CeBIT 2004

[ from the random-comments-random-stuff dept. ]

CeBIT 2004

Last weekend I went to CeBIT 2004 in Hannover, Germay. I originally planned to go with jok but due to a complication with his travel arrangements, I had to go alone instead. We had some food in London on Friday afternoon at Wagamama and then proceeded to Victoria to catch a nonexistant Stanstead Express. It actually goes from Liverpool Street but for whatever reason we ended up in the wrong place and had to get a taxi to Liverpool Street. When I did finally get the Stanstead Express to London Stanstead (STN), it was about 17:00 and the Air Berlin flight was due to take off at 18:10.

The train was suffering from a number of issues, including overhead line damage, ongoing engineering works happening, and general overall congestion. I called the Air Berlin German office twice on my mobile while on route and heard that the flight was being progressively delayed due to the cumulative effect of earlier delays. I arrived in the airport at 18:15 and asked the check in staff if they would please let me on the flight (updated: 28/03/2004. I had only hand luggage with me on this occasion) – they issued me with a late arrival ticket and gave no guarantees. Security allowed me to proceed to the front of the queue and I was at the gate within not too long. As I arrived I saw a final bording call and rushed, but the flight was even further delayed and did not actually take off until a few minutes after I had arrived. For once this was a good thing and I was very greatful :-) .

Yes I should plan for this and be early next time I fly somewhere. The good and positive side effect of this was that I had not enough time to consider my extreme fear of flying in planes at 33,000ft and just got onboard. I met my single serving friends for the evening: one person sitting next to me does research in abstract specification of Real Time systems and had just been to Test Con 2004 in Oxford! Another chap had been playing with cross gcc and we talked about cygwin and binary compatibility of compiled code which has been through the gcc code generator. Abstractly random.

I landed in Hannover and met the friends I was staying with a bit later than originally planned. They have the ability to speak English better than most English people do, and I enjoyed a conversation in the car with a psychotherapist who deals with gifted young people with various problems – she wrote a chapter for the book “Able Underachievers” (which I plan to read sometime – I read the chapter on Sunday but the book does look quite interesting). Anyway I arrived at the house I was staying in and had some soup before bed. In the morning, I awoke and enjoyed a relaxing shower before a very pleasant continental breakfast with meats, good coffee, and generally enjoyable conversation. My hosts provided me with a map of the area and directions for the show halls, before dropping me off to catch a tram.

Hannover seems to be one of the cleanest cities I have seen in recent times. The streets are clean and a modern yet not overdone look greats the eyes most favourably – as indeed does the sheer scale of the recycling schemes they have available. I was impressed with the Tram because it was clean and modern, had very amusing automatic retracting steps, and very useful information flat screens with news and other events in addition to the list of stops in a useful format.

Arriving at the show, I entered through the gates and went straight to Hall 2. I wondered around the Halls incrementally for the next few hours, especially with an interest in Hall 3 and the GNU/Linux stuff in Hall 6. Various companies were at the show this year (IBM had a Linux Cafe – a sure fire marketting gimmick but it probably worked dispite the cheese). I enjoyed seeing the number of companies with traditional Microsoft links who had brought out ports of their software. I also enjoyed seeing the number of companies using GNU/Linux in embedded systems or as part of a larger product – for example AXS security products which explicitly used GNU/Linux as a selling point for their technology. I enjoyed the sheer scale of the show and was quite taken aback at the number of people (yes ok so there were also a number of geek girls at this event but that is not just what I mean) who were passing through stalls. Security had a presense but there were plenty of bins and I am greatful that nobody tried anything at this event.

The LPI Germany guys were there (LPI Germany was announced at the CeBIT last year), and some people with embedded Linux stuff in the LinuxParc in Hall 6 but on the whole GNU/Linux was more of a secondary selling point as was generic Microsoft stuff. Far more focus was on the general ability to speak untold amounts of nothing on bluetooth adapters. I talked to the guys from Omnis about Omnis Studio 4.0 and my experiences from my recent review of Omnis Studio 3.3. I also enjoyed a long conversation with some of the guys from LPI and a very interesting hands on demonstration of the RSBAC security patches available for Linux kernels.

There were some talks organised too – I saw there was a KDE one as I walked passed but I thought most of it was in German and decided that I had been in one Hall for a few hours or so and still had to go through the others before finding Hall 1 for the final major Linux vendor experience (Hall 1 is somehow not as easy to find as perhaps it is presumed. I went straight to Hall 2 on the way in an then visited Hall 1 at the end). I have a large number of cards and bits of paper which I need to reconcile with the information on the press section of the CeBIT website for my official writeup but these are some starting words here. While I enjoyed the various Linux bits which were present at the CeBIT, I would have liked to have seen more focus on Linux tech and business.

The Future Parc was pretty interesting. There was a large robot doing a demonstration somewhat reminiscent of the scene from Short Circuit where the robot makes a glass of Gin and Tonic – although in this case without the crushing of ice, the mixing of drinks, and big pointless lazers. Actually not a lot like Short Circuit but I thought of that film nonetheless. Of the 3D displays that I did see, most had a focal point at 65cm if without glasses and required certain delicate positioning to work. The glasses based stuff was more interesting. BMW had a maintainance technology demonstration using Reality Augmentation and there was a demonstration of reality augmentation with cars which any reasonable computer science student could have done in a few months (therefore I felt not really a suitable exhibit for the future). The visual image processing cum tracking stuff was a little scary…probably tinfoil hat time pretty soon.

IBM, SuSE, and Novell were all playing good bedfellows at this show since their stalls were practically one giant big business Linux advert with a few other bits of technology and business. IBM probably brought a good few million pounds worth of i/p/z Series servers and I enjoyed a free juice at the Linux Cafe. No free beer on this occasion although it might have been on the menu. IBM had some kind of labyrinth upstairs for special customers and the press, and I had a look but there was little in the way of press stuff going on by the time I was there on Saturday afternoon and to be honest I was not too bothered to be given the standard Linux loving big blue stories or whatnot.

I did find CeBIT had too strong a focus on consumer level stuff and not enough focus on the business and technology aspects. Some Halls were a literal menagerie of companies pedelling the same technology in different forms – for example there were about a million people selling every possible combination of DVD writer and bluetooth dongle with some claim of theirs being somehow superior to all the others. In fact some exhibitors are considering leaving the show, and it seems that the debate over allowing pure consumerism to take over was well founded. It is.

I had some difficulty with the exit signage but eventually left later than planned and got off at the wrong Tram stop on the way to meet my hosts. So I was a little late getting to the Opera but they let me in – I probably looked like a tourist. I saw Mozart’s The Magic Flute, performed in German, and since I do not speak much German concentrated more on what was happening than on the vocals. Still I believe much Opera is like that anyway and my German friends said they had not caught every word.

I had some great food again afterwards (I must say that I really was well looked after by my hosts for the weekend) and then went to bed. In the morning we had some food with Robert and his mother before going for a walk around the local area and discussing various random miscellany. After this we had tea and I looked at Barbara’s chapter from “Able Underachievers” before being dropped off at the airport. My flight was on time and I had a single serving friend who had been demonstrating some equipment at CeBIT. On the return to London Stanstead I had a pleasant smoothie from a new juice bar called Love Juice.


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