March 6th, 2014
MadCap Flare 10 has been released. At first glance it looks to be an evolutionary release. The major new features being touted are advanced HTML5 output, an HTML5 skin editor, and 20 built-in project templates. There are quite a few other smaller improvements.
TechWhirl has a short first-looks review.
There are a lot of productivity enhancements in this release, which is a good thing. The combination of templates and a skin editor should make things a lot easier for new users.
Update: TechWhirl has publish another, longer review by Flare expert, Neil Perlin.
March 6th, 2014
Adobe introduced ExtendScript with FrameMaker 11, but hasn’t really done very much to promote it’s use. Documentation is sparse and there are only a few sample scripts. For a while, they were publishing new scripts weekly, but that seems to have stopped.
Now Russ Ward of West Street Consulting has assembled a very nice collection of free ExtendScripts designed to help beginners learn the language and how to sue it inside FrameMaker. The scripts are heavily commented and following through them from the beginner scripts to the advanced should give you a good introduction to ExtendScript. Some of the scripts are intended only as demos to be used with sample files, but there are a few that should be usable with any FrameMaker documents. Russ is owed a big thank you for making these scripts freely available – a lot of work went into these scripts.
Here’s the message he posted to the framers list today.
I’ve worked up a set of samples designed to help beginners get started with ExtendScript. This is mainly as a public service, as I felt there was a lack of simple, working samples out there to help new users get started. I really feel that the ability to customize FrameMaker is one of its great strengths and the acceptance of ExtendScript is very important to its future. So, if we want the product to stay competitive, it’s my belief that more ExtendScript usage is critical.
Anyway, I encourage you to get to know it, not just for FrameMaker’s sake, but also for your own professional development. Technical writers who can customize their tools, even in small ways, significantly increa5se their market value. ExtendScript can be tricky to get a hold of at first, even for an experienced FDK developer, but the effort is well worth it.
Enjoy, and feedback is welcome!
March 4th, 2014
It’s time we fell back in love with science is the title of an article in Britain’s The Telegraph and it’s one I heartily agree with.
When science used to tell us things we didn’t want to hear, we listened. Now we stick our fingers in our ears and say “lalalala” before finding someone who will tell us what we do want to hear.
Of course, science is usually right in the end. To take a rather important example, pretty soon it’ll right about antibiotics. Science has been telling us for years not to dose farm animals indiscriminately and demand penicillin for every minor ailment as this leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Well, now it’s happening in a big way and, over the next few decades, one of modern medicine’s greatest weapons could become effectively useless. Of course, if you know nothing about science, you probably think alternative medicine will come to the rescue.
And you’ll be wrong. As the American politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” So Prince Charles and Gwyneth Paltrow and Deepak Chopra and Oprah won’t help you. But science might.
Remember that – you aren’t entitled to your own facts. The universe doesn’t care what you think. If you don’t understand how it works, you will be in for a world of hurt. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it will catch up with you.
March 3rd, 2014
What with all the news about how our various online activities are being spying on, and the increasing number and severity of malware attacks, keeping your online accounts secure is more important than ever. A good start to that is choosing a secure password, but that’s not getting any easier, as this article by security guru, Bruce Schneier, points out. This is a must read.
The best way to explain how to choose a good password is to explain how they’re broken. The general attack model is what’s known as an offline password-guessing attack. In this scenario, the attacker gets a file of encrypted passwords from somewhere people want to authenticate to. His goal is to turn that encrypted file into unencrypted passwords he can use to authenticate himself. He does this by guessing passwords, and then seeing if they’re correct. He can try guesses as fast as his computer will process them – and he can parallelize the attack – and gets immediate confirmation if he guesses correctly. Yes, there are ways to foil this attack, and that’s why we can still have four-digit PINs on ATM cards, but it’s the correct model for breaking passwords.
March 2nd, 2014
i’ve made no secret here of my admiration for Toronto SF writer, Robert Charles Wilson. His novel, Spin, won a Hugo award and several other of his books have been nominees. I consider him to be the best Canadian SF writer and always look forward to his books and stories. I’m currently reading his latest novel, Burning Paradise.
Lightspeed magazine has published a new story of his, “Fireborn” and a short interview with him in which he talks about the story. I’ve not read the story yet, but given the quality of his other work, I don’t expect to be disappointed.
On your website (robertcharleswilson.com) you stated that “Fireborn” borrows indirectly from Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories. Could you explain more about this?
I’ve had an off-and-on fascination with Sandburg’s cycle of designedly American fairy tales for years. They occupy such a strange and interesting literary space—part fable, part poetry, silly and curiously affecting at once. Fragments of phrases from the Rootabaga Stories are permanently lodged in my head. “Only the fireborn understand blue” was one of those cryptic, incredibly suggestive lines. So when Gardner approached me about a story for Rip-Off!, Sandburg’s stories immediately came to mind. I didn’t want to write an imitation Sandburg story, but I did want to let his gorgeous, playful language and democratic populism infuse the story I did write.
February 28th, 2014
Here’s an article that gives nine tips for improving the design of your documents, or at least avoiding the most common mistakes. Hopefully, you’ll think that all of these are obvious but it’s amazing the number of documents I see at work that could be improved by applying some of these tips. In particular, #3 and #6 are ones I see ignored all too often.
Perhaps you’re a bit of a design newbie, but you just want to make things look reasonable (and probably not exactly like a given template or framework that everyone else is using). Maybe you’re trying to understand the myriad factors behind great design, but for now, you just need to get something done.
Follow these few tips and you should be well on your way to having something that looks halfway-decent, and you’ll be simplifying enough that you are actually learning as you go, instead of flailing about in a sea of endless possibilities.