Notes from the Road: CeBIT 2017

Notes from the Road: CeBIT 2017

As you may know, I’m in Hannover, Germany this week for CeBIT, and will be heading to Berlin at the end of the week for some time off. Here are a few quick notes from the road, and about the technology I’m using while abroad.

First up, CeBIT. I was invited to the show by Huawei, the Chinese technology giant, and that alone makes this trip somewhat unusual. Huawei paid for my flights and hotel, but the firm doesn’t have any editorial or promotional expectations. So that covers my ethical concerns, though I still needed to think this one through before agreeing.

Ultimately, what I came to is that I’ve flown and stayed at the cost of other companies before—Microsoft, of course, but also several trips in the US and to Europe where I’ve spoken at local events—and that this was no different. (For example, I appeared at the Windows 7 launch in The Netherlands in 2009, and at the Windows 8 launch in New Zealand in 2012.) I’m always happy to travel. And in this case, I’m of course quite interested in an official introduction to Huawei. So here I am. I’ll write more about Huawei soon.

As for Germany, this is my third trip to this country, and I’ve spent about a month of my life here so far. In 2003, I came to Bonn to speak at an industry event, and my wife and some friends came out a few days and we made a week out of it. On that trip, we traveled throughout the south and west of Germany. In 2010, my family did a homeswap outside of Frankfurt for three weeks, and spent a bunch of time between there and Bonn, Switzerland, plus a few days in the Alsace area of eastern France.

The connectivity improvements over this time period are astonishing, so much so that I’ll likely write some sort of “throwback”-type post later this week. But as you might imagine, Project Fi has resulted in a sort of peak connectivity moment, assuming of course you have a compatible phone.

I do, and while this is my third major experience with Project Fi internationally—after two weeks in Paris last summer and one week in The Netherlands last November—it is the first time I’m relying on the Google Pixel XL. About which I have mixed feelings.

As you may recall, I’m not all that impressed by this expensive iPhone knock-off, and while some of my issues were self-inflicted—I should have gone with an even more expensive 128 GB model rather than settling on 32 GB—my ongoing experiences mirror my first impressions.

Which is this. The Pixel performs fine, overall, and the camera is quite good. But the screen seems curiously small compared to other phablets, like the iPhone 7 Plus (even though it’s really not that much smaller). And there are so many little things—related to the Pixel specifically, or to Android generally—that drive me crazy.

For example. The Pixel has a nice rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Normally, this makes signing in to the device fairly seamless: Your finger moves naturally to the inset reader when you pick up the phone normally and away you go. The issue is that it doesn’t always work, and instead of the familiar vibration and sign-in, it just sits there. Dead.

When this happened initially, I blamed myself. I always do. But after dozens and dozens of failures like this, I’ve come to realize it’s the phone. It happens just enough to be an annoyance. Which pretty much explains my relationship with this phone.

But I’m trying. And there are nice touches, some from Google. Some, surprise, from Microsoft.

Project Fi, as ever, is a wonder. I landed in Germany and was greeted by a cheery welcome notification explaining that I was covered, and what the costs were: Data is the same $10 per GB I pay at home, phone calls are 20 cents per minute, and messaging is free. Huzzah.

Google likewise provided a handy map of the Munich airport, where I had first landed en-route to Hannover. Curiously, a similar notification was not provided at Hannover though.

Don’t leave home without it: Google Translate is essential.

The real revelation from Google, of course, is Google Translator. This is an amazing application with real-time translations using the device’s camera, and it should make menus a lot less confusing, here or anywhere else. Google Translator is one of those no-brainer apps that every traveler should have at the ready.

As you may recall, I replaced Google Assistant with Cortana on the Pixel. So when I long-press on the home button, Cortana pops-up, and here in Germany, she offers the local weather, a nice US dollar to Euro conversion, and some local restaurant recommendations in addition to my schedule. Nice.

If you’re curious—hey, you never know—I ended up bringing the 15-inch HP Spectre x360 on this trip. It’s a bit big and bulky for international travel, but it’s next on the reviews list. And to be fair, I love it: The keyboard offers a nearly-ideal portable typing experience, which is key for me. And the gorgeous screen and prodigious battery life help tons as well.

That said, I ran into a strange issue this morning when I sat down, wrote the original version of this article, and then started experiencing strange issues with the screen flashing and glitching. I ended up rebooting it to see if that helped, but in doing so I wiped out 1000 words of writing, a mistake I’ve not made in many years. So what you’re reading now is v2 of this post. And I’m still sort of burned by this, and distrustful that the glitches might continue. We’ll see how that goes.

As for Germany, I’ve not seen much of it yet. I arrived in a rainy and wet Hannover in the early afternoon yesterday, got settled in at the hotel, went for a short walk, and then passed out from the traveling.

By the time that was all over, it was dark. I probably won’t be doing too much in the way of sightseeing until I get to Berlin, of course. And I’ll be busy with Huawei today and tomorrow.

More soon.


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Conversation 15 comments

  • CompSciGuy31415

    20 March, 2017 - 8:47 am

    <p>Enjoy CeBit. When I was working for at the UK office for a company headquartered in Orlando, I had to work a CeBit booth three times. Ten days, 13 hours a day, on my feet, dealing with customers and handling any technical issues occurring in the booth. Very exhausting, but I would usually end the trip by driving down to Chamonix to hang out in the alps for a few days.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      20 March, 2017 - 9:16 am

      <blockquote><a href="#91820"><em>In reply to CompSciGuy31415:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yeah, I'm going to need some R&amp;R after this one. 🙂 It's a big show.</p><p><br></p>

      • aha

        20 March, 2017 - 12:50 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#91823">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Speaking of which, will you be hanging out in the city for a nice Belgian beer (there are some nice spots for that in Hannover, however, don't tell the Germans their pilsners are fine, but a bit boring sometimes 😉 ) and meet-up? If so, count me in :).</p>

  • alpensturm

    20 March, 2017 - 9:39 am

    <p>Good luck at the CeBIT! We're at the 360°dc Pavillon… Please keep us posted on the HP Spectre x360 – I am upgrading my almost seven year old Dell XPS 15 this year, and the HP Spectre x360 (13 or 15) is a serious contender, together with a (possible) Surface Book 2 Laptop or a new XPS 13 or 15 …. we'll see!</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    20 March, 2017 - 9:53 am

    <p>Hannover is nothing for sightseeing. Take a rest and spend your energy for Berlin, where you can choose everything from nature to city life. Huawei: as usual, I am curios about reflectance, battery duration and period of availability of battery replacement. You might wish to see the new Huawei "shop" in the Eastern city center of Berlin near Alexanderplatz.</p>

    • franklyray

      Premium Member
      20 March, 2017 - 12:04 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#91831"><em>In reply to RobertJasiek:</em></a><em>Hannover is like Colon. They are not tourist rich destinations. I agree, rest up for Berlin.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • Bob25

    20 March, 2017 - 12:06 pm

    <p>Just a data point on the fingerprint reader. I have the Pixel. I've never experienced a failure of the fingerprint reader or even a delay. There are times–after system updates, I think–when it asks for your PIN vs just the fingerprint. </p><p><br></p><p>Maybe a faulty reader on your Pixel XL that could be replaced?</p>

    • Waethorn

      20 March, 2017 - 12:16 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#91887">In reply to Bob25:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's anytime the phone reboots, same as most Android phones.</p>

  • walterwood44

    20 March, 2017 - 12:18 pm

    <p>Surprised to hear of a problem with the Pixel XL fingerprint reader. My wife and I both have Pixel XL (128 GB) and we have not had a single problem with the fingerprint reader. I have tried using is sideways, upside down, etc. and it has never failed to immediately log me on. In fact, I am shocked how quick it is to respond. Like Bob25 suggested you might have a bad reader. </p><p>Most of my complaints regarding this phone relate to notifications. It seemed that every app wanted to let me know it was doing something with a beep. Also, the vibration is so weak you almost never notice it. Also, with my previous phone, a Galaxy S5, I could slience the phone while watching a video or listening to a song but with the Pixel when you silence it, there is NO SOUND at all, NOT EVEN THE VIBRATION. </p>

    • kcarson97404

      Premium Member
      20 March, 2017 - 1:51 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#91890">In reply to walterwood44:</a></em></blockquote><p>I am also really surprised by the problems with your fingerprint reader. The reader on my Pixel XL has worked flawlessly! I will never go back to a phone without a fingerprint reader. It's brilliant and one of my favorite features of the Pixel. </p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    20 March, 2017 - 12:44 pm

    <p>Hi Paul</p><p><br></p><p>If you were writing that post in Word and provided that you saved it at least once, you should have been able to recover it from the file menu. </p>

  • littlejohnjt

    Premium Member
    20 March, 2017 - 12:57 pm

    <p>nice picture above! (not the food)</p>

  • DigitalAmoeba

    20 March, 2017 - 1:14 pm

    <p>Don't forget Microsoft Translator is also great (&amp; works offline if you download language pack) for multiple language translation, including real time camera video overlays of translated text (as long as text is reasonably clear)</p>

  • peterh_oz

    Premium Member
    20 March, 2017 - 4:37 pm

    <p>How does google translate compare with bing translate? Specifically the real-time, ie camera &amp; voice functions? BTW Germany is my favourite country to visit. Tho its a bloody long way from here in Australia! Make sure you get out to the countryside villages, don't judge a country by its major cities.</p>

  • evancox10

    21 March, 2017 - 1:21 am

    <p>Hi Paul,</p><p>I am really disappointed (with HP) to hear you are having display issues with the 15" HP Spectre x360. You see, I recently bought one and have been experiencing what sounds like the exact same issue. Here's a video of it: . It's bad enough for me to return it and have HP send another one.</p><p>Is this the same thing you're experiencing? And is your issue better or worse? On mine, the problem is intermittent, but generally seems to get worse as the laptop stays on and (literally) warms up.</p><p>FYI mine has the 4K display, which is gorgeous other than this issue. I seem to remember reading somewhere that this display is using panel self refresh. For those who don't know, this technology helps increase battery life by only sending data that has changed from frame to frame, rather than resending all 8.3 million pixels 60 times a second even when you're staring at the same static webpage/desktop/etc. This technology has been used in mobile for some time, but just now seems to be making its way to PCs.</p><p>Given its newness in PCs, I thought that maybe there was a bug with the PSR driver and that a fix would be available. However, fully updating the laptop did not help (BIOS and everything), and neither did re-installing to clean Windows. I'm now bringing to think there is a hardware problem, either with the panel or the internal cable.</p><p>Either way this is pretty disappointing. If the second one also has this problem, I will not be trying for a third.</p><p>-Evan</p>


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