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Footloose and PC-Free
Posted Feb 1, 2002 Print Version     Page 1of 3 next »

Today's portable projectors have heads for business and heft for travel, but the smartest and sleekest of the lot have cards for memory, too, which takes the PC out of the game—and puts the sore-shouldered itinerant presenter back in.

February 2002 | I've been trying to preach the benefits of doing "PC-free" presentations for years. Who wants to carry a PC around everywhere you go? All you need to give a PC-free presentation is some way to hold your presentation—for example, using a PC-Card memory module stuck into a projector —with a means for playing that stored presentation, such as a Windows CE "PowerPoint Viewer." As long as the projector you want to use is equipped with a PC Card slot, you can leave your laptop at home and store your presentation on the little credit card-sized PC Card memory module that comes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. You can even use the flash memory modules from a digital camera. Of course, you need a flash memory-to-PC Card adapter to fit the digital camera's postage stamp-sized memory module into a PC Card slot, but that's no problem, those adapters are easily found.

It'll never fly, you say, because people always want to carry their laptops with them wherever they go. People want to be able to change their presentations just before they give them, too. I know, I've heard it all. However, I have also given the same presentation, day after boring day. I think that I once gave the same presentation, using the same slides, about 1,000 times. Of course, I sometimes changed the slide order slightly, but that was all. It was essentially the same, day after day. If I had used a PC Card memory module in a smart projector, my shoulders would both still be at the same height.

I don't know about you, but I want to leave my PC or laptop at home when I give a presentation. Or at least I want to leave the laptop locked up safe and secure in a hotel room where I can write up my notes and check email in the evening. The one time I had my laptop stolen (and that still hurts!) on the road was when I used it in a presentation and then left it in the rental car while I got something to eat. Thieves struck and broke my heart. I'm willing to make several cheap PC Card copies now and pass them out to anyone, including thieves, with only one wish, just don't take my laptop! Making PC Card presentations is not a problem.

It's Not All in the Cards
Well it's not actually a total no problemo. There are still a few limitations to making a PC Card presentation, but it's gotten better. In old days (whenever that was), PC Cards and the hardware built into a projector that read those cards, could only read TIFF or JPEG files—the same file structure used in digital cameras. That meant that you had to convert, using some kind of image or screen capture software, each slide that you wanted stored, slide by slide. Then, later on, someone developed software that let you convert the whole PowerPoint file at one time, from PPT to JPEG. But those files were still more or less JPEG conversions. And being JPEG, the converted slides had less resolution, less sharpness, and none of the cool PowerPoint transitions. However, if you constructed your presentation with those limitations in mind, you could make it work.

Today's best card-based systems will just run the stored PowerPoint files directly, but again, in some cases, some of the transitions and animations will be missing. Still, that's a small price to pay to replace the need for a heavy laptop with a lightweight PC Card.

Present Loudly and Carry a Small Stick
If those PC Cards get too heavy in your pocket—maybe because you have to carry six of them around at once—then think about Sony's even smaller, lighter, stick of gum-sized Memory Stick. A Memory Stick module can hold as much as most PC Card memory modules can, but it's much smaller and lighter. If you want to carry a really big presentation, then the PC Card standard is for you since the huge Gigabyte-capacity micro-drives only come in a PC Card format.

Of course, Sony says that they'll get to a Gigabyte with a single Memory Stick someday… but if you want that kind of capacity now, PC Card is all that there is unless you're willing to carry ten 128MB sticks. One other problem is that Memory Stick memory modules work in a Memory Stick slot which today can only be found on certain Sony projectors, however, don't let that stop you. PC Card adapters for Memory Stick are readily available and they work about as simply as the other flash modules do.

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