February 9

I’ve written 3-4 books a year for most of my adult life. Now what?

It’s funny. I got into technical writing before I even knew what it was because I seemed to have some, as I mentioned in countless interviews, ability to “speak” both “geek” and “user”. I could sit down with some software, throw a few questions at developers, then drop straight in to testing everything to figure out how else it worked and how our users would use it.

All that allowed me to get to know the software or process deeply enough to turn out a kick ass user guide, a comprehensive help system, or an admin or developer’s guide. Then the market went kablooie and I got my first corporate layoff notice.

I flitted around with contract work, then took a job doing computer and sales support, and finally the market picked back up for tech writers again. Annnnnd then I got laid off again.

So, I guess I’m not a tech writer any more. Now I’m on the other side, working as a product manager, connecting with users and management and product creators to make the magic happen. It should be a hell of a ride.

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April 11

“Fixing” my Nook library “problem” with hardware

Ooops! We have some kind of error!

I decided to buy the kids a few more books this month. But after going to the trouble of “archiving” all of the books that aren’t kid-friendly to put the kid-friendly ones on the Nook Simple Touch, I found another solution.


I simply nuked the Nook, removing it from my account. Then I hooked it back up, yanked the wireless service just after it re-registered, and left a library full of not-downloaded books on there.

Next, I navigated to my Nook library online, and started downloading what kid books I could to a memory card.

Last, I dropped the card into the Nook. Now the kids (when you sort by the Recent criteria) see the kid books put there for reading. They can see the titles of “my” books, but read what’s theirs. And it’s next to nothing to pop the card out, drop a book they want on to it, and pop it back in the device.

A bit of a kludge, but it works.

Now all I need to do is figure out why so many books have a “download” button when they can’t actually download via the browser, and why some have a link and others a button …

Meantime, any guesses what the error at the start of this entry is?

Category: Nook, User eXperience | Comments Off on “Fixing” my Nook library “problem” with hardware
April 6

I wonder why he fell for the loaded LinkedIn spoof email?

I’m sure I’ve clicked my fair share of LinkedIn links, but I don’t think I’ve done so recently.

In order to trick Bill into connecting to my exploit, I sent him an email with an embedded link. Cobalt Strike has a tool to copy an existing email (headers and all), which makes this basically turn-key. All you need to do is modify the links.  So what email does everyone always click?  What would work even against an infosec guy?  Linkedin invites.


The ‘real life connection’ for reset has been problematic for years. Of course, putting something like “cookie” as every answer doesn’t do much, either.

What city were you born in? Cookie.

What is your maternal grandmother’s maiden name? Cookie.

What was your high school mascot? Cookie.

Haven’t figured out a solution yet, but I have at least deployed a password manager that’s making lovely 1CL9DUenEgslS2AOJZ#mkW3PoGyQ7iYTXjH  passwords for me.

Category: phishin | Comments Off on I wonder why he fell for the loaded LinkedIn spoof email?
March 13

One reason I am so seldom online is I keep getting edged off

Pick a service, any service. Email. Social networking. Blogging. Chatting. Pictures. shopping.

I can not stay logged in.

Sure, I’m careful with cookies. I use blocking extensions. I am trapped in the iOS garden.

But I can’t stay logged in.

Am I tripping through a bunch of fake servers?

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March 8

This one is totally my fault – but do I have to rebuy my Scalzi?

I tweeted to @scalzi a few weeks ago about this issue, but I was unsurprised by the lack of response. He’s “just” the author – what can he do?

Not to denigrate what he does. He’s put together a few nice sci fi books, and I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve even rebought a few at Goodwill (I can’t seem to find actual used bookstores anymore). But he can’t control the bullshit the publishers pull.

It seemed like a cute idea at the time.

It was great at first. You get one episode of The Human Division a week. 99 cents each. A bargain! And such anticipation.

My smarter friends waited until the full book was released, and sort of told me “I told you so”. Me? Not so much.

As the series wended on, I couldn’t tell which chapter was which. They weren’t linked in any order, and there were no numbers on the “book” covers to help me out.

As I waited for each chapter, I’d try to reread the previous chapters (walking at 4 miles an hour on my lunch break). As we got nearer to the end, I had to stop; it was too confusing to try to sort them out. Gah.

I haven’t read it since.

I tried to; that’s when I tweeted at John Scalzi. Why isn’t there a way to “stitch them together” without just cracking them open in a software program and forcing them to be one book?

I want to read it again. But I don’t want to buy it again.

Can we trade in our ebooks?

That would be ideal. The ebook seller has the records of my purchases. They can allow me to flag the books for “exchange” and swap out my separate files for one big ebook.

Who loses? Right now, I guess Tor and bn.com are assuming I’ll just buy it. But if ebooks are the wave of the future, why not set up systems for making it easier for the end users?

Especially if you want to have a market advantage over Amazon … lead with a “book binding” innovation. Especially since I paid $5-6 more buying each chapter rather than waiting for the final full book to come out.

Category: Data Architecture | Comments Off on This one is totally my fault – but do I have to rebuy my Scalzi?
March 7

I hope someone at Apple is spying on us.

I was one of the dozens in my circle who had hoped the iOS 7 user interface preview was a joke. It is, and it isn’t.

Sure, I’m not young any more, and I’m not that old. But the super skinny UI and flat, plain jane, moving default interface? Yeeech. What a joke.

I’ve just updated to iOS 7.0.6 in the hopes of fixing something with one of my gadgets that syncs to it. No dice, but I’ll troubleshoot the other device some other time.

While I was poking around the settings, I realized I had made the UI as non-nauseatingly still and as big and bold as reasonable. I wondered – how many other people have done this to their phones?

One order of data mining, please.

Apple may find it difficult to capture this information on Jailbroken iDevices (Are there alternate UI schemes? Might be worth it to Jailbreak after all …) but surely the are watching the rest of us good doobies playing in their walled garden. If enough of us have turned on this functionality to disable the crap, maybe they’ll change it?

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March 6

It seems to me I’ve bought this book before

One thing that really surprised me was the rebuying of books. I’ve gotten lazy. I search for a Nook book, I click the purchase link, I’m told I own it.

However, if I have forgotten I own it, and its been reissued under another ISBN – I’m out of luck.

I’ve done this twice now, and had to spend a not insignificant time working with four different customer service chat people to get the books removed and refunded.

What’s so hard about keeping track of your books?

Maybe I’m just lazy. No, I know I am. I pick up books like others buy candy bars or Pokemon cards. I simply can’t remember every single book I’ve bought. And we’ve all become dependent on the machines in our lives to track these things.

Yes, if it’s the same ISBN, bn.com is smart enough to remind me that I own it. Amazon does something similar with their item numbers; I can see when I’ve bought a book or an item before; that notification either reminds me to look for it, or gives me confidence that I am reordering the correct item.

Amazon and bn.com haven’t quite managed similars yet, though. If I buy a 2 pack of fridge light bulbs and later go searching for a single pack, I won’t be pointed by Amazon to the similar if different item. Amazon could solve this (as could bn.com) with some underlying architectural and search changes.

What’s the key to preventing duplication?

Aliasing and item matching.

Amazon does this to some degree; if you look for a book, you will find it, depending on when it was added to their system, displayed in multiple formats, available and linked on the product page. Hardcover, paperback, library binding, Audible book, unknown binding, previous editions, CD audio book, Kindle edition. They don’t quite yet remind you that you already own this item in [an alternative format], but they could.

Barnes and Noble could do this. Alias the ISBN numbers. If someone tries to purchase ISBN-13: 978-0-9836472-1-8, it could remind them that they already own ISBN-10: 0983647208 (not a terrific example, as one is a paperback and the other is the ebook edition). But maybe they want the paperback! So it reminds them, but doesn’t stop them from buying the book.

But what if that book gets turned into a movie? And the book changes publishers, and a larger edition is put out with illustrations, and a new cover picturing the stars of the movie? It may look like a different book, but it’s essentially the same. You click “buy” and now you own two editions of the item in ebook format.

If the ISBN numbers were linked, bn.com could look at your history and tell you something along the lines of “Hey, you have this edition of the book, purchased in January of last year. Are you sure you want another edition of it?”

Sure, buying it again is an option, and a boon for the industry (they’ve already got me rebuying all the books I got at the new and used bookstores of my youth). But it’s really annoying.

Category: Data Architecture, Nook | Comments Off on It seems to me I’ve bought this book before
March 5

Hacking the Netflix

I wonder how many people remember Netflix’s blue logo?

When we first got that flyer (packed in with our first DVD player), it seemed like an interesting idea. The DVD rental wars were still on then: Blockbuster on every fourth corner, Hollywood Video, home brew rental shops that had made movie madness what it is back in the days of $89.95 VHS movies.

Eventually we signed up, but didn’t keep it for more than a year. It took too long to get the DVDs across the country to us, and the selection was rather limited.

Now we stream Netflix every day. And this hack people have come up with seems pretty interesting, and a way to go with reactive technology. You wear a pedometer / accelerometer to track your walking and resting; when you drop into sleep mode, Netflix pauses your show. Pick it up later.

I’d like it to go further; if I wake enough to be “almost up”, I’d like to program the hack to perform a specific task, such as rewinding 10 minutes and starting it back up again. I like to drift to sleep to some sort of media. On nights I sleep to a book or podcast, my apps shut it off after a pre-set time, making it easier for me to sleepily start it up again for another 20 minute stint so I can drop off again and not drift too far off the path of the story.

But Netflix is doing  a lot of things right, even with their Beacon (yes, Facebook and Blockbuster did it too) and Qwickster hiccups. Aside from their originalish programming (House of Cards is a bit of a remake, Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development are more originalish), they’ve constantly tweaked and adjusted their UI we can see, and their algorithms behind the scenes.

Nook developers, you listening? There’s a lot of what they’re doing that can give you a few ideas to improve your service.

Category: Data Architecture, Netflix | Comments Off on Hacking the Netflix