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.

 

IMG_3889

 

 

Hello IBM Support – How Can I Confuse You?

It’s been a busy week of opening PMRs across various products and customers.  The IBM PMR system has nuggets of hilarity in it if you just decide to go with the flow….This morning I needed to open a PMR for a customer in the US.  My problem is that under my IBM registration I am listed as the admin or authority for several different customer numbers* but can only open a PMR for two of them.  No idea why just those two.  I also have , several times, opened a call and only had “Save As Draft” instead of submit as an option – hilariously if you “Save As Draft” you never see it again.  You only have to learn that lesson two or three times….

Finding the right number to call (because I have to call the right IBM centre for the region each customer is in) I placed the call ,  since it was out of hours , let’s just say I didn’t get their “A” team.

Problem No.1 the guy I spoke to had not heard of IBM Connections Content Manager and could not find it on their system to log a call against

Problem No.2  he did not understand my summary sentence of the problem although he told me he had written it down, when I went to look online the PMR had no assigned product, title or description.

My favourite bit though was this conversation

Support: So shall I open this as Severity 1
Me: Well no, it’s not a system down , it’s loss of feature so that Sev 2
Support: If I don’t open it as Severity 1 no-one will contact you for at least 24 hrs. Do you not want to be contacted today?
Me: Well yes I do want to be contacted today but it’s not a Severity 1
Support: I will go ahead and open it as Severity 1 so you are contacted today
Me: But my system isn’t down – that means system down
Support: I will uncheck the “System Down” box
Me: {confused} OK.

I then went in online updated it and changed it to Sev 2.  Oh and I was contacted by support already.

*yes I know I can ask a customer to approve me as a BP but most customers know the process for adding me to their accounts like they do other internal users and so that’s what the majority have done.  I choose not to ask them to jump through IBM hoops just to make my life easier.

Wrestling for Space

I like to build VMs for any customer projects I’m working on so the OS and environment will match theirs.  That means I have between 8 – 10 VMs on my machine at any one time and with 500GB of disk I have to be careful of space.  My usual size for a Windows 7 or Windows 8 VM is 30 – 40GB since they usually contain only the OS and some administrative tools like Putty, Winscp, Domino Administrator, Jexplorer, Softerra’s LDAP browser etc.  Windows itself eats up more and more space and I found on one 30GB drive today that the winsxs directory was 12GB.  After doing some research (surely I could clear up some space there?) I ended up running the following command from an administrator run command window

dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded /hidesp

which removed the SP1 one files and cleared up nearly 4GB of space. Add to that clearing out the Temp directory and the Downloads directory and I free up nearly 9GB in total.

 

 

The Curse Of The Maltese Falcon

All Tim wants for his birthday is a copy of the Maltese Falcon on ebook. Without DRM.  For a book published in 1929 and famous worldwide you’d think that was possible.  Every summer he re-reads all the Raymond Chandler books and most of Dashiell Hammett (who wrote Falcon) and since we’re travelling most of this summer he wanted an ebook copy.

This isn’t the first book this has happened with – getting non DRM copies of ebooks or even copies of books in digital form isn’t as easy as you might think.  The surfeit of books offered for sale on Amazon or iBookstore is tiny compared to the history of book writing , we just get lulled into thinking EVERYTHING is available when that’s absolutely untrue.  Despite having a small house and not much space I’ve hung onto a copy of every book I’d regret not being able to read again, as well as buying as many as I can on ebook.

So what’s the problem?  Amazon, where I usually buy ebooks (only because the DRM is so easy to remove) doesn’t sell it. Barnes and Noble does and you can remove DRM from those too but I have to create a fake american identity to do that and I’m not convinced the quality of the book they are selling is better than many of the free or cheap ones out there.  Those free or cheap books are scanned and OCR’d and the quality goes from “OK, if I ignore the typos” to “unreadable”.  So far every public version of The Maltese Falcon we’ve tried has been unreadable with the additional bonus of missing chapters.  The iBookstore sells a Dashiell Hammett collection that includes The Maltese Falcon that I own but I read that on my iPad, the DRM in place.  Nothing removes the iBooks FairPlay DRM – a few years ago a hacker called Brahms brought out a tool called Requiem that did remove all DRM from iBooks and it was disabled by the next update of iTunes and Brahms then “retired” his code (I assume this means Apple had her / him killed but what do I know).  There are tools today that remove DRM from Apple media content but not books.

Why is this bothering me so much? Well the idea that today the world of “books” for the generations behind me has shrunk down to those available as ebook. I still love to browse a bookshop whenever I can find one but I’m also usually the youngest person there. Our choice, range and ownership has gone out of the window.  Amazon have no interest in building a large publicly available all encompassing library of books that might have a small audience.  They have an interest in selling high volume / high profit.  The most recent fight between Amazon and Hachette where Hachette books (including those by Michael Connolly and “Robert Galbraith” were removed from sale with no explanation) gives all of us reason to worry.

So is there another way? A way to have DRM free ebooks.  I realise greedy and backward thinking publishers hold much of the blame but my access to books is in danger and it’s time for publishers to realise they are strangling their own market, for resellers to realise that DRM isn’t protecting sales and for the rest of us to start doing I don’t know what…..  I had hoped that Apple would negotiate with publishers to go DRM free but clearly writers are more powerful than musicians and the argument that worked for music isn’t going to work here.  It also is more than apparent by the closing of bookshops that they haven’t learnt the lessons of the music industry.  The bookshops are your storefronts to the online purchase – I connect to your wireless in the store, download a book and the store gets a % of sales. Seems easy to me.

If there’s some good news out there for the future of books, bookstores and ebooks I’d love to hear it…

 

My Shameful Secret (well one of them)

It’s sad but true, I have reached well into my 5th decade (no! surely not.. you’re right, I don’t look it) and have never owned a bike or even learnt to ride one.  For the past 4 years I’ve owned a recumbent exercise bike and cycle on that 6 – 10 miles a day but I’ve always wanted to ride a bike.  Partly because we live less than 1/4 mile from one of the most beautiful parks in London – Bushy Park and partly because when I met Tim he was an avid cycler who raced and cycled 40 miles a day.  He stopped because I didn’t know how and despite trying occasionally over the years we discovered I didn’t have much sense of balance but more importantly i’m short.  Not petite, just short.  That means my legs are short, my torso is short, my arms are an OK length which is surprisingly of little use in life.  Basically finding a bike I could get on and then stop without falling off has proven difficult.

Our last attempt about 10 years ago where I used his old bike went spectacularly wrong and it’s taken me this long to get up the nerve to try again, or I’m finally at the age where I simply don’t care about looking stupid.  So some friends on Facebook very kindly gave me advice, the crux of which boiled down to “get to a bike shop”.  Well there’s a great bike shop 100m from our house called Burts Cycles, it’s been there for over 100 years (60 years in the same family) and Tim remembered it from when he was very little.  Sadly not fondly.  He can’t remember why but for some reason he never wanted to go there again. So I found another bike shop about a mile away and off we went this morning.

I won’t mention them by name here.  They were awful.  I had wondered about getting a folding bike because from what I’d seen the stepover was nice and low and initially at least we only wanted it for cycling a few miles in the park.  The guy dismissed that as worthless (folding bikes are no good apparently) and then proceeded to try and push me to buy a “Giant” bike that was clearly no good for me (but great for him at 600 quid).  I struggled getting on and off and as I tried to explain to him my problem he kept saying “well you won’t get anything smaller you’ll just have to practice”.  Suitably chastised, embarrassed and deciding that bike riding really wasn’t for me we left.

On the way home we passed Burts Cycles and I asked Tim to stop.  This is a wonderful bike shop.  I explained my shortness problem (you know, in case he couldn’t spot that) and he showed me specialist frame builders who build for a smaller frame, then gave me a 75 quid 2nd hand fold up bike to try getting on and off and suggested I walk it round the corner to the car park and try it out.  That was great – I could get on and off it easily and even managed to cycle a bit and stop without crashing.  We came back to the shop all excited and he then directed me at another bike that was on special offer with a similar low step over but new and even had a basket (what! don’t look at me like that, I want a basket).  Again I tried it out and loved it so we bought this beauty.. my very first bike.

Gab's Bike

 

Of course we then realised Tim would need one too and once more Burts Bikes were fantastic – when Tim pointed at a bike he liked the guy said “yes that’s nice but you don’t need to spend anywhere near that much if you’re just cycling casually, this one is half the price”.  Again a quick test run and we both ended up walking home with shiny new bikes.

Tim's Bike

 

Of course we now have to go back and collect the car….

How I Wrangled Control Back From My Browser

I’ll admit it, I’m a privacy freak.  I limit what information I share publicly, I never give my actual date of birth, mother’s name, or correct answer to any question.  I have dummy mail accounts set up for when sites want me to register and I VPN if I’m anywhere but at home.  I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening when you’re working in a browser, what happens when you leave tabs open and the degree to which you can and are tracked.  For me the convenience of letting a company know more about me in return for them customising my experience is an insanely unequal exchange.   I also know a lot more now about how Google etc track and use information (thanks to my brother in law Rob for his expertise).

But then again I also refuse to have loyalty cards.  Taking some degree of control back from your browser activity is not only responsible it’s empowering and healthy 🙂

Like notes.ini settings, more is not always better so I’ve gradually built up a handful of extensions that give me more control over my browsing and recently added a couple more that have the added benefit of being fascinating to watch and mostly free.

Toolsbar with Extensions

Extensions

1Password stores my passwords for multiple sites so I never have to reenter them.  I used to use this a lot but much less so since I switched to using password patterns which I change every 4 months.  I have 3 patterns at a time one for “I don’t care if someone gets at this” , one for “this has information on it i’d like to keep secure but nothing financial” (like my IBM registration), one for sites which hold payment information.  Each site has a unique password constructed from a pattern eg “first two letters of site in caps plus the number 1111 plus the letter X in caps” but not that 🙂

Evernote web clipper isn’t about security or privacy but it allows me to snap any browser page into Evernote.  I store all my reference documents personal and business (some encrypted) in Evernote and sync it to my iPad.  It also recognises when I snip a recipe and stores that both in itself and in its companion free iPad app called recipes.

AdBlock blocks ads.  There are sites that simply are unreadable and do not render in Safari unless all the ads are blocked and then they look normal.

AVG Do Not Track prevents sites I visit tracking me and sending information back to social networks and advertisers.  I have the option of allowing tracking but I find leaving this on allows me to clearly see what’s being attempted by sites I visit.

ClicktoPlugin for Safari prevents plugins from loading automatically on any site unless I then click to run them.  Even better it replaces media including flash with HTML5.  Whenever Safari was sucking CPU it was always down to some flash running somewhere, installing this has completely fixed that problem.

My two newest plugins are DuckDuckGo and Disconnect.Me.  DuckDuckGo is a search replacement that honours privacy.  It conducts a simultaneous search of Google and Bing if you want but your searches aren’t filtered (“customised”) by your assumed preferences from your search history.  Read more about it here http://dontbubble.us and here http://donttrack.us . Nothing is saved or tracked.

Disconnect.me is theoretically similar to Do Not Track but much more granular and is showing me more information about what a site is doing.  I’m easy to disappear down the rabbit hole here but take a look at this report from visiting the Facebook homepage

Disconntect.me on Facebook

So we have (confusingly green means blocked) – 4 advertising requests, 3 analytics requests and 215 content requests.  What Disconnect.me does is restrict content that doesn’t come directly from the site and page you visited.  They recommend you do not block content unless you’re 100% sure as it may affect site rendering.  At the bottom you can see they claim to save significant time and bandwidth in page loading too.  I don’t have any issues with Bandwidth myself and it’s not something I’m that worried about so I honestly haven’t tested if that’s true.  For each section you can expand and see what has been blocked and choose to whitelist sites.

My favourite feature is the visualize page button which gives me this rendering of sites requesting access and which ones are blocked.  I can mouse over any icon, see the site and whitelist / blacklist it.

So that’s it.  I can’t think of anything I’m missing (that frustrates me and i’d like to take control of) but I’m open to suggestions..

Visualisation of Site Requests

 

One Of Those Faces….

Walking on Brighton seafront this weekend we came across the “Tight Modern” a tiny replica of the Tate Modern containing artworks by 60 disabled artists.  Well worth a look but that’s not important right now…What is important is that as I came out , one of the guides stopped me and said:

“I know you don’t I?”

Well no, no she didn’t but I come across this all the time.  It’s weird that people think they know me.. Not just “I might know you” but “I DO know you”.  So I responded whilst smiling:

“No I just have one of those faces, people think they know me all the time”

From here we move to the next step which is the person who claimed to know me insists that my memory is faulty:

“We met at one of Simon’s get togethers” – said quite forcefully whilst gesturing at whoever Simon is.

These are my favourite responses , the best of which was from a guy at immigration in Chicago who insistently said:

“We were on the same kibbutz a few years back”

When I continue to deny knowing them the whole atmosphere gets very frosty and the person who is convinced they know me is now convinced I’m lying for some reason.  I then get a dismissive goodbye.

So there you have it, in a few short seconds my new friend goes from delighted to see me again to annoyed I’ve turned into such a lying b***h.  I clearly need a better strategy to deal with these confrontations because they do keep happening and I must  just have one of those faces

Or I’m part of a science fiction plot / movie and there are hundreds of me’s out there that I’m unaware of.  Maybe one of the other me’s also has a blog?

Rethinking the iPad Air

Yesterday I switched my iPad for an iPad Air. I had an iPad and I have an iPad mini which I thought would replace my regular iPad but it’s now barely used. The iPad has two SIM cards, one for O2 in the UK (which also works in Europe at no charge which I suspect O2 don’t know) and one for AT&T in the US. Despite its size and weight (and how difficult it is to fit in a handbag) I find it more enjoyable to read books on and it’s really reliable for data connections. The iPad mini is now used only on planes really where it’s small enough to fit on the seat tray so I can watch videos

So why bother upgrading at all ? Well I had skipped 2 versions already (I also don’t update my iPhone) and my books were taking a noticeable time to load (10 seconds or so which is FAR too long) plus “lighter” sounded good and I could pass down my old one to my mother replacing her even older one. I can’t say I was excited about it though….

Well a day later and using it today I love it. It’s smaller, thinner and lighter to fit in my bag, I can hold it easily with one hand and the reduction in bezel size means my thumbs reach the middle when typing which makes it more accurate to use. On and the books load much faster. I debated upgrading to the Air but knowing what I do now I’d definitely recommend it. The mini may find a new home though.

Keeping It Clean

Two recommendations for accessories for my Macbook Air extremely useful for both what they are meant to do and also as something completely different.  The first was a simple privacy screen to keep things private when I’m sat in meetings making notes I don’t want seen travelling.  The second is a keyboard cover to protect the keys from my aggressive typing (I wore the M and N keys away in 6 months on my last laptop).

The unexpected bonus of the privacy screen is that  I bought one that had guide rails stuck to the side bezels so it can be slotted in and out as needed. This also stops me getting fingerprints all over my monitor.  I just take it out and clean it with soapy water, plus it only cost about 15 dollars so i’m happy to replace it if I need to.

My keyboard cover (as recommended by Kathy) actually does an second  job of catching crumbs and long bits of hair (the classy fallout of not stopping work to eat and being on the keyboard 18+hrs a day).  I love the Moshi keyboard protector which is so light and thin I don’t notice it’s there and doesn’t effect my typing – in fact i’d buy it purely to protect the keyboard from debris.  I was surprised by how nice the Moshi was compared to other covers I have seen which created too much of a buffer between my typing and the keys to make them workable.

If you want to try it out, here’s the keyboard cover. Again it “sits” on the keys , it’s not glued on so can be removed and cleaned (spot a pattern here ?}

Moshi Keyboard Cover