Pat Shuff's Blog

Safari Books Diversion

Today I am going to step back and look at something relatively simple but very powerful. One thing that my company provides for employees is a subscription to technology books online. I tend to reference these books in my blog entries mainly because I find them to be good reference material. When I write a blog entry I try to first address the topic from the mindset of a sales rep. I address the simple questions around what is the technology, why is it relevant, and how much will it cost me. If possible the discussion also blends in a compare and contrast with another solution from another vendor. The second post is a technology how to targeted at the pre sales engineer or consultant. To dive deeper typically I use books, whitepapers, hands on tutorials, and demos to pull material from. Safari Books OnLine is my virtual library. Years ago I would go to Barnes and Noble, Fry's, or Bookstop and purchase a book. Safari Pricing starts at $400/year for individuals or teams and is flexible for corporations. If you break this down this means that you need to read about 8-10 books a year to break even. If you read fewer than that, purchase them from Amazon. If you read more than that or just want to read a chapter or two, subscribe to Safari.

Two of the features that I like about this interface is the search engine and the index engine. With the search engine, it looks inside of books and allows you to sort by relevance, date, and allows you to search inside a search. For example, if I do a search for jumpstart I get 3070 references. If I add solaris to the search I get 101 results. Note on the left there are three books written in 2016 and two books written in 2015. We can narrow our search and look for recent books that talk about jumpstart technology provided with Solaris. True, this might not be a relevant topic to you but it is an example of how to find a difficult to find topic in your virtual library.

We can add this search index to our favorites by clicking on the Add to Favorites button and selecting a topic list to add to. In this example we add a JumpStart book from 2001 to our Solaris book list.

We can look at more relevant publications and find something related to Solaris 11.2. We see the relevant information in the search index and when we click on the book it takes us to the relevant chapter. Note the highlighted text from our search. I find this is a good way of researching a topic that I need to learn more about or finding tutorials or examples of how to do something.

One of the nice things about search indexes or lists is that you can share this list with other people and look at other peoples lists. This is done by looking at your Favorites and Folders you can look at the topics that interest you with the books you have saved on that effective shelf.

One of the nice things is that you can look at shelves of other users. If you click on Shared List and search for your shelf title, you get a list of other users shelves. In this example we searched for Solaris and got five shelves that other users are maintaining.

We can subscribe to these shelves and add it to our favorites. This is done by clicking on the Following "+" sign. It adds the shelf to your Favorites list on the left. Note that we are following the "Solaris stuff" folder.

We can also add this as an RSS feed to our mail reader and get updates when the shelf is updated. We can then copy the rss feed html and add it to our news reader or Thunderbird email interface.

If we add this to our Thunderbird reader we get an email interface showing updates and new books added to the shelf. We don't need to go check the list on a regular basis but look at the newsfeed section of our mail browser

I hope this simple diversion was a good break from our dive into DBaaS and PaaS. Being able to do more than just a simple Google search is typically required to find examples and tutorials. Books historically have been a good place to find this and having access to not only my virtual bookshelf but other people's bookshelves where they sort and index things is a good thing. The $400 cost might be a bit prohibitive but the freedom is a good thing. Given that my company provides this subscription at no cost to me, I will continue to use this and read technology books on an airplane in offline mode and search as I am creating blog entries.

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