Free Kindle books for the Homeschooler

This is just awesome.  I love technology and it has brought learning to a point where it has never been more accessible than it is today.  Sometimes I wish I was a kid again.

I’ve had several Kindles for a while now and received some great resources for my professional career thanks to Microsoft’s Downloadable content for eReaders.  But it doesn’t stop there.  A couple of months ago I won a Kindle Fire at a Microsoft event.  Already having an iPad and the previous Kindles, I basically toyed with it for a few weeks and rooted and hacked it to run Icecream Sandwich OS.  Then I found this little gem:

Project Gutenberg: Children’s Book Series (Bookshelf)

How great is it that?  All sorts of children’s books right there in the palm of your hand.  So my daughter now has my Kindle Fire (she calls it her mini-iPad) and has access to all of these great stories.  She loves The Bobbsey Twins.

And it doesn’t stop there.  21 American Literature classics that are free on Kindle is another great resource.  She’s not quite ready for Little Women but how great is it to know that these classics are available to her when she is ready.

And that’s just the start…

The National Academies Press announced last year that all the PDF versions of its books will be available free to download.

Topics include:

And while PDF is sometimes hard to read on a Kindle, I love the Calibre eBook Management program by Kovid Goyal because not only does his program do conversions of .pdf to .mobi, he gives his amazing software away for free.  I use this program on a regular basis for loading all of my reading needs into my Kindle/iPad.

It’s not all learning of course.  Since we’ve got a Netflix account, she can also watch the Electric Company streamed right to the Kindle Fire, along with several other great educational series.  I know it’s not a free resource, but at $8 a month, it’s tough to beat.

Wash Your Organic Produce. No, Really.

Always wash your food, gross stuff happens in our food supply chain:

According to Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, the answer is an unequivocal yes, for several reasons. One is what the produce industry refers to as "pesticide drift": The wind can—and frequently does—blow chemicals from nearby conventional fields onto organic crops.* Pesticide contamination can also happen in the warehouse, since many produce companies use the same facilities to process organic and conventional products. In that case, companies are supposed to use the label "organically grown" instead of "organic," which can mislead consumers. "The labels are really confusing," Lunder says. "When people say they’re transitional organic, there might be traces left in the soil. If you see no-spray, they still might be using synthetic fertilizer, for example."


And let’s not forget, even with Organic, there can still be Toxins in your Compost.

The Work-Life Balance Myth

So I was spending a few minutes researching some other stuff and this article caught my eye:

Amy Wrzesniewski is a professor at Yale who studies work patterns, and has identified what she calls “orientations,” or psychological motivations, toward work. They are three: Job (money), career(advancement, power, prestige), and calling (meaning, purpose and fulfillment). Not surprisingly, individuals with a calling orientation tend to have higher life and job satisfaction and miss fewer days of work, she found in her research.

Why? When your job is a calling – and if you are lucky, you are in such a job now or remember when you were – time flies by. There are times you don’t want to go home. The best part of the “work-life” balance equation is the work.

Basically what this boils down to is, “Do what you love, love what you do.”  When I was teaching at the local community college, I always told my students that my goal was to never work a day in my life.  Not that I would quit my job of course, but that as Confucius put it: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I think that I am fortunate in that I really do enjoy working with technology.  I spend my free-time setting up test servers in my home office.  Before I got married my dining room table held an entire server farm.  I always want to know about the latest technology and find myself attending SharePoint Saturdays and SoCal Code Camp on the weekends.

This even creeps into my hiring decisions.  One of my standard questions as a hiring manager is, “How did you first get into computers?”  Their answer and their attitude are one of my main factors in deciding between two qualified candidates.  Hint: saying you got into computers because you heard it was a good money is not the right answer!

SharePoint 2013 Designer–No Design View

Ok, so I’ve been playing with the SharePoint 2013 preview for a couple of weeks, mostly I’m impressed.  However, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea that Microsoft is not going to include a “Design” view in their SharePoint Designer program.

Granted, this application has its roots back in the dreadful days of FrontPage.  But seriously, to have to make changes to page formatting and save the file in order to render it?  It’s like going back to the old days of classic .ASP coding when you’d open a file in notepad, make a change, save, refresh browser to see results.  Ouch.  And since SharePoint is a collaborative platform do I allow the power users to have designer access to production to make these UI changes and potentially have them break live sites during their save/refresh cycles?  Honestly, I’m hoping this feature was excluded from preview because it “just wasn’t ready yet” and is not going to be a permanent change for the RTM.

Additionally, I really like the fact that I can open a page in SPD split view, click on a UI element, and have it take me right to the code that deals with that UI element.  Especially useful if I notice some wording or style that I want to make a quick change to without having to scroll through the code to find the right line.

As for those of us who can quickly set up the Data View Web Part in SPD as a way of displaying List driven content… I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with having to create XSL driven UI.\

I think this may be strategy based on Microsoft’s part to drive power users over the edge to the Visual Studio world, but as one of SharePoint’s main selling points appears to be it’s ease of use for the end user and easy customization of the system with “no code” solutions, I have to wonder how effective it will be in the long run for getting companies to adopt SharePoint who have not already made the investment.  Or maybe MS just figures they’ve got a large enough customer base as it is.

Still loving the “Zoom to Content” function (ct100_fullscreenmodeBtn) though….

SharePoint 2013 – Importing User Profiles from AD LDS

So we’re going out of the box here, standard disclaimer is that MS won’t support the use of the cmdlets referenced in this post for on premises deployments.

Interestingly, SharePoint 2013 does not officially support the importing of AD Lightweight Directory Services, and it is generally recommended that we approach it with the same sneakernet approach of LDIF files.  Interesting that with 2013’s new method of importing user attributed from Active Directory (AD Direct Mode) they did not include support for LDS.  But at least they managed to bypass the somewhat clumsy method of using Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) and the UPS service (Everyone remember the “stuck on starting” issue and having the Farm Admin in the local admin group?).  This is especially confusing as they also refer to it as the “light-weight Active Directory Import option”.  In our case, we’ll need the UPS to get LDS attributes into our SharePoint environment.  Still have to use the “old” ways, and in general this method is not something you want to do for a production environment.



There are numerous limitations to this method, and of course there are numerous reasons why reading users and attributes from LDS would be useful, especially when dealing with test data LDS.

I think MS gives their reasons for not officially supporting due to Admin limitations (really???)  However, PowerShell again comes to the rescue for those of us looking to get our environments up quickly with an LDS set.

Even though SharePoint 2013 does not officially support importing from AD LDS, one can import users from AD LDS using the *-SPProfileSyncConnection  SharePoint PowerShell cmdlets:

#First get our UA and say we're not going to use the ILM
$UA = @(Get-SPServiceApplication | ? {$_.TypeName -eq "User Profile Service Application"})
$UA.NoILMUsed = 1

#Now set up the connection to the LDS
Add-SPProfileSyncConnection -ProfileServiceApplication $UA -ConnectionForestName <FQDN of the AD LDS Server> -ConnectionDomain <Domain of the AD LDS User with Replicate Directory Permissions> -ConnectionUserName <AD LDS User with replicate directory permissions> -ConnectionPassword <AD LDS Password of user with Replicate DIrectory Permissions> -ConnectionSynchronizationOU <DN of OU To be imported>


While this does work, it has some major drawbacks, as the cmdlet is meant for Office 365 installs, not on premise and has other drawbacks such as ignoring the NetBIOSDomainNamesEnabled flag and various other limitations.:

  1. The account running the PowerShell host must be added as an administrator for the UPA

    This isn’t really a limitation but it upsets purists. Instead of using the Proxy, we need the UPA itself, and this means we must have at least the Manage User Profiles administration rights on the UPA. If you don’t have this and attempt to run the cmdlet, you will receive the generic error from FIM, “MOSS MA Not Found”.
  2. There is no DisplayName parameter

    The name of the connection will be the NETBIOS name of the domain, i.e. the ConnectionDomain parameter. This will also be used for the Description. This also means that you can add only one connection per domain. Now this is strong recommended practice, but it prevents some scenarios from being possible with this cmdlet and is a major oversight.
  3. There’s no option to create more than one connection per forest

    Since you have to specify the ConnectionDomain parameter. Again more than one connection per forest is strongly discouraged but there are numerous scenarios where this is needed. Again this cmdlet is no use to you if you are in that boat.
  4. If you specify the same ConnectionDomain parameter, the system will overwrite the ConnectionSynchronizationOU, ConnectionUserName and ConnectionPassword parameters.
  5. If the connection cannot be created due to a FIM error, the command completes

    No errors are reported at all! We still need to use miisclient.exe to verify things have worked!
  6. Remove-SPProfileSyncConnection does not delete sync connections!

    The Remove-SPProfileSyncConnection cmdlet only removes the ConnectionSynchronizationOU specified, will not delete the connection itself. There is no way to use these cmdlets to delete sync connections.
  7. These cmdlets only work for Active Directory Sync Connections

But as I said, it’s good for loading in all sorts of test data without having to deal with the production AD server on the network and most of the limitations will not affect small installs or test farms.