Friday, December 12, 2008

Why McAfee has Completely lost the Plot

(warning... this is rant - I know you're not supposed to blog about things when you're irritated but I've been irritated with McAfee for ages and it's not going away).

My irritation with McAfee's Anti-Malware technologies has slowly been building for the past six months.

For a start, I find myself disabling their firewall more often than I leave it enabled. The thing constantly tries to chew up 90+ percent of my systems resources. What's the point of having security software if, for usability reasons, you have to constantly turn it off?

Whenever I start Lotus Notes 8.0.2, I have to remember to stop the McShield service (from the services part of control panel) before I double-click the icon. If I forget, my PC slows to a crawl and I can make filtered coffee and still get back with plenty of hourglass watching time.

It would be easy to blame Notes for this but it performs so well when McAfee is off. In addition, several of my other bits of software perform much better without McAfee. The new Blackberry Desktop Software v4.6 which shipped with the Bold is completely unusable with McAfee running, as is our Nortel PABX Telephone system. In fact, it seems that anything using Java is dead in the water with McAfee.

To add to my irritation, McAfee doesn't even seem to stop malware. They're still in the mode of "we do anti-virus and firewall - not anti-malware". If I want to check against malware, I have to get something like AdAware or Spybot Search and Destroy. I'm sick of having to buy a different product for every different security menace on my PC. If it's designed to keep the PC secure, then one product should do the job properly.

Then there's the reporting. I used to complain about the reporting from Symantec but all I get from McAfee is that x% of your computers aren't protected. Well Mr McAfee ... why AREN'T they protected? You're the Anti-Virus Software and You're supposed to be updating. Why was I so wrong in thinking that I could set you to automatic-update and then do other work? I've got work to do... I can't sit around babysitting an anti-virus app which can't auto-update properly on its own.

Of course, the think that really, really irritates me is SiteAdvisor. This used to be a good product until McAfee started blocking whole domains. I've spoken to them on about three occasions about blocking the ENTIRE BLOGGER domain. That's right... the whole of Every single blog on blogger.

First they refused to see the issue, then they tried to say that it was my fault... that my version of the "self-updating" SiteAdvisor was wrong... both on my work computer and on my home PC. Well, as from today, I can safely say that I'm on a brand new PC with a brand new version of site advisor loaded. (though not for long).

It's their problem - and they refuse to deal with it.

How do I reward that kind of customer service....

I think it's time I started looking for a new anti-malware vendor.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Finding the Blackberry Bold Call Logs and Combining the SMS's with Mail

I've had quite a few people ask me about the call log on the Blackberry Bold but as yet, I haven't found it.

I did get this little tip from Craig Wiseman's blog;

Blackberry Call Log - Can anyone help?

Apparently the calls really are there in with your emails but they're almost impossible to see. To see all your calls do the following;

  1. Go into your main mailbox
  2. Press the Blackberry button to open the popup menu
  3. Scroll all the way down (past the bottom of the screen) to highlight Search and Click on it.
  4. Scroll to the bit at the bottom that says type and click on it
  5. Change it from Email to Phone
  6. Press the Blackberry button to open the popup menu
  7. Click Search
  8. Your blackberry will now be showing you all of the calls.
  9. When you push the Esc/Back button, it will return to normal.
Thanks Craig, not only for helping me to find the calls but also because he highlighted a very useful set of Blackberry features I hadn't been aware of. There's a lot more features in the search that you might want to take advantage of.

Seeing SMSes in Your Mail
I don't know about other people but I really miss getting the SMSes directly in with my other calls. Instead, I have to go to the SMS applications. Well, no more. Now you can mix them up again.

Here's how;
  1. Open your main Blackberry Mail.
  2. Click on the Blackberry button to access the pop up menu
  3. Choose Options from the menu (you'll have to scroll a bit)
  4. Choose General Options
  5. Scroll down to the menu option that says SMS and Email Inboxes and click on it.
  6. Change it from Theme Controlled to Combined.
  7. Click on the Blackberry button to open the menu
  8. Click Save
  9. Press the Back/Esc button twice and you're back to your main screen.

Now your SMSes should start coming through your mail.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to Lose the Icons on the Front Screen of your Blackberry Bold 9000

So... you've got yourself a nice wallpaper background but those icons on the front screen are spoiling it.

Wanna get rid of them? Here's how.

A Warning
The procedure described below will move your desktop icons around a little, change your existing blackberry wallpaper and move all non-standard applications back to the download folder. If you can't handle this, then don't proceed.

Also note; this procedure gets rid of the icons on the front page of the blackberry but it doesn't remove the shaded bar at the top of the screen.

  1. First we need to obtain a theme that doesn't contain those icons
    Here's a link to one on I'm not sure if you need to be logged in to get it or not.

  2. Download and Unzip the files - there should be an .ALX file in the archive.

  3. Next, Connect your Blackberry to your computer via the USB Cable

  4. Start Blackberry Desktop Manager

  5. Click the icon marked Application Loader

  6. Click the button marked Browse...

  7. Browse to where you unzipped the files and select No_Icons.ALX

  8. Click Ok.

  9. Click Next

  10. Click Finish

  11. Wait a minute... it took literally a minute on my blackberry - so don't panic.

  12. Close out of Blackberry Manager (and stop the blackberry services and disconnect your device).


  1. Go to the Spanner icon (options)

  2. Click on Theme

  3. Choose No Icons

  4. Then Close everything back to the main menu and presto... it should be clean.

  5. Don't forget, you'll have to reset your home screen picture and icons.

Did I mention that you can find lots of pictures (and use a great wallpaper maker at

Monday, December 01, 2008

Using Ubunutu for Real

Over the years I've made quite a few tests on Ubuntu to see whether it was ready for general consumption. Until now, it's never lasted more than a few hours on the device I've loaded it on because I've either had no time to test it properly or I've become too frustrated with driver setup problems to continue.

This time, I loaded it on a laptop which just didn't seem able to run Windows XP. The results were astonishing.

The Good
For a start, the laptop which has 512 mb of ram runs quite well now. On XP SP2, it took literally about 5 minutes to boot, under Ubuntu, it take about 15 seconds.

Google and Firefox
Similarly, Firefox was already installed and all of my favourite google apps and bookmarks worked a treat.

VPN and Remote Desktop
I found some instructions for VPN setup and was remote desktopping onto my work PC within a few hours. Between Remote Desktop (to Windows) and the web apps that run in firefox - and of course Open Office which was also already installed, I've got 90% of what I need on the laptop.

The Bad
Wireless Network via PCMCIA Card
Tried it, found very little assistance on the internet and gave up. I'm going to stay "wired". I can live without it.

Lotus Notes
The web is full of pages which tell you how to install Notes on Linux and I tried installing according to several different versions of instructions but they were all a bit unclear and since I'm being a "typical unthinking Windows user with no patience and no Ubuntu experience", I figured it best to forge on without trying to learn anything.

I don't know much about Linux at all, and about all I know is how to extract the Tar to a folder and then run it. The Notes installer started working then suddenly bombed out with a message "The installer is unable to run in graphical mode. Try running the installer with the -console or -silent flag."

I tried the -console flag and things looked promising for a little while. Then it failed with the same message.

I can live without Notes on the laptop. It would have been nice but I can live without it.

This reminds me of an old adage from my information science days;

"If it's harder for people to obtain information than it is to go without it, then people will go without it."

This is true for systems too. I don't know if I'm looking at a Notes problem or a Linux problem - probably a bit of both. In any case, that's why they both "fail" the dumb user test (IMHO) for now. I believe work has been done on Notes 8.5, so I'll give that a go eventually.

Ubuntu is ready for use by low use computer people (or retired people, like my parents) who only want office and internet apps. It's not really ready for people who use their computer for other types of applications, or who rely heavily on Windows integration.

If I could sort out the Notes problems - and I'm sure that in time I could... I just wanted to install as a moron for this test - then I feel that, Ubuntu would be suitable for several people at my office. Perhaps I could use it to revitalise the older laptop fleet?

All in all, Ubuntu has come a long way but it still needs a good look-over by someone who specialises in UI's.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Install MySpace on your Blackberry Bold 9000

Obviously these instructions apply to other Blackberry Models too. I've listed all of the steps that I followed but you can probably skip ahead to the second URL (step 5);

Note that these instructions assume that you already have a MySpace account.

  1. Start the Blackberry browser and go to;

  2. Click Send to My Blackberry.

  3. Fill in your name and your Blackberry email address (it doesn't have to be the same email address you use for Myspace).

  4. After this, you can close the window (Don't bother with the link, just exit the browser).

  5. Your blackberry inbox will soon receive a new email. It contains the second URL I mentioned earlier.

  6. Click the button marked Download.

  7. Another download button will appear... Click this one too.

  8. A quick Bar Graph will draw and then you can click Ok and close the browser.

  9. Look in the Downloads folder for the App.
    For ease of use, you might want to press the blackberry button on it and choose send to folder, then Home. This will put it on the front screen of your blackberry.

  10. Click on the Icon, then scroll down to the bottom of the disclaimer and click the button marked I Accept.

  11. Enter your myspace email address and password.

  12. You might also want to tick the box marked "Remember Password" and then click Login.

  13. You're In - and you'll see your friends status' updating.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to Erase a Blackberry Bold 9000

Why would you need to do this?
Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes you accidentally restore a bit too much of your CEO's old Blackberry 8800 over the top of his new one (and then you re-activate it on the network). Sometimes your CEO mentions to you that he now has four calendar entries... Yep. It happened to me.

Erasing the device without deleting the extra applications allows you to redo the restore and activation tasks properly.

The Procedure
  1. Press the Blackberry Button
  2. Choose Options (Spanner Icon)
  3. Choose Security Options
  4. Choose General Settings
  5. Press the Blackberry Button
  6. Choose Wipe Handheld from the Popup Menu
  7. Click Ok At the Message: Warning all application data will be lost! Message service and other services will be turned off.
  8. Make sure that [_] Include third party applications is deselected
  9. Click the Continue button
  10. type the word blackberry when prompted and press the Enter key.
  11. Wait for about 90 seconds while the blackberry whitescreens and reboots
Getting Started Again (Setting up for Reactivation)
  1. Enter Pin
  2. Choose Ok at the Disclaimer message
  3. The Setup wizard will start
  4. Go to your Blackberry Server. (Remote Desktop?)
  5. Start Blackberry Manager
  6. Click on the Users tab
  7. Locate your person name in the list.
  8. Right mouse button on the name and choose Delete user from the popup menu
  9. At the prompt "Are you sure you want to delete the selected user?" choose Yes
  10. At the prompt "would you also like to remove the profile document and the state database for the selected user(s)?" choose yes
  11. Wait a short while for the licensing to sort itself out - unless you've got lots of spares.
  12. Create the new user (Right Mouse on some blank space and choose Add User)
  13. Pick their name from the list and choose to add them.
  14. Right mouse on the user name and choose Set Activation Password
  15. Type something simple (eg: a) twice and click Ok
  16. You're now ready for normal activation via the handheld.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to load the IBM Lotus Sametime Client onto your Blackberry Bold 9000 (Even if you've only got Blackberry Professional Server)

Blackberry Professional vs Blackberry Enterprise Server
One of my greatest disappointments with RIM's recent "downgrade" of the Blackberry Enterprise Server to a Blackberry Professional Server for small business customers was the loss of Lotus Sametime. When I first read about this, I was really miffed. After all, we hadn't yet got around to using Sametime on the blackberry and they were going to block it.

The other thing that I couldn't understand was exactly how the version of Blackberry Server affected the use of Sametime anyway. After all, blackberry messenger still works and Google Talk works extremely well on the Blackberry. The Blackberry server has no impact on these applications so why should it affect Lotus Sametime.

The answer is I don't know and it doesn't. It certainly doesn't affect Sametime in any way that I can see however perhaps I'm not using all of the features that were once available.

Installing Sametime for the Blackberry
While trying to find this file, I downloaded quite a number of files from IBM's download site including a Swedish version of Sametime which did very little for me, though I admit it did make me crack a smile. As it turns out, the install is very simple and can be done over the wire. [Thanks Gary Wickham for finding it for me]

  1. Point your Blackberry browser to the following URL

  2. On the next screen choose a language, in my case, English

  3. Choose a device: RIM blackberry 8100/8300/8800 series

  4. Click on the button marked download

  5. Then there is a second download button to push and then the same time download will commence

  6. You will be prompted to give the application trusted status but I guess that if you can't trust IBM then there's probably nobody you can really trust in the computing world. You have to say Yes.

Configuring Sametime on the Blackberry
  1. When you run Sametime it will come up to a user name and password screen.

  2. You might be tempted to fill this in and see how you go but it's not going to work like this.

  3. Press the blackberry button at this screen and choose connectivity from the menu

  4. The host should be the IP address of your same time server.
    It probably needs to be on the same subnet as your blackberry server but I'm not sure about this since mine already was.

    This is probably one of those great times where I should mention that typing numbers on the blackberry while holding the alt key down is a pain in the butt. Instead hold the Alt key down and then press the shift button. The blackberry will lock into Numbers mode and now you can type numbers without holding anything down. When you've finished, just push the Alt button again to go back to normal

  5. The default port is 8082 this didn't work from a but when I changed it to 80 it worked like a charm.

  6. Leave the connection option as direct connection.

  7. Press the blackberry button and choose ok

  8. Now in the user name box you should type your first name and your last name.

  9. The password will usually be your Web client password from the Lotus Notes address book. I'm sure you can synchronise these but I can't remember the reason why I decided not to.

  10. You might want to check same password and also automatically login though I'd recommend that you do a successful login first.

  11. Press the blackberry button and choose log In.

  12. You should now be able to talk to your sametime people on the desktop and on other mobiles.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

How to Get those Cool (free) Games like Ka-Glom, Lingo and CirclePopper on your Blackberry Bold 9000

The Problem
The Blackberry bold is going well for me but the one thing that I missed from my 8800 was the game Ka-Glom. It was seriously addictive.

In any case, I figured that I could just go to and get them again.. right? wrong...

It seems that the site doesn't properly recognize the Blackberry Bold and as a result, it doesn't offer any games for it.

The Solution
The solution was easier than I expected, you just need to know the full path to the JAD files and enter it into your blackberry browser.

Be warned though, these games can be addictive and if you install all of them, you'll probably run out of space on your blackberry device.

Coping with Change
Also, Blackberry change the links sometimes when they reorganize their site. If the links don't work, find some free games there which DO have working links and then try their URLs with the .JAD file names listed below. You can also do a google search for specific files (eg: KaGlom.jad).

Anyway, without further ado, here are the links.

This is definitely my favourite blackberry game. It's very addictive and doesn't take a lot of concentration.

It's ideal for playing while you're listening to eBooks on the device.

Circle Popper
I wasn't particularly interested in this game when I first got it but it gets better and better.

Unfortunately, you can't listen to eBooks while playing this one. It requires a little thinking.

The same trick seems to work for a few other good free blackberry games but I'm going to omit the pictures so that I don't have to add comments (for space reasons) next to each.

This particular game has some minor graphics issues due to resolution changes. It works but I haven't yet figured out how to make the rooster go sideways.

Medieval Kings 2
This is a Chess Game.

Spider Solitaire

Bass Assassin

Friday, November 07, 2008

How to install Opera Mini Web browser on your blackberry bold 9000

The web browser in the Blackberry Bold is very much improved but I've still found a few places where it doesn't work as expected. When that happens, you want a different browser. You want... Opera Mini.

  1. Use the web browser to go to

  2. Click on the link marked Download Opera Mini.
    The Blackberry bold is currently downloading the OperaMini 8830 version but I've found it to be very compatible. (Had no problems so far).

  3. Choose Download.

  4. You might get a message about the applications signature but this isn't a problem, just a scary message. Click Ok.

  5. Click Ok when the application has been installed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How to Retain more than a few Blackberry Messages when you Delete and Recreate Users

The Problem
Recently we moved some of our people onto Blackberry Bold. As part of the process, we've had to delete them off the BES Server and re-add them. It's not only their device PINS that have changed. It's also their SIM Cards (as the older cards didn't always support 3G).

I discovered that if you do this, email will still route nicely after activation but the number of past message brought over to the device is quite small.

You won't be able to get all your messages but you can increase the window backwards from 5 days before activation up to a maximum of 14 days.

Here's how to do it.

The Procedure
On Your BES (or in our Case , Blackberry Professional) Server,
  1. Start the BlackBerry Manager.

  2. Click on the Tab Marked Home.

  3. In the Tasks box (top left corner), Click the link marked Edit Server Properties.

  4. A Dialog box will appear.

  5. In the left hand panel of this dialog box, click Messaging.

  6. Scroll through the right hand panel of the dialog box to find the section marked Message pre-population.

  7. There are two values here that you should change;

  8. Prepopulation by Message age (This is the number of days backwards from the activation date to populate messages). The maximum is 14. It seems a sensible number to put in (unless your people get lots of messages).

  9. Prepopulation by message count. This is a harder call.. It's the maximum number of messages to retrieve. The server will pre-populate messages backwards until it reaches either maximum, so if your users receive about 10 messages per day (weekends included) then 140 is a sensible number. This means that the guy who has 50 messages per day won't end up with 700 messages on his blackberry. Instead his mail will only go back as far as about 3 days. If you put too many messages on the blackberry, you'll overload the capacity. (and have no room for fun stuff). In any case, the maximum value you can put here is 750.

  10. When you've filled in these two numbers, you can click Ok.

  11. You have to delete and re-add your users for this to take effect.

If you want more information on how this works with different versions of the Blackberry Enterprise Server, have a look at Knowledge Base Article KB11632 at the Blackberry Support site.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Changes to Shift+Alt+Delete (Reset) on the Blackberry Bold 9000

I had been fretting recently about the Shift+Alt+Delete keystroke not working on the Blackberry Bold 9000.

For those who don't know about this keystroke, it's essentially the same as removing the battery (ie: a hard reset) but without the hard work associated with it. The blackberry device is very particular about hard resets - and there's often a reason why you need to do one instead of a soft reset (which is just turning the device off and then on again).

In any case, the keys still work but now only the right shift key can be used. I've also heard some users complain that they have to do the key combination twice before it takes effect.

Playing eBooks (in the Correct Order) on the Blackberry Bold 9000

The Blackberry Bold 9000 has gotten a bit more serious about how things are stored on it with the new software.

The Blackberry folder and its special sub-folders (documents, music, pictures, ringtones, videos, voicenotes) have always been there - well, there are a couple of new ones.

Unfortunately now the blackberry media player makes it difficult to play talking books. In particular, it now tends to play everything out of order and it mixes my songs folders up with the talking books folders.

Luckily I've found a solution.

I've now created two folders above my blackberry folder, one for eBooks and one for Talking Books. I can now point my applications MobiPocket eBook Reader and Mobiola xPlayer at those directories.

This means that I can play my talking books using xPlayer and I can play my songs using the Blackberry media player. Even better, I don't have to keep switching from one playlist to another.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How to Install Facebook on your Blackberry Bold 9000

I'm still continuing with the development of a SOE for our corporate Blackberries. Next up, the Facebook application. Sure, I know it's not necessarily "corporate" but I'd rather that IT does a standard install than the users try to do it themselves.

  1. Open your blackberry web browser up to

  2. Choose Download this program.

  3. Scroll through the massive legal disclaimer and choose I Accept then click Next.

  4. Choose Download and wait for the Bar Graph.

  5. You'll be dropped back in your web browser but should find the icon in the downloads folder.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to Install Google Talk on your Blackberry Bold 9000

If you've got a gmail account, then you really ought to have the Google Chat facility loaded on your blackberry. Here's how;

  1. Go to the Browser and enter;

  2. Scroll down the page until you find a button marked Download and click it.

  3. Choose your language and then click Next

  4. Scroll to the end of the terms and conditions and click the option button marked
    (o) I Accept and then click Next.

  5. The application will then start to download.
    It should take about one minute.

  6. At the successful install dialog, click Ok

For some reason, the install drops you back in the browser.
Click the blackberry button and choose close.
You'll find the icon in the downloads folder, though you might want to move it to home.

How to Install the Google Mobile Apps on your Blackberry Bold 9000

Installing the Installer
  1. Go to the Browser and enter;

  2. Scroll down the page until you find a link marked
    Download Google Mobile App
    Click on the link to Download and install it.

  3. At the end of the install, you can run it automatically.
    If you don't choose to run it immediately, you can find it later by pressing the blackberry button then scrolling to (and clicking on) the downloads button. The app is marked with a red G

Installing and Accessing Components
  1. The google app is quite bare looking with greyed out icons for Gmail, maps and news.

  2. Go to each greyed out icon and click on it.
    It will install automatically (unless it's a web application, in which case it will just open).

  3. After install, you'll be asked if you want to grant these applications trusted status.
    If you don't, they won't work so I guess you need to.

  4. In terms of application permissions, allowing http to is probably sufficient in most cases. Not general http.

  5. The applications also come with their own terms and conditions that you need to read and accept.

A few things of Note
  • One really interesting thing about Google Maps is that it now supports street view on the mobile. You might want to check that you're using the right plan before you start using this though.

  • Be sure to click the "more" button. It will give you access to your google calendar, goodgle docs, sync and other google tools..

  • Be careful with Google Synch. It works a treat but if you've got birthday reminders in your Notes calendar, they will convert to ALL DAY events in your Google Calendar - and then when they resynch with Notes will "block you out" for the day on your corporate calendar. Google might have fixed that problem by now - I'm not sure.

Moving things out of Downloads
You might want to move your icons out of the Downloads area.
To do this;

  1. Go into the downloads folder

  2. Push the blackberry button to get the menu to display.

  3. Choose move to folder.

  4. Choose Home.
You can then move the icons around on your main blackberry icon screen. If you use Gmail and Maps a lot, it's worth doing this for them.

How to Remove and Insert the Media Card on the Blackberry Bold 9000

Today, I got a new Blackberry Bold 9000, so there's probably going to be a flurry of Blackberry related posts as I try to install stuff on it.

The Blackberry Bold seems to ship with a 1GB media card, which really isn't enough for serious use. This procedure allows you to replace the card would one that is of a decent size.

Getting the Old Card out and the New One In
  1. On the left-hand side of the blackberry about in line with the Q key, there is a small door with a picture of a card on it. This door opens from the bottom (camera side) of the blackberry upwards.

  2. Once opened, you should be able to see the card in the slot.
    Do not attempt to use tweezers to pull the card out as this will damage the blackberry.

  3. Instead use a finger or pen push the card in further. The slot is spring-loaded and the card should pop out part way. From here you should be able to grab it, but if not, it's safe to use tweezers at this point.
    If you find yourself having difficulty at this stage, try removing the back cover of the Blackberry.

  4. Obtain a new (bigger) MicroSD card from a computer shop and insert it into the slot.
    The writing side should face the back of the Blackberry.
    You may need to use a pen to push the card all of the way in.

Formatting the Card
It's possible that you won't need to format your media card but if, like me, you're transferring a card from another blackberry, (or another user) you might.

In my case, I've been using an 8GB card formatted to 4GB so that it would work on my blackberry 8800. Reformatting the card will enable me to use the extended features.

  1. Go to the Blackberry menu (blackberry button) and click into Options (the spanner icon).

  2. Choose Memory

  3. Press the Blackberry button to get the pop-up menu and choose Format.

  4. You'll be prompted to choose Media Card or Device Memory - make sure that you choose Media Card.

  5. You'll get a warning message - choose Yes.

  6. The format operation should take less than a minute. It did for my 8GB card but it may take a little longer for larger cards. When finished, you'll get an Ok message and your card total space should show up on the screen.
Don't be disappointed if it shows slightly less than expected - that's normal.
My 8GB card showed 7.6GB.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Becoming a Domino Champion in your Organisation

I've recently become aware of one of Australia's large Notes/Domino clients moving to the exchange platform and have been thinking about what that move, in these troubled times says about their corporate direction and their local Notes/Domino support.

Such a move could have been forgiven about three years ago when IBM was still floundering in it's Domino roadmap. At the time, it may even have seemed to make good business sense but the computing landscape has changed drastically over the last few years and Google, Apple and IBM have all emerged as leaders, leaving Microsoft behind.

Why do People Migrate?
So what are the real reasons behind migrations. I suspect that many are due to the defective notion that "nobody ever gets sacked for buying Microsoft" and others are due to belief in Microsoft's FUD (fear, uncertainity and disaster) campaigns.

How anyone could actually believe that marketing tripe is beyond me but since there are still people who think that Elvis is not dead, I probably shouldn't be surprised. There are probably people out there who believe that Coke actually does "add life" too.

Microsoft also offer some pretty compelling cash incentives to migrate. These are always offset by the long-term costs of their solutions but I can see how some short-sighted CEOs and CIOs could be persuaded to make a grab for those "immediate benefits".

In my opinion though, the main reason for migrations away from Domino is a lack of understanding about the product and more importantly, lack of internal and external champions.

The Need for Champions
Why Champions? Its a question I'm often asked with puzzlement. After all, we don't have "champions" for any of our other software. "Well actually", I'll often reply, "you do.".

I'll usually follow this up with a question like "who do you ask when you need help with tables in word?". Sometimes they'll suggest that I'm their main means of support but often they'll mention a power-user secretary or the office manager. When they do, I reply - "there's your word-champion, where is your notes one?"

Notes is infinitely more complex and more capable than word but unlike word, it thrives on customisation. It's strange how many new staff members we hire who, when asked whether they have used Notes before talk about the "screen with the Giant Icons". It never ceases to amaze me how many companies do no customisation to Notes at all but simply drop the desktop on them. That may have been acceptable 15 years ago but it isn't now - and it hasn't been for at least the last 5 years.

Users should expect to either start Notes in a custom welcome screen (for customers on mail only) or in a full-blown corporate portal, if they use applications as well. If the business isn't doing this already then it's really up to the business partners to explain the value rather than simply serving up "more of the same".

I've also noticed that many business partners seem content to sit back and simply "code for the current version of domino" or "just add a database here and there". The approach to Domino in the organisation should be a holistic one. It should start with the user clicking into their corporate world (in Domino) and should end with all of the information and tools they require for their day-to-day duties being close at hand. Anything other than this is simply ad-hoc development.

There is nothing that says "wasted opportunity" quite like having a fully-paid up maintenance agreement with IBM and then staying on Lotus Notes 6.5. I have a real problem with Business Partners who let the clients stay in this condition without putting up a struggle. After all, it's your livelihood.

A year in the computing industry is close to about ten in most other industries, but even if we accept "actual years", the lag is considerable. Lotus Notes 6.5 is a 2003 product and it's now 2008 - that's five years. Now, suppose you were comparing two cars, your trusty 2003 Falcon versus the new 2008 Holden. If they were both the same "cost", which one do you think you'd choose?

Of course, looking at it the other way, what if your company had paid for your 2008 Falcon but although it had been delivered, they decided to put it in storage and let you keep driving your 2003 model. How do you think you'd react?

If your company had a good quality multi-function printer, scanner, copier - why would you consider replacing it with a device that printed but didn't do anything else? If all of the functions worked well together, why would you buy three devices instead?

The answer - because you weren't aware that it could do all those things.

The same goes for the idea that Lotus Notes is just an email package. IMHO, it's the job of internal IT and their IBM Business Partners to promote the versatility of Notes.

One thing I'd love to see would be either an IBM follow-through with sales, or a Business Partner introduction to a new client, where they say. "Ok, you've got Notes installed for Email", how about we show you a few "Free" off the shelf solutions to common business problems.

There's enough free stuff in the default templates and on OpenNTF that a business partner could provide most new clients with at least one "wow" application that would convey the message - "Domino isn't just email".

Do that, then hint at the possibilities if you did some development work and you could easily find a lot of development heading your way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Microsoft is Losing Relevance in the New Computing World

I started writing a Domino-related post today but after a good opening paragraph, it tipped into Microsoft territory and got too long. As a result, I decided to cover the Microsoft stuff here and keep the Domino post for later. I've tried to keep this blog relatively non-political (computer politics) but sometimes it just doesn't work. Please forgive me if this comes over as a bit of a rant. If you're a big Microsoft supporter, it's possibly better if you don't read this one.

For quite a while now, a lot of systems migrations have been driven by the adage "Nobody ever gets sacked for buying Microsoft". I've always considered this to be a cowardly practice in the IT world driven by the fact that many mid to high level managers really aren't able to make technology decisions by themselves - and yet, they're often afraid to ask their own people for advice.

Once, it may even have made business sense of a sort but the computing landscape has changed drastically over the last few years and Google, Apple and IBM have all emerged as leaders, leaving Microsoft behind.

The Higher they Climb the Harder they Fall
It's hard to discern the exact reasons why Microsoft lost the crown.

Certainly the reduced role and eventual retirement of Bill Gates played a key role. Bill was one of the founding fathers of modern computing and a man of vision - something his successors seem to lack.

Perhaps Microsoft's attempts to monopolise the computing world, not just the desktop, turned a lot of their business partners into bitter rivals. Certainly it was this that gave the open source community its greatest leaders. The fact that Microsoft ignored standards, like J2EE in favour of their propriety .NET standard didn't help either.

Personally, I think it was a combination of these factors plus a complete lack of readiness for Service Orientated Architecture and the "sharing" of applications that comes with it that put the giant in the position it now occupies.

In the early nineties, Microsoft capitalised on its rivals unreadiness for the Windows environment, bringing out its Office suite with unprecedented (then) integration between it's components and knocking out the reigning DOS champions; Wordperfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and dBase IV.

The Upgrade Cycle
Since that time Microsoft has controlled the desktop completely, foisting interface changes onto it's users without any consideration of business value or retraining requirements. In many cases, those changes seemed only to be an excuse to get a new version of software onto the market. They offered little additional functionality and even less actual business incentive - other than the fact that older software often had issues working on newer versions of Windows.

This strategy enabled Microsoft to establish an "upgrade cycle", a guaranteed source of revenue. Their half-hearted attempts on non-windows platforms could be seen as nothing more than a means of wooing users to Windows while their .NET strategy which has some "platform independent" web components, still needs Windows servers to deploy.

Service Orientated Architecture SOA
All that changed with service orientated architecture because suddenly the very things Microsoft has always fought have become central to the system. It doesn't matter what the underlying system is, so long as it is capable of providing the service and the data.

It also doesn't matter what the core runs on, provided that it's web-enabled and capable of having the services embedded into it. In that sense, there is very little distinction between IBM WebSphere, iGoogle and Facebook - they're all containers for services - albeit designed for drastically different purposes.

So where is Microsoft in all this? It's hard to say;

Head on over to the Microsoft SOA page ( and see if you can work out exactly what their portal software is. It's not very clear to me - that's for sure.

One last thing to remember about SOA. It relies on plugins and co-operation between vendors. If you have too much bad blood between vendors the relationship won't be effective. I bet Microsoft is wishing they hadn't alienated quite so many business partners back when they were top dog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are those Google Sidebar Tabs annoying you?

Every vendor makes UI mistakes but usually the guys at Google are pretty spot on. Unfortunately their recent idea, to put tabs down the left hand side of the iGoogle interface backfired pretty badly and the forums at Google are still buzzing over the problem.

Funnily enough, I asked nicely and after a little while (a couple of weeks), my iGoogle page reverted to normal. I thought that Google had stopped the "experiment" but apparently it's still continuing for some people. In fact, worse; there rumours that it's about to start up again.

If you're one of the people affected, you might want to have a look at this;

Someone has gotten so frustrated with the whole thing that they've created a GreaseMonkey script to fix it.

If anyone from Google is reading; The fact that people are starting to write their own scripts to fix a UI issue is as good an indication as any that the changes are unwanted. Perhaps you could make them optional?

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Mozilla Add-in to Make Social Bookmarking Easier

The Importance of Social Bookmarking
It's taken me quite a while to get my head around how the whole Web 2.0 and Social Networking thing hangs together but I think I've got it now and at some point, I might even blog about it and try to explain it in lay-terms.

Not this post though.

What I will say though is that Social Bookmarking is one of the most important parts of the whole thing and that it's not enough to presume that every blog you read will have (hopefully) social bookmarking buttons below the post.

You need to be able to social bookmark from anywhere on the web.

That's where the Shareaholic Add-In for Firefox comes in.

This add-in sits on your browser, near the stop, refresh and home buttons and instantly gives you the ability to post pages, links and reviews to a variety of sources including; digg, delicious, facebook, foxiewire, friendfeed, google bookmarks, google reader, healthranker, kaboodle, magnolia, mixx, myspace, pownce, reddit, simpy,, stumbleupon, streakr, truemors, tumblr, twine, twitter, yahoo! buzz, ycombinator, and bzzster

It also gives instant feedback about the page you're currently visiting.

Separating Social Bookmarks
The only other point I have to make about social bookmarking is;

Join several sites and use different sites to separate different interests. For example; If you're interested in lifestyle topics, you could bookmark them using Digg, while bookmarking your computing interests via delicious. This enables you to post the RSS feeds for your bookmarks on various social computing sites without presenting information which might not interest your readers.

You can then display different RSS feeds of social bookmarks on your Facebook and MySpace pages or on your Web Site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why do we need Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware on our PCs Anyway?

Ok, before everyone starts jumping on me for this, I'm talking about the need for our individual PCs to be processing this sort of stuff.

Recent Issues - Scanning
I've been finding myself increasingly turning McAfee's services off in order to do simple tasks without massive interference.

It's a well known and demonstrated fact that applications which use a lot of small files, like the new version of the Notes client (the Eclipse version) do not run happily with Anti-Virus.

Why? Because everytime they pick up a file to execute it, the Anti-Virus app "snatches it off them for a look". In the days of large applications, the anti-virus would simply scan a massive EXE file once and then move on. That's no longer the case.

Last Friday, I was trying to download some things from the IBM site using their "Download Director" facility. McAfee seized the Java applet and took so long to scan it that it kept timing out. In the end, the only way I could download the file was to turn off my Anti-Virus.

Recent Issues - Malware Detection
Then of course, there is malware detection. I've been becoming quite irritated with the otherwise good (and FREE) McAfee Site Advisor software because whenever I went to look at my own blogs (and any other blogs hosted by Google Blogger, it would block the site and tell me that the site was a Phishing site. If I looked the site up in Site Advisor, it would tell me that the site was clean.

I spent about a week and a half trying to get responses out of McAfee about the problem. Eventually I got a response that said;

After some investigation, we have discovered that this error was related to a bug in the SiteAdvisor program, which has now been fixed.

Anyone who sees this error should uninstall SiteAdvisor, and then reinstall it via the following link:

Please write back to me if this error is still occurring after these instructions have been followed.

I'm pretty annoyed about this. Who else has been getting this problem and is it "trashing" my internet reputation? I hope not.

Anyway, this again points to a problem on my PC - actually, I think it's very widespread because I've got the problem on both my home and work PCs.

Recent Issues - Anti-Spam
My anti-spam issues with Symantec were pretty bad (and I reported them on this blog a couple of years ago) but they've all disappeared since then. Since I moved the Anti-Spam off our servers and onto a hosted servivce.

I think that there are two good solutions to this problem;

1. Border Management
2. Safety Scans

Border Management
There are about five ways in which executables or malformed data can enter your PC.

  1. Drives - Floppy, CD/DVD and USB
  2. Internet
  3. Wired Network Connections (Generally trusted)
  4. Wireless Network Connections (Not necessarily trusted)
  5. Other Means (Developed, Parallel Laplink etc) - Unlikely.

All computers should have a firewall which is secure enough to actually lock off floppy drives, network connections and other direct ports.

For the trusted connections, there should be a simple check on boot to determine if the connection is still the same. If the network is the same (as one previously authenticated), then the connection to the resource should be opened. If not, perhaps a scan might be initiated, or a key might be required to be entered by the user.

In the case of rewritable media, like CD-RW or USB Sticks, the user should be offered either an opportunity to scan the entire device once or to open a "realtime scan/protected" connection.

In this way, the onboard firewall could protect the PC without having to constantly scan files as they are opened. The impact on the PC's performance would be minimal.

All other scanning services, such as scanning of network file shares, scanning of internet connections etc, should be done by dedicated hardware to remove the need for individual PCs to do the work.

Safety Scans
These can be done after hours. all PCs and File Servers probably should have some sort of anti-virus and anti-malware task running on them by default after hours.

The Waiting Game
Well. It all sounds good in theory... now I just have to sit back and wait until someone develops the technology. IMHO, it's a good market opportunity for the right company.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Whatever happened to the Notes/Domino 8 Rollout?

The 8.0 Client
In previous years, I'd have jumped onto the new Notes/Domino within six months of release.

This time however, things have changed.

First of all, there's the fact that the whole Notes 8 client is a rewrite using eclipse. It turns the 18+ year old product into a version 1.0 again - at least for a little while.

My first attempts with the Version 8 client showed that the system was so slow that I could make coffee faster than it could start - and I mean proper plunged coffee,

I quickly realised that you could gain some massive speed improvements by turning off the anti-virus program - great... but is that really a good idea?

After a while of having both 7.0.2 and 8.0 on my PC, I found myself using the older client pretty much exclusively.

8.0.2 and Hard Drive Concerns
Ok, so there was an 8.0.1 but I blinked and it passed on by. At 8.0.2, I decided to give things another go. First of all, I tried installing the client on my PC.

I had almost no space at all left on drive C: but that was ok. I had another drive I wanted to install on. The Notes install would prompt me for install locations but would then screw up halfway through the install because it would use drive C: for temporary files - despite the fact that both my TEMP and TMP variables pointed to a different location and despite the fact that I'd told it to extract files to a drive other than C:

Ok, so I wasn't going to be able to install the client. I don't really blame IBM/Lotus for that - after all, it's Microsoft's install program that's really to blame.

Domino 8.0.2 and the Subforms Issue
Ok, so it was fairly obvious to me that I wasn't going to be able to use the Notes 8 client. Perhaps if I started with the Domino 8.0.2 server.

I did my first test but wasn't really expecting any problems. After all, I'd had no problems at all in the R6 to R7 upgrade.

Everything worked except my most business critical application. It had the same subform being used for both a header and footer on the web.

Sure, it wasn't such a big deal. After all, you only have to copy the affected subforms and rename them, then edit every form in the database which uses these sub-forms and change their footers.

Of course, modifying every form in a given database - particularly a critical one - means that there's also a proposal to be made, a test plan to be drawn up and followed and results to be checked.

Suddenly my little software upgrade project changed into an application modification project. It now needs to compete with our other schedules and It's probably going to blow out by a couple of years.

Thanks IBM - that one, I can lay the blame for squarely at your feet.

Clients again...
So, not giving up, I decided to go back to trying to get the 8.0.2 client to work. After a messy operation on my hard drive enabled me to free up a lot of space on C:, I started installing the client, only to be confronted with...

"The feature you are trying to use is on a network resource that is unavailable."

Yep. It was looking for my old 8.0 install files. They were long ago deleted. I couldn't proceed.

Again, this is a Microsoft Installer problem.

Luckily IBM had this documented for version 6 of Notes;

The Microsoft Windows Installer Cleanup Utility can be downloaded from;;en-us;290301

I've run it, killed off the old Notes and finally installed 8.0.2.

I'm running it, for the time being, without my Anti-Virus. I've still got to find a way to reduce its effects. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here - though I'll still have to go through a series of fixes for the Domino server upgrade.

IBM, could you make the next upgrade a bit smoother - and while you're at it... perhaps using the Windows installer isn't such a great idea after all.

Microsoft Unified Communications Assessment

Microsoft, of all people, have released a "Unified Communications" survey tool. If anything, I'd have thought that their suite is dis-unified, since every component likes to run on it's own separate server. Perhaps that's why they're pushing virtualisation now?

In any case, I decided to have a go of their survey - answering questions based on our usage of Lotus products. Note that we don't use SameTime at all yet, so I wasn't expecting a great response.

I rated at the top end of "Basic".

If there's anyone out there who is using the entire Lotus product range, I'd be really interested to see how it rates. The assessment takes about 1 minute - if you're a fast reader.

Microsoft Unified Communications Assessment

The assessment also comes with a download package containing case studies, whitepapers and other "goodies".

IBM, this is one area where you're obviously a lot stronger than Microsoft. How about a competing package and assessment?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An (Enforced) DRP Exercise on our Archive server (or How to Resize Partitions with Ghost's Help)

Musings on What I'd do about my Partition Problem
Yesterday afternoon, I spent a bit of time backing up my work PC so that I could try a few tricks to get the System partition larger. I keep all my data and apps on a different partition but nevertheless, they still like to dump files in the Windows directory on the sysetm partition. In addition, there's the fact that Windows Update keeps wanting to increase it's stranglehold on my C: Drive.

I didn't want to do a reformat and reinstall because I would have to reinstall all of my apps too. I also didn't want to do an entire system image because that saves things in a proprietry format. I wanted to be able to get to my files on DVD if and when I wanted to.

My Partition Troubles
When I first installed Windows XP I figured that 10GB would be sufficient space - especially since I upgraded from Windows NT which had problems recognising system partitions over 10GB. How wrong was I? For the last few weeks, I've been engaged in a morning hard drive cleanup, removing the help files, old updates etc, from my C: Drive but within a week, Windows update has done it's work and I start to run out of space again. What's that... turn off Windows update.. well, I suppose I could - but that would be cheating.

In any case, I had a plan for this morning. I was going to ghost my C: partition to a server then delete the partitions and create a new, and bigger C: It would fix all my problems at once.

So... I guess that everyone working in IT has those days where you wonder if you should have gotten out of bed. For me, today was one of them.

I kicked off the Ghost (version 2003) but figured that it was running a bit slowly. I decided to have a look at the server I was sending the image to. Immediately after logging on, I knew I was in trouble. The server had rebooted unexpectedly.

At first I thought it was Windows Update. After all, even when it's turned off, Microsoft seem to have a way to override it and download the occasional "really critical" patch. They also seem to think nothing of rebooting your production server. I guess they're a bit confused about ownership of the hardware.

Anyway, I noticed there was a "critical error" so I sent the data to Microsoft. Believe it or not, sometimes it returns useful information. In this case, Microsoft said (approximately), that the Hard Drive had a glitch but that it was "probably nothing to worry about".

Not trusting the Error Message, I decided to check things out in Event Viewer.

I noticed that there were a couple of warnings about impending drive failure shortly before the actual Failure. I was faced with a dying drive.

A Relaxing bit of DRP
Now this server was an "ARCHIVE" server, meaning that the data on it didn't change. It just held old data and installation files, clip art, that sort of thing. It was excluded from our backup schedule but I had a copy of the data on portable hard drive (and several copies on stacks of DVDs). Essentially, I could have rebuilt the server from scratch then restored the data, but I was feeling particularly lazy... and I wanted to test a different type of server DRP. Also, it ended up being the same solution I was about to apply to my own PC. (very coincidental).

Since the server was still functioning, and I already had a full copy of everything that was on drive D:, I only had to worry about C: Drive. Now, on the server, there's not much there, Just Windows Server 2003 and various service packs etc. My own PC, with it's hundreds of applications with DLL files everywhere is a different story altogether. I decided to try and get a ghost image of the server. If nothing else, it would save me locating all of those pesky service packs.

The server was still operating, so I checked the brand of the NIC and found an appropriate Boot CD for it. I restarted the Server and booted from the CD. Logged into the network via command line interface and mapped a drive to another server with oodles of space.

Creating the Ghost Image
Then I ran;
Ghost -NTIL -SPLIT=650
  • The NTIL gets around an old NT problem and I do it out of force of habit.. It's probably not needed anymore, but it does no harm either.
  • The Split=650 splits the files at 650 MB. This enables them to fit onto CD if I choose.

I'll probably use DVD but since some versions of Windows have problems with 4GB files (especially if there's a FAT32 partition involved), the 650 limit is a good choice.

In Ghost, I selected Local, Partition, To Image
Gave the file a decent name and selected high compression. I wasn't really pressed for time.

The Ghost image took about 50 minutes to create. I'm not sure why it took so long - probably the compression and the fact that the source hard drive was a bit wonky.

When the image was finished, I turned the PC off and replaced the hard drive. It was IDE because this wasn't a real "server" it was a PC masquerading as one. Being a mere archive server, it didn't need to be terribly powerful.

Creating a New Partition to Ghost onto

The next step was to start the server and create a new partition so that Ghost would have somewhere to write. I knew that my old DOS boot disks wouldn't support partitions larger than 4GB, so I needed something else.

I decided to use the Windows XP Pro Install CD. Sure, it might have been more appropriate to use the Windows Server CD but I wasn't installing anything and an NTFS drive is still and NTFS drive regardless of what software you used to create it. Also, the WinXP CD was closer to the top of the pile.

At the Windows XP Setup now prompt, I pressed Enter, then F8 to agree to the licence.

Next, I was prompted to create a partition to install on (Press C). I chose to make it 20480 (about 20GB). I like my partition sizes in multiples of 1024. Upon pressing Enter, I was prompted to format it. Since I didn't need to, I pressed ESC to go back a screen, then pressed F3 twice to close out of the Windows XP setup.

I then Removed the WinXP CD and reinserted my Network Boot Disk - hurriedly before XP rebooted the system.

Connecting the to network, remapping the drive and starting ghost, this time with only -NTIL, I was able to ghost back the partition - using these steps.

  1. Select Local Partition from Image
  2. Choose Image
  3. Choose Partition in Image file (there will be only one)
  4. Choose Drive
  5. Choose Partition
  6. Proceed with Restore (ignore the data will be overwritten warning).

Ghosting back took only 12 minutes. At the end of the process, I removed the boot disks and restarted.

The server went straight to the Windows 2003 Server logon. (Impressive - I expected this, but it's still nice to see).

From there, it was a quick trip to Disk Manager to create a new Drive D: (and the formatting of that drive which took ages).

Restoring Data Files and Shares

Then I copied all of the files back from the portable hard drive.

Now, since I used a portable hard drive which was formatted as NTFS, the security on the files should have come back automatically. It didn't... Luckily, this was a flat file structure - they're archives, so the entire server is read-only.

And... since share information is stored in the registry.... it should have followed that the share would have automatically worked... It didn't.


All up... an interesting bit of DRP showcasing an alternative method. Because of the issues bring security back and the delay waiting for disks to format, it might not be applicable to servers requiring a speedy recovery but it was sufficient to get our archive server back in half a day.

Repeating the Steps on My PC
So, next up, I'm going to be doing the procedure on my PC... only this time, instead of replacing the hard drive, I'll simply delete the existing partitions using FDISK - or I could do it during WinXP setup.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Domino Recovery Tricks - and the Problem with 8.0.2

Installing Domino 8.0.2
Yesterday, we did some tests on Domino 8.0.2. I wasn't expecting any real problems given the ease of the last few Domino upgrades - up to 7.0.2. I guess I was wrong.

First of all, the initial attempt at installation failed with one of those non-specific error messages. I rebooted the server and tried again - no problems. I've seen this problem a few times though - it's something to do with the JVM being held open on Windows Server 2003 even though Domino itself has been closed.

Upon starting Domino, I chose not to upgrade the designs of the databases. Ideally you should not upgrade the designs until your last production server is on at least the same "major" version - in this case, 8.x.

I then did a bit of testing. As usual, I found no problems. Domino is one of the few systems I know which can be upgraded and tested (albeit roughly) in 15 minutes.

The Problem
Then I found the problem. Our most critical database refused to render web pages. This was shown in Microsoft Internet Explorer as a general "dummy spit" message which told me nothing.

Luckily, I use Mozilla Firefox most of the time. I was only using IE for testing because;

a. Most of our clients use it
b. It had no passwords cached

Mozilla gave me a very different story - a proper error message.

Error 500
HTTP Web Server: Application Exception - Duplicate Subform found. A given
subform cannot be used on the same form more than one time.

I'd read about this problem - and I thought that we'd checked that specific database for the problem - apparently not.

Anyway - I wasn't going to compound the problem by attempting a last-minute fix. Time to rollback.

DRP Tricks
I decided to try a couple of tricks first.

First I tried re-installing 7.0.2 over 8. In the first instance the install
failed completely but a retry after a reboot worked wonders.

I didn't really expect a simple re-install to fix the problem though I
would have been pretty impressed if it had.

The next step was to move (copy and delete) the entire


Directory - except for the data directory of course.

I then used ArcServe (r12) to restore this folder from tape - but not
directly to the original location - just in case I stuffed up and overwrote data or something. I restored to a different drive.

After restore, I copied the files to the right location and rebooted.

Everything came up normally - problem solved.

I guess we won't be moving to Domino 8 until we resolve the subform issue on that database.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Domino and Email Reliability

I've just finished filling out a survey questionnaire for Michael Osterman and I noticed that the same sorts of things just keep on cropping up. I can't figure out why these things are "issues" in this day and age. Certainly, they're not problems for us.

I was just wondering if people have email problems because of poor implementations, poor policy, low expenditure or because they're on other systems with less resilience than domino.

The Problems Discussed
The problems mentioned in the survey were as follows;
  • Spam
  • Outbound Confidential Material
  • Archiving and Retrieval
  • System Management Time
  • Mail File Sizes
None of these are issues for us.

After struggling for a few years with the Symantec Anti-Spam solutions, I finally redirected our mail through a cleansing service. This service runs our mail through several different Anti-Spam solutions. Anything considered spam is sent to while all other mail goes to it's rightful recipient. All users at our company have rights to read the mailbox of and they know that if there's something that they didn't get, they can search for it there.

Of course, the filters are so accurate that this never happens. (touch wood).

Outbound Confidential Material
We have an extranet system which is powered by Domino and which contains about 200 document databases. Most of our documents are intended for one group or another. When we send documents to these groups, we broadcast from the database. The recipients get a link which they can follow and login to get their documents. If they forward the link to somone else, the document is safe.

If one of our administration people sends the document to the wrong group (difficult because the broadcast functions on our database fill in the group automatically), then the ACL of the database will prevent the wrong person from accessing the document. The problem then becomes one of embarrassment, not security.

Finally, if we have to send anything highly-secure one-to-one, then the attachment is PGP encrypted before we send it. We have policies in place to enforce this and everybody at our company - right up to CEO level - is expected to comply.

Archiving and Retrieval
We've got a Lotus Notes document management solution called AbilitySuite in place. It's been working well for years. It forces people to categorise emails according to companies, projects and other criteria. Some of our people are "lazy" and don't categorise everything but since we also use mail rules to simplify categorisation of emails we usually pick up the important ones.

In any case, if a mail doesn't get categorised, it doesn't matter too much - after all, since every email is journaled we can still retrieve all emails to (or from) a given person between two dates if we get a subpoena. The other great thing about the AbilitySuite system is that it chunks our mails into monthly archives. If we need to get space back, then we just move the archives onto another server, back it up to optical media (several times), store copies on and off-site and then, stop backing it up from then on.

Problem solved.

System Management Time
I have to say that even though our Domino systems run a huge number of applications as well as email and other things, it doesn't consume much system management time. I have no idea what the point of this topic is.

Perhaps it's that - in the days before our archiving solution and before our spam management was done by an external party, there was a lot of work to do. Well, erm... that's the past... It's not the case anymore - and anyone on a mail system which does require a lot of maintenance needs to look at their infrastructure to put in a better solution. Enough said.

Mail File Sizes
The afforementioned archiving capabilities of AbilitySuite have put this one to rest. Sure, I have a few users over quota but do I care? No. If I wanted, I could delete all of their mail and they'd still not lose anything - because it's all stored in the mail archives.

I've only let people get over-quota because of the generosity of my heart and the fact that our other systems aren't affected by it. If it started to push our backup windows out, I'd get those users down to quota.

In Summary
I guess my point is simple - why, in this day and age, are we still talking about such things? If your email system doesn't make these points a no-brainer, then perhaps it's time to move to one which does.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Using Google Alerts to Keep Tabs on Yourself

You may already have used google alerts to keep an eye on various technologies, companies or other objects of interest but did you ever think of using it to keep tabs on yourself?

If you're into social networking or find yourself frequently adding comments to articles around the net, then you probably have a significant web presence. Certainly more than you could handle doing spot checks via Google search.

What's great about Google alerts is that it doesn't show you all your web presences, just the new ones - or those recently updated. This makes it easy to see if someone is using your identity or to re-locate a site you put a comment on to check for follow-ups.

You might not be able to stop someone from falsely putting comments on sites using your name but at least you'll know about it and you'll be in a position to request its removal or post a follow-up correction.

If you have a gmail account, then you already have access to google alerts.

How to Set up the Alerts
  1. Login to your Gmail or iGoogle Page

  2. At the top of the screen, click on More, then Even More and then on Google Alerts
    (or you could just use this link -

  3. In the Search Terms box, type your name.
    Note, if you often post under pseudonyms or name variations you might want to create some additional google alerts to search for them. Eg: rwilco

  4. You can leave most of the other defaults as-is and make sure that you have your email address in the last box.

  5. Click - Create Alert.

That's it... now you just wait for those emails to come rolling in.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Why IBM & Google share the same vision

There's no doubt that most people with any kind of computing background would agree that the most forward-looking and influential IT company in the world today is Google, some may say Apple but most would say Google.

Microsoft, once an industry unto itself no longer holds that coveted position. They didn't so much lose direction as, fail to take the correct turns along the route to today's platforms.

While the world is heading towards open source, platform independence and service orientated architecture, Microsoft is more tightly bound to proprietary systems on the windows platform than ever before.

A little whinge about IBM's Marketing
So where is IBM in all this? Well, to be perfectly frank, they're not in the sweetest of spots even though they deserve to be. Why? Because although in my opinion, IBM's technology is more than a match for Google's, they haven't yet caught the attention of "Joe Public". Their marketing team has the "killer suite" on their hands but doesn't seem to know how to sell it.

What's weird is that it's been demonstrated over and over again that the way forward is to catch the attention of the home users and get them to push the technology to business users. Apple and Microsoft both did this in the past by selling technology cheaply to schools. Microsoft made the enormous gains with Outlook and Internet Explorer by making them free to home users. More recently, Apple has focussed the attention of initiatives like the iPod and the iPhone firmly upon non-business users. These users frequently come to work and ask "when we're going to start buying Macs" because they're "so easy to use".

Also recently, the Open Source community has made a lot of headway with Mozilla and Open Office by making these things available to the public, while Google's initiatives in turning most of their apps over to "Joe Public" for testing have seen them take a position of dominance.

IBM on the other hand, has always taken a top-down approach. They believe that the business comes first and seem to have forgotten that all CEOs and CIOs have children, relatives and friends who will be very influential in their opinions of technology. There's no way that these people will be recommending Notes/Domino when they haven't ever seen the product. I'm not suggesting that the Notes client needs to be free but I am suggesting that a cut down version of it, (or a web version of it) with some basic online services available, would be a good start. If nothing else, IBM deserves a bit of recognition for Symphony.

Back on Topic
So, if Google's strategy represents the future, why then do I believe that IBM's Technology is right on target? Well, if we consider the web browser (and in particular, Google Chrome) to be the glue in the google "cloud computing" system... what then is the Notes Client in the IBM strategy?

Have a look at this picture comparing the two;

At the top, we have Google Chrome, running a Home Page, Email (Gmail), Calendar (Google Calendar), RSS Reader (Google Reader), Document Editors (Google Docs), Web Pages and a Blogging Tool (Blogger).

At the bottom we have the Notes 8.0.2 client running.... a home page, Email, Calendar, RSS Reader (sidebar), Document Editors (Symphony), Web Pages (built-in browser), and a Blogging Tool (OpenNTF BlogSphere).

Funnily enough, the strategy is very much the same - and IBM got there first!

Even the home page on Chrome is amazingly similar to the IBM Lotus Notes Welcome Page.

I've left off a lot of other comparisons, like Google Talk vs Sametime and Google Desktop vs IBM Omnifind. I'm sure Google probably does a couple of extra things that Notes/Domino doesn't but I'm equally certain that Notes/Domino does a lot more that Google isn't able to do at all. In particular, databases, a development platform, replication, clustering and access control management.

I've often said that the main gap in the Google strategy is to provide a secure platform which can be hosted at a business site rather than online. I'm sure that such an appliance is in the works and will eventually emerge. In the meantime however, IBM already has a proven solution available and if an OS is required, they have Foundations as well.

Now, if only they could capture the attention of the common people.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Article: Running Multiple Versions of the Notes Client

The question "can you run version 8 with older versions of notes?" appears with surprising regularity on the Domino 8 Forums. Today, I noticed that someone had provided a very impressive link to a web page containing a picture showing someone running ... and I quote....

"Notes R5, 6, 7 and 8 Standard running concurrently on one Windows machine, and side by side the Notes Client, Domino Designer and Administrator of each version - no image manipulation (besides scaling), no VMs, no tricks... "

It's so impressive that it deserves a referral.

Well done guys!

Why Microsoft and IBM have plenty to fear from Google Chrome but Mozilla does not

Since the release of Google's new "web browser", Chrome yesterday the web has been buzzing with speculation about how Google will be hurting Mozilla. The funny thing is, that if you read the comic about Google chrome, you'll see that it is being positioned more as an operating system than as a browser.

Cloud Computing
The idea is that the Web browser will become the operating system of choice for cloud computing.

The Google Chrome "browser" has certain advantages over the current generation of browsers, particularly in the area of robustness and multithreading. The browser changes are similar, in a way to the fundamental chanages from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP.

Under Windows 3.1, all applications shared the same address space and one faulty application would result in the dreaded "General Protection Fault" message and would often pull the entire system down. I see that kind of behaviour all the time in Internet Explorer and slightly less often (but still frequently) in Mozilla.

The Google Chrome system treats every tab as an entirely separate application. This allows it to reclaim memory when a tab is closed (avoiding memory leaks) and allows individual tabs to be closed without affecting the rest of the system (the browser) whenever there is a problem.

Google has also been talking about getting plug-in's to run in their own address space too. I don't believe that's been done in the beta that is currently available, but we've been told that it's coming.

Google chrome is also a "self-protecting" browser. It frequently downloads updates to its list of malware and will prevent such applications from running.

The Mobile Connection
Finally, you can't overlook the connection between Chrome and Android (Google's Mobile Phone system). They're based on many of the same components with the aim of creating a truly cross platform cloud computing system.

Why is Mozilla Safe?
Google and Mozilla have long been on good terms. Both browsers are open-source and I believe that Google is hoping that Mozilla will follow it's lead and stabilise their browser too. This will prevent accusations of monopoly while achieving Google's real aim - stabilisation of browsers. Google's interests aren't in the browser market at all. They're firmly set on cloud computing - and for that, they need fast and stable web browsers.

Why Should Microsoft be Worried?
Microsoft is really the obvious target. Imagine operating systems such as Linux which run local operating system services, such as printers, fonts and screens but do not require any applications. All they require is a Web browser such as Google crime or Mozilla Firefox. You will notice that I have left out Internet Explorer because this is a Windows only browser. At this stage, I haven't made my mind up on a safari or opera but I suspect at least the latter will be a possibility.

Now imagine that the browser runs on various platforms, on mobiles, on consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation and on appliances. The underlying system is unimportant - so long as it can communicate with the cloud.

So, we've started our Web browser and connected to our cloud computing system (possibly something like iGoogle). In this case, I will be using Google as an example however there are quite a few other cloud computing platforms available.

For my documents; Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, I can use Google Docs, (in place of MS Office), for Mail, Calendar and Instant Messaging, I can use Gmail, Google Calendar and GoogleTalk (instead of Outlook/Exchange).

If I'm on a commercial-level service, which Google does not yet fully support, I don't have to worry about backup, disaster recovery or security (access control and anti-malware).

Finally, there's a range of other online tools available to me, from Google and from other suppliers. These tools include Blogging tools (like Blogger and Wordpress), Graphics (like Picasa and Flickr) and file storage and sharing tools like GoogleBase. There's even online tools available for converting to PDF via the Web.

All that's missing are some good online project management solutions to replace Microsoft Project.

Why Should IBM be Worried?
IBM has less to worry about than Microsoft but Google's cloud computing initiative is a direct threat to Lotus Foundations. The concept is pretty much the same with the main differences being that IBM have a better array of collaboration tools and that IBM are better placed to take advantage of "mistrust" in Google. Most companies today will think twice before hosting all of their corporate data online.

Even so, it's only a matter of time - so IBM probably needs to put a bit more effort into Foundations and Cloud Computing Alternatives (a cloud version of Lotus Notes?) in order to stay relevant.