Don’t Install PC-Craptastic Crapware, Instead Re-install Windows

PC Craptastic BoxIn the free advice department, let me suggest that you not install additional, questionable software to fix your buggy, slow, infected Windows computer. Over time you may have installed and uninstalled various (free, trial, bloatware) applications, clicked links you shouldn’t have, opened email, downloaded, and shared files you shouldn’t have, etc.

The answer to a slow and infected machine is not to install even more dubious software. Instead, the answer is the opposite.

Re-install Windows, Have a Plan

Format the hard drive, and re-install Windows and only the applications you really trust and use. I do this about once a year on my main desktop. It’s not too tough but you have to have time, a plan, and a few things on hand. I have multiple computers, including warm/cold spares, tablets and smartphones, so I’m not lacking for backup communication devices during the time it takes to rebuild my main computer. I also rebuild my spares and test machines, but these rebuilds are not as time-sensitive as rebuilding my main workstation.

Completely Erase or even Replace the Hard Drive

Recently, I’ve begun using Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN, www.dban.org) to completely erase/delete the contents of the hard disk before formatting, partitioning and installing an operating system. Since I have multiple computers, and some of them are several years old, I may have had several version of Windows, or even Linux, on them. Fully wiping the hard drive with something similar to DBAN helps ensure that residual files do not interfere with your fresh install. If your hard drive is reaching the end of its expected life, you could replace it.

Installation Media & License

There are some complications to re-installing Windows of course. Since Windows was most likely installed by the OEM, you may not have the installation media (DVD), or the Windows license key. I keep a copy of the operating systems that I install (Windows XP Pro, 7 Pro, 8.1 Pro) as well as Microsoft Office on DVD. I also keep applications on my shared drive. You can extract the embedded OEM Windows license key using a tool such as Belarc Advisor. Your OEM machine probably has multiple partitions including a recovery partition. Before proceeding with flattening the machine, decide if you want to keep these partitions and the OEM method of recovering/fixing your computer. For example, you may not want to wipe out the recovery partition while the computer is under warranty.

Before re-installing Windows, you might want to create a partition for backups/recovery. After installing Windows and additional apps and updates, you can create a custom recovery image and save it to this partition.

Open the Desktop Box

If you have a desktop versus a laptop, now is good time to verify that all of the fans are working. You can also open the box and use a small shop vac to remove dust and spider webs. This is also a good time to replace the CMOS battery, the video card, memory… you get the idea.

Steps

  1. Obviously, you have to fully backup all files that you want to keep on something such as a USB thumb drive. Take your time on this step.
  2. Wipe/format the drive(s) with something aggressive such as DBAN
  3. Install Windows
  4. Install other applications such as Office 2013, Adobe Creative Suite, Google Chrome
  5. Connect to the Internet to download and install updates

Risk

Before performing any of the steps in the post, do your own research into the process. Consult a trusted friend. There are risks and you have to fully understand them before you follow the comments in this post. This process requires that you have a plan, have various resources on hand, and have the time to complete it. Although it’s a lot easier to simply install some random crapware/ransomware…don’t do it!

Localize the Content After Translation

Flags of several nationsLocalization is what technical editors do to your document after it’s been translated. They localize the writing. Localization is the process of polishing the writing so that it is comprehensible to your audience without your audience having to spend additional time analyzing the writing. Localization may be accomplished by machines but it is often performed by people.

Translated + Localized = Reader Bliss

Obviously, translated and localized text is going to have a greater impact on your audience versus text that isn’t translated, or isn’t localized. Only highly motivated readers are going to take the time to use a translation service or tool, such as https://translate.google.com/ then take the extra step of deconstructing and reconstructing the not-so-great translation so it makes sense to them. The question you should ask is “is it worth the effort to provide my audience with a well translated and localized text?” In other words, will the effort to produce a better quality translation mean more sales, fewer customer support contacts, higher customer satisfaction, and higher review scores on social sites?

Non-informative, Misleading, Irritating, or Just Plain Funny?

Poor translations/localizations can range from not-helpful, to wrong and misleading, to highly irritating. It can inhibit your customer’s efforts to use your product or service. This can reduce sales and increase customer service contacts. If your users/customers find your documentation to be of low quality, will that same feeling translate to how they feel about your product or service? In general, you want all aspects of your product (web site, web application, email, contacts, support, packaging, documentation, etc.) to reflect positively on its quality. Poor translations can also be funny. Here are some examples: http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-chinese-translation-fails/

Product Inserts, Online Documentation

Many physical products include one or more paper inserts or provide online documentation on the company site or mobile application. This material should serve a purpose. The purpose is often; installation, configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting, or getting support. These materials should effectively answer the common questions your users/customer have. If they don’t, you may have wasted the time and effort to produce them.

Cutting Costs

Before deciding to ship a product with or without documentation, you should analyze the need for and use of the documentation. Does the audience need it in order to properly use your product or service? If so, it may be worth the extra cost to provide information they can use. I wrote a little bit about audience, purpose, and context here.

Getting the APCs Right (Audience, Purpose, Context) in your Communications

Audience, Purpose, ContextEvery communication project begins with analysis of the APCs; audience, purpose, and context. Before creating your communication, you should know who you are communicating with, why, and under what circumstances. And by communication project I’m talking about everything from a telephone conversation with your great aunt Elsa, to producing a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie. Literally every communication has these three components at its core.

Analysis

Your analysis of audience, purpose and context can be informal or very formal and extensive. How much effort you put into analyzing APC is determined by the scope of your project and the overall return on investment of the communication. When you’re composing an email to a coworker, you probably work out in your mind the ACPs while you’re drafting the email. At the other extreme, you may want to conduct some primary or secondary research into your target audience, how best to communicate with them, how best to get them to act on your message, and under what circumstances (when, where, and how) to deliver your message so it has the greatest impact.

Audience

Who you want to communicate with is probably your first consideration. First of all, how many people? Is it 100 or 100,000? You want to know about their demographics, as well as commonalities and unique qualities. You want to know about audience age, sex, nationality, language abilities, their knowledge of or experience level with the message you want to share with them. Is it one monolithic audience or are there five distinct sub-audiences? Can one communication reach the audience, or does it require multiple pieces each aimed at a sub-audience. For example, you might best reach your audience who are in their 20s one way with one type of message, and the over 50 audience a different way with a different type of message.

Purpose

Why you’re communicating with your audience and why the audience wants to hear your message is the second consideration. Are you inviting your uncle Bud to Thanksgiving dinner and looking for a “yes” answer, or are you trying to convince 150,000 associates to complete their required compliance training by the end of the month? For training/performance improvement pieces, you want to show your audience how to perform the task and give them practice and feedback as they learn it. For these pieces, you’re trying to change behavior.

Context

The context of your communication is also critical. Are you yelling “fire!” because you just started a grease fire in your kitchen? Or maybe you’re writing about your company’s quarterly performance for your stockholders while you follow various templates, get certain reviews, and meet certain timelines. For this discussion of corporate technical communications, we’re usually talking about internal and external communications that we have at least some time to prepare. Our typical modes of delivery include; live broadcast, recorded presentations, email, documents, guides, and eLearning.

After you’ve determined the audience, purpose, and context you can design and craft the message. When drafting your piece, typically, you’ll use the persuasive writing style. More about that in a future article.

WriterTech Elevator Speech, What is Technical Communication?

Image of two people shaking hands. One is thinking "what is Technical Communication?"Every organization, and even every individual when you think about it, creates three types of communications. We create Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications, and everything else we can lump into Technical Communications. My typical elevator speech mentions all three types and how I specialize in Technical Communications.

Corporate Communications

Companies of every size create internal and external corporate communication pieces. Internally, companies communicate HR policies, business goals, standards, compliance, metrics, performance, sales, benefits, job role descriptions, corporate governance, promotions, etc. Externally, companies communicate with local, state and the federal government, as well as with the business community, business partners, the legal community, and the financial community; lenders, stock markets, etc. Depending upon the size of the organization, these pieces may be created by senior management, the legal team, and with assistance from one or more Corp Comms specialists.

Marketing Communications

Marcom includes everything from business cards to television spots, and everything in between. Ads have to be written. Marcom can include; promotional items, web site copy, branding, trademarks, trade names, video clips, webinars, social media, radio, newspaper, and television, and on and on.

Technical Communications

Everything that isn’t Corp comms or Marcom is T-Comms. And even some of what is Corp Comms or Marcom is also T-Comms. Sound confusing? It isn’t. There’s obviously some overlap between Corp Comms, Marcom and T-Comms. The overlap depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is the size and specialization of your organization. For the purposes of this post, Technical Communications includes:

  • Product and service descriptions and details
  • Instructional design, eLearning design, Training
  • Whitepapers, user guides
  • Information distributed with your product or service
  • Installation and maintenance guides
  • Line art, branding, images, drawings, and graphics
  • Proposals
  • Internal and external how-to guides
  • Translation and localization

XML Viewer SharePoint Web Part, Open RSS Feed Article Links in New Tab

RSSFeedSharePointI publish several RSS feeds (including this blog) on my SharePoint Foundation 2010 site. To do this, I use the XML Viewer web part. In the custom XSL all I had to do was add target=”_blank” in the <a href> line to have the links open in a new tab instead of replacing my SharePoint site in the current browser tab. Here’s how that line looks in my custom XSL.

<a target=”_blank” href=”{$item_link}” title=”{$item_title}”>

Solution

I found the solution here: http://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/61587/rss-viewer-customization

Content Management System for Distributed and Mobile Teams

SharePointThe question is… how does your team draft, review, publish, share, and maintain content for your distributed and mobile work force while managing the flexibility, security, and cost of the system?

SharePoint

One answer may be to use SharePoint on the back end and a browser and mobile client on the front end. Out of the box SharePoint is a pretty decent platform for a group of content creators to organize, draft, and publish content for the team, or even the entire organization. SharePoint allows fairly sophisticated security so that only approved users have access. It allows routing and approval of drafts, archiving, libraries, custom lists, and a bunch more. SharePoint is a capable and secure many-to-many platform for internal communications, user assistance, sales info, proposals, video, audio, training, compliance, etc.

SharePoint on your Mobile Device

Content creators can create and consumers can consume anywhere, anytime using the Internet Explorer (IE) browser on the computer or even using an application on iOS or Android. On Android, I’m currently using SPConnect SharePoint Version 0.85 by AcquiredNotions Inc. SPConnect allows me to access my self-hosted SharePoint site without having to log in each time. I can open, edit and save changes to documents and other files. This app is available in the Google Play store.

SPConnect

Office 365

Other options in addition to hosting your own SharePoint servers in your own data centers is to have them hosted for you by a company that specializes in this sort of thing. You can subscribe directly with Microsoft or there are a number of companies offering hosted SharePoint. SharePoint Online can be integrated with Office 365. If you have a qualifying Office 365 subscription, you can use the Microsoft Office Mobile application.

For a small business, an Office 365 subscription may be the way to go the get email, office applications, and content management all in one package. This is the hassle-free solution. You don’t have to build or maintain it. You just log in and it works.