Off for a bit. Or Why I lothe and detest and want to maimstabmurderdeathkill powerpoint.

Tomorrow sees me heading off to Cardiff for the ISSC-15 conference. Just under a week of geeking my particular variety of science with a few hundred like minded individuals at the UK’s premier surface science conference.

Looking at the program, the will be talks on everything from ablation (my field) to catalysis to xenon adsorption analysis. I’m scheduled to talk for 15 minutes before lunch on Tuesday. My talk, which will appear here some time next week, is about producing ordered arrays of very sharp thing by shooting a very flat thing with a laser causing it to explode.

One problem with giving talks at scientific conferences is that everyone now uses LCD projectors, so gone are the days of hand drawn or printed acetates and the noisy overheard projector. Instead welcome to the world of powerpoint, annoying animations, incompatible screen resolutions, missing fonts, music and sound effects, version incompatibility, the list can continue…

Fully half the time I’ve spent putting together my talk has been taken up with tweaking slide layouts, removing random animations attached by default to every bloody image I’ve inserted and checking I’m not using anything specific to my powerpoint installation that will cause the talk to die when viewed on another machine.

It is just so much faffing around. I’m about 80% sure I’ll need to tweak the file further in the 10 min testing time before the session starts. The only problem is, so will everyone else :-/

In the past I’ve tried PDFs for presentations, but they just didn’t quite work. Powepoint does have the edge for flipping through slides quickly, it is also – alas – the expected format for presentations. Turn up with something other than a .ppt file and expect to get a few blank stares unless the AV people are on the ball or one of the scientists are running the projector. Even if they recognise the file there is no assurance you’ll actually be able to use it.

Well everything I can think of has been taken care of, a copy of my talk exists in 3 different places – laptop, email, pendrive, I might stick a copy on a website as well. The laptop is loaded up with films and southpark rips, I just need to find the GBA for the trip and locate a decent book.

Back Friday.

LyX, PS2PDF and fonts

I’ve been using LyX (a What You Get Is What You Mean document processing system) to prepare various documents for a couple of years now. Since moving to the Mac I’ve had trouble with any PDFs I create using PS2PDF from LyX, all the text in the PDF became rendered vectors, rather than selectable text. Effectively the whole document becomes pages of high resolution images, rather than text.

As well as making for file sizes in the tens of megabytes from a few hundred k of ASCII, it also means the PDFs are uneditable – this makes collaboration on a document rather hard…

The solution, obvious now I think of it, is to make sure in LyX that the document fonts are set to one of the 14 base fonts supported by the Adobe PDF standard (Times or Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial, Courier, Symbol and Zapf Dingbats; this adds up to 14 when you consider the bold, italic, etc version of these fonts).

If you are also having this problem in LyX go to Layout:Document:Fonts and select something other than Default. You should now be able to edit your PDFs.

A break from thesis writing.

The one downside to have had some very good news yesterday[1] is that I now have to spend a week making material to send away.

This means at least two whole days in the lab, with all that entails (sulphur smells, strobe flashes from the laser, noise from the laser and other gear, etc). Then another day or so in a different lab imaging the results, (have I pimped my random micrograph images before? If not, here they are) the aim being to make a load of very very sharp micro-needles.

I’m one day down on the lab work and have three of the six or so samples ready for the next step. I should really be back in the lab tomorrow, but I’m off to the LiveJournal picnic in Cambridge, so I’ll have to spend Sunday working instead. ‘Tis all fun and rather more interesting than trying to document and justify the last three years.

[1] Alas, I really can’t say anything yet, except that a rather prestigious institution is taking an interest in my work.

DTL inna box

I’ve been having a cleanup at home, throwing out random boxes, consigning ancient dead hardware to the spare-parts heap, tidying up personal documentation.

I now have a box-file full of personal stuff, stuff that really means something to me. I suppose in a way, the collection really is ‘DTL inna box’. I didn’t set out with the plan of creating this, just a plan to clear up.

Dipping randomly into the box we find:

    Photos from my first holiday alone
    A copy of my degree transcript
    An old watch
    My GCSE & A-level exam timetables and results
    A draft copy of the only love letter I’ve ever sent
    More photos
    A ciphered list of accounts and passwords – freshly updated today.
    Random notes on scraps of paper, things that were at the time too important to me to trust to memory.

I suppose that since I’ve been looking into the family history and researching the family tree, I’ve become aware that almost none of the 120-odd people we’ve found out about has left anything much behind them so that we can really know them. There are no records of their thoughts, their loves, their motives for anything.

This annoys me, I’m an information junkie, to discover even the most mundane of journals or diaries from any of those ancestors would be a thrill. To in someway get to know them beyond the string of numbers we have signifying their birth, marriage and death dates.

Now ‘DTL inna box’ is for my own use. A collection of memories and events; everything in one place for the first time. There is no narrative to the collection, no order, but I do wonder if possibly someone, decades from now, will look through the (hopefully) greatly expanded collection and get some inkling of who I was.