Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of Year (2010) IT Wrap-up

Excuses and Stuff
Once again, I've reached the end of yet another year of minimal T-related blogging. It's frustrating because there's so many things I want to talk about and so little time to do it in.

It's not that there's nothing going on - we're busier than ever and we're doing some fascinating things with domino and with other systems.

I've been dying to talk about our three-plus year painful but ambitious domino project but it's just not ready yet. I can't talk about it until it's all humming along smoothly.


The List
So where have we been going with our computing stuff this year?

  • Well, there's the ambitious domino project that I mentioned which is aimed at putting together a CRM which doesn't simply use our NAB for lookups, it actually controls the NAB - and according to a bizarre and complex set of business rules. It's happening but our rules are very complex and we're learning a lot about the difference between implementation and test cycles on large compared to small domino installations.

  • We've been back-ending some of our domino applications with Cognos. Nothing fancy yet but there's some interesting web work here and a lot of possibilities.

  • We've been keeping up with IBM - Our clients are all on Notes 8.5.1 and 8.5.2 and the servers are 8.5, 8.5.1 and 8.5.2 (nothing like a little variety).

  • We're still sitting tight on Microsoft Office 2003. I can't see a reason to move to 2007 and so far, I've been able to open everything that has been sent to me - usually using my current version of word but sometimes (amusingly) it turns out that Notes is more capable of reading older and newer word documents than word itself.

  • We've managed to resist the call of Windows 7 and are staying put on Windows XP. I know it's unsupported but how good is Microsoft support anyway? We did put a couple of Windows 7 computers out there but we've seen no performance gains and it's getting hard to make a viable business case for the upgrade.

  • I've been following Google endlessly - I'm very impressed with their drive and direction. Their sudden backtrack on the Wave project was interesting and it's great to see that they're already starting to reuse the technology as shared spaces. I'm excited about the upcoming Chrome OS too.

  • On the browser front, it looks like Google's strategy is paying off. No, they don't actually want to move everyone to Chrome, they just want to lift the browser game. Chrome's my main browser but I also use Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera and if I really have to, Internet Explorer. In particular, I'm using the beta versions of Firefox and Opera.

    The current version of Firefox is abysmal and has to be losing them a lot of market share but the upcoming version 4 looks and feels great. Safari has had a massive overhaul too. Chrome is constantly being updated and I'm glad that extensions finally appeared this year. Surprisingly though it's Opera which has seen the biggest improvement in the beta version. Wow. That's going to shake up a few things when it gets released.

  • I've been watching the whole ipad and eBook reader thing with great interest and amusement. I haven't got an ipad. I think I'll wait for an android device. In the meantime though, they're revolutionising the user interface. It just needs to make the transition from pleasure to business.

    I did get an ebook reader but I went for a cheapie with a colour LCD screen. It doesn't even support DRM. Surprisingly though, that hasn't bothered me. I've got so many books to read that I can't see myself needing to buy anything online during the life of that device. The business possibilities are impressive too. I'm PDF-ing everything and saving it there. I've got meeting documents, the DRP and even my scouting books. I took the device on a scout camp recently and was able to read while the cubs were asleep - and reference various scout materials, maps and game rules during the day. People need to move on from DRM and remember that "just being able to read your own documents without a computer" is sometimes an achievement.
That's about all the main waffle for the year.

Thanks everyone for reading and for your help throughout 2010.
Have a great Christmas (or alternative end-of-year celebration) and see you next year!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide by Karen Hooper

IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide
by Karen Hooper
Paperback : 296 pages [ 235mm x 191mm ]
Release Date : August 2010
ISBN : 1849680205
ISBN 13 : 978-1-849680-20-2




I've just finished reading Karen Hooper's excellent IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide and it's awesome. In fact, this book is so good that I'd already gone online partway through the third chapter and ordered a print copy for my workplace library.

Of course, it helps that PACKT Publishing is having an IBM Month this November. There's a bunch of special offers but the ones to really take note of are;
  • 20% off all Packt IBM print books
  • 25% off if you purchase 3 or more books
  • 30% off all Packt IBM ebooks

Back to the Review...
So, who is the audience for the book? Well, it's the layperson, the employees who are new to Notes or who need to brush up on their skills. That's not to say that there isn't good material and tips for the techies out there - but that the best value gains will come from the non-IT staff.

When reviewing technical books, I always have a goal in mind. In this case, my goal was simply to feel like everything had been covered yet still take away at least one "wow" moment where despite my long history with Notes, I pick up something new.

In this book, there were several wow moments. In fact, several times I had to put it down and get in there and have a go just to prove to myself that these "new" features worked. I'm impressed!


A Notes 8+ Book
If you're still using Notes 7, then you've got the wrong book. This is very much a book about the current Notes product. There have been massive changes in Notes 8 - 8.5 and this book walks through each of them in detail.

There are the usual chapters on mail, calendar and to-do lists but there are also sections dealing with RSS feeds, widgets, the sidebar, sametime and more. Thankfully the book is free of QuickR, Sametime (full version) and Connections references. This is a book which respects its core subject and concentrates its full attention on it.

There are a couple of ambitious chapters near the end which cover more on replication and database creation than I'd usually want my users to know but it's refreshing to see this material dealt with so simply. It's a book that you can hand up to the less technical management band and know that they'll come away with the right concepts.

Finally, the book ends with a chapter dealing with Symphony. I'd have preferred this chapter to have been two chapters earlier (in front of the technical stuff) and I'd have preferred it to go into more detail. It does however point to some very useful online resources - and since it's slightly off-topic, it's probably in the right place.

This book is brilliant. It belongs on the shelf in every IT department running Notes 8 and above. It also belongs in HR and there are whole sections which probably should be presented as part of a staff induction.

In fact, as soon as my print copy arrives (I read the eBook version), I've got a long list of people I want to circulate it through.

Don't hesitate - the IBM November specials at PACKT Publishing aren't going to last - get out there and get this book. It's the best Notes Client book I've seen in years.

Honesty Clause: I was provided an copy of this book at no charge to review. Even so, it was good enough that I really did buy it before I'd finished more than a couple of chapters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Soon - A Review of "IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide" by Karen Hooper


I've just downloaded the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide by Karen Hooper from PACKT Publishing and will be reviewing it shortly - it's going to take me a little while to make it through the 296 page tome.

My first impressions though are good, very good. This isn't a book for developers wanting to learn XPages. It's a book for the users in your organisation, something that has been lacking in the notes world lately.

You can obtain copies of the book at the PACT Publishing Website (http://www.packtpub.com/).

Stay tuned, I'll have the review here shortly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Patch Tuesday - There is no SOE

So, once again Microsoft's Patch Tuesday is breaking all records and we're in a quandry.

We can either accept the risk of applying 28 untested (by us) patches to fix 49 vulnerabilities or we can accept the security risks of not applying the patches.

Both choices are difficult but in the end, I'm always going to accept the "upgrade risk" versus the "security risk".


Gone are the old days
So, why don't we just delay it a bit and test it all out? In the old days (and certainly in a much larger company) this would have been possible but right now, we only have a small IT department and a constantly shifting Standard Operating Environment (SOE).

As I've said before - there is no longer such a thing as a SOE in today's computing environment. We start out with an idea of the software to be loaded and the options and location in which it gets loaded, that's standard. Then, all the applications upgrade themselves at different intervals and suddenly, each machine is unique.

We could probably use a whole lot more policy controls and we could introduce greater client security but I've seen where that road leads. In fact, many of our customers are still on that road. They're still on Internet Explorer 6 and they're incompatible with a whole host of sites. Their users don't even have the ability to change the time on their own systems - so if it's wrong and it's an emergency, there's nothing they can do.

If they go overseas and something needs fixing - too bad. They don't have rights to change anything on their own computers.

Nope. That road is for larger organisations only.


More than Microsoft
It's not just Microsoft either. These days, Acrobat and Flash seem to do a couple of upgrades a week and Google Chrome is constantly (but silently) upgrading itself in the background (though somehow I'm ok with their upgrades because they're so unobtrusive). Then we have Quicktime and Real Player and the Anti-Virus systems.

It seems that there's just no escaping upgrade hell.

If we tested everything properly we'd need a huge IT department. Sometimes it's best to just read the bulletins, warn your users and keep your fingers crossed.

Today's Upgrade
So this all leads me to today's upgrades. I'm getting quite used to the fact that everytime Windows upgrades my PC, it sets the resolution back to something the monitor doesn't like (which results in fuzzy patches). It's ok. I have the correct resolution written on a post-it note at the bottom of my screen and it's a couple of minutes work once per month (and sometimes more frequently if there are urgent patches) to fix it.

Todays "surprises" were a little different though.

Today, Microsoft decided to replace my default email client (Lotus Notes 8.5.2) with outlook. It also completely rewrote the winword.exe file so that my Kaspersky Firewall didn't recognise it and had to prompt for further instructions. It doesn't bother me - I'm an IT professional. What DOES bother me is the fact that I'll now have to go around the organisation and hand-hold all of our clients through their logon process this morning.

Thanks Microsoft. I needed more work.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.2: Upgrading your Icons from 16x16 to 32x32

I've upgraded my client to Notes 8.5.2, sure it took a couple of goes and I ended up having to completely uninstall and reinstall - but I got there.

I've since done an upgrade on a different PC (but that one didn't have designer) and I didn't have the same problems - so, maybe it was just a glitch on my PC.

So... What's new in IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.2? Well, if you really want to learn the answer to that question, ask IBM. There's something about XPages too I think but the really important bit is ... the icons..

no, really...

We've been waiting ages for this. Let's hope it won't be another 18 years before we get 64x64 icons.

So... the first thing I did in the 8.5.2 designer was upgrade my Smurf. Yep, the database that I've had as my best friend for the last 15 years of my working life has an excessively blue smurf as its icon. A "choked smurf".

I decided to restore him to normal colour - and it's easy.

All I did was;

  1. Find a new 32x32 icon
    (You do know that you can do a google image search for 32x32 pictures right?)

  2. Save the Icon locally; C:\temp\smurf.png

  3. Open my database in designer

  4. Expand Resources

  5. Double-Click on Icon

  6. Click on the button marked Browse

  7. Choose my new Icon - and presto... it's done.


and here are the pictures...


My Smurf can breathe at last.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Our IBM/Lotus Renewals and TCO

I've just finished the IBM/Lotus renewal cycle for the year and either IBM has made some changes for the better or I'm losing my grip on my sanity. Whatever the reason, this year the process actually made sense.


The Cost and the TCO
We're actually quite a small domino shop but our annual renewals would have covered the cost of a 4WD vehicle from a reputable dealer.

This is at least in part due to our office technology mentality. We have our main domino server which is capable of running pretty much everything and we have a second server that we use to run one of our more intensive apps (which I'll talk about in another post).

On top of all this, we have an offsite business continuity server which we've never actually used "for real" - only in test situations. Domino is too stable for it to be a necessity and it's really only there to guard against ISP or "location" failure.

Then we've got a development server and a test server. These are new but welcome additions because having a separate server encourages us to be more daring in our development projects.

The bottom line is simple; if the TCO has blown out, it's our fault for choosing multiple levels of safeguards instead of lower costs.


Upgrade Assurance
Of course, we've also got the option not to renew at all. That's right, we can save all that money by not renewing and still be entitled to use the software in perpetuity. I think that the maintenance entitles us to helpdesk support, which I almost never use because frankly, it's not very good. I find that if I blog about a problem (and if I read everyone else's domino blogs), I get better results than if I complain to IBM. It's a pity really.

So, for us, the maintenance really boils down to nothing more than upgrade assurance. If we pay it, then we're entitled to upgrade. If we stop paying it, then we'd have to buy the software outright again in order to upgrade (that's about three times the cost). If we stayed on the same version of Notes/Domino for three years and then upgraded, we'd probably break even. Four years and the strategy would start to pay off.

Once, there was a time when this was feasible. Once, IBM wasn't putting out many upgrades and in fact those upgrades weren't really worth a whole lot of effort. I guess I'm talking around Notes versions 6 & 7. This has all changed with version 8. IBM now has a good strategy and each upgrade introduces worthwhile features while moving Notes/Domino closer and closer to its true destiny, the web.

IBM are also bundling more and more into the package with Traveller being the most obvious newcomer. It's a great system and I think that it will soon be replacing Blackberry at my workplace. We're also getting a bit of use out of the bundled sametime, though not enough to justify the full package.

I recently learned that there's some sort of entitlement to websphere. Apparently... I've not heard of it before. It's an IBM secret and I've yet to hear it confirmed from an official source.


Sitting on Old Infrastructure
During the negotiations for our upgrade assurance, it always crosses my mind to not bother renewing, though admittedly the lure of new versions keeps me coming back. This year I made a joke about those poor people who are still on Notes 5 & 6. To me, these guys are the laughing stock of the computing world because they're constantly complaining about a product they haven't bothered to update. It's their own fault - not IBMs.

Of course Notes 5 compares unfavourably to the current offerings of the competition. Compare Notes/Domino 8.5.2 with the MS offering of 1999 and you can be sure that IBM/Lotus will come out on top.

I said jokingly that enough water has passed under the bridge that they could pay their maintenance this year and get upgraded without "penalty" and I was told that there was a company out there, on Notes 4.5 who HAVE been paying their maintenance every year but still haven't upgraded.

My jaw dropped.

Wow.

If all you're really getting for your money is software assurance, why would you pay for it and then not use it? It just doesn't make sense.

Maybe IBM needs to do a survey to find out what versions its "assured" customers are running and then get in there and upgrade them.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Install the OpenNTF Document Management Plugin for Lotus Notes 8.5.x

There's now a great new OpenNTF document management plug-in for Notes. I'm interested in seeing if I can move away from MS Office and this little utility seems to me to be the best way to start. It allows you to work on documents in folders while still keeping things available for users who prefer to access folders directly. The only caveat that I've found so far is that it wants everything to be stored in OpenDocument format and will convert the imports accordingly.

So... I've just installed this plug-in and in typical "dumb-user" fashion, I had to ask a number of questions of the authors.

I thought that to save others a bit of time and to illustrate the whole procedure, I'd make the procedure available here. Even if you're not interested in this particular plug-in, you might be interested in some of the others which are available. (like the awesome FileNavigator project). These steps might just be the ticket to installing them.

My instructions worked on Lotus Notes 8.5.2 but should work on other some versions too.

Click here for the project page for DocumentManagement. In theory you can download it from OpenNTF. I think you have to be logged in first. For some reason, I've been finding it difficult to download anything on OpenNTF recently, so if you experience difficulty, head to their blog post and use the download link there.

2. Extract All files to a folder:
In my case, since I put all our Widgets together on a corporate drive, I extracted all of the files to X:\IBM\Lotus\Widgets\DocumentMangement. Your setup is probably different so just extract them wherever you want (and remember where you put them).

Note that I had to separately unzip the updatesite sub-folder. For some reason it's a zip inside the ZIP. Notes didn't want to read it when I first tried, so I unzipped it.

3. In Lotus Notes client click File, Application, Install on the menu.
What? You don't have a File, Application, Install menu option? Sometimes you don't. I'm not sure why. It might be an 8.5.0 or 8.5.1 thing because I didn't need to do it in 8.5.2.

To enable the Eclipse update manager UI in Lotus Notes, use these steps...

a. Close your Lotus Notes client

b. Start Notepad or your preferred text editor.

c. Open the \framework\rcp in the Notes Application Directory
In my case, this was,
C:\Program Files\IBM\Lotus\Notes\framework\rcp

d. Look for a file called plugin_customization.ini and open it.

e. Add the line
com.ibm.notes.branding/enable.update.ui=true
anywhere in the file.

f. Save and close file

g. restart Lotus Notes

Thanks to Christian Petters at www.cubetoon.com who first saved me from that gotcha.

Ok, detour over... let's resume...


3. In Lotus Notes client click File, Application, Install on the menu.

4. Choose the option maked (o) Search for new features to Install and click the button marked Next.

5. Click the button marked Add Folder Location...

6. Browse to:
X:\IBM\Lotus\Widgets\DocumentMangement\Updatesite
(or wherever you saved your files to back in step 2)
and click Ok.

7. You'll be presented with an "Edit Local Site" dialog box, just click Ok.

8. Click Finish. (this button lies - seriously... there's a long way to go yet)

9. On the next screen, select DocumentManagement/updatesite
For some crazy reason, it defaults to unticked ... then click Next

10. Click (o) I accept the terms in the License Agreements, then click Next.

11. Click Finish. (Guess what, this button lies too - we're not finished yet).

12. On the next screen, select (o) Install this Plug-in
This is another crazy default because it defaults to do not install the plug-in. If you weren't paying attention, you'd have to start all over again - I've been there before... more than once.
Click ok.

13. Watch Bar Graph

14. Restart the Notes Client

15. I got this lovely message when the client restarted
Failed to login
CLFRJ0010E
I don't know what it means but it went away and hasn't come back, so hopefully it's nothing to do with the install procedure.


16. In my installation, this was where I made a big mess. I kept expecting to see a sidebar plug-in and when it wasn't there, I tried reinstalling. Don't do this. It's not the correct procedure. :-)

Click on your Open menu and hopefully you'll see a Document Management option.

Don't click it... I didn't say to click it.

If you did, you'll probably get an error message about the root directory when you first start the application. Don't worry, it's alright. Just click ok. Then close the Document Management window.

17. From the Lotus Notes Menu, click File, Preferences. Look for a Preference called Document Management and click on that.

18. Choose a folder to manage and click Ok.

19. I think the document management app opens up automatically after this but if not, click Open and then Document Management.

If you've got some ODT documents, you might want to drop them in the folder you nominated and then click Refresh. You'll then be able to work with them in the document management facility.

You can also import files and categories (folders) - and everything seems to be updated on the server's file shares in real-time. Now that I've had a quick play, I'll point to something bigger.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Notes UI and Sending a Link to a File - Part 2

Thanks to everyone who responded yesterday. I've considered and tested the responses to find the method which will be simplest for our users.

What follows is a set of instructions....

We start our instructions by identifying the file we want to link to. Often for me, this will be a MPEG, AVI or giant PDF (because why else would you link rather than attach?) but in this example, I'm just using a MS Word Document.


You can see my path here is:

M:\Dept\IT\2010\Development\ExtraNet\Concepts

and my file name is

Proposed Extranet Login Systems.doc

Thus; my entire path and filename would be;

M:\Dept\IT\2010\Development\ExtraNet\Concepts\Proposed Extranet Login Systems.doc

Already by working the actual filespec out we're stepping slightly beyond the boundaries of the typical user.

Next, we type our email and highlight the words we want to link to a file;


Then we click the new "LINK" icon in Notes 8.5

This gives us a nice little box in which to type our URL. If this was a web link, it would be easy. Of course, being a file link, it's a different story.

You might think that at this point, you could simply paste a link to;

M:\Dept\IT\2010\Development\ExtraNet\Concepts\Proposed Extranet Login Systems.doc

but you'd be wrong. Notes will throw this out to the operating system as a URL. If your browser accepts all kinds of different URLs, (like Google Chrome does - and I presume future browsers will) then it won't know what protocol to use.

Just pasting the path in caused a lot of problems for me.

So... this is what you need to do to modify your URL.
  1. Prefix it with file://
  2. Change all backslashes to forward slashes (actually this should happen automatically).
Your new URL should look like this;

file://M:/Dept/IT/2010/Development/ExtraNet/Concepts/Proposed Extranet Login Systems.doc

Paste your new URL in and send your email. It should all work. Well, mostly work... If your users have firefox, you might discover that it actually blocks local links for security reasons unless you use these workarounds.

I'm not sure whether to provide these instructions for my users or not. In my opinion, it's still too difficult for them. I guess it wouldn't be too hard to create a button which did it - or even better, if IBM were to adjust the links button in future versions of Notes to allow browsing and selecting files on local resources.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Notes UI and Sending a Link to a File

Yesterday I found myself explaining to a new but technical user that Notes/Domino is, like Blackberry. An amazingly powerful and capable piece of software capable of everything that the competition is capable of - plus a whole lot more.

....and hampered by what is still one of the worst user interfaces in the world.

Sorry Notes UI team - I know you're doing your best. The same goes for the blackberry team. I know that they're doing their best too. It's just that the user interfaces have so far yet to go.


So, this morning, the same user asks me how to send a link to a file on our common drives without sending the attachment everywhere.

He's already cleverly tried attaching the .LNK file, but our policies don't allow that as it's considered to be an executable file.

I said to him that I didn't actually know. 18+ years of using the product and I still really don't know how to do this. I know several workarounds but I don't know of any one all-encompassing method.

It's sad.

Even sadder is the fact that as I received the call I was clicking the SEND button on a PDF I was sending around in the required manner.

How did I do it?

I added a button into my mail and dumped a chunk of code which uses the windows ShellExecute API call into the lotusscript section.

I looked around the notes client to see if there was a new way (like that wonderful new way of adding web links). Nope... I couldn't see anything.

I tried Create as hotspot... it spat the dummy about spaces in the file path.

I enclosed in quotes and tried again... this time it almost worked. I changed the beginning of the path to "file://" and it worked - but of course I know that some browsers won't accept file:// urls for security reasons.

I'm none the wiser.

I did a web search and found the following;

A set of instructions...

Nope... I'm not telling my users to do that. It's too hard and I'd rather tell them that they can't do it. Try again.

An External Application

You're kidding right? I mean, kudos to the guys who found an empty market niche but there's no way I'm going to accept that we need to install a third party app for this. It should be built in. In any case, the application does a sort of manual DAOS (Domino attachment and object service). It still stores the attachment in a second place - inside a database in the notes/domino system.


My Code
I guess I should make my button code available for everyone - well, everyone who has a designer client - so, not the majority of my users...

1. Add a button.
2. Change it to Run on Client - LotusScript
3. In the declarations section put this code...

Declare Function ShellExecute Lib "shell32.dll" Alias "ShellExecuteA" (Byval hwnd As Long, Byval lpOperation As String, Byval lpFile As String, Byval lpParameters As String, Byval lpDirectory As String, Byval nShowCmd As Long) As Long

Declare Function GetDesktopWindow Lib "user32" () As Long

'CONSTANTS
Const SW_SHOWNORMAL = 1
Const SW_SHOWMAXIMIZED = 3
Const SW_SHOWDEFAULT = 10

4. Create a new subroutine as follows;

Sub RunShellExecute(sTopic As String, sFile As Variant, sParams As Variant, sDirectory As Variant, nShowCmd As Long)
'EXAMPLE: Play wav file with associated app RunShellExecute "Play", "c:\windows\media\Notify.wav", 0&, 0&, SW_SHOWNORMAL
'EXAMPLE: Play avi file with associated app RunShellExecute "Play", "E:\VB Graphics\avi\Cogs.avi", 0&, 0&, SW_SHOWNORMAL
'EXAMPLE: Open txt file with associated app RunShellExecute "Open", "c:\My Documents\rundll.txt", 0&, 0&, SW_SHOWNORMAL
'EXAMPLE: Open txt file with notepad RunShellExecute "Play", "C:\windows\notepad.exe", "c:\My Documents\rundll.txt", 0&, SW_SHOWNORMAL
Dim hWndDesk As Long
Dim success As Long
Const SE_ERR_NOASSOC = &H31
Const vbTextCompare = 1
Dim HashPos As Integer
HashPos = Instr(1, sFile, "##" , vbTextCompare)
If HashPos > 0 Then
sTopic = Left(sFile, HashPos -1 )
sFile = Right(sFile, (Len(sFile) - (HashPos+1)))
End If
'The desktop will be the default for error messages
hWndDesk = GetDesktopWindow()
Print "RunShellExecute: " + "Topic=[" + sTopic + "]" + " File=[" + sFile + "]"
'Execute the passed operation
success = ShellExecute(hWndDesk, sTopic, sFile, sParams, sDirectory, nShowCmd)
End Sub

5. Write the click routine as follows; (with the LaunchPath pointing to your file).

Sub Click(Source As Button)
Const LaunchPath = "L:\Videos\IT\Hacking Fraud Example.avi"
RunShellExecute "Open", LaunchPath, 0&, 0&, SW_SHOWNORMAL
End Sub


There.... Easy! ... erm... not.


DAOS
The new Domino attachment and object service helps a lot in this regard. It only stores the attachment once - and without any user-intervention. It's almost a solution but not quite.

You see, in this day and age, we often want to make video and audio recordings of our conferences available to our internal staff without having to store even a single copy on our mail server. After all, sometimes these recordings are several gigabytes because the conferences can last for days.

Sometimes we just want to point people to a particular folder and not to file.


No Answer?
Well, that's it from me. I've been using Notes/Domino for longer than I was at school and yet I still don't know an easy way to send a link to a file.

Has anyone out there got any ideas?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Article: 5 Million Web Sites Served Malware for at Least 3 Months - And Nobody Noticed!

I really want to direct your attention to the following article which appeared today;

Malicious widget hacked millions of Web sites
Parked sites hosted by Network Solutions spread malware since at least May

Essentially the article says that up to 5 million web sites have been serving up malware for at least the last three months - and nobody noticed.

Even worse, it appears that nobody was safe;

"The widget turned every infected domain into a drive-by attack site that launched the multi-exploit "Nuke" toolkit against users running Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera"

Typically, the malware seems to only affect Windows PCs. Roll on Chromium OS! I'm not sure how much longer I can continue to support windows environments for anything other than games.

There's also the fact that the cleanup hasn't been completed.

"Although Network Solutions has disabled the widget on all parked domains and has taken the GrowSmartBusiness.com site offline, the widget remains on approximately 5,700 active sites that manually installed it, Huang said. Nor has Network Solutions scrubbed the malicious script targeting users with IP addresses located in Taiwan and Hong Kong"

Anyway, I've also got a bone to pick (as usual) with certain Anti-Virus vendors because yet again this month, I've seen known viruses just wander in past McAfee's defences. I'm not happy! Sadly, Microsoft's free Windows Defender is still much better at detecting viruses than the paid McAfee product. If you're not running it, you should get it now. This month I learned the hard way that you can't install it on an infected PC running in safe mode.

In the meantime I was just wondering what exactly this article means for cloud platforms of the future. Google Apps, IBM Lotus Live and Microsoft Azure? Surely none of these will work if the browsers don't come with anti-malware defences built in.

Also... what part should the ISP's play in defence I wonder?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Lotus Domino Cluster Failover Problem

In certain computing circles, "clustering" is a dirty word. I've heard of situations where, far from providing business continuity peace of mind, it creates more work and greater risk than it would if it were not involved.

This is not the case with Domino clustering. Done properly, it is extremely reliable

Our Problem
Recently, our cluster seems to have "picked up a slight flutter". Actually, I think that perhaps the rules behind it may have changed sometime around our 8.0 or 8.5 migration.

So, first I want to cover off basically what our cluster looks like;


Ok, this is quite a simplistic view and there are servers missing. I'm concentrating on the problem area only.

We have an onsite and offsite clustered Lotus Domino server, both running Lotus Domino 8.5 HF 1021. We'll call them "Onsite" and "Offsite" for ease of reference. The servers are quite a distance apart because we're clustering for business continuity purposes.

The theory is that our onsite staff members should access the onsite server unless it is down. The majority of our agents also run on this server, as does an intranet, extranet and several web sites. It's a busy and powerful box.

We discovered recently that many of our clients have been using the offsite server but we don't know exactly why.

It seems that if you open a database for which you don't already have a desktop icon, then the Notes client will default to opening it from the offsite server. What has exacerbated this problem is that we upgraded our clients to 8.5.1 and blew away their desktops. Now, suddenly all the computers are trying to access everything off the offsite server.

The reasons?
We don't know but were thinking that it was either;

  • Alphabetic: Because "Offsite" is lower in the alphabet than "Onsite"
or
  • Task Related: Because the Onsite server is much busier than the offsite one.

Does anyone have any ideas as to how we could go about finding out?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quick Rant: Why does Blackberry Discriminate against Australians?

I've noticed this on Blackberry a lot over the years and it always irritates me. Today, I thought I should post a quick rant to pass that irritation on.

See the picture...

Why the discrimination against Australians and South Koreans?

I'm sure I could bypass this with the right IP filter but that's not the point. Why do we get picked on. What have we ever done to Blackberry?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Problems of Real-World Collaboration in Legal and Financial Industry

Collaboration is the main buzzword in the computer industry these days and there are offerings from all the major vendors; IBM/Lotus, Microsoft and Google.

Their collaboration bundles have all recently leapt from the desktop into the web 2.0 cloud and seem to be the answer to all our business problems - but are they? I think that the answer is very industry specific.

I have no doubt that collaboration is a boon for the computing industry and I can see how the sharing of code and the discussion of bugs and product features can provide huge benefits. I can see similar benefits for project management in other industries such as mining and manufacturing too.

The benefits for big business, particularly big "distributed" businesses with offices all around the world are obvious but it's one thing to look at collaboration within the business. External business-to-business collaboration however is a whole new ballgame. It's what collaboration is really all about. Who doesn't want to seen the benefits of industry-wide collaboration on issues such as government, banking and environmental protection?

I can see some amazing potential benefits in the finance and legal sectors but while the potential is there, the money is there and to a certain extent, the capital investment is there too, collaboration is going nowhere fast.

I've got a few theories on why this is the case but sadly, no easy solution presents itself. It's not that the tools that are flawed but that the business structures themselves don't lend themselves to a collaborative environment.

A few years back, we spent quite a bit on building better collaboration tools into our systems. Our document database templates were upgraded to include forums; blogs and wikis were introduced and social bookmarking and improved contact management tools were brought online.

Everything went well in test mode where we had some excellent facebook style discussions about non business items but when we went live, the social silence was deafening.

What went wrong?

I don't think that we can pin the problems down to a single cause but there are several very obvious contributing factors;

Writing Style
The Web 2.0 requires a certain "aggressive" writing style. In order to facilitate discussion you can't simply sit on the fence in an arguement but have to take one side or the other. That way people can either agree or disagree with you. In essence, this is the whole point of the "like/unlike" facilities which are so popular in the facebook and google worlds. Even if someone has nothing to say, at least they can indicate support by simply clicking a link.

This is quite different from the normal rules of engagement for business where you need to tread carefully so as not to scare off potential customers or attract lawsuits.

Our writing teams were still writing to a static audiences. Their messages took the form of announcements rather than debates and no feedback was encouraged. Personally, I don't feel that the same team should be running both your corporate announcements and your web 2.0 interaction. It's more than just retraining, it's a matter of perspective.


Legal Obligations
Then there's the legal issues which abound in discussions between companies. Unlike Facebook where the worst that can happen is that someone "unfriends" you for saying the wrong thing, business discussions which stray off-topic can result in people getting fired or sued. Everything needs to be traceable and every step is like walking on eggshells. Sometimes it's simpler just to keep quiet.


Hierarchy
It's a funny thing but I often find that many of the best "immediate fixes" for business issues are already known at the bottom of the food chain - even when the problems aren't fully understood by the top people. It's a fact of life that those closest to the work are usually more likely to appreciate the day-to-day processing problems than management. The workers tend to think about these problems more and it shouldn't be surprising that they quickly find solutions - even if they don't always consider the big picture.

For some reason, management often has issues with the "bottom-up" approach. They feel that it makes them look less competent and they often try to suppress work-discussions between "little people". They need to maintain their hierarchy. In the world of meetings, this works well. The operations team have "team" meetings, the supervisory teams take the best ideas to the supervisor meetings, again the best ideas transfer to management meetings and so on, up to the board meeting.

Except of course, that it only takes one link in the chain of management to either dislike an idea or fail to understand it and the whole improvement process breaks down. The idea becomes lost.

One of the problems(?) with today's social networks is that they don't maintain these hierarchies. A "little-person" is just as capable of posting their thoughts on an issue as a member of upper management. Even worse, if their place in the hierarchy isn't understood by all the readers, their suggestions may even be listened to.

For this reason, managers and supervisors who feel threatened by this behaviour often try to block access to these systems. Often inappropriate use of company time and resources is cited. The result; the voices with the knowledge are removed from the system and there's little for the management teams to discuss.

Head Hunting
One last problem that we've encountered is head hunting. Unlike traditional systems where employees speak through management and the sources are obscured, inter-company collaboration tools makes it clear who the experts are in a given company. Going one step further and including instant contact details for everyone in the system makes them instantly approachable.

This makes it so much easier to recruit experts from competitors than via agencies. One of the first requests we got after our systems began to move into the collaboration sphere was to remove contact details for participants. It didn't take long for the recruitment sections to discover new sources of personnel.


These problems are just the tip of the iceberg but I think they make it clear. The problems we face in collaboration aren't technical. They're social. A lot of businesses may have the tools but they just aren't ready to collaborate.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Anti-virus Rant

This post is going to be an easy read because I don't have any time to update the blog at the moment - so just look at the pictures.

Most people who've spent any time with me on the computer know that I hate anti-virus products because I think that they spend too much time slowing down the system without any guarantee of actually fixing the problem.

Here's an example which just happened about five minutes ago.

I received an email containing an obviously bad file. It passed neatly through our external scanning system which consists of SEVERAL different anti-virus and anti-spam filters.

I knew it would be a virus, so I saved it to my hard drive.


You can see that it has a Microsoft Word icon but that it ends in .EXE.

If you accept the windows default to hide extensions for known file types, you'll never see the EXE and you might even be fooled into thinking that _doc is the same as .doc.

So...

I right clicked on the file and chose scan from the context menu.

As mentioned before, I've got too issues with anti-virus software.

The first is that they waste time. It took ages to scan this ONE file because the engine had to scan memory AND 65 other files (which it should be scanning as part of it's normal procedures - not as part of my ad-hoc request).

The second issue is that they tend to miss viruses.

You can see that this one didn't find the virus.

Even worse, I updated the anti-virus signatures only seconds before initiating the scan. This is something that most users won't do.

I chased the virus up on other sites and found a note to say that McAfee knew about it (though they didn't call it by the same name). A quick search on the internet found this at a different anti-virus site...


They've known about the virus (or a variant of it) at least since March 2009. That's right, more than a year ago.

I found information on the virus going back to 2005.

Since we pay our license fees and since we do our updates, why aren't we entitled to detection?

Why do we have these anti-viral CPU and RAM hogs anyway?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Computer Malware - How well did the System hold up?

I recently had the first virus infection on my home computer since the early nineties. It was a particularly nasty Java exploit called XP Internet Security 2010.

This seems to be quite a widespread thing, easily catchable, you just have to visit a web site that has various advertisements on it and according to some reports it has even infected the advertising on the US White Pages sites.

So, I guess that what was interesting about this whole thing is how well the anti-virus and anti-malware systems held up.


McAfee
I used to say that McAfee protects my system but now I'll just have to say that it's resident on my system - at least until it expires. Then again, since it was about as useful as an umbrella on a battlefield, it might not even last that long. McAfee's firewall and Anti-virus didn't even pop up a speech bubble during the entire infection episode. Talk about pointless software - All it seems to do is slow the system down with pathetic real-time scans.

Symantec
At work, we used to be big Symantec users until a series of faults in several of their software products and their sudden abandonment of some expensive hardware led me to abandon their entire platform. Nevertheless, I started looking for a Symantec solution as soon as it became apparent that McAfee was insufficient. Unfortunately, all of my googled searches kept finding the same page.

To cut a long story short, on this page, a user offers a convoluted (and dangerous) means of removing the infection and all the other users talk about how Symantec's products are still unable to detect the malware. The last post was 5 days prior to my own searches, so it seems that Symantec is not much help either.

Browsers
Before I start talking about using other tools to fix the problem, I just want to make a point about browsers. I use Google Chrome, which supposedly is immune to this sort of stuff. It obviously isn't. I noticed the problems when they first happened and followed steps to remove the problem. I thought I'd got it but obviously hadn't.

The thing is, that my computer worked fine for a few more days. The only noticible change was that Internet explorer was back on my Start bar as the default browser. I checked the settings in Chrome but it was still the default.

Eventually, I decided to click on IE just to see whether it would start Chrome or try to take over. That was when my real problems started.

The lessons from this;

  1. No browser is completely safe but Chrome is certainly safer than many.

  2. Internet Explorer is almost completely unsafe. I used version 8, with all the latest service packs and updates. It was still completely vulnerable and exposed my system. Nobody should use Internet Explorer for anything other that Microsoft Updates (and even then, if we're ever allowed to use a different browser, switch immediately).

Microsoft Security Essentials
This performed a full system scan - in fact, it's still doing it as I write this. So far, it's found nothing and it's been running over an hour (and looks to be about 10% complete). A fast solution it isn't - but I have hope that it's thorough.


PC Tools Spyware Doctor
I've always had a bit of a bias against the windows version of PC Tools. I guess it's because I got burned by the DOS version somewhere along the way, or because it fights with McAfee and causes our systems at work to freeze. In any case, I decided to give it a go, not expecting much.

It did the fastest scan out of everything I tried and detected the malware within minutes. It then popped up a dialog box telling me that it would only fix the problems if I paid for it first.

The price wasn't too bad and I was seconds away from paying for it but given that I've got known and active malware on my computer right now... do you REALLY think I'm going to put my credit card details in? Maybe I'll still buy it but I decided to look for a free solution first.


Spybot Search and Destroy
This software has always had a place in my heart. It's free and it's very good. I've had it on all of my computers but since this one has only recently been reloaded, I forgot. I downloaded it and ran it.

It's still running as I type but at least it's already identified some problems.


Microsoft Lunacy
First of all, it's identified two of those fantastic Microsoft Windows Registry Keys which have been modified.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security Center\FirewallOverride

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security Center\AntiVirusOverride

What is this crap!!

Seriously... Who puts these registry keys there anyway? Why are they even possible?

This is completely a Microsoft Problem. It's like Ford building a car and building in special provisions for something to disconnect the temperature warning gauge. It's complete rubbish. It's building a system to fail.


Resolutions
After running for about 70 minutes, Microsoft Security Essentials finally detected...

Trojan:Win32/FakeRean

It suspended the task and asked me if I wanted to remove it. I did and it's gone (I hope). Of course my Task Manager is still screwed but maybe a reboot will fix it. In any case, Microsoft Security Essentials scan is still only at about the 25% mark so perhaps there's more to come.

Thus far the answers are;

  1. Download and run Spybot Search and Destroy. No Windows PC should be without it.

  2. Download and install Microsoft Security Essentials.

  3. Make sure that you have a firewall and Anti-Virus program but don't rely on them. Also; remember that it's not necessarily true that on-access scanning is "better" than regular (nightly) full scans.

  4. Take Regular Backups - and maybe make Windows Rescue Disks (although in all honesty, I'm yet to see a situation where they actually work as intended).

  5. Use a safe(er) browser like Chrome but don't rely on it as 100% foolproof.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IBM's Weird Domino Strategy

We had the re-badged "Lotus Comes To You" event in Sydney a couple of weeks ago - "collaboration something or rather...."

As usual it was an interesting event but I couldn't help getting some strange vibes from both the business partners and from fellow customers on the Lotus brand.

I figured that this was as good a time as any to share them.


The "Package"
One of the greatest things about Lotus Notes/Domino is its swiss-army knife style ability to do just about anything. ROI in the domino world is a great thing. There's fewer servers to buy, less software and amazing integration.

Any existing Domino server can be converted to a different type of domino server without the need to reinstall. For example, it's simple to convert a mail server to a document database server and/or a web server.

Such a thing would never happen in the Microsoft world.

I guess we've all used the swiss army knife analogy at some point. It's a key strength.

Similarly, we've all had a good chuckle over the Microsoft strategy of; "a server for this, a different server for that".

We love to talk about how replacing Domino with Microsoft isn't simply a matter of replacing the domino server with an Exchange one; it's a matter of adding Exchange, Sharepoint, Internet Information Server (IIS), Microsoft SQL Server and a whole bunch of other software, much of which requires its own separate hardware.

What then is IBM doing to Domino?

That was the message I got from the people on the ground at LCTY in Sydney 2010.


IBM's Microsoft-Style Agenda
So, here's the crux of the problem. IBM seem to be intent on breaking up the swiss army knife into separate pieces of cutlery. The problem is that it just doesn't make sense. It takes away their corporate advantage and in all honesty, the last people they should be following are Microsoft.

Lets have a look at where IBM seems to be going;

  • Lotus QuickR
    Lotus QuickR provides some excellent document management facilities but really, there's very little that QuickR can do that IBM Domino can't already do. Perhaps QuickR does it more neatly but why wasn't the QuickR budget spent on improving the Domino product?

  • Connections
    What is connections but a glorified contact management solution? Again, it's stuff that already existed in Lotus Notes/Domino. Why do we need a separate product (and a separate server) to do it.

  • Sametime
    Admittedly, Sametime has been around for a long time but ultimately, it too is a glorified extension of Domino. In this case case, it deals with instant messaging.

  • Traveller
    Another name, another product. At least it's being bundled with Domino.

  • WebSphere
    This one has been an issue for me for ages. It's a web server - Domino is a web server! Enough said.
What's worse is that most of these products needs to be installed on a separate server thus killing the famous Domino ROI.

Strangely enough, about the only thing IBM seems to be keeping as the core of Notes/Domino is email... and if I had to pick a long-time weakness in the product, that would be it.

One last thing. If I were IBM, I'd be considering offering "Lotus Licenses" and treating the entire Lotus family as parts of the same thing. Instead of worrying about whether a user needs QuickR or Websphere or Domino, why not concentrate on;
  • Lotus Clients
  • Lotus Web Clients
  • Lotus Servers.

A Lotus Server could provide entitlement to run any or all of the Lotus Servers but be limited by the number of users or CPUs. Users would be a better measure since the CPU limitations doesn't consider "tomorrow's" technology. A Lotus Client would be a Notes user (including sametime, quickr etc. client) and a Lotus Web client is "web entitlement to the products".

Surely having only three licences for the entire infrastructure would clear things up a lot.

IBM; Perhaps a clearer strategy?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Review: IBM Lotus notes and Domino 8.5.1 - The Upgrader's Guide


by Tim Speed, Barry Rosen, Joseph Anderson, Dick McCarrick, Bennie Gibson, Brad Schauf and David Byrd

Published by PACKT Publishing.


This book clocks in at about 336 pages which is nowhere near enough to be a complete administrator's guide to the gigantic field that IBM Lotus Notes and Domino has become. Fortunately, it identifies its market well and restricts itself firmly to its stated objectives.

The book aims to introduce Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 to people who are already familiar with earlier versions of Notes/Domino. It's not a dummies guide and it's not an administrators handbook. It's purely and simply an upgrader's guide.

As someone who never actually bothers to read the "what's new" section of the help files which ship with IBM products, and who instead relies solely on the blogging community (and Lotus-Comes-To-You) to highlight the main interest points, this was always going to be a difficult review.



In introducing the new features of Notes/Domino 8.5.1, the book leaves no stone unturned. It covered everything I could think of - and much, much more.

The book starts off with a review of the new Lotus Notes 8.5.1 client features. I found this particularly interesting because there were a few features I'd missed. The illustrations are relevant and the text is easy to read. In fact, the first chapter is crying out to be given to a group of users as a mini-book in it's own right.

I have read some comments from people suggesting that this isn't a great idea simply because it will get your users excited about Notes and have them demanding that the features be made available immediately. I'm not so sure that this is a bad thing - it's a great chapter and one that should be read by pretty much everyone using Notes and Domino.

One thing that I noticed is that the book doesn't generally give tips for the best settings and doesn't always highlight potential pitfalls. At first I was a little bit confused by this but then I realized it isn't a best practices guide it's an upgrader's guide. Ultimately these omissions actually make the chapter more presentable to end-users. They just want to know "what's new" not details.

The second chapter focuses on Service Orientated Architecture. This was very high level and included links to an external resource which I didn't check out. The book provides quite a number of these links, they allow the authors to provide more information without increasing the page count. You won't be able to build SOA applications merely as a result of reading this chapter but at least you'll have a fair idea of what it's about and you may begin to formulate business plans which involve it.

The chapter on productivity tools is generally about Symphony. I got the feeling that perhaps a little too much marketing Kool-Aid had been swallowed, particularly with the phrase; "No matter what the complexity of the documents that you are creating or editing, this productivity tool can handle the job." but the chapter does give a lot of information on the products.

In particular, there is some great information that I haven't seen elsewhere such as information about where to store the templates for IBM Lotus Presentations and how to use policies to decide whether or not macros can be run.

Chapter 4 deals with changes to the Lotus Domino server. In particular, it looks at message recall, the out-of-office agent and mail threading. In these cases, it delivers more than simply "What's new" information and often shows you where exactly the settings can be changed.

Chapters five to seven deal with deployment enhancements and the actual upgrade itself. It was quite interesting to read Chapter 6 because it focuses on the migration strategy more than the migration itself. In our company, our users are lucky to even get warning other than an outage notice when we do an upgrade. The migration strategy talks about getting CEO/CIO support, user training and making decisions about individual component upgrades. Chapter 7 covers coexistence between various Domino releases.

Chapter 8 deals with the changes to domino designer and the new methods and facilities available. I think I was expecting a whole chapter on xpages here, and little else but I was quite surprised. The chapter covers composite applications, DB/2 integration and the changes to designer. Xpages only gets a single introductory page but it is enough to whet your appetite.

Once again, the authors have looked at the big picture. I was surprised to find that they covered, JavaScript controls, HTML generation and even the ID Vault. Most impressively, they even included a few formula language additions which I would've otherwise missed. My favorites being; @Command([CopySelectedAsTable]) and @Command([OpenInNewWindow]). I have been waiting for these for a long time and was totally unaware that they were now available. It's not the sort of thing that gets covered on the channels I usually visit.

The chapter concludes with coverage of Lotus component designer, a quite detailed explanation of how to setup RSS feeds, coverage of the blog template and some information on expeditor. All of this is very good and very useful stuff. It was very tempting to put the book down there and then and go enable all my RSS feeds.

Chapter 9 covers integration with other Lotus/IBM products, in particular, Quickr, Sametime and Lotus Connections. Chapter 11 looks at some third party add-ons; Pistolstar, Intelliprint, IONET Incremental Archiver and CMT Inspector.

Chapter ten looks at the enhancements to Domino 8.5.1 and includes a lot of detail on DAOS, the Domino Attachment and Object Service. It also covers the Notes Shared Login, Domino Configuration Tuner and overlaying Google Calendars - another exciting prospect.

Overall, "IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1: The Upgrader's Guide" is a great book for a specific purpose. It won't replace your "dummies book" or your "administrators guides" but it does cover a suprising amount of ground and is recommended for people who are upgrading from older versions of domino.

The book is available from PACKT Publishing as both a physical and an Acrobat PDF eBook.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Preview: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1

I was only recently lamenting the lack of Notes 8 books in Australia, when I got sent this one to review. It looks interesting and it certainly will fill a gap. I'll bring you a detailed review when I've had a proper read.

In the meantime, if you're interested, jump right in and get it - it seems very comprehensive.

IBM Notes and Domino 8.5.1

Chapter 8: What's new in Notes/Domino 8.5 Development is available for download for free (in PDF format). It's a good place to start.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Overcoming Password Woes - A Presentation

With our recent change to everyone's password and the hardening of some of our standards, we've understandably got a bit of internal confusion over passwords. I decided to not only sort out our internal problems but also give our users some great tips for their internet passwords.

Here's a presentation I've prepared for our users. I've stripped off branding and names so that
you can use it in your own organisations. You have my permission to reuse it as you see fit.



Monday, January 04, 2010

Our Infrastructure Upgrades - Domino (Part 1)

Our Domino Infrastructure upgrades were originally scheduled to take place in early 2009 but when we discovered that Notes 8 closed the "duplicate subform" loophole which, as it turned out was used by one of our mission critical apps, it was put on hold.

In fact it was put on hold for so long that 8.5 and then 8.5.1 were released in the meantime. After a careful look at both, some unresolved issues in 8.5.1 led us to a decision to deploy 8.5.

The Notes 8.5 Client
The rollout of 8.5 client was done quietly, one person at a time. Given that this is such a major change to the client (eclipse), it's hardly surprising that there were issues - some of which are again, still unresolved.

We did quite a few experiments in that initial rollout;

  • Networked Data Folders
    We tried putting the data directory on the user's home drives (network shares). It's an old trick which works to provide better (more complete and seamless) roaming than Notes itself provides. Unfortunately, notes still "hammers" the network connection - even at 100mbps - last time I tried this trick, I had it working (most of the time) at 10mbps - under Notes 4.

    A partial network install of the eclipse version of notes generates a great deal more traffic than it's R7 counterpart. This is because while the previous versions of Notes were one big .exe file with a few toolbars and icons, the eclipse version contains hundreds of little files and resources, all of which are loaded on demand. This bandwidth utilisation which runs in direct competition with scheduled replication tasks can add minutes to the notes startup.

    The other downside to running this type of notes install is that the client needs constant uninterrupted access to the desktop8.ndk and cache.ndk files. If the access drops, even for a second, the notes client goes into a loop from which the only escape is to end the task. There is actually a way of moving the files but we didn't bother trying it.

    It was obvious that the method was "no-go".


  • Standard Multiuser
    The next install type we tried for the clients was the standard multiuser install. This gave much better network performance but restricted our roaming options slightly. It was still supported but you had to do a Notes setup for each user on each machine.

    While this method was certainly faster and more stable than the networked method, it still wasn't as fast as we'd like.

    The reason? Well, it's again related to having all those little files instead of one big one. Normally when you start an application with a big EXE file, there is only one delay when the on-demand anti-virus scanner gets hold of it. When there are hundreds of little startup files however, the on demand scanner doesn't know what to get until the app "reaches" for it. The result is that it introduces a delay on every file. As the number of files being read increases, the delay becomes increasingly significant.

    There is only one way around the problem - remove the on-demand scanning. Now obviously we're not willing to do that, so the next best bet was to disable it for the notes directory. I was still a little uncomfortable with this idea but we tried it and got significant improvements.

    The improvements still were nothing on the speed of my designer client and after a little investigation, we discovered that the on-access scanning was still doing the notes DATA directory. We tried disabling this via policies but that didn't work - we couldn't specify the folder names because of that stupid Microsoft profiles folder naming convention;

    The data folder was in;
    C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Settings\Lotus.

    Since the folder was different for each user and since our McAfee software doesn't take variables in exclusion folder names, it wasn't possible to set a policy. I wasn't even going to consider adding the entire "Documents and Settings" folder to exclusions - if you do that, you might as well turn off the anti-virus altogether.

    In the end, we asked ourselves how important the casual roaming ability was and decided that it was less critical than everyday startup times. We're now converting to a standard single user install and have perfected a procedure for moving without a reinstall.

Wow - that post was longer than intended, so I'm breaking it up. Next time I'll go into detail about our client settings (what we changed and why) and talk about our server and design installs.