I'm hanging out in Long Beach with a bit of Jenny's family for a short holiday (Thursday through Sunday) to celebrate her graduation.  We're staying with her brother who has two little guys, one 3 years old and the other 1.5 years old.  Last night the kids came home from their grandparent's (who were acting as babysitters for the evening) house with a couple helium-filled balloons.  Of course, in the morning the balloons were no longer flying high (I can't tell you how much that used to frustrate me as a little kid).  So, instead of tying things to the balloons to see how much weight could be added before the balloons would no longer stay afloat, the oldest boy began batting one of the balloons around in a sort of one-man volleyball game.

After an hour or so, the balloon floated a bit more out of control than previous hits and it got stuck on top of the TV.  The 3 year old couldn't quite reach it and started pleading for support.  Now, I believe strongly in personal empowerment so rather than free the balloon for him, I suggested he use a nearby toy fishing pole to help himself.  After a few more denied requests for me to use the fishing pole to free the balloon for him, he started poking at the balloon with the toy fishing pole.  After three or four swipes the balloon was free again.  Cheers went up around the house and he seemed quite happy with himself.

What does this story have to do with anything?

Well, at the same time the 3 year old was learning how to use tools in his surroundings to solve his problems; I was answering a couple emails from people trying to use the WiX toolset.  More accurately the authors of the email were pleading for someone to provide step-by-step instructions how to solve their individual setup authoring issues.  The emails sounded amazingly similar to the little boy trying to get his balloon back.

So, I responded to the emails in much the same manner I did the three year old.  "With every drop of the Windows Installer XML toolset, there is a documentation file called WiX.chm.  You should read through that to get started.  You should also read through the Windows Installer documentation to get a solid understanding of the platform you're building on."  Consider that documentation to be the toy fishing pole near you to free your balloon of WiX toolset questions.

Somewhere in all of the above the old saying, "You can free a boy's balloon and he can play for another hour, or you can teach him how to use a toy fishing pole to free it himself and he will play all day" seems appropriate.  But I'm bad with fables, parables, and catchy sayings in general.  So instead all I really hope is that next time you have a question about the WiX toolset (or any other technology, really) you'll think of the 3 year old boy who made the effort to free his balloon all by himself and do a little more reading.