The Big Android BBQ is something of a unique Android event most years in that it's usually a few weeks before the next version of Android is released. This means that while project teams for things like CyanogenMod can still discuss a good many things, most are still waiting on the new version of Android in order to announce when and what features will be coming to their products and their users.
This year wasn't like that.
This year, Christmas came early - sorta - and we got the Lollipop announcement on the Wednesday before the event. We saw this coming a little bit because we had Googlers coming to the BBQ, something that seldom happened in previous years. They were always busy getting the new version of Android ready. In order for Chet Hasse - an amazingly funny Senior Software Engineer and leader of the Android UI team, and dashing Developer advocates Timothy Jordan and Reto Meier. To come talk about the new APIs - and support libraries, there was a LOT of applause for support libraries this weekend - and give some broader points about developing for Android TV and the still-not-here-yet Android Auto, they had to be done already.
We still had a lot of questions...
With Lollipop - and our trio of Googlers - on hand, this meant that what was usually a fun little weekend of nerdy chat and beer-fueled dreams of forthcoming features was replaced with an SDK release mid-conference and a lot of scurrying around loading the new Developer Preview. We still had a lot of questions about the when things would be happening and when we could expect to play with all the new toys Lollipop was bringing. And we still didn't get a lot of answers.
Deepest sympathies to the HTC booth, whose very nice staff were swamped with questions about the Nexus 9 that they weren't allowed to answer.
There were also a few manufacturers on-hand giving away devices. Sadly, none were allowed to sell devices here, instead directing customers to online vendors. Oppo got creative with their giveaway contest, having entrants win entry tickets with a cornhole game at twice the regular distance. OnePlus was on-hand to give away a OnePlus One, and this event was ripe with them, and with CyanogenMod employees, who gave out lots of cool swag and a very impressive session about how they've made the OnePlus One one of the best systems for listening to high-quality music.
There were loads of sessions for developers to enjoy about diverse topics. Some sessions were above my meager programming knowledge, but most of them were a delight to enjoy. I'm really hoping that those attending the Chromecast app session start coding, because I've got a fever and the only cure is more Cast Ready apps!
There were also lighter sessions, such as Chet Hasse's comedic presentation about 'Best Programming Practices'. I brought an engineer friend along Saturday and he came into this expecting an actual educational session. He may have been a tad disappointed when this turned into the mother of all satires, but he and the rest of us were howling with laughter most of the hour.
There was also a session by Russell Holly that was conducted over Hangouts called Build a Better User. We were hoping that the RussellBot would get to wheel around the stage during this talk, but sadly, t'was not meant to be. Here's where the Russell Bot spent most of its days. He did have a few good moments though, racing the big wheel and puttering around the showroom. Yes, I said big wheel.
There were adult-sized big wheels on hand, and I was lucky enough to ride it around the convention center a bit. It's harder than it looks, I'm telling you. There were races later on at the actual barbeque, but I was sadly unable to participate.
Sphero was here giving a presentation but much more importantly giving us all toys to run over each other's feet with. They gave away a number of their rolling toys in contests, including ramp contests and races. I, sadly, was too clumsy to win and Ollie for the site. I shall have to try harder next year.
And of course, it wouldn't be an Android event without some swag! Beyond the traditional - and quite boss - Android figurines and the 3-D printed Android Lollipops and Kit Kats, there were also a few newcomers this year. This was the inaugural appearance of Android Etch, and I'm betting we'll be seeing more of him because he sold out on Friday and had to hunt down more glasses for customers like Chet Hasse and Nicholas Klein. Because when Chet Hasse tells you to get more glasses, you get more glasses.
This being the first week of Lollipop, there wasn't much merchandise for it from most stalls, but Android Etch managed to crank out a brand-new design for his glasses. I now have one proudly sitting on my bar, waiting for a Lloyd mug to come keep it company. When the rest of the vendors packed up and went home, Android Etch brought his laser-etching rig down to the barbeque and worked through the party, customizing glasses right next to the kegs for instant use.
The barbeque itself was a delight, with the usual raffle, big wheel races, and lots and lots of barbeque. However, I cannot speak to that, because the clock has struck midnight for this young writer and it was off to Waco for some pesky little thing called work. Oh, well, I had two wonderful nights of drinking and talking with some of the most wonderful enthusiasts and developers and I enjoyed every second of it. If you weren't able to come this year, that's a real shame, because this was the best Big Android BBQ yet - with lots of lollipops and Android love - and I cannot wait for next year.