Friday, April 17, 2009

A Microsoft/Dell Glitch Inspires some Creative Linux (GOS) Work

A bit of Dell and Microsoft Bashing
This morning when I arrived at work, my computer had installed a Microsoft Windows XP update (for Office 2007, which isn't even installed on my PC - it's running 2003) and rebooted. The result was that my screen was now partially blurry. Something had screwed around with the video drivers. I wasn't sure if it was a problem with the video card or the monitor but there's an easy way to find out. I booted from a handy Ubuntu boot CD (my trusty Bart PE didn't seem to work on the DELL).

These boot CDs are brilliant. They let you get work done without having to install an operating system. In my case, I was able to connect to the network and open some large documents to assure myself that the monitor blurriness was gone. When I booted back into Windows, the blur came back too.

I called DELL and explained my actions and was given the extremely helpful advice (NOT), that since it was obviously not a monitor or video card problem, I could either put in the DELL System Recovery CD, or Reload the Operating System manually. The analogy of rebuilding your car because you find a pot hole in the road springs to mind. I don't know where DELL get their technicians.

A Unique Temporary Fix
Well, I was in a hurry but I wasn't about to tolerate the blur either. I grabbed a PC that I found lying around and put in one of my Random OS CDs. (If you have to do this, you might as well have a bit of fun). In this case, it was the Google Operating System (GOS) which is based on GNOME Linux. My terminology is probably all wrong here because I don't know much about Linux - but that's one of the points of this post. The solution was quick and easy - even for a dummy like me.

I booted into GOS, then clicked the Install Icon on the desktop. After a few questions about my Country, Language, Machine Name and after selecting a user name and password, it started copying files. Eight minutes later (on a very old machine), I was booting smoothly into my new Operating System, already preloaded with goodies. The system informed me that there were updates - 279 (332.4 MB) to be exact. Since I was going off to get a coffee, I figured that I'd let it run. It took 40 minutes, but most of that was downloading time.

The next step was to remote desktop my windows PC and see if it came out blurry.

Getting a Remote Desktop
This was a bit tricky at first because the Google OS ships with a "Remote Desktop" already installed. Unfortunately, it's for VNC (which requires additional software on your PC). I wanted a Native Windows remote desktop. The answer was surprisingly simple.

  1. All you have to do is click (GOS - which is the GOS equivalent of the Start menu), then choose Add/Remove...

  2. A dialog box appears and you type Remote Desktop to search for it. The "windows" remote desktop is called Terminal Server Client.

  3. Simply tick the empty checkbox to the left of it and click Install.

  4. Everything else is automatic.

  5. After the installation, you can start the utility by clicking GOS, then Internet, then Terminal Server Client.

  6. In the computer name, I put the IP Address of my Windows computer and in the username, password and domain boxes, I put my normal logon credentials. That's it. It all just worked.

Of course, the screen was a bit small, being 640 x 480 but I soon discovered that if I clicked on the other tabs in the Terminal Server Client, I could set some sensible defaults. Now I had my Windows system back, and no blurry screen. That meant that I could continue work until I get around to resolving that other problem.

Notes 8.5 on the Google Operating System
It's a perverse thing that I can't help myself. I'm always interested in what Notes can do. I decided to install the notes client onto GOS. It worked first time, so here are the instructions.
  1. Put in your CD where you've saved your carefully downloaded Linux version of the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 Client.

  2. Copy the file C1W0TEN.TAR to your desktop (I remember from ubuntu that it didn't like running from CD).

  3. Double click on the file and Extract IBM_lotus_notes - 8.5.i586.deb to the desktop

  4. Double click this file and it should launch into Installer.

  5. As usual you'll be prompted for your administrator password but then the software will install.

  6. To launch the software, click GOS, then Office, then Lotus Notes 8.5. Of course, you'll have to go through the usual setup routine, and you'll need your ID File but most of us can do those steps in our sleep.

After that, it should just work. I'm impressed. Chalk up another tested OS for Notes.

And here's an annotated picture of it all working happily together...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spouting Gobbledygook (IBM Licensing)

All companies have internal buzzwords and gobbledygook but most are fairly conscious about providing an intermediary translation before shooting it off to their customers.

This little gem? from IBM was so bizarre that I felt it was worth sharing;

I received an email today indicating that IBM had decided to make some changes to their licensing. As a customer, I try to be careful about reading such things because sometimes they highlight problems and sometimes they give us extra benefits.

The email consisted of a two page "covering letter". The first page of which said very little other than suggesting that a licence change was happening and giving a rough date. It pointed you to the attached document (the second page).

The first paragraph just tells you very little other than identifying that it's to do with IBM's Passport Agreement Programme (I'd already figured that part out). It's the second paraphaph that prompted this post.

I've reproduced it in full below because quite frankly it's one of the best examples I've ever seen of "over-use of internal buzzwords in an external communication".

Expanded list of eligible products and elimination of unique parts for Sub-capacity licensing
IBM has recently expanded the number of products eligible for Sub-capacity licensing (“Eligible Sub-capacity Products”) and announced the elimination of different part numbers for Sub-capacity licensing. All Processor Value Unit (PVU) Products are now Eligible Sub-capacity Products , unless they are specifically listed as not eligible on the Sub-capacity licensing web site at the link below. Your existing PVU Sub-capacity license entitlements will not be converted to PVU license entitlements, but can be used on an “as if converted” basis using a ratio of 1 PVU Sub-capacity license equals 1 PVU license. Your existing Software Subscription & Support (S&S) entitlements for PVU Sub-capacity products will be migrated to PVU S&S entitlements on a 1 for 1 basis at your next Software S&S renewal date on or after July 1, 2009.

Maybe that means something at IBM but it means nothing to me (the customer).

The file attachment is described as
  • Sub-Cap_Notification_Letter_InternationalEnglish.pdf
I'd suggest it be renamed;
  • Sub-Cap_Notification_Letter_InternalGibberish.pdf
More isn't always better - next time IBM, just send me a one-liner in English please.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Registering and Deregistering the Lotus Domino Server Service

The Scenario
We have a test server which is used for development test purposes only. It was set up with Domino on the C: drive (which normally I prefer to keep clean for the operating system). Domino was apparently later installed on D: drive but the old installation was not removed and the Lotus Domino Server service remained in startup.

As a result of the old service still being installed, the new one did not get installed - I'm not sure if this was a notes problem or if the person doing the installation had "cheated" and simply copied the folders to the new drive. It was only a test server after all. Regardless of the cause, the issues became;
  1. There was an old service which was disabled
    To prevent the wrong domino server from accidentally being started, the folder C:\Lotus was renmed to C:\Old-Lotus.

  2. The New Service was not installed
    This meant that everytime the server was rebooted, the domino service had to be restarted manually - and also, whomever started the Domino server, started it on their login. Anyone using a different login would not be able to get to the console (except via the Notes Admin Client) to monitor, run server tasks or to shut the service down neatly.
This post is all about how I managed to resolve the problem.

Knocking the Old One Off - Gentle Method
There's a nifty little uninstall routine for de-registering Lotus Domino services in Windows. All you need to do is;
  1. Go to a command prompt

  2. Change to the domino folder
    CD C:\Old-Lotus\Domino

  3. Run the Service installation program with the -d parameter.
    ntsvinst.exe -d
    You can read more about this here..

  4. Of course, you shouldn't get your hopes up because this didn't work for me. I'm sure it works fine with a normal notes install but if you've mucked around with the folders since, it doesn't.

Knocking the Old One Off - Rough Method
Luckily, for us, there's a windows equivalent for removing services. It's called the Registry Editor. Here's how;

  1. Start the Registry Editor (Start, Run, Regedit.exe)

  2. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services

  3. Look for the folder/Service called Lotus Domino Server (LotusDominoData) and right mouse click on it.

  4. When the menu appears, choose Delete.
    (BTW: You'll notice in the right hand panel that the file path to the service is displayed, so you can actually check before you delete).

  5. When prompted to confirm deletion, choose Yes.

  6. You can close the Registry Editor now.

  7. You'll notice that this has had no effect. That's because, this being a Windows System, we have to reboot.

  8. Once rebooted, the service will no longer be displayed.

Putting the Right one Back
Now we can make use of that nifty little install I talked about earlier, only this time, we'll use the -c parameter, which creates the service. The instructions are more or less the same.
  1. Go to a command prompt (start, run, cmd)

  2. Change to the domino folder (the real one this time)
    CD D:\Lotus\Domino

  3. Run the Service installation program with the -c parameter.
    ntsvinst.exe -c

  4. This time, it works a treat - and no reboot is necessary. You can start the service from service manager in control panel and you can set it to be "automatic".
A happy ending. (BTW: The Server was Domino 8.5 on Windows Server 2003 but the instructions should work for several older versions of both).

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Next Generation of Browsers

It's been noted all over the place that the browser wars are starting again (well, they've been going strong for the last few years). I've been a long-time Firefox user ever since I forced myself to live with the browser for a month just to try it out. I coudn't go back to IE.

I've tried Safari, Opera and Chrome without feeling too tempted. I was impressed by the design of Chrome but the lack of familiar features (add-ons and scripting) failed to win me over. I'll admit though that I've found Opera to be the browser of choice on the Blackberry.

Recently, I decided to give IE8 a go. Ok, so it was on the morning of the FIRST day of release but that doesn't mean I'll be lining up for any other MS products. I decided to see how well it worked doing the normal things I do every day.

It almost made 45 minutes but then it crashed and I haven't used it much since then.

I then switched my attention back to the Chrome 2.0 beta browser I had been testing. I've been using this as my main browser for nearly three solid weeks now. I've left it running overnight on most nights and it's still as fast as ever. Remember, this is a BETA product. I was willing to tolerate some crashes but thus far, I haven't experienced one.

I also expected to have problems accessing some sites but I've had no problems so far. I've been right through all the major Google apps, iNotes and many of the major news and social networking sites. It also works with our intranet and extranet.

I'm impressed.

I'm not sure that I can live without Sharaholic or my "Copy as plain text" menu option but I've discovered that I need to start Firefox up for one of these less than three times per day. I'm also missing my Google Toolbar (for some reason it isn't available in Chrome).

I'm not ready to dump Firefox for Chrome yet - but I don't want to dump Chrome 2.0 either since it has proven to be even more stable than Firefox. I can't afford to have three browsers, so I guess it's goodbye IE8.