Words and Software

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

April, 2008

  • Tuning tips

    I was looking for more specific guidance on tuning Ops Manager for a customer and found a great set of posts on this Operations Manager blog, so I thought I'd share:

  • System Center Content Search

    I'm not a gadget-y sort of person. I mean, I like gadgets, but I've grown wary of them (both offline and on) because so often they're a disappointment -- either they don't deliver or I don't really have a use for them.

    But recently I saw a presentation on a gadget that delivered the exact functionality that I've wished for numerous times: the ability to search just the System Center content on TechNet. So many times I need to look for technical content, and not just the information but the information as contained in our official documentation.

    And now some folks have delivered with the System Center Content Search gadget for the Vista Sidebar. I installed it last week and have had to use it numerous times already, and :::drumroll::: it delivered exactly the results I needed every time (and usually as the first hit).

    System Center Content Search was announced at MMS this week, so I waited till after the announcement to post about it (and to make sure it was worth recommending).

  • SP1 management packs: where are the guides?

    Most of our management packs are released to the download center (via the Ops Manager Catalog) with a guide included. When we released Ops Manager 2007 Service Pack 1, it included a number of management packs with it, but no guides, leading a number of you to ask us: "Where are the guides?" And the corresponding guides were available as separate downloads, but had not been updated to reflect the SP1 release, which led others to frustrated confusion -- were these the the right guides for the SP1 management packs?

    So we removed the separate downloads (which, in turn, frustrated those looking for them). What we're doing to straighten this out, as quickly as possible:

    1. Get the management pack guides available online in our TechCenter.
    2. Identify the changes made to each management pack in the SP1 release and update the guides with that information.
    3. Post each management pack from the SP1 release with its updated guide to the download center and the Catalog.

    I'm hoping to have the SP1 management pack guides in the TechCenter within a week or so (with the SP1 change logs to be added as soon as they're complete), and will post as soon as it happens. In the meantime, if you need one of the existing (not updated for SP1) guides for any of the management packs included with SP1, email mpgfeed@microsoft.com and I'll send it to you.

  • Subtle improvement to management pack installation

    I'm thrilled with this change, even though it's just a few words. Previously, the .msi files for management packs used just the product/technology name, which resulted in a nice default folder organization like this:

    • System Center Management Packs
      • Exchange Server 2003
      • SQL Server 2005

    But the name string also resulted in a dialog box that would say "Installing Windows Server Operating System".

    We've added "Management Pack" to the name, so now you'll see "Installing Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack" instead of "Installing Exchange Server 2003". I don't think our old method caused any real problems for anyone, but it's a bit disconcerting to glance at your monitor and see things like "Installing Active Directory". And it isn't much fun to be proposed as "the most frightening dialogue box ever".

    The folder structure picks up the new words as well:

    • System Center Management Packs
      • Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack
      • SQL Server 2005 Management Pack

    Come to think of it, that might also be helpful for anyone who prefers to install management packs to a structure other than within a parent folder named "Management Packs".

  • How not to write a user manual

    I have to disagree with Tony Soper's admiration for the Pong user instructions:

    • "Insert quarter
    • Ball will automatically serve
    • Avoid missing ball for high score"

    Tony and I worked together on the same team, so he's used to my contrariness. :-) I don't object to calling Pong's instructions "succinct", but I just don't think they're useful.

    The key to manuals and instructions is who you are writing for. If you know how to play Pong, you don't need those instructions, so the instructions must be intended for someone who has never played it. But if you've never played Pong, you still don't know how. "Avoid missing ball" gives me no idea how to manage that feat.

    Less is not always more.