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March 2003


Jill Clatanoff

Randy Escherich

Brian John

Lee Tesdell


Feature Articles

Microsoft Loses in Houston

The Morning Meeting:  A Day in the Life of a Hickory Tech Intern

File Sharing, Copyright Laws, and Fair Use Rights

Technical Writing in the Recreation Industry?

Science Writing


In Every Issue

Letter from the Editor

Bulletin Board

Meet the Staff





Microsoft Loses in Houston

by  Brian John


Recently, Microsoft has been pushing new licensing plans on several businesses, organizations, and even cities. In January, Microsoft told Houston, TX that it must buy a $12 million multi-year software licensing plan for Office, or it would be audited and fined for each piece of software which it could not produce a license for. A Microsoft sales representative claimed that the city owed $1.1 million for unlicensed software being used by city workers. Microsoft even went so far as to claim that the Houston Public Library was short 450 Office licenses. However, Houston was able to produce proof that they had licenses for every piece of software in the library. This would include 111 copies of Office donated by Bill Gates’ charity foundation.

The multi-year plan offered to most organizations by Microsoft is to sign up for something called "Software Assurance". This would allow the particular organization to buy Office XP (the newest version) at a price of $239 to $380 per copy instead of the normal price of $479. This plan would save money for a company providing they upgrade every three years. Many organizations don’t upgrade that often, and would be forced to pay the normal price.

Houston did not see Microsoft’s "offer" as a fair and viable solution. Instead of continuing to use Microsoft Office, they struck a deal with a little-known competitor called SimDesk. SimDesk is an Internet-based application similar to Office, but not quite as complex or powerful, and is offered at a fraction of Microsoft’s price. Houston signed a $9.5 million, five-year deal with the competitor.

There are two major parts to this contract. First, Houston will put SimDesk on at least half of the 13,000 PC’s used by its workers. Second, SimDesk will be available to all residents with a library card, up to three million possible users. Compared with Office, this is a significantly reduced price tag and Houston is confident that it will be a viable alternative.

Houston isn’t the only one contemplating a deal with SimDesk. Chicago recently agreed to a pilot program with the software. SimDesk reports that they have also begun talks with Los Angeles and the government of Brazil.

In addition to Houston, other cities and organizations have been offered similar deals by Microsoft. Several have complied, but at first so many of them were reluctant that Microsoft pushed back the deadline to sign the deal three times, to August 2002. Microsoft even sent letters to 500 school districts allowing them 60 days to produce licensing for every piece of Microsoft software that they are using. If they do not comply, they could be audited and penalized.

Will SimDesk be a viable contender to Microsoft, or will they be crushed like many companies before them? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


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The Morning Meeting: 

A Day in the Life of a Hickory Tech Intern

by Marge Freking


Grab your coffee, your pens, and something to chew,

Organizers and calendars—we’ve got work to do.

Go to the meeting, just give me a sec

To get the latest releases from HickoryTech.


Just what I thought, our backs to the wall,

We’ll have to rush; that’s not news at all.

Dyle, release ACH and TGC,

And follow them up with PR and AP.


Michelle, arrange IWE then work with Acrobat.

Clean IQ directories; find NextGen STAT.

Do Write2k in DOS, AIX, and UNIX,

Then ready a TechLine for a customer fix.


Marge, create the W2k process flow,

Revise and mail the current SO.

Proof the SB and PLTB,

Then burn the manuals on a CD.


Amy, do the new program in C++

This time the credit belongs to us.

Enter the tar file and verify—

I’m not sure how—just give it a try.


Michelle, do the Doco (on the double)

Keep abreast of what’s new and out of trouble.

Lead the 9959 Release,

And hope this time the system won’t freeze.


Contact marketing for the E2k review,

Follow up, Vince, with an ATU.

Verification procedures must be done

Then Nicole can start working on 0101.


Amy, update existing SDS,

Design and teach AIX to AIX.

Submit a UNIX to UNIX patch,

Generate the OR1458 batch.


Heidi, fill out your forms, AP and AC,

And get the information to ISP.

You’re going again to Thunder Bay,

I don’t know how long you’ll be away.


Who’s working on OE and who’s got OR?

Nicole, do an FTP on the IVR.

IXCs have a problem with records and billing.

(My, that pastry was mighty filling.)


Marge, change the NIBI references today,

Then check new releases of the PA.

Convert those records to a pdf file,

Just be sure to follow the company style.


Then start your work on the SCO,

Put it in mars/vol1/private/doco.

Work to locate an SQL,

And find the GL for WAP and WML.


You can update the plez2 file at once,

(I don’t know how, I feel like a dunce.)

We’re dba HickoryTech,

Busy as bees with LEC and CLEC.


Review orientation in Fire, not Rain,

(My head’s spinning—am I going insane?)

I’ll schedule the interns for Outlook training.

(Careful now, attention’s waning.)


NB that NASDAQ is on the rise,

That one comes as no surprise.

IMPS, do CIS in the DOC,

And pray to heaven your CPs won’t lock.


Dyle, check OPTINPRO online when you can,

Then get up to speed with that new LAN.

Michelle, sign us up for RICS,

Can’t leave it to chance, by gosh, or by guess.


Marge, revise MCTC dba HTC and HTCO,

To HickoryTech with the company logo.

Vince, PMS 208 and 245

Will have to wait for RFP and RFI.


Dyle, do the TW plug-in as soon as you can,

Marge, add to the TOC the TIN.

Our Suite Solutions is now on the move.

And Sea Pro is the Irish system to prove.


Amy, unmask EasyTel and EBI,

Get going on CDR and cd/csi.

Start planning the layout for CABS,

Then finish your work on MPS.


IS has started with the VPN

If you run into trouble, just call Ken.

Put API into HTML,

Then add ID and PT as well.


That’s all for today, I’ve a meeting upstairs,

I really must rush, straighten your chairs.

Oh—I forgot—check the GUI on Firstcom

See you tomorrow, now I really must run.


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File Sharing, Copyright Laws, and Fair Use Rights

by Randy Escherich

The issue of copyright violations is a controversial topic. On one side, the recording industry claims that file sharing is cutting into their profits and violating copyrights of the artists. On the other side, are millions of people who are sharing files everyday. These individuals believe that the recording industry has refused to change with the evolving technology and some believe that the cost of music CDs are too expensive.

Right now the legal dispute surrounding file sharing is a big problem for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). According to an article on the CBS news website titled, "Ruling A Blow to Online Music Pirates", about three million people were connected on the Kazaa network and sharing more than 500 million files. The president of the RIAA Cary Sherman said, "The illegal distribution of music on the internet is a serious issue for musicians, songwriters, and other copyright owners, and the record companies have made great strides in addressing this problem by educating and providing them with legitimate alternatives."

A person’s values will influence the way an individual may feel about downloading illegal copyrighted music. The music they want to download may not be on the legitimate music downloading sites. Pressplay, for example, has a lot of music, but there are many restrictions as to what consumers can do with the music they download. The files downloaded have embedded "digital rights management," which limits what can be done with them. Pressplay <http://www.pressplay.com> will charge $9.99 per month for the unlimited package, $17.95 per month for the unlimited plus package, and $14.99 per month for the annual plus package. EMusic.com <http://www.EMusic.com> will charge $9.99 per month for a year subscription, or $14.99 a month for a three month subscription. EMusic doesn’t place any restrictions on what can be done with the music, but has a limited selection.

According to an article on CBS news website titled "Online Swapping Crippling CD Sales," compact disc music sales decreased 7% during the first half of 2002. This trend is an indication that online music sharing networks may be hurting the recording industry. According to the RIAA, this decrease cost the industry $284 million in lost sales. PricewaterhouseCoopers, an independent survey company, reports a 5.3% drop in CD shipments in the first half of 2001. The RIAA uses just-in-time delivery to monitor retail CD sales, so CD shipments are reliably indicative of actual sales. This method of monitoring will allow the recording industry to track the number of CD sales in real time. Each purchase is recorded electronically and sent to the appropriate facility for re-ordering, marketing, or advertising purposes.

Interestingly, previous studies independent of the music industry have suggested that access to free music on the Web encourages consumers to experiment with new acts, or to download only the music they like to hear and buy more CDs.

Geoff Garin, a pollster for Peter D. Hart Research Associates, states that he finds a striking connection between people who say they are downloading more and buying fewer CDs. A random telephone survey of 860 consumers for the RIAA in May 2002 found that those individuals whose downloading had increased during the last six months, 41% of those reported buying less music, while 19% reported they were purchasing more music. Individuals polled who said they were downloading the same amount as six months ago, 25% of those said they purchased less music, compared with 13% who bought more.

According to a January 14, 2003 article on CBS news web site titled "Internet Music Rights Deal Reported," Representative Zoe Lofgren, (D)-California, Rick Boucher, (R)-Virginia, and John Doolittle, (R)-California, believe it is the consumers’ best interest to further define consumers’ rights under U.S. laws affecting copyrights. Boucher believes that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has some serious flaws. Any individual that modifies digital media in any way is in violation of the DMCA. Therefore, ripping music off of CDs and copying the music to a hard drive in the form of mp3 files has violated the DMCA. Boucher, Lofgren, and Doolittle have proposed legislation to adopt a new bill, the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act, to allow consumers to regain their basic Fair Use Rights.

I have been following the development of the issue for Fair Use Rights of the individual over the seemingly monopolistic power of the recording industry. According to the Fair Use Rights act of 1974, consumers are not violating any copyright laws when copying music onto their computers hard drive. However, if the individual chooses to make available to the public copyrighted work, or to sell copyrighted work with out the consent of the copyright holder, then according to the DMCA of 1998 that individual is in direct violation of this copyright law. I believe that this type of copyright infringement should be illegal.


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Technical Writing in the Recreation Industry?

by Carol Jones

In this era of budget restrictions, recreation managers continually strive for ways to help facility users participate in activities safely and successfully, with minimal staff interaction. One of the most common tools for facilitating independent use is informational signs. Effective signs help users find their way around buildings, set individual workouts on fitness machines, and tour historical sites independently. Ineffective signs alienate users and cause an increased number of program complaints.

Some examples of effective technical communication in recreation

Trail signs Markers display maps, intensity and accessibility levels, trail highlights, and cautionary notes.

Building signs Internal and external building signs identify parking, building entrances, specific rooms, restroom and concession facilities, accessibility features, and emergency evacuation routes.

Circuit training course signs Directive signs provide information about the course route, specific exercises available at each stop, and suggestions and cautions for exercising.

Historic markers Roadside and object markers provide information about identified historic landmarks including dates and the landmarks’ historic significance.

Museum information signs Building signs and artifact markers offer museum tour information, and spotlight specific information on displayed items.

Fitness equipment caution and operating instructions Warnings and directive signs identify hazards and operating procedures including instructions for setting individual workouts.

Garden markers Weatherproof signs provide information on type of plants and their significance in the garden.

Liability waivers Legal documents explain potential risks of activity and identify participant and provider responsibility.

Park use signs Markers provide park operation schedule along with educational and cautionary information.

Activity brochures, travel guides, tournament programs, special event flyers are all additional examples of technical communication used in the recreation industry.


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Science Writing

by Jill Clatanoff

A relatively new field emerging out of the technical writing genre is science writing. The purpose of this specialized technical writing field is to write about discoveries and developments in all branches of science, medicine, and engineering. The goal of a science writer is to inform and explain about the benefits of scientific advances to the average individual. Science writers usually work in one of four areas: science journalism, industry, public communications, and editing.

Science journalists write articles for magazines geared towards the general public, science magazines for scientists and engineers, and newspapers. Some are employed by television and radio networks. Science writers in the industry field write technical bulletins, advertising and press releases, and also might assist corporate researchers in writing technical papers. Science writers specializing in public communications are employed in federal and state government agencies, research institutes, universities, and professional societies. Their main function is to prepare press releases and reports, and to assist researchers in the preparation of grant proposals. Science editors edit articles for science and technology journals, books, magazines, and government reports.

All types of science writers must keep current with major scientific and technical developments. To do this, they can attend science and technology conferences, read press releases, articles, and research papers, interview scientists and engineers, and conduct online literature searches for background information. "Science writing offers some wonderful adventures," notes Patrick Young, a former editor of Science News. "I’ve visited the South Pole, stared into a steaming volcano, covered the first human landing on the moon, and dived with an underwater archaeology team investigating an old fur trade route."


If a person is interested in becoming a science writer, a college degree is a necessity, whether in science or journalism. Technical writing or journalism majors should take at least the basic science courses. Likewise, science majors should take technical writing or journalism courses. Many colleges and universities offer specialized courses and degrees in science writing. It is a good idea to take at least the basic chemistry courses to develop a chemistry background. There are many developments in the biotechnology and medicine fields, and biology and biochemistry courses can be very useful.

The demand for science writers and editors is expected to increase due to the continuing expansion of scientific and technical information and the need to communicate it to others. The employment of science writers and editors is expected to increase faster than the average, approximately 36%, through the year 2010 <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos089.htm>. If you have a strong interest in science and want the general public to understand its recent advances, then science writing would be an excellent career for you.


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Letter from the Editor

Techniques has had many new staff members over the years. While the current staff members are not new to the world of technical communication, they are new to creating Techniques.

This edition was a learning experience for the staff members. They learned about collaboration, desktop publishing, and layout.

While this edition of Techniques does not have a central theme, it is nonetheless a creative effort by all the writers and editors. The editors and staff writers feel this edition follows the fundamental building blocks of technical communication.

We welcome readers’ thoughts and opinions of this edition as we continue to improve future issues of Techniques.

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Bulletin Board

April 14-15, 2003

Undergraduate Research Conference

Centennial Student Union

Minnesota State University, Mankato


April 22, 2003

STC, MSU Student Chapter Meeting

Centennial Student Union, room TBA

Minnesota State University, Mankato


April 23, 2003

STC, MSU Alumni night

Armstrong Hall, room 306 6-8 pm

Minnesota State University, Mankato


May 18-21, 2003

STC 50th Annual Conference

Dallas, TX



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Meet the Staff

Jill Clatanoff


Jill Clatanoff is originally from Prior Lake, MN, and graduated from Lakeville High School in 1997. In the spring of 2000 she started her first semester here at MSU. She initially decided to study Microbiology, but switched to a Technical Communication major and Biology minor in 2002. Jill, now a senior at MSU, hopes to graduate in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Communication. After graduation, she hopes to find employment as a Technical Writer or Science Writer.


Jill serves as secretary for the STC, MSU Student Chapter and Copy Editor, Layout Editor, and Staff Writer for Techniques.


Jill is currently working on her internship; writing a grant for Martin and Faribault counties. When she is not working part-time at Rainbow Foods, she enjoys reading science fiction books and recreational sports, such as horseback riding.

Jill also volunteers for STC events, and is active in fundraising and projects for the MSU STC Chapter. She hopes her involvement with Techniques and STC will help develop her technical writing and editing skills.


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Last Updated: 10/20/2005