How many screens is too many?

Doing a web seminar session yesterday I knew I wanted a second machine available. Partly as an HA failover backup (just in case), and partly to act as a view of what the other participants were seeing – which I can’t see on the system I’m driving a presentation from. Though as I cabled everything together, it did start to look a little silly. Or like a set from a bad TV show.

Five screens
Five screens, one desk

But I did actually find a use for just about all of the panels.

The secondary system had the live seminar contents, along with the text-based chat screen so I could see when people raised questions. And I had some written notes associated with the presentations that I could scroll through as the event progressed.

The primary system had one panel with the full-screen presentation, another panel with a preview of the next slide, and a further panel with all my other activities including a chat window where I could type private notes to my co-presenter if necessary.

Could I have managed with fewer screens? Probably, but having all that space did make it easy to manage and have the windows and fonts expanded large enough so I didn’t have to peer hard at small text.

I’ve now moved the 2nd laptop next to the big TV so I can use it to show the county championship cricket games available only via live streaming services. But it can brought back to the desk if needed for another web conference.

This post was last updated on April 30th, 2021 at 02:41 pm

Improvising a teleprompter

For a web conference session I was giving this afternoon, I’d written a script. Although I might not follow it exactly, it was meant to give a structure and ensure I didn’t forget points I wanted to make. But reading it while looking down at a printed page would make it difficult to look at the camera. And looking at the camera would make it difficult to read the words. Not to mention the problem of driving the slides through, by clicking on the presentation application in a browser. Putting things on the laptop’s 2nd monitor would mean frequent eye movement so I was not “looking at” the audience. Not very satisfactory.

With an hour to go, I had a brainwave – I could use my standby laptop propped up behind the main system and use that screen. And because of the need to both click on the presentation system AND to scroll through the script, while not looking down to move cursors or switch between applications, I’d be able to use another mouse. I grabbed an empty box to act as a stand, copied a PDF to the other machine, and tried it out. I had left-hand for the teleprompter scrolling mouse; right-hand for the presenting mouse.

And it all seemed to work pretty well from my perspective. Other than running short on time. But that was not the technology’s fault.

Using a 2nd system as an improvised teleprompter

This post was last updated on August 7th, 2020 at 08:45 am

Presentations for virtual events

This week I’ve been preparing material for two virtual events that are happening at the same time: SHARE and IBM’s Integration Technical Conference. In normal times, I’d have had to make a choice as to which conference to attend, but both are now using remote presentations. So I can give talks (different ones) at both.

The TechCon event is using “live” presentations, streamed with the presenter talking from home. I’ve been doing a lot of presentations like that already over the last few months – I talked about that in another recent post. While the platform running the TechCon stream is different, and some details will change, it’s probably not really going to affect how I work with that material.

The SHARE event is a little more interesting technically as they want the sessions to be prerecorded, submitted as a video, and then having just a short live Q&A at the end. I guess that helps with risky situations like bandwidth restrictions or network failures at the presenter’s end. Running everything centrally makes it more controllable. But I found a couple of challenges doing the recordings.

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This post was last updated on July 26th, 2020 at 05:22 pm

Hidden rooms, fake backgrounds

Like many in recent months I’ve been doing a lot more communication using web conferencing solutions. All meetings are virtual, you can’t kick a person under the table to shut them up, you get very familiar with some nostrils from their camera angles, there are some who sound like they are talking through several layers of mud.

After the first few calls I had where there were comments about the drinks cabinet behind me (and at least one person proposing to measure the height of the fluid in each bottle to see how it changed by the next meeting) I decided to change the picture. And the audio. But not the bottles.

This post will talk about my setup and its use of a few technologies to make it all seem a bit more professional. I might not use all of this capability for internal discussions with one or two other people. But I think it helps particularly when doing presentations and education sessions to customers.

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This post was last updated on July 7th, 2020 at 09:43 pm

Getting lucky – unexpectedly good food

One of the pleasures (and I suppose there have to be some) of frequent travel is when we discover somewhere good to eat, that wasn’t expected. You can always look up the good restaurants near the hotel, or the nearest brewpub for a tasty IPA. But sometimes you can be surprised by what’s on your immediate doorstep.
More about interesting places

Is that a gun in your bag? Or …

Back home now, after a few fun days doing a couple of the European Hursley Comes To You events in Paris and Madrid.

One thing that made these sessions stand out from the US variety was the catering at lunch time. A cheese board in Paris, along with some really evil sticky desserts; beer and wine served with the nibbles in Madrid … So much more civilised.
Read about the “gun”

Being Producer/Director for someone else’s material

One of the hit sessions at this year’s Impact was not listed in the agenda. A bit like an off-off-Broadway show, it was given to a select few groups. This was the snappily-titled “MQ Workload Distribution in a Sysplex”, given by Lyn as part of the z solution suite activities. It talks about how different systems may process different amounts of work, and how this can be changed to more balanced distribution if you need to.

Since the initial run, she’s been asked to repeat the session for a bunch of customers, and there’s probably more requests than available time. So when she was visiting the UK recently, we took the opportunity to record the session and it is now available on youtube as a three-part playlist. (I quite like playlists, as it makes it easy to replace individual pieces without modifying the published URL.)

See more about the presentation

MQ on tour in Europe-ish

Now that Impact is out of the way, we are getting to the next round of the Hursley Comes To You and the Connectivity and SOA Summits. This time covering Europe (or countries that IBM seems to think are part of Europe).

The first one is at Stockholm next week, on June 11. Then it movesĀ  to June 20 in Manchester, July 1 and 2 in Tel Aviv, July 8 in Paris, July 9 and 10 in Madrid.

And this blog is apparently partly responsible for one of them: the Paris event was requested by someone who had read my writing about the US events. And we were able to oblige.

The agendas are slightly different at each event, depending on the expected audience.

But I know that at Paris we are planning to include some deep-dive technical subjects. It will be done in English – sorry, but my French isn’t up to discussing performance tuning. Hopefully that will be OK. I’m looking forward to doing that one as I’ve not been to Paris for many years. Going to see if I can get the train over.

Good news, Bad news

When I have an early weekday flight from Heathrow, I often stay at one of the nearby Hiltons the night before. It’s convenient, not outrageously expensive (especially with points), means I don’t have to get up at 4am to drive up the M3, and I can get a good breakfast in the lounge before going over to the terminals.

So I was doing that last night, checked in, went to check my email, and the laptop power supply went “pop”. No charging possible. I tried a new cable in case it was the fuse, tried different sockets, but it was clear that something was broken. Not a good thing to happen when you’re about to be away for a week with no real hardware support.

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Countdown to Impact – a historic perspective

The Impact conference starts in 10 days in Las Vegas. For the speakers that means we need to finish up writing presentations, although that seems to happen later and later at each event.

Many conference regulars will be there: myself, Lyn, Morag, Ralph as well as executives and some others who aren’t allowed out in public so often, andĀ  the marketing people. As always, this is a busy week not only for the public talking but also the stream of meetings that we participate in. Going to Vegas is not a jolly, and there’s often attempts to NOT be sent.

There used to be a much stricter deadline for finalised presentations, as material was only distributed in physical formats. So it had to be submitted several weeks in advance.For some subjects that was fine, but it made it harder to deal with late-breaking changes, such as if an expected product announcement was cancelled or a new feature altered its implementation.

I was digging through my cupboard a few weeks ago and found the book of presentations from the 1998 MQSeries Technical Conference in Washington DC – properly published and bound. Very nice, but heavy and for those of us who try to fly with only hand-luggage a bit awkward. Back then, we also often used boxes of real acetate foils, carefully separated and hopefully kept in order; there was no guarantee of projection systems even if we had laptops with us. (That DC event has special memories for me, though it’s not why I kept the book.)

It’s interesting looking back at that old material. Features of MQ that were considered interesting or exciting but which are no longer used; and the converse, features that are still critical to customers. Here is the MQSeries V5.0 presentation from 1997/1998 as an example. The “web admin” feature is long gone in that form, as is the DCE Directory Service support. But transaction coordination is still very heavily used.

Although we try to predict which features are going to have a long-term value when planning new releases of MQ, these “What’s New” presentations do show where we got it right and where we didn’t.