Masterful story-telling in the first trailer for Star Trek: The Force Awakens

Like most people who have a love for sci-fi, I eagerly watched the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday. [1]

After watching the trailer for the fifth or sixth time I started to really notice the masterful story-telling – exemplified in the words and tone; and the vision and music.

Words and Tone

In the entire 60 second clip there are only 15 words spoken:

There has been an awakening; have you felt it?

The dark side… And the light

In those words we can see a couple clues:

  1. he dark and light sides of the force have been dormant since the timeline of The Return of the Jedi
  2. Both have awakened

What was equally telling was the tone used – clearly the tone used was spoken from the darkside, with the voice over having a distinct Emperor Palpatine feel about it.

Vision and Music

The trailer starts with what appears to be the planet Tatooine [2] with some level of chaos as people and droids run from something. We then cut to an organised force of Stormtroopers amassing.

Ultimately we then see vision of what seems to be Han Solo’s spaceship, Millenium Falcon as the classic Star Wars score kicks in.

I am looking forward to the new movie[3], and I am excited by what appears to be a strong foundation of masterful story-telling at the hands of JJ Abrams and crew.


  1. OK, actually I probably watched it ten or more times.  ↩

  2. The same planet which featured at the commencement of the original Star Wars (aka Episode IV or A New Hope).  ↩

  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due to be released on 18 December 2015.  ↩

Deckset on Show

I’m a big fan of markdown as a way of writing. I generate most of my content in Markdown using Byword for Mac[1] and Byword for iOS, supported by tools like Editorial, MultiMarkdown Composer, nvAlt and Marked.

These tools allow me to put together blog posts, as well as write articles, reports, training programs and even books. The cool thing is that with Markdown I can write once and then reuse the same content easily in multiple formats.

Now I can use Markdown to create brilliant presentations using a new Mac app called Deckset (available in the Mac App Store). The following Slideshare presentation—created in Deckset and embedded here[2]—is my review of Deckset.

The short version—Deckset for Mac is great. Go get it.


  1. This and other links to the Mac or iOS App stores are affiliate links. Thanks in advance 😉  ↩

  2. Here is the original Markdown file for the Deckset On Show presentation so you can see how it was constructed.  ↩

Avoid Presentation Interruptions in Mavericks

I’ve written before about how I believe that system interuptions should be completely disabled during presentations, and how Windows devices shouldn’t be used for presentations if possible because of their propensity to interupt the user anytime.

In my experience, Mac OSX devices are far better for presentations because the system tends to not interupt you when doing important things. With the recent enhancements to the notifications functionality, there is a growing possibility that individual apps will popup notifications that will appear on screen. So you might get a text message on screen, or a news update, or similar.

OSX Mavericks has a great way to avoid this. In System Preferences navigate to Notifications (System Preferences>Notifications) and in the Do Not Disturb option check the box to turn on DND “When mirroring to TVs and projectors”.

Attention to detail like this will allow your presentations to be smoother and you will be less likely to have your presentation, train of thought and audience’s attention interupted.

Windows – The Wrong Platform for Presentations?

Windows PCs should not be used for Presenting

One of the best events I get to go to every couple of years is OZTeK, a conference that focuses on the science, technology and mentality of diving on the cutting edge. It’s even cooler (for me) that for the third time this year, I was one of the MCs of OZTeK.

With a variety of the world’s best speakers in diving, including the likes of Jill Heinerth, Simon Mitchell, Michael Menduno and many others, I consider OZTeK to be a TEDx of tec diving. The presenters are fantastic, and have wonderful stories to tell. As with all presentations everywhere, the quality and style of the supporting media was varied.

Consisting mostly of PowerPoint slides and some supporting video, some of the media actively supported and added to the stories, and some were neutral. Unfortunately, a small number even detracted from the presentations. What was cool was that a few presenters chose to ditch the slides altogether, and instead just spoke. They had good stories, and were clearly passionate about those stories.

I give a lot of presentations, and these days am doing more and more of them from my iPad. My MacBook Air continues, however, to be my main presentation device. What I like about presenting from the Mac is that once you’re in presentation mode in Keynote, the Mac gets out of your way. I would be loathe to use a Windows machine for presenting these days, and my experience at OZTeK only reaffirmed that. You see, Windows machines (provided by the contracted AV company I believe) were used in the conference rooms for presenting.

The biggest problem with Windows is that it is an interuptive device. Windows machines, the Windows OS and Windows applications are often attention seeking little suckers, popping up left, right and centre, craving for you to do something. Or nothing. But at least talk to it, or it will do something anyway.


On several occasions, the little popup bubble shown on the right popped its head up. This one isn’t too bad, because at least it doens’t stop the presentation running. To be fair, notifications in OSX (using Growl or Notifications Center) do much the same. In all cases, these can (and should) be turned off. Especially if you use notification centre for other things, like emails, iMessages, etc…

With Windows, however, the default setting seems to be for the system to automatically download the update (and aren’t there a lot of Windows updates) and for many of these updates to require a restart. Which it also does automatically, although at least the system is nice enough to give you a warning.

Restart coming

Problem is that it will kick you out of what you are doing – even if you are presenting. In presentation mode. You, the presenter, are talking away and start to notice some of your audience giggling. You turn and see the screen. You rush over to hit the “Restart Later” button, because it seems that mostly you have 60 seconds to do so.

Presentation machines – Windows, OSX or even iPads – need to be setup so that once in presentation mode all notifications are automatically blocked from popping up and interupting. And they should never be allowed to kick you out of what you are doing.

With Mac OSX and iOS devices, turning off notifications is quite easy. With Windows, the interuptiveness is deeply embedded in the architecture. It is possible to turn things off, but (in my experience) the process is like the little boy plugging the holes of the dam with his fingers. After plugging 10 holes, things get interesting. And there’s always another hole.

So, as a presenter, I would suggest that you present from a device that allows you to turn off all interuptions. Of course, some notifications might be exceptions – you would want to know if you’ve got a critical battery issue, and you and your audience might want to know if the Centers for Disease Control announce a zombie outbreak.

In my opinion, Windows PC’s are not the right device to present from.

iPads of March 2013

My iPad main screenIn March 2012 I decided to go for a month using my iPad as my primary on-the-go device – a month I called iPads of March. My iMac in my home/office continued to be my “heavy-lifting” device for processing images/videos, building presentations, text formatting for some manuscripts I was working on and for accounting activities for my business. But I used the iPad for pretty much everything else – including researching, writing, email, task management, presentations, etc.

I wanted to test the idea that iPad is approaching the point when it could be a primary on-the-go device for a power-user like me. For content production as well as consumption.

Of course, where iPad leads others follow, so I know that when iPad reaches that point, we consumers will have a range of iOS, Android, Windows and other devices to help us do our work and live our lives.

I chose March last year for a couple of reasons – it was the month that the 3rd generation iPad was to be launched, but it was also a month in which I had no scuba instructor courses scheduled, as these courses are intensive on my workflows and technology (multimedia rich presentations and lots and lots of paperwork).

My findings were interesting. I found that my iPad could easily handle 90% of my on-the-go work that my MacBook Air would normally perform. In fact, there were three main things that were missing that would be a show-stopper for using the iPad as my primary device.

  1. Multimedia presentations using Keynote were (and continue to be) awkward and crappy. Many of my Keynote presentations have embedded media, and getting these into Keynote for iOS is cumbersome and results in significant quality reduction of the videos.
  2. Document scanning to PDF is pretty awful. I don’t mean low volume stuff using the iPad camera, but piles of multipage documents. I need to keep records of lots of paperwork, and to date I have not found a workable solution that approaches my NeatReceipts scanner for scanning out and about. When I am in town, I can do my scanning at home on my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500M.
  3. Business accounting software. My accountant wants me to use MYOB. I have the FirstEdge software for OSX, and there is no iOS application support.

In 2013, things are changing. While Keynote has not improved media handling as yet, there are other web/app based solutions that I am exploring. For scanning, the introduction of the iOS capabilities into the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 suggests that future versions of their mobile scanners will do the same. For financial accounting, I might upgrade to a package that would allow mobile integration. Or just live with the fact that I do my finances only from the home office.

March 2013 presents itself as another month with no scheduled courses that require rich multimedia, though I have some other courses/presentations that will allow me to test some concepts. My MacBook Air is in with the Genius Bar folks for repair, so it seems to me that I have once again the opportunity to use the iPad as my main on-the-go device. I am going to focus on making presentations work on the iPad, as scanning is on the horizon.

I’ll make two quick predictions and see how they turn out.

  1. The iPad will have made giant strides, and will be close the gap on becoming my primary on-the-go device
  2. There will be no new iPad launched in March

Keep an eye on djp.me/ides/ to see my posts tagged about my iPads of March 2013 experiences.