Words and Software

Technical writing for Windows 10. (old: Intelligent Systems Service, Data Protection Manager, and Operations Manager)

January, 2006

  • Home network planning tool

    While searching for ideas on reorganizing my home network, I found a delightful tool for home network planning, provided by Motorola. You drag-and-drop the components you want in your network, and the tool will tell you the requirements plus add the necessary equipment to a dynamic shopping list. Change the connection type for a component, and the tool instantly updates the information. Very cool!


    (Disclaimer: No official endorsement of Motorola or its products intended or implied.)

  • Code names for Microsoft products

    I could not find the webpage I wanted this morning. I tried several search engines, but I don't think it's their fault -- I think the webpage I want doesn't exist. And it should.

    The webpage I want should be on Microsoft.com and it should translate all of the current Microsoft product code names for me. You'd think there would be such a resource, no? But I couldn't find it.

    That's okay, I couldn't find it on our internal web either.

    The closest I could find to what I wanted was an editor's note in the Feb 2006 issue of MSDN Magazine. And that only listed nine code names.

    Bink.nu compiled a huge list, but it's old.

    I could understand the absence if code names were confidential, but they don't seem to be in general -- I find them mentioned in press releases, newsgroup postings, blogs. We even include the code name after giving a product a formal name, just to ease the transition. For example...

    Microsoft Unveils Windows XP Media Center Edition, Previously Code-Named "Freestyle"

    The webpage I want would not only help me keep straight which code name goes with which product, it would also be an easy way to see what other products are in development.



    Update: A co-worker thoughtfully sent me a link to the internal codename list. I'm still asking around about an external current codename list...

    Update 2: Catch the link in the comments, Channel 9's wiki has a codename list!
  • Casual communication styles

    Pixelpoke shares a whimsical Page Not Found link. While it's definitely grin-worthy, and therefore a wonderful way to begin the work week, it still can't displace my favorite customized 404 error message -- the simplicity of it tickles me. (And it was really really funny ten years ago...)

    GameWyrd has some amusing suggestions for the 404 error. I liked EffieRover's "This is the refrigerator in www.gamewyrd.com's coffee room. The web server is down today, so I'm standing in for it. I couldn't find your file on any of my shelves, but I'll stick a note to myself with one of these magnet thingees to notify the webmaster."

  • Opinion on Data Protection Manager (DPM)

    Check out the Since You Asked column in Computerworld to read Steve Duplessie's view on DPM. He mentions a stat that I think really pinpoints the need for continuous data protection (CDP): "Eighty percent of all recoveries are for data that is less than seven days old."

    DPM doesn't provide CDP, of course, but rather "near-continuous data protection". For an interesting explanation of what is and is not CDP, see The State of CDP by Steve Apiki at internetnews.com.

  • How not to change a computer fan

    Tristan tells the story of how he tried to replace the fan in his computer. My favorite part:

    "He had demonstrated his Drill Skill. He was a Real Man, with a Real Power Tool under his control, an extension of his very body."
  • Disk-to-disk-to-tape with DPM and Quantum

    The DPM5500 -- cool name, eh? It's an appliance that integrates DPM with tape-based backup and recovery.

    There'll be a live webcast, "Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape Backup and Recovery with System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) and Quantum", on Thursday, February 02, 2006 11:00 AM Pacific Time (US & Canada).

  • Glossary terms: the search for the definition

    I haven't mentioned working on the DPM version 2 glossary in awhile, but there's been steady progress. From my initial group of over 80 terms, we were able to delete almost 20% of them without even breaking a sweat.

    (I just realized that guesstimate of mine bears suspicious resemblance to the 80/20 rule.)

    That still left quite a few terms to look up. ("Wait," you protest, "How can you look up definitions for your new terms if you haven't written them yet?" Good question.) Unless we invent a new word, then somebody somewhere has written a definition for the ones we're using. So I chase them down to see if it's a definition we can use.

    I don't want just any definition, however. First, I check an internal tool that we're using at Microsoft to gather all glossary terms into one database. If I strike out with the tool, I search for the term in published documentation (term site:microsoft.com). I really want to find a definition that one of our products is already using.

    But if I can't, the search goes webwide, along with a few other keywords to keep the results relevant to the general topic. On this search, however, I don't want to find a single definition; I want several that are worded differently, and I want descriptions rather than just definitions, so I can understand how the term is being used in the industry. And from that, I'll form our own definition.

    That's the stage most of our terms are at now. Next, the terms and definitions go to the reviewers: program managers, developers, testers, editors, and other writers. The glossary gauntlet, you might say...

  • DPM storage pool disks

    The famous "chicken or egg" dilemma is similar to a common problem faced by tech writers -- what goes first? Everything can't be first, and all new concepts can't be explained simultaneously. So we make choices and organize content in a manner that we hope will work effectively for each reader.

    Sometimes we don't get it right. Here's one way we can miss: we introduce Concept A. As part of A's description, we use Term 1. We decide that now isn't the time to tangent into a discussion on Term 1, so we provide just enough information so Term 1 makes sense in the context of Concept A, and we go more into depth on Term 1 later.

    This approach can miss when our reader doesn't realize that there is more to be learned about Term 1 elsewhere, and so he acts on his understanding of Term 1 from Concept A but gets it wrong.

    An actual example involves the DPM storage pool. We refer to the storage pool disk(s) in the system requirements, but the specific disk types that can be used are listed later in the storage pool section of the documentation. So a customer looking only at the system requirements wouldn't realize that DPM does not support using USB or IEEE 1394 disks in the storage pool.

    There are several ways we could have fixed it. The supported disk types could have been repeated in the system requirements. Or, the storage pool reference in system requirements could have been linked to the storage pool section. Until our next opportunity to publish, though, we'll just use avenues like the newsgroups and this blog to remind everyone that DPM does not support USB/1394 disks in the storage pool.

  • Great opportunity for scripters!

    Have you written any scripts for system administration? Now there's a place for them on microsoft.com, in the Community-Submitted Scripts Center. (Not the catchiest name I've ever heard...) If you're interested, check out the submission guidelines.

    This will also be a useful source for finding great scripts, as soon as the Scripting Guys begin posting submissions.

  • To seed or not to seed

    In the newsgroup for DPM, someone asked about seeding the DPM server:

    "Does anyone have any good information on how to seed the DPM server with protected servers data?"

    "Did he really mean seed?" I wondered. Then one of our program managers replied in the thread, also using seed, so yep, it must be the right term. Probably one I should know myself. Out goes the email, and our program manager nicely explains to me:

    "Seeding the replica" just means creating a baseline version of the replica, either using Initial Replication or Media Load. It is a typical term that industry uses in the context of setting up replica sets.