I’ve been visiting a couple of prestigious Research Institutions this week, and delivering presentations of my current research work. This was fine and dandy – I’d updated my standard presentation as appropriate to the audience, and with new data. For this I generally use Open Office, which has a rather good presentation app, called Impress.

Unfortunately, I ran into an issue with output of the slideshow to a projector. My laptop is a slightly aged Sony VGN-TX5XN – about 2.5 years old, with a meagre 1Gb RAM onboard. As soon as I plugged in the cable to the projector, the display went black, with only an immobile mouse cursor visible. I rescued the situation by using a PowerPoint version I’d made (not perfect, but good enough for the job) on the host’s XP laptop.

Suitably chastened by the experience I made sure I would test my laptop well in advance at the next institute. Same there, so clearly not an issue with the projector. In the end the ace IT team there made sure OpenOffice was installed on the PC in the presentation room, and just needed to copy over the files (there were minor issues with the movie files, but that was trivial to sort out).

So, what’s behind this? I had no problems using the previous version, 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope. Well, a quick Google search revealed a bug reported in launchpad ([i945gm] [karmic] X servers hangs when settings up dual monitor config). This page also suggests a quick workaround – the problem is related to the Compiz graphic effects I like to have enabled on my desktop. Turning Compiz off in favour of Metacity prior to connecting the projector is supposed to prevent the system hang. All I need to do now is to try that solution out. I’ve set the Compiz Fusion icon to appear in my toolbar by default – that’s probably the easiest way to toggle between Compiz and Metacity. Unfortunately, the test of that solution will have to await my return to the UK.

In the meantime, I rebooted the laptop in Vista Business (the OS it was supplied with) to see what could be achieved there with PowerPoint.  I immediately realised why I hadn’t used Vista in nearly two years: it’s bloated body barely functions in my RAM-poor laptop, it kept doing stuff without asking me first, kept throwing that blasted UAC dialogue at me, etc, etc.  I guess Windows 7 has gotta be better that that.  Incidentally, the laptop refused to cooperate with the projector when booted into Vista (albeit less drastically), so I worry there’s some other issue here.

Hardware/software notes – the TX5XN has the Intel Mobile 945GM/GMS, 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller; the xserver-xorg-video-intel is version 2:2.9.0-1ubuntu2