Apple Stuff Up Books AGAIN

Here we go again. My iPad had to be replaced under warranty this week (it was only intermittently charging) so that meant all 4500+ books had to download from the cloud once more. It took about two days but down they came about 50/50 bought from Apple/Amazon. I immediately noticed that several of my books, all of them Amazon epubs, were missing their covers. So…

  • Off I go to iBooks on my Mac to verify if the covers were still there. They were.
  • I then try the trick of adding a new cover to a book (just drag and drop an image onto the book in iBooks – that made no difference to the iPad.
  • Then I tried removing the download on my iPad and redownloading – it again came down with no cover
  • I tried deleting the books from iBooks entirely and re-adding them – they disappeared from iPad and reappeared. Still with no covers.

Apparently Catalina has broken syncing. If you add epubs to iBooks then have them sync to the cloud and then iOS the covers often disappear. The reverse, syncing from iOS to Catalina works fine. This only applies to non Apple epubs (which is about half my book purchases). Here’s what I did to fix it

  • Download the Kindle book
  • Remove the DRM so I can use it / back it up
  • Drag the book to my iCloud on the Mac
  • Open “Files” on the iPad and download the book that is now showing in iCloud. iOS will open the downloaded book in iBooks, correctly showing the cover and then sync that back to iBooks cloud and onto my Mac.

It’s not a difficult solution now I know it’s there but it’s concerning how badly Apple are breaking iBooks on OSX when a primary reason for investing in their technology is the cohesive ecosystem.

All About That Volt (v11 launch)

We are still a few hours out from the v11 launch event for Domino and Sametime live from Tokyo (https://www.cwpcollaboration.com/blogs/join-us-for-a-live-broadcast-from-tokyo-december-4-our-global-product-launch) but there is already much talk about “Volt” a low code (maybe no code) development tool.

I found this great short demo video which shows what it is better than I can explain having not touched it myself. Very smart stuff that enables rapid simple application development that can work on mobile, be extended with more complex programming if required, and easily integrated with other systems such as sharepoint or salesforce.

Looking forward to hearing all the news in only 6 hours.

Remember when Apple “just worked”

*The below are issues with Apple’s cloud services, I have zero doubt that same issues would occur and do occur with Android and Microsoft. The problem is the concept of cloud storage and DRM*

I have been an Apple user for about 20 years. I like the ecosystem because I do tech support for a living so when it’s my own work and life I don’t want to have to troubleshoot. For years that was true. I had Macs, iPhones and iPads and it’s still my preferred approach, I would stick with the Mac ecosystem over anything else but it no longer “just works”. You may remember my blog earlier this year about issues with the Cloud that broke my Mac until I turned off Cloud syncing entirely

https://turtleblog.info/2019/04/08/more-apple-cloud-issues-the-solution/

Well that wasn’t the end of my problems. Recently I have been preparing to travel and that meant making sure I had the music I wanted on my phone. Since 2001 Tim has been creating 2 or 3 playlists a year to replace the mixtapes we used to have. I now have over 50 playlists of music that has been important to us in the past few decades. Our music was converted from CDs we owned or sometimes bought digitally and we had over 100GB of it synced.

Note my use of the past tense “had”. Yep I discovered a couple of weeks ago that although my playlists were there they were suddenly all empty. In fact all my music had disappeared and synced that disapperance across every device. I didn’t notice right away because I have been streaming new music recently but when I did notice it was too late to fix it. All my music, all of it, was gone. That’s why the playlists were empty.

Luckily Tim had exported the playlists last year Unfortunately they were txt files and Apple can now only import XML files as playlists. I found a site that can convert text playlists to other formats like Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube etc but when I tried to do that it “matched” the music with stuff in the Apple Music cloud getting the wrong versions of songs or just the wrong songs entirely. Back to square one.

We do have backups but it seems like the music had gradually been disappearing since last April when my cloud account got corrupted. Apple’s level of support at this point comes down to telling you to reformat whatever device you have and “download it from the cloud again”. When I’ve explained it’s no longer in the cloud or anywhere else I get told “that’s not possible”. No point wasting any more time there, I need to fix it myself.

So if you convert playlists to Apple Music , even if they do match correctly, they use Apple music song instances. That means that if i stop paying for Apple music all my music would go away. Once I’m through this disaster I definitely plan to stop paying for Apple music or cloud storage so this never happens again so that’s not an option.

It may be ethically wrong but it felt morally right to explore how to remove the DRM from Apple music tracks that I originally owned before Apple decided to delete them. There are tools out there that do that but in the end I was reluctant and most of our music no longer exists in the versions we bought in the 90s so both unethical and pointless.

Next step, we have an old Mac Mini we use for file storage and never launch iTunes on or have bothered upgrading from Sierra. That had all our music still sat in iTunes since it predated all the cloud syncing. We backed that up onto an external drive and I copied all the tracks into my Apple Music app. That then recognised it as music I own. I could then re-create the playlists using my own music and the text files Tim exported as templates. It’s a manual re-creation but it only takes 5 or 6 minutes per playlist and then I can export them as XML.

I have been watching my Mac upload my music into the Cloud since last night. Still going. I am concerned it’s going to “match” with the wrong versions again but at least my local instances are correct and I can deal with that. As soon as it’s all done I’m cancelling Apple Music and going back to syncing music over wifi with my Mac. The risk is too great that this could happen again.

I go to a lot of trouble to remove DRM off of books so I can back them up and own them. I pay for any content I have and clearly the risk with cloud “don’t worry about it , it just works” is that it doesn’t and if it goes wrong no-one has any clue how to fix it.

Oh and my facetime camera on my iPad is showing the green screen problem as soon as I start a call. Nothing wrong with the camera. This issue has been reported after iOS updates going back to 2013 with no fix. Apple’s response? “format it and reinstall”. I pointed out that would mean downloading over 4k books individually again I was told “that’s all we can recommend”.

Apple – it just works, except when it doesn’t.

Apple iBooks – The Battle Contiunes

As some of you know I buy a lot of books. A LOT. I currently have over 4000 and I like them all downloaded on my phone and iPad, not “ready to download” but actually there. For years I have run into problems with iBooks which doesn’t seem designed to work with the combined models of lots of books that are then downloaded. The last few times I have bought or setup replacement devices (I smash screens a lot) the books wouldn’t download unless I selected each one manually. 4000 times.

This time setting up a new replacement I got a new fun error “this book cannot be downloaded as you don’t have enough storage”. Off to log a genius call I go…

Apple answer 1: Maybe you were out of storage? (Optimistic)

Me: Nope.  I have 170GB free

Apple answer 2: Did you backup your previous iPad? (Hopeful I’m an idiot)

Me: Yep, it’s all automatically done and in the cloud and it must be there because it knows what books need to be downloaded

Apple answer 3 (after more research).  Oh I see, it’s working as designed.  It only downloads new books you order not books you already have in the cloud. (Please don’t ask any more questions , just say thank you and go away)

Me: Really?  So it downloads all apps and all music but not all books

Apple:  Um, yes? (no that doesn’t sound right does it? damn)

Me: Interesting.  Can you send me a link to a page confirming that is the functionality

Apple.  Sure.  Let me find one. (She’s onto me, there’s no link)

Apple Answer 4 (after more research and a call back).  So I can’t find a link but that’s definitely how it works, it won’t download your existing books from the cloud (Sound forceful and confident and she’ll go away)

Me:  Except it did.  It downloaded a few hundred before stopping and then not doing any more for at least 2 hrs and now I can get it to work by individually selecting each book.  All 4000 of them.

Apple:  Ah, well it only downloads what you had backed up in the cloud as downloaded on your previous iPad (clutching at straws)

Me: So all of my books then. Because all of them were on my existing iPad

Apple: Oh. Well I will do more research. Are you OK in downloading each one by clicking on it for the remaining books or you could reset and re-setup the iPad and see if it works this time? .. The cloud was very busy yesterday with everyone downloading catalina (that last one at least made me laugh)

I did suggest it at least be escalated to the iBooks development team who could then review how their iCloud downloads are (not) working under load but since I’ve suggested this many times in the past I don’t hold out hope.

2200 done and counting… click click click click

HCLs New Licensing Model

Today at Let’s Connect (previously Socal Connections) in Munich, Uffe Sorensen from HCL presented the outline of the new licensing model HCL plan to adopt from v11 of Domino onwards. HCL are looking for feedback on this as they plan to bring all other products into line as things progress.

I apologise in advance for any misunderstandings on my part from Uffe’s presentation but I wanted to highlight the key points as I see them.

Flexnet
HCL, as some of you know, are using Flexnet now for software downloads. If you have a license agreement you now download all software and patches from the Flexnet server. In the future (as of v11), you will provision software from the Flexnet server and it will maintain a count of your company’s active sessions.

The cloud-based Flexnet server will be able to track and make visible to you the number of user licenses you are currently consuming. It is not HCL’s intention to disable your services should your license usage exceed what you bought, but they will count “overages” and, after a month’s grace, the plan is to auto-bill those. That would give you a month to bring your licensing back down to the purchased level or be invoiced.

Let’s come back to that in a bit…

Licensing
IBM’s licensing model for Domino and Notes was fairly complex. Although there were CEO licenses which were per-user, they had limitations. There were Express licenses which were limited to having only 1000 users in the directory and restricted the number of clustered servers you could have, there was a Utility Server license which allowed unlimited web application access but required you to track your processor usage or be charged for “full capacity”. I could go on but I won’t, let’s leave that in the past.

HCL have committed to two things:

  1. A simpler pricing model
  2. No “sticker shock” for existing customers who will be able to transfer their licensing to this new model.

Model 1: Per User
In this model you buy a license for every user or account that will access your servers. Regardless of purpose or client. That’s what Flexnet will track. The user license will allow access to any servers or applications you need. There is no limitation on server use or processor use.

The Per User model can be licensed as a monthly cost or as a persistent license with a S&S renewal. The monthly price was something previously only applied to cloud licenses so that’s now an option for customers who prefer to license that way and maybe have a more dynamic user count.

Model 2: Platform
In this model, still very much evolving, instead of licensing a user, you license a server based on its usage and that allows unlimited users access to it. For example the usage may be measured by number of NSFs on each server and the license could be based on a tier level for buying these licenses (such as x hundred NSFs, 1000 NSFs etc) but those haven’t been published (or even decided) yet. In the platform model you pay for server usage not user activity but the measure won’t be around hardware as it was with IBM who measured processor usage, it will likely be by NSF instance, so if you do have 3 servers each with 5 NSFs then that is 15 NSFs out of your license pool.

The platform license will be able to be billed monthly per NSF tier or as a persistent license with annual S&S.

So in summary HCL have attempted to streamline the previous license model to just two options , remove the need for any audits and ensure that you are aware of your license consumption whilst removing the need for you to track things like individual server or processor usage. It’s not a bad approach by any means, and I’ll certainly be glad to see the back of the express licensing and the limited licensing models we had previously that just led to confusion.

Like you I had about 1000 questions, including how the Flexnet licensing monitoring will work for customers that cannot support a cloud connection to the HCL licensing system. For those customers there will be an on-premise Flexnet offering that allows licenses to be tracked internally and subsequently reported to HCL.

The plan is to deploy the cloud-based Flexnet license engine in v11 of Domino and Notes Q4 2019 for per user licensing. As an initial launch this will be cloud tracking only and there will be no overage support / charges. The more fully realised Flexnet licensing including the platform license model and overages will be in 11.0.1 due in Q1 2020.

If you are an existing customer you can today continue to renew your existing licenses on new HCL part numbers but under the same terms you already have.

HCL have emphasised many times that this is an evolving license strategy and they are keen to hear feedback and especially use cases that they may not have allowed for. The details of the licensing including the pricing are still being formulated but this is a sincere attempt to remove previous barriers and confusion around the wide variety of license options, plus the commitment to maintaining license parity (“no sticker shock”) is a good one.

News for Ex Customers of Domino, Notes, Connections….

Here’s something I found out from HCL recently that I don’t think is widely known and is really good news for anyone who has let their licenses lapse. Previously if you chose not to renew IBM would require a penalty payment (usually equal to 2.5x what would have been your annual subscription) to re-establish your licenses. That meant once lapsed it became prohibitively expensive to start up again.

HCL does not want penalty payments. If you have let your licenses lapse you can re-activate them by paying the last subscription price you paid plus any % annual increases since then. Basically paying just the current annual renewal price even if you didn’t renew 3 year’s ago.

With the investment in the products HCL have already demonstrated and committed to (one major release a year for example) there are lots of good reasons to re-establish your maintenance. If you previously let your licensing lapse but still have Notes, Domino, Connections or Sametime , renewing your subscription gets you access to the latest versions and support so you can benefit from all the TCO and development enhancements already in v10 as well as what’s coming in v11 this year such as

  • the Nomad client for tablet and smartphone enabling you to access your existing Notes applications with no code changes,
  • the app dev pack enabling Node servers to access your Domino data and for web applications to be written using Angular , React or other frameworks accessing Domino data
  • S3 cloud storage for file attachments that can be shared across multiple servers delivering an even bigger saving in storage than DAOS does currently
  • A browser based lightweight Notes client that will support all your existing Notes apps with no additional development
  • Continual development of the web based Verse client for mail, calendar and sametime
  • A browser based low and pro code development environment
  • Sametime on mobile entitlement

Hopefully you’ve been hearing all the announcements coming out of HCL since early July In addition to many TCO features already in v10, we have heard what’s coming up for developers in v11 and the work already underway for v12. If you want to know more go here to find detailed presentations from the recent factory tour where HCL showed their current and future plans.

To get a renewal quote you can contact a Business Partner, or reach out to HCL directly

customersuccess@hcl.com

Or the sales directors for each region

EMEA Paul Mason (paul.mason@hcl.com)

North America Peter Phillips (peter.phillips@hcl.com)

APAC Sushovan Chatterjee (SushovanC@hcl.com)