Words and Software

Technical writing/user assistance in Microsoft.Azure Intelligent Systems Service (ISS). (old: Data Protection Manager and Operations Manager)

November, 2007

  • My new Zune

    It's red. A really deep, rich red. Small and slender, but it feels nicely solid. And here was my setup experience:

    I had an existing instance of Zune (from the first release), not paired with a device, that I had already upgraded to the new software. I connected the red Zune. The software immediately announced that I needed to update the device. Made the appropriate clicks and the update began. Five minutes later, it was done. I gave it a name (Dora, if you're interested, after the time-traveling spacecar in Heinlein's Number of the Beast - explanation later), set my synch preferences (manual across the board), and it was done.

    The reason I got a flash Zune was to dedicate it to old-time radio shows; I have several hundreds of hours of them on CDs. (Listening to radio shows from the 1930s and 1940s is like traveling back in time...hence, Dora!) What made the new Zune perfect for that purpose is the podcast category, which provides a "resume playing" functionality that isn't in the music category.

    I transferred a handful of CDs to the folder I'd told Zune to monitor for podcasts -- just a copy in Windows Explorer, since each episode was already an .mp3. I made a folder beneath for each program, and put the episodes for each program in its respective folder. Again using Windows Explorer, I changed the genre of all the files to "Podcasts". Opened the Zune software and almost instantly it had added all of the episodes to my collection, properly grouped into programs. So far, so good.

    Next, I reconnected Dora. I dragged each "podcast" (program group) to the device icon to synch. Synch happened way too fast, so I checked the contents on Dora and discovered that only one episode of each program had synched. After trying a few things, I made it work by opening each program in the software, selecting all of the episodes, and dragging them to Dora. It was a few extra steps, but not a major pain because it let me continue to drop more while it was synching the first batch.

    Stepped away for a few minutes while synch continued, and when I came back (maybe 10 minutes later), it was done. Disconnected Dora, connected her to a set of speakers, and began playing a radio show. Very cool!

    The new Zune is definitely optimized for the scenario where you just want it to work. Put your files (music, video, etc) in the right place and Zune does the rest. So as I'm copying the radio shows over, I take the time to ensure all of the metadata is the way I want it (using Windows Explorer and MediaMonkey) before running Zune to add it to the collection.

  • Installing DPM 2007

    Check out The Sean Blog for a step-by-step report on installing DPM 2007, with illustrations!

  • How's your vocabulary?

    I admit that this post has only the most peripheral of relationships to technical writing -- but I'm enjoying Free Rice so much, I had to share. It's a website that generates vocabulary questions. For each question that you answer correctly, the site sponsors donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations. It adds up quickly -- my first night, I filled my bowl with 7320 grains of rice. (That's how addictive it is, at least if you love words.)

    The questions vary in difficulty, and are assigned to vocabulary levels (up to level 50). If you miss a question, you move back a level; if you answer 3 questions correctly, you move up a level. The more people "play", the more the site can fine-tune the difficulty levels for words.

    Try it!