Don’t they have Lego in Russia? Oh well time for a coffee…

dyson_yellow2Finding a cleaner for one’s home usually brings up various different emotions in people. None of them good of course, but for some years now we have been using a cleaning service in Modi’in that has worked out  pretty well. Well except for one little problem – there is always one isn’t there? Well, most of these cleaners don’t speak Hebrew. Or English. Or even Russian (not that I speak Russian either but that’s whole different story. The first job that I always have, is to work out what language they do speak and then I whip out my phone and tap on Google Translate. I of course have no idea if the translation is any good, but they get the idea.

Well until we get to the hoover (that’s a vacuum cleaner for those American folk reading this post). I made the mistake of buying a Dyson. And what’s wrong with a Dyson you ask? Well actually nothing. To use it, you press here, pull there. It’s kind of like Lego® except it seems that they don’t have Lego in Russia, or Poland, or the Ukraine. I’m always amazed as to how they put the thing away with the wire wrapped around the thingymejoozy and attach the parts in…well you get the idea.

But you know, with the help of my iPhone and despite the hoover, we manage to communicate the and house gets clean… well until the kids get home from school and then you wonder why you bothered.

*

Years ago (and we are talking a couple of decades now), I worked for a printer in Jerusalem called Dfus HaMakor. I worked in the graphics and the digital prepress department. One of my terribly exciting jobs (please add a dollop of sarcasm here) was what we called in Hebrew, “running films.” Basically we would get a pjohnny_coffee_2ostscript file from the client and put it on the computer which would then spew out very large sheets of films with the pages of their book arranged correctly for printing – that’s the short version. Actually it’s the long version too. Anyway, once we pressed the equivalent of “print” on the computer, we would just wait. And wait. Now don’t get me wrong. This was at least ten times faster than doing it the old way, but for me it was well, boring. I had to be there in case something went wrong and had to fix the file. However, often the clients would stick around to wait to make sure everything went smoothly and we would schmooze…

Often we would be there until quite late at night and there were two clients in particular, one  secular and the other a Gerer Chasid that were regulars and often we would have the most amazing conversations discussing the various rifts in Israeli society.

*

3ladies 2000Twenty years have passed and some things haven’t changed: They are still “running films” or more accurately plates now. And yes the conversations between different religious streams of Judaism continue. However one thing significant has changed… This time it’s not three men sitting by a computer schmoozing, but rather three ladies over their lattes. This time, rather than animated conversations been forgotten, they have been written down and made into a book. It’s a fascinating read and I encourage you to buy the book (yes, yes I’m the publisher so of course I have to encourage you to buy the book!)

So now go and click on http://www.renanabooks.com/threeladies and preorder (it should be available for order in the coming days). But wait, there’s more… If you go to the facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/3ladies3lattes you can see where these Three Ladies have been booked to speak.

Now I’m off to rebuild my Dyson hoover…

 

What is the outlook today? Is the sun going to rise?

OutlookcomI have a confession to make. It’s perhaps not the most dramatic confession ever made on the internet, but it is one that is going to affect my “geek factor” (I was informed by a colleague the other day that I’m a geek – who knew!) You see gmail recently celebrated it’s tenth birthday and well, I hate gmail. You may think that “hate” is a strong word. I don’t. In fact if you are looking for a free e-mail service I now recommend Outlook.com (the successor of Hotmail). But no, that’s not my confession…

My confession is that my email program of choice is Outlook (no, no, not Outlook.com that I mention two seconds ago – thank you Microsoft for making things so confusing), but good old Outlook. The one you have to buy or get free as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription (more about that later). Okay, my geek score just went down to zero since all geeks of course use gmail and Chrome – yes I use Explorer too. I assume some of you will now be so unimpressed with my lack of geekiness, and will stop reading right now so to you I bid farewell.

pizzaFor those of you who are still intrigued by my insistence on continuing to use Outlook, I will recall years ago sitting in Pizza May on Rechov HaPalmach and a friend of mine that we’ll call Dan for the purpose of this conversation, told me that he had just installed the new version of Outlook and informed me that I shouldn’t bother since it was a huge memory hog. Well in those days that kind of mattered. Today I have 64-bit Windows using 64-bit Outlook on a machine with an SSD and 16GB of RAM (hey has my geek status been reinstated?) so I don’t really care. Outlook does for me what I need and gmail most certainly doesn’t. But this post is not about email per se, but rather about how I use Outlook to organize my business.

Nelson-Email-Organizer-thumbOkay, first and foremost, a post like this can’t be written without giving at least one method of organizing one’s email. After all, I am talking about Outlook. I’ve tried different solutions including one of my old favourite’s: NEO. This software actually taught me an excellent way of organizing my email but now my needs are different.

I also used to be a great fan of folders, but my system now is much simpler – I have one folder and it’s the Archive folder. It used to be called the “done” folder but by changing it to the Archive folder, I can file away on my iPhone with one tap on the archive button. That’s it! Email stays in my inbox until I’ve dealt with it. Part two of my system is to make sure that I don’t have more than 30 emails in my inbox (although I must confess right now I have 97 😦 ). Now sometimes I need to keep emails for projects and then I use categories and I do use folders for very special occasions…

RBtOkay, but actually I want to introduce you to a tool that I’ve been using for perhaps a decade. You see as well as wearing the publisher hat, I have another hat and that is as of Typesetter at Renana. I could invent a cool title but I will just leave the word typesetter capitalized and hope you are suitably impressed. Oh and whilst I’m talking about Renana Books, our new website is live selling not only digital books, but our new print books from Renana Publishers too! Go and check it out at www.renanabooks.com.

Right, back to the plot…. Clients give me work and of course they want to know when I will be finished with it. The problem with the nature of my work is that I will typeset the first draft of a book, send back to the client and then wait. And wait. It could come back a few days later and it could come back six months later. So I need a way to manage my time.

tasklineThe answer, for me at least, is a piece of software Taskline. They have just come out with a new version and I’ve been using it for years. It also helps me see how long each job actually takes to do and disciplines me. Taskline integrates with Outlook. The coolest thing now is that I keep an iPad on my desk with my calendar open and I see what I have scheduled for me since my calendar is synchronized. Oh and you know that Microsoft finally released Office for iPad? And if you have that Office 365 subscription it’s free – yeah that was the more about that later!

You would think that having a fast computer with three screens would be enough, but funnily enough, I use iOS for a couple of other things, and not my iPad either, but davka my iPhone.

ikaluachThe first is iKaluach. This is the definitive zmanim app on the iPhone. For me it’s critical since often my projects are time critical with the Jewish calendar such as a parshat hashavua but also tells me zmanim based on my location (very useful for davening times). This is an app that you must just go and buy now!

And another app that has become really useful for me due to one feature is Sunrise. What distinguishes this app for me is that it tells me exactly how many minutes to my next appointment (again usually Minḥa).

Anyway, better go an pick up my son from school… Shabbat Shalom!

Wearable tech: my new watch

When my father passed away recently I inherited his gold watch. Like most watches, it tells the time. The design is timeless and despite the fact that my father received this for his wedding the watch looks great on my wrist.

Looking at the watch I was admiring how thin the watch was and it occurred to me that there was no battery inside. A wind-up watch. Remember those? I was thinking what features watches have that we take for granted and I realised that the biggest innovation was the battery. Yes watches today might have the date (well even then they had those) or a stopwatch but I think that we look at watches differently; we don’t think of what features a watch has, but rather as being individual pieces of jewelry, perhaps in the case of men, the last bit of jewelry that we are “allowed” to wear (with the possible exception of cuff links.)

siemens-s551Those of you who know me, know that I love technology. I remember bringing a Siemens S55 phone from the UK because not only was it colour, but it had Bluetooth (it also had a clip-on camera with flash!). Bluetooth headsets were expensive and were, well, pretty rubbish. I have had a quite a few Bluetooth headsets over the years and I always gave up pretty quickly for two reasons 1) the sound quality was awful and 2) it was always cumbersome to switch the call from the phone to the headset and vice versa.

voyager-legend_bRecently I decided to try again and this time it was in the form of the Plantronics Voyager Legend. It’s not the scope of this blog post to give it a review but let’s suffice to say that if you are looking for a Bluetooth headset that just works then this is the one to buy. The sound quality is superb and it has built-in intelligence that it knows when it’s on your head or when it’s sitting on your desk making picking up the call very easy. If it is on my desk and somebody calls I have two choices: pickup my mobile phone and not use the headset, or if I want I can simply put the headset over my ear and it answers automatically. Want to switch in the middle of the call? Simply put the headset on. Want to pass the phone to somebody to use without your headset? Simply remove the headset from your head and give them the phone. The call transfers automatically to the phone. You are already wearing the headset and somebody calls? It whispers the name of the person (even if you have an iPhone), and say “answer” or “ignore” – very useful if you have your hands full and you can’t raise your hand to press the button on your headset. Go and buy one!

My business partner has a pebble watch. It made me think. I know how my headset has been so incredibly useful. Would a pebble watch be useful? I’m in a meeting and my watch vibrates to let me know something. Hmm. Is that more subtle than my phone vibrating? Can I look at that notification more discreetly than looking at my phone? Another use-case scenario is sports. I run.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Well you know what? I have a Garmin Forerunner 910XT. It has a built-in GPS, doesn’t need to connect to my phone. It also tells me absolutely everything I need to know about my run and even counts how many laps I’ve swam in the pool. Yes, I have to change watch before I go for a run, but I don’t know about you, but I also change my clothes before running too!

I guess my only case-use for a pebble watch is when I’m cleaning the house and rather than taking out my phone every time a notification comes in, I could simply look at my wrist to see the notification, but since I try to avoid cleaning the house…

Truth be told, for a person that is out and about all day, be it a realtor or a doctor doing rounds at a hospital, a pebble watch is probably very useful, but for me, I spend most of my work day in front of a computer so will my next gadget be a smart watch? Not unless you are buying me one 🙂

I suppose the ultimate wearable tech is google glass. I’m not so interested in glass per se, but rather the technology that is coming out of the project.

One such technology is a smart contact lens. No, we are not talking about google glass tech on a contact lens à la Continuum, but rather a way for diabetics to track their glucose without having to take a blood sample. This kind of wearable tech is very exciting.

In the meantime, I will enjoy my father’s gold watch when I wear it on special occasions and admire it’s timeless beauty and sentimentality. For the rest of the time I will continue to wear the watch that I received from my wife and in-laws when I got married which has it’s own individuality and special meaning.

 

My iPhone is at the bottom of the Kinneret…

Thoughts on cloud syncing and backup

download

In one of my previous posts, I talked about how useful it can be when your data files are “synced with the cloud” but a recent interaction with one of my clients made me realise that we don’t always understand how syncing services such as Dropbox work and what the fundamental differences are between syncing and backing up.

On a recent holiday “up north” with my family, my brother-in-law was proud to show me his iPhone that he received from his work. The next day he took his family on a boat trip on the Kinneret. He pulled out his phone and was taking beautiful pictures of his children when his new toy slipped out of his hands down to the bottom of the sea.

When he told me his story, I tried to make him feel a little better by reminding him that at least the iPhone automatically syncs the pictures to the cloud. Except that he decided to turn off that feature… No iPhone and no pictures… Lesson #1: Turn on Photo Stream. Lesson #2: Don’t drop your phone in the Kinneret.

So back to my client. He had “shared” a dropbox folder with me. I am in very mixed minds about this ability to share folders. You see he was actually working on the shared folder. So when I moved things out of it to clear space for another client, the files disappeared out of his computer! He wasn’t using it as a way of transferring files but rather as a hard disk. Not a very safe way to work and to compound matters he had no backup (fortunately I did – several!)

Carbonite_online_backup_rgbSo what is a good backup strategy? I have been a great believer for some years now of paid services such as Carbonite or Backblaze. They work by backing up all your data in the background. They do not sync your files but rather copy your files to their servers via the internet. That means that if you delete a file by mistake (or even on purpose) you can get that file back. Lesson #3: Sign up for your free trial of Carbonite now!

And when it comes to transferring files, I’m still in two minds about this, but I still feel more comfortable emailing small files and using a Hightail for larger files. Called me old-fashioned, but heck I’m still using e-mail.

phanfareI also employ another strategy for my pictures. Call it overkill, but it adds a new dimension to photo sharing and that is phanfare. Yes, another paid service, but it allows you to store and share high quality versions of your pictures with your friends and family (I’m not sure that every picture needs to be shared on facebook) or not share at all (all albums can be password protected). When my NAS drive died and lost my entire photo collection, I downloaded all the pictures in hires from phanfare. The other cute advantage is that I access the 163GB of pictures from my PC, iPhone, iPad etc. I have even set up screensavers for my TV pulling the latest pictures from phanfare that have been taken. That’s a 42″ up-to-date photo frame.

Has the day of the paperless office really come?

printer

So recently I decided to put all this syncing technology to good use.
Recently I purchased a new printer: the HP LaserJet Pro 400 and this rather slick-look printer, apart from being able to print at 1200 dpi (which is why I purchased it), it has a very nice scanner. You see, not only is it fast, but it can also scan duplex in one pass.

onedrive

So I have started to scan all my documents. Every time I received something in the post that needs to be kept, I scan, save to my OneDrive folder (which I personally prefer over Dropbox) and send to Evernote. My OneDrive folder is also being backed up to Carbonite and Backblaze too, so this way my document is kept on my computer and backed up to three separate places on the cloud. Of course I have also started to go back and scan the various piles of papers organised in different places, tag and then bin.

EvernoteSo when my wife asked me this morning for my VAT form from 2013, I simply fired up Evernote, hit F6, typed VAT and… oh it seems that I haven’t yet scanned in that document…

How to fit three 24″ monitors into a small suitcase

In my past two executive positions that I held it was required of me to wear (at least) two hats: one of the “manager” and one as a productive member of staff. So it’s natural for me in my relatively new role as a publisher to also continue to be productive as a book designer and typesetter and indeed a good portion of my typesetting is for other publishers.

However my blog post is really nothing to do with my job but rather a technological dilemma that a typesetter (and perhaps others) faces when traveling and that is of course, how does one work away from the office. You see my PC setup is very powerful i7 with 16GB RAM and the obligatory SSD, but that can all be squeezed into a laptop. The real problem are the monitors. You see as a typesetter you need a lot of screen real estate and there’s no way I can pack three 24″ monitors into a suitcase.

The second problem is my software and data. I am not dealing with little Word files but rather huge graphic files and software that as little as a year ago came on several DVDs.

So my first dilemma was how to deal with my computer setup. I knew I had access to a PC with a 24″ monitor (no not quite the resolution that I wanted but you can’t have everything in life) but the absolute minimum is two screens.

My second dilemma was a cellphone. But I digress.

So back to the computer. I knew I had a fast internet connection with wifi so my first thought was that I should remotely access my machine. However the connection from the UK to Israel was fine for doing corrections although somewhat cumbersome.

So it was time for plan B.

Recently software has moved to the cloud and Adobe is no exception. People don’t quite know what Adobe Creative Cloud is but apart from the unclear name it’s actually rather marvelous.

I logged into my account on the PC in England and downloaded the creative cloud app onto the computer. From there I chose the software that I needed and then switched on both file and font synchronization. I would like to say that 15 minutes later I was working but despite a 50 Mbit download connection it took quite a while (a day or so) for all the software, and in particular, for all my files to sync.

However once it all synced I had my entire software library and files in England. Remember I was syncing the files and software which meant that the software, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat were installed locally and the files were copied locally too. You don’t want to be working on a 50MB file that is being accessed on the internet.

My next job was Microsoft Office. I had recently subscribed to Office 365. Now here Microsoft do an amazing job. When I chose to install my software it was extremely fast. You see they install the core code that is needed for the software to run and then in the background the rest of code is downloaded. What this basically meant was that Word was running almost instantly. Now I confess that I’m an Outlook user. I know people swear by gmail, but I like the full version of outlook. Each to their own I guess. Office 365 gives you a 25 GB mailbox so I just synced that and my entire office was now locally synced. Some of my files are on SkyDrive and some are on Dropbox for various reasons beyond the scope of this post but it was trivial syncing them too.

Yes I had a whole bunch of scripts for InDesign that I needed to login remotely to grab them but on the whole I managed to transfer my entire office with a few clicks of the mouse and a lot of waiting.

Fortunately, when I get back to Israel all my files will be back in sync immediately.

Now back to the cellphone. Last time I flew I called up my local cellphone provider and got a deal but it was quite expensive. I also found that I used data a lot more since I wasn’t at home with wifi the whole time.

I was smarter this time. I picked up a Lebara SIM card for £1.10 and added a package for a tenner. It’s actually very good value. I loaded up with 1GB of data and have the option of calling Israel both land lines and mobile for 5p a minute. However, armed with my iPhone with iMessage and FaceTime (particularly FaceTime Audio) I haven’t needed to pay for calls to Israel.

How a green blob led to finding my beshert

The green blob

This is the blob that appears in your system tray

As is the practice of religious singles in the Katamon neighborhood, Shabbat is the time where we would get together for our social. Often on a Friday, if I had no plans, I would call up a bunch of friends and organise a meal by saying, “I have no plans, do you want to ‘Grill Plus-it’?” No this wasn’t a play on google plus but actually the similarities are striking, but rather to the ready-made Shabbat food available for purchase on Rechov HaPalmach.

It was at one of these meals that we were moaning the poor internet speeds at the time. I was lucky and had ISDN offering me 64kbit speeds but this was disappointingly slow. However, the main advantage over POTS was the ability to (almost) instantly connect and make a call at the same time. However, the concept of being always online was still far away.

You have to remember that amongst our motley crew we had some pretty cool computer guys. One of them, let’s call him “Rob” for the sake of this conversation, had actually worked on the very first visual internet browser that Explorer is based on – NCSA Mosaic (and his name was in the credits to prove it) and another, we’ll call him “Daniel” again to protect his (or her) identity had built the network cards in the new Apple iMac (you remember those iconic flavoured Macs?)

Anyway back to the plot. So one of the guys, I think it was “Chaim” if I recall correctly, informed us over lunch that there was this new ADSL experiment going on in Jerusalem. It took me a few minutes to get my head around super fast speeds of 1.5Mbit/sec and being always online. Well sure enough, I wasn’t the only one on the phone to Bezeq the next morning and the technicians were very confused when they came to install the technology that half of the 30 beta testers knew each other and spoke English…

It was at the beginning of 2002 that I started my own typesetting firm, Jerusalem Typesetting. I had my PC and borrowed a lime–flavoured iMac from my friend Daniel. I had ADSL connected to my PC, but Bezeq didn’t provide routers in those days so I needed a way to connect the iMac to the internet. My my friend Daniel yet again came to the rescue. All I had to do was install a small piece of software called AnalogX Proxy. It did two things: one, it allowed other computers, in my case the lime iMac, to use the internet connection on my PC and two, it placed a little green blob at the bottom in my system tray. If there was a problem, the green blob turned red (at least I think it did…well it wasn’t green any more).

Well as it turned out I actually found that I never used the Mac and was able to do everything on my Windows PC, so the iMac was returned but the blog remained.

It was a few years later that a friend of mine moved in upstairs to the block of flats that I lived in. He was moving in literally for one month in between one long-term rental and another. Problem was, he needed internet.

No problem, I said, I have my green blob. I told him to get his hands on some Ethernet cable and I would take care of the rest for him. It took us a few hours of configuring, but he had broadband on his computer. His phone mobile phone rang (and for those of you wandering, no he couldn’t tether his computer to his Nokia 5110) and a female voice spoke. He spoke for a few minutes. I decided it was time for me to speak for a few minutes. Needless to say, she was very impressed with my efforts to help her friend.

Well, as they say, the rest is history.

Updates and upgrades

So I make my living from typesetting books, both print and digital. My tools of the trade are InDesign on the PC for print and iBooks Author on the Mac for digital. 

I resisted the temptation to upgrade to Windows 8.1 when it was in preview (although I had no problems when I had done so for Windows 8) deciding it was prudent to allow Microsoft and Adobe to fully test everything. 
My upgrade to 8.1 was fast and smooth. Everything just worked. Well nearly everything. It turned out that a special part of InDesign that is used by a very small number of people called DPS wasn’t actually compatible. Even though the Adobe website said that it was. They lied. 
I had Adobe on the phone for hours. Last Tuesday from 8 am till 3.45 pm with a half an hour break. And then they continued to remote access. By the time they were finished I had no software, no fonts and no files. A far worse situation than I started. I then spent the next couple of days restoring and ten days later, DPS still doesn’t work. Poor show Adobe. 
Well just to make my life more interesting I updated to OSX Mavericks. This is free update was very exciting for me because it brought iBooks to the Mac!
Upgrade very smooth (not so fast) but… oh no my books are broken!
Turns out after reformatting my Mac that the problem is iBooks Author 2.1. The dot release that came a year later doesn’t fix problems – it breaks the font embedding of custom fonts in the books. Apple now knows of the problem thanks to Talking New Media http://bit.ly/HnkL46 but haven’t taken it down.
Fortunately a colleague found me a copy of 2.0 and sent it to me. 
Well end of rant. Not really sure what to learn from this.