WebDD… Vista saves the day from hell…

This was one of those days when if something could go wrong – it did.

I was on the schedule to present the first session on one of the three tracks at WebDD, a community event held at the Microsoft Campus in Reading. I’d been at Designertopia for the previous 2 days so was leaving London early to make the start in plenty of time… best laid plans and all that…

I got to the NCP car park at about 7.20am… and it was closed… it should have opened at 6.30… not a good sign! After 10 minutes pressing the buzzer I found the NCP number to call for help… eventualy after 20 minutes I managed to get into the car park… phew! Times a bit tight but still ok. As I get to the car the attendant tells me the credit card machine isn’t working and I need to pay in cash! Now anyone that has parked in London recently knows that it’s v.v expensive. I’d been parked for 3 nights and 2 days and the bill came to Β£115!

So now it was time for a bit of early morning exercise as I made a quick dash to the nearest cash machine… by the time I got out of the car park it was just after 8am… now time was tight.

Well somehow I managed to get to Reading on time (just)… I arrived in the seminar room set up, checked the set up, double thumbs up, everything is ready to go. Time to relax… 20 minutes to go before the actual presentation so I thought I’d just grab a drink and some food as I hadn’t had anything since I’d got up at 6am.

At that moment the technican commented on the plasma screens around the room not being able to cope with the resolution I was running (the projector was fine), one of the plasma screens had a slight flicker as well so the technican stood on one of the seats to fiddle with the controls… (these seats are fold up cinema style seats) at which point he slipped… his foot jammed down between the back and the bottom of the seat and he was stuck.

I mean REALLY stuck… 15 minutes to go from the start of the presentation and the technican is stuck with his foot jammed in a seat in the MIDDLE of the room! So there’s Phil, Dave and I pushing and shoving this guys foot from underneath, trying to leverage the seat apart, take his shoe off… still stuck!

10 minutes to go!

One final attempt and… his foot comes free… phew!

5 minutes to go! All’s good… no time for food or drink but at least the rooms set.

At that point Dave asks if he can put a few slides on my machine. Sure… no problem. He puts in his USB stick and nothing happens. He casually mentions that it didn’t work on a machine earlier either… hmmm… I could see Vista had started downloading the driver… a driver for a USB stick… that’s not a good sign I thought…

People were now entering the room for the start of the presentation, 2 minutes to go, the driver finshes installing and then the machine STOPS… a couple of choice words ficked through my mind as I did a hard reboot. Anyone that gives presentations knows that having to do a reboot at the exact moment you’re meant to be starting the presentation is not a good sign!

Vista on average takes about 30 seconds to boot from cold… not this time! About 3 minutes later the machine had just struggled into a usable position… the resolution had dropped from 1440 to 1024, apps were taking 10x longer than normal to open up, this driver was obviously bad and taking a lot of cycles to do nothing… (The guys over a Low End Mac have a post today about driver issues on both OSX and Windows… http://lowendmac.com/fishkin/07/0202.html)

We’ll I managed to nurse the machine through the presentation of Expression Web without too many further issues but I’d got another presentation coming up !

Arriving at the next room I found the previous speaker was over running by 15 minutes, through the break and 5 minutes into my session… I’d rebooted my machine outside the room and expected to plug in and go… I plugged in and DIDN’T GO… the keyboard drivers for boot camp on my Mac had stopped working so I couldn’t CTRL, ALT, DEL to get into the machine and machine was now running at 800 x 600! Oh boy! Where’s Dave! I want to tell him what to do with his USB stick πŸ˜‰

What to do? I quickly nipped out of the room and asked John my colleague to grab a external keyboard for me.

Back in the room I started to explain about the different technologies and products while waiting for the keybaord to arrive, luckily as soon as we plugged it in we were good to go… except… I was now running at 800 x 600 and I couldn’t get the monitors to mirror… so to at least show something to the very patient audiance I decided to do the demo using only the projector image.

Not an ideal set up… my machine was on a podium 4 feet to the side of the screen and 4 feet in front of it… being on a podium you can’t turn the machine round so I had to run the presentation and demo facing the audience twisting my head round to look at the screen… I LOVE days like today!

Then I opened Expression Blend to move into the main part of the demo… and… the machine froze again! DAVE!!! DAVE! Let me tell you what I think about that USB stick of yours!

John had seen my presenting predicament and had nipped out of the room to fetch his machine for me… we did a quick swop and had Blend on screen – still only on the projecter and now with no demo files πŸ™‚ but at least I could show the product πŸ™‚

Blend is an amazing product… it just rocks… it ROCKS! Even though the demo had been cut short by the technical difficulties I think people could really start to see the power of the product and the workflow advantages of XAML.


…John had been working away beside me on my Boot Camped Mac and had used Vista’s restore feature to wind back time to BUSI (Before USB stick incident). The machine booted and ran perfectly… allowing me to do a quick final 5 minutes with real demo files, and some great samples πŸ™‚

Obviously system restore was in XP as well, but in Vista it’s easier to use and find than ever – and it works like a dream !

Note to oneself:
1: Always pray to the demo gods.

2: Never let Dave Sussman near you machine with a USB stick πŸ˜‰  Well at least, not if you’re about to do a presentation!

3: Always pray to the demo gods.

3: Remember – ‘System Restore’ – it’s a life saver.

4: Did I mention… always pray to the demo gods πŸ™‚

What a day !


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