As a technical writer, it is my job to learn as much as I can about the product that I’m documenting. This includes learning about the product as well as the technical concepts related to the product. For example, many of the LabVIEW toolkits are related to the field of digital signal processing (DSP). While DSP is a basic engineering concept, it is of a completely new language to me. In order for me to better understand the toolkit that I’m working on, I need to learn about and understand the basics of DSP. That means, gathering all the information I can possibly find on the internet (for lack of English reference materials at hand).
Wikipedia is a great place to gather information and learn about anything and everything, except the site is blocked in China! The only way to access the site is via proxy servers. The proxy server I normally use is anonymouse.org and it works great. I can enter any blocked URL in the anonymouse search bar and the proxy server would redirect me to the website. The pages are slow to load but it works and I am able to gather what I need. The only annoying thing is the pop-up ads that appears on every page regardless of whether a pop-up blocker is installed on the browser.
The other alternative is to remote desktop to one of the Austin test machines. There are several test machines in Austin that the tech writers use to run various tests and tools. The machines are accessible to the Shanghai writers via remote desktop. The connection speed is quite slow since I’m running a machine on the other side of the Pacific. However, the internet connection in Austin is so much faster, so search results appear extremely fast. It works just as well, only that it takes me a few minutes to connect to the test machine initially.
Recently, I was fiddling around with some of the Firefox add-on search engines and thought to create a customized Wikipedia/Anonymouse search engine. I wanted to be able to search directly on the Firefox search bar and be redirected to the exact topic page in Wikipedia. Basically, rather than visiting anonymouse.org (a minute to load), redirecting to Wikipedia (another minute to redirect), then searching a particular keyword/topic (another minute to see search results), I wanted to simplify the search from three-steps to just one-step. I did a little bit of research and modified an existing XML file to create my own customized Wikipedia search engine!
Follow the instructions below to add the China-friendly Wikipedia search engine to the Firefox web browser. If you do not have Firefox installed, you can download a free copy from http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/.
- Right-click on this wikipedia-en.xml file and select Save Link As from the pull-down menu.
- Save the wikipedia-en.xml file in C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins.
- Restart the Firefox web browser.
- Select Wikipedia (EN) from the search engine pull-down menu as shown in the following screenshot.
- Start searching Wikipedia.