Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It's Official. Lotus Notes is Cool

My frolleague Darren Adams has created a web site pointing out the great features and general awesomeness of Lotus Notes. Notes is Cool. Well done sir.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No more passwords for Domino applications

A number of times I have heard customers commenting that they can sign into Windows and access everything that they need to do their job - except for Lotus stuff - where they have to enter their username and password again. This may have been true in the past, but as you can see from this demonstration created by my frolleague Steve Seymour from The Portal Partnership this is no longer the case. A users credentials can be passed from their Windows login to Domino via SPNEGO which will in turn create an LTPA token on the Domino/Websphere infrastructure that will allow access to all those services without having to authenticate again. So in this video you see a user log into Windows and then access a personalised Domino welcome page, iNotes (web mail), Lotus Quickr (team places), Lotus Sametime (real time collaboration), Lotus Connections (professional social networking) and Websphere Portal (Enterprise integration) without having to authenticate. Just to be clear - this is not smoke and mirrors - this is all out of the box functionality. Have a look - it only takes 80 seconds.

If you are wondering how Lotus Notes fits into this, then then you should check out the new Lotus Notes Single Logon capability built into Notes 8.5 which means that once you have logged into Windows you can launch Notes without having to log in again*. Seemless.

So if you hear folks saying that other competing technologies are "more integrated" because they don't need to reauthentiate, show them Steve's video.

*Single logon for roaming users is being evaluated for a future release

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not what you want to see on a 6 week old Thinkpad

I was chuffed to bits to get my new Lenovo W500 Thinkpad a month or so ago. I put Windows 7 64bit on it and with an Intel Duo Core T9400 processor, 8Gb of RAM and 500Gb 7200rpm disk I was looking forward to some awesome performance. And to start of that is exactly what I got. I installed all the newest version of the Lotus stuff, Notes 8.5.2 with embedded Sametime 8.5.1, Symphony 3, Domino 8.5.2, Quickr 8.5 etc. I also added some basics like Firefox and VLC Media Player.

After just a couple of days I had the machine pretty much ready to replace my old T61 as my main customer demonstration machine. Except for one thing. Every now and again the machine would seemingly just lock up with the hard disk light on permanently. Sometime it would recover and sometimes it would require a hard reboot. I took to starting Resource Monitor in Disk mode as soon as the machine has booted to see if I could catch the culprit. You might think that my immediate reaction would be to blame Windows 7, but that was the last thing I was thinking. Since most of the Lotus stack that I had installed were builds and betas rather than gold releases my first guess was that there was a bit of dodgy code in there causing the problem. But some basic troubleshooting showed that they were in the clear. The problem sometimes occurred when nothing "unofficial" was loaded. I could even reproduce it in safe mode.

There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the hangs. Sometimes it would go hours or even days without an issue but I couldn't trust it to use in front of customers. It was very frustrating having this Ferrari of a machine but not being able to know when it would freak out. Many people point to the indexing and pre-fetching in Win7 as being possible causes but I have had no problems on my home PC which is Win7 32bit so I was sceptical that this was the cause. It also gradually became apparent that even though the disk light was permanently on there wasn't that much disk activity going on, but the disk queue length was shooting up to 50 or 100. This would imply that two processes or threads were squabbling over disk access - but I could find no evidence of what they were. There was no fragmentation on the disk and CHKDSK was coming back clean.

Then out of the blue yesterday this error started appearing.

So it turns out that the problem was a failing disk drive. Not something I would expect on such a new machine. Hitachi doesn't publish a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) for the Travelstar 7K500 but it just goes to show that MTBF does not mean how long a drive will last but rather the average. So be warned and never be complacent. Drives can fail at any time. So make sure that you have a good backup. Fortunately I backup my important data to multiple locations (Home Network, Backup Thinkpad) and my really important data (customer presentations) to Lotus Connections Files/Lotus Quickr Places. So it will be very straight forward to rebuild this machine when my replacement drive arrives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wimbledon Widget for Lotus Notes

As you may know IBM has for many years been providing the technology for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships (as well as many other sporting events). This includes the Wimbledon web site which is awesome and there are now apps for both iPhone and Android to keep track of results. In an effort to help IBMers keep track of what is going on in the Championships while they are using their favorite collaboration application, IBM has deployed a Lotus Notes Widget called Wimbledon Sideline that allows everyone that is using Lotus Notes 8 and above to see what is going on in real time displayed in their sidebar. Very nice. (clicky for bigger).

Update: Here is a link to the Widget

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Informative Messages in Software

It is always important to let a user know what is going on during an installation. I particually appreciated this informative message whilst installing my VPN client on Windows 7.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Three Years in Six Minutes

This is a little film of my kid Lucy going from nought to three using 550 pictures of her face.

I think it is fair to say that she has quite a strong character which really comes out in this film especially later on. If your interested the excellent music is by The Beta Band and is called Dry the Rain.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Samsung Android phone does not work with Samsung software

Yesterday I wasted half a day trying to figure out why my brand new Samsung Galaxy Portal (called a Spica in the rest of Europe or the GT-I5700 for the geeks) phone would not connect to the software provided with it called New PC Studio. It turns out that for the software to detect the device as being a phone you need to go (in Android) into Settings / Applications / Development and enable USB Debugging. Hardly intuitive. Even with the software recognising the phone, most of the basic functionality is not supported - I'm talking little things like syncing contacts and uploading or downloading media such as photos. The only thing that is supported is "Update Device".

This is actually important since the phone runs Android 1.5 but an upgrade to 2.1 is promised soon. Unfortunately when you check for the update it is more disappointment!

If you do want to transfer content then it can be done. Once you have connected the phone via USB you will see a device called "UMS Composite (F:)". This is actually the micro SD card inserted into the phone. If you try and open it you get this error.

However, the rather geeky solution to this is that when the phone is connected a USB logo will appear in the upper status bar on the phone. If you drag this down you will see a notification that "USB Connected". Clicking this message will result in the following message "You have connected your phone to your computer via USB. Select "Mount" if you want to copy files between your computer and the phones SD card".

Mounting disks is something I associate with 80's computer rooms - not connecting to mobile phones. What I find particularly disappointing is that none of the help I needed to trouble shoot all these issues came from Samsung. There was no notice in the packaging that the supplied software was incompatible with the device and nothing helpful on their web site.

This is a real shame because the phone itself is very good especially for the price - free with a £20 quid contract. Having already got an iPod Touch I was not interested in an iPhone and I already have a Blackberry for business purposes and whilst I have no doubt that the Nexus One will be superior it's not $529 better so this mid range Android phone is perfect for my personal needs. I just wish that Samsung had treated it's customers with some respect and documented the limitations and workarounds so that the experience of purchasing this lovely little phone would not be spoilt

Friday, March 05, 2010

LCTY: Bridging the Digital Divide - Demonstrating Enterprise Social Tools

I'm lucky enough to be presenting at Lotusphere Comes to You again this year. This is the abstract of my pitch for London and Edinburgh.

Today, employees are divided into digital natives, those who have grown up with the web, mobile devices, always on broadband connectivity and internet social networking and digital immigrants, those who grew up working in a fixed office with more traditional tools like email.

Through a series of demonstrations, see how IBM's social and collaborative portfolio seamlessly bridge between these worlds bringing social capabilities to traditional users and bringing robust security, reliability and integration to the social world to produce true enterprise ready professional networking.

This empowers organisations to maximize their success by realizing the potential of their people through collaboration, communication and social technologies and mining the collective wisdom of their staff for more accurate and effective decision making.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Grayed out hard disk password on a Thinkpad

Every 3 months or so I have what I call password day. This is when all my corporate passwords expire and I need to change them. Despite most of IBM's internal services being authenticated against our intranet ID and password, I still need to manually change things like OS Passwords (two Windows and one Ubuntu clients), VPN, Boot up and hard disk passwords, Blackberry, Sametime, Activities, FTP and a few others relating to non standard sites and services.

Whilst this is quite irritating to have to do, it is a necessary evil and normally quite straight forward. But today I hit a snag I haven't come across before. When I went to change my hard disk password in the BIOS it was grayed out. This was especially annoying because I had changed my power on password successfully. The last thing you want is to have two different passwords on boot up.

My initial thought was that it must be something to do with the supervisor password - but it wasn't enabled. Turns out that the problem was that the hard disk password was set on a different machine, a Thinkpad T60p but I had upgraded to a T61p. As luck would have it, I hadn't got round to returning the old T60p so I could swap the drive back - remove the password and then put it back in my new machine and pop the new password on. I don't know what I could have done if I had returned the old machine. So a warning to Thinkpad users - it is incredibly handy being able to use the same drives across different models - but if you are transferring a drive then remove the password first - otherwise you might find that you are stuck with it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guitar Hero

I was just browsing YouTube when I came upon this film of my friend Damon. He works for Fender and funnily enough he does pretty much the same job as me except he demonstrates and explains guitars while I do the same for social and collaborative software. On the one hand this makes him way cooler than me but then I work more sociable hours and get a better company car.

Damon, or Bass Elf as we called him, used to play in my band Sideburner. Obviously we were somewhat under utilising his skillz by forcing him to play the fat strings but Lightning Tom was already lead guitarist so that was the only job left. Here is any example of our ragged magnificence.

So if you enjoy guitar, are interested in the Fender Stratocaster (particularly the '79 hardtail) or just like watching short people over compensate then spend 5 minutes in the company of Damon presenting his extraordinary abilities whilst also showing off outrageously. As he should.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gmail 2010 = Lotus Notes 1995?

A very interesting article from PC Pro comparing and contrasting the progress of Google Mail with Lotus Notes. Comparing a robust reliable product matured over many years to the new players on the block reminds me of an old anecdote my Dad used to tell; "When I was a kid my father knew nothing. It's amazing what he has learned since then."

"Comparing the Notes architecture back then (all of which is still in the product, even now) with what Google is laboriously developing, as if there were no prior art, is pretty illuminating: Notes does smart replication between servers and clients, works offline or in low-bandwidth connections admirably well, secures the inter-machine traffic with robust levels of encryption, doesn’t have to sit on top of protocols used for other things, stamps messages with irrefutable digital identities so you can verify who the sender really is. These are all things which SMTP (on the one hand) and webmail over http (on the other) are struggling to reproduce, the best part of 20 years later."

Full Story: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2010/01/15/gmail-2010-lotus-notes-1995/

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Perfect Job Interview

It is always important to understand your potential employer when considering how to answer interview questions.
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Saving an email directly to the file system from Lotus Notes

I have pretty much lost count of the number of times MS Outlook users who have been upgraded to Lotus Notes have asked me how to save an email either to their file system or to their desktop. The most commonly stated reason for this is so that all the emails, files and documents related to a project can all be saved in one folder on a shared drive. Most organisations now recognise that collaborating through shared drives creates a whole raft of problems including security, duplication, compliance and the inability to find the "one version of the truth".

This capability is pretty much redundant to Lotus users since they have many ways of collaborating including Teamrooms, Quickr Places, Wikis, Blogs and Connections Communities. These tools include access control, search, versioning and all the various features that promote good information management. However, we must remember that users do tend to become a bit set in their ways, so if they do want to copy mail messages to their file system I point them at the free File Navigator sidebar plugin for Lotus Notes 8.5 and above available from OpenNTF.org.

My frolleague Darren Adams wrote about it last year. Quite simply it shows your file system in your Lotus Notes sidebar and you can drag and drop files and email to and from it. Specifically, you can drag emails to folders on the file system where they will be stored in their entirety as .eml documents* (including embedded graphics and attachments). You can also drag multiple emails at the same time. Very cool and great for knocking an old objection on the head.

1. The Quickr Connectors can also create .eml versions of email messages by drag and drop but of course these are stored in Quickr Places rather then the file system.
2. Lotus Notes 8.5.x has an .eml viewer built in if you have the Quickr connectors installed: See here: http://tinyurl.com/ydm9xcy

Monday, January 04, 2010

8 Bit Fun (Pun)

Click the picture for the appalling pun. I would apologise - but I think it's very funny :0)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Why better isn't always best

I guess it is now pretty evident that humans are not the greatest at predicting the future. It is well established that generals tend to prepare to fight the previous war (hence aircraft carriers and fighter jets take on AK47 and IED's). Looking back at the predictions from the 1930's we see reusable rocket ships and hand held ray guns being on the cards whilst in the 50's folks were predicting we would be eating food pills and flying around in jet packs. In fact we only have to look back 10 years to see some predictions by noted futurologist and author Arthur C. Clark which have mainly been shown to be hopelessly wrong (All coal mines closed, Humans cloned?).

So how did they miss real game changers like television, mobile phones, personal computers and of course our old friend the Internet? Perhaps the answer is that, in these 4 examples, they were solutions waiting for people to notice that they needed them. For example the Victorians didn't sit watching a painting in the corner of their living room wishing it would move.

But strangely a lot of recent work has not been about introducing new game changers but rather has been in making things better. On the audio side manufacturer have moved us off vinyl records onto CD, then SACD then DVD-Audio but actually more and more people are perfectly happy with sub standard low bit rate MP3's because they can carry their entire music collection around with them. Similarly with video, manufactures moved us from VHS/Betamax to DVD to Blueray and HD but so many of us consume low quality video on the likes of YouTube.com or the BBC iPlayer because of the vast amount of content. How many people don't even bother carrying around a dedicated camera anymore because the one on their mobile phone (with poor lens, low resolution and rubbish flash) is good enough?

Similarly, desktop operating systems (and I don't just mean Windows Vista) have been piling on more and more capabilities requiring more and more horse power when out of the blue a massive market for netbooks emerged because many people have quite simple requirements easily served by a low cost, low capabilities device especially when it can be much more mobile and also always connected through WiFi and 3g. Look at the motor industry, particularly in America, and the vehicles were getting bigger and stronger when the customers were crying out for cars that were smaller and more environmentally sound. Witness the success of that glorified milk float the Toyota Prius.

All of those improvements were better in many ways than their preceding versions but being better is not enough. You need to ensure that things are better in a way that embraces the needs and requirements of the customer. Partly this can be achieved through Agile Development. The key tenets of this design philosophy is to introduce new features faster and ensure that they are aligned to what the customers want by involving them at regular intervals. This is what the Lotus Design Partner program is all about - letting business partners, developers and end users have the chance to ensure that what Lotus is building is what people need.

And I think this is reflected in the scope of the Lotus portfolio now. On Premise, Hosted or Cloud based depending on what is right for a particular organisation. Thin client, thick client, browser client, mobile client depending on what is right for a particular user. And a full set of capabilities to truly allow people to work better and smarter. From basic collaboration, team working, real time collaboration, unified communication, professional networking through to knowledge enablement. I really believe that we have all the bases covered and aren't just trying to make a better email client, but building the best ecosystem for people to work together.

I look forward to a great 2010 working for IBM Lotus Software and I wait with baited breath for more exciting announcements from Lotusphere 2010. For instance, what will the next major release of Lotus Notes be called?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

So long Doctor

So the 10th Doctor has regenerated into his new incarnation Matt Smith. Geeks will appreciate the synchronicity in this appointment since The Doctor often refers to himself as Mr Smith when he is incognito.

But from my perspective there is a more significant change - which is that the venerable Dr Who logo which has been used since the series returned in 2005 is being replaced with this one. I can't say I'm convinced but I suppose we will have to see how it suits the new season which starts in the UK this spring. However, it has certainly prompted me to regenerate the poorly plagiarised Ports Thoughts logo into something a little less showy.

If you are an old timer like me and you are interested in the history of the Dr Who logo's from very beginning then this is quite cool.