Configuring a computer for graphics presentation

If you have ever had a battery charge dialog box pop up, or a screensaver kick in during a presentation you will know that there are some precautionary measures you should take to set up any computer being used for live graphics display at a VLOBLIVE event… Here are some of them.

A lot of VLOBLIVE gigs need some kind of presentation graphics displayed, usually using a computer.

There are things you can do to ensure that there are no unexpected interruptions to the presentations while they are running. Some are obvious, some are not. Almost all of them have caught someone out at some point!!

1. close all un-needed applications. Even if you have a super-wizzy fast computer, there is no telling when an app may decide to go and do some CPU-hogging or disk-hogging just as you are doing a smooth dissolve or playing back a media file.

2. close all un-needed system tray applets in windows Especially news tickers, mail notifiers or anything else likely to pop up a dialog box just at the wrong moment.

3. disable screensavers Obvious one this, but having a screensaver start, as you are showing a vital graphic is at best amusing, and at worst disastrous. Turn it off completely.

4. disable power management system standby or hibernation Another obvious one, but you really don’t want your machine going to sleep on you. If you are using big media files you will also want to prevent the hard drive going to sleep. This is all set up in the energy saving or power management control panels.

5. disable ‘tell me when battery fully charged’ dialogs

6. disable on demand virus checkers let’s face it, you’re pretty unlikely to pick up a virus mid-gig!! and also disable scheduled virus scans (remember to turn them on again)

7. disable automatic software updates this is only relevant if you are connected to the internet during a gig.

8. change the desktop to plain black Just in case you ever fall out of an app back to the desktop while still live on the screen.

9. remove all the icons and files from the desktop Or at least stick them in a folder, so they are less obvious. Of course you should really be using a dual monitor mode to prevent ever showing this part of the desktop, but not everyone has this luxury

10. Run through ALL the presentation slides at least once before the gig. A lot of presentation sw caches the files as you present them, so when you first load a presentation file ALWAYS step through all of it before the show, so it has a chance to cache some of the bigger elements. This can make things a lot quicker especially if you have big images or animation.

How do do this

One easy way to do all this is to set up a special user account that is only used for presentations and that has all these various things configured the right way. This has the added advantage that you can let someone else drive the presentation without worrying about them browsing through your private files or emails.

Make sure this special ‘user’ is NOT an administrator priviliges

Remember that both in XP and MacOS X you can ‘switch’ over to your normal user account to do something and switch back, without having to logout and log in again.

Finally if it’s not your laptop then make sure you know the login name and password (and BIOS password if required), in case you have to reboot in a hurry. If the owner isn’t keen to give you those, get them to create a new user account just for you (or make sure you can grab them during the show!!)

If this all sounds a bit excessive, that’s because you haven’t faced the embarassment of a jolly dialog box popping up just at the wrong moment yet. You will. It’s bad. Best avoided.

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