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grantm (164)

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Just a simple [] guy, hacking Perl for fun and profit since way back in the last millenium. You may find me hanging around in the monestary [].

What am I working on right now? Probably the Sprog project [].

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Journal of grantm (164)

Tuesday August 22, 2006
08:08 PM

A different kind of conference

[ #30725 ]

I've just spent the morning presenting at Kids Conference 2006. Sadly, there's one word which nicely sums up how it went and that word is disaster :-(

My presentation was about Free Software, I got to run it two times in back-to-back sessions with twenty 10-12yr old kids in each. In each session I got one person to come up the front and write a simple program in Logo so that people could start to get the idea what software is and how it's made. Then, with their permission, I took a copy of their program and made some improvements to it - thus demonstrating how the free software culture of sharing works. I also ran through who Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds are and briefly demonstrated a number of apps on my Ubuntu laptop.

The problems started when I was first shown to my assigned room. Instead of the data projector which I had been assured would be available, there was an overhead projector. I managed to get reassigned to a different room which had a data projector but unfortunately it didn't actually work. One of the university's tech support guys came and had a look at it but he couldn't make it go either. The room next door seemed to have a functional projector which the presenter didn't need so we swapped rooms and everything started to look better. Sadly, although I have used my Ubuntu laptop with numerous data projectors it would not work with this one. It was fine at the initial GRUB menu, fine during Ubuntu's low res graphical boot screen, but as soon as X started the screen went blank. I did try dropping down to a lower resolution but had no luck. Now we were 25 minutes into a 50 minute session so I had no choice but to rearrange the furniture to get 20 kids scrunched in around my 14" laptop screen.

At least in the second session I knew not to bother trying the projector and after apologies, got everyone straight into the huddle.

The kids were great. The response was about as good as I could expect under the circumstances. They asked good questions and responded well to the questions I asked them. They snapped up the Ubuntu CDROMs and stickers I was giving away as well as the flyers I'd put together (in Inkscape) listing some free/open source packages they could try on their Windows machines. So it wasn't an unmitigated disaster, but it certainly ranks as my least fun speaking engagement so far.

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  • I feel for you. That must have been rough. I imagine that the only thing which could make it worse is getting a late night phone call from one of their parents asking why the hell their child just reformatted the parent's Windows machine and installed Ubuntu.