Saturday, October 24, 2015

Oh Cry Me a River, Steve

[Note: Steve Litt wrote a post that appeared in one of the book publishing chat boards. The discussion was about Apple's launchd program vs. what Linux uses to start up and schedule programs to run. No, this is not really about launchd... it is about how the Linux community is the Republican Party of the computer world. He writes:]

Process Identifier 1 (PID1) [in Apple's OS X] contains an entire XML
parser. Who knows, maybe next version the Ghost Of Jobs will add a
marching band to PID1.

Oh cry me a river, Steve.

Jeez, Louise. That’s the best you got?

Well, it’s not enough, not hardly.

PID1 is the launchd program which is far and away a huge, huge, huge improvement over the (Linux/Unix) antiquated cron (which Apple still has but does not use) as well as the arcane init system.

Cron is the utility that can be configured (if you know 'voodoo') to schedule and start programs.

From a user standpoint launchd is the cron replacement utility Apple uses to start (and stop) various programs that it needs to run at various times and it is user configurable as well (like cron.)

You can 'program' launchd to run your 'jobs'... such as nightly backups or uploads to your server, etc.

Of course you need 'scripts' that actually do the work, but there are lots of these on the net you can get and then configure launchd to run them when you want. We have a bunch of scripts that upload files to our server as well as download a few as well. For example, one of them takes the Apple Contacts, converts it to a text file and uploads it to our server as a backup... each night.

The launchd daemon essentially replaces the old Unix/Linux:
  • init
  • rc
  • init.d script
  • rc.d script
  • SystemStarter (OS X)
  • inetd / xinetd
  • crond / atd
  • watchdogd

Since the dawn of time no one but unbathed, sugar inebriated geeks could figure out how to use the cron utility as well as all of the other arcane geek-ninja-only 'init' group of systems.

Cron and its partner programs are some of the most complex black-arts of Unix/Linux, the secrets of which are only handed down from master-geek to grasshopper-geek in Linux User Group (LUG) meetings held in Pizza Hut restaurants serving bad pizza and over-caffeinated cola.

There are lots of articles on launchd vs. the antiquated array of obtuse Linux utilities you can read here.

Apple created launchd and even put it in the public domain thinking that the Linux folks would have the required brain cells to adopt it. Of course, the Linux community which years ago (as often today) were/are basically the Luddites of the computer world (sounds like a contradiction in terms, but not if you know the Linux mindset imbued with antipathy against anything new and better) refused to adopt it.

Big surprise!

A little history, courtesy of Wikipedia:

A port to FreeBSD was done as part of Google Summer of Code Project in 2005.

The Ubuntu Linux distribution considered using launchd in 2006. launchd was rejected as an option because it was released under the Apple Public Source License.

In August 2006, Apple relicensed launchd under the Apache License, Version 2.0 in an effort to make adoption by other open source developers easier.

It took  the Linux community, which hates all things Apple and Microsoft, a long time to 'get it' that launchd was a better system. But when they did, they instead decided to write their own version of launchd which is called systemd… and ever since the release of it, there has been a holy war waged in the Linux community over its use… and those flavors of Linux which have adopted it (which are most of the more popular distributions,) are shunned by the high-priests of Linux...  the Druids and troglodytes of the computer ‘world.’

They kept cron intact (like Apple did) but added systemd/timers as a replacement (it's not a bad system, but not quite as flexible as launchd, IMO.)

Launchd is based on XML, which adds a layer of complexity to it, but at the same time exposes many layers of flexibility.

Years ago I wrote a well-received and popular tutorial on launchd called: Apple Mac OS X launchd For The Complete Idiot.

Since that article was published several easy-to-use front-end utilities have been written… the best of which is called Lingon which makes it slam-dunk easy to schedule any program or script that you might want to run.

Yes, we can use the old cron, but Apple has deprecated it which is their way of saying “One day we may drop it, so use the new ‘stuff’ instead.” And the Apple community, being the Jefferson and de Vinci personas of the computer world, have adopted it and are happy with it, for the most part (yeah, there are a few Luddites in the Apple world as well, but they are more a curiosity than a majority.)

I have great respect for Steve Litt, his writing ability, his tech knowledge and the content of his many technical books (even though his web site looks like it was done in 1997!) But at times he is the Ted Cruz, the Huckabee, and the Heritage Foundation of the tech community all rolled into one… and there are many like him who start their LUG meetings with cold pizza and Jolt cola singing that old arch-conservative Linux ‘spiritual:’

Old stuff is good
New stuff is crud
Let’s all beat our feet
On the Mississippi mud

One day, a leader will rise up in the Linux community and say “I have a dream!”

I doubt it will be in my lifetime.

I like and respect most Linux people... and I run Linux on some of my older hardware. I like to kid Linux people about their hoodies and Jolt cola, just as they rib me about my Apple 'uniform'... NorthFace jackets and black "Steve Jobs" mock-turtles.

But for the life of me I'll never comprehend the amount of anger that some members of the Linux community hold for anyone who dares differ with them... sort of like those in the Republican Party.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Case for the "Less is More" Website Platform

[On well-known  Pub-Forum publishing chat group, a well-respected publisher and consultant was critical of our upcoming "Less is More" (LIM) website 'platform' (see and this is my reply. I will only use the author's initials so as not to identify said person.]

JM, as usual, makes an interesting argument. She come across to me as a traditionalist and there is a place for her in the book publishing industry if for no other reason than most authors as well as most publishers don't see the business as it is today and will be in the future, but view it as it was twenty or thirty years ago. 

There is no industry that I can think of (except maybe the taxi cab industry) that is and has been more resistant to change, be it technical or structural, than that of publishing. 

JM says "Most authors except first-timers have more than one book and want to build a following that (ideally) will buy all of them... " I agree but the harsh reality is that if the first one does NOT sell, most often there is not going to be a second!

JM says "No offense, but one-page, five-section site simply can't do everything..." and she is correct, but one does not have to do 'everything’ only has to do ONE thing... and that is SELL the book.

As you all know I have the ability, knowledge, and experience to write a 20,000 word, detailed, and very convincing argument refuting JM and her traditionalist approach to bookselling... but I won't. 

It won't change any minds... and to be honest most of the subscribers to this board are not in my  target market to begin with... there are not a lot of newbie authors-cum-publishers here... most are in the Yahoo based Self-Publishing group.

Here is the "tl;dr" version. 

I only know and concentrate on what works. That does not mean I know everything that works... I only know what I know that works. I also know what does not work (most of the time.) This is not a benefit of knowledge or clairvoyance... but one of age and experience… almost to the extent of Pat Bell… whom I’m told has an autographed copy of the original Ten Commandments.

Small sites work the same way that short novels work... many (most) readers LIKE them. A small site makes one convincing pitch to a surfer who has the attention-span of a gnat. 

There are places for longer sites... such as if you are selling something complex and big-ticket... like a car or a camera or a washing machine. 

But a book is not complex. It is a rather simple product. 

The key for all non-fiction and genre fiction is to find the audience and convince them to buy the book you have to sell to them. The faster and simpler you make the pitch the better your odds of making the sale. 

You don't need a 10 to 20 page website to do that. I contend that if you don't do it in the first paragraph about the book (or the author) the sale is probably lost. 

The web today reminds me of the 'scene' in Alice's Restaurant when Arlo is arrested and then taken to court for dumping trash down a cliff. 

They took twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circlesand arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what eachone was to be used as evidence against us.

Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up,and [sheriff] Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossypictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and hesat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at thetwenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrowsand a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog.And then at twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circlesand arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry,'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of Americanblind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and thejudge wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossypictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of eachone explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. 

When it comes to a book, people are just not going to look a the "twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was."

They used to look... but most don't anymore... especially younger people.

Bottom line, what traditionalists like JM preach, makes logical sense, but basically does not work anymore. How do I know? Jeez Louise, I've been doing long-form websites for years now. Our clients have come to us and said "We don't need it. People read one page of the site and go to Amazon to buy... or they don't.” 

This is what authors and publishers tell me. Why would I make it up? 

Don't you think we make more money on a 15 page site that we charge $1500 - $2000 for than a 5 page site for $399? Of course we do. But authors can't afford that and even if they could, they are going to Facebook instead of us (FB does not work either... but the price is right!)

We've researched this short-form concept for a long time. Some of you who are consultants to the industry know that I've been talking to you for over a year on this getting professional feedback. I've been on this board asking for peer-review of our templates as well as the concept in general. I didn't 'invent' this concept... I'm following what our customers are telling us here... not leading. (FYI, most people on this board agree with JM and/or don’t like our templates.)

We are going to formally roll out our “Less is More” (LIM) platform during the holidays... between Thanksgiving and New Year. (Why? Traditionalists say its a 'bad time' for 'new' stuff. But the publishing biz is 'dead' during the holidays, authors are not writing... everyone is taking a breather... I won't have to fight through as much clutter... and may even get more electronic 'ink' in the blogosphere than later on.)

To many authors it is all about price. They don't 'grock' the LIM concept yet. What they see is that they can get a site for $399 that will sell their first (and for some, ONLY) book. 

Most of our market are not authors who WANT to be publishers... they simply want to get their book 'out there' and make a side-income from it via selling it from their kitchen table or via Amazon (and Amazon/Smashword is the better approach because selling via mail-order entails more costs than are apparent.)

My market are new authors as well as publishers who 'get it'... one book... one domain... one website. 

Same with small one-person service businesses. Would you buy insurance from this guy?

Bottom line:
  • A domain cost $19 (you can pay less, but we recommend a year.
  • A host cost $65 a year (we are going to host our client's sites soon but now suggest
  • The LIM site cost $399 ... what you see from the template is what you get... we change colors.)

Who can’t afford that?

With your own domain for the title and with your own site for the title and with a one-file site (even though they look like separate pages... they aren't) for the title you get better SEO as well as loading speed.  graphic depending.

 (And we know HOW to optimize graphics… after all the owner of Bookwrights Design, Mayapriya Long, is my partner in this… of course we know graphics, composition, design, and color.) 

If the client can write good content the search engine web crawlers will find it easily. If they can’t, we can help them with it (for an extra fee, obviously.

No doubt, JM believes my approach is wrong. She would never say that, but I believe that was the intent of her posting. 

And she my be right. 

All I know for certain is that her approach to the web is costly, cumbersome, lengthy, inefficient, and bottom line, does not work all that well. I know this as a publisher, I know this as a technologist, I know this as an experienced marketeer.

But there is another dynamic working here. Just about everyone in the publishing business, like JM, have told that the LIM concept is… crap ... and wont’ work.

Well, after being in this biz for 35 years (after reading Dan Poynter’s ‘little red book,') I’ve leaned that there is one and only one certainty about the publishing business: that when everyone agrees on something, it's always wrong... always. 

Of course people say that about me too... and there is some truth in that. I have an award-plaque given to me years ago that says just below my name:

"Often wrong... but never in doubt!”

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner 
NewMedia Create

"Short (and affordable) websites 
because on the web today… Less is More."