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What to look for at Macworld/iWorld

If we weren't covering and participating in the show ourselves, these are the events and exhibitors we'd want to be sure we didn't miss.

Appalooza is the low-cost alternative to the main show floor. As such, it's densely packed with up-and-coming app developers, the ones who are showing off the apps we'll be using and raving about this year and next. (One of us remembers chatting up the guys who made Square when they first released it; now the thing is everywhere.) The area is a forest of kiosks, each one housing two (or more) developers, so it's easy to stroll through (well, except for the crowds), scan the signs, and stop to chat about the apps that look interesting. This is what trade shows were like before they went all showbiz-y.

Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad will take the stage Thursday morning for a conversation with Macworld/iWorld vice president and general manager Paul Kent. The two star as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, respectively, in the new film jOBS, the first movie focused on Apple's cofounder to be released since his death. Kutcher and Gad will discuss the challenges of portraying their characters, and talk about the film in general. Macworld's Dan Moren and Lex Friedman will be on hand to liveblog the proceedings. We're curious to hear whether the actors will address Wozniak's recent criticisms of the film and its depiction of him and Jobs, and we're also wondering what the over/under is for neither actor showing up clean-shaven. Thursday, January 31 at 9:00 am on Main Stage.

Fred Armisen is the chameleonic comedian who has been part of the Saturday Night Live cast for years (he's the one who does the killer Barack Obama impression); he also created and stars in the Independent Film Channel's cult hit, Portlandia. He's also apparently a bit of a geek. Our own Christopher Breen chats with Armisen about his comedy, the creative process, and his love of Apple technology. Friday, February 1 at 9:00 a.m. on Main Stage.

Space...the final frontier. If you're fascinated by humanity's voyages to far-off places across the void, you'll want to check out the session "Software, Hardware, and Flying to Mars. How We Built, Programmed, and Operate NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover". Three folks from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)--including the Mars Science Laboratory's lead flight director and software chief engineer--will detail exactly what it took to get the space agency's Curiosity rover to Mars, and how they keep it running now that it's there. Forget the Seven Minutes of Terror--this is more like the 45 Minutes of Wide-Eyed Fascination. Other Big Idea sessions that caught our eye: Dave Wiskus's talk on how companies can build design-centric cultures, and "Answer, Please"--the Apple trivia contest cohosted by our own Dan Moren and Rogue Amoeba CEO Paul Kafasis. Thursday, January 31 at 2:00 pm (Mars Rover); Friday, February 1 at 3:00 pm) (Culture of Design); Thursday, January 31 at 3:00 pm (Answer, Please)

One of the show's greatest charms is the opportunity to hear Mac pundits pontificating. And one of the most promising of those pundit-fests is "iCloud, App Stores, and other Things To Fear: Has Apple Forgotten Power Users?", a Tech Talk session featuring Daring Fireball's John Gruber, The Next Web's Matthew Panzarino, iMore's Rene Ritchie, and Rogue Amoeba's Paul Kafasis (and hosted by Macworld's Lex Friedman). They'll ponder the question of whether or not Apple--in its rush to simplify products for the mainstream--is phasing out its support for one of its core constituencies: power users. Are the company's products being dumbed down? Thursday, January 31 at 1:00 pm

Pontificating pundits are all well and good, but the meat of the show is the more instructive stuff. The ones we're looking forward to most: The series of sessions on iPhoneography. Now that the phone is beginning to replace the point-and-shoot as the camera most of us use most often, it pays to learn a bit about how to get better shots with the device. The series starts with a session on Thursday about great photo accessories for the phone and continues with a talk about telling stories in images and a demonstration by two professional photographers on how they turn iPhone snapshots into fine art. Thursday, January 31 at 1:00 pm (Gear); Thursday, January 31 at 2:00 pm (Storytelling); Thursday, January 31 at 3:00 pm (Fine Art)

We also have our own Macworld Live Stage (upstairs on the 2nd floor). One of the highlights there will be on Friday afternoon when Macworld senior editor Roman Loyola will will present Macworld's Best of Show awards. He'll be joined by recipients of the award, who will talk about their winning products--the ones you won't want to miss on the show floor. Some of our other noteworthy sessions: A Word From the Developers (with senior editor Dan Moren), the ever-popular Pundit Showdown (with IDGCSMB managing editor Philip Michaels), and Ask the Editors (where you get to ask us what the heck we think we're doing). Friday, February 1 at 3pm on the Macworld Live stage (Best of Show); Thursday, January 31 at 11:00 am (Developers); Saturday, February 2 at 3:00 pm (Ask the Editors)

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