Conference Nightmares, Episode One

Medical Conference, Monte Carlo, 1980s.

This was a big show with lots of break-out sessions. The production company’s MD was there and busy selling extra content while we were on location. Another AV? No problem! It was pretty busy.

One of the meetings in the main hall of the Auditorium had a lot of 16mm film inserts. The audience wasn’t very big for this session so they were seated in the block of seats nearest the stage (think of a mosh pit for medical execs) and the production desk was roughly in the middle of the hall.

The speakers would arrive just before their session was due to start and hand over spools of film to me. The projector was too noisy to rewind each film as it was so close to the audience so they would end up tail-out on the take-up spool and would be sorted out after the session.

By the usual standards of conference production it was pretty chaotic.

One speaker handed over his film and I laced it up ready to go. A few seconds after I rolled the film I realised that the take-up spool was not big enough. A few words were exchanged over the comms and a plan was rapidly formed.

I had to remove the take-up spool while the film was running and replace it with a more suitable sized reel. This entailed walking back and climbing over the rows of seating and dragging the film along with me. As soon as another tech had put a larger spool on the projector I had to cut the film and pass it back so it could be laced on and the slack taken up. As soon as the film was finished we had to splice it back together and hope the owner didn’t notice.

The audience didn’t see any of this so I’d rate this as a minor success. Pro tip: Make sure you have a good selection of empty reels and get more sleep. You kids playing in an mpeg file from a laptop today have no idea.

As I mentioned earlier, the overall event show was a bit chaotic. At another time there were two small break-out sessions in adjoining rooms. They were supposed to be at different times but the schedule was being adjusted constantly and they ended being run simultaneously. We had enough kit to run both except for comms. The two crews had to share the same circuit. You can’t begin to imagine…

At this point most of the production team had gotten by with only a few hours sleep over several days. Having two crews sharing the same comms was a nightmare.

Producer in Room One: “Standby AV”

AV tech in Room Two: “There’s an AV next?”

Producer in Room Two: “What?”

And so on. Somehow it all worked. I still haven’t figure out how.

Firefox e10s extension compatibility

Firefox Add-ons

Firefox Add-ons

The Firefox browser is undergoing some major surgery (this rebuild project is known as Electrolysis or e10s for short) which means some of your favourite extensions may not be compatible until the author updates them. I downloaded and installed the latest nightly [1] version of Firefox and ran some tests.

First of all I installed all my must-have extensions and tested them. Then I started adding in all the nice-to-have add-ons and tested those. Everyone works without a hitch.

Here’s a full list:

  • BetterPrivacy 1.74
  • Bluhell Firewall 2.5.3
  • Cookie Whitelist, With Buttons 3.4
  • Dummy Lipsum
  • Extension List Dumper 2 1.0.1
  • Forecastfox (fix version) 2.4.3
  • HTTPS-Everywhere 5.1.9
  • NewsFox
  • NoScript
  • Old Location Bar 2.2.1-signed.1-signed.1-signed
  • Privacy Badger 1.7.0
  • Tab Mix Plus
  • The Addon Bar (restored) 3.2.9-compat-fixed-4
  • TinEye Reverse Image Search 1.2.1
  • Web Developer

How’s the browser, you ask? Just peachy. It’s fast even on old hardware.

[1] Mozilla release a version running the latest code every night, hence “nightly”.

Ruts DC at the Brisbane Punkfest

It has been a while since the last time I saw the Ruts. 1978, to be precise. It was a party held in Hayes Labour Hall and the Ruts were supported by the Desks and the Brain Surgeons.

Fast forward almost 40 years. When I saw that Ruts DC were going to tour Australia this year and play in Brisbane I mentioned it to Lisa and she snapped up two tickets as a birthday present. Brisbane is a long way from us; It’s a round trip of about 3200 km (2000 miles). That’s a lot of petrol, four long days on the road and two nights in a hotel. Once the Ruts hit the stage we knew it was time and money well spent.

Kingston Stompers

Kingston Stompers

They were playing their first – and hopefully not last – Australia/New Zealand tour and this show was part of the Punkfest at the New Globe Theatre in the heart of the Fortitude Valley area of Brisbane.

Spike City

Spike City

There were two support bands: Kingston Stompers and Spike City. Both bands were pretty good and played a fine mixture of ska, reggae and punk.

Spike City reminded me of a 21st century version of Madness and even have a small brass section. The trumpet player sported a rocking mohican too.

Then the Ruts came on. A bit of banter with the audience and they blasted straight into Surprise.

Ruts DC

Ruts DC

As good as the support bands were, this was a lesson in how to play a gig. When a band has known each other for nearly 40 years they are going to be tight. When I first saw the Ruts at the Southall Centre playing with Misty In Roots in early 1978 they were really very good. They haven’t lost any of their edge or energy in that time despite only two of the original four members still being alive.

Ruts DC

Ruts DC

The set was well thought out with a great mix of old and new songs. There was more good-natured banter between Segs, Ruffy and the audience. The latter was a mix of kids who were born after the loss of Malcolm Owen and people the same age as the band. No matter what their age everyone knew the songs and sang along with them.

Ruts DC

Ruts DC

The traditional faux encore was amusing. Leigh and Segs left the stage but Dave Ruffy stood and chatted with the audience. He told them about his dicky hip and that he couldn’t be arsed to get off stage only to have to climb back up a few minutes later. If you heard his high hat and kick drum pedal work during the show you wouldn’t think there was anything amiss. Ruffy is probably the best drummer to come out of the punk era and this gig just proved it again.

All too soon – actually after almost two hours of music – and the gig was over. I hope they come back again.

We scored some merch, as the kids say, and came away with a poster, a t-shirt and two CDs by the Ruts. Also bought a t-shirt from Spike City.

All in all a great night out and it brought back lots of memories of days gone by and people no longer with us: Malcolm Owen, Paul Fox and Lizzie Cook.

Weird things you find doing genealogy

Lisa has been using her holiday time wisely doing some genealogy research on my side of the family. Some interesting snippets have surfaced.

Mary and John Coleman

Mary and John Coleman

Nan and grandad lived in Acton before they moved to Dagenham. The 1901 census says grandad was an electrician. The 1911 census record shows he was employed fitting arc lighting to early London black cabs. There was a taxi manufacturer, Du Cros Cars, in Acton that was founded in 1908. The owner, William Harvey du Cros, was MP for Hastings, which was grandad’s place of birth so that fits in quite nicely.

Graham Road‬, Acton

Graham Road‬, Acton via