Tag: SQL

Ohh I’m WAY busier than you..

Due to product release pressures I’ve not had much time to look at the new version of Author-it, let alone get the SQL database setup so the rest of my team can get it installed and starting having a play.

Whilst we are getting some training organised, I’m confident that we are smart enough to figure out a lot of the basics ourselves (I’ve used Author-it before so can guide them a little) leaving the training for the harder things such as variants.

Having finally sourced space on a server my next task will be to setup the database on SQL Express. This is a cutdown version of Microsoft SQL Server, with much the same functionality but a maximum database size of 4GB. Some initial size estimates suggest we are WAY off that so I’m confident it’ll see us through the next few years worth of content creation.

Alongside this I’ve also been involved in what can only be described as a content audit across the company. I’m lucky that I have a colleague who is as keen as I am on making sure the right people have the right information, and that our information needs to be easy to find and maintain. She works in Product Marketing so there is a fair amount of crossover. At present we are mired in spreadsheet hell, but it’s starting to come together and, in the long run, I’m sure the various consumers of product information will start to see the benefits.

I do seem to moving away from being involved in new feature design work which I will miss, but for the meantime there is a bigger void that I’m aiming to fill with the ultimate aim of rounding out our product offering.

So, exciting times ahead and hopefully a lot of good lessons I can share with you.

Why AuthorIT?

As I mentioned before, we are planning to migrate content from FrameMaker to AuthorIT, staging the migration across two different product sets (and no small amount of time!). I’m in the process of evaluating AuthorIT for, despite having used it before, it has recently been overhauled with a spiffy new UI and some new features.

AuthorIT is a single source system, with content stored in a central database, which can publish to most (all?) of the formats that anyone would ever need. It includes an editor, supports multiple users, and has some additional add-ons for localisation and so on. Their website is very good if you want more information on their product.

After downloading and installing the trial version, which limits your import and publishing but otherwise has all the features available for use, I fired it up and was greeted with the new interface. Based on the ribbons used in the latest version of Microsoft Office, it is quite a shift away from the previous version and it took me a while to get to grips with. However it is a huge improvement over the old version and once you are used to it, like anything, it’s very nice to use. Yes I know there are still issues being dealt with, but I didn’t run across that many during my testing, so I’m happy.

During my evaluation I spoke to their Business Development Manager who was very helpful in delving into some of the issues I had around versioning and set my mind at rest. I’ll outline how we are going to handle maintaining multiple versions of documents in another post, once I’ve given it a dry run or two.

One issue that cropped up was the location and format of the supporting database. You can run AuthorIT on a Jet database either locally or on a network drive although that is particularly performant, or run it on a SQL Server. As we are a small team I did consider the Jet database but our situation suggests a server database would be better. Which introduced another problem, price. SQL Server isn’t the cheapest and we don’t have an installation in-house. Thankfully one of our IT guys suggested SQL Express (a limited free version of SQL Server) as a possibility, and after a quick check on the AuthorIT Yahoo Group, I’ve found that it will run quite happily on that database.

There is a limit of 4GB on the database size but as long as we keep our images elsewhere there is little chance we’ll hit that limit. Our total content at present, including images, tops out under 500MB for one version of the documentation. So we’ll actually be saving space on a server as we won’t be maintaining multiple versions of entire documents. Must remember to point that out to our IT guys!

Aside from versioning the only feature I was unfamiliar with was the batch runner, which allows you to run a batch file (.bat) as a scheduled task. Our current system runs at night, using Webworks to create a Javahelp file which is then included in the software build and AuthorIT will give us similar functionality.

Why AuthorIT? Well, quite simply it gives us what we need.

I spent some time at the X-Pubs conference last year, and throughout the presentations the underlying message was “get your requirements sorted before hunting for a system”. The premise is obvious enough, if you decide on a system first, you end up shoe-horning your processes around how it works rather than getting a system that works you way YOU work.

I also spent some time considering DITA but ultimately switching to an XML-based system is still too cost-prohibitive. AuthorIT is a compromise, allowing us to work how we want to work, whilst giving us single source benefits. We will use DITA as a framework for how we plan and write the content, but the simple fact is that AuthorIT is a much better value proposition than a bespoke system, both in monetary and resource terms. This makes the business case much easier to sell.

If you are considering single sourcing your content, then I’d strongly suggest you investigate AuthorIT as a possibility. It has limitations, including the oft-cited reliance on Word as a publishing engine, but for me the advantages outweight those.

And no, I am not being paid to endorse AuthorIT.

Snippets

Money for old rope? Or is it possible to blog full-time? Last year Jason Kottke tried it, couldn’t make it stick. Now John Gruber is heading down the same road.

The reason I ask is that yesterday’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek post seems to have… well not quite enraged but definitely “irked” a few people somewhat. I guess for a lot of people it comes down to personal values, namely what you value most in life.

Me? Cold hard cash. Piles of it. Enough to burn.

OK, not really, er well maybe just a small pile..

~

Web design posts have been few and far between on here of late. There is a very good reason of course, namely that I want to setup a blog on onemandesigns but haven’t had a moment to do it. Ideally I’ll cross-post an excerpt on here as well but I’m not exactly sure on the details yet.

Need to get it done though, I’ve a stack of things to write about, and my head is gonna burst if I don’t get them out soon.

~

I don’t blog about work on here, well not directly anyway just the occasional “ya boo sucks” kinda nonsense that everyone goes through. It’s just as well too as —and don’t ask me why this has just occurred to me— my referrer stats have shown up somebody (people?) searching for my name in conjunction with my employers name. I’m guessing it may be interview candidates as they know who is interviewing them and who I work for… or it could be someone else who is checking me out in a “professional” capacity.

Either way, a lesson to you all. Careful what you say!

~

WordPress questions. I seem to have developed a penchant for my old friend the mdash (—). However, it’s becoming a bit of a drag having to type out the HTML entity code each time (& mdash ; ) and I’m wondering if there is an easier way around this problem. It’s the same for & pound ; and letter accents. Annoying.

I’m guessing I’ve missed something really obvious but CBATG.

~

.htaccess files are fun, aren’t they?

Well, no not really. They still fall into the realm of black magic as far as I’m concerned but I’ve been mucking about (on a test system) with something I hope to implement here. I mentioned it, er, last week I think. A homepage.

Problem is this blog is the default page for the domain, but I’m sure I read somewhere I could do some clever redirecty thingy using .htaccess… I don’t mind moving the blog to, say, /blog/ but it’s a bit of a pain in the ass for everyone else.

Mind you, as I’m linked to under so many different monikers (as previously discussed) it might be good to force people to update their links! And yes, the most annoying one is most definitely the “Gordon McClean” links. One “c” people, ONE!

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SQL Injection attack anyone? Scottish Blogs has, suddenly, has a huge amount of rogue “submitted sites” (over 100 in the past hour, as opposed to 20 or so a day). I’ll see how many there are in the morning but might need to turn … um… something off somewhere! Balls.

AM update: Seems to have calmed down and, in the cold light of the morning I think it’s more a concerted attack on the form rather than SQL Injection. So far, so quiet(er).

~

I have a new method for dealing with cold callers. Last night, Louise had gone out to dinner with friends, I was sitting at the PC doing some work when the phone rang. The phone upstairs doesn’t have a caller id display so I picked up… only for some woman to immediately start yakking down the phone at me about how I’d “won” a mobile phone and how wonderful it was and how lucky I am. Now, would I give her my mobile number?

“No…” said I, and before I could complete the sentence she was off again… I was mid-way through hanging up when I decided against it. I listened to her for about 30 seconds, and with no sign of her abating, I gently placed the handset on the desk and let her enjoy a little bit of Kate Bush. She finally stopped after a further minute (34 seconds after I put the phone down, I was counting by now) and I could just make her out.. “hello? HELLO?”.

I held my breath, expecting her to disconnect. She didn’t. Over the music I could faintly hear the next round in her glorious eulogy —this one timed at a full 77 seconds— before she paused again. “hello? HELLO?”.

Click.

Enough is enough

I’m in techie hell at the moment. This may descend into a bit of rant. Frankly I’m past caring…

I received an AirportExpress for my birthday but, and here’s one in the eye for all Apple fanatics, it’s ridiculously hard to setup. Yes I’m running Windows XP but it SAYS on the box that the AirportExpress supports XP so it bloody well should!

I DID manage to get music playing through it at one stage last night, but it timed out after about three minutes and I don’t think it was really connected properly; this is backed up by the flashing orange light on the unit that should turn green when connected. I’ve yet to see a green light on this thing, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a myth.

It doesn’t help that my networking knowledge is… slim.. and that I’m not using a Wireless Router but a USB adapter. Not that that should be a problem, my laptop happily connects to my home network, but getting the AirportExpress to do the same is an exercise in increasing futility.

The really infuriating thing is that it MUST be connected somehow as, using the Airport Admin Utility software, I can ‘see’ the Airport Express and change settings on it, and whilst the Wireless Adapter reports that it is connected TO the Airport Express, I’m missing a bit somewhere that lets WINDOWS know that the damn thing is connected.

I’ve given up for the moment, lest I through it, my computer, or myself through the window.

On top of that, remember the SQL Injection attacks I having on Scottish Blogs?, well they’ve recently quadrupled in frequency to about 200 a day. Again I feel like I’m out of my depth as I just can’t solve this. Yes I’ve tried your previous suggestions, but either I didn’t implement them properly, or I don’t understand the problem properly. I’ve Googled until my eyes bleed but have yet to find a simple set of instructions of how to STOP IT HAPPENING (I do NOT want to read another explanation of what an SQL Injection is thankeweverymuch).

And I know I’m being lazy with this problem, frankly I don’t CARE HOW they work, I want a list of things to try to STOP IT FROM HAPPENING. Plain english would be good.

There in lies the crux of my frustrations. There are screeds of information available on the interweb for both my current problems, yet they are all written with a lot of presumption and lack sufficient detail for me to feel confident in the solutions suggested. Every piece of information is either far too detailed, a glorified brain dump, or presumes that you are an expert in the topics at hand. I’m not looking for a “For Dummies” solution here, just something written in a language I understand, with detailed instructions, and with some structure to the information.

It’s not THAT hard to structure these types of ‘articles’ you know, a simple template would get you started. Like this:

  1. Heading
  2. Overview/Introduction
  3. Basic Concepts
  4. Detailed Concepts [optional]
  5. Pre-procedure steps [optional]
  6. Procedure, broken into steps
  7. Post-procedure steps/tests [optional]
  8. Additional Information or next section

Pretty straightforward if you ask me, as long as you make sure the procedure is obvious, and details what happens (with whatever interface you are using, screen, hardware etc).

A bad example can be lifted straight from the AirportExpress Setup Guide (remember, this is from a large corporation who pride themselves on design and usability…). Here are the instructions on how to connect the AirPort Express to an existing wireless network:

1. Open the AirPort Setup Assistant, located in Start > All Programs > AirPort.
(problem one, it’s just “Programs” not “All Programs” did no-one check this?)

2. Follow the onscreen instructions to connect your AirPort Express to your wireless network.

That’s it. That’s all you get. So you head ‘onscreen’ and you get asked which AirPort Base Station you want to connect to and… whaa??? Base Station? I’ve got Express… what’s a Base Station? Back to the Setup Guide… so and so and so forth. The ‘onscreen’ text isn’t too helpful either.

So, poo to you Apple. And poo to you people injecting nonsense into the Scottish Blogs database. I’ve got far more important things to do with my time than spend it fucking about fixing OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS!!!

Anyway, I’m technologically drained. This black box is getting switched off in a couple of hours and I’m opening a bottle of wine.

Rant over.