!@$#%! #42! @#$%$! &^53!!
The expletives noted above are the nicest thing I can say about the user guide I read today. An hour of my life gone. Why? Because the user guide was incomplete. Oh the horror of it all!
I could have used the hour in question to eat ice cream, do volunteer work, knit badly, play my guitar even more badly, plant flowers or read a sweet book. Instead I wasted the hour wandering aimlessly around in a user guide thinking the answer I sought was hiding in there somewhere.
It all started when the “Status” of my web application document transmission was “Not Detect Four”. Hmmmmmm. This status left me with only questions. I really had no idea what this status meant, so I gravitated toward the beacon of false hope: the pretty blue user guide link.
I was giddy with delight when the user guide actually opened. Within it I found an entire section dedicated to “Document Status”. A detailed list of each document status and the definition of each one was neatly aligned within a gradient table. Five different status scenarios were listed but was the status of “Not Detect Four” listed? Of course not. Do you know why? Because some little weirdo maniac who wrote the user guide years ago intentionally left our the status of “Not Detect Four” in a sick attempt at driving everyone in the future mad. Success.
After all these years of writing applications, creating user documentation and using applications, I believe I have completely misunderstood the true meaning of the user guide. I was under the impression the user guide was the end all be all of an application. This is an incorrect assumption on my part and I have corrected my internal definition of the user guide to mean a nice fluff piece about any random event occurring in space and time within the boundaries of our universe.
We recently went through a great deal of troubleshooting for an issue surrounding the scanning of, and later the unsuccessful attempted viewing of, an Adobe PDF. Below I outline the exact issue and resolution that worked for us in case you encounter the same problem (in an attempt to prevent you from drowning in the same pit of horror that we endured, I can’t believe we didn’t die).
- User scanned a 2 page document into Adobe Acrobat Pro (the issue occurred with multiple versions up to and including version 11)
- The size of the resulting PDF was very small: 100KB
- User uploaded the PDF to a web environment
- The user was unable to view the PDF from the web server via a browser (the user would get a clocking white screen)
- The user was unable to view the PDF from the web server via Adobe Acrobat (the user would get an Out of Memory error)
- All other users experienced the same symptoms as the original user when attempting to view the PDF from the web server via a browser or via Adobe Acrobat
INVALID SOLUTIONS WE ATTEMPTED:
- Verified the auto rotate feature was turned off in the scan settings
- Verified the orientation of the scanner matched the orientation defined within Adobe Acrobat
- Uninstalled, reinstalled 4 centillion versions of Adobe Acrobat on user machine
- Verified Adobe Reader was not present on user machine
- Cried a little
- Uninstalled, reinstalled the scannier 8 billion times
SOLUTION THAT ACTUALLY WORKED:
- Open Adobe Acrobat Pro
- Select Edit > Preferences > General > on left select Internet > Deselect “Allow fast web view” > on left select Documents > Deselect “Save As
optimizes for Fast Web View” > select OK
- Rescan document with these new settings
- Go on a really, really, really long vacation and do not send a holiday greeting card to Adobe this year
My last trip to Las Vegas, NV was like all prior trips – crazy fun. The city is 24/7 entertainment, the folks are fantastic and the surrounding landscape is absolutely beautiful desert.
I see Las Vegas as an unusual island-like place since the extreme heat of summer often isolates the city with everyone corralled safely under magnificent lighting and air conditioning from the dangerous desert conditions.
In such a close environment I expect there to be a greater unspoken pressure to care for one another but like all other communities, this sometimes isn’t possible even with the best of intentions and some people suffer due to a myriad of reasons. The visual impact of someone in need, standing quietly in 115 degree desert heat, in the center of excitement and fun has quite an impact on my heart.
I haven’t found a mobile application or web site yet that seems to be as immediate and verifiable as something like the hire-a-driver-on-demand mobile application Uber in terms of “hit a button and get results now”, probably because complex solutions are often in order when it comes to people in need. Even so, I will continue to seek out this magic button and if I do not find it then, as a computer programmer, maybe I will write one someday that has the potential to be an epic failure:) Until then, wherever you are, help someone. You will be glad you did. If you are a freak introvert like me then here are a few ways to help others without having to actually torture folks with your weird self:)
- That good book you just finished, leave it on a park bench with a note.
- On holidays, leave colorful cards with money in them in areas like bus terminals, park benches, public restrooms, bike racks, etc.
- Whatever city you are in, know where the rescue mission is so you can take them food, money or clothing (or order the items online and have them delivered). Many already post needed items on their web sites. I will be placing an amazon.com order for this wonderful little place tonight: http://www.vegasrescue.org
- Contact a church and ask for a shopping list for any church members they may have in need, get the items and leave it at the church, or order the items online and have them shipped directly to the church. Many churches will already have a list of needed items on their web site.
When a user experiences a problem using an application, the list of possible issues can be lengthy depending on the complexity of the environment(s) and dependencies. If the user is unable to clearly articulate to the help desk what application is broken or where they are when issues arise then this is a clear indicator that the training, documentation and application itself are not all using the same language.
Make things easy for your users by following these simple steps with every application your write and/or support:
- Give the application one name and one name only. In this example we will give our application the name “Blue Safari”.
- Place the name of the application prominently on every page of the application. This means “Blue Safari” is on every page of the application. (not “Bls Version 2.0” but “Blue Safari” or “Blue Safari Version 2.0”)
- If your application is a web application, try to place the name of the application somewhere in the url if possible.
- All shortcuts or hyperlinks that take users to the application should be the name of the application (i.e. “Blue Safari”)
- In all documentation and training for users and support staff, refer to your application with the same language. This means all references to the application will be stated as “Blue Safari”.
If you give your application several different names then several problems arise:
- The user either doesn’t know what to call the application when he or she calls the help desk to report the problem or the user calls the application by a name that no one at the help desk recognizes.
- A significant delay occurs before the issue is resolved simply due to the time spent sorting out the confusion over what exactly is broken and where it is.
Avoid contributing to the overall mayhem of our existence, it will only end badly, we both know that. Unless of course your help desk gives out free ponies and chocolate ice cream with every call, then maybe as a caller I will not care so much that I am unable to clearly tell you what is broken. Now I want ice cream.
I was so pleased to see I could replace the standard alarm wav files on my Microsoft Surface with custom alarm wav files of the same name (C:\Windows\Media\Alarm01.wav). Who wouldn’t want to hear their cat meow every time a dental appointment looms on the horizon? Or hear their cute little one shout “Chwweeerios” on birthdays?
However, I am a little puzzled as to why the capability to record simple wav files is no longer standard within the Windows environment (example: Sound Recorder). The only thing I can find standard on the Microsoft Surface for audio recording is the Voice Recorder and it only records in the m4a format. So of course if I use the Voice Recorder to record my rabbit snorting like a pig I will now need to download additional software to convert the m4a file to a wav file and then place the wav file here to replace an existing alarm wav file: C:\Windows\Media.
This entire process is fine for me but it is too time consuming and complex for our business users and even if they were willing to do it, I am not keen on introducing a third party product for something that does something so mundane as converting a m4a to a wav, it would need to do more like also bake chocolate cakes or somehow make my pale skin a pretty tan color.
Are you a newbie developer in the world of web content maintenance? If you are then be aware of the Adobe PDF Endless Pit of Destruction and Pain (aka APEPDP) so you can avoid the horrors it may bring.
What is APEPDP? In a nutshell it is the delivery of web content to the masses in the form of a PDF document that may subsequently awaken a nightmare of maintenance and usability issues for as far as the eye can see. This is an example of how the horror may unfold:
- A client creates a Microsoft Word document.
- The client converts the document into a PDF document.
- The client gives the PDF to the web developer or webmaster to add to a web page.
- Another client, sometime later, sends a request to the web developer or webmaster to make changes to the PDF document mentioned above.
- The web developer or webmaster tries to locate the original Word document from the prior client only to find that no one has the original Word document.
- The web developer or webmaster recreates the PDF in Word.
- The web developer or webmaster makes the new changes in Word.
- The web developer or webmaster converts the Word document to PDF.
- The web developer or webmaster replaces the existing PDF on the web site with this new PDF.
- Users visiting the site now have to install the Adobe Reader if they do not already have it, wait while the PDF loads (the user may not even get this far if the device they are using is not capable of reading PDF documents) and if the PDF does load the user now is inside an environment unlike anything in the web site they were just on, this separate PDF environment has rudimentary navigational options, no back button, limited search capabilities, no visible url to give the user an idea of where he or she is and often hard to find print options.
A few tips for avoiding APEPDP
- Train users to use web content management tools so they can create content themselves. Based on my experience with web content management tools in large and small organizations, I do not recommend them at this time unless you have enough IT staff to train and retrain users on these systems since many users will use them so infrequently that they will forget how to use them.
My family had quite a scare when I was a little kid in Ohio. My parents and I found members of our family unconscious in the house due to carbon monoxide poisoning (there were no audible alarm carbon monoxide detectors back then). My family was lucky, after a long hospital stay my peeps walked away with a second chance at living long and happy lives.
With all of the fantastic gadgets we have now, we have a long list of sweet solutions to choose from when it comes to safety. In the mix of cool technology, I worry some of the electronic solutions are being ignored because of the large volume of false positives we hear every day with things like car alarms going off in parking lots and I also worry that very reliable older solutions are falling by the wayside, solutions like animals. Please consider mixing electronics (like audible detectors) with animal solutions in your safety plan for a solid defense against unexpected dangers – especially dangers that can occur when you are sleeping.
We hear so many stories in the news of families claiming pets saved their lives during events like house fires in the middle of the night and in my many years of raising dogs, cats and bunnies, I have found that all three animals are very good at alerting the family to perceived threats via loud behavior (bunnies thump their back feet – it is so loud it sounds like someone is pounding on a door, dogs bark and cats cry or pounce on you).
Pets are a big responsibility. They can be annoying, loud, mean, crazy, weird, and selfish – you know, basically all of the things we are on rare occasion – but consider getting one anyway. Pets often want to make you happy and keep you safe since they think you are a giant food machine that doles out love and delicious meals in the form of limitless crunchy pellets in a fancy bowl on the kitchen floor.