[Beowulf] User support systems

Chris Dagdigian dag at sonsorol.org
Wed Apr 9 11:54:09 PDT 2008

I'll second Joe's recommendation for Wiki's -- they have worked great  
both for conveying Admin-centric information as well as User-specific  
usage and application integration information.

I'm still trying to weigh the utility-vs-effort of screen recordings  
that show users video of exactly how something is working or exactly  
how to do something. In general though I've found Camtasia (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp 
) is a great (if windows only tool) that makes recording computer  
usage trivial. I can point Camtasia at my SSH terminal window and it  
will follow the mouse focus and even "smart zoom" in on the text I'm  
typing into the terminal. One click later and I have a nice flash  
video that I can embed in a wiki or email to someone. I've been  
running it on a Mac under Parallels and have had no issues.

Video is great for some things -- think of illustrating exactly how  
the pxeboot -> DHCP -> tftp process all tightly play together in a  
network boot or server provisioning process. A recording of a serial  
console window while this happens is a good way to show someone at a  
basic level what is going on behind the scenes.

The cut-off point on the effort-vs-reward is whenever I'm thinking  
about adding text callouts or titles to the videos. If that happens I  
know from experience I'm better off writing up a wiki page and  
inserting static screenshots. Video screen recordings are useful to me  
only when I have to put next-to-no effort into producing it. As soon  
things get complicated its best to fire up a good text editor.

 From a email support perspective I find ticketing systems invaluable.  
Helps preserve history and it makes sure no requests fall through the  
cracks. I also like screen sharing technologies -- in many cases they  
can turn a multi-day email support burden into a 15 minute view/ 

My $.02 of course!


On Apr 9, 2008, at 12:23 PM, Geoff Jacobs wrote:
> The previous post on Windows access tools for clusters got me thinking
> -- what is the most efficient means of information delivery for large
> cluster installs? I'm interested in finding out, as all my  
> experience is
> at the bottom end of the scale (really only a couple of teams).
> It seems to me that standard ticket systems as well as email support
> systems are going to generate quite a lot of churn. Even the best
> prepared online documentation is going to be ignored by a significant
> portion of the user base. Are forums and public chat rooms any  
> better in
> being able to provide some measure of self or mutual support? Do any
> other members have ideas on how best to filter user support issues, or
> at least make it easy to respond to the basic inquiries appropriately?
> -- 
> Geoffrey D. Jacobs
> _______________________________________________
> Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at beowulf.org
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