February 21, 2005  ·  Lessig

So in response to my request for a simple hack to enable me to advance a slide remotely, I got lots of great advice about installing VNC on whatever machine I wanted to do this on. That’s a great suggestion, but a bit of overkill (and likely to create some suspicion with some network administrators), though it did show me how to make it easy to help my Mom on the Mac I bought for her (and why doesn’t Apple sell a version of Apple Remote for kids helping parents learn how to use Macs?).

But what I was hoping for in a hack was something simpler than a system to take over all control of a machine. Murray suggests a Java solution, which seemed the right sort of solution. But Kevin Reynen of SidewalkTheory has written some scripts that get run through iChat. This is an elegant little solution to the problem — just facilitating the advance of the slides and allowing the iChat to be used for the voice part at the same time — and in exchange for my promising to give a talk to a class he’s in (via remote), he’s offered to make on for a Win platform as well. I’ve accepted, and I’ll post that code too when it’s done. But thanks to Kevin for giving me a real chance of more time with my kid.

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February 18, 2005  ·  Lessig

I can’t express adequately how grateful I am for the help in response to my two questions. I intend to tinker through the suggestions I can (I work in a Mac environment, so Windows-only solutions won’t work for me), and report back on what I learn. I’m especially grateful to jb’s suggestion: Sure, I’ll make whatever I have available for people to work with however they want.

Meanwhile, give me some time to process this, and I’ll report back what I learn. And again, thank you.

February 17, 2005  ·  Lessig

In a comment to my last post, Is there such a hack?, Andrew Ducker writes,

If you’re going to be sending the presentation in advance and then synchronising it to your voice over the internet, why not shortcut the whole process and simply add your voice to the presentation. They can just watch/listen to the presentation and you can take questions “live” at the end. The other advantage there being that you can also allow people to download the presentations, giving you worldwide coverage!

Indeed, why don’t I? Because it is insanely hard to do — insanely, because it seems like such an obvious feature for, e.g., a PPT or Keynote presentation, but it just doesn’t exist now (with any sort of reliability). You can record a narration, e.g., in a ppt presentation, but there’s no guarantee that the narration will actually stay fixed with the slide advances. You can manually carve up a narration into individual MP3s that get attached to each slide, and fix the timing problem, but who has time for something like that? And though Keynote promised something like this, I’ve yet to see how it can be used to make a truly, stand-alone, presentation.

Flash seems the most obvious platform to do this in, but again, it took lots of work to get this to work. And while Keynote promises Flash export capability, the output is not the same as the input.

I’ve seen products that promise to convert ppt to Flash, but I’ve not seen one that gives you a source file that you can work with. But am I missing something? I’d give my right arm (though I am left handed) for a simple, automatic tool to produce stand-alone presentations, and I’d even commit to making every one of my presentations available for free one existed (which is incentive enough for some not to produce it perhaps), but so far, I’ve not found it. Has someone else?

February 17, 2005  ·  Lessig

So I travel too much, and leaving my family is now driving me insane. (Last year, 186 nights in hotels). Today I experimented with making a presentation remotely. If you’ve seen me, and my presentations, this actually might be better than me being present — all the action is on the screen.

The problem is technical. There’s no good way to stream a wide range of content — video, audio, slide presentations. And there’s no simple way to remotely run a computer.

But the latter seems the simpler hack: I’d like to be able to send a CD of my presentation to a place I’m to speak at, and then remotely control advancing the slides. So, e.g., my voice could come over the internet, and control of a remote computer could come over the internet.

There are lots of expensive ways to do this. (e.g., Apple Remote). But is there a cheap, simple, cross-platform compatible way to do this? Again, I want a mouse like control I can operate here that advances my presentation there.

February 16, 2005  ·  Lessig

So because I only understand things by tinkering with them, I’ve decided to tinker with podcasting. I am convinced from an intellectual perspective that this one of the most important net-related developments in a long time. But I need to understand it more than intellectually. Thus, with thanks to Dave Winer and Adam Curry for start-up advice, an experiment in podcasting begins.

I have started, however, exactly where they said I should not — reading written texts. Wired has encouraged me to podcast readings of my columns, and as that was an easy and deadline-related reason to get going, I’ve made that the beginning. The best of podcasting, I am told and have seen, is not read, but written. Writing in mp3 is something I hope to experiment with soon.

Until then, here is 050201 (the first, maybe the only, podcast from February, 2005): A reading of my March column in Wired, read with a very bad cold.

(Geeknote: I’m using Brandon Fuller’s very cool MT-enclosures, I hope properly.)

February 10, 2005  ·  Lessig

Lots of speculation and fantastic praise about the West Wing gig. It was a hoot to watch. But in two seconds (I’m late for a meeting) let me put this in perspective.

The story is based (loosely) upon a true story. I was involved in the drafting of one early version of the Georgian constitution. But the story ended up in the West Wing because I told the story to my students in Constitutional Law at Harvard, and a current writer for the West Wing was in that class.

And so is “fame” made: My story is on the West Wing because I was at Harvard — not because the brilliance of my intervention had been noted and reviewed, but because I was teaching talented kids who would prove to be important. Indeed, so has the most important of my “fame” been made: Did Justice Jackson pick me to be his special master because he had determined I was the perfect mix of Holmes and Ed Felten? No, I was picked because I was a Harvard Law Professor teaching the law of cyberspace. Remember: So is “fame” made.

Two things about the episode did, however, make me very happy. First, that it showed that at least some law students escape the trap that the top law schools have created — the path to a tedious and unrewarding practice that few seem capable of avoiding. And second, that it captured beautifully the single most important thing that I learned from my years working on “constitutionalism” in Eastern Europe: That 90% of the challenge is to build a culture that respects the rule of law, and that practices it. A document doesn’t build that culture. And no one has a formula — either for building it, or preserving it.

Certainly not a law professor.