Thursday, October 18, 2007

Live from Moscow

Moscow, Idaho that is. I'm presenting some of my research at the University of Idaho. I love coming out here. Moscow has a very nice coffee shop called One World Cafe. I can work on my research presentation while listening to live music. In fact, most of the people in here right now are working on their laptops.

Fall in Idaho is very pretty. The rolling hills and rural nature of this area made the drive here a lot of fun.

Creating presentations with Beamer

This is my first presentation using “Beamer”. Beamer is a package available for LaTeX that makes nice PDF-based presentations. My graphs are in postscript format and they do not display well in PowerPoint at all. They look great in LaTeX, and of course the equations I have look really good.

Continuing this no-Microsoft run, my laptop is running Ubuntu 7.10 beta. So far it is working well. In fact, my desktop running Ubuntu 7.06 won't compile the presentation, so running beta actually allowed me to avoid a bug.

Don't pull that wireless card!

On another Idaho trip I gave a presentation where my Windows laptop slowed down so much that it took about 10 seconds to change slides. I had to hit the next button before I actually needed the slide changed. My problem was that I pulled the wireless card out before the presentation. I did this so my presentation would not be interrupted by network-based messages like “windows needs to be updated”. That backfired. Not properly dismounting the card caused the driver to chew up CPU time looking for the card.

PowerPoint makes you stupid.

A long time ago, a study was released that the press picked up with a catchy line that PowerPoint makes you stupid. I posted about that in my blog, and the blog was rated #1 in Google when people searched on that term. I never used to use PowerPoint in class, so it was fun to get a minor bit of fame that way.

Later, I was interviewing for my job at Simpson. We were expected to give a presentation as part of the interview. I presented my research using PowerPoint, even though I didn't use it for teaching classes. I learned the hard way that people think you are very strange if you present a research paper at a conference and don't use any slides.

So I'm just about to give my PowerPoint presentation, and I see one of the instructors on the hiring committee has a sign in his office that says “Thank you for not using PowerPoint”, and another with a red circle-cross over PowerPoint. Oh the irony.

Where did that blog go anyway?

That blog went away after a minor fiasco where someone at work discovered it. Blogs and corporations don't mix. The only thing I could safely blog about was hot air ballooning, and I didn't do enough of that to carry a blog.

The offending article that caused me to drop the blog was on the importance of being able to effectively communicate and influence people. I should have taken my own advice. I spent the next two years after that post leading a project that delivered 1.6 million lines of code which handled 2+ million page views per day. A wonderful and very successful experience.

Another person on my team did nothing but study Dale Carnegie for two years. I don't know what else he did during that time. When we applied for the same job, my list of successes couldn't match his ability to “win friends and influence people”. Specifically, the hiring manager. I hate to say it, but I have to respect that.