Showing posts from 2013

What's in Your Top Drawer?

We have this drawer in our kitchen we call "the top drawer". It's a catch-all for scraps of paper with phone numbers on them, membership cards to places we probably won't go to again, keys, coins, bills we may or may not pay, and things that we think we are going to need, or perhaps not. There was a time when we decided that having a "top drawer" was not really a good idea. We made a point to have a set place elsewhere in the house for the stuff that otherwise would have been stored in the top drawer. It worked for a while, but the top drawer refused to go away. Actually, right now we have a second "top drawer" in the kitchen. I don't know how this happened, but it has. This second "top drawer" is supposed to be for cutlery, which is great because trying to find a tea spoon can often be a bit of a challenge (As an aside, I think that tea spoons end up in the same place as the second sock in the pair - a place not of this world, e

The Gravity of Technical Writing

A few days ago I found myself sitting in a cinema, wearing ridiculous 3D glasses over my regular specs, getting ready to see Gravity. I'd heard that the film is excellent, but I wasn't prepared for the amazing special effects, breathtaking scenery, and riveting story. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were very believable in their roles, and the 3D effects mercilessly drew me in to each scene. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but something odd came to mind as I was sitting there, gripping the arm-rests of my chair, trying to catch my breath: internationally recognized symbols in space station documentation is really handy. The character could not read the text, but had no trouble deciphering the diagrams. As the credits rolled and the cinema slowly emptied, I suddenly realized that I really need a break. Anyone who can watch a movie as heart-stopping as Gravity and think of nothing else but Technical Writing issues probably spends too much time at work.

Everyone Needs One of These

Using the power of Flipboard, one of my favorite apps, I have started publishing my own digital magazine called " Everyone Needs One of These ". "Everyone Needs One of These" showcases new, innovative, weird, and interesting products. As of writing this blog post, I have published six articles, including: An "Invisible Girlfriend" service (one for your Facebook profile) A champagne vending machine (one for your wine cellar) A Sony "smart wig", complete with laser pointer (one for your head) A DIY Batmobile for sale (one for your cave) The AUUG iPhone Grip that turns your body into a musical instrument (one for your hand) The Full Metal Jacket Jeep Wrangler (one for your garage) Download Flipboard from the iStore, Google Play, Windows Store, and Blackberry World and subscribe to "Everyone Needs One of These". You can also view the magazine on the web from any browser, here:

25 Computer Terms to Substitute for Real Words

Be geeky - substitute these 25 computer terms for what you really want to say. Computer Term Real Meaning 1 Low disk space Slow down! You're giving me too much information. 2 Battery is running low I'm going to bed. 3 This device can perform faster I'm lazy and I know it. 4 Pairing devices I'm getting married. 5 File type mismatch I'm getting divorced. 6 This program has stopped responding I'm no longer listening to you. 7 Unexpected catastrophic failure Oh crap. 8 Driver required Can someone please take me to the mall? 9 Windows needs to restart I need a vacation. 10 Illegal operation I just did something naughty. 11 Printer offline My pen ran out of ink. 12 Save as draft I'll finish it tomorrow. 13 Loading I'm getting dressed, just hold on a minute. 14 Defragmenting drive C I'm tidying up the house. 15 Undo Forget what I just said. 16 Redo Say that again. 17 3 minutes rem

5 Business Tips You Can Learn from Hospitals

Over the past few days I have spent way too much time in hospitals. However, on the up-side, I discovered that hospitals are an interesting source of business advice. Although hospitals are not usually profit-generating organizations, a lot of the activities they undertake are analogous to those in profit-centric companies. For example, there are many departments, all of which have to work together towards the same ultimate goal: make the patient well. In a traditional businesses, you may also have many departments working towards the same ultimate goal: selling more stuff. To achieve their aims, both hospitals and businesses require communication, systems, and sometimes even creativity. Here are five business tips you can learn from hospitals. 1. Share information It surprises me that in this era of fast networks, databases and cheap storage that the different departments in the hospital don't necessarily share information. We had to tell and re-tell to every doctor we met

Out-Outlooking Outlook

Email is either the best invention ever, or the bane of your existence. Either way, this technology invented in the 1960 s is a necessary tool. How do you deal with all of the messages that find their way to your inbox? Google " Rethinking Email " for 7,940,000 articles on the subject. 651,000,000 Google results will tell you how to deal with " too much email ". Or, if you want to use the modern term, search for " inbox zero " to find 45,200,000 suggestions for getting your inbox down to nothing. GMaaces. uggests you prioritize: Here is how I try to out-Outlook Outlook 2010. All incoming email goes to the Inbox (no automatic filtering). In a PST file called "Projects" I have a sub-folder for each project I'm working on. I use "Quick Steps" that mark the email as "Read" before moving it to the relevant sub-folder (this is for emails I recei

Everybody Needs a Doomsday Device

Let me make this clear, it is best not to keep personal stuff on a work computer. But sometimes it is unavoidable and there might be a time when you need to get rid of it all, fast. If so, you need my Doomsday Device, a batch file that will quickly delete all personal information from your computer. WARNING: The Doomsday Device is irreversible. Deleted files and directories cannot be retrieved. Okay, files and directories can be retrieved, but not in the conventional way , unless you have backups, which will also need to be deleted. Here's the Doomsday Device code. Copy and paste it into a text file, change the paths, as necessary, and save it in an easily accessible location as Doomsday.bat . See below the code for an explanation of how it works. @echo off COLOR 0A echo DOOMSDAY DEVICE! echo. echo.DELETE ALL PERSONAL DATA FROM THIS COMPUTER. echo. echo. @echo off :getConfirmation set /p confirmDeploy=Are you sure you want to deploy the Doomsday Device?

Make it Snappy

You might have noticed that my blog posts are much shorter than they used to be. I received feedback that, despite the riveting content, people don't have the time or inclination to read long blog posts. We live in an age of fast communication. Not everything has to be 140 characters, but the general rule is to give over the information quickly so the reader can move on to the next thing. Which is why I love . This website provides plenty of free, quality, content. The videos can be as short as only a few minutes. The longest film I've seen on this site is about 20 minutes. SHORT OF THE WEEK HAS BEEN SERVING UP EPIC BITE-SIZED FILMS TO MILLIONS OF FILMMAKERS AND FANS SINCE 2007. WE SEEK TO DISCOVER AND PROMOTE THE GREATEST AND MOST INNOVATIVE STORYTELLERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. Each film is categorized for easy searching, and is preceded by a sometimes lengthy introduction, which I never read before watching the film. I don't like spoilers. Animati

My Phone Has a Nicotine Addiction

In March 2012 I wrote about my brand new Samsung Galaxy Note . How happy we were together - surfing, texting, Skyping, even making phone calls. Then, in July 2012 I raved about how the Galaxy Note has changed my online life  - email, Flipboard, contacts, camera, and books. In May 2013 I went on about how simple it was to upgrade from Gingerbread to Jelly Bean , and how everything works really well. Oh, those halcyon days. Sunny afternoons, just me and my phone prancing through the tall grass, swinging on an old tire from a tree atop a picturesque hill, downloading apps and slicing fruit like a ninja . Are those days gone? Are they merely memories of a bygone era? My phone is now one year and 7 months old (that's about 82 in smart-phone years). It has, I am sad to say, developed a smoking problem. Last Wednesday I plugged in my phone to recharge and smoke puffed out of the connector. There was a burning smell. The Galaxy Note will undergo exploratory surgery today. Perhaps

A Passionate Affair

The top trait of successful business owners is passion. Take a look at these wildly famous (and by now a bit clichéd) tech over-achievers: Steve Jobs was passionate about design. Tens or hundreds of articles have been written about Jobs'  obsession with color, form, and usability. Bill Gates was passionate about putting a computer on every desk. This incredible desire for computing ubiquity drove him to build a multi-billion dollar business. Jeff Bezos is passionate about building the world's largest online store. His laser-focus on customer experience brings millions of people through Amazon's virtual storefront every day. Similar things can be said about Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison, among many others. If you are not an evangelist for your own product (or service, or self) then how do you expect others to be? If you visit a customer (or client, or interviewer) and you don't project excitement about your product, how can you expect them to get exc

The Death of Windows XP and What to Do About It

In April 2014, Microsoft will cease support for Windows XP. This means that all computers running that ancient operating system will be sitting ducks for hackers who find and exploit security holes. Our home computer runs Windows XP. The entire whirring contraption should have been replaced about 4 years ago, but we're holding on. Now that Microsoft is giving up support for XP, I have been mulling my options. I could buy a copy of Windows 7 from eBay, assuming my desktop machine can handle it. (I'm guessing that Windows 8.1 is out of the question.) But why buy an OS when you can get one for free?  Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux, is built for the novice Linux user. It relies heavily on its well designed graphical user interface, and not so much on the command-line. That's great for those who are used to point-and-click Windows. I installed Ubuntu as a secondary operating system on my ageing PC (dual boot). Setting it up was easy and it took me only a short time to find

You Will Be Fired in 2028

According to this article in TechCrunch  Gartner Research says that millions of jobs will be replaced by Smart Machines within 15 years. Larry Dignan reporting in ZDNet cites the same report and says: These machines will learn, adapt and automate decision-making on many levels. Humans will train and program these machines and then hand over their paycheck. Automated and interconnected cars will replace private vehicles, public transport, and taxis. Advances in computerized translations will put translation and localization companies out of business. Online and/or digital books -and the Internet itself - are already rendering the neighborhood library irrelevant. Journalists are being replaced by smart-phone wielding bystanders.Welcome to  Technological Unemployment . But we've seen this movie before, and we know the answer: adapt. They say that, in business, no employee is irreplaceable. Take a good look at your job. Within the next 15 years you might be handing it over to


I feel it is my manly duty to kill a beast. When in the company of men, there are certain subjects that can be discussed: sports, work, power tools, and hunting. Although I like sports, I don't actively follow a league. I could talk about work, but those conversations usually end up with the other guy complaining about his job. There isn't much to say about my circular saw, so that leaves me with hunting. The best story I have about killing animals is when I murdered a steak on the barbecue. When the meat is indistinguishable from the coals, you know you have a problem. I should go to the forest and kill a lion, a bear, a dear, a rabbit, or maybe catch a butterfly, just so I can have a story to tell the guys. But since my prowess in the jungle is limited to having read the magnificent stories of Tarzan of the Apes, I'll have to satisfy myself with shooting spit-balls at stray tabbies. I could then tell the men about the time I fought that big cat.

School Discipline - Solved

I sent today's Dilbert cartoon to a couple of fellow Technical Writers together with this question: Who wants to be the first to try this? Dilbert cartoon of 4 June 2013 One response was "Who said we haven't?" A second colleague rejoined: I have actually heard of a student who tried something like this at university: She submitted an essay to Professor X with the first page looking very professional and proper, but the following pages covered repeatedly with the sentence “Professor X is an idiot. Professor X is an idiot. Professor X is an idiot….” She got an “A”. (I’m assuming that she also must have won a bet.) My reply: At school, if you talked during Mincha [afternoon prayers], the standard punishment was to write out the entire “Ashrei” prayer (could be multiple times, depending on the severity of the transgression). I once had to write “Ashrei” seven times. I wrote it out the first time, then I got bored so I just wrote Hebrew gobbledygook for

Turning Gingerbread into Jelly Bean

The time had finally come. How could I possibly label myself a geek of any sort if I voluntarily stuck with my old Android Gingerbread 2.3 operating system? My Samsung Galaxy Note needed to be updated and besides, I needed a nice, juicy project. I was waiting for Google to announce Android 5 at Google I/O 2013. When no announcement was forthcoming, it was time to take the bull by the horns and turn Gingerbread into Jelly Bean. I have never upgraded a phone's operating system before. I was mildly afraid of bricking my phone, although I knew that if anything bad happened, I could take it to "a guy I know" to sort it out. But to be truly geeky (and to save the cash), I knew that I had to embark on the Android OS upgrade adventure on my own. The first thing I did was look on-line for some instructions on how to perform an upgrade. There were a number of different flavors of Jelly Bean 4.2.2 available, but I settled on the  website, which provided all of th

Sweating to Read

Lately, I have taken to listening to audio books while jogging. Thumping, pumping, energetic music helps to get the legs moving, but surprisingly, a good novel can do the same thing. The first audio book I listened to was Kidnapped, written by Scottish novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, and read by Mark Smith of Simpsonville, South Carolina  (a Librivox recording). At first, the narrator's voice grated on my nerves. After all, the story is set in Scotland, yet it was read in an American accent. However, Mark's reading style is so easy, that I soon became swept up in the story and forgot about the accent. I never studied English Literature, but I have an appreciation for good writing. Robert Louis Stevenson had an amazing talent for building up the story and creating suspense. His characters were so rich and full of life, I could almost see them standing before me. I promised myself not to listen to the audio book unless I was jogging. And because the author's writing