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Updated: 26 min ago

Moving away from DITA

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 04:38

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I’ve been dabbling with DITA for some time. However, I’ve never seriously tried to adopt it for a project at work, simply because the setup and conversion effort is to great for me to attempt with the limited resources I have at hand (me and one other writer). I like the idea of DITA, topic types and structured authoring, and I’ve adopted some of the techniques for my projects, but I’m still using unstructured FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, and WebWorks ePublisher for most of my work.

in < (more)

DITA 1.3 Overview

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 04:37

Scriptorium has published an overview of what’s new in DITA 1.3. I haven’t been keeping up with DITA news recently so I don’t know if DITA 1.3 has officially been released. For me, the most interesting thing is the new troubleshooting topic type – it might offer a way of imposing order on the chaos of error messages and alerts that I have to document.

The new troubleshooting topic type is a specialization of the task topic type intended for troubleshooting steps, and consists of <conditio (more)

Transferring ODT files between programs

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 04:36

TechRepublic looks at how well OpenOffice ODF files transfer between Google Docs and Microsoft Word. As you might expect, there are issues, although nothing that couldn’t quickly be cleaned up, at least for short documents.

Fortunately, Google re-enabled support for ODF in December 2014. That means you can leverage the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, then export your completed work to a file in an open, non-proprietary format. (more)

Unexpected Uses for Conditional Text

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 04:39

I use conditional text a lot in my documents, both in FrameMaker, which has had the feature built in since its inception, and in Word, with aid of SmartDocs or WebWorks ePublisher. There are obvious reasons for using conditional text; for example, creating multiple documents that apply to different versions of a product. Less obvious ones include putting notes in a document about content that might need special attention; for example, something that might need to be reviewed by a specific developer before inclusion.

In (more)

My phone is now a slide rule

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 10:13

Earlier this week I was thinking about all the different things my Samsung smart phone could do. Not counting pure Internet applications like IMDB or Cineplex, I came up with about thirty. Now I can add another one to the list – my phone is now a slide rule.

A slide rule? What’s that, some of my younger readers may be asking. Wikipedia has a good, detailed explanation:

The slide rule, also known colloquially in the United (more)

Moving ebooks between devices

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 04:05

If you own an ereader or tablet, you may decide that you want to upgrade or change your system – perhaps to move from a Nook to a Kobo or a Kobo to an Apple tablet. Even though these devices all nominally use EPUB as the base format, the DRM (Digital Rights Management) software they use to prevent piracy makes this task difficult, and potentially impossible.

This ABC news article explores some of the options.


What if Ebola becomes endemic?

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 04:43

Efforts to stamp out the Ebola outbreak in Africa have been remarkably successful. Despite the fact that almost 10,000 people have died, it could have been much, much worse. But it’s now almost a year since the outbreak started and it’s not contained by any means. What happens if Ebola can’t be completely eradicated, and keeps flaring up in different places, or worse, spreads to other, more populated countries?  Discover looks at this disquieting scenario.

Th (more)

Google invests in SpaceX

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 19:39

Google has made a major investment – $1 billion dollars – in SpaceX. They’ll get a 10 percent ownership stake in the company. Google apparently wants to put up a network of satellites that could bring Internet services to almost anywhere in the world. They may also be planning to launch Earth observation satellites to improve the quality of the imagery in Google Earth. I like this news – a lot.


The future of house building

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 04:53

A company in China has used 3D printing technology to build a mansion and a 6-storey apartment building. The mansion wouldn’t look out of place in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood. The article doesn’t go into a lot of detail on how they handle things like plumbing and wiring, but the 3D printing technique certainly seems capable of handling the structural elements.

The second trick up their sleeve is the printer used to build the h (more)

Mylyn WikiText looks interesting

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 04:04

I came across a mention of Mylyn WikiText on the dita-users mailing list the other day and had a quick browse through the web site. It looks like it might be useful for me at work as it can read TWiki format, which is the wiki format we’re currently using. I know that some of our development teams are using Eclipse so I may be able to get this installed to test.

Mylyn WikiText provides lightweight markup (wiki) parsing, editing and display capabilities to the Eclipse platform and Mylyn. Mylyn WikiText can also (more)

The subliminal power of city fonts

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 08:45

It makes sense that just as cities have their own logos, they should have their own fonts. Designers are now creating fonts for cities as part of their brand makeovers.

The electronics company Philips was to the Dutch city of Eindhoven what Rolls Royce is to Derby, or Mercedes to Stuttgart. It was founded there, and grew to become the biggest employer. But when from the 1980s on Philips began to shift its operations out of Eindhoven, culminating with the move of its head office to (more)

Another report says oceans in trouble

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 04:32

Yet another report says that the oceans’ ecosystems are in trouble and humans are the cause. The news isn’t all bad – there’s still time to avert the worst of the damage. However, with people like Ted Cruz and Stephen Harper in positions of power, I’m not optimistic.

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of committing (more)

Customizing the FrameMaker UI with ExtendScript

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 04:49

I’ve known for some time that the FrameMaker user interface could be customized by using the FrameMaker Development Kit (FDK), but that involves writing C code, which is beyond my skill level. However, FrameMaker 10 and later releases have included ExtendScript, a JavaScript variant that you can use t0 do many of the same things that previously required the FDK.

In December, Russ Ward presented a webinar for Adobe on how to use ExtendScript to customize Frame’s user interface. A link to the webinar and show notes are on (more)

Build your own solar system

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 04:23

If you’ve ever wanted to play God here’s your chance. You can build your own solar system and see if you can keep it running for 500 years. The online game, Super Planet Crash, is hosted on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site.

Can you create a planetary system that lasts for 500 years? Super Planet Crash, the featured game, allows you to try. To create up to ten planets, just click anywhere near the central star. Planet types can be selected on the left in order of incr (more)

Great Talking Heads concert video surfaces

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 04:39

Talking Heads were one of the great live bands and their concert movie, Stop Making Sense, remains one of the best after more than thirty years. Now a 1980s video of a Talking Heads concert has surfaced and it may give Stop Making Sense a run for its money. It was shot November 4, 1980 at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. The video is grainy, 80s era black and white but the music is from a soundboard recording and it’s wonderful.

This was posted on the bands official YouTube channel so you don’t have to feel guil (more)

MadCap buys Doc-To-Help

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 04:48

Here’s an interesting development in the techcomm tools world. MadCap Software, the developer of Flare, has bought Doc-To-Help.

MadCap Software, the leader in multi-channel content authoring and a showcase company for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Visual Studio and Microsoft XPS, today announced the acquisition of Doc-To-Help from GrapeCity.Doc-To-Help, which comes from the ComponentOne Division of GrapeCity, is the market’s leading Microsoft® Word™-based authoring tool for multi-channel publishing. It represents a strategic complement to the award-winning MadCap Suite of (more)

Copyright trolling comes to Canada

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 11:42

Michael Geist reports that the sleazy copyright trolling company, Rightscorp, has started sending out notices on behalf of BMG to suspected  copyright violators. The notices are misleading in that they imply that people could be subject to having their Internet disconnected, which is not the case in Canada, and could be liable to six-figure fines, also not the case in Canada.

Canada’s new copyright notice-and-notice system has been in place for less than a we (more)

SpaceX Dragon launched but booster lands hard

Sat, 01/10/2015 - 08:18

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch was successful and Dragon is on its way to the ISS. But the booster recovery attempt was only partially successful; it crash landed on the barge. No video, unfortunately. The barge is more or less OK. They plan to try again as soon as possible. As Musk says: “Rockets are hard”.

I’ll give them three stars for managing to hit the barge. That in itself bodes well for future attempts.


Automatically saving as MIF in FrameMaker

Sat, 01/10/2015 - 04:56

If you’ve upgraded to FrameMaker 12 and need to share files with someone using an older version, you can save your files as MIF. However, you have to explicitly select MIF as the format each time you save. Needless to say, this can be time consuming if you have a lot of files to deal with. Rick Quatro has created an ExtendScript that will save FrameMaker files as MIF by default, as well as saving them in the normal format. He’s graciously made it available for free.

Since the script will work in FrameMa (more)

When Google doesn’t cut it

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 19:01

I still use Google as my primary search engine, but sometimes (it seems to be happening more often) the first page or two of results doesn’t deliver what I’m looking for. At that point, I’ll usually try one of the other major search engines, like Yahoo or Bing, but they often fail too. What next? has an article about what you should do when your first search fails. There are many other information resources on the Internet that aren’t standard (more)