Will Tablets Replace PCs? Part 2

"Nope. Even I can't see much improvement over the last few years," says Geordi LaForge.

“Nope. Even I can’t see much improvement over the last few years,” says Geordi LaForge.

Four years ago, I wrote a post that was in response to RJ Jacquez’s post on his blog about the advent of the Microsoft Surface’s release.

My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

RJ’s argument was that while mobile was the wave of the future, he felt that the Surface was not a mobile product. Since the Surface still ran full programs rather than streamlined apps, it really didn’t qualify as a mobile device, despite its tablet-like form. His argument was that the industry needs to learn to streamline code to make lighter programs for heavy duty use so that mobile can become more prolific.

My argument at the time, more or less, was that while I agreed with his thinking and supported more use of mobile, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon because PCs enabled people to use more powerful programs that tablets just couldn’t handle. I supported the idea of cloud technology, which was just barely emerging at the time, but I knew it wasn’t there yet. Only when cloud technology could catch up, I contended, then we could start making a bigger move to mobile devices as our primary work tools.

surface_pro_4_vs_ipad_pro_5Well, here we are, four years later. Have we made huge strides in moving more to mobile? Yes and no.

More tablet-like devices have been created in these four years, and the main leaders in this arena, Surface and iPad, have made improvements over the years. Surface has its standard version of the device, as well as a “Surface Pro” and “Surface Book”. iPad has developed its competition creating iPad Pro, but the various MacBooks continue to be the competition for the Surface Book.

Surface’s OS is still the same thing that runs on laptops, namely full versions of Windows 10. Windows 10 runs regular, full version programs, but it also runs on apps that can be bought through the Microsoft Store, including many cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365. But, it’s still a really flat PC in a tablet format. People still use it like their PC, running more powerful programs in it, and use it as a laptop, just smaller. It’s certainly more portable than a standard laptop, but as laptop design gets thinner and thinner, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, the price tag on the Surface is still pretty high. To get a powerful enough machine that can create and edit video, you’d pay somewhere around US$3000.00+ for a Surface, when you could get something just as powerful in another brand of laptop for less than half that price (like I did for my current laptop).

iPads, in the meantime, have become more robust, and while still more dependent on cloud-based apps such as its own Work suite and it does run the cloud-based Office 365, other apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud aren’t the same. There are Creative Cloud apps available for iPad, but they are still the watered down versions of them, and not the full versions that can be used on a laptop. Even though Adobe claims that Creative Cloud is cloud-based, it’s only cloud based insofar as it will save your work in iPad to your storage within Creative Cloud, but that’s about it.  iPads have definitely been a frontrunner in promoting  cloud-based storage, but running robust apps that are memory-intensive isn’t part of its anatomy.

Still, with these minimal advances, they are still steps forward in the right direction. For example, I do used Office 365 or iWork on my iPad when I help my son write up his homework assignments, and I can store them on my OneDrive or my iCloud. If he’s working on a bigger project, he can use PowerPoint or Keynote on my iPad, save it to OneDrive or iCloud, and then continue working on the project using my laptop or his desktop.  Cloud-based storage, and some other cloud-based apps have definitely gotten better, for sure. I like this ability to switch from my laptop to my iPad to work on low-impact project, like doing my son’s homework.

There are some apps that won’t ever happen on iPad. For example, I’ve been working heavily in Dreamweaver this past week or two. This is not to say there aren’t other HTML/JavaScript editing tools that are probably iPad apps out there, but this is the most popular one and a standard one to use. Is there an iPad version to access? No. I need to use my laptop for this.  This might be where Surface would be the better choice, but again, it’s still really a laptop in a different device shell, as mentioned before.  I doubt that Flare or Adobe TechComm Suite tools are ready for the iPad treatment either. They can probably run on a Surface, but would you really want that?

Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira's help in straightening this out!

Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira’s help in straightening this out!

It looks like the PC versus tablet/mobile wars will continue to rage on for a while. I don’t think they’ve gotten that far in four years, but the few improvements made have certainly been in the right direction. We’re not quite there yet. I think RJ’s original thought that all apps need to be streamlined for mobile use was a great observation then, and it’s still one that needs to apply now.  If we are truly going to move towards the mobile age, bigger steps have to be made. These are steps forward, for sure. I think more has been concentrated on mobile phones, to be honest, since more people own them. And that seems appropriate. I don’t bring my iPad or my laptop with me everywhere, but I bring my phone everywhere. Then again, I’m not working on HTML code on my phone, so there has to be some sort of balance at some point.

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time, but it looks like we’ll have to be a little more patient before we see another big leap with technology. I know there are some “big” announcements from Microsoft and Apple about these tablet products sometime this week, but I’m not holding out for any big advances, even though they are certainly overdue.

What do you think? How will this lack of technology development–or the future of mobile technology–help or hurt tech comm? Include your comments below.

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Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English | Atlas Obscura

The real enemy? “You guys.”

Source: Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English | Atlas Obscura

My husband, always one to find fault with the English language, found this article and passed it along to me.  His first language is Spanish, and while he speaks English with near native fluency, he always is saying, “English is WEIRD” because of the crazy nuances and strange rules.  This article backs up his argument.  I imagine for a non-native speaker of any kind of English, let alone American English, it can get rather confusing. I know Southern American English (meaning from the Southern US) can get confusing for my husband, but he does understand “y’all” since I picked that up during my years in the South.  But accusations of being one that would say, “youse” as a native New Jerseyan would be untrue, as I’ve never said that.  Regional dialects are crazy!

Read this article, and tell me what you think of this. Is this something that we should work to correct, or leave it be? Put y’all’s comments below.😉


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Diverted from law, but destined for tech comm

Legally Blond image

Not all of us blond chicks are meant to be lawyers like Elle Woods.

The other day, I had jury duty. I was rather anxious on a number of levels, but mostly because I was fearful of being chosen for a jury that would last more than a day or two, because I had already put off the first day of a new contract to fulfill my civic duty. My anxiety really got the best of me, as it made me physically ill all day.

I felt very nervous being in the courtroom during the jury selection process. I shouldn’t have been. It was straightforward. This was for a civil case, so it wouldn’t be about anything too gory, awful, or drawn out like a criminal or murder case.

But here’s the irony of the whole thing: when I started college, I was very determined that I was going to be a pre-law student studying international affairs, and that I’d eventually continue to law school. I had participated on high school mock trial teams, and watched courtroom shows all the time, soaking in all the courtroom action whenever I could. So, what happened?

Eventually I’d work for law firms during the summer as an office clerk or a receptionist, and found that I really didn’t like it. I also was having second thoughts about going to law school, since I had some trouble with certain courses in my undergrad years.

As I sat in the courtroom the other day, my memory was refreshed on how court proceedings were done, such as what it means if a judge says that an objection is overruled or sustained, how a court case is run, and the types of questions that need to be asked to elicit the responses that the lawyer wants to get out of the witness. It occurred to me that I was GLAD I wasn’t a lawyer after all. I would have hated it after a while. Sure, there’s a structure to how things are done, and laws are often written so there’s as little interpretation as possible as to what is liable and what isn’t. But sitting in that courtroom made me grateful that I did not lead a lawyer’s life.

After being dismissed from that courtroom and waiting to see if I would be called to another trial, I had time to think about how my life choices took me in another direction. I thought about the qualities of a lawyer, and thought about which of those qualities would make me think I’d be good for that, yet would be applicable to my current career in technical communication.

The reasons were very clear to me almost instantly. Both lawyers and technical writers need and like structure. Lawyers work off the law guides, while technical writers work with style guides. Both are very keen wordsmiths. They often are the authors of policies and procedures and other documentation. The wrong word or the right word can make the difference in what they are doing. Related to that, they are acutely aware of details. One incorrect detail can make or break the situation at hand. Both professions work to relate to their audience, whether it’s a judge and jury, or end-users at large. Both have to be at least a little bit clever to be able to convey their content clearly, cogently, and concisely.

So, was my time being a law wannabe for nothing? I don’t think so. Little did I know that it would help me figure out skills that would be needed for a vocation that I did not know I had yet. If anything, it most likely helped me ease into the technical communications field more easily because I had attuned these skills at a young age for a different purpose.

The very next day after jury duty, I started at my new contract, going back to doing content strategy and management. Oh, what a relief it was! Even though I was working with a new client and a new content management system that I hadn’t used before, I knew that I had something substantial to provide with my skills, and I felt so much more at ease than having to present a case based strictly on law and courtroom decorum. I didn’t have to worry about my skills not being enough to convince someone to judge in favor of someone–or something– I was advocating. Instead, I got to work in a team environment, where my voice was heard as one of a few contributing ideas to create something with a positive outcome–no matter what the outcome. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I think many technical communicators know that they must have some of these same skills to be able to produce the best outputs they can to serve a larger audience for positive purposes. We have to advocate for our field constantly, to prove that we are needed in the workforce, and we strive to get positive results.  There are even technical communicators whose specialty is to write up policies and procedures.  Not law school worthy? I beg to differ.

What do you think? Do you think we possess many of the same skills as lawyers, or not? Include your comments below.

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BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

Most of Singapore’s population speak the unofficial language or dialect known as Singlish. But why would the government rather it went away? James Harbeck takes a look.

Source: BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

This is a fascinating article. Or at least it’s fascinating to me, since I’m always interested in the various dialects–or in this case, reinventions–of English. All dialects of English (or any other language, for that matter) has differences that make it unique to that region. But to see this variation of English that’s combining other languages much more heavily to create a new language–I haven’t seen that before or seen it explained before as it is in this article. I’ve seen this sort of thing when reading Facebook posts from friends who are in either India or the Phillipines, mixing English with other languages. Those posts would never make sense to me, but they evidently do to the speakers in those countries.  Even in North American English (meaning in American and Canadian English), we definitely have words that come from our Spanish-speaking and French-speaking neighbors as part of our vocabulary, as well as several words from Irish Gaelige, Dutch, and other languages that have blended into our own, but not so much that it’s a true variation like what’s explained here.

Is this the evolution of a new language? Or is the Singaporan hierarchy correct that “Singlish” and “English” are not the same, and try to maintain English as a primary, structured language? It’s a hard call to me. On one hand, this seems like a natural evolution. But at the same time, when trying to educate children to communicate in school and in business outside of Singapore, something closer to some sort of standard English will help them out more.

What do you think? Read the article, and include your comments below.


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Canon–you need better tech writers

In the last week, I have purchased two new (to me) pieces of technology. The first was an upgrade to an iPhone SE from my iPhone 5S.  I decided not to get the iPhone 7 because I had some serious issues with the new phone jack setup. So, when deciding between a 6S and an SE, there were few differences between them, and I’m used to the size of the SE. The few extra features on the 6S that the SE didn’t have weren’t deal-breakers for me–I could do without them. With a lower price as well, the SE was a better deal for me. The one feature I’m thrilled to use right now on my new phone is Apple Pay. I’m having a lot of fun with that! It’s linked to the main credit card that I always use, so there’s no difference in my purchasing that way, but it came in handy today when I went food shopping. My husband had driven the family to the supermarket, and I realized in rushing out the door, I had only brought my phone with me, and not my change purse. No matter! At the supermarket, I just had to provide my phone number for my frequent buyer card, and then use my Apple Pay to pay for the groceries. SUCCESS! I was thrilled.

The other piece of technology that I got was a new color inkjet printer. We have an old laser printer at home, but it’s a monochrome one. It serves us well for most things, but when I really need a color item printed, I’m out of luck.  As the STC-PMC projects and for my own business and family usage, it was time to replace the old color inkjet printer that was at least 11 years old by now and get a wireless color inkjet printer that we could all use with our various desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.  I did my research, and settled on a Canon PIXMA model, as they seemed to be the most affordable and best rated for the price range. I picked it up at my local Best Buy electronics store, and happily set it up to be a wireless printer that could print from any device in the house.

I was quite please with myself that I had done this…until I tried to print something. I kept getting an error saying that the output tray wasn’t open. Huh? I looked at the back, and opened one thing that I thought would be the output area. Nope. I closed it, and it didn’t work. I looked at the “Getting Started” literature that I used to do the entire setup–scouring to see if I had missed a step. Nope. No mention of an output tray.  I went online to look for a manual or some sort of help for this error. Didn’t get any farther with that. I finally did some more searching through Google, and finally–FINALLY–came up with this:

(If you can’t see the embedded video, it’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncFivE5uviQ.)

Seriously! It was that simple. I didn’t even notice that little tray, and I was fumbling as long as she was and was STILL stuck. I’m not that dumb–I’ve been around various printers and copiers since I was a teenager. I’d be the person that people around the office would call to un-jam the machine if there were problems, and usually fixed the problems. How could I have missed this? Well, first of all, the tray blends into the rest of the printer case that it’s easy to not notice it.  Second–and most importantly–THE INSTRUCTIONS NEVER POINTED OUT WHERE IT WAS LOCATED. I’m a technical communicator–I know to actually READ the instructions and manual to find something, or how to scour a company’s website for information. When you look at the error codes and solutions on the Canon site, it just says that if you receive the error, you open the tray, but they don’t give a visual of where it’s located at all.  If you watch this video, the narrator expresses exactly what I was experiencing, and it was only this video that helped me solve the problem! This video–or something like it–should be on the Canon website!

Once I fixed this little problem, my new printer works beautifully, and I’m happy with it. But seeing this grave mistake on Canon’s part…yeah. It made me wonder why that crucial piece of information was left off the quick start, when there’s room for it on the instructions. Even a small diagram showing the different parts of the printer somewhere would’ve been good. It was bad from a technical writing standpoint, but it’s also bad from a marketing standpoint. If it wasn’t for this non-corporate video, the brand loyalty that was forming would’ve been dust almost instantly. That’s bad for Canon, and bad for consumers.

Canon, I’m looking for a full-time gig, so if you need someone to audit and rewrite your information to catch things like this, contact me. Seriously. I mean it. When I looked at your community support, it turned out that your best suggestion was that you had to return the machine for a refurbished replacement? Um, no, this is an easy problem to fix, and yet you probably could get a lot fewer calls and send fewer replacement printers if you just showed this tiny piece of information.

What do you think, fellow technical writers? I know Canon makes a lot of products, and they have a good reputation, but wouldn’t this be an easy fix on their website, just to add this video to that troubleshooting solution on their site? Let me know what you think in the comments.

(And thank you to Karen Nieto for posting the solution on YouTube! You are a wonderful person for doing so, and I greatly appreciate it!)

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John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning about taking his editing class- Baltimore Sun

Take a seat, school’s back in session. Here’s John E. McIntyre’s “trigger warning” to new students at his editing class at Loyola University Maryland.

Source: John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning – Baltimore Sun

I highly, highly encourage you to watch the video in this link, especially if you’ve ever taken an editing class.  This reminded me SO much of what I had to go through in the technical editing course that I took at NJIT with Dr. Norbert Elliot.  He’s retired now, but his lessons definitely live on! I showed this to one of my classmates from the class, and she said this was exactly how she imagined Dr. Elliot in her imagination, but with a different appearance, naturally.  I spent many weekends and weeknight pouring over texts. Our usual assignment would center on a particular common grammatical error, such as the use of commas. We’d be provided eight to ten sentences, which we would not only edit, but we had to give citations from various grammar rule books–such as the Chicago Manual of Style–and explain WHY it was wrong. It was NOT an easy class by any means, but I eeked out an A, and it was one of the first grades I received in grad school.

Did you have an editing class that was similar to what this gentleman was teaching or what I experienced? Did it help you as a technical communicator (I know it helped me!)? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them? | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Job interviews can be especially hard if you’re autistic. A Microsoft effort aimed at a wider spectrum of the workforce wants to solve that.

Source: Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them? | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

This article, posted originally by Microsoft Careers on Twitter, excited me. I could related to this article on so many levels, especially with the non-disclosure part, and the tracing my route before I got there. I did that yesterday with my son for school. We were allowed to come in a day early, see his schedule, and do a dry run of his day, meeting the teachers one-on-one rather than a busy, hectic, first day with all the kids. Thank goodness we did that–his bus never showed up, so I had to drive him to his school, and he was a half an hour late. At least he knew where to go. Even on the way home, I knew that a place where I may be interviewing was nearby, so I passed by on our way home, just so I knew where to go when the time comes.

Microsoft really did an excellent job with this article, and appropriately told the good and the bad of being an autistic employee. Autistic people usually are very good with technical things, so naturally a fit with Microsoft makes sense. The method they use of letting the candidates hang out and help for a few weeks before the real interview is something I wish all employers did with employees. I know I’d benefit from it, for sure! I hope that other companies adopt similar plans for autistic workers, whether they are coders or tech writers or anything else. It gives me hope that my son has a chance to get into a job that can be fulfilling to him, if he chooses (he’s more of a computer hardware guy, but still–there’s a need for guys like him, too, at a place like Microsoft!).

Read this, and let me know what you think in the comments below.


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