Thursday, 28 February 2019

Using coffee to prove a documentation scheme

Last week I did something I have never done before.

I dropped coffee on the keyboard of my laptop while down at Chiltern working on the documentation project.

Being the highly trained IT professional I once claimed to be, I screamed 'Sh-i-i-t!!' while simultaeneously pulling out the power cable and inverting the laptop in the hope that any coffee that had got into the innards would go back out the same way without causing any damage.

Not a chance. It shut down before I managed to turn it off, so I pulled the battery out and then carefully carried it to my car and drove home, where I have minature screwdrivers and the like.

I took the back off, used J's hairdryer on a low setting to evaporate off any moisture and then put the device in an open book shape on our outdoor table on the back deck, out of direct sunlight - as we're still getting 35C in the afternoon I reckoned that should dry it out nicely.

Given I drink my coffee black and sugarless I thought there was a slim chance of the laptop still being in the land of the living, and certainly when I tried to power it up the fan started and it began to boot, and failed on self test, while blowing the smell of java (what else) out of itself.

Probably that meant there was still some coffee trapped inside somewhere, and probably the next stage would be to take the individual boards out and clean them with isopropyl alchohol and blast the case with compressed air.

Well, I don't have a suitable home workshop, so I took it back into work, said what I'd done, about which they were really nice.

The laptop was an old one - you can pick up the same machine from the various specialist refurbishers for something round about $400 - and a little more for one with an SSD in place of the hard disk - and no data was lost, so off it went to a repair centre to decide if it was fixable.

(We have an insurance based maintenance scheme - so basically if it costs more to fix than replace it goes in the bin).

But this of course left me without a laptop to work on, so I went into BYOD mode with the old Thinkpad I bought last year.

I'd designed the whole documentation methodology to be platform and application agnostic - the only dependency was OneNote for the supporting material, and Windows 7 supports that albeit with a different client interface, just as it supports OneDrive.

Despite having previously suggested Gnumeric as an alternative to Excel I decided to use Libre Office Calc as the windows port of Gnumeric is now  deprecated

Libre Office Calc opened the data spreadsheets without difficulty, and easily handled the day to day documentation created in Markdown with CodeWriter.

The net result was a seamless changeover, in fact more seamless that I hoped - everything just works and the Thinkpad as a slightly nicer keyboard to type on.

So, while I didn't mean to, I think I've demonstrated that designing data collection protocols focused on some standard formats, rather on a particular set of tools allows simple migration to other tools, and potentially other platforms, although the dependence on OneNote and OneDrive is a constraint here - but perhaps only to the ideologically pure, OS X and both Windows 7 and 10 support One Note and One Drive, so in practical terms it's not a problem ...

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