OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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Hi All,

A off-topic question/discusion:

As Engineers we are processing a huge amount of information on a daily
base: Reading datasheets for a future product, reading a
marketing-memo, reading this newsgroup, writing product requirments
etc...

Has anyone got an opinion on knowledge managegement systems to stock
and link al the information we aquire ?

I've found a lot of talk about KM systems, but very few is practical.

I've been looking into blog software(with a database behind) for this
purpose. But haven't made up my mind if this is the way to go.

In fact, i would love to have a blog tool that is a bit more 'project'
oriented instead of 'time' organised.

All comments welcome..

Stijn

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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The best one is sitting on your shoulders.

Ian

--
Ian Bell

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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Yes. A set of (paper) logbooks, a big pile of box-files (some for
projects, some for technical data) and a well-indexed mailbox (incoming
and outgoing) works fine for me. Don't invent more complicated systems.
And never delete email.

pete
--
snipped-for-privacy@fenelon.com "there's no room for enigmas in built-up areas"

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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My answer is to run a TWiki site locally, which allows me to easily
structure a collection of links and cached original sources as web
pages.  I can also run a fairly sophisticated search on the contents.
  Details are here...

http://twiki.org

It's not the ultimate solution, but it works for me.

- Richard

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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I also recommend a Wiki, but not absolute TWiki and/or "locally".

I'm running PhpWiki (expecting a stable version 3.11 with access
control) but other enginges should be considered: PMWiki is lean,
MediaWiki rich.

A web based Wiki has the advantage that I can access it also from
outside my office.

Oliver
--
Oliver Betz, Muenchen (oliverbetz.de)

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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I second this suggestion.  A wiki works very well for me.

Kelly

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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I store my info in XML and HTML pages, but don't use a wiki for that
purpose (though I have used them).  I just tend to knock out either very
simple HTML pages using a text editor (vim) or very complex XML pages
with embedded SVG, for example, using the same text editor.  I have my
pages arranged something like this:

docs/
docs/catalogs
...
docs/datasheets
docs/datasheets/AnalogDevices
docs/datasheets/AMD
docs/datasheets/Atmel
  ...
docs/manuals
docs/manuals/software
docs/manuals/equipment
docs/manuals/tools
...
docs/standards
docs/standards/languages
docs/standards/RFC
docs/standards/ANSI
docs/standards/IEC
...

I have another tree which contains more dynamic data (project data
typically) which hyperlinks over to the docs/ tree.  Using this, and a
couple of Perl-based link-following tools, I can quickly extract out and
archive a whole project (including standards, databooks, schematics,
source code, etc) onto CD.  The nice part about this is that I can hand
the CD over to somebody who runs Linux, or Windows, or Mac OSX and
everybody sees the same thing -- there is no executable content; only
hyperlinked pages.  Some of it looks pretty slick, e.g. two versions of
a schematic.  One in TIFF which is zoomable and scaleable (requires a
TIFF viewer or plug-in) and the other is an HTML map which vectors you
to the datasheet of the part when you click on a part on the schematic
-- sort of a visual BOM.  However, the process by which I make those is
still pretty manual.

The only thing I don't have is an indexer or search tool that will run
cross-platform.  Maybe a Java application would be useful for this
purpose, but I've been getting along without one for a while now.

Ed


Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
Hi Ed,

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A long time ago one of the search engines offered a tool for local disk
searching and indexing, maybe it was 'Altavista Personal' or something
like that. Basically you got the same feel as if you did a web search. I
believe the new Google Desktop Beta version is something similar and it
could soon spread across platforms. If you want to check it out:

http://desktop.google.com /

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: OT: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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Yes! I still have a copy. You can get it to index all the files on a LAN
by mounting all the remote computer drives "on" your PC!


  or something
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Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

Hi Joerg,

I wrote:

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IT
processes.

You wrote:

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Just one question.  How is the requirement for changeability handled?  A
canned solution can be very effective and solve all of your problems ... if
and only if your problems are the set of problems envisioned by the authors
of the collaboration solution ...

What is the approach to changeability and customizability?

This is not an argumentative reply.  I'm curious what others have done in
this area ...

Thanks, Dave.




Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
Hi David,

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It has been a few years ago but with Agile we were able to change the
process as needed. For example, if a procedure used to be done via a
deviation and we wanted to stiffen that up and require a change order
that could be programmed in. Same when we wanted to incorporate some
cost data that hadn't been required upon installation. Sure, sometimes
that required getting the vendor's programmers out but much of it could
also be done by our own IT staff.

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The main thing I was looking out for in the pre-purchase meetings with
the vendor or this enterprise system was how much we could customize
without needing them on site. That was simply a cost concern. But as far
as I remember there were not a lot of roadblocks in customization.
Except that stuff that would violate a certified performance to FDA
standards was not allowed, of course. We did have to customize in that
area as well because we had to deal with foreign agency requirements and
also overseas subsidiaries.

One thing I should point out here though is that these systems are meant
to control the data that "has to be" controlled, plus some data that we
wanted to be there. So if you needed to know anything about a product or
a process and had the proper authorization the PC was all you needed to
get that data. No more trips to the doc center (except when they were
selling girl scout cookies). But these systems are not really suited to
casually collect information as people come across it. That would be
better handled with a Wiki solution.

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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You are not alone for sure. We all have various ways to manage the wealth
of information, data and documents as well as managing a multitude of
versions and the attendant problem reports. There are some good, if
expensive, commercial products out there. In one large project I managed to
persuade them to install a combined version control and problem tracking
system that flows the way my own process does. It was worth the $500+ per
seat to them as they had a very large development team spread globally.
Even so, there were a couple of slight shortcomings with that package for
which we had to implement a manual procedure to cope with them.
 
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Aside from improving the integration between existing tools what would you
suggest could be done to assist us with this information overload and
scheduling. Personnaly I consider that adopting a few, widely accepted
standard formats (HTML, XML, PDF etc), assists in the task of storing the
information. You need to ensure that the tools you use can read these in
(for modification) as well as generate them.
 
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Agreed, version control and change management are very important issue and
is probably one area where more work should be expended by the open
community. Not just for software but for all documentation. An open source
problem report tracker would be useful too, especially one that works with
the open source RCS or VCS systems.
 
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Agreed. That solution should also incorporate the means to automatically
add the identity of the last person to change the details (and prompt for a
reason for change).
 
[%X]

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Agreed. When many terminal solutions (be they PDA, PC or X-terminals) seem
to be incorporating capable browsers as a matter of course. At the document
management level browsers are the easiest way to initiate document searches
and display.
 
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Keep us posted. I am beginning to build a multi-machine server network here
too and will be interested in what you do in this respect. Naturally I am
implementing Linux as the OS and am currently revising the security aspects
of the other machines that will perform the specific server tasks.

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Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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I don't suppose you know how much (per seat) Agile is. Their website didn't
say. It looked quite similar to the MKS product range, one i have
experience with (see http://www.mks.com /).

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Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
Hi Paul,

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It's too long ago but it was a major purchase since we had dozens of
seats. The cost will greatly depend on the level of compliance you need.
In our case we had to be totally FDA compliant and that, of course, adds
cost for extra customization,  validation, certification and so on. Our
other main concern was to make sure that such a major revamp didn't
bring us all to a screeching halt. We had a fully running business and
even a day of turmoil would have been pretty traumatic. It went smooth.

Also, training costs factor in and if you have 50-100 people who must
become proficient on a new system that can be a large chunk of the
expense. So even if they gave a generic cost per seat this could not be
much more than a "guesstimate".

The nice thing about this and other systems that are pretty
all-encompassing is how fast you get to information. Once I had an idea
and wanted to see if another division could use that in one of their
products.15 seconds later I had their schematic on screen. Almost that
minute the phone rang and there was a problem with a particular chip in
our production. While on the phone and within a few seconds I had the
stock room qty and future ship schedules right on my screen. All via one
system. What took me a total of five minutes used to be at least a half
hour eventhough I must say that the half mile total walking distance
used to be healthier than having it all on the screen. Except when the
doc center offered those mint cookies.

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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notes
a
the

Well, I'm using word documents and all my datasheets in PDF has been scanned
by ABBYY Finereader (it will scan PDF and convert it to text). So all my
data are in text format and a simple tool like Total Commander let me scan
for a word through all the stored info. Perhaps there's a better way?

Cheers

Klaus



Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)
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Well, to answer my own post - just found this:

http://www.dtsearch.com/PLF_desktop_2.html

/Klaus

Re: Knowledge management (for Embedded engineers)

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If you don't want to spend 200USD (or incredible 277EUR for a German
version), try http://www.copernic.com /

Not so powerful as dtSearch but worth the money <g> (also worth the
time). Indexing was slow, but the index was small and search results
appeared almost instantaneously. Preview for Word, Excel, PDF... -
really nice freeware.

Maybe http://www.filehand.com/ is also worth a try.

Oliver
--
Oliver Betz, Muenchen (oliverbetz.de)

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