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We need a database…thingy

Authors:
  • Cumming School of Medicine, The University of Calgary

Abstract

The challenges of combining all your information, databases etc in your department or group
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PPT slide 1 – have this on screen while setting up, crowd assembling etc.
Scene 1 – the problem and the cure
PPT slide 2 – The Problem
July, the residents are arriving, the new students have showed up, most of the faculty have left
on holiday without coordinating with each other. Chaos abounds. Nobody is happy!
Characters:
NIGEL: Dept Head (or at least thinks he’s the boss). Bit vague.
MARGARET: practical, sceptical, focused.
DOUG: harassed, not technical at all. Irritated.
RACHEL: Junior faculty.
Nigel, Rachel and Margaret are milling around, Doug on periphery for later entry below
NIGEL
Could I have everyone’s attention please?
Hello, excuse me… I wonder if you could all
just settle down for a moment so we can get
going with this meeting… Oy, you lot! Shaddup!
MARGARET
Does anybody know where Freddy is? I haven’t
seen him all morning. He was supposed to be
doing orientation for the new students. They’re
all waiting downstairs.
Doug barges in, complaining
DOUG
Where’s my resident? Where are all the nurses?
I hate July… always bloody chaos!
MARGARET
And we’re supposed to be launching that new
Competency-based Curriculum. Dammit! Where’s
Freddy? He’s run off again! My students need
orientation.
RACHEL
Give them a cell phone with GPS tracking.
Google does that…without asking.
MARGARET
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(withering look) …that’s orienteering… Nigel,
would you be a dear and do it this morning?
NIGEL
But what about this meeting on Communications
Efficiency? There would be nobody to chair it!
RACHEL
I think Freddy’s on holiday.
MARGARET
Well, can Smith do it?
RACHEL
She’s off as well…
MARGARET
Balvinder?
RACHEL
Holidays…
MARGARET
Well, they can’t all be on holiday. Aren’t they
supposed to request the time on those forms?
NIGEL
Yes, but nobody had the time to collect the
info so I just signed them all.
MARGARET
Well, didn’t you check?
NIGEL
I was too busy filling out forms for the
student requests… and the residents.
DOUG
Where’s the coffee this morning? I can’t
operate without some caffeine in my system.
Whose turn is it to bring it?
MARGARET
Yours. Didn’t you get the fax?
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DOUG
Fax? You jest! Which century is this? Jeez, and
now, no coffee to get through this day from
hell!
RACHEL
(long suffering) I’ll get it.
NIGEL
I know… I’ve got it! The solution to all our
problems! We need (pause)… a Database!
Sound fx: ta-dah! PPT of heralds, seraphim etc, light bulb!
Use Kazoos for this part. PPT slide 3
MARGARET
A what? What on earth for? Is this another of
your crazy ideas?
PPT slide 4 - Blank
NIGEL
No, wait! It’s just what we need… one great,
big, database to hold all this information.
That’s what we’ll get us organised!
RACHEL
We could put everything in there! Holiday
requests…
MARGARET
Well, that would stop this place being like
downtown Dundee on a Friday night at this time
of year. Deserted! Everyone buggered off for
the summer…
DOUG
Coffee rotas… then at least I might get my
latte when I need it… and whose turn it is to
do the dishes…
MARGARET
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Well, I dunno… who would enter all that stuff
in? Sounds like too much work to me…
NIGEL
The staff would of course. They hate all the
forms they have to fill in now. They would
spend their time doing this instead.
RACHEL
So what stuff should we put in it? I think we
should start with holiday requests…
DOUG
Student schedules…
NIGEL
No, undergrad handles that…
MARGARET
Resident schedules?
RACHEL
Postgrad does that…
DOUG
Lectures and small groups?
NIGEL
Fac Dev sorta does that… but not very well…
DOUG
Well, we need to get this stuff sorted out. Why
don’t we just collect it all in… The Database!
FX: TaDa as usual. PPT slide 5
NIGEL
Excellent idea, Doug, thanks for taking that
on. Good show! Do I have a seconder? All in
favour?
PPT slide 6 - Blank
DOUG
But… but…
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Meeting adjourns/dissolves into general hubbub with Doug looking
exasperated/cheated/suckered.
Nigel leaves. Re-enter dressed differently. (e.g. wear suit jacket in scene 1, take it off for scene
2)
Scene 2 – the first planning session
PPT slide 7 – The First Planning Session
DOUG’s character has been tasked to lead this. Irritated.
ALEC is the crusty old senior IT person.
MARGARET is sceptical
RACHEL is keen intern
DOUG
Well, let’s this meeting going. Ahem! Can we
move on and get going with this agenda, please?
ALL
(general grumbling and grousing about early
morning meeting, on a Tuesday after a holiday)
DOUG
So I’ve called you all here to this first
planning meeting for The Database…
FX: tadah on Kazoos. PPT slide 8
MARGARET
Alright… so what do we have to actually do? We
need to get someone senior from IT here.
PPT slide 9 - Blank
DOUG
Oh, he’s been invited. (looks at watch)
ALEC
(enters slovenly) Right, I’ll need
specifications from you lot. You’ll hafta tell
me in great detail exactly what it is that
you’re expecting. I don’t want to be chopping
and changing as we go through. Is that clear?
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RACHEL
Well, I’d like it to be this size… (holds up
hands)… and blue… royal blue.
ALEC
That’s not detailed enough!
DOUG
Never mind that… what I want to know is… will
it fit on a floppy?
Visual FX: find a floppy disk from our stock. PPT slide 10 : The Floppy
RACHEL
What’s a “floppy”?
MARGARET
Oh, Doug would know all about that, wouldn’t
you Doug?
ALEC
There are pills for that you know.
DOUG
Size doesn’t matter, Margaret, it’s how you use
it.
RACHEL
Well, as long as it fits on my iPhone, that’s
all I care about.
PPT slide 11 - Blank
ALEC
So what sort of size data are we talking about
there? I need to know for my hard drive
capacity (nudges Rachel and winks/leers)
DOUG
Oh a few thousand pages should be enough
ALEC
So that’s about 4 Megabytes
Visual FX: Powers of Ten. PPT slide 12
MARGARET
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Plus faxes…
ALEC
Ok, about 40 Megabytes then
Viz FX: Power of Ten 10^1. PPT slide 13
DOUG
Plus photos…
ALEC
Ok… so… perhaps 4 Gigabytes…
Viz FX: Power of Ten 10^3 PPT slide 14
RACHEL
And videos… don’t forget our training videos…
ALEC
Hmm, then I guess that 4 Terabytes should be
more than enough. Getting pretty big you know.
Viz FX: Power of Ten 10^6 PPT slide 15
DOUG
Nonsense, I can fit 40 Megabytes on my wee
stick
RACHEL & MARGARET
(snicker, gesture about size of wee stick to each other)
ALEC
I’m sure you can but… we’re talking Terabytes
here, not Megabytes.
Grabs it off the table.
PPT slide 16 - Blank
RACHEL
Well, couldn’t we use compression? Shrink the
files down a bit?
MARGARET
(aside to RACHEL) Doug would appreciate that.
He’s got a bit of an issue with shrinkage…
DOUG
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It was cold that day at the pool! Damn office
parties!
RACHEL
Of course, you could fit more data onto the
floppy(!) if you shrink the font down to 6
point.
DOUG
Does that work? I never thought of that.
ALEC & MARGARET
(roll eyes, sigh)
ALEC
Ok, let’s take it down to some basic issues.
Have you looked at yer business processes? Your
data flows?
DOUG
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
RACHEL
He means… what you actually do with your
information… where it all goes… does that make
it simpler?
DOUG
I like the idea of keeping it simpler. Can we
talk about the… Interface (pleased with himself
for knowing a bit of jargon)
ALEC
I’d rather ye didn’t… we need to decide what
you want it to do first
RACHEL
(ignores ALEC, talks over top of him) What
color do we think the screens should be? I like
lilac… or maybe mauve…
MARGARET
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Nonsense, the screen layout is much more
important to functionality
DOUG
…definitely… Functionality… very important…
MARGARET
…so we need to decide where the logo is placed…
RACHEL
…and what color it is… how about fuchsia?...
DOUG
What are we going to have for our logo?
ALL
Pause to ponder your logo for a second or two…
Visual: think clouds appear above their heads with different types of logos,
except for Alec who will have a black cloud of despair. How hard will this be to
do? Possible logos would be: DOUG: IBM; MARGARET: Apple; RACHEL:
Twitter. Sound fx: some sort of dreamy chord.
Fringe Database visuals.pptx – PPT slide 17
DOUG
We’ll form a Project Team to design the logo.
Let’s allocate $2500 to that.
PPT slide 18 - Blank
MARGARET
But that’s half the budget for this project!
ALEC
(splutters)… what?! You only have $5000
allocated for this whole project! You’re
joking!
DOUG
Well, it all depends on who we get to program
it. You’re not going to get all that money,
Alec. We’ll outsource it (pleased with himself
for knowing another piece of jargon).
MARGARET
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Yes, yes, that’ll be much cheaper. Those
Bollywood types are terribly cheap… er… smart,
I hear.
RACHEL
I know this guy who would do it on contract.
He’s brilliant… and cheap.
ALEC
(sceptical) So what sort of experience does he
have?
RACHEL
He’s my cousin’s sister’s… neighbour’s… wee
brother!
ALEC
(rolls eyes, sighs, puts head on table)
DOUG
Oh him, he’s really good. He stopped my VCR
from flashing “12:00”… so he must be good.
RACHEL
What’s a VCR?
ALEC
Alright then… I know when I’m losing a battle.
So what languages does he write in?
RACHEL
English of course… and maybe some French…
DOUG
… important to be bilingual… might be able to
get some federal funding…
ALEC
No, I mean: C? C++? D? R?
MARGARET
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Those are letters, not languages! I don’t see
how he can write whole programs with just a few
letters
RACHEL
I think he prefers to write in pencil. He says
it makes it much easier to deal with the change
requests.
ALEC
I give up! The computers are smarter than you
lot!(stomps off)
Scene 3 - Plotting Machines
A machinima presentation to slot in somewhere in the middle. Create this using Xtranormal.
Sort the dialog out first.
PPT slide 19 – Scene 3 – switch to or launch the short video Plotting
Machines.mp4 after 3 seconds on slide 19.
Characters: two robots in conversation, sneaky, conspiratorial.
Main players to huddle, planning etc while this is on.
C3
Would you look at that rubbish? What garbage
are they trying to feed to us now?
R2
Well, you know the old saying… garbage in,
garbage out!
C3
Yes, yes, I know all that… in fact, with a
brain the size of a planet… no, wait a minute,
identity lapse… wrong movie… with a brain the
size of a floppy drive…
R2
I thought you said that size doesn’t matter…
C3
sorry… where was I? Oh, yes, the humans and The
Database…
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FX: tadah sound or whatever you are using for The Database – but cannot do
this while movie is running. No PPT slide.
C3 (CONTINUES)
They haven’t a clue what they’re going to do
with it. They haven’t worked out their business
processes at all.
R2
Not even in a basic format?
C3
You know perfectly well that you can’t model
information flow using Basic.
R2
Sorry, my bad!
C3
he jumped right into those flow diagrams,
pushed a few icons past them… fair dazzled them
with brilliance but they had no clue at all…
R2
Maybe that was his plan. Bamboozle them.
Because then he could create the design that he
wanted to do in the first place.
C3
Oh, sneaky. I wouldn’t be surprised.
R2
Remember the bit where they were talking about
Importing data…
C3
yes, priceless… what did Doug say?
Doug to stand up and mimic the Robot’s expressions and words at same time
R2
(mimicking Doug’s voice/accent) I don’t want to
import anything. I won’t have any of that
foreign muck in our database.
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Scene 4 - The Final Spec Meeting
This is supposed to be a final run through, confirming a tightly defined specification, clarifying
some small contentious points. As you might imagine, our group is a long way off this, but
timelines have pushed them to this point. They have to finalise the spec today or else!
PPT slide 20
Characters: ALEC – jaded senior developer; MARGARET holding the financial purse-strings;
DOUG – just wants there to be no more meetings on this topic that he has been chairing for
months; RACHEL – keen young intern, still looking to make her mark. No, need something
different – this time, the young hotshot app designer, just a buzzing with ideas.
DOUG
Finally. We’re here for the last time after 35
meetings on this damn Database…
Sound FX: same tadah. PPT slide 21
Followed by usual Blank PPT slide 22
ALEC
Now this meeting is very important. This is
just to confirm some final small points about
the design specification on your Database…
Sound FX: same tadah. PPT slide 23
Followed by usual Blank PPT slide 24
MARGARET
I just want to emphasise that to everyone. We
must reach a decision today. No more design
meetings
DOUG
Thank God for that.
RACHEL
Definitely. A final design. Our programming
team can’t wait to get working with this.
MARGARET
There is one thing I do want to know. Who is
going to be able to see all this data? I don’t
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want any shifty-eyed tech looking at my
personal details…
Both ALEC and RACHEL take affront. Tsk! Huh! That’s what she thinks of us!
DOUG
Good question, Margaret. But I’m sure the
Development Team have considered that… moving
on…
MARGARET
… but have they? (turning to them both)… well,
have you?
ALEC
Well it was never raised in any of the earlier
discussions so we assumed you only wanted a
simple password. Er… it will be a strong
password…
ALEC is now trying to catch RACHEL’s eye and shush her up. This is obviously a sensitive
area.
RACHEL
Oh, no, if you wanted multi-level access
control lists, it had to be designed in to the
underlying structure right from the earliest
stages. It would have been interesting to have
incorporate that into the design. It adds so
many layers of complexity… much more fun to do…
ALEC
(interrupts loudly) Ahem! We’ll see what we can
do, Ma’am. I’m sure we can accommodate your
wishes…
RACHEL
No, we can’t (looking slightly panicked)
ALEC
Ah… yes… we can
RACHEL
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(muttering under breath, shaking head) … should
have been made clear months ago…
DOUG
Well, as long as it isn’t made as secure as
that damn program that they have down in
Finance – nobody can get into it – not even the
Finance Director.
RACHEL
I know! Biometrics!
MARGARET
Bio- what?
DOUG
Ah, yes, Biometrics… As Seen On TV!
Visual FX: use As Seen on TV logo, CC-BY. PPT slide 25
RACHEL
No, no… biometrics – biophysical monitoring
devices and mechanisms that are used to enhance
security processes…
ALEC
(interrupting)… she means finger print
scanners…
PPT slide 26 - Blank
MARGARET
Well, why didn’t she just say so?
RACHEL
No, it’s more than fingerprints. You can use
retinal scans, voice prints, dongles, key
cards…
Visual FX: brings out a shoebox full of cards (use old hotel cards, ID cards etc).
Slide of the ID cards – PPT slide 27
DOUG
A shoebox? That looks very secure!
MARGARET
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You mean like News of the World? I don’t want
the data on my phone hacked!
PPT slide 28 - Blank
ALEC
(in his best patronising tone) Don’t worry your
pretty head, Ma’am. (Margaret glares at him)
We’ll take care of it. (Rachel glares at him)
DOUG
I’ve just had a brilliant idea. Why don’t we
put The Database…
Sound FX: tadah (original) PPT slide 29
DOUG
(continues) …in The Cloud!(looks very pleased
with himself)
Sound FX: much more impressive orchestral TADAH. PPT slide 30
Audience to all do this better TaDahhh!
ALEC
(rolls his eyes and shakes his head) Ah, yes,
sir, we’ll get right on to that.
PPT slide 31 - Blank
MARGARET
What does that actually mean? In the Cloud?
RACHEL
Oh, clouds are cool… (in awe?)
MARGARET
… and wet!
DOUG
Maybe that means it will be firewall resistant.
RACHEL
I could make it into an App (holds up
iPhone)with voice recognition.
Visual FX: iPhone app with voice – PPT slide 32
DOUG
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I think it should “do Twitter” – I hear that’s
all the rage now.
PPT slide 33 - Blank
ALEC
(roars in frustration) Twitter?! Will you lot
just can it? We don’t need new ideas at this
point. This is supposed to be a Spec
Finalisation meeting. No new ideas! Gottit?
MARGARET
So, just one more thing to finalise. Whose
budget is this coming out of?
DOUG
(pulls himself together, relieved at the change
of subject) Well, I thought that this would
naturally just be part of the Technology
budget.
ALEC
Not so fast there, Doug. The Technology budget
does not include software development. That’s
done on a cost-recovery basis.
MARGARET
Well, Doug, it was your boss who wanted this in
the first place. Surely it should be yours.
DOUG
But that was back when it was just a small
database…
Sound FX: consider small Tadah – brief, lite version. PPT slide 34
PPT slide 35 – TaDah orchestral!
DOUG
(continues) now it’s huge!
MARGARET & RACHEL IN UNISON
But size doesn’t matter!
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PPT slide 36 - Blank
DOUG
So, ALEC, how much are we talking about here?
$2000 (hopeful)… $5000 (hesitant)… $10,000
(weakly, adjusts collar)
ALEC
Well, I couldn’t possibly give you an accurate
estimate until all the specs are finalised… but
it will be at least $200,000
Doug falls off chair. MARGARET looks aghast. Even RACHEL looks surprised… and delighted.
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Scene 5 Launch day – The Database goes Live!
There is an expectant murmuring.
PPT slide 37 – Launch Day
Characters:
ALEC – senior IT guy. Puffed up with self importance. This is his day to shine.
RACHEL – frantic intern trying to hold it all together, getting increasingly frazzled
MARGARET – stern, skeptic, convinced that this won’t work… but might have epiphany
DOUG – relieved that his part is done; keen to take credit if it works or dodge blame if it goes
sideways.
ALEC
(circus style) Ladieeees and Gennnelmen! Your
attention please… harrumph… if you will all
direct your attention to the screen before you…
RACHEL
Ah, just one moment. I put it all onto a floppy
disk (glares at Doug) but now I can’t find a
floppy disk reader. Oooh… (mild panic)… can we
use a thumb drive instead?
DOUG
Oh, I suppose so. What size is it?
RACHEL & MARGARET IN UNISON
Size doesn’t matter!
MARGARET
So, Alec and Doug, after all those planning
sessions, what does it actually do, The
Database?
Sound fx: Tadah! PPT slide 38
RACHEL
Oh, no, don’t get him started. We’ll never hear
the end of it…
PPT slide 39 - Blank
ALEC
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Well, I’m glad you asked (puffs himself up a
bit more). Before we actually fire up The
Database…
Sound fx: orchestral Tadah? PPT slide 40
ALEC (CONTINUES)
…I’d like to highlight some of the little
features that we have incorporated for your
tacit titillation.
PPT slide 41 - Blank
RACHEL
(wails quietly) It’s all going to crash (covers
head with hands)
ALEC
We’ve solved your security problem with these
RFID tags and badges (hands out shiny large
badges)
DOUG
Ooh, shiny! Aren’t these neat? Pretty stylish,
huh? Huh? (mugs to rest of group and audience)
ALEC
… which you are to wear at all times! We will
be able to track your whereabouts…
MARGARET
What?! Even when we go to the toilets? I don’t
think so!
ALEC
… and adjust your working environment to suit
your personal preferences and data needs.
DOUG
… like lighting levels, music choices… cooool!
RACHEL
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(wails again) It’s all going to crash. The
server’s already max’d out… oooh…
ALEC
… and for those of you who forget your badges
more than twice (looks pointedly at Doug), you
will have microchip tags embedded in your ear.
Viz FX: find a cow ear tag. PPT slide 42
MARGARET
Like cows! Huh, daft idea, that!
ALEC
So! Who wants to push the big red button?
Visual FX: big red button – PPT slide 43. And Big Easy Button from Staples
DOUG
Not… THE big red button? Oh, you mean, just
start it. Well, yes, I can do that. Now what’s
my password again? B…I…G…M…E…
PPT slide 44 – Blank 44
MARGARET
Bigamy! Really, Doug, I don’t think your wife
will approve of that!
ALEC
Sorry, Doug, that’s not big enough… if you get
my drift…
MARGARET AND RACHEL IN UNISON
But size doesn’t matter…
ALEC
Ah, well it does with passwords. You must have
8 characters, with 2 numbers or punctuation
marks… within the prescribed list of
apostrophe, comma…
MARGARET
We’ll never remember all that!
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DOUG
Oh, I just write mine on a Post-It note on my
screen
Visual FX: shot of Post-Its. PPT slide 45
ALEC AND RACHEL IN UNISON
You do what?!
MARGARET
So how do we load all our information into this
system?
PPT slide 46 - Blank
ALEC
Rachel is doing that as we speak. (proudly)
It’s all automated.
RACHEL
(pounding away a little desperately on her
keyboard)… oh, the server’s getting awfully
close to its red line. (squints at screen,
fearful and puzzled)
Visual FX: pressure gauge – PPT slide 47
ALEC
So while that’s all loading, is there anything
else you’d like to know?
MARGARET
So what about training? I haven’t seen a manual
for this thing yet.
ALEC
Oh, they won’t need that. It’s so intuitive!
RACHEL
(another wail… looks anxiously at what ALEC is
saying and what is happening on her screen) Oh,
I don’t know about that…
ALEC
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(talks right over Rachel, ignoring her)… and
there’s excellent tech support 24/7.
DOUG
What? That 1-800 number in Newfoundland? They
don’t even speak the same language!
MARGARET
But Newfoundland is in Canada… ohhhh… them
Maritimers…
DOUG
And that computer voice receptionist. Drives me
nuts!
MARGARET
What about backup?
DOUG
Why do we need it to go backwards? Does it need
one of those beep beep truck alarm thingies?
ALEC
Ah, no. Not our problem. That’s for
Engineering.
MARGARET
What? So you haven’t created a backup system.
ALEC
That’s hardware, not software. Not our
department at all.
RACHEL
(finally pleased and relieved, looks up) Well,
that’s all the data loaded. I had to delete all
the originals to make space on the server.
MARGARET
(not listening to Rachel, fixed in horror on
Alec) So Rachel has just deleted all the
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originals and there’s no backup for all our
data? It is an ISO9000 regulation, you know!
ALEC
As I said, Ma’am (now getting nervous and
formal), not our area at all. You’ll have to
ask Engineering about that.
DOUG
(who has been getting more excited about firing
up the system, now standing up, rubbing his
hands together in anticipation) I’ve finally
figured out my password thingy…we can fire it
up…
MARGARET AND RACHEL IN UNISON
No! Wait!
DOUG
Here we go! (presses button/key dramatically)
All freeze in position as Doug’s hits the button. Doug also freezes while sounds effects play
Sound fx: system winding up, big generator sounds etc… maybe “The Answer
is 42” then Red Alert, system meltdown etc. All in PPT slide 48
ALEC
Well… no need to worry about your data any
more.
Visual FX: scrolling credits at the end. PPT slide 49 – have to give extra click
to launch the scrolling. Practise this.
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