Nerd-on-a-stick to the rescue!
Saturday, April 26, 2008 5:36:14 PM
Upon arriving half an hour early at the University building where I was going to present my “Masterclass Web Accessibility” during the Studentenhaverfestival yesterday, I turned to the doorman's office immediately on the left after the entrance. A young man and a young woman were having a conversation with the doorman sitting behind his counter, so I waited on the doorstep. “If she comes early…”, I overheard, and “laptop”. Then they noticed my presence and looked at me. Of course I immediately knew what the problem was, stepped forward, and said: “I'm Marjolein Katsma, were you talking about me?” They were.
We don't do MacBooks
The young woman, Ingeborg, led me to the room where the presentation was going to be held and explained that the projector would not work with a MacBook. In fact, none of the projectors in the whole building would work with a MacBook, they told me, which given the fact that quite a few students actually use a MacBook demonstrated brilliant planning on the part of the university. Just to be clear: not the fault of the organizers of the event!
Of course, we started by trying anyway (I had brought two different adapters, but only the miniDVI-VGA had any hope of making a connection). Isaac (that's my MacBook) proved its versatility by immediately recognizing the projector and adapting its screen resolution. The projector refused to budge and kept projecting its own logo image. Having researched “connecting a MacBook to a projector” two weeks earlier (which took me a whole weekend), and finding not only which adapter(s) might be needed but also that sometimes it wouldn't work anyway, I had not only requested beforehand that someone would be present half an hour early to see to connecting stuff, but brought my still-incomplete “nerd-on-a-stick” as well.
My “Nerd-on-a-stick” is a little project I'm working on on and off: the goal is to have a (fairly) complete set of portable software on a USB stick, for Windows as well as OS X, so I'll always have a decent “development platform” with me. And (if at all possible) all OSS or at the very least freeware. That not only includes things like a decent programmer's editor, source control clients, a bunch of browsers, IRC and IM clients, a web server and the like, but also email and a complete office application. The latter obviously must be OpenOffice.org (OO.o), for which there is a portable version for both Windows and the Mac (though the latter uses a rather old version of the code). It's nowhere near finished yet, but I had my whole presentation done with (Windows) Impress, all on my neat little white nerd-on-a-stick, dangling around my neck.
So someone ran off and fetched a university-issue laptop from the doorman. I only needed to insert my nerd-on-stick and was ready to do a presentation. Except, I also needed Firefox with a bunch of extensions to demonstrate ways to check accessibility: I had that on the Mac side but not yet on the Windows side of my n-o-a-s. So that needed to be installed. I was pleased to find the University-issue laptop not only had security software installed (n-o-a-s is still virus-free!), but also didn't allow installing software to be installed on it. No problem, I just installed it on my stick. Then we had to sort problems with presentation mode, spanning monitors, and all that. I ended up having to look over my shoulder all the time to keep track of the mouse. Hand-eye coordination soaring to new heights, and getting a kink in my back.
After all that we started some 20 minutes late, and because some people just had to leave for another lecture, had to cut it short before I was finished. Apart from all that, it went quite well. A small group of genuinely interested people, and quite a bit of reactions and discussion from them. I opened some eyes, I think: they understand now that web accessibility is not just about making web sites accessible to the blind but to everyone, and learned some techniques for applying it in practice on their own websites.
Long live standards
Next time I'm going to do a presentation I'm going to specify someone be there an hour in advance to help getting things connected, and the availability of a Windows laptop in case it doesn't work anyway. Long live standards!