Windows Updates gripe

Rant mode = ON.

So ZDNet has a post saying we should not disable automatic updates.

At least they admit that vendors make it problematic.

Here’s what I’m talking about: last week I had to write a check to a plumber and print it on my computer, since that is how I handle that.

What would I have done, if at that moment, Windows 10 had decided it needed a half hour or so to do updates, like it or not? It wouldn’t be the first time that I booted up and found the system was going to stall me while it did something like that. Just a few days later, it did exactly that – fortunately, I wasn’t in a rush then. But still…

The post says “Ideally – and I know I’m asking a lot here – patches shouldn’t require a reboot, or reboots should only be done when absolutely necessary. And ideally, if a reboot is required the operating system should return to the state it was prior to the reboot, complete with whatever apps and documents that were open.” That’s far too weak a requirement!

THAT’S what bugs me right now — I have no control over this when it requires a reboot. That’s obstructive as well as irritating.

Now, I am pretty good about getting updates. And the ones which don’t require a reboot install themselves. But this business of forcing a delay while working up to it is a pain in the fundament!

Until Microsoft and other vendors can find a way to avoid that, they are going to have people looking for ways to disable updates in order to avoid the interruption.

Mind you, I am okay with shutting down and THEN having the computer delay while it works on updating; I can walk away and let it do that and then shut down.

But this tactic of forcing you to wait during bootup is not just a pain, it can actually delay critical work. What if I’m trying to write a check for a service person standing there? (“Just wait a fifteen minutes for the update to complete, and I can charge you another $89 labor on top of the existing bill.”) What if I’m trying to lock the library doors with an app since it’s a snow day, or some other emergency, and the doors will pop open before the update is finished tying up my computer? Come up with your own rush matters, and it’s easy to see how this system is not functional.

Updates will be more popular when they become less obstructive.

Rant mode = OFF.

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Size is relative in video files

So, I have a video file from a presentation by one of our faculty. It’s a video recording in the Apple Quicktime .mov format. Quicktime is not always available on Windows PCs unless the user goes out and gets it.

And it’s big. Over 14 GB.

So, I can’t get it to save to a catalog record for downloading in Sierra, and it’s too big to burn to a DVD. Yes, I tried both, even though I didn’t have much hope. It’s only 17 minutes long, but MOV makes for a big file.

So, I tried VLC player to convert it to .avi format which would work on Windows Media Player and on VLC, but VLC is erratic in conversion results – I kept getting the video with no sound with various settings.

Next, I checked the web, and the free websites that convert wouldn’t do a file that large for free.

So, I tried VideoGrabber. Had to download a piece of software, but that got a file that is still too large to save to the catalog record (485,427 KB) but would burn to a DVD. I threw in the PowerPoint presentation with it on the disc and burned it.

I don’t expect much use off campus, so I didn’t catalog it on OCLC. It’s an interesting presentation, though, and gives some original insight into Beethoven’s work. We are glad to be able to keep material like this in the library.

I also make a point of saving such files to our network drive so they will be backed up elsewhere. Just in case.

A Perfect Storm : Domain Change Made Harder Than It Has to Be

So in my last post, I noted that we upgraded to Sierra 2.4. Among other things, this is supposed to give us the _replace function for a wildcard, to reduce the security warnings users get when trying to go through the WAM to the databases.

Now, winter commencement was Dec. 15, 2016 (Thursday) but we had word that some instructors were allowing students to keep working until the 20th (Tuesday), so we asked for a delay to the upgrade to the 21st. That left the 22nd to check it out before we closed on the 23rd for the holiday break. Time zones were a little odd – it seems the Australia office was handling it. It went well.

Back to work on Jan. 3, 2017. Supportal didn’t like my login. Had to have that reset. Finally got in on Jan. 4 (Wednesday) and asked for the domain change. Got an email back from III: “I came to know from my support colleagues that you will be changing your domain and want to install the new SSL certificate immediate after that. Once your domain got changed and you are ready with the SSL, please raise the service commitment by visiting the URL and we will take care.”

Sounds good.

Friday 6th we were closed for snow, but I had a call in for our I.T. people already for the certificate. The catch apparently was, they were already tied up doing their own certificate updates just before the snow day. So they got back to me to generate a certificate on the 9th (Monday), and I tried to send that on the 10th. Supportal would not allow me to attach the certificate (which you would think would be allowed, but apparently was not). So, attached to the reply to the email. Later, converted to text and entered as comment in the Supportal.

I’m still getting no response on the domain change from III. No email either. I keep asking.

We have a holiday on Jan. 16 (Monday) and classes begin on the 17th. Got back and still no notice from III. I update Supportal and send email to the certificate person. Email auto-reply says he is out until the 19th.

The nice thing about banging your head against a brick wall is how much better it feels when you stop. I used the Supportal and email to postpone the domain change until spring break in March. Because if there is something we do not want to do, it’s try to change domains while classes are going on.<cue: foreboding music>

Finally got a response to contact them at the beginning of March to remind them. Will do.

March 8 Wednesday

And I thought I had a bad time in January

So, I had an email from the person on this back in January, to remind him at the start of March that we wanted to try this again March 20, the Monday of spring break week. That would leave us Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (we’re closed Friday) to make our changes at this end.

Provided it happens, of course.

I put it in the Supportal at the end of February. Thursday March 3rd I emailed. Monday the 6th I phoned (and had to leave voice mail for anyone who could help – this is a Service Desk?!?). Today I tried Supportal and called again, and at least confirmed he (let’s call him K) still works at III, but couldn’t answer the phone at the moment, and neither could the other person (let’s call him A) the Service Desk wanted to refer me to. Now I wait for the new person, A, to call back. At least I confirmed the first one still works there.

Since all I’m asking is to confirm a date still in the future, which was supposedly set in January, this is a disturbing lack of response.

And now Sierra is down. What the hey?!?!

Perfect Storm

Later Wednesday morning:

So, apparently III is having access problems with Syracuse on the network. So now I put in a call on that as well, since we can’t get the Sierra desktop app to connect.

Then I had a scheduled meeting to go to.

Meanwhile, my domain name change got referred to A, somebody new. Who apparently did NOT read the entire ticket, which said March 20th, and that I just wanted confirmation that it would happen on March 20th.

And who then went ahead, while I was out at a meeting, and changed our domain, set the _replace function, and installed the certificate.

Today. Immediately. With no preparation or coordination on our end, because we were planning on March 20.

That’s right – we are now libcat.uafs.edu but it doesn’t do us any good – almost EVERYTHING going through the server is broken. The WAM is useless, still no Sierra access, and — wait for it — the I.T. person on campus here who was going to help with this domain change IS OUT OF TOWN. I had to go over to the Service Desk in another building just to find that out.

Slow, deep breathing. Right.

I decided to not confuse III by trying to change back — they’re obviously busy enough as it is. We’ll try to rush this through with another one of our I.T. people. He’ll have to update the DNS (Domain Name System) so it recognizes the new domain name, and that has to propagate through all the others on the web. Plus anything else they need.

Then, IF we can finally get to our staff Sierra app, we can start testing to see what databases need changing in the WAM addresses (it seems some of them need hyphens added, but we have to have access to check).

Meanwhile, we have no circulation, we have to do a workaround to even use a limited number of databases from on campus… a perfect storm of impairments. At least the OPAC is still working online, for reasons I don’t know enough to understand. And I can still telnet in, for all the good that does me.

Yet later:

Finally our I.T. was able to get a good person on it, and he redirected our DNS to the new address. So:

  • In the Sierra app, update iiirunner.lax to the new address.
  • On the command line, enter ipconfig/flushdns to clear the DNS.

Start Sierra and now it works. The catalog is still working. BUT – the WAM is not connected to the databases, which was, after all, the primary reason for doing all this in the first place – so we could avoid the darn security warning pages that don’t like the iii.com SSL certificate.

Apparently our WAM is still putting the old address into the links. However, if you correct to the new address manually, you get:

This site can’t be reached

0-search.ebscohost.com.libcat.uafs.edu’s server DNS address could not be found.

So, update the Supportal and see what happens next.

Meanwhile, all our students studying for midterms are unhappy.

March 10 Friday

Looks like the libcat.uafs.edu domain is propagating through all the DNS servers on the web.

We got the off-campus databases working, but not the on-campus access. Our Ebsco Discover search through the WAM is still down, but we rigged a link to not go through the WAM and on-campus people can use that.

Then, we got attention from A on the matter, as well as the person (“B”) who originally recommended the domain change, and we got the wildcard put into our DNS which solved the on-campus access through the WAM: *.libcat.uafs.edu  We probably would have discussed that in advance of the change we expected to make on March 20.

Now, we have a change for the Discover search in the script on the home page, and that will be solved. We hope.

I’m still plowing through updating catalog links to ebooks. Past experience was that doing much more than, say, 50,000 a day frightens the server, so I’m doing it in chunks. Incidentally, we also had to update our 962 fields for linked images — that’s where, among other things, we put our donor/honoree bookplates.

So we seem to be coming out of a nosedive. I did a talk for the CAST college this morning, pre-changes, and this gets around the problem I had.

We may have to flushdns as I mentioned above, but we’re almost back.

TGIF!

March 15 Wednesday

Monday we seemed to be finally about back to fully operational. I got the last of the ebooks done Tuesday. And III has sent a couple of quality review requests for all this. I can hardly wait to see what I’m going to tell them….

Kudos to our I.T. person on dealing with the domain change in emergency mode!

As of Tuesday, I finished updating all the ebook records in the catalog (all 230,000 plus of them).

And today, I got the new director up on Sierra. Since Sierra installs with its own Java, there was a popup permission to give for that, which was hiding behind the Sierra logon screen, which is what was blocking it from going on.

And now we can look forward to training on our new ILL software from OCLC, which goes live here on March 31.

March is coming on like a lion, right – like Scar in the Lion King.

Scar in the Lion King

 

 

 

Amazon, billing, and shooting feet

(updated 2017.5.17, 2017.8.9)

For those who are boycotting Amazon for other reasons, you may skip this.

I feel I have to use a cost-effective vendor, despite other factors. Up until recently, Amazon has worked well for us. People could make up lists, share them with me, I could use those to create orders, I could use a credit card which saves me from doing as many Requisitions/Purchase Order approvals myself, and it used to be pretty straightforward. They had a huge number of items in stock and accounted for when orders would arrive, for the most part.

Then, they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet.

It’s not just me. I’m hearing (from a competitor, granted) that a number of libraries are dropping Amazon, at least as a primary vendor. (The competitor normally handles academic libraries, but now has public libraries asking them for service. The traditional wholesalers have changed and reduced a lot in the last few years.)

It seems we are going to have to join the exodus, and it’s not political or other high-minded reasons; it’s pure bookkeeping practices.

Amazon has become non-cost-effective, due to their new credit card charging methodology. This has been going on for several months, but it’s become, frankly, untenable.

Lemme ‘splain this. (tl;dr*)

Amazon has taken to combining charges from their Printable Order Summary.

amazon For example, you see multiple charges on here. The total will be $276.17.

However, despite what it says on the page, that IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

The Order Summary has three shipments listed, for $105.61, $37.16, and $133.40.

They add up to $276.17, true. But this IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

Look at the summary of charges at the bottom of the Order Summary. Not the same as the shipments.

Now combine them to get the actual charges on the credit card statement.

$14.99 plus 79.84 = 94.83, and the rest add up to 181.34. We were actually charged $94.83 and $181.34. The total is still $276.17. We haven’t been treated dishonestly as far as the amount charged; only in how it was actually stated on their (digital) paperwork.

However, the only one of those charges on the order summary for a shipment matches $37.16 for the middle shipment of three on the Order Summary. And that one was combined with others to get a charge of $181.34 on the credit card. The amounts on here do not match the shipments or the credit card charges.

$105.61 and $37.16 and $133.40 (the amounts on the shipments in the Order Summary), cannot be combined to get the two charges on the card, and yet those book titles are on this order.

Summary

To sum up: The charges listed as charged to the card on the Printable Order Summary DO NOT MATCH WHAT IS ON THE CARD CHARGES: 14.99, 79.84, 90.62, 37.16, 53.56 are NOT charged; $94.83 and $181.34 are charged for these books. Where does it say that? On the spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet? Yes, I managed to get a customer service person for corporate accounts on the phone (their people are usually fine to deal with but are stuck with this). They now have a spreadsheet that you can download (not listed, at this time, among all the services they show for accounts). I was sent a special link to it. Then I have to download it. Then I have to go searching. The spreadsheet has columns out to AE (over 30). This, apparently, is a kludge made available for all the squalling customers demanding to know what charges equal what.

First, you find the total amount (in this example, 276.17). Then you slide over (about a page and a half of columns) to see how it’s broken down to — not the charges they claim on here — the actual charges on the card (94.83 and 181.34). This is the only place where they tell me what they are actually charging to the card, so I have no regular packing slip/invoice/order summary to show my receiving person or my business office or the state auditors. How are we expected to match the shipments and charges up to what is on the credit card statement, without a research project to decipher this spreadsheet?

Aside from this spreadsheet, I have nothing to show my people here or the state auditors, who want specific amounts that match. The only comfort I can take is that this is going on all over campus, and probably all over the state and nation. So at least the state auditors cannot blame just our library.

Now, I understand that Amazon is probably having to adjust their bookkeeping so they can pay the new taxes that states have been demanding they begin to charge (and starting March 1, here in Arkansas) but we already pay that on our own. I suspect this may have something to do with how they handle bookkeeping for that, or maybe an attempt to reduce credit card fees by reducing the number of transactions. I can allow for changes.

End Result

BUT: you cannot do business this way. It takes far too much time for the customers to account for this, and it does not correspond to any acceptable accounting procedure to claim you made these charges when you actually made those charges, even if they add up the same on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, especially ones like this, are not intended to substitute for proper customer notices — spreadsheets are primarily for internal use, and cannot substitute for showing correct amounts on the (digital or print) paperwork. The additional time it takes to track all this down is just dirty icing on a very unpleasant cake (pardon the unappetizing metaphor). The fact that it is not technically dishonest in the amount being paid does not excuse the appearance of something being off, somewhere.

We’ll still use Amazon for creating want lists, but I never used those just for ordering via Amazon in the first place, if I wanted prebinding, or a complete set of a multi-volume set. Rush items can still go through, or items from associates (which are somewhat more likely, but not always, to end up on separate shipments/charges), or anything only Amazon seems to have. I may try shifting back to a personal account to see if that works better, but the customer service person thought it was all going to be the same. The bulk of the business they once got from us is going to have to move to somebody else, at least until they straighten this out.

Amazon is welcome to contact me to explain, correct, show me an easier method, or whatever, assuming anyone there ever reads blogs like this. I’ll be happy to post corrections or recommended methods (working or otherwise, from my point of view).

Update as of May 17, 2017:

The higher ed rep for Amazon has been in contact several times now, and agrees with the need to fix this. He’s been working at his end.

He called today with the discovery that the information we need does exist and if you want to burrow down some, it can be found, with some limitations. Thanks go also to his colleague – she found a way to dig this out from the screen.

On the printable Order Summary, go down to the bottom:

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the link for “To view the status of your order, return to Order Summary.” That sounds like it would just loop you around to where you came from, which is why I never used it (and the rep didn’t expect it either), but instead you get this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, now click on the Transactions link under the address.

 

 

 

 

 

AHA! The long-missing actual charge amounts that were not visible (except in the cockamamie spreadsheet).

Click on the amount you want, and get:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There, finally, is the list of titles that went on the actual charge made on the card for $94.83. Ta and da!

Of course, as I pointed out, we really need a subtotal for each shipment as well, and ALL of this needs to be out front, easy to find, preferably on the Order Summary. Instead of the charges listed as being charged, which are not actually being charged.

The main point is, the information is there and already, for the most part, extracted – they just didn’t make it easy to find and the link terminology is vague. That means, IMHO, that it should be possible to pull that out, with some reprogramming, and put it on the Order Summary so we can provide that to our people for reconciliation with the credit card statement.

The wheel that squeaketh doth receive greasing.

Oh, and BTW: the more places that complain about this, instead of just quietly changing vendors, the more push we have to get this fixed at Amazon. SPEAK UP! The phone for the corporate accounts at Amazon is 866-216-1072 (if you are on a business account). Call and gripe!

I also lost them some more business today with a potential new account (juvenile correctional facility) that wanted a source for buying books. They have to account to the state auditors as well, so I had to warn them off dealing with Amazon right now. Which I, of course, reported to the rep as additional ammo for doing something about this. Squeak, squeak!

Update 2017.8.9

Amazon has updated their view to make this a bit easier.

Click on the Order link in the email and you now get:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below the shipping address is the “Transactions” link which takes you to the actual credit card charges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare the actual Transactions to the Order amount to see what Amazon is really charging on the card.

In this example, they match. For larger orders/shipments, that may or may not be true, but this makes it more convenient to tell, at least. I will give Amazon that.

I’ve had no other information from Amazon; I just noticed this when I tried an actual order. I don’t know if they are matching Transactions to shipments or whatever.

====================================

*tl;dr means Too Long, Don’t Read unless you want to.

Welcome to our wonderful new/updated interface!

 

 

So I’m getting an update on yet another online system that has made all these wonderful improvements to their interface.

Very nice. Lots of bells and whistles.

And I’m forgetting it diligently as I listen.

Several reasons for this, and they have nothing to do with the value of the interface.

 

 

  • If you don’t have a mouse-over text to explain all the neat icons (often creatively original and therefore non-standard). then it’s useless. Fortunately, this one does — if only they all followed that practice. Plus point for that.
  • Like pretty much all of the others, this assumes people spend a lot or even most of their time on this interface, or perhaps prefer to go directly there first. Users don’t, in our experience; they want answers, not databases, and therefore go where the search leads, which is through our catalog (and often our discovery service). No point.
  • Ever go into a store and find they moved everything around? Doesn’t that tick you off?  You used to be able to duck in and find everything in 10 minutes, and now it’s going to take 30 just to relocate everything, and additional time the next few visits until you learn the new arrangement — following which, somebody will decide to rearrange things again. And you become less likely to use that store again. Sure, the new arrangement may be better in some way, but often it just makes it harder to do things quickly — and speed is the main emphasis for a lot of users. That means familiarity, not novelty. Minus point.
  • To compound the problem, since in this case, it’s using records we’ve downloaded into our catalog, they are redirecting from the old links to totally new (different numbering system) ones on their server(s). However, since we alter the original links to go through our proxy service for off-campus users, this means that the redirected links do not go through our proxy service, so none of our off-campus users can use this now. So the value of this particular service has just become practically zero for most users. All positives negated; this is now a non-viable online service.

I’m not sure if I’m happy we’re not paying directly for this (it’s part of a state library service). If we were, I would be requesting a pro-rated refund about now. As it is, I’ve notified the appropriate person and hope this will be fixed eventually, but meanwhile, I’ve removed the records from the catalog.

Somewhere along the line, this vendor should have asked how their services were used in library systems. They just lost a lot of business. It’s correctable, but they are going to have to produce a new set of records with updated links that we can alter for our proxy system.

Nice shiny new interface, though…. but was it really worth it?

Sierra 2.4 so far

[updated 2017.1.26]

So the Melbourne, Australia office updated our Sierra to 2.4 last night.

This has a lot (but not all) the functionality of the desktop app in the new web access version, as III moves away from a Java-based app.

So far, I’ve noticed that Create Lists does not let me scroll lists as easily. The print function is not ready for prime time; I cannot configure the printer through the web printing as I could in the app, especially for label printers. I haven’t tried receipt printing yet, but that will probably have the same problem, so looks like we cannot

The print function is not ready for prime time; I cannot configure the printer through the web printing as I could in the app, especially for label printers. I haven’t tried receipt printing yet, but that will probably have the same problem, so looks like we cannot use that at the circulation desk as I had hoped.

More fine tuning needed.

We don’t use the built-in macros so that limitation doesn’t really affect us. We use a third party program called Keyboard Express (a shareware product we licensed years ago) which fills in what we want, or handles keyboard commands, and that still seems to work.

Following the holidays, I expect to change the domain to libcat.uafs.edu and get a certificate and — we hope — get away from the https problems the WAM is having with our online vendors.

Update: well, due to a perfect storm of delays on both sides, III didn’t change the domain yet, so we are still struggling with the popup warnings and blocks for some services through the WAM. We’re not alone in that, of course.

On the bright side, we can now do most routine operations (aside from printing) through the web service. This has come in handy already for a staff laptop which didn’t want to load the Sierra desktop to work on inventory in the stacks.

Ebooks and the stats

“Given the proliferation of e-Books and the discussions about the future of print books, the results demonstrate that only 4% of Americans are ‘e-Book only’ readers. Only 28% of Americans have ever read an e-Book and e-Book readers also read print books. Additionally, as the Survey results indicate, people prefer the two formats in different circumstances. People traveling prefer e-Books because they are portable and baggage restrictions don’t apply to them. Print books are ideal for reading to children and for sharing with friends and family. So, the two formats tend to be more complementary than competitive.

The contest between offering free e-Books through libraries and publishers’ fear of losing sales has been brought to rest by another surprising revelation. Active library users also tend to be the most active book buyers, print or e-Book. So, free e-Books in libraries do not actually drive down sale figures.”

from http://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/pew-research-center-7-surprising-facts-about-libraries.html

Just this weekend I purchased some e-books in a series which I like. I got epub format so they would go on my phone in the Bluefire app, and give me something to read during odd moments, usually while waiting for something. At the same time, I am reading print format books from the public library, part of the time while digitizing my phonograph records for music in my vehicle (since operating a phonograph-based stereo system in a moving vehicle is, if anything, even more unsafe than texting). All of that is consistent with the Pew results above (excepting the digitizing stuff).

And there is the argument that some have been making for a while now that e-books will take over and print will/has become obsolete. Thomas A. Edison did not predict that, but he predicted that the phonograph record would replace books (you know, those little wax cylinders — oh, wait, that changed to flat discs), and then motion pictures, and poor old Tom still didn’t have it right when we moved to DVDs of movies, and then streaming videos. The fact is, we have multiple formats because we have multiple uses, and multiple contents, and changing technologies, and personal preferences. Even the inventors cannot predict how long a new format will last. That’s why I’m digitizing my old phonograph records.

While the big publishers are reporting that e-book sales have been falling in 2015, or at least flattening (which is disputed elsewhere as only referring to those publishers sales), it seems that multiple formats will remain in the future. Which formats are available may shift, but versatility continues to be the preference of enough users/buyers that require that flexibility. Print, however, continues to endure and even thrive.

I already have several series that I have read various volumes in print and in e-book format. It’s a little harder to keep track of, but it allows me to use the format that is convenient/cost-effective at the moment.

And so it goes…