Adventures of a Road Warior

"Madness in Medan - when an iBook sleeps..."
by N. Sivasothi
When the chips are down, how adaptable is a mac addict?
Original version posted to on Tue, 23 Sep 2003 00:26:08 +0800

Hi fellas,

I was up all night before I left for Medan last Tuesday (16 Sep 2003). Last time I was in Indonesia for this workshop process, I frantically burnt a powerpoint CD and then was lucky to find an old laptop with a CD-Drive. It took forever to startup Powerpoint while I provided an introduction which was tossed overboard once the first slide appeared.

Julian on iChat that morning asked for a story when I came back, as usual, thinking disaster. I was thinking, not really, no, no stories this time.

You see, I had everything covered - my iBook was accompanied with 1.44" floppy drive, floppies, compact flash card reader, digital camera with a 256MB CF card, backup 6GB external hardisk, blank CDs, Singtel GRIC settings for dial up, modem and ethernet cables. Decided against a ZIP and grabbed a power adaptor for Indonesia at the airport. After crawling around to unearth the phone port, I discovered a dedicated modem line on the table, neatly labelled!

I had been busy the previous week with the International Coastal Cleanup so had not done any preparations except for two discussions.

At Medan, the Indonesian organisers at the hotel emphasised the importance of the report I was asked to present - it would be helpful to the workshop process and might aid a revival that was afoot as a result. What I said would certainly help. Participants also needed written reports which they would circulate to their countries.

No worries, I had a truly uninterrupted day to cook it all up on my iBook which held all the raw material and gigabytes of images. I was a day early, bathed, changed and snoozed. What more could I need?


I ran out of power because my supply unit decided it wasn't giving my iBook any. Just like that. I checked everything in part and combination. But it was end of story, game over.

And I was one of the first up the first next morning. And iBook happily snoozing away.

Since the hotel room had a modem cable, there was high chance of an internet café...I was soon typing on the hotel's third floor, on a slow PC with only 22.4k modem access to the internet. Still, it was enough to grab critical text off my webpages which I pasted it into Word. Only had to restart once.

As the internet café shut down for the night, I was printing four important pages of text. I emailed myself a copy and backed-up on floppy disk.

Next morning, I met a few people at breakfast and we discussed stuff. Walking in for the opening ceremony, it struck me just how important the presentation was - images would help convey ideas to this unfamiliar audience. A scientist from Chinese Taipei lent me his IBM Thinkpad back at his room and I raced away with some 50 minutes left.

I hunted the internet café guys down and had them start up the PCs - soon I had right-clicked opened more than 10 webpages at a go, downloading images and text frantically in response to the story line I was building in my head; thank goodness I had so much material online! The floppy transferred files to the waiting laptop.

I rushed back to a room near the workshop, and began preparing a powerpoint.

But then, aargh! Chinese characters on screen, how to type or read? Wait a minute, it's only Powerpoint on Windows - Ctrl-M to create new slide, Alt-I-P-F to insert a picture from file, alt-tab to switch between Word and Powerpoint, ctrl-X and V to cut and paste and ctrl-S to save. Phew!

The XP on the laptop was responsive and helpfully displayed file previews in the insert file dialogue window - time saver. By abbreviating, cutting and pasting the text from my report in Word to Powerpoint, I circumvented the problem of Chinese characters that appeared when I tried typing. A mad rush but I was getting somewhere!

When I thought I was just about ready, the Singapore MFA chap at the table rang me on my handphone and said things were about to start rolling andwhere was I?? I walked in and headed for the projector. My friends from Indonesia and Chinese Taipei fixed up the computer and projector, I began the introduction, not knowing if the pc/projector would cooperate.

It did and the powerpoint and its images helped. I was the "13th Workshop to Manage Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea" and I was reporting about Ex Anambas - a confidence building measure in the form of a marine expedition NUS conducted in March 2002.

They liked it and made significant sounds about the next expedition, Ex Palawan.

Nothing beats seeing the smiling faces of the various international scientists in one boat, the colourful biodiversity and a long list of scientific papers to be published from this expedition. The expedition helped build ties and derived scientific value as well. They were happy and a 2-hour discussion followed.

I had more reports and amendments and a secretariat that would help - I walked around with a floppy in my pocket the next few days! The slow pc ad a floppy had saved the day!

My iBook in the meantime, snoozed away in my hotel room...



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