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

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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 🙂

Heads Up For UK Amazon Echo Buyers

After spending far too long (i.e. more than 10 mins) on tech support with my Amazon Echo today I finally rang them.  My problem was that it refused to acknowledge I had Amazon Prime and that TuneIn radio didn’t work so I couldn’t say “Alexa, play BBC Radio 4” for instance.

Calling Amazon UK support and I’m told they entirely messed up the UK Echo devices which ship to auto register with amazon.com.  Apparently tech support have to manually change your Echo registration on their end to force it to connect to the UK site instead of the US and they are “rushed off their feet” doing that as each person calls.  It should be sorted by tomorrow.

  1. The setup was a pain and far too confusing for anyone not technically savvy (say my mother in law)
  2. There is no remote control supplied although one exists they are just too cheap to supply it with the device
  3. They shipped it with the wrong configuration assuming there is no other country other than the US.
  4. You have to call them to get it manually fixed

Amazon is definitely no Apple …

IBM Lifetime Champion Award – 

Today during a lunch for IBM Champions, Amanda Bauman announced a new IBM Lifetime Champion award created this year and given to Theo Heselmans and I.  It was a surprise to say the least and the standing ovation my fellow Champions gave us (along with the hugs and handshakes) sent me into shock

2016 marks the 20th year of Turtle and I have loved and still love working with the products and people in this community (call it what you will, you know who you are) for every moment of that time.  I am beyond happy that I have been part of helping it grow and flourish and that I have learnt so much from so many of you.  

I will do my best to keep learning, writing, sharing and working.  For those of you that have come to my presentations, worked with me, taught me, encouraged me, nominated me and become my closest friends

Thank you

Tomorrow I’m on stage at the closing session of IBM Connect.  Deep breath and wish me luck.

Return Of The Watch

Watches are gone or going the way of the dodo right? I mean actual watches that just tell time not watches that try and be supercomputers.  Everyone tells the time on their devices now so you don’t get a watch to do just that.  Right?

I don’t wear a watch.  I haven’t worn a watch since I was a child, I think my last watch memory was seeing 1979 click over to 1980 on my casio digital watch at new year’s eve (yes even as a child I knew how to party).  I stopped wearing watches as a child because I kept losing them.  As I got older I didn’t want a watch because I felt that paying too much attention to time was unhealthy and stressful.  I think I have a good internal clock and I can always tell when a kitchen alarm i’ve set is about to go off about 5 seconds before it does :-).  On top of that, working with computers taught me to stop wearing anything on my wrists – it slows me down, irritates me and I end up taking bracelets off and – yes – losing them.

So this is a long way of saying, today I bought a watch.  Not an expensive one.  Just a swatch but I finally decided a watch is what’s missing from my life. You see I get very little “down” time.  When I do get downtime I know I have a set window to relax before I have to get some more work done.  That means I have to keep picking up my phone to check the time.  When I pick up my phone to check the time, I see mail notifications or text messages or am reminded of 1000 other things I should be doing in that moment instead of just sitting and reading.

The devices that tell me the time are also now inextricably linked with “work” and therefore “stress”.  A watch is now the easiest and least stressful way to actually tell the time.  It’s an interesting full circle and I wonder if it’s just me.

Anyone Fancy An Indispensbile Tool For Connections Migrations?

When working with Connections so much of the configuration is done in XML or properties files on the file system of the servers.  That means, no matter how organised I try and be, I often find multiple copies of files each with different date/time stamps or even with different names (LotusConnections-Config.PreNewNode for example) for me to identify.  This is especially true with the TDI syncing where I often end up creating multiple TDISol directories over the course of a deployment as customers want to change what data syncs, how and where.

The problem with this is that everything is very reliant on how well the files are commented and more often than not I’m coming in behind someone else so I have to look at files with no commenting at all or commenting that only makes sense to the person who wrote it.

As an admin I have never really needed to compare the contents of one file with another to spot the differences (that’s more a coding problem) but with Connections I need to use that technique all the time.  Take my work this week for instance, upgrading a Connections 4.5 server to Connections 5 .

The first question is, looking at the TDISol directory, have any of the properties files I need to update changed since 4.5. If not then great, I can just add new servers and passwords and away we go.  If they have I have to merge the old settings into the new and I’d rather not rely on me reading each line and visually comparing them across several dense pages.  To do this my favourite tool is Kaleidescope  for the Mac.  It’s not free (it’s about 70 dollars) but it has a great UI , features and does the job.  I’ve been using it for a couple of years and they keep adding new features.  It also does a great job on comparing and spotting changes in images – or what I call the “hey that’s been photoshopped” feature.

 

Kaleidescope

 

In the picture above i’m comparing the profiles_tdi.properties file from the 4.5 install to a new one for the 5.0 install to make sure I don’t miss any custom settings.  I did the same with mapdb_repos_from_source.properties and mapdb_repos_to_source.properties.  As you can see from the screenshot (the one on the left being the 4.5 one), any additions are in green, deletions in red and changes in purple (with the actual changed words being darker purple).  This makes it very easy for me to spot what needs to be changed from one file to the other.  It’s not perfect , if the format of the file means that some lines appear a page further down in one document vs the other then you will see markup for both but it’s a lot better than any hope I have to spot all the differences myself.

 

 

 

Champion Gift Finding A Good Home

Thanks to IBM my gifts for being an  IBM Champion have arrived.  This year we were given an amount to spend in the online store on various items like jackets and shirts and I chose to buy many of these hot and cold drinks containers which I can donate to charity.  As well as keeping a set myself 🙂  They are very nicely made.

 

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