Monday, October 29, 2007

An Update on Dragon and the Sony IC Recorder

I'm getting a lot better at Dragon and the Sony IC Recorder. The trick, which was not reported anywhere on the Dragon site or in the documentation, was quite simple.

My older version of Dragon used to start up and load my personal user profile but the newer version needs you to pick it whenever you start. At first, I thought that this was just an annoyance of the upgrade but I've since discovered it's a "feature" of the "Preferred" edition.

Instead of loading my normal profile, I chose to create a new user and was asked, as part of configuration, what type of microphone was going to be used. There was a short list, or so it seemed until I started scrolling. Near the bottom of the list, I found the Sony IC recorder. I selected that and Dragon prompted me to go away and read a large chunk of novel to the stick and then bring it back.

Foolishly, I chose Arthur C. Clark. I think I have been put off his books forever now. If you thought that the movie 2001 was a little tedious, try reading aloud from the novel of 3001. I wish I'd chosen Willy Wonka or Dilbert's guide to management instead.

Anyway, after a gruelling 6 x A4 typed pages, I was finished and reconnected the device to my computer. Clicking the next button in dragon prompted me to select the file and Press Voice Recog... Dragon did the rest.

Dragon did give me this scary message about it probably taking an hour. Given that "Microsoft Minutes" are least 20 minutes long, I was really concerned. Surprisingly though, I went and got a cup of coffee it was done when I returned. (No, I don't take that long to get coffee either).

I tried re-importing stuff from the stick that hadn't read very well previously. I got much better results.

I'm now very happy with the Sony IC recorder and with Dragon preferred, though I'm unhappy with their helpdesk because they made it almost impossible to contact them.

Hopefully my post here will help others.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Avoiding Injury - Using Dragon in the Open Plan Office

Well, my overuse injury is back and it's quite painful to type. I'm not as worried as I was a few years ago when it first flared up because now I have Dragon.

The problem is that Dragon doesn't lend itself to the open plan office environment. We've recently moved offices and in our old office, I used to be able to use Dragon without worrying about bothering my colleagues. This is no longer the case.

After much deliberation I've found a solution (of sorts).

I've managed to get a Sony IC recorder and have upgraded to Dragon Naturally Speaking version 9 Preferred.

So, now to type longer documents, I take the recorder into a quiet meeting room and dictate to the sony stick. There are some other advantages to this as it frees my hands up for looking through other paperwork.

When I get back to my desk I copy the MP3 file across and then from the Dragon Naturally Speaking menu I select Sound then Transcribe Recording.

It is possible to transcribe the recording directly into an application, such as Microsoft Word, but I prefer to transcribe into the Dragon Notepad.

The reason for this is that when I'm transcribing into the Dragon notepad I can use my computer for other things but when I'm transcribing into other software, Dragon needs to maintain focus on the application and warns me not to touch the keyboard or mouse for the duration of the transcribing process. Transcribing is by no means a fast process, so I'm not willing to wait.

At the moment, the transcribing process is not incredibly accurate. I expect the accuracy will pick up as I experiment with settings and when I locate the dragon transcibing training facilities.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

RAID and Hot Swap Drives

Yesterday morning we got a defunct drive on our main Domino server. No problem, I called IBM and they arranged to send out a replacement drive within 4 hours. We got the drive within about 3. (Good Job).

I mentioned to my boss that although the drive was a hot-swap drive, there was a chance, however slight, that it could bring the server down. This is my standard disclaimer nowadays.

Well, I removed the old drive and waited about 30 seconds before plugging in the new one.

Instead of the expected rebuild operation, the RAID controller flagged the new drive as defunct and Windows Server 2003 obliged by giving me a blue screen of death.


I had a look at the packaging that IBM sent... Reconditioned Drives... not good.

I don't begrudge IBM for using reconditioned parts but I think it is a little bit cheeky.

At Any rate, following a call to IBM was told to update the firmware on the drives as the replacement drive have shipped with the very latest. Isn't that just a typical IBM response. When in doubt, update the firmware.

I had to schedule an outage and this morning I upgraded the firmware.

Did it work?

Nope. We're still in the poo.

Maybe we'll get a chance to try out our DRP after all.

I've just gotten off the phone to an IBM tech. He said that sometimes they use other brand drives and rebadge them as IBM. He asked me to check the drive.

I took it out, turned it upside down etc. and looked at the circuit board. Maxtor. The IBM tech said that it was ok for Maxtor and that it was Fujitsu that we had to worry about. (whatever?).

Anyway, I plugged the drive back and... it immediately started rebuilding.

Now, I'd plugged and unplugged the drive before and after the firmware update. The difference was that this time, I'd turned the drive upside down to read a label.

I guess those drives need a little shake before installation.

And I'll be extra-diligent on the backup until I trust the drive, that's for sure.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Useful Little Routine to Change Data in Fields

Level: Beginner Development

Today I thought I'd just share with you a little routine that I use when I want to make field level changes to a lot of documents without having to edit them. It's beginner stuff but I use it a lot.

What you need
A document, or group of documents with a field called DocNumber
A view where you can select those documents.
Notes Designer.

Creating the Agent
  1. Open Designer on the database (or template)
  2. Click on Shared Code then Agents
  3. Click on the button marked New Agent
  4. In the Properties box, give your agent a Name eg: Change Document Number
  5. It should be a Shared Agent
  6. In the Target Section, it should read All Selected Documents
  7. You don't need to change anything else in the properties box, so just close it.
  8. Now, in the intialize event of your Agent (just click on the word initialize and type in the box that appears).
  9. Type your code (or paste it from this page).
  10. When you've finished, Close the agent windows and choose YES to save your changes.

The code

Sub Initialize
   Dim NewSection As String
   Dim Counter As Long

   Dim ses As New notessession
   Dim doc As notesdocument
   Dim db As notesdatabase
   Dim col As notesdocumentcollection

   Counter = 0
   NewSection = Trim$(Inputbox$("What is the name of the New Category?"))

   If NewSection = "" Then
      Print "You did not specify a category to move documents to. No documents moved."
      Exit Sub
   End If

   Set db = ses.currentdatabase
   Set col = db.unprocesseddocuments

   Set doc=col.getfirstdocument

   While Not doc Is Nothing
      doc.DocNumber = NewSection
      Counter = Counter +1
      Call doc.Save(True, True)

      Set doc=col.getnextdocument(doc)
   Print Trim$(Str$(Counter)) + " document(s) moved to category: " + NewSection
End Sub

How to Use the Routine
Simply tag a whole heap of documents then click on Actions, then Change Document Number (from the Lotus Notes Menu). You'll be prompted for a new number and then it will change all the selected documents.

I use this routine a lot when I want to move documents from one section/category to another.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cut-Down PS3 doesn't support PS3

Normally, I wouldn't be using this blog as a platform for a quick rant about a gaming platform - I tend to keep it computers as much as possible but there's a post on DVD Bits that's really got my gander up.

It talks about the cut-down Playstation 3 being released in Australia for $700. As the article says...

"This shaves $300 off the current RRP, but also removes backwards compatibility with Playstation 2 titles; takes out the multi-card reader (for your Memory Sticks, SD cards or Compact Flash) as well as 20GB of HDD space. On the plus side, it is still a Blu-ray player, and may be one of the cheaper and more reliable options."

Now I'm a big fan of backward compatibility. One of the reasons why I felt that Microsoft's XBox deserved to fail was because they don't provide adequate compatibility with their own product.

The article goes on to say that

"Sony has confirmed that the 60GB model will only stay on shelves as long as stock lasts."

If this means that Sony is dropping PS2 compatibility altogether then I'm afraid that I'll be giving the PS3 a miss. Our kids aren't playing the PS2 enough for it to be worthwhile upgrading but you can be sure that when they are ready, I'll be checking carefully for backward compatibility.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where did "Set Bookmark as Home Page" disappear to in Notes 8?

One thing has really been bugging me in Notes 8 so far. The apparent disappearance of the Set Bookmark as Home Page option.

I tried configuring myself a new home page but I kept getting greedy and wanting six-panel monstrosities which for some reason, the welcome screen refused to create. That is, I thought it refused to create... until I opened Notes this morning and was confronted by my own handy-work - yuck.

Whatever the cause, I decided that today I was going to get my old Navigator home page back. Here are the Steps...

1. Right Click on the Tab for your Database and choose Create Bookmark.

2. The usual bookmark window would appear.
You can put the bookmark anywhere but I'm going to put it in favourites, since it is one of my favourites.


Click on Favorite Bookmarks.
Change the type to Application (default is view and this can sometimes muck up framesets).
Click Ok to add the new bookmark.

3. Click on Open, then Favorite Bookmarks, then Right-Mouse Click on your newly added favorite (it will usually be at the bottom - I haven't figured out the sorting yet) and there, sitting in the popup menu is our missing function... Set Bookmark as Home Page.

From here there's only a YES - I really want to do this! type prompt and we're done.

Next time you open Notes 8, you'll be in familiar territory.

Getting Domino Databases to Work on Mobiles without Extra Technology - Part 2

As promised last time, I'm going to have a look at views.

Suppose we decide to have a view called ITContacts.

We will also need a form called $ViewTemplate for ITContacts.

We can't change the $ViewTemplateDefault form because changing this will affect other web views of the database. Of course, if your database isn't otherwise available on the web, you can save yourself some trouble because otherwise you'll need to create a $ViewTemplate for each view that will be available on the mobile.

Tips for the View
Creating this view is pretty much the same as creating any other Notes view except that you need to be conscious of how much data you're pushing out.

For example;
Your normal web or notes view of IT Contacts might have;
|FirstName | Surname | Company | Phone | Fax | Mobile | Email | Support ID | Address | City | State |

This is fine for a wide screen but isn't at all useful on the mobile.

Consider concatenating fields; eg:

Instead of the first two fields, try...

@IF(@Trim(FirstName) != "" ; FirstName + " " + Surname ; Surname)

Use HTML to Spread out Vertically
Instead of having a whole heap of columns, consider doing everything in two but using HTML to space things out more neatly.

Your first column would be the link to from the view to the full document. Just make it something small - even an "X" would do the trick.

Your second one would contain useful things...

Obviously your html would be more polished than this, you'd use an @IF like the firstname bit to check whether the Email address existed before writing the html for it.

The end result would be that you end up with a view that displays each record on the web like this.

X Roger Wilco
Space Janitors
Phone: 06 9506 5080
Fax: 06 9059 8905

instead of a columnar format.

Obviously the views would be slightly different for different databases.
Note also that we've ignored the address. If you can, you should try to suppress unnecessary information on the VIEW, save it for the form.

The $ViewTemplate for ITContacts.
This is just a normal notes form with an Editable text field in it called $ViewBody

The important thing is how you structure your menus.

Here's an example of how I did my form - the links go nowhere though.

IT User Manual - IT Contacts
Menu | Prev Pg | Next Pg | Search


Menu | Prev Pg | Next Pg | Search

Other IT Books
IT Contacts
Disaster Recovery

The Menu Link should go to:
Named Element, Page, Mobile

The Search Link will contain formula similar to the following;
DB:= @Implode(@Explode(@Text(@Subset(@DbName;-1)); "\\");"/");
SearchURL := "/"+DB+"/msearchdb?Openform";


(for more info on the search facility - see How and Why to use Different Search Templates in Domino)

The Other IT Books links will contain links going to;
Named Element, View, Mobile\Contacts etc..

That leaves only the Prev Pg and Next Pg Links.
These should have formula for...

@DbCommand("Domino"; "ViewPreviousPage")


@DbCommand("Domino"; "ViewNextPage")


Note that I haven't been able to get these two commands to work on Opera Mini or the Blackberry Browser even though they work fine in a normal browser. When I have an update on this, I'll post it.

I haven't covered forms, because there's not a lot to do with them. I suppose you could try to launch a different form from the mobile views... (one with less graphics). I'll consider it as a future project.

Notes also has a "hide when" for Mobiles which would be good for graphics if phones were reliable. Apparently the blackberry doesn't see itself as a mobile browser.

So... There you have it. Who needs a fancy API (or even a Blackberry) to get things working on the Mobile?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Getting Domino Databases to Work on Mobiles without Extra Technology - Part 1

This is a Beginner/Intermediate Domino developer post.

Most mobile phones these days will happily support web browsing. Some, like the Blackberry, will go much further and offer you an API for development. The problem really is that you need to find the common denominator rather than developing for one of the higher end platforms. I believe that the common denominator is probably plain old web access.

If you've got Domino running web services, you most likely have many of your databases already served over the web. The key things to remember with mobiles are;

  • Low Bandwidth

  • Narrow Screens

  • Simplicity

This post will cover one method that could be used to provide non-push mobile access to databases using a Notes-only solution. There are plenty of other options available but this solution should work well in Domino 6 & 7 (and I'd expect, 8).

Create a Mobile Page
Open your database in designer and create a new page, you should call it mobile.
This will be the front screen for your database, so put the database name here and some links to views you'd like to use.

Don't worry too much about the actual links yet - just descriptive names for the views would be fine. When you have some views to link to, you'll want to change these to hotspot links (highlight the text and choose: Create, Hotspot, Link) set the links to Named Element, and the element type to View. You will be able to pick the appropriate view from the list by clicking the folder icon.

Try to keep it simple and small - Try to use 8 points Default Sans Serif as your main font and avoid using graphics.

At this point, you can save your page and then use your mobile to access it. The page should look something like the following (though your links might not be there yet).

Your URL will probably be something like;

(I've cheated on these graphics but this is pretty much how they appear).

If your mobile supports favourites/bookmarking, you might want to bookmark this for later reference since you'll be returning here a lot.

If you're interested in how to build the search link, look at yesterday's post. The link would be something like...

In your link, made using: Create, Hotspot, Link Hotspot and with a Type of URL, you could get away with a shorter URL of;


since the first parts are relative.

Here's how your search form could look;

My next post will look at Views and if it doesn't get too long, Forms.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How (and Why) to Use Different Search Templates for Different Lotus Domino Views

Why would you need to do this?
Until recently, I'd have been at a loss to give you a good reason. Now however, since I've decided to modify some databases for Mobile Phone use, I have a very good reason.

Suppose that you want your database to be searchable via the web and also searchable via mobile.
  • On the web, you can afford to spread out on the screen and you want to use a lot of fancy graphics and fonts.

  • On the mobile, you need to keep things as small and as plain as possible.

Working with your existing Database
Your database probably already has a $$SearchForm (or similar) and a $$SearchTemplateDefault. Leave these as they are and your web site will continue to work beautifully.

Make a copy of the two forms and modify them for mobiles

In these examples, we'll call...
  • the new $$SearchForm, MSearchForm

  • We'll call the new $$SearchTemplate for MSearchAll

On your MSearchForm, you need only have;

1. An Editable Text Field (called SearchWord1)
2. A Button
3. A Computed Text Field called $$Return

The formula for the button could be as follows;

DB:= @Implode(@Explode(@Text(@Subset(@DbName;-1)); "\\");"/");

SearchURL := "/"+DB+"/MSearchAll?searchView&query="+@Trim(SearchWord1);
ReturnURL :="/"+DB+"/MSearchAll?OpenView";

@Trim(SearchWord1) != "" ;
@URLOpen(SearchURL) ;

The formula for the $$Return Field could be as follows;
Note: HTML Brackets have been replaced with curly braces

"{script language=\"javascript\"}" +
"document.forms[0];" +

(Actually I'm not sure you need this code on the mobile, but it's better to be safe than sorry).

Creating the Search View
You should now create a view and give it an alias of MSearchAll

If you're doing this for use on a mobile, you should make your view really simple and small (eg: Default Sans Serif 8 Points).

You won't need any categorizations here, just keep it as simple as possible (a list of titles only perhaps?)

Testing your Search
Once everything is saved, you can test your new search facility.

The URL would be something like;
(obviously this is a dummy url which won't work)

Friday, October 05, 2007

How to Get RSS Feeds to Work on the Lotus Notes R8 Sidebar

This is a Notes 8 Newbie Tip.

Getting to the Sidebar
If you can't see the sidebar, you should click on View, Sidebar, Open (In the Menu).
The sidebar will display on the right hand side of the screen.

Look in the Sidebar for an orange icon with the word Feeds next to it.
If you don't see it, you may need to click (on the menu) View, Sidebar Panels, Feeds

Adding a Feed
1. To Add a feed, click on the orange icon with a plus sign on it.

2. An Add New Subscription dialog box will appear.

3. Type (or paste Ctrl+V) the address of the feed you want to subscribe to.

You can usually get these addresses by right-clicking on the RSS icons (or orange icons) on web sites and selecting

  • Copy Link Location (in Firefox)

  • Copy Shortcut (in Internet Explorer)

4. Click the button marked Go. This causes the bottom section of the dialog box to fill in. You can change these settings if you want to, but often they'll be ok.

Note: You can change them later by right-clicking on the Feed Name and choosing Edit Feed Subscription.

5. Click on the button marked OK.
The dialog box will close and after a few seconds you will see the feeds populated with a number of titles.

Reading the RSS Feeds
1. To look at a feed, simply click on it in the list.
It will turn from Boldface to unbolded and will display a popup box containing a summary of the feed.

2. If you are interested enough to want to read the feed, simply click the open button.

3. You can quickly move through the feed list by using the up and down arrows on your keyboard (cursor keys).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Live-Testing the Notes 8 Client

We're a Notes 7 shop and will be until November 2007 at the earliest (while we wait for the relevant blackberry fixes for Notes 8). That said, I wanted to get some familiarity with the client without Losing my Notes 7 install.

So far it's working, so here's how I did it.

A Near Miss
My first attempt at installing Notes 8 could have ended in disaster had I not been watching carefully. The software wanted to install right over the top of my Notes 7 installation and wouldn't give me an option to change directories.

Installation Procedure
I quickly located an IBM tech note on the problem which said to temporarily rename my notes directories.

I renamed them from Lotus to xlotus (both the Application and the Data directories). This was enough to allow me to do a fresh install of Notes 8. This time, I chose a different location.

After installation, I did the workstation setup and chose not to make Notes 8 my default email client (just in case it overwrote something important).

After a quick look around, I closed Notes and renamed my xlotus directories back.

The Effects
My start menu has the new Notes icon next to Email, but it still launches Notes 7 - This is good.

I can also choose to run either Notes 7 or Notes 8 but can't run them both at the same time. If I click Notes 8 while Notes 7 is around, it simply brings Notes 7 to the front. I'm quite happy with that behaviour.

My Notes 7 client was an Administrator/Designer, but I've left the Notes 8 Client as standard.

At this stage, I'm obviously not planning to upgrade any database designs or replicate anything from Notes 8. I'm just going to have a look around and get used to the interface.

My initial thoughts on Notes 8
Note: these are VERY initial.

The interface looks spartan and it's hard for me to get it to do exactly what I want - I'm sure I'll change my opinion on that soon.

The application, as is usual for Notes, is VERY compatible. Even things that weren't perfect in the Notes 6.5 - 7 transition behave well here. Given the degree of change from Notes 7 to 8, I'm very pleasantly surprised.

The open button is going to take some getting used to.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Getting Hotmail to work on your Blackberry

Ok, this is just a really quick post.

I've been trying to get hotmail to work on the blackberry but it's just not as intuitive as Gmail and there's certainly no nice application available.

In the past, I've been able to browse to hotmail but it doesn't automatically recognize the blackberry as a mobile device. This is (I think) due to the way the blackberry browser registers itself.

Today, I stumbled upon this link and all my problems are gone.

It's still browser based, (no nice Gmail style app) but it's fast and works well enough.

I don't know if this is due to the recent hotmail/windows live updates or if it has been there all along and I didn't notice.