Machiccup

(Just to maintain a bit of balance after the last posting…)

My Mac let me down in public today. It was only a minor flaw, but it was notable because it’s the first time I can remember such an incident in my three or four years of using Macs.

I was about to give a talk, and had been looking forward to using the new features of Apple’s Keynote 2 presentation software. It has this nice ‘Presenter Screen’ on the built-in display which can show you, amongst other things, the currently displayed slide, the next slide (or the result of the next animation), your notes, and a timer, while your main presentation is shown on the second screen or projector. You can customize this screen layout, and it’s very cute.

Everything was set up and ready to roll a couple of minutes before the talk, when I made the mistake of trying to see if the projector would do a higher resolution. It wouldn’t, but it didn’t tell the Mac that, so it displayed a blue screen while my Mac happily carried on thinking it was driving the projector as its primary display. And unfortunately, when it thinks the display is working OK, then the settings dialog for the display pops up on that display, so I couldn’t change the projector settings back. (You see, it was really the fault of the projector!) What I could do was set the screens into ‘mirroring mode’, meaning that both displays showed the same thing, but whenever I set it back to dual-screen mode, the Mac helpfully restored my previous display settings (a feature I normally love), so giving me the blue screen again. There was no network access, so I couldn’t go the dearly beloved macosxhints.com site and find out how to fix it.

I’d kept the audience waiting long enough, so I had to use it in mirroring mode, which meant I didn’t get the cool Presenter Display. This meant that I didn’t have my notes (and I don’t believe in putting much text on my slides). Nor did I know which slide was coming next, because I’d reordered some of them just before starting. I had no printout of the notes or slides. Things didn’t flow quite as smoothly as they might have done!

Ironically, I think the answer might have simply been to reboot. I so rarely need to reboot my Mac that I didn’t even think of it, or assumed that it would restore the previous settings. But I have read of other Mac users who have been stuck in exactly the same way and fixed it by restarting. It’s what I would have tried first on a Windows machine. But the moral of the story is never to place too much faith in any technology. Even if it’s a Mac.

1 Comment

An update on this one… The new Mac OS X – Tiger – now has a ‘Gather Windows’ button in the display settings. This allows you to pull the display settings windows for all displays onto one screen, which would have fixed this problem for me.

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