Macworld Expo on $0 a Day...

Episode #83

I've never missed a Macworld Expo in the US. At least I'd never missed one until now. But it's true -- for the first time since Macworld Expo was invented, I'm not in San Francisco for it.

Why? Well, it's mostly because I've got a killer book deadline (Microsoft Office 2008: Mac For Dummies) and it just wouldn't be prudent to take a week off with my drop-deadline rapidly approaching. And, to be honest, it costs me a bundle to spend a week in San Francisco and while it is great fun, it doesn't usually result in much (if any) revenue for Bob LeVitus Enterprises. And being self-unemployed, it's my job to mind the bottom line.

But while I'm not there this week, I've found plenty of ways to make me feel like I am, ways to live vicariously through the words, pictures, and videos of those who are.

So for those unable to attend Macworld, here are my tips for attending without traveling to San Francisco and without spending a dime.

How to Enjoy Not Attending a Keynote

The Macworld San Francisco festivities always kick off with a Steve Jobs keynote address. This being the first time I wasn't actually in the room, I wanted to insure I didn't miss a single minute. So I used two Macs, each running two browsers (just in case), each tuned in to five or six live blogcasts. For the record, they were:

The Mac Observer (of course), Macworld, Wired, Engadget, and Gizmodo. I had hoped to also monitor the Fake Steve Jobs blogcast but due to technical difficulties, it never materialized.

Which brings up my first point... it's a darn good thing I had five live feeds running all at once because most (if not all) of them had technical difficulties at some point and stopped posting updates for five, ten, even fifteen minutes. The good news is that they never all went down at the same time -- there were always at least one or two of them alive at any given time.

It wasn't exactly like being there but it didn't suck. Nobody stepped on my toes, everyone smelled great, and my view was unobstructed throughout the entire keynote. In fact, with four of the five feeds posting pictures in near-real time, I probably saw more of the keynote (and saw it better) than I would have had I been there.

I even learned some totally unrelated stuff.... For example, Macworld's Jason Snell must not be human because no human can type that fast with that few mistakes. Jason probably typed ten words for every one word typed on the other feeds. Another example: Even the worst pictures in the live feeds were better than the best pictures I've ever taken at a keynote. I have to find out how they do it. And last but not least, I learned two great keyboard shortcuts -- Command-Shift-] and Command-Shift-[ -- which activate the next tab and previous tab respectively in Safari.

By the way, it seemed like the whole Internet was bogged down during much of the keynote. Most of the live feeds went "off the air" at least once during the proceedings. Sometimes posts (which were mostly time-stamped) didn't show up on the page for five or ten minutes. Entire Web sites became inaccessible at times or spewed error messages. Images loaded sporadically. And Twitter was nearly crushed by the heavy traffic. Even so it was almost like being there.

All things considered I'd rather be stepped on and offended in San Francisco, but watching it on the Web didn't suck as much as I'd expected.

There is one last thing: I totally intended to watch the Apple videocast of the keynote but then I discovered Veronica Belmont's awesome "Steve Jobs 90 Minute Keynote (in 60 seconds)" for Mahalo Daily. After that, I didn't really need to watch the other 89 minutes.

Enjoying Macworld Expo on $0 a Day...

And now let me show you how I'm enjoying Macworld Expo immensely for $0 a day, without leaving the creature comforts of my lavishly equipped (yeah, sure) home office.

The first thing you need is a good RSS news reader app. I recommend NetNewsWire without hesitation. It's the best RSS-reading tool ever invented and now that it's absolutely free, there's just no reason not to have it on your hard disk.

Yes, I know Safari has RSS in Tiger and Leopard. And yes, I know that Mail has it too under Leopard. But neither comes close to the control and elegance provided by NetNewsWire. Just go get your freakin' free copy and be done with it. I promise you won't be sorry.

I subscribed to some RSS feeds from some of my favorite Mac sites, including the one you're reading at this very moment (The MacObserver).

Here are a few other feeds you might fine interesting, all of which offer extensive coverage of Apple and the Mac:

OK, now, having subscribed to some feeds, I created a new Smart List (File-->New Smart List or Command + Option + N) and instructed it to gather articles with the words Macworld or Expo in their Title, Description, or Summary as shown here:

I then clicked OK.

Now, I just keep an eye on the NetNewsWire Dock icon. When its badge tells me there are new items to be read (57 in the picture below), I click on the icon and check out the new articles in the smart Macworld Expo list as shown here:

If there's something that interests me, I select it in this menu, which switches me to NetNewsWire where I can read the summary or full text.

The Dock menu is one of my favorite things about NetNewsWire. Another feature I love is the Spacebar shortcut. It scrolls the page if you're reading a summary or full text article that needs scrolling, otherwise it marks the current article as read and selects the next unread article. You can reveiw all of your unread articles very quickly doing nothing more than reading and smacking the spacebar.

You might want to adjust some of NetNewsWire's preferences (NetNewsWire-->Preferences or Command + ,). In particular, you might want to change how often it checks for new subscriptions in the Downloading section's Feeds tab. I found every 2 hours to be just often enough for me.

So there you have it. I probably knew as much as (or more than) Bryan, Dave, and the rest of the TMO and IPO gang walking the floor in San Francisco and I didn't have to endure the crowds, expensive hotels and meals, and waiting in lines.

On the other hand, I definitely missed hanging out with all of my Mac-buddies -- you know who you are -- and the fabulous BackBeat Media party.

I know what you're thinking... if staying home was so great this year, am I going to attend Macworld Expo 2009?

You bet your sweet bippy!

And that’s all he wrote…