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helpstuff blog - May 2008

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

Archives for: May 2008

05/25/08

Permalink 04:37:13 pm, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 422 words   English (US)

David Pogue posts about copyright concerns (again)

Back in December, David Pogue posted The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality. Go ahead and read it...I'll wait.

He ran this exercise at the FOSE Conference in Washington, DC, in April. I find the groups' response (as a whole) more fascinating than my own. It's interesting to see where people draw the line between stealing, borrowing, and "it's on the Internet, so it must be free".

So last Thursday, he posted another article about copyright. (Go ahead...I'll still be here ;-)). And again, it's polarizing. And it's fascinating to see the reactions. For example, because he mentioned that he has a mortgage and college to pay for, some of the comments are along the lines of "But you're David Pogue! You must have enough money to pay for that already!" (I don't know about Mr. Pogue, but I find that my mortgage company much prefers a check instead of a link to my website.)

Someone else compared electronic files to borrowing a book from someone. But here's the thing some folks aren't quite getting: if you borrow a book from me, I no longer have it. You do. If I give you a copy of an ebook, we both have copies, but the author only got paid for the one I bought.

The reason this caught my eye (more than usual, anyway) is because I'm getting ready to release the Author-it 5.0 training materials. I provide a password-protected ebook, and I've been toying with the idea of releasing individual chapters for those folks who only need to know everything about one specific concept. But releasing password-protected ebooks on a chapter-by-chapter basis requires a lot more effort on my part, and so I was thinking about releasing PDFs instead.

So I'm curious. If you could purchase a PDF that included information on a concept you were interested in (not necessarily mine; I'm just speaking in general*), would you? And after you purchased it, would you share it with your co-workers? With others? Would you make it available on a website? Would you share the link to the original PDF? And if you really liked what you saw, would you then purchase the entire book?

(*For example, would you purchase a PDF that told you how to structure a wiki? Produce custom reports from a specific piece of software? In other words, the PDFs would be complete for what they covered, but they wouldn't include anything else like installing the wiki, setting up permissions on a wiki, customizing the software itself, and so on.)

05/18/08

Permalink 05:32:16 pm, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 156 words   English (US)

Borders adds Mobile Alerts

This is cool :-)

I have a (free) Borders account. (I'm a big fan of free ;-).) Every week, they send me an email with this week's specials, along with whatever coupons they're offering.

If I'm interested in a coupon, I print it. And then I try not to lose it before I get to the store. If I'm not interested, I just delete the email.

But Borders has now implemented mobile alerts. Every week, they send a coupon in text message format to my mobile phone. If I'm interested, I keep it, and then I only have to take my phone to the store (and because I usually have my phone with me anyway, it's no big deal). When I go to check out, I display the text message on my phone and show the cashier. I get my discount and I don't have to print (and track) my coupon.

This is better than twittering discount codes!

05/04/08

Permalink 12:03:52 pm, Categories: User Assistance, Just Stuff :-), 323 words   English (US)

Instructions that are both good and bad

I got a new T-Mobile Shadow™ a couple of weeks ago. Nice phone...about the same size as my old RAZR, but uses a slide instead of the clamshell design. So far, I really like it.

Today I discovered that there's a device software upgrade. OK, no biggie...I can do this. So I go to the T-Mobile support site and (yeah, hard to believe!) read the instructions.

For the most part, they're really well written. There are graphics showing what I'll see when I get to the actual upgrade part, nice warnings to let me know that I'll be resetting my phone to the factory defaults and, even better, a note that tells me to expect the progress indicator to stall at one point. They also provide approximate times for each of the steps...I find this really nice, given that we're talking about it taking almost a half hour.

But there's one bad thing. At one point, I will have to save the upgrade file to my desktop. The instructions say, "...type T-Mobile Shadow™ MSFP Upgrade", and the screenshot shows the same thing.

How exactly do you type TM in superscript in a file name?

OK, so first we have to try to figure out how many users will actually use the instructions. (Given the various warnings, we're going to hope it's most of them! But I kinda doubt it.) But then we have to think about how many of these are new users or users that just aren't that comfortable with installing software (I call this the "mom" test...will my mom be able to follow these instructions or will she be calling me for help?).

I know that Shadow is a trademark. But really, do users have to enter TM in the file name? I doubt it. And using superscript just further confuses the issue.

Overall...I'd give them a A-. Good instructions, nice clarity, effective notes and warnings.

05/01/08

Permalink 06:49:50 pm, Categories: Just Stuff :-), 426 words   English (US)

"...and walk real slow..."

Last Monday, I found myself in Mass General Hospital (MGH) waiting for an ultrasound on my leg. My left foot had been about 50% bigger than my right foot for about three weeks and my doctor was concerned. (As she said, matched swelling is usually OK...mismatched swelling never is!)

After my leg had been scanned, the tech went off to consult with the doctor, and then came back: "You need to go right back to your doctor's office," she said, "and you need to walk real slow."

OK, got it. I have a clot in my left calf, also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). And while I feel fine and have no other symptoms (no pain, no redness, no heat), at this moment I now need to proceed slowly. Even though I spent 20 minutes earlier rushing around MGH like a madwoman because I forgot what building my doctor's office is in, and went to the wrong place first. Even though I spent most of March and April traveling. Even though I walked between terminals 5, 6, and 7 at LAX one morning. Even though I've walked the Mall of America and much of Seattle. All since I noticed that my calf muscle was tight.

So, to make sure that I really did go slow, they admitted me to the hospital for a few days...one way to guarantee that I actually get complete bed rest is to put me in a room with only a bed. Jim and Jesse brought me some comfy jammies, my toothbrush, and my laptop. (You know, I really don't like hospitals all that much...I'm sure I'm not the only one. But there's free wireless, room service three times a day, an adjustable bed...it's better than a hotel!)

So what happens now? Well, I don't get on an airplane for awhile, that's for sure. They say it will take about six months until the clot dissolves, although I'll be able to fly before then (but I'm taking the train to the STC conference in Philly). I have to take some new drugs, mostly blood thinners, for the same six months. (These are so much fun...injections for the first week and Coumadin. No Vitamin K for me!) I need to continue working with my feet up, which is something I've done for years. And I need to try to not get cut because I bleed really well right now ;-)

But I'm fine, honest :-) And if anyone needs me...well, it looks like the virtual office (with Adobe Connect) will be getting used!

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