Shallow Thoughts : : speaking

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 03 Nov 2013

Laptop-mode interferes with remote presenter

While practicing a talk the other night on my new Asus laptop, my Logitech remote presenter, which had worked fine a few hours earlier, suddenly became flaky. When I clicked the "next slide" button, sometimes there would be a delay of up to ten seconds; sometimes it never worked at all, and I had to click it again, whereupon the slide might advance once, twice, or not at all. Obviously not useful.

Realizing that I'd been plugged into AC earlier in the day, and now was running on battery, I plugged in the AC adaptor. And sure enough, the presenter worked fine, no delays or glitches. So battery was the issue.

What's different about running on batteries? I immediately suspected laptop-mode, which sets different power profiles to help laptops save battery life when unplugged.

The presenter acts as a USB keyboard, sending key events like PAGE DOWN, and on other distros (specifically Arch Linux) I've had problems with USB keyboard devices disappearing when laptop-mode is active.

So I moved /etc/init.d/laptop-mode out of the way to disable it, and rebooted. Tried the presenter again: no improvement.

But it was laptop-mode anyway. Apparently even though /etc/init.d/laptop-mode says in its header that its purpose is to start and stop laptop-mode, apparently laptop-mode starts even without that file. The key is the configuration file /etc/laptop-mode/conf.d/usb-autosuspend.conf, where I changed the line

CONTROL_USB_AUTOSUSPEND="auto"
to
CONTROL_USB_AUTOSUSPEND=0

In theory, I should have been able to do service laptop-mode restart to test it, but I didn't trust that since I'd just established that /etc/init.d/laptop-mode didn't actually control laptop-mode. So I rebooted. And the presenter worked just fine! I was able to give my talk that afternoon without plugging in the AC cord.

Ironically, this particular talk was on giving tech talks, and one of my points was that being prepared and practicing beforehand is critical to giving a good talk. I'm sure glad I did that extra practice run with the presenter and no power cord!

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[ 15:13 Nov 03, 2013    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Tue, 06 Mar 2012

Arduino Talk (with robotic shark) Wednesday night at SVLUG

[Linux controlled Air Swimmers flying robotic shark] I got a request from SVLUG to fill in at the last minute for a speaker with a health emergency. Fortunately, I'd been slated to give them my Arduino talk from SCALE in a few months, so I was happy to accept. I'm always glad for a chance to show off Bruce, my Arduino- and Linux-controlled 6-foot flying robotic shark.

And if anyone reading this happens to be in town for PyCon, Symantec isn't that far from Santa Clara, roughly a 10-minute drive ... and I promise there will be at least two interesting Python scripts presented.

It's free, of course, so come hear the talk! Here are the SVLUG meeting details and directions.

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[ 18:25 Mar 06, 2012    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 12 Jan 2012

HTML and Javascript Presentations

When I give talks that need slides, I've been using my Slide Presentations in HTML and JavaScript for many years. I uploaded it in 2007 -- then left it there, without many updates.

But meanwhile, I've been giving lots of presentations, tweaking the code, tweaking the CSS to make it display better. And every now and then I get reminded that a few other people besides me are using this stuff.

For instance, around a year ago, I gave a talk where nearly all the slides were just images. Silly to have to make a separate HTML file to go with each image. Why not just have one file, img.html, that can show different images? So I wrote some code that lets you go to a URL like img.html?pix/whizzyphoto.jpg, and it will display it properly, and the Next and Previous slide links will still work.

Of course, I tweak this software mainly when I have a talk coming up. I've been working lately on my SCALE talk, coming up on January 22: Fun with Linux and Devices (be ready for some fun Arduino demos!) Sometimes when I overload on talk preparation, I procrastinate by hacking the software instead of the content of the actual talk. So I've added some nice changes just in the past few weeks.

For instance, the speaker notes that remind me of where I am in the talk and what's coming next. I didn't have any way to add notes on image slides. But I need them on those slides, too -- so I added that.

Then I decided it was silly not to have some sort of automatic reminder of what the next slide was. Why should I have to put it in the speaker notes by hand? So that went in too.

And now I've done the less fun part -- collecting it all together and documenting the new additions. So if you're using my HTML/JS slide kit -- or if you think you might be interested in something like that as an alternative to Powerpoint or Libre Office Presenter -- check out the presentation I have explaining the package, including the new features.

You can find it here: Slide Presentations in HTML and JavaScript

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[ 20:08 Jan 12, 2012    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 05 Mar 2010

Adding video to an OpenOffice Impress presentation

(and how to convert MPEG video to animated GIF)

I gave an Ignite talk this week at Ignite Silicon Valley. It was a great event! Lots of entertaining talks about all sorts of topics.

I'd always wanted to do an Ignite speech. I always suspected the kicker would be format: O'Reilly's guidelines specified PowerPoint format.

Of course, as a Linux user, my only option for creating PowerPoint slides is OpenOffice. Historically, OpenOffice and I haven't gotten along very well, and this slide show was no exception. Happily, Ignite needs only 20 slides ... how hard can that be, right? Most of my slides were very simple (a few words, or one picture), with one exception: I had one simulation I wanted to show as a video. (When I give this presentation on my own machine, I run the simulation live, but that's not an option on someone else's machine.

Impress woes

First I wrestled with Open Office to create the non-animated slides. It was harder than I'd expected. I just loved having to go back and un-capitalize words that OO kept helpfully re-capitalizing for me. And the way it wouldn't let me change text format on any word that triggered the spellchecker, because it needed to show me the spellcheck context menu instead. And the guessing game clicking around trying to find a place where OO would let me drag to move the text to somewhere where it was approximately centered.

And when I finally thought I had everything, I saved as .ppt, re-loaded and discovered that it had lost all my formatting, so instead of yellow 96 point centered text I had white 14-point left-aligned, and I had to go in and select the text on each slide and change three or four properties on each one.

And I couldn't use it for an actual presentation. In slideshow mode, it only showed the first slide about one time out of six. The other times, it showed a blank slide for the first 15 seconds before auto-advancing to the second one. The auto-advance timing was off anyway (see below). Fortunately, I didn't need use OpenOffice for this presentation; I only needed it to create the PPT file. I ended up making a separate version of the slides in HTML to practice with.

Inserting a movie

But I did eventually have all my static slides ready. It was time to insert my movie, which I had converted to MPEG1 on the theory that it works everywhere. With the mpeg added, I saved one copy to OpenOffice's native format of .odp, plus the .ppt copy I would need for the actual presentation.

Then I quit and opened the .ppt -- and the video slide was blank. A bit of searching revealed that this was a long-known issue, bug 90272, but there seems to be no interest in fixing it. So I was out of luck if I wanted to attach an MPEG, unless I could find someone with a real copy of PowerPoint.

Plan B: Animated GIF

Next idea: convert my 15-second video to an animated GIF. But how to do that? Google found me quite a few web pages that claimed to give the recipe, but they all led to the same error message: ERROR: gif only handles the rgb24 pixel format. Use -pix_fmt rgb24.

So what? Just add -pix_fmt rgb24 to the commandline, right? But the trick turns out to be where to add it, since ffmpeg turns out to be highly picky about its argument order. Here's the working formula to convert a movie to animated GIF:

$ ffmpeg -i foo.mpeg -pix_fmt rgb24 foo.gif

This produced a huge file, though, and it didn't really need to be 1024x768, so I scaled it down with ImageMagick:

convert -depth 8 -scale 800x600 flock-mpeg.gif flock-mpeg-800.gif
which brought the file size from 278M down to a much more reasonable 1.9M.

Happily, OpenOffice does seem to be able to import and save animated GIFs, even to .ppt format. It has trouble displaying them -- that's bug 90272 -- so you wouldn't want to use this format for a presentation you were actually going to give in OpenOffice. But as I mentioned, OpenOffice was already out for that.

If you do this, make sure all your static slides are finished first. Once I loaded the animated GIF, OpenOffice slowed to a crawl and it was hard to do anything at all. Moving text on a slide turned into an ordeal of "hover the mouse where you think a move cursor might show up, and wait 45 seconds ... cursor change? No? Okay, move a few pixels and wait again." Nothing happened in real time. A single mouse click wouldn't register for 30 seconds or more. And this was on my fast dual-core desktop with 4G RAM; I don't even want to think what it would be like on my laptop. I don't know if OOo is running the animations continuously, or what -- but be sure you have everything else finished before you load any animations.

The moment of truth

I never found out whether my presentation worked in real Microsoft Powerpoint. As it turned out, at the real event, the display machine was a Mac running Keynote. Keynote was able to import the .ppt from OpenOffice, and to display the animation. Whew!

One curiosity about the display: the 15 seconds per slide auto-advance failed on the animated slide. The slide showed for 30 seconds rather than 15. I had written this off as another OpenOffice bug, so I wasn't prepared when Keynote did the same thing in the live presentation, and I had to extemporize for 15 seconds.

My theory, thinking about it afterward, is that the presentation programs don't start the counter until the animation has finished playing. So for an Ignite presentation, you might need to set the animation to play for exactly 15 seconds, then set that slide to advance after 0 seconds. If that's even possible.

Or just use HTML. The great irony of this whole story is that some of the other presenters used their own laptops, so I probably could have used my HTML version (which had none of these problems) had I asked. I will definitely remember that for the next Ignite! Meanwhile, I suppose it's good for me to try OO Impress every few years and remind myself why I avoid it the rest of the time.

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[ 15:36 Mar 05, 2010    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 03 Oct 2009

Toastmasters manuals I'd like to see: Speaking at Conferences

Now and then I idly exchange ideas with some Toastmasters friends about manuals we wish Toastmasters would offer. Sometimes we come up with "meta-manuals", projects which can be done by collecting projects from existing manuals.

Here's a manual I'd like to see. The projects are arranged in approximate order of difficulty and cover most of the skills needed by speakers at technical conferences. Each project includes suggestions for which existing Toastmasters manual could be used.

Speaking at Conferences

Projects:

  1. Give a technical speech (15-20 min, longer if club schedule allows)
    Give a detailed talk on some technical aspect of your field, for specialists in the field. Use demos, slides and other visual aids effectively. Handle questions (and perhaps heckling) from the audience.
    (Speaking to Inform: any, or Technically Speaking: 1 or 4.)
  2. Give a Lightning Talk (2-3 min)
    Give a short talk for the whole conference audience. Any topic related to the field: describe a project, teach a technique, generate enthusiasm, air a gripe.
    (Use the basic manual or Speaking to Inform, depending on subject.)
  3. Give a beginner talk (15-20 min, longer if club schedule allows)
    Introduce your subject to beginners in the field, or outsiders who may not know much about it. Use visual aids and demos to create interest and explain the topic without using jargon.
    (Speaking to Inform: any, or Technically Speaking: 3.)
  4. Give an Ignite talk (5 min)
    Give a five minute talk on any topic, using 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds, as described at ignite.oreilly.com.
    Pecha Kucha also counts.
    (Many choices, depending on subject.)
  5. Give a keynote address (15-20 min, longer if club schedule allows)
    Give a speech suitable to be the keynote for a conference.
    (The Professional Speaker: 1, or basic manual: 9.)
  6. Bonus project: Speak about speaking
    Explain to your audience how to give a good conference speech.
    (Speaking to Inform: 1-3, or Better Speaker: any.)
  7. Update bonus project: Dealing with heckers
    Give a speech and have people in the audience try to disrupt your talk, interrupt, contradict or sidetrack you.
    (Public Relations has "Speaking under fire" but that's not really the same thing.)

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[ 10:09 Oct 03, 2009    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 06 Mar 2008

Review of Toastmasters manuals

With all the zillions of Toastmasters club web pages, very few people seem to write about them. A conversation in our club today about the advanced manuals made me realize that I'd never seen a review of the various Toastmasters advanced manuals -- which ones are useful, which ones are fun, which ones are poorly written or contain gotchas that makes it hard to complete their projects?

So I wrote one: a Review of Toastmasters manuals.

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[ 20:16 Mar 06, 2008    More speaking | permalink to this entry | comments ]

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