Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Made My Day...

Kris, on the HATT list, really made my day.

From: Kris
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:45 AM
To: Me
Subject: RE: [HATT] How to update WebHelp embedded in .NET application?


Your response is spot on. We’re speaking exactly the same language. I’m going to follow up with the developer.



From: Me
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:05 AM
Subject: RE: [HATT] How to update WebHelp embedded in .NET application?

While I use RoboHelp to generate WebHelp, I have had to deal with the same issue since I converted from WinHelp to HTML (WebHelp) that is installed on the user's C:\ drive. I'm not speaking specifically about .NET or Windows Installer - this is my experience with WebHelp and dealing with updated files.

We just cut the 10th release that has WebHelp for online Help.

At the beginning, the developer wanted a list of the files that had changed since the last update. So I started with your initial request below. In order to do this, I talked to our resident guru. He gave me an app called "Comparefolders.exe" that I use to compare the contents of folders. This app rocks. I'll check with my co-worker if he wrote the compare folders .exe file I use and if he did, whether I can share it, if you're interested. My process was to compare the output from the last update to the output for the to be released update. I would then send a list of the files that I had added or removed. This included .htm files as well as PDF files as well as .jpg or other graphic files.

My understanding is that he manually went in and made these changes. Again, I'm not specifically talking about .NET or the Windows Installer. However, my guess is that it's going to be the same type of thing - manually picking what files to add or remove. The list I gave him included the specific sub-directory as well so he would have to drill down and find them. My understanding is also that if you are looking at a directory with 100s of files, finding the 2 or 3 that changed among a list of similarly named files, is not very much fun.

However, we continued this trend until we were preparing a release that was very doc intensive. Lots of files were deleted or added. From that release to now, *my understanding* is that my co-worker thinks it is easier to simply replace the entire set of files than to pick and choose which specific files were updated. It still remains a labor intensive task, I think, because I hear grumbles occasionally about why we don't put our help on the website "like Microsoft does."

After the AM I've had, I refuse to go into that discussion today.

To bring it back to your concern about your users installing 115 MB each time, I used to think it would be a big time requirement and that only replacing specific files would reduce the amount of time to install our product. However, I don't have that opinion today. Help is always installed when our product is installed. My current Help directory is 111 MB (116,559,872 bytes) so it's slightly lower than your 115. I have 3,475 files in 6 folders.

My interpretation of your comment about not wanting to install 115 MB is that you think it will take a long time to install it. My hypothesis is that unless you have a significant amount of files that didn't change - say only 10 MB changed out of the 115 MB you quoted - you're not going to speed up your installation time by more than a few seconds. You will need to try this out, but perhaps you can get your developer to create a 'dummy' install for you that has all 115 MB as well as an install that has, say, 25 MB of Help. You should run time trials on PCs that your users likely have to see if the difference between the amount of files really makes a difference. Again, my hypothesis is that you will probably not see a big time dip. But these are your users, not mine, so you need to make sure this will work for you.

Like I said, I can check with my co-worker re: the comparefolders.exe file if it is something you think you need. I don't use it anymore because all my help files are replaced with each release.


From: Kris
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 8:25 AM
Subject: [HATT] How to update WebHelp embedded in .NET application?

Dear HATTers,

I've developed WebHelp using MadCap Flare for a .NET application developed
in VisualStudio. Please note that the WebHelp is embedded in the
application itself. This means that the Developer, who is using Windows
Installer, needs to add each of the 1500 files comprising the compiled help
into the install. This works like a charm (though it's a little labor
intensive for the developer).

The problem is that we want to update the WebHelp for a revision. This
gives us two choices:

- Manually replace 1500 files from the existing install to the revision
install and ask our customers to install 115 MB each time (ouch!)
- Identify the changed files and replace only those files in the install.
This is, of course, what we would like to do!

Unfortunately, when Flare compiles the WebHelp, it replaces ALL the files
and applies new time stamps to them (whether they've changed or not). So
while we can identify the updated topic files by looking at the Date
Modified value in Windows Explorer, there is no way to identify all the
other files, including "index chunk" files (the number of which changes when
you add new index entries) and others, that have been updated as the result
of the new compile.

Does anyone have a fix for this? Do any of you update WebHelp with Windows
Installer? If so, how do you handle revisions? (Any other suggestions?)



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

LOG Not Happening... and new 1997!

Better to know now, I guess, than when I get to the Val Air Ballroom box office and don't have a pass to get in...
From: rikkiz
To: prhmusic
Subject: RE: concerts in IOWA
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 17:11:40 -0400

Sorry Paul I have just heard back from management and they are passing on your request I apologize and hope we can work together on our other bands coming to the area?

On 9/28/09 1:50 PM, "Rikki " wrote:

I didn’t hear back from you about this I attached the article written its Iowa how packed is the list?

From: prhmusic
Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 1:36 PM
To: Rickki Z
Subject: RE: concerts in IOWA

From: rikkiz
To: prhmusic
Subject: RE: concerts in IOWA
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2009 10:43:05 -0400

I am sorry
I do not recall approving this request and I know management is very strict about approvals what outlet are you covering for so I can ask them again

From: prhmusic
Sent: Sunday, September 27, 2009 10:56 AM
To: Rickki Z
Subject: RE: concerts in IOWA

You have me for 2 passes for the LOG show, right?

Subject: concerts in IOWA
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 17:31:52 -0400


7:00 DOS/8:00 SHO -$30 ADV/$35 SHO

One of my favorite bands, 1997, has a new CD coming out 10/15, called "Notes from Underground."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Livin' on a Prayer

Chair Solo

Pseudo Teacher

Sentence or Fragment
1. A ball crashed through the window. ________________________
2. All of them. ___________________________________
3. Running through. ___________________________________
4. The street was full of kids. _______________________________
5. The car stopped. ___________________________________
6. The baby. ___________________________________
7. The stroller raced into the street. __________________________
8. Jenny chased Jaryn. ___________________________________
9. How good! ___________________________________
10. Time for homework. ___________________________________ 11. The street became quiet. ________________________________

Kinds of Sentences - Declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory
1. What an exciting game we saw ____________________________
2. The teams were playing hard. _____________________________
3. What do you think will happen next week ____________________
4. You watch and learn each week. __________________________
5. He walked to the door. ________________________________
6. The dragon was killed. _________________________________
7. John Rambo was a good man. ____________________________
8. He was in the wilderness and was bleeding. ___________________
9. The sheriff was wrong. _________________________________
10. The night air was very cold. _____________________________
11. Pizza would be good for supper. __________________________
12. Do you like sharing pizza with your family? __________________
13. Run a wall at basketball practice. _________________________
14. It is time to go to Mass. ________________________________
15. Did you brush your teeth _______________________________
16. The sermon is interesting to my ears. _______________________
17. Get your homework done now. ___________________________
18. You need to walk out the door now. _________________________ 19. Bring a basketball to practice. ____________________________
20. Happy birthday to you ____________________________
Underline the simple subject once / underline the simple predicate twice
1. The practice has started late.
2. Our school play is tonight.
3. The football players ran the play effectively.
4. Their uniforms are really dirty.
5. Martin James is smiling at you.
6. You should bring home a snack for me.
7. The fans are smiling because they are winning.
8. A huge crowd will appear on the field.
9. Our football team won the game.
10. The PC crashed.
11. We lost our photos.
12. Dad lost his mind.
13. Mom lost her marbles.
14. Alex likes marbles.
15. Megan wants marbles too.
16. The marbles tripped Dad.
17. The pizza spilled on the carpet.
18. Mom smiled.
19. The newspaper arrived in the morning.
20. In the morning, the newspaper arrived.

Write declarative or imperative. Underline the simple subject
1. Martin James is smiling at you.
2. Our football team won the game.
3. Our school play is tonight.
4. She walked to the field.
5. The fans are smiling because they are winning.
6. The football players ran the play effectively.
7. She crashed the car.
8. The practice has started late.
9. Their uniforms are really dirty.
10. You should bring home a snack for me.

One Day

The very first play of the PSU v. U of I game last night was a 79 yard TD. Within seconds, PSU is up 7-0 and, I admit, I thought it was a sign of things to come. It wasn't until Iowa started ignoring the 100,000+ people in the stands that Iowa mounted a defense, made some offensive gains, and walked out of Happy Valley, PA, well... happy. The Hawkeyes are 4-0 and on their way to a great season. Road games are never easy for any team and with the victory, the target on Iowa's back just got larger. I personally think it's too early to start talking about bowl games or a Big Ten championship. There are more games to be played. Iowa does *NOT* have the luxury of looking past their next opponent to a January bowl game. They must remain focused and continue to take each game seriously. I wish them the best of luck and I hope they are successful.

In other news, this is going to be a busy week.

Monday - Megan has a volleyball game and also starts religious ed class since she is not going to Regina anymore.
Tuesday - Alex has tutor until 4:30, Megan has volleyball practice until 6:05 and then Karen, and Megan have haircuts @ 6:30.
Wednesday - Megan has volleyball practice until 6:05, Alex has basketball practice from 6-6:25 and tutor from 6:30-7:30
Thursday - Megan has a volleyball game, there's an ortho (orthodontist?) appt @ 8:00 and it's my 11 year anniversary at my employer. Also, new Survivor and Grey's Anatomy.
Friday - Megan has volleyball practice until 6:05, then we are racing up to Cedar Falls to see my brother-in-law's band the Hoodads play @ the Hub. We're spending the night.
Saturday - I have a CEW meeting from 9-12. Then we'll come home. Iowa plays @ 11. We'll probably go to 5:15 church or possibly stop in Cedar Rapids on the way home.
Sunday - Alex has basketball practice from 6-7.

The week of 10/5 - 10/9 is chaos.

Monday - Megan has a volleyball game and also has religious ed class.
Tuesday - Alex has tutor until 4:30, Megan has volleyball practice until 5:05.
Wednesday - Megan has volleyball practice until 5:05, Alex has basketball practice from 6-6:25 and tutor from 6:30-7:30
Thursday - Megan has her final volleyball game. Also, new Survivor and Grey's Anatomy.
Friday - going to the Lamb of God / GWAR / Job for a Cowboy concert in Des Moines with Phil. Have to decide if I'm going to drink beer because there is a blood drive that day as well and I don't want to donate and drink beer the same night.
Saturday - Iowa plays football, I think. We'll probably go to 5:15 church.
Sunday - Alex has basketball practice from 6-7.

I understand that one day, this will all be over. The kids will either drive themselves to where they need to go or they will be out of the house. It's a crazy time now.

The other big thing is that we sold our camper yesterday... and promptly went to Ketelsen's RV to look at ones they have on their lot. Not sure where that is going to go.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Point is... I can't change a lighbulb...

Today’s lesson is CUSTOMER SERVICE. Yes, I am SHOUTING about this topic because, frankly, we live in a competitive era, where we are all picky about the service we get. There are so many options available for the things we need. I can go to the local Target or the local Wal-Mart or the local hardware store to buy lawn fertilizer. There have always been way too many gas stations so that’s always been competitive. On vacations, it turns into “what station type is known for clean bathrooms?” and that’s the one we stop at to get gas, use the bathroom, and purchase snacks.

This came to the forefront of my mind when Julia, a member of a HTML list I’m on, posted the following. I’ve snipped stuff to get to the meat of what I wanted to write about:

Julia wrote,
“Last week I re-signed for another twelve months with my current web host. I've been with them for 3 years and never had any major problems. Two days ago I couldn't get to my site. I can't login to my c/panel, can't login via ftp. I have had to contact the host through the forum because I can't login to open a ticket for support. They asked me to send a trace route which I didn't know how to do. After surfing I found out how to do that and I sent it to the forum over 15 hours ago and nobody from their support team has acknowledged my trace route.
None of this makes sense to me. I am not savvy about any of this kind of stuff. I am wondering if maybe I should give up on my hosts and try another. I am currently using their largest plan, because it has everything I need.

Hello? Julia is the customer! This host doesn’t know what they’re doing to Julia’s opinion of them and they need to quickly make her feel special and appreciated or they will lose her repeat business. Why someone would treat a customer that has been with them for three years in this manner is truly beyond me.

I think Julia needs to get a phone number of the host and use the phrase, “Can I speak to your boss?” if the first person doesn’t have the ability to solve the issue. Personally, I would probably give them the benefit of the doubt, but I typically root for the underdog. Julia has been with them 3 years and had no issues. That’s pretty good. Simply put, if her phone call to them does not resolve this issue, then yes, I think Julia should move on. The fact that Julia was told to send a trace route but wasn’t told how to do so is strike 1 in my book. Did Julia tell them she didn’t know how to do it? I don’t know. Still, the host should have not left her to figure it out on her own what she was expected to send them.

It’s kind of like the local auto supply store I went to two days ago that is in a zone two days ago. My wife told me my brake light was out. I went during my lunch hour. A guy helped me identify the bulb I needed, and then basically wiped his hands clean of me after I had paid for it. I know as much about vehicles as Julia knew about trace routes.

“How do I know what to do next?” I asked.

“You have a 2005 model, that’s too new for me.” He didn’t offer to help me try to figure it out, didn’t offer me any tools to help me do what I needed to do. Nothing.

He lost me as a repeat customer. I had been there with my other car when I needed to get my license plate fastener fixed and to replace a headlight. Those times, I received help. I expected help. This guy, though, was different and unfortunately for his business, I decided right then that I will not return there.

Why not? Frankly, there is another auto supply place about a mile away. I am now willing to drive further, which is less convenient for me, because I know I’ve had good customer service with the other place. The only time I’ve been to this second auto supply store was in an emergency. My wife and I came out of a movie – I’m embarrassed to say the name of it because I don’t think I’d live it down - and when I started the van, a headlight was out. We drove to this second store, arriving close to the store’s closing time. A guy changed it. We were then set to drive home in safety. I will reward good customer service. I gave him $5 for helping us. I even went into the store and talked to his manager and said, “He helped us out and did a very good job. He deserves a raise.”

However, back to a couple of days ago, I was on my lunch hour so I had gone to the auto supply store I went to two days ago that is in a zone store, thinking they’d want to be competitive and retain me as a customer. Instead, this guy lost me.

I ended up going back to work, still with the brake light out. I borrowed a screwdriver from the maintenance guy and tried to figure out what to do. I got a couple of screws off but then I didn’t know what to do. I gave up. I drove to the place that does my oil changes.

I told him I felt stupid for not knowing how to change a light bulb. He didn’t make any degrading comments. He said, “Let’s see what you got.” I showed him how far I had gotten and then he said, “Oh. Here, you just need to pull this that way and it’ll come right out.” I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own. He replaced the bulb I needed and didn’t charge me. I said thank you and he said, “Anytime.” I will return to him for my vehicle service again. He retained me as a customer. He helped me out.

Back to Julia, there’s two sides to every chance for customer service. Julia needs to decide if her host is going to continue to give terrible customer service or if it was a fluke that they expected her to figure out how to find a trace route. I have no idea what a trace route is and would be lost if someone told me to get them one. If I hear back from Julia regarding what she ended up doing, I’ll post it here as well.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hodge Podge

On the agenda tonight, cleaning out my Hotmail inbox...

  1. The sad fact is that I'm turning 40 on 12/4/69. No tears, please. Karen threw me a great party last year and totally surprised me.
    However, if you *still* want to buy me a present, pick up this for me.
    I just wanted to have a clever (?) way of introducing the hodge podge of ideas that are going to be in this post. Rather than have a series of small insignificant posts, I'm going for one longer insignificant post.
  2. I can't say enough about this blog post as something parents should really read.
  3. I listened to Machines of Grace a lot today. I tried to find a youtube video but couldn't. I like their groove.
  4. This is not exactly what we are going to be looking at in the near future, but I think it's pretty close. The pictures are of a camper that we like, sight unseen. We are trying to figure out a time to make it up to Ketelsen's RV to look at it. I'm not committing to its purchase, but by the pictures, I admit I like what I see. It's not parked next to my house yet. Don't hold your breath.
  5. I subscribe to Jared Spool's UIEtips newsletter. In the issue that arrived in my Inbox today, there is a very relevant to online Help article about breaking up large documents for the web. In the article, it talks about thinking about the content as "topics" not books. You can read this article on this web site.
  6. Vincent Latella, a frequent Techwr-L poster, sent this to the list today: "I know that we've been through the whole "do you really need a printed manual" thing before on TECHWR-L, but at this very moment, presumably non-writer types are hashing out that very topic as it pertains to automobiles on The Truth About Cars.
    Reading comments on the topic from random individuals (instead of technical writers) is interesting, I think, so I thought I'd share. ...
    The basic gist of it is this: Chrysler is apparently replacing its owners' manuals with DVDs and abridged printed guides, and there's a blog post about it. The poster indicates that he wants one "in the glovebox, in paper form, ready to go." The people posting comments seem divided. Click here to read the comments.
  7. Shadows Fall play two nights in Maplewood, MN, on their current tour and skip Iowa altogether?
    9/28 Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
    9/30 Omaha, NE @ Sokol Auditorium
    10/1 Maplewood, MN @ The Rock
    10/2 Maplewood, MN @ The Rock
    10/3 Chicago, IL @ V Live
    It doesn't really matter as if they played in Iowa on 10/1, that may be the only night we have free to look @ the camper in #6. 10/2 is my brother-in-law's band in Cedar Falls. The next morning, I have a CEW meeting in Waterloo so it really doesn't fit into the schedule.
  8. Don't really know much about this site but it looks interesting:
  9. Five Finger Death Punch have a new CD and I like it a lot. This is the current single.
  10. Kind of related, Five Finger Death Punch has OTEP opening for them on these dates. There had better be a second leg of this tour that includes Iowa...
    Sep 22, 2009 San Francisco, CA, US @ the Regency Center
    Sep 23, 2009 Fresno, CA, US @ Crest Theater
    Sep 24, 2009 Pomona, CA, US @ The Glass House
    Sep 26, 2009 Phoenix, AZ, US @ KUPD's End of Summer Scorcher
    Sep 27, 2009 Albuquerque, NM, US @ Sunshine Theater
    Sep 28, 2009 Colorado Springs, CO, US @ Black Sheep
    Sep 30, 2009 Omaha, NE, US @ Sokol Auditorium
    Oct 1, 2009 Minneapolis, MN, US @ The Rock
    Oct 3, 2009 Chicago, IL, US @ Club V
    Oct 5, 2009 Toronto, ON, ON, CA @ Opera House
    Oct 6, 2009 Clifton Park, NY, US @ Northern Lights
    Oct 10, 2009 Hartford, CT, US @ Webster Theater
    Oct 11, 2009 Sayreville, NJ, US @ Starland Ballroom
    Oct 13, 2009 Philadelphia, PA, US @ TLA
    Oct 15, 2009 Pontiac, MI, US @ Crofoot Ballroom
    Oct 16, 2009 Madison, WI, US @ Orpheum Theater
    Oct 17, 2009 Grand Rapids, MI, US @ Orbit Room
    Oct 18, 2009 Louisville, KY, US @ Expo Five
    Oct 20, 2009 San Antonio, TX, US @ Sunset Station
    Oct 21, 2009 Lubbock, TX, US @ The Pavilion
    Oct 23, 2009 Little Rock, AR, US @ The Village
    Oct 25, 2009 Sauget, IL, US @ Pop's
    Oct 26, 2009 Oklahoma City, OK, US @ Diamond Ballroom
    Oct 28, 2009 Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium
    Oct 30, 2009 Magna, UT @ The Great Salt Air
    Oct 31, 2009 Boise, ID, US @ Knitting Factory
    Nov 1, 2009 Spokane, WA, US @ Knitting Factory
  11. Back to work-related stuff:
  12. I don't do anything with SEO - maybe I should? - but it seems like an interesting topic. Google does not read keyword metatags:
  13. Time Magazine now confirms: "Under the Baucus plan, like the House plan, certain individuals would get government subsidies to help buy private insurance in a publicly-established exchanges. There would be a guaranteed choice in each health insurance exchange between at least one plan that does not offer abortion services beyond rape, incest and the life of the mother, and at least one plan that does, allowing consumers to choose their preference."
  14. Can't let this post end with the negativity of federally-funded abortions. Beware the colorful language in this song...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Basketball Restarts & No Surrender Results

The new season of Alex's basketball league has arrived. We have a new coach and a new attitude. Practice lasted 1 hour and was run very business-like. We went from dribbling to blocking out to defense to offense. Coach has something he calls "Walls" where the kids run down, back, down, back, down instead of killers. Each time the kids did it, he told them how much time they had to do it. It started out @ 45 seconds, then 40, then 37. The kids all seemed to be happy and I was happy as well. I have a lot of hope that we will have a great season and that we will be competitive. I don't really care about wins/losses as long as the kids are having fun.
Meanwhile, not everything is about basketball. If you are interested, here are the results of last night's TNA PPV.
Finally, it's 5:45. I've been awake since 4:45. I don't know what my deal is. I am somewhat excited about going back to work today. I really didn't think much about work over the weekend. I was extremely busy yesterday and that feels good to put work out of my mind.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Unconditional Love

A dad takes his 3 year-old daughter to a baseball game. She pays more attention to the people walking by her, eating candy, and drinking soda than in what is actually happening on the field. A foul ball is hit and her dad, miraculously, catches it. He hands his prize to her.

She throws it on the field.

The dad hugs her and "doesn't want her to think she did anything wrong."

There are so many evil and crazy people in this world. It was refreshing to read about this dad in Philadelphia here.

Are We Done Yet?!?

What a grueling week. Each night this week, Karen & I talked about emptying the camper of the towels and other supplies that we did not take out of the camper on Labor Day, which is when we returned from our final camping trip of the season. Unfortunately, each night this week, we didn't get it done. The amount of homework the kids had would have prevented them from helping us - isn't that why parents have kids so they have cheap labor? - so we instead dealt with laundry, homework, and supper. Megan had a volleyball game on Thursday and, of course, Survivor started up again. I am in a pool @ work and have Ashley & Russell. I don't think either of them will last very long, especially since Ashley had votes against her @ the first tribal council.

Today and tomorrow are going to be activity-filled days as well. The kids and I are going to work on the basement until Karen gets up, then we're going to work on the camper. The Iowa v. Arizona game is @ 2:30 and I *will* be done by then. Megan is going to a 1:00 movie and after she gets picked up, we may be going to 4:00 Mass in CR, depending upon the timing. We pretty much have to go then because we're going to Jeff & Karen's for supper in Ely ~6:00.

Tomorrow, we have some friends coming down ~11. Our parish auction is from noon on so we may be able to go to that for a bit. Alex has his first basketball practice @ 6. We have 7 kids. It's going to be interesting. I think we will have 7 tired kids.

Then it's back to work for another fun-filled week of what we just finished going through this week. It's crazy.

Next weekend, Megan has a car wash on Saturday and a birthday party - bowling in Cedar Rapids. She has quickly turned into a social butterfly which is good. I think my baby is starting to grow up.

Meanwhile, her father doesn't. The next TNA PPV (read Eric Cohen's predictions here) is this weekend. I never watch these as they happen, but I (usually) look online when they are over to see who won.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At your own risk...write reviews...

The gist is that there's an ad on Craig's List about earning in the neighborhood of $300 / week for writing reviews. Turns out it's for adult websites. And you have to pay to enter the "premium member" area to see the stuff you're supposed to review. is a blog post about it. Careful of the colorful language...

In other news, I have a 33% chance of winning my work's Big Brother pool. I never watch the show and know that the season finale is on right now. If Natalie wins, I win $65, but $10 of that I will use towards two names in the work Survivor pool.

Things about Hurricane Katrina...

Hurricane Katrina - Important Facts
Hurricane Katrina killed a lot of people and sent hundreds to the hospital.

The severe tropical storm formed in the oceans by Florida. It came onto land by New Orleans, LA.

As Katrina gathered heat and energy as it crossed the warm ocean waters, its power increased.

When Katrina rotated, it was in a counter-clockwise direction around an "eye."

Experts think that there were winds near 125 mph to the east of the center.

Hurricane Katrina - Interesting Facts

People stayed in the dome where the New Orleans Saints play because they had no where else to go. A lot of homes were destroyed by the hurricane.

The Superdome cost $193 million to repair and refurbish.

In front of ESPN's largest-ever audience, the Saints won their first game 23–3 with 70,003 in attendance.

The death toll has reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone.

Nearly 25,000 refugees left the miserable surroundings of the football stadium and were transported in buses to the Astrodome in Houston, 350 miles away.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Keep Me Guessing, Please?

This came across one of the lists I'm on today. It's mind-blowing to think that this type of situation could actually exist:

Would love any suggestions from the group. We just received notification that because of a Fedex failure (which they acknowledged as their fault in a fax to the potential client before the closing deadline), we have been excluded from competing in a bid for a rather large project for a university.

We are so frustrated that a technicality like this (they weren't even going to distribute the proposals until the next day, by which time they would have received the delivery) could scuttle our bid. Add to this that to deliver the proposal a day beforehand would have meant receiving the answers to questions on the RFP and turning the proposal around in less than one business day. Anyone ever appeal a procurement decision like this?

I mean, what do you suggest?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Canon in D(ouble Bass)

Nope, no Central Theme Here...

A new Shadows Fall release? Does anyone care? Only if you like heavy metal:

A new Pearl Jam release? Does anyone care? Not my friend Rick. Commenting upon Pearl Jam's 9th studio release, my friend Rick didn't hold back. Rick described it on his Facebook post as "wow. new pearl jam cd couldn't be any worse. horrible" and then clarified his opinion with: "... Not hard enough guitar for me. Sounds almost 70's guitar. I didn't even know they had a new album coming out, so for a second I thought maybe this was an album of 70's covers." This is the video for "The Fixer"

Unrelated Item #3: WWE PPV "Breaking Point" is tongiht:

Different Ways to Access Online Help

What started out as non-scientific observations about how Windows software can access online Help has transformed into assembling opinions from the HATT list.

Chuck Martin brings up excellent points.
It sounds to me like you're limiting the definition of "help" (or capital-H "Help) to something that we might define as a separate system used to display hypertext information. But I think of user assistance as much broader than that.

Nevertheless, some people have noted the F1, something that I'm not sure a lot of users are familiar with anymore, although we as user assistance professionals usually strive to make sure works, at least in Windows applications.

Access to content outside the application window is also often provided by links. Sometimes the links are general. Often they are contextual, frequently asking in the UI text a question a user might have at that point and linking to the answer.

Some applications don't use the word "Help" at all on their buttons or links, having found that users disdain the concept (probably from having been exposed to too many non-helpful help systems, likely as not written by programmers or marketing folk), and choose other terms that users are more willing to click on.

Some applications create a number of access points in the Help menu. For example, direct links to tutorials or getting started content. Some may put a Help item in pop-up menus if it makes sense contextually.

Pop-ups are also a technique used, and there are many variants, from tooltips and other windows that appear from merely hovering, to panes that appear only after a defined user action.

I have seen also, usually in dialog boxes, a separate pane that can be opened as part of the dialog box that contains contextual content.

Sometimes a pane is built in to the UI that contains UA content.

And of course, all the UI content, iconography, titles, and other elements in the user interface give users information.

The always brilliant Rick Stone suggested "Some applications use embedded help where content appears in a specific location within the application."

And yes, I’m more interested in how a separate Help system is accessed at the moment. I've attended the embedded UA sessions @ WinWriters and know how much it rocks. I’m all on board with that.

However, the background of this query is that we are discussing the standards for how Help should be accessed from our systems.

Some of our apps currently do not have any visual cue but if you press F1, you get a window-level topic. Is that the industry standard? Should there be F1 *and* a Help button? Should there just be F1 and not take up “real estate on the screen” with a Help button? Should we do the new Vista standard, which says to not have a Help button and, instead, have hyperlinks that say “Tell Me More About ” as the standard? Do we do that on each field? At that point, isn’t it better to have a single Help button rather than 10 links like that?

The issue I’m really struggling with is that while MS has stated “rules” for how user assistance should be accessed, no one seems to follow them. I get it, on one level, because it means (hopefully) the audience was considered in designing how they would access user assistance. On the other hand, how do you argue a point with an example of having a Help button on the window when the “other side of the aisle” can find counterpoint examples where pressing F1 opens Help and there is no Help button or visual cue?

The following are examples of how Windows apps access user assistance

1. Some MS apps have a ? in the upper right hand corner next to the X that calls window-level help.

2. Some MS apps have no indication that you can get to Help from the window.

which accesses:

3. Some MS apps have a ? icon to the far right on the ribbon

4. Some non-MS apps that run on Windows have a help icon in the lower left corner that calls window-level help.

5. Some non-MS apps have a generic Help button.

Another example:

6. Some non-MS apps have a ? icon to the far right on each module that the program can include. If there is a menu, there’s a Help menu option as well.

7. Dana Worley said, "In our programming software, you can also right-click any parameter to display a pick list of valid options. If valid options do not fall into a discrete little list it will display context sensitive help."

Another example:

Another example:

8. David Spreadbury said, "In one application I have developed help for, clicking an alarm in the alarm screen opens the help at the location where the alarm is described providing information on what may have caused it, and possibly a way to correct it."

9. Will Turner said, "Of course, there has been tooltips -- "hover help" -- for many years. Recently, I have been intrigued by Yahoo's use of hover help in the list of company quotes that Yahoo enables me to put on my Yahoo home page. Holding the cursor over a small box next to a stock name yields a pop-up containing several headlines. You can click on one of those headlines to open its details page. I gather that Yahoo accomplishes this with CSS, but I remember reading about the same facility using XML."

10. Some apps only allow access from a Help menu.

11. Some non-MS apps have no indication that Help is available.

So there's some examples... how many zillion more exist?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend Recap...

It was a good weekend. I watched the end of the Iowa Hawkeyes beat the University of Northern Iowa Panthers by blocking 2 field goal attempts within 7 seconds. It was heartbreaking for the Panthers, but it proves the Iowa Hawkeyes can still pull a miracle out if they need it. I am glad they won.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I am not going to be online for a few days. I am leaving from work in Cedar Rapids to Elkader for our last camping trip of 2009. We will be joined by my in-laws, who have a permanent spot, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (and their two sons), and, as of now, my sister-in-law and her son and daughter, who live in Chicagoland. Thus, I will not be online until Monday night.

Before I sign off for the next few days, I have to tell you about my trip to the eye doctor. Due to some terrible customer service, I needed to return Alex's glasses to the eye doctor, who has an office @ Old Capitol Mall in downtown Iowa City. The office closes at 7. I left my house at 6:15-ish. I made it to the Old Capitol Mall parking garage @ 6:43. The policy is that if you are there under 10 minutes, your parking is free. So I was in a rush to do my business and get out. [Side note: the doctor's office gave me cash (!!) instead of crediting the credit card so I have $. :>)] I was in my truck at 6:51 and, luckily, it took less than 2 minutes to drive to the cashier, who had big tattoos on her arms. "No charge," she told me and off I went. I was home by 7:15.

So, that was the early part of my night.

Later, the truck was loaded for camping and I made it downstairs to work on work stuff for a hour.

7 Years Ago