyway) and it does everything I want it to do…except serve
as a phone. So for that I have the Kyocera smartphone,
which as you also know, is a Palm product. Well as I was saying, I checked my
e-mails and made some replies. Here I was about to attend a Pocket PC event
with my Palm, so I had to laugh because this seemed like a "when in
Rome" type situation. I decided to leave my Kyocera in the hotel room. I
figured it could catch all my messages for me while I was out, anyway. ;0)
I did debate completely skipping the Mobility class, since it had been going on for
almost an hour at this point. But, then my curiosity kicked in and it was
greater than my embarrassment at walking into a class that was halfway
The Executive Briefing: Wireless & Mobility
So there I was in the deserted parking lot, an hour late, looking at the
Microsoft semi and thinking what an idiot I was for being so tardy! There was
no one manning the table underneath a small pavilion tent and there were all
these really big notebooks just laying there. I really wanted one, but I didn’t
want to just take one either!
About this time a very tall man in a three piece suit walked up to me.
He didn’t look like he worked there – he looked like he had just left the
was coming to check out the show. We stood there and made small talk and he
wanted to know what was going on. I asked if he knew about the Microsoft tour,
and he said , "No", he had "just seen the truck and wanted to
know what was going on." I asked if he had a Pocket PC, and he
shyly grinned and said, "No."
All of a sudden, a guy crawled out of the truck’s cab. Judging by the size of
that area, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a total pleasure-palace hidden in
This guy was nice enough, he told us to grab a notebook and a Pocket PC
Magazine and go on in! So my new companion and I climbed the stairs and entered
into a large dimly-lit room, with seating all around on a built-up platform.
There were some empty chairs around but nothing easily accessible. I think
that’s what made my companion chicken out: He thanked me for getting him in and
left….oh well, his loss.
I climbed up one of the platforms, and made my way to an empty seat.
In the middle of the room, from a type of audio-visual command-center, two
men were tag-teaming each other while giving demonstrations on different aspects
of making businesses mobile. It was as if they were in a sort of
"pit", and we were slightly elevated, giving us a great view of them
and of the flat-screen monitors on all four sides of their command-center.
One of the first things that I noticed were that there were four small tables
set up in this pit and each was loaded with all of the available Pocket PCs by
Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Casio, and URThere. There was even an interesting Handheld
PC from Intermec that included a built in camera, and could be folded to be used
either as a notebook or as a tablet. I have two words for this product: I
On the large flat-screen monitors, they were running a demo of Windows
Whistler Professional. They were also showing an Outlook XP Demo. Both
products – the new desktop and the new Outlook – looked very cool.
Right about the time that they were demonstrating MS
Outlook Mobile Manager, a product that uses IntelliShrink™
to get as much of your message as possible onto the limited displays of most
web-enabled phones, a man across the room fell off the stage! Unbelievable!
I don’t know if he was tipping his chair back or if he had just scooted his
chair too close to the edge, but he went head over heels. I think the guy
sitting next to me snickered a little when I scooted my chair up an extra inch or two
– just be safe.
Next, they touched on some of the security issues dealing with having
sensitive information on a Pocket PC. This brought up a good point: If you are
going to store passwords and other secret info on your PDA, you should make sure
that it is protected by a password. Simply putting your owner info on the entry
page may get an honest person to return it to you once lost; but if all of your
passwords are accessible, you could be in for a massive problem.
We were then treated to a demonstration of the Pharos
GPS system. What an interesting product – it will actually speak directions
to you as you are driving! I would love to get my hands on one of these for
review. We next heard a short Audible
demonstration, and then were treated to a PowerPoint presentation that used
audio and video via the iPresentation
Bluetooth was touched upon; and being
able to use an 802.11b wireless LAN access card at Starbucks
to "surf while sipping" was mentioned. Where I live, we don’t even have a
Starbucks…we have the Symposium, a small local alternative that has live music
on weekends; so that is yet another cool thing that will pass my town by. :0P
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! They showed us a Sendo
Stinger Phone. Although it was awesome to see a version of the Pocket PC OS
running on a mobile phone, I was disappointed that it was in grayscale (gag).
The presenter mentioned that color will be available eventually…now, that
what I am waiting for. The working unit that they were presenting with was
running on VoiceStream, so that might
give some of you an idea of whether you will be able to use this phone in your
area or not…
We were then given a demonstration of streaming audio and visual content on an 802.11b Compact
Flash card. Too freaking cool! Unbelievably clear, and not jerky at all.
I had planned to stick around after the presentation and take some pictures
of the inside of the Semi for you to see – but what can I say? They announced
that if we would fill out a survey and turn it in at the Vendor Display Area,
they would have a drawing for two iPAQs in 20 minutes. I figured that was where
I needed to be!
So like cattle we herded out of the Semi, and back into the hotel, headed to the
Crystal V Ballroom…
The Vendor Display Area
This was a room set up with tables representing all of the vendors that are
being featured on the Mobility tour. All of the Pocket PC companies were
present, as they had been in the Semi’s pit.
Vendor Display Area, picture by Alex Kac
The first thing we all did was get our surveys filled out, and then we turned
them into a worker at the far side of the room. In exchange we were given a
Microsoft Mobility Tour T-shirt – a fair trade for our information. :0)
They had a nice spread of sodas, water, fresh fruit and other munchies
available. It was like a social hour with PDAs – I was loving it!! Shortly after
we all had turned in our questionnaires, two winners were called. Nope, I wasn’t one
of them – but that’s okay, I was still having fun.
One of the first tables that I visited belonged to Pharos GPS. They were
running their Pocket PC
Navigator program on an HP 548, and it looked awesome!
I stopped at the Omnisky table, and picked
up a couple of free Frisbees.
I went to the AvantGo
table to register to win a free Pocket PC. Then something occurred that would
come back to haunt me all night! One of the guys working the table asked what
kind of Mobile Applications I was interested in, and I said I was just looking.
He asked me again what kind of applications I was interested in, and I just
looked over my shoulder at him and said, "I’m Judie, with The
Gadgeteer", like that would explain everything to him. He then said,
"Ah, okay", and smiled, and I went on my way.
I next arrived at the UR There table,
and got to see an @migo
600-C Pocket PC for the first time. They let me play with it, and I got to
experiment with one of UR There’s programs, Pocket
Twirl. This program allows salesmen the ability to load a virtual
product, that can be viewed from every angle, without actually having to carry
the bulky item itself. I was also introduced to List
Tool, which looks like something a real-estate
professional would drool over. The @migos that I saw had bright displays,
and seemed like solid PDAs. I did pick up an interesting tidbit that I had not
heard before: there will be a 64MB @migo later this year…interesting! See what
I stopped at the Casio table because I saw an interesting pen-based tablet
device. Casio actually considers the MPC-501M40E
to be a sub-notebook. It runs Windows 98, which is very cool. This unit is sweet, but pricey, at $2,200.
I was getting a bit hungry and had seen everything on display, so I was ready
to move on. While I knew that they would be serving food at the FanFest, I also
knew that since I had volunteered to help out I probably wouldn’t get much of
an opportunity to nosh.
Since I was wearing khakis and a polo shirt, I figured I
had better ask the concierge which restaurant in the hotel was the less formal.
If the hotel hadn’t been so swank, I wouldn’t have even worried about it. I was
directed to the Monte Carlo, which turned out to be an excellent dining
experience. The day’s special was a New York Strip with four grilled shrimp. Since I
am a Rancher by day, I figured that I should support the Beef industry and
partake. Boy, am I glad I did! The food was excellent, and the service was
impeccable…and the bill reflected it, let me tell you.
Soon, it was time to meet up with the FanFest organizers in the Crystal IV Ballroom,
to see what my duties as a volunteer for the night would entail…
The Pocket PC Fan Fest
As I walked in the large ballroom it appeared that there was no one there; but
then I saw this very petite
woman bent over a type of overhead projector display.
I went to introduce myself, and then realized I was in the presence of none
other than Beth
Goza, one of the brains behind the entire Pocket PC movement. I
couldn’t help but notice that Beth had one of the new tiny Sony
Vaio’s set up. She was telling me that she had wanted to do a demonstration
of streaming video using the Ricochet
modem on her iPAQ, but that reception in the room was not good enough to do it. One
of the hazards of a well built hotel, I suppose.
Beth and her toys
I asked Beth where she would like me to "work" for the night, and she
said I could take my pick. My choices were: To work at the Beam & Share
table, a place where Pocket PC users could download and try different shareware
and freeware titles; to work at the Local Pocket PC User Groups sign-up table;
to help at the Club Pocket PC table; or to help at the Pocket PC question booth.
I thought the Beam & Share option sounded great, so that’s what I
I did learn that one of Beth’s "babies" is the Club
Pocket PC, of which I am already a member. As some of you might know, they
are giving out copies of HanDBase for the
Pocket PC with the first 2000 paid memberships. Beth asked me if, as a member, I
would be upset if they gave out a different program with future memberships as
the 2000 HanDBase copies were almost gone (but there are some left – so
if you want that program, you need to sign up right away!). I told her that I thought that would
be a great idea. I think that people will be happy to keep getting a free
quality program, especially if they are joining the club at a later date and the
original promotion is already over. If it happens to be
a program they already own, they can always give the free program to a friend
that has a Pocket PC. That’s what I did with my copy of HanDBase, as I
already had owned a registered copy.
Shortly, other volunteers began to enter the room. I met Robert
(Bob) Thayer, Jr.,
one of the people I have been corresponding with about having a Pocket PC Users
Group in Austin. I also met Kyle
Rhynerson and Alex Kac, also
from the Austin area. These guys were very friendly, and we all gravitated over
to the Beam & Share area, where we were going to work, except for Bob – who
went over to the Pocket PC Club table. I got to beam my business card to
another Pocket PC user for the first time ever, and receive theirs. It’s the
little things that make me happy! :0)
Kyle Rhynerson with his iPAQ, picture by Alex Kac
Kyle & Bob at the Club Pocket PC Table
I was in the presence of a master programmer, as I soon found out. Alex, for those of
you that don’t know him, is the creator and developer of Pocket
Informant, a PIM replacement for the Pocket PC. I was able to enjoy a small
one-on-one question and answer session with him, in which he gave me a hands-on
demonstration of his product. I must say that I was impressed.
Here is a shot of Jason Dunn and Alex Kac
Jason Dunn came over with a plate
of food, and sat down and joined in the conversation for a bit. Beth had to tell
him it was "time" before he was ready to quit eating. He asked if I
would come help him with the door, which I was happy to do.
Once we were "in position", Jason handed me an envelope filled with 8MB Compact Flash
cards. He explained that these were for the Beaming Game that would be played
during the evening. I asked Jason if the people would get to keep the CF cards, or if
they had to give them back. He told me that they had to give them back. While I
was wondering how on earth that would happen; I soon got caught up in the
fun of selecting who I would "gift" with a part in the game. The rules
for this game were printed on the paper that Jason was handing to everyone that
gained admittance: Basically, the way that it worked was that you had to get 8 files beamed
to you in order to claim a prize. The people with the CF cards were the people
you had to seek out, in order to get the files!
As people would come up in the line, Jason would ask to see their Pocket PC.
Now for those of you that aren’t aware of this, the Pocket PC is your ticket for
admission to the FanFest. I was surprised at how many people showed up without
theirs. Jason turned most of them away. One poor guy had just purchased an iPAQ
that day. It was still in its box, down in the man’s car…Jason made him go get
it! He brought it back in and we let his party in.
It was an interesting
selection process: If it was a family, only one member had to actually have a
Pocket PC. If it was a group of unrelated people, every one had to have theirs on them.
For the most part, people were in a festive mood and were ready to get into the
door to see what was going on.
Just so you have an idea of what greeted them once they were inside: There
were round tables set up all over the room that would seat 2 to 4 people.
People beginning to arrive, picture by Alex Kac
a wall was an extensive buffet of what looked like oriental food. Since I never
actually got to eat any (I just walked by it several times), that’s what made the
largest impression on me. It certainly smelled wonderful! There were two open
bars in the room, and they were doing a brisk trade. Then of course, there were
all the Pocket PC booths I mentioned earlier.
Periodically, music would be playing through Beth’s iPAQ over a
sound system, or she would show a Pocket
TV or Pocket
Flash Movie on the overhead. Of course the Alien
Song and Stick
Figure Karate movies were a big hit. (By the way, you can get a lot of great
Flash Enabled movies at this
site). Lots of laughter and talking kept the room buzzing.
After a while, my CF cards were gone, and Jason relieved me of my "meet
& greet" duty. I went back over to the Beam & Share table to sit
with Alex while he was installing applications, games and movies on people’s
Pocket PCs. This was a great opportunity to meet many people from the Dallas
area and see what types of things they kept on their PDAs.
Alex helping folks install Pocket PC apps
One guy didn’t find the type of game he wanted to play among the games we had
available for download; so I handed him my iPAQ, and let him play Weeboo.
He loved it – but he scared me to death! The way he was mashing on my iPAQ’s
screen with his thumb was making me fear that he would smash my screen in at any
minute! That’s the last time I handed my iPAQ to anyone that night, believe me!
Bob Thayer helping out at the Beam & Share Booth, picture by
During this whole time, people were gathered around Beth’s table, showing her
unique apps on their Pocket PCs, and evidently she was handing out prizes to
people as they did this – there was a lot of laughing and back-slapping going
Beth giving out prizes at her booth
A bit later, Jason came back over and asked if I would like to relieve Bob
Thayer at the door. I was happy to. Once I got there, Bob wasn’t ready to leave
just yet, so we got to hang out and chat in between arrivals.
This is a picture of Bob and me, taken by Alex Kac
Since I was at a Microsoft function, celebrating Pocket PC ownership, I took
my door duties seriously. Like I said before, I am a bit conflicted because I
use Palm products also. I felt bad when the two guys carrying Kyocera phones
tried to enter and I couldn’t let them in, but really – it seems a bit crass to
crash a party when you are not even making an effort to meet the qualifications
to get in…
While I was working the door, I got to meet Jen Edwards, the Palm Editor from
Brighthand, who showed up with a friend.
Jen had her Palm on her, but she also had her Jornada – so she and her friend received instant
access, of course.
During a lull at the door, Bob jokingly asked me if Jason was supposed to be
serving us food and beverages while we were working. This was because Jason had
posted something about doing so if you volunteered. We joked that it must have
just been for the CompUSA volunteers, since they actually had to work four
hour shifts, without a nearby buffet and bar!
Remember how I said my remark to the AvantGo guy would come back to haunt me?
Every time he would walk through the door to get a drink from the bartender, he
would say, "Hi Judie, from the Gadgeteer!!" Bob wanted to know
what that was all about, so the guy explained to him about my (I thought
innocent) comment at the AvantGo booth earlier. It really wasn’t that funny, but
the AvantGo guy sure thought so. I guess the way I said it tickled him or
Derek Brown came through the door, and introduced himself to me. Derek is the
other half of the Pocket PC Dream-Team with Beth, so it was definitely a thrill to
Then I was at the door by myself, but I was not alone for very long. Tom
Gibson, one of the writers for Pocket
PC magazine came in and I was thrilled to meet and talk to him, as I have
long enjoyed his printed articles. I met several people who thought I worked for
Microsoft (even though I was wearing my Gadgeteer polo), and just wanted to tell
me what a great idea this had been, and how much fun they had had.
One of the cooler things that happened was that this man came through the door and
thanked me for picking him to give the CF card to for the game. He said he had
won a $100 gift certificate from Handango,
and a 30 day trial of Windows XP. Lucky him!
Well, before I realized it, three hours had blown by, and the evening was
starting to wind down. Beth came over with two fleece jackets, and asked me what
size I wanted. I had already made the decision before the night began that I was
going to give my fleece to Julie, as she had been so disappointed that she
couldn’t attend. I mentioned that to Beth, and she floored me by giving me both
jackets! Just so you know, these are very nice, thick, black, pull-over fleeces
with embroidered tour logos. I know I’ll be the only one in my city with one for
sure, so how cool is that? :0D
The Mobility Tour fleece jacket given to volunteers, with front
Back detail of fleece jacket
Since it is still 50 degrees in Indiana, Julie might actually be able to get
some use out of her fleece this spring. I’ll have to wait for next fall, as our
temperatures have already been in the nineties!
Jason came walking out about then, and gave me yet another t-shirt, so I’m
sending that one to Julie as well.
So finally, I got to go back inside the ballroom as a guest and not as a
volunteer. We were all slightly wound up from a fun evening, and it was neat to
get a chance to talk to Tom, Alex, Bob, Kyle, and Beth in a laid back
I got to play the game set up at the Local Pocket PC club table, where you
have to reach into a fishbowl filled with rice, and pull out a safety pin. This
is way harder than it sounds, but I was pleased to win one of the unique
key-chains that were being offered as prizes.
Beth tried to show us a flash movie that had been taken (I think) on the
plane ride over. We got to see her and another person on the overhead, but then
it didn’t work properly. That was too bad, because it looked like it would have been
While we were gathered around Beth’s table, she pulled out an iPAQ in an OmniCase,
and mentioned that the developer was going to make her one in baby blue! She
then pulled out a case that she has been working on herself, as something for
the Pocket PC Club members to purchase at a later date. This soft case had a
bunch of pockets, and was designed to be able to hold both the Pocket PC and a
Stowaway Keyboard! This will be a good case for everyone that needs to carry
both items at once. Another little doo-dad that she pulled out was a pocketable
case made to hold one PCMCIA card and two Compact Flash cards. She said she was
also working on bringing that to the Pocket PC club members, also.
Beth & me, picture by Alex Kac
Oh yeah – about this time, I asked if Beth had been able to collect all of
the Compact Flash cards back from the people that had been using them for the
Beaming Game. She told me that they got to keep those. Jason, you turkey, I
believed you! :0P
Beth did tell me that one night, someone had accidentally been given her 128MB
CF card; so she had announced that if they would tell her they had it, she would
let them keep it. Well, the guy that had it was of course wondering if there had
been some kind of mistake, he turned it in, and true to her word – Beth gave it
We took some pictures together, and then were told that we were going to be
kicked out in five minutes. That was my cue to leave.
Tom Gibson, Beth Goza and me: Shiny Happy People, picture taken
by Alex Kac
I was going to snag a Diet Coke to take back to my room, but the hotel staff
had already cleared the tables away…I could feel a definite room service call
Once back in my room, I made calls home, and then to Julie – who was waiting
to hear all about my evening. I had had such a great time, and I was trying to
remember to tell her everything, so I of course left tons out!
I ordered a room service cheeseburger, and when it arrived I demolished half
of it and some fries.
Realizing that a room-service breakfast the next morning would be a great way
to start the day, I stuck the tag for it on the outside of my room’s door, and
The Next Morning
After getting ready, packing, and enjoying my breakfast, it was finally time
to check out. I ran into Kyle at the desk, and he was looking mighty
"What’s up?" I asked him.
‘They are telling me that the company picked up my room tab," he
Kyle works for AMD, and he knew it was not that company picking up his
tab. Turns out Microsoft had taken care of it!
Kyle was sure that there had been some kind of mistake, and I figured he was
I then began the check-out process next to him with a different employee, and
was told the same thing. Not only did Microsoft cover my room, but
they also took care of my meals and my valet parking! I don’t care how you may
feel about Microsoft, but this was about the classiest thing I have ever
experienced. They took care of their unsuspecting volunteers, and they did it in
such a laid back manner, that we were flabbergasted.
I left the hotel in such a good mood, that the 4.5 hour drive seemed to fly
by. What a great experience, and what a fun time!
06/04/01: Well, I just got my online statement from
American Express, and it appears that as Kyle later found out he was, I
too was charged for my room. Ah well, I still had a great time, and it is not as
if I went expecting my room to be covered – so I am certainly not complaining!