Bending iBooks (Mis)Behaviour To My Will

For those of you that don’t know, I buy a lot of books.  Around 30 – 40 a month.   I used to buy exclusively physical books but I like to keep ones I enjoy to re-read and I am fast running out of house so now about 80% of my book purchases are digital.  Sometimes from the iBookstore and sometimes from Amazon.  I refuse to play the DRM game but that’s a story for another day.  I now have around 3500 books in iBooks that I read via that app on my iPad and phone. In 2011 (I think) Apple introduced “Collections” so I could group books together to make them easier to find.  Apparently Collections have a maximum limit but I’ve never reached it because beyond about 40 they simply aren’t useful to have to scroll through. Here are a few of mine, I have 25 or so more

FullSizeRender 3

The problem is two fold.  With 3500 books and only 40 collections that puts about 90 books per collection which is a lot to scroll through unless they are sorted within the collection.  You can manually sort but Apple has a tendency to randomly resort everything by “most recent” (which seems to be triggered by any kind of update) so you can spend your entire life trying to sort things together.  Take Ben Aaronovitch for instance, a writer a like and I have filed his books under Steampunk/Fantasy (they are “urban fantasy”) but when he publishes a new book every two years it appears at the top of the collection, because it’s the newest.  Meanwhile all his other books are dotted all over the place and what I want to see is what I’d see if I shelved them at home – all the books by one writer grouped together.  iBooks has no way for me to do that and make it stick.  I can view by author but that’s not the same thing as I can’t move around in that view.

So what I wanted was simply to be able to have all books by each writer grouped together to make them easy to find in each Collection.  It turns out the fix for me was to turn iBooks (mis) behaviour against it.  I discovered that adding a book to a Collection actually updates a timestamp within the epub which marks it as recent for sorting purposes.  Even if the collection you are moving a book into is the same one it’s already in so this is what I did

  1. Step 1 in the iBooks app on OSX or iOS search for a writer “Ben Aaronovitch”
  2. Select all books found
  3. On OSX right mouse click and choose “Add To Collection” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  4. On iOS choose “move” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  5. That’s it.  No matter where all my Ben Aaronovitch books were they will now be grouped together and sorted at the beginning of my Collection.  I can then go through and do the same to any other writers I want to group

The nice thing is that this is a quick and easy process that can be repeated anytime you buy or download a new book but a writer you’re collecting.

Or maybe it’s just me 🙂

Me vs Technology (spoiler: I win)

Yesterday Connections 6 shipped and although I was in meetings all day my goal for last night was to get everything downloaded and in place on a VM and have that VM built with a configured and hardened OS.  That was the plan.  I thought it might be fun to share my 4pm – 4am battle against technology and maybe it will help someone else.  It might also explain all the “other” work that tends to take up my time before I  ever get to the actual stuff I’m meant to be installing.

All my servers are hosted in a data centre and mostly I run ESXi boxes with multiple servers on them. I have 5 current ESXi boxes. So first things first, create a new virtual machine on a box with capacity so I can download the software.  All of this is done from a Windows VM on my Mac which connects to Turtle’s data centre

Vsphere lets me create the machine then gives me VMRC disconnected when I try and open a console.  After some checking I realise it’s the older ESXi boxes that are throwing that error for every VM and only since I upgraded to Windows 10.  If I can’t open a console on the VM I can’t do anything so I search the internet for various random advice which included

  • Disable anti virus
  • Remove Vsphere
  • Install latest Vsphere (which keeps being overwritten with an older one each time I connect to an older machine)
  • Uninstall VMware Converter (which I had forgotten was even there) – that required me booting into safe mode in my VM which only worked if I used msconfig to get it to restart in safe mode
  • Downgrade Windows
  • Create a new clean desktop VM to install Vsphere into

This is a bigger problem than just this install because I also can’t manage any of my servers on those boxes.  I rarely connect to them via the console so I don’t know how long it’s been like that but it can’t stay like that.

Several hours later.. still no luck. Vsphere lets me do everything to a virual machine except open a console.  I could use another ESXi box but I’m being stubborn at this point. I want to use this box

Then I find reference to VGC – Virtual Guest Console  https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vgc.  Created in VMWare labs in 2010 and still in “beta” it does one thing I need which is open a console.  So now I have VSphere where I can create and manage the instances and the VGC to open a console I’m ready to install and OS.

But which OS?  The host boxes have ISOs on them I already use but those are Windows 2012 R2 and RHEL 6.4.  I want either Windows 2016 or RHEL 7.1  Again I could use Windows 2012 but #stubborn.

I download Windows 2016 to my Mac and it’s over 5GB.  That’s going to take a few hours to upload to the datastore and I’m optimistically thinking I don’t have a few hours to waste.  So Plan B is that I take an existing RHEL 6.4 ISO and use that to install then upgrade it to 7.1 in place since you can now do that with Redhat if you’re moving from the latest 6.x to 7.x.  Top tip – it would have been quicker to upload Windows 2016.

I start building the new VM using RHEL 6.4 and eventually I get to the point where I can tell it to get all updates and off it goes.  It’s now 1am and it’s showing 19/1934 updates.  So.. I go to bed taking my iPad with me and leaving my laptop downstairs.  Once I’m in bed I can use Jump on the iPad to connect to my laptop which is on the same network and Terminus and the VPN on the iPad to open a putty session to the data centre.  The 6.4 updates finish and now I need to get it to 7.1  First thing I need to do is download 7.1 directly to that new VM which I can do easily because I installed a browser so I download the 3GB ISO directly to the VM which only takes 3 minutes and I’m ready to install.

Except not quite.  Redhat requires to you run their pre upgrade utility before doing an inplace upgrade.  In fact the upgrade won’t even run until you run pre-upgrade.  So I do that and as expected it fails a bunch of stuff that I don’t care about because this is a new machine and I’m not using anything yet so I’m not bothered if something stops working.  Except the upgrade still won’t run because it spots I failed the pre upgrade test.  That’s where “redhat-upgrade-tool -f” comes in.  Around 4am I left that running and got some sleep.

Incidentally this is a great document on upgrading but I think you may need a login to read it https://access.redhat.com/solutions/637583

At 7am I found it completed at RHEL 7.1 and then ran one more update to make sure everything was on the latest patches,  added the GUI and configured the firewall.

I’m NOW ready to download Connections 6

My InterConnect & Where To Now

The post is purely my opinion.  It comes from love for my ICS community and excitement about what the future offers.  Your opinion may differ 🙂

InterConnect isn’t quite over, there’s still tomorrow but I feel confident I can write this blog now and I want to share it whilst the ideas are still bouncing around my head. At least some of the ideas. I don’t want to write pages here and I could.

A bit of background.  I went to Orlando as part of the ICS (IBM Collaboration Solution) conference for over 20 years and this year I went to Connect in San Francisco.  Then 4 weeks later three of us flew from London to Las Vegas to attend Interconnect.

I didn’t expect InterConnect to be anything like Connect.  Looking at the website and sessions it was clear this was on a very different scale. The number I heard was 20k people at InterConnect which was held at the Mandalay Bay convention centre.  Much as I enjoy Connect I remember the Lotuspheres of the mid 90s when the numbers of people were overwhelming, when there were more sessions to see than I could possibly fit in, when I would wander the showfloor for an entire afternoon just absorbing what was happening in the industry.  If I’m honest that feeling of excitement, or leaving the conference with my head bursting with things to learn had been missing the past few years.

I will say I left Connect this year more excited by the technology than I have been in years but it didn’t have the energy – the feeling of rushing along at the head of technological innovation and change that I remember from its heyday.  I have missed that.

What did I want from  InterConnect ?

I wanted to be inspired.  And maybe a bit overwhelmed.  I wanted my brain to spark with ideas.

I got all of that.

The first thing to realise is that sessions at InterConnect almost exclusively do not teach you how to do things, no how to write code or how to install or maintain things.  The sessions (IMO) are more intended to show you what can be done, what’s happening with different divisions of IBM and technologies.  Oh, and no-one knows who ICS is or cares about email or Domino or Collaboration.  I didn’t see , speak or hear about any of the ICS products all week.  So this isn’t about “our” technology directly and that’s fine – I know about that and there are many many great user groups every year I can attend for free that have sessions telling me “how’.   I will leave InterConnect having learnt about technologies and parts of IBM I had no idea existed and with a plan to go learn more.

None of those things move me away from ICS in fact I couldn’t help thinking how well our ICS community would understand and be able to bring value to these technologies.  I would see sessions on NoSQL and wish Mark Myers were there or on Blockchain and security and wish Andrew Pollack was there so I’d have someone to talk to about it, on data analysis and even storage.  I attended 6 sessions on Monday alone and not once, not once, was I bored. I could sit here right now and write abstracts for friends I know are amazing presenters on technologies that not only belong at InterConnect/WOW but that our community has a unique perspective on.  A best practices track at InterConnect is missing and we would rock that.

There’s also the issue of perspective. The ICS community in my opinion has closed in on itself in many ways, has become insular and narrow focused but being at InterConnect you can’t help see how small that world is compared to the rest of IBM. It’s just waiting for us to arrive and bring our skills, expertise and understanding of customers and collaboration. If you have left ICS to go work with other technologies in the past 5 years, those technologies are there at InterConnect/WOW and you don’t have to choose, you can combine existing knowledge with new knowledge in a way that I think is unique to those coming from a collaborative software background.

So where to now?  Well I can tell you that I’ll be at the next InterConnect (possibly World of Watson) and from discussions I had and heard this week, it’s unlikely Connect will be repeated as a standalone conference.  The general consensus is that Connect will be “rolled” into a large IBM Vegas based conference but possibly as a standalone pocket conference at its own hotel and with its own agenda just running alongside and with access to the larger conference.

I hate that idea.

HATE it 🙂

If it’s not clear from this long blog, I got so much out of InterConnect which gave me a chance to learn and hear about new things. I spent 4 hrs wandering the Concourse (show floor) talking to vendors, getting demos and visiting labs. So what would happen if ICS and all the ICS sessions were at say Caesers with InterConnect or WOW and only the keynotes at the Mandalay.

I’d never go to the Mandalay.  I’d miss all the InterConnect sessions.  And so would you.

If you have never been to Vegas it’s hard to understand scale but I averaged 7.5 miles walking a day just from my room at the Mandalay and around the conference centre.  It was only 4 mins from my room to the main reception but the size is Dolphin  + Swan.  Getting from Caesers to the front door of the Mandalay is at least 1.5miles. You could walk it or get in the queue for a taxi – either way you aren’t doing it to go to one session. Especially if all your friends are hanging out in the lobby or a bar at Caesers.

I think my ICS friends integrating into the existing InterConnect or WOW conference at the same location as everyone else could not only reinvigorate the community but save it.  

Don’t let IBM isolate ICS, let’s have a best practices “how to” track in Vegas at the Mandalay Bay and bring your skills, smarts and enthusiasm to a wider audience.

 

 

 

 

So THAT’S what it’s about

“A New Way To Work” – all of us in the IBM mail space have heard the phrase and seen presentations but does it actually mean anything to me – a set in her ways mail and calendar user who just wants mail to work and be fast?

In the past few months I have been using Verse On Premise in its beta form as well as the beta versions of Verse for iOS.  I had previously played around with Verse in the cloud but since my 20 year old mail file is on our Domino servers, the majority of my mail and searching activity was done via Notes and Traveler.  iNotes was never a client of choice for me.  I don’t archive mail very often (alright never) and so there’s a lot of history there.

So what have I found? I absolutely love Verse.  It’s fast and the layout is clean but as promised there are features that are so ridiculously useful** they have literally changed how I work for example

  1. Flagging for “needs action”  via a single click which then lets me set an action date for today, tomorrow, a week or other
  2. At the same time I can add a  personal note to the  message that travels with it,  and is visible when reading it in Verse.
  3. I can then remove the  message from my inbox by clicking on it.
  4. Viewing just those messages that need action which are automatically categorised by “today”, “tomorrow” etc.
  5. All of that, the action, the date, even the private notes transfer to Verse for iOS on my phone and iPad.

Add to all of this is the fact that it’s my same mail file on my same Domino servers. I could and can still open using the Notes client, using iNotes, even using Outlook if I want.  There are lots of things to enjoy about Verse and everyone works differently, but this is one group of features that live up to the hype of having tricked me without noticing into a new way of working 🙂

** no screenshots in here as it’s advanced beta still under NDA but the features have been shown publicly and hopefully will be in final product

It’s Cham-peen Time

The IBM Champion program is once more open for nominations for 2017 Champions.  For those of you that don’t know, the Champion program has been set up by IBM to reward and thank people who have established a voice in their community.  To become a Champion first IBM need to know what you do and there is a nomination form which can be used by others to nominate you or by you to nominate yourself.  All the nominations are then reviewed by an internal IBM team who choose the Champions each year.  Before going any further you can nominate people here until Nov 4th.

Last year Theo Heselmans and I were selected as the first IBM Lifetime Champions which means we don’t need to be nominated (I will still be nominating others) and last week I participated in a web conference with IBM on the Champion program, what it’s about, what the value is to you and how to become one.  You can watch and download that event here and I recommend you do if you’re interested in becoming or nominating a Champion.

For me being a Champion means that the work I do, writing, speaking, feeding back to product development, has been valuable to someone , that they wanted to say thank you and that IBM recognise my work.  It doesn’t change what I do or make me more beholden to IBM but it does expand my audience and makes me feel good 🙂  So that said, if there is anyone who makes a difference to your work, answering questions via forums, twitter, on their blogs, who speaks or organises a conference or whose contribution you’d miss if they were to stop – NOMINATE THEM here.

I have heard plenty of people say (and said it myself once) “well if no-one nominates me I guess I don’t do enough” and that simply isn’t true.  No-one knows what you do as well as you.  Other people may not nominate you because they don’t know everything you do or simply because they think you have already been nominated.  I’ve been guilty in the past of not nominating someone I thought was a shoe-in only to find out no-one else did either.  Nominating someone else is also a huge compliment to them and a way of saying thank you even if they don’t end up becoming a Champion.

Now go out there and get nominating !

Before second guessing IBM try a CTRL-F

A new press release just appeared from IBM announcing extending support for Domino 9, Notes 9, Traveler 9, Sametime 9.0 and Designer 9.0.1 amongst others.

Now do me a favour, before you do anything else,  press CTRL-F and look for the word “END”.  You won’t find it.  This is extending not ending support.

Now could IBM have done better by using the words “at least” – in my opinion yes but since I assume the document was minutely inspected by IBM lawyers, it can’t make any open ended promises.

We live in a world of fast changing technology and many of us work with technologies that are 20+ years old.  Who knows what will happen next year, in 2 years or in 5 years.  That’s a good thing.  We should embrace changing technologies that match how we, our environment and our work evolves. Every change offers an opportunity but today and for the foreseeable future it should be enough that Notes and Domino aren’t dead and they aren’t predicted to die anytime soon.

Not even in 2021.

 

Goodbye SocialBizUG & Thanks For Everything

As you’ve probably seen SocialBizUG (http://www.socialbizug.org) has closed down and IBM have launched a new IBM Social Business User Community site.

SocialBizUG was owned and managed by the team at WIS who have been such a large part of our community for many years through the View magazine and conferences, the dev and admin tips newsletters and much more.  They remain very active in the publishing and conference space, just not our little corner of it 🙂

I”d like to send out a big thank you to the WIS team who produced and edited so much great content over the years especially Celia Hamilton, Sarah Cenedella, Stephen Gainer, Sue Morrell, Debbie Lynd and Noreen  Chase.   We live in a big world of technology co-existence – I hope to run across you again soon.