February 22, 2012

A Comic Alternative to Documentation?

Posted in Disruptive Communication, Documentation, Information Architecture tagged , , , , , at 9:28 pm by degyes

Recently, when clearing some bookshevles, my wife came across this illustrations-only set of instructions she’d prepared back in the late-90’s for our then pre-literate daughter, who’d demonstrated a propensity for (supervised, semi-independent) baking projects.

Having a fresh look at these instructions got me thinking about the use of comics and pictures-only documentation for non-literate and pre-literate users. In this case, the images are rather high-context, meaning, they might be meaningless to someone not familiar with the kitchen for which they were drawn, the equipment being used, and the end-product, in this case, popovers.

However, I can validate (or at least visually confirm) that these instructions—with a bit of practice—did in fact work. Our daughter, a pre-schooler at the time, indeed managed to create the intended product, based on following the image sequences in the drawings.

In the years since, I’ve come across a number of instances where a hardware vendor or app provider chose to rely mainly on illustrations, sometimes accompanied by text, other times relying only on pictures, in providing instructions for end-users.

Though I’ve yet to research the topic in-depth, I find the basic notion intriguing. That is, do we tend to be over-reliant on words, in cases where simple drawings would do the trick? Could we, as documentation specialists, make our instructional products more accessible to those who either have difficulty reading in general, or who aren’t familiar with the language(s) in which we provide wirtten documentation? Instead of—or more likely, in addition to—translating documentation into written languages, could we transform our instructions into comics or other illustrations-only media?

For what it’s worth, since I’m not a big fan of pudding-like baked goods, I’ve never actually tried the end-product. Nor am I a “foodie” or sharer of recipies (I tend to overlook such posts in Facebook and instantly delete them from email). Though if you decide to try applying these instructions at home, I’d be curious to hear about your outcome, as well as learn about your experiences with comic-based documentation.


February 19, 2012

Solving Lenovo X200 Blue Screen Problem

Posted in technology, Troubleshooting tagged , , , , , , , at 11:32 pm by degyes

Some months back, I posted an article offering a solution to a known black screen issue with the Lenovo X200 PC. This time, we’re solving a blue screen issue …

After months of getting ‘blue screens’ (BSODs) when redocking the PC and taking it out of sleep mode (15% – 20% of the time), a colleague in the laptops lab came up with a brilliant solution that’s been succeeding. The solution involves disabling the function that allows certain hardware devices to bring the computer out of standby mode.

  1. In Windows (still working in XP), select the My Computer icon.
  2. Click the right-mouse button.
  3. In the pop-up menu, choose Properties.
  4. In the System Properties dialog, select the Hardware tab.
  5. Click the Device Manager button.
  6. In the list of components, expand the various trees, select the items appearing within the branches, right-click, and choose properties.
  7. For items with a Power Management tab, select that tab.
  8. Un-select “Allow this device to bring the computer out of standby.”
  9. Click OK.

To save you the task of inspecting each hardware element individually, the following are the items on my PC with Power Management:

  • Modems > ThinkPad Modem Adapter
  • Network Adapters > Intel Gigabit and Intel WiFi link.


Leave USB Controllers alone, i.e. don’t uncheck “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power,” under USB Controllers > USB Root Hub.