Showing posts from March, 2012

QuickFix: Desperate for that image? Crop a PDF or take a screenshot in Adobe Acrobat

Category:Techwriter One of the more annoying situations while working on a design project is losing an Illustrator, .bmp, .png, .tiff, or .eps file amidst the huge maze of folders between networked computers.  There's also the matter of corrupted JPEGs and irrecoverable EPS files.   Adobe Bridge can only help so much in a disorganized mess of images and not even Photoshop can fix an image it can't even open. As primitive as it may sound, a technical writer may have to pull an image from a previous final product - say, a high-resolution PDF file.   InDesign allows users to Place a whole PDF unto a layout.  Skillful use of Frame options can result in a clean image on a document.  However, for those equipped with Adobe Acrobat, users can also use the Crop Tool to cut out that essential image.  The quality of the image is not only maintained but the resulting PDF can then be converted to a different image format if necessary (Acrobat can save PDFs to TIFF, EPS, and JP…

Linux-powered Androids or Android-powered Linux?

Although it may seem presumptuous, news regarding Android and Linux indicate Linux may finally get some major credit for the popular mobile device platform.  Fork or not, Android is undoubtedly a success despite many reports of usage issues and unsatisfied customers who thought it was iOS.  On the flipside, adding Android code into the Linux kernel has a lot of potential and could provide a new approach to innovating any system running Linux. Nokia abandoning Symbian was a bit disheartening, but it's good to see Linux's role in mobile devices is becoming more and more apparent to consumers.  A closer relationship between Linux and Android will open up a new world between Android devices and Linux distributions - the potential for a Linux ecosystem and better interaction between the two can be greater than any feature Windows 8, OSX, or iOS may offer in the future.  Imagine the wonders of Android-powered phones seamlessly taking advantage of remote applications fr…

Secrets of a Manual: Writing Content for Translators

When writing or creating layouts for manuals, provide ample space at the bottom of your InDesign, QuarkXPress, or PageMaker document, especially if the manual is going to be translated to different languages.  Ask your editor or department just how much space the translators are going to need.  They will typically provide exact measurements in points or a less-accurate answer of "approximately 3 or 4 lines." For manuals to be published in print, it is essential that there is enough space for the translated text.  Translations are either done in-house or via a third-party vendor.  In most cases, both parties can easily edit the text frame and image positioning to allow extra text to fit. Cyrillic, Arabic, and Chinese are some of the languages that may or may not need the extra space.  Indirectly, this is also one of the reasons why technical writing should make use of simple words with a focus on frugal writing (and not flowery, overly-pedantic language).  Englis…

The Great Fire Wall and Tech Surfing in China - A Sampler

It is true that web surfing in Chuugoku can be a difficulty.  In particular, there are certain services that cannot be accessed without a proxy or a VPN.  Examples that I find particularly intrusive include Blogger, Wordpress, and YouTubeLinkedIn isn't blocked and is freely open to users. Most of the Linux sites I visit are still accessible though resources hosted on blog servers are blocked.  Most helpful Linux forums suffer restrictions as well.  I don't use Facebook or Twitter but I'm pretty sure that many will find it difficult to access them (if not impossible).  Some local Shanghainese friends tell me they've attempted to access Facebook and even Google+ though neither services are very popular and functionality is intermittent.  I was told that BBC was blocked due to disparaging articles regarding the government in recent years but this is clearly not true as BBC remains accessible.   Although Blogger still remains blocked, Gmail worked - a pleasan…

Surprise! Bing actually works a little better in China than Google

Current relationship between China and Google notwithstanding, I've had interesting and inconsistent experiences with Google in Huaxia.  As a Linux user, Google is my primary search engine though I've used Bing frequently when I'm on a Windows 7 machine.  At the risk of being burned at the stake by Linux and Google users everywhere, I have no issues with Bing.  It's a useful search engine in its own right.  

Although is accessible, typing Google into your URL will always default to Google Hong Kong due to certain disagreements between the company and Chinese government.  Using Google Maps in China has its difficulties, particularly a banner indicating a warning blocking most of the map.   However, it works fine in most scenarios albeit slow like most overseas sites due to the Great Fire Wall of Huaxia.  To my consternation, Google Search (.com and is unwieldy and occasionally counter-productiv…

Encyclopaedia Britannica falls within 4 years after Microsoft Encarta

The Germanic deity Thor died a few steps after slaying the lizard Jormungad due to the monster's poisonous breath.  Britannica's fate is somewhat similar in that regard with Encarta. I wrote about the death of Encarta when it was discontinued by Microsoft.  Admittedly, I still run Encarta's last release on my laptop (Encarta Premium DVD 2009) and will remain part of my Windows OS image for a long time to come.  Its excellent atlas and well-researched, albeit very American, articles make it one of my more dependable research tools.  I use the excellent EncyclopaediaBritannica for different reasons. Although Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite was not nearly as bright and as fun as Encarta, Britannica's writing was(and still is) more serious and detached.  Encarta didn't make use of tabs when pulling up articles, but rather made use of a hierarchical text page.  Britannica, on the other hand, allowed users to open several articles at one go…

Technical writer toolbox: Using Linux when writing about hardware

Hardware technical writers are regularly shipped or handed down barebone systems and naked prototype motherboards.  With nothing more than various types of fans, a 700W power supply, DRAMs and/or a video card, writers explore BIOS screens and check hardware configurations.  With no HDDs, chassis, or accessories to work with, a small Linux OS on a flash drive is a technical writer's best friend.  Some prototypes won't even boot up without any storage device connected so the USB doubles as storage and as an operating system. Knoppix is an excellent choice of Linux for these day-to-day tasks - a fitting one considering its long storied history supporting hardware. Even with the latest chipsets from Taiwan and Chinese manufacturers, Knoppix has no problems running and detecting components.  Its low-resource requirements make it perfect for the new APUs and conservative processors integrated in boards today. On a small note, it's also not a good idea to switch off ha…

Internet Access in Shanghai Hotels: Using Hotel IP Address Settings

Big and classy hotels in Shanghai provide the best Internet and Wireless Access the Great Morokoshi Firewall can allow.  However, budget business hotels may only provide a fairly inadequate wireless service and a desktop PC connected to their hotel LAN.  In Minhang District along Humin Highway for example, is Jiu Gong Hotel, which does just that.  The desktop PC in the hotel room is equipped with a modified Express Gate, an obsolete Internet Explorer, and an earlier version of Firefox.  With no wireless service, a visitor may be forced to use the desktop PC's mostly Chinese-language interface in order to send out e-mails and execute basic tasks.    Hotel computer connected to the Lenovo Ideapad Z360 However, travellers with a portable/laptop/netbook can easily circumvent limitations by copying the network settings from the Chinese desktop to Windows 7/Linux/Mac OSX's network settings.  Although the interface of the Windows in Jiu Gong hotel is in Chinese, accessi…

Updating openSUSE in China

openSUSE has become such a stable product in recent times that very little updating is needed in order to maintain a functional operating system.  openSUSE 12.1Asparagus is especially impressive in its ability to just chug along without any need for launching an Online Update regularly.

Updates in Linux are, however, still a necessity and installing patches should always be a part of a regular routine for any serious Linux user (though not as often as in Windows).  Having moved to China recently, it was a good choice to have a clean install of said release on my netbook.  Shanghai's broadband speed is surprisingly robust despite hobbled by the Great Wall that is well known within and outside the Middle Kingdom.  Aware of the existence of a strong Chinese Linux community, I expected openSUSE to have no problem accessing remote servers for the Yast update without any modification to server location.  openSUSE's Yas…