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CES should move to an innovative city

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CES, the yearly bacchanal of tech and innovation, has outgrown its shell. Las Vegas has been home to the event since the late 1970s and, for better or worse, the city has survived and served the influx of technologists who flock to the event each year to see the latest and greatest. But two things are happening simultaneously that make Las Vegas the last place to find innovation.

First, Vegas infrastructure, while seemingly resilient to massive influxes of conference-goers, is having trouble keeping up with CES. Massive crowds in the many halls were greeted by multiple power outages — an ironic scene for a tech event. Million-dollar booths ended up in the dark and a Google booth flooded as rain came into event halls ill-prepared for actual weather. The shuttle system simply can’t keep up with the crush of people and the anemic monorail — an affront to public transit — is useless during the daytime rush. Add in multiple massive venues and a taxi system that can’t handle the crush of countless non-locals trying to get from point A to point Z and you’ve got a mess.

Second, the reason for big shows like CES is changing. Why does everyone need to be in one place when most business is done electronically, even algorithmically. While it’s nice to spend a week in a casino, perhaps it’s time for a smaller, more focused show or no show it all?

Perhaps, in the end, it’s time to move CES to a modern city?

While I have no specific answer as to where to send conference-goers — Denver? San Francisco? LA? Dubai? Berlin? — perhaps the real answer is for Las Vegas to fix its very real and very difficult transport, electrical and data problems so innovation can thrive in this strange desert oasis. As it stands, the city that wants to play host to thousands of technologists isn’t very technological, and its amenities — aimed more at bachelorette parties than LAN parties — are insufficient and even dangerously lacking.

Perhaps the next big event will not be physical. After all, the reason for having a yearly tech festival has changed. CES used to be forward-looking: products that launched there in January appeared on shelves months later. The current model is flipped: the coolest stuff launches online a year before and is shown in the flesh at CES. Crowdfunded projects that finished in April appear at CES in January as a sort of coming-out party. But do people really care anymore? Crowdfunders care about shipping product, not about spending thousands on a booth in a hostile city.

A lot has to change to make CES amazing again. Perhaps it’s too late. But Las Vegas does the world no favors and actively harms its image when it can’t keep up with the future.

Featured Image: John Locher/AP

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Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack was my surprise hit of CES 2018

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Peak Design announced its line of bags on Kickstarter in 2016. It’s my favorite thing at CES 2018. The project raised $6.5 million on Kickstarter and now the company has a full product line designed for photographers and bloggers and people who just like nice things. That’s me.

To be clear this is not a new bag. The bag has been out for a bit but I purchased Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack a day before CES started.

Buying a new bag before CES was a bold move. I’m not a bold guy. Tackling CES with a new bag is a potential disaster. In the past I’ve used a North Face everyday carry backpack for CES. I travel with the bag and it’s been to four continents and logged hundred of thousands of air miles over the last few years. That bag is my mobile office. I know exactly where everything is. But the bag also isn’t the best for carrying cameras and its large size means I overpack it. I needed something different and I’m pleased with the Peak Design Everyday Backpack.

I bought this bag without seeing it first. The sheer amount of positive reviews made the bag seem like a winner and they’re right. This bag gets everything right.

Confident design. That’s the best way to describe the Everyday Backpack. It’s smart and solid. The bag’s fabric is dense and feels incapable of being snagged or ripped yet it’s still soft enough to be pleasant to the touch. There’s one main pocket and several zippered sections around the bag including a laptop sleeve.

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The main section is secured with a novel latch. It’s amazing. Made out of metal, it grabs onto one of four bars to secure the top. There’s a long magnetic strip behind the bars that grabs the metal latch and holds it tight until the latch grabs the first available bar. In practice it’s smooth and satisfying. It just works.

The bag’s layout makes it perfect to carry cameras or drones or whatever. The inside of the bag is one large cavity that’s separated by sturdy dividers that can be configured in several different ways. There are large zippers on both sides of the bag that gives access to the interior compartment. This lets the wearer swing the bag off one shoulder, unzip a side and grab a camera.

Camera bags have had similar dividers for decades. But it’s the origami nature of these dividers that make them among the best available. The dividers have several bendable points that allows the user to configure the bag without the need of extra, smaller dividers. I love it. This design made easy work of a Canon 6D, a kit, telephoto and macro — something that I couldn’t do well in my North Face bag. I had one divider running parallel with the bottom to hold the camera. Then on top of the camera, I placed one divider vertically, creating two spots to hold the two lenses.

I’m not going to run through all the details of this bag. A few more are worth calling out: The sternum strap is fantastic. It uses clips without moving parts so it should last a lifetime. The shoulder straps are attached to the bag with a rivet that allows the straps to swivel as needed — it’s a smart advancement in the design of a backpack. And inside the laptop sleeve is a small pocket that is absolutely perfect to hold a Traveler’s Notebook and a pen.

The Peak Design Everyday Backpack is a fantastic bag. Seriously. It’s capable of holding an array of cameras and lens without extra bulk. And it looks great doing it too.

The Everyday Bag is a bit costly with an average price just under $300. The cost is the only downside I see. Similar bags from Tenba, Incase and countless others can be had for half the price of the Everyday Bag. It’s hard to justify the price but I after using the bag for several days, I can confidently say it’s a fantastic product and I’m happy with my purchase. This bag is the best thing I saw at CES 2018 even though it’s not new. I’m in love.

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Nintendo announces raft of new and retro titles for Switch (plus new Mario outfits)

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The Switch is getting a bevy of new games that should appeal to a broad variety of players, Nintendo announced today in one of its “Direct” videos. A new Mario Tennis game, updates to Odyssey, some classics and indies and, perhaps most unexpectedly, Dark Souls: Remastered.

The deepest fan-pleaser cut has to be The World Ends With You, a quirky DS cult hit with a great soundtrack and great modern aesthetic. Many a fan has asked for a remake or port, and they are surely crying tears of delight today.

The impeccable Super Mario Odyssey gets a new competitive game mode and an appearance by the well-known plumber’s too frequently ignored brother. Luigi hosts Balloon World, where you’re given 30 seconds to hide a balloon somewhere on a stage, or find one that someone else has hidden. No doubt 999-star power players will find ways to put these in absurdly hard to reach areas.

Luigi also appears (alongside all the usual suspects) in the new Mario Tennis Aces, which is pretty much what you’d expect. The story mode looks like it’ll be fun, though I doubt it will touch the fondly remembered Power Tour on GBA. (If you want a spiritual sequel to that, try Golf Story. Wrong sport, right feel.)

I personally am looking forward to playing action JPRG Ys VIII, the beautiful and musical Fe and mega-hard pixelly platformer Celeste, which has been given a few easier modes for people who don’t want bite marks on their controllers.

While I’ll probably end up replaying Dark Souls: Remastered on PC to get the maximum effect of the redone art, it’s nice to know that Nintendo is looking to court games and developers generally preferred by more hardcore types.

Check out the rest of the Nintendo announcements (with groan-worthy narrated clips) at the Direct page.

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