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Some ideas for running a conference

Firstly for smooth running of the presentations it would be ideal if laptops were provided for displaying all presentations (obviously this wouldn’t work for live software demos but it would work well for the slide-show
presentations). Such laptops need to be tested with the presentation files that will be used for the talks (or pre-release versions that are produced in the same formats). It’s a common problem that the laptops owned by the speakers will have problems connecting to the projectors used at the conference which can waste time and give a low quality display. Another common problem is that laptops owned by the conference often have different versions of the software used for the slides which renders them differently, the classic example of this is OpenOffice 1.x and 2.x which render presentations differently such that using the wrong one results in some text being off-screen.

The easy solution to this is for the conference organizers to provide laptops that have multiple boot options for different distributions. Any laptop manufactured in the last 8 years will have enough disk space for the
latest release of Debian and the last few Fedora releases. As such machines won’t be on a public network there’s no need to apply security updates and therefore a machine can be used at conferences in successive years, a 400MHz laptop with 384M of RAM is quite adequate for this purpose while also being so small that it will sell cheaply.

A slightly better solution would be to have laptops running Xen. It’s not difficult to set up Xephyr in fullscreen mode to connect to a Xen image, you could have several Xen instances running with NFS file sharing so that the speaker could quickly test out several distributions to determine which one gives the best display of their notes. This would also allow speakers to bring their own Xen images.

This is especially important if you want to run lightning talks, when there is only 5 minutes allocated for a talk you can’t afford to waste 2 minutes in setting up a presentation!

In other news Dean Wilson gave my talk yesterday a positive review.

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