Notes on presentations using linux

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Doing presentations on linux is a bit of a nuisance especially if you want to include movies or other multimedia. We've never got openoffice or kpresenter to do this reliably. Another point to bear in mind is if WYSIWYG editors annoy you then their powerpoint alike counterparts are likely to be annoying as well. Here are some random notes as to other options:

  • Latex using propser: Prosper is a pretty capable latex package for preparing slides for presentations, it does most of what you need and produces a pdf file that behaves like a powerpoint style presentation when displyed full screen. It doesn't handle movies etc but I have made this appear to work by running mplayer (etc) on top of the presentation. The only problem with this is you can't trigger this from within your presentation so it is a bit clunky. One other niggle is that the syntax is pretty long winded.
  • Magicpoint: magicpoint is a pretty capable presentation tool for X, it is easy to write, easy to use (when it is working) and has some nice features (you can draw on your slides during presentations). It is currently my preferred option. It can run any X or text application from within the presentation so looks pretty slick. It also has a very compact syntax and is nominally easy to use. The downsides are: there is no documentation apart from the man page which covers command line switches and it can be infuriating to make it work on the projector (always test). It does exactly what you tell it to do. There are a few non magicpoint niggles that you have to negotiate:

- magicpoint launches movies using external X applications (eg mplayer) it has three commands to do this system, xsystem, tsystem. The latter two attempt to be clever and convert mgp coordinates to X coordinates but this depends on the X application behaving exactly right and in my experience neither of these work properly. My solution is to hard code the X application options and use the system command.

- using the system command you have to hard code the geometry arguement to the X application. This is a pain if you don't know what the screen resolution is. I cheat by setting this up with XXX and YYY strings and then running a little script which prepares the magicpoint file by replacing these XXX and YYYs with the appropirate numbers.

- You need to run "mgp -U" or you'll get no movies! (insecure mode)

- You need to set the xgeometry of magicpoint unless you want it to attempt full screen mode (see below) run mgp -U -g 640x480+1280+0

- Fullscreen mode has some undesirable side effects - since magicpoint steals the screen any movies or X applications can only run behind it (ie they are invisible to the audience). Fix this with -O or -g.

- There are loads of X gotchas to overcome these will vary a lot from machine to machine and system to system, I'm currently using kde4 on a laptop with an nvidia card. I set the screen up (when connected to the projector) using nvidia-settings and twinview mode. I set the screens so the projector is top-left of my laptop screen then the correct geometry command is -g 640x480+1280+0 for a 640*480 projector.

-- In kde4 you need to disable the krandr service otherwise the movies will blank and stutter (advanced desktop settings, unclick the randr service and STOP it).

-- In kde3 I got mileage though stoping kde3 from managing the second screen.

Always, always test it before hand!