Saturday, March 17, 2007

The best laid plans...Murphy rules!

Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it will!

Murphy was an optimist, besides being Irish, I think.

The talk started off well - the PowerPoint presentation was well received and the audience was rapt with anticipation of seeing how a genealogy blogateer turned words into web pages. Then disaster struck.

I had just gone through the "parts" of a blog - the header, the posts, the blogroll, the archives, the statistics counters, etc. when I went to edit a draft of the previous post. I clicked on the "insert picture" icon on the edit panel (Blogger-masters will understand this) and waited...and waited...and nothing happened. The screen was frozen, the computer was frozen. The wireless signal was strong, but I was helpless in front of 70 attendees with my Bloglines hanging out.

After trying different things for a minute or three, I talked through the different types of genealogy blogs and their masters or mistresses, and closed the session with questions and answers. My intention had been to create a new blog, demonstrating how easy it is to do and then go visit some of the genealogy blogs that I enjoy.

When the computer froze, I could not close any windows and Ctrl-Alt-Del didn't solve the problem. I finally just turned the power off. I would have shut down earlier, but we had a lot of trouble connecting to the Internet at UCSD before the talk. They had arranged to have a computer guy there and he got my system up and running on the projector and the Internet. But I knew that if I shut down Internet Explorer that I wasn't going to have another shot at it - the computer guy was off playing basketball. Oh well.

Other than the computer glitch, I thought that the talk went well (sort of a "How did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" scenario, eh?), and I hope that some of the attendees visit many of the available genealogy blogs, and use the blogs to share information and stay up-to-date with genealogy news.

I had lunch with several of the officers of CGSSD and one of them noted that one of the Family History Fair speakers said that she doesn't trust the wireless connections at the venues, and uses screen capture shots to illustrate Internet sites and database results. That certainly is the way I'm going to go about this from now on, I think!

An alternative would be to capture web pages to my hard drive soon before the talk and show the pages using the browser but not be connected to the Internet. In retrospect, I could have done that, but it would have been a lot more work to prepare for the talk, and it would require maneuvering from one file to another on the computer.

Has anyone else experienced this type of problem while giving the presentation with wireless Internet access? What did you do? What is the best way to ensure that it doesn't happen?


Drew Smith said...

I subscribe to unlimited Internet access for my Treo, and I can then tether my Treo to my laptop as a kind of modem. It gives me roughly the equivalent of 56K dial-up speeds, which is usually fine for anything but streaming audio or video.

So this gives me a backup Internet connection if the local venue doesn't have any kind of Internet connectivity.

Miriam Robbins said...

Been there, done that, twice in the last month. A month ago, I presented "County Genealogical Websites" for the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society's monthly computer class in the public library's computer lab. The instructor's computer station that I used kept dropping the Internet during the first hour-long class. Before the second session, I went to the library staff for assistance. They told me that the city's server had been down for a while the previous day, and apparently the issues had not been wholly resolved. We restarted the computer, but it periodically it continued to drop service throughout the second and third sessions. It was frustrating, but I realized early on that I would just have to wing it. The good news was that my students were not having the same issues (or at least not at the same time) on their computer stations, so almost everyone was able to view the pages I listed on my syllabus.

The second time was two weeks ago when I brought my laptop to use to give four presentations at the LDS Genealogy Conference. I had asked the co-ordinator if he was SURE that someone would be able to hook up my laptop to their wireless service; if he had any doubts, I was prepared to create a PowerPoint presentation. He assured me that everything was under control. However, their tech guy could not get my laptop to connect to their system. Fortunately, they had another laptop in place that I was able to use without any problems.

In the future, I plan to create PowerPoint presentations and have them available on a jump drive or my laptop's hard drive itself, just for insurance's sake.

I feel for you, and hope you have another opportunity to give your presentation, problem-free.