Monday, October 23, 2006

Why all the testing in the world can't protect you from Everything

In the light of my recent blogs, I thought this was worth relating.

We have one very critical system running on the Domino server. Everything else could fail for a while without problems, but not this one system.

The system has had the most extensive testing possible at our environment with a several test periods of several weeks each. This may not sound much, but it is a long time considering that the system isn't overly complex.

The way this system works is that requests are submitted over the internet for number allocations. These are processed internally and passed through a manual approval phase. Upon approval, there's a certain amount of time that must elapse before it is legal to use these numbers in production environments.

Recently one of our people had a clock problem on their PC. They fixed it themselves (our policies don't restrict users from touching their PC clocks - though the clocks all re-synch at startup).

In fixing the problem, this user managed to change the date forward by one month and one day. All approvals done by that person on that day therefore had the wrong date.

Now.. I know that this is fairly easy to fix, but

  • What if they'd changed the date BACK instead of Forward (harder to identify the problem files).

  • What if nobody had noticed?

I know that using stronger policies or stronger validation would avoid the problem. If we had these, I'd no doubt be writing about a different set of problems.

The point is that testing and user restrictions can only go so far... a good DRP is a must.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Testing and Clarification

After seeing some responses from the Notes/Domino community complaining about the apparent lack of testing I thought I'd better do some clarification.

Although I come from a long background in Notes with mult-server environments, I'm currently enjoying something of a break while I get the early child-rearing period of my life completed. I'm now at a small business with only ONE production server an no need to worry about screwing up other people's systems. If anyone has to wear the blame for a problem - it's me.

That said, we're doing things here that I've never seen done at any of my previous (and much larger notes/domino installations). We have some business/industry critical stuff running on Domino and it's being used by most of the biggest names in Australian banking.

We have a backup server which does nothing and could be down for weeks without anyone noticing. I always upgrade this first. We're soon going to be moving to a cluster - where I'll have to be more careful of future upgrades - but until then... anything goes.

I'm not a fast mover with upgrades, we've only been on XP for 2.5 years, and I still have one WinNT server (our PDC). I'm not forging ahead with Active Directory because it still has yet to earn my trust.

After doing every major and every minor upgrade of Notes/Domino without ANY issues since R5, Notes/Domino has well and truly earned my trust. I can't say that about any other software in my long history in the computing industry.

Our Notes/Domino DRP is so well developed that - well, secretly I suppose I want it to fail so that I can prove it to management. Well... no, I don't really want it to fail - but I think you get the idea.

Finally - do I rely on IBM's testing? well... Yes and No. I trust that IBM has tested the core components of Notes/Domino (Mail, HTTP, HTTS, SSO etc...) much better than I, with my own meagre resources could do.

I don't trust that any third party applications developed for us, developed by OpenNTF or developed internally have been tested - for obvious reasons.

We have good test plans for post-implementation which really haven't changed all that much from one version of N/D to the next (other than adding new systems and new procedures to the list). If I make it through these tests, then the server has been tested as well as it can be.

The bottom line: Testing and implementation can be VERY quick - provided that you have the right plan, the right backup and the right software.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Notes and Domino 7.0.2

I downloaded Notes and Domino 7.0.2 yesterday and had a play with the client. For the most part I can't notice any differences. This is great because it means that user acceptance will be perfect.

As expected, the client works with all of our applications - no modifications necessary.

Nomad - Notes on a USB Stick
I tried to get Notes installed on a USB Stick, but my first attempt using the Designer + Administrator client, wasn't a success. I then downloaded the normal client and tried following Paul Rigby's excellent instructions ( It worked like a charm.

This feature is absolutely fantastic. In particular, it would make a great DRP option for anyone who, like me, carries all of their DRP materials in a single Notes DB.

The Domino Server Upgrade
This morning I upgraded our domino server. It wasn't planned but I needed to process some of the Windows updates and reboot, so I figured that if I had any spare time, I'd upgrade Domino.

Did I do much testing before upgrading - erm... no. But.. I know how much testing IBM does, I've seen the Notes/Domino community reactions and I have not had a Notes/Domino upgrade issue since version 4.5 -> 5 (about eight years ago).

I have a lot of faith in my backups (and Domino is very easy to backup and restore). I've also got a lot of faith in the IBM Domino team.

The upgrade itself took less than 10 minutes and was faster to implement than the standard Windows updates. How many people could do a 10 minute update on their Mail + Web + ExtraNet + Internal Databases server on a platform other than Domino?

* * * Fantastic work IBM! * * *

In the coming weeks, I'll be happily testing the other new features, including calendar import, RSS Feeds and the Blog Template, though I'm not going to move my blog from blogger (I'm too attached to the name).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Easily Locate and Customize your Computer with Wallpaper and Screensavers

I found myself writing these instructions for my cousin. Since I put a bit of effort into them, it makes sense not to waste it. Hence, I'm putting them up here for everyone to use.

A word about screen-sizes
You don't have to stick to specific screen sizes, but wallpaper generally looks much better if you do. If you don't have a fancy widescreen monitor, then your resolution is likely to be one of the three main sizes of screen....

  • 640 x 480

  • 800 x 600

  • 1024 x 768

Usually you'll have 800 x 600, but it's ok to get things of the other two sizes too as they will resize to fit. The bigger ones (1024) will look better than the smaller ones (640)

Finding Suitable Wallpaper and Screensaver Images

  1. Start Internet Explorer

  2. Go to the Google Homepage or if you're in Australia you can use

  3. Click on Images

  4. In the Search bar type: "Winnie the Pooh" 1024 Note that we're using inverted commas to keep our phrase together, but are putting the screen size outside of the inverted commas

  5. Click the button marked Search Images

  6. Google will find a lot of pictures - ignore the ones that aren't the right screen sizes.

  7. Click on any picture - and the computer will go to a new screen with a small picture on it.

  8. In the top section, right-mouse click on the words See Full Size Image

  9. Select Save Target As from the popup menu.

  10. Save the file in C:\windows\web\wallpaper this will make it accessible to most parts of windows.

  11. Click the back button to go back to the list of wallpapers and choose another one - or do a new search.

Setting your Desktop Wallpaper
Once you have a bunch of pictures saved, you'll want to make one into your desktop wallpaper.

Follow this procedure;

  1. Minimise everything on your screen - the quickest way to do this is to press Window+M (ie: Hold down the Windows logo key on the keyboard and then press M).
    Right-mouse click on the desktop/background of your computer - anywhere where there isn't an icon.

  2. In the popup menu, choose Properties

  3. Click on the tab marked Desktop and scroll through the list of backgrounds to find one you like.
  4. Click on it and then click on OK

  5. The picture will become your wallpaper.

Setting up a Screensaver.
Ok - now that you have the wallpaper sorted out, you might want a screensaver too. Luckily Windows XP comes with a really cool one built-in.

To set it up to use your new wallpapers, follow this procedure;

  1. Minimise everything on your screen - the quickest way to do this is to press Window+M (ie: Hold down the Windows logo key on the keyboard and then press M).

  2. Right-mouse click on the desktop/background of your computer - anywhere where there isn't an icon.

  3. In the popup menu, choose Properties

  4. Click on the tab marked Screensaver.

  5. In the screensaver box, choose the "My Pictures Slideshow" and click the button marked Settings

  6. Click on the button marked Browse and change the pictures location to C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper

  7. Click Ok (twice)

  8. If you leave the computer alone for a while, the screensavers will start.

Note that Microsoft puts some Windows pictures in this folder too - if you want to delete them so they wont display, you can use explorer (file manager) to go to C:\windows\web\wallpaper and delete them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Microsoft's Model of Swiss Cheese software security is killing my Server

Whenever I set up a server, I always make sure that the operating system is on one disc or partition and that the data or applications are on another. When I set up our Domino server, Domino went on D: drive and Windows went on C: drive.

In the past, I have had the space problems with Domino because it contains data such as mail which grows explosively. I made absolutely sure that I bought a server with a very large hard drive. I look at the Microsoft recommendations for Windows 2003 server partition size and tripled it. The remaining space I allocated to Domino.

A year and a half later, Domino is still going strong with plenty of room left on the partition. Windows however is starting to run out of disk space because of all the Microsoft updates. There's only 15% free space on the drive.

I only run the critical updates not the "nice to have" ones and I don't run any of Microsoft's worst patching offenders, such as exchange and sharepoint.

Why is it then, that since February 2005, there have been 200 updates, replacing 3,563 files and taking up over 700MB of bandwidth? Surely the world's largest software company can afford to employ people to check the security of the operating system and any patches before they release them.