Friday, January 31, 2003

Familiarity, Contempt and Fear

Ben Poole makes a comment about the discussion surrounding the announcements at Lotusphere this week.
This is my original reaction to the announcements and my comments to Ben follow. I started by adding a comment on Ben's site, but just kept typing - so here is is - with a smidge of grammar/spelling checking.

I think a lot of Notes/Domino folks feel frustrated that IBM doesn't "get" Domino and the concept of integrated features in one product. I have seen the complexity of IIS/SQLServer/ServicePack/Younameit dependencies and the tricks sometimes needed to get it all to co-operate happily. I think there is some fear that a future Lotus/WebSphere/DB2/Tivoli solution will end up being as ugly and complex as a MS one.

On the other hand, we have used Notes for so long, and been so used to other "competitors" coming and going that we think Notes is the solution to all problems (dom.doc, pop mail relational dbms). We are in a very comfortable zone and would rather not shift.

I think it also depends on what sort of environment you are working in. My current employer has about 100 sites - each with a cluster pair of Domino servers, a previous employer has 430 sites with a single Domino box each. In each case the comms links are slowish and a local server with replicated data/mail/http is a great solution. Scalability is not an issue, replication, bandwidth and management are. A low-cost mail server supporting >10K users is no use to us - but a "large" US corporation with a campus and T1 links everywhere will presumably love it. It also gives IBM customers a less complex massaging environment if that is what they want - how many times have you said Notes is wasted if it is just for messaging.

So - in the end, there will be some Notes/Domino users who will welcome these changes and others for whom these changes move away from what they need. You can't please everyone.

We will continue to build classic Notes apps, as we have a full client on each desktop, but will also provide browser access to apps & mail for roaming users and external clients. We also are building servlets and skilling up on the Java/XML front.

Choices are a good thing.

Learning new things is also good.

I could start playing around with Java and XML/XSLT because I was writing Domino apps.

I'm using WebSphere Studio and JSP/Taglibs and still using a Domino server.

I'm just starting on the Upgrading to Lotus Notes and Domino 6 and Upgrading to Domino 6: Performance Benefits Redbooks (note the redbooks.nsf in the URLs- gotta love it). We'll be using Notes and Domino for while yet.

dotMac Address Book Sync

Apple's .Mac Service has now added the ability to iSync your online Address Book. At home last night I could sync my Palm m505, Ericsson T39m, OSX Address Book and iCal with .Mac. Now when I use WebMail on .Mac I have all my contacts available. The whole iSync process is very smooth now.

Slowly more of your life seeps online. The virtual copy of the data is becoming the primary version, the replicas on various devices are becoming secondary.

Tomorrow will bring more new toys, iMovie 3 and iPhoto 2.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Lotus Domino Toolkit for Websphere Studio

I have just been having a quick play with the BETA version of this product (anyone have a sensible acronym yet?). It is a pretty simple add-on to WSAD that allows you to browse to a Domino server and select design elements for inclusion in a JSP page. You can include Forms, Views and Agents.
It also adds some project templates that include the Domino JSP Tag Libraries (domtags and domutil) by default, so a new project with all the right includes is trivial to create.

And here is a picture boys and girls. It shows the WASD view for browsing Domino design elements.
You right-click on the element you want and choose "Add Form/View to Web Page" and the appropriate code is inserted in the JSP you are editing.
There is not much more to it than that. There are two samples, but I could only get the trivial one working. It demonstrated loggin on and establishing a session. Help is included - this is where I pinched the above picture from.
After that you are on your own with JSP.


And just so you don't ask, it will not work with Eclipse - it needs some of the WSAD components to operate - pity.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Domino 6.5 and 7.0

Ed Brill's Weblog entry for today provides some useful info for the future direction of the Domino platform - as opposed to the whole Lotus next gen transplant. He says:


Cavanaugh's presentation also did an excellent job of positioning the roadmap for Notes/Domino overall. The 6.5 release, targeted for later this year, is primarily focused on enhancing alternate client support (iNotes Web Access, Outlook support, and mobile devices), along with better Microsoft desktop integration. No major changes will be made to the core Notes/Domino code, leaving the already stable Domino 6 server exactly where it is. New server features will show up in the 2004 architectural release. Cavanaugh also noted that we plan to follow this pattern in the years beyond 2004 -- a stable, incremental release followed by an architectural release. This message seemed to resonate well and mesh with Jeanette Horan's opening session comments...that the Notes/Domino lane will continue "as far as the eye can see".

The Notes/Domino lane may well continue, but the clear message is that the nextgen platform is where application development is heading.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Lotusphere 2003 - the end of the world as we know it

Well, time to sift through the LS2003 press releases and see where we are heading.

nextgen Strategy - use J2EE it is nimble, timely. Better yet - Instead of rebuilding the fundamentals every time we need to produce something new, we have a base to begin with in WebSphere, DB2 and Tivoli.

Low cost e-mail strategy - Domino too hard? Let's use WebSphere and DB2 to make it easier to manage and deploy. Word of the day is Portlet - remember that now.

Learning Management System - Nobody cares about this stuff, never have, never will (HR don't count - they are not people). Only interesting fact is - guess what - it is built on WebSphere and DB2. Notice any theme yet ?

Lotus Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio - Go buy WSAD now everyone, you'll need it. To quote from the press release ..... and will guide its loyal Lotus developer community into the land of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).

Portals - Sametime and Quickplace reborn as Portlets.

Domino 6.0.2 will deliver the "Lotus Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio".

There will not be a separate RAD tool (as described in the August 2002 roadmap). Instead - is our intention to make WebSphere as easy to develop for as Domino is. WebSphere studio will morph from a pure J2EE/JSP/Servlet tool into a tool more accessible to web developers. It will sport a simplfied UI, Easy connection to data sources and a palette of visual control to drag/drop. Technology called Java Server Faces will be the basis for the new development paradigm.

Anything you don't understand ?

Thursday, January 23, 2003

notes.ini reference

These handy links provide a useful reference to known notes.ini settings.
notesnet.com

DRC consulting

Lotus Developer Domain has a regular Ask Professor INI column.
LDD also provides some details on new settings for Notes 6 and Domino 6.

Lotusphere 2003 and chicken gizzards

The week before Lotusphere is always a good time to rifle through the goat entrails and have a punt on what might be on show. What will not be on show might just make us glum.
Since Notes Domino 6 is well and truly shipping I'm sure there are lots of presentations about why we all should upgrade and plenty of emphasis on"value". There will increasing "value" of course, maybe better business "value", with luck shareholder "value" will be improved and, if we wish really hard, some increased return on investment might not be beyond the realm of the possible.
IBM wouldn't spend all that cash without also including lots of cross promotion of Tivoli Health tools and that lovely WebSphere (the same shade of purple as Barney the Dinosaur?).

ND 6.0.1
Presumably no surprises here - just the stuff that didn't make it into 6 - COM, Roaming and with some luck a native OSX installer. Plus the occasional fix (my guess is about 412).
Oh, and a shiny new iNotes!
Oh, Oh and support for more HTTP stacks (including single signon pretty please).

Notes client
What will 6.02 and 6.03 have in store? Probably a greater focus on deployment, management, and maintenance. Any major items - probably not. All the cool stuff will be on the Domino Developer front.

Domino Administrator
This seems pretty simple to me - all Lotus have to do is fix the Web Admin to work with browsers on non-windows platforms. Client-side XML processing is progressing in non-IE browsers - so they should just get on with it. If we all say Java three times and click our heels together, anything is possible.

Domino Designer A few days ago I wrote a little piece on some sneak preview info on Designer & WebSphere integration projects codenamed Seoul & Montreal.


Some interesting passages from the August 2002 Roadmap may also greet the light of day at Lotusphere 2003.

Consistent API
Today, Lotus software APIs differ widely from product to product, making integration rather complex. Lotus software will simplify integration by introducing a common cross-product schema and data model to make the APIs more uniform among products. These APIs will make it easier for your organization to build cross-product integrated applications. Lotus will initially produce Java interfaces, but will move to Web services as those technologies mature.

I suppose the first part of this process has already started with the renaming of a number of products which will take place during this quarter. These products are, I assume, the ones that will acquire a new (or at least consistent) API, schema and data model. Lotusphere would be a good place to announce the new API.

Web Services
In coming releases of Lotus Notes and Domino, you can expect Lotus to stay consistent with its open standards platform strategy by adding functions for mobile/wireless application development, by making consumption of Web services easier, and by enhancing XML.
....
Along with the progressive innovation that Lotus will add to Domino Designer and to the Domino programming model, there will be continued integration with WebSphere Studio. This integration will not replace Domino Designer, but will help facilitate teams of developers using both Domino and WebSphere Application Server in their environment.
....
Lotus Domino can host Java-based Web services that expose Domino data and functionality. Using a combination of a J2EE server like WebSphere, appropriate SOAP classes, and the Domino Java Objects, developers can expose desired portions of their current Domino applications as Web services. To do so requires some Java development skills and knowledge of the Domino object model. IBM's WebSphere Application Server ships with the needed SOAP classes, and the WebSphere Studio development environment has wizards for creating, consuming, managing, and deploying Web services.

All through the above section the message is that Domino applications can only consume Web Services. To turn Domino apps into Web Services, you'll need to turn to a server that supports SOAP - that would be WebSphere my friend.
Can you say second class citizen?


next gen RAD tool
Lotus is leveraging its understanding of the needs of RAD tool users, along with the expertise gained in developing Domino Designer, to build a premiere J2EE RAD tool primarily targeted at IBM's J2EE platforms. This project is currently underway and is a cooperative development effort between the Lotus e-Workplaces and IBM WebSphere engineering teams.
....
Lotus will continue to enhance Domino Designer as a hybrid client application development environment for Lotus Domino with utilities added over time to facilitate interaction with WebSphere tools.

This appears to be a completely new tool - not Designer or WSAD. It might only support the new consistent APIs and allow construction of Domino, Instant Messaging and Team Workspace applications onto a J2EE server.

Designer's place in the world
Domino Designer is the application development tool for building Lotus Notes and Domino applications. The future of Domino Designer is continued enhancement, especially focusing on features that enable the development of integrated applications and the use of the next gen collaborative services. There are no plans to port Domino Designer to WebSphere Studio or Eclipse — it will remain a dedicated RAD tool for Lotus Notes and Domino. In Lotus Notes and Domino Release 5, Lotus extended the development model by adding new APIs for Java and COM, which are important to interoperability with external applications. In Lotus Domino 6, a key feature provides the ability to build integrated Domino/J2EE applications using the Domino JavaServer Pages (JSP) tags and enhanced Java classes.

The focus from now on will be on next gen collaboration services. Does this mean no focus on Domino as self-sufficient web server? Is the future wrapping Domino web applications in WebShere/SOAP for delivery as Web Services?

www.geoURL.org

find my neighbours -

GeoURL

Found this story about the fires on saturday (and the day after). Not quite sure if the pictures are beautiful, but I'll never forget that red sky.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Apple Lisa was born 20 years ago today

This site describes the Apple Lisa -and is run on one!
More details on the Lisa here at www.apple-history.com.

Apple AirPort Weblog

Apple AirPort Weblog discusses the News and tips related to the Apple AirPort networking system and other wireless uses of the Mac OS. It includes this great summary of the current state of 802.11g and Apple's AirPort Extreme gear and other interesting snippets like this:

Apple couldn't just plug Bluetooth in as an option to existing systems, though, for the same reason they couldn't just add AirPort Extreme. Because Bluetooth and Wi-Fi/AirPort share the 2.4 GHz spectrum, Apple had to coordinate the two wireless systems. Their two-antenna design in the big and little aluminum PowerBook G4s uses diversity in two ways: one antenna can be dedicated to Bluetooth and the other to AirPort, or both can be used by either system depending on need. The antenna selection is automatic.
Antenna diversity, or using multiple antennas to send and receive signals, can help sort out signal reflection because two antennas will receive signals at slightly different intervals, allowing better cancellation.

Darren Davison

Darren has some good articles on Domino/Java topics. See Re-using domino sessions in java servlets - part I and part II.

sunShield

sunShield is a preference pane for the Mac OS X built-in firewall (ipfw) - and it is free !
Read about features and documentation.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

A win with Lotus

A little while ago I wrote a couple of comments about a problem we were having with cluster.ncf.
After messing around with Lotus Support for ages, it turns out the be a known limitation, but only "Lotus Internal", not publically available.
When I closed the call this morning, the Analyst told me that the solution is now a public document - here.
Hopefully this will help someone else avoid this problem in future. Here it is.

Technote 185700:
Solution
In this particular case, the problem was due to the number of clusters in the customer's domain. By default, the CLUSTER.NCF text file is limited and can reference only forty (40) clusters (assuming only two servers per cluster). Any additional clusters added in this domain will overwrite existing entries in the CLUSTER.NCF, preventing the next hop from being found because the previous cluster/server information is no longer available. Because the CLUSTER.NCF is a log of information cached in memory, and is updated only when the server is shutdown, it will be necessary to restart the server to view the most current information.

To workaround this issue, implement the following NOTES.INI parameter for all servers in the domain:

Cluster_Name_Cache_Size=100

This configuration change will need to be replicated to all servers. The servers involved will need to be recycled. The Cluster_Name_Cache_Size=100 NOTES.INI parameter with the assigned value will allow more than the default of 40 clusters, but sets a new limit to 100 clusters.

Corporate-wide mail distribution

Dec's Domino Blog has this tip on managing access to corporate-wide email groups.

Our approach here is a bit different.
We have set up a number of mail-in database addresses that all point to one mail-in database.
These addresses are in a similar form to our standard mail group names.
The database has a profile for each address which defines who is allowed to send to it. It also has a list of destination mail servers.
An agent reads incoming messages, checks the sender is approved to send message to destination group and sends a message to every mail user on the destination servers.

Our infrastructure is designed around a single mail cluster for each site - usually two servers, three for central office. The database is located centrally as messages are only ever sent outwards. Note that each site has its own "all at this location" mail group that is maintained automatically as mentioned in a previous post.

Domino Admin Blogs

UnclePhil and Ed Falcon both have useful things to say about Domino Admin. My day job is Admin/Architecture and these two cover topics close to my heart.

Preemptive Punditry

Dont you just hate it! I have been trying to finish some thoughts on what might appear at Lotusphere next week, and before I can finish, the professional pundits are at it.
Go read them and see what you think.

Here is eWeek's sneak preview at two technologies hinted at in the August 2002 Roadmap. One is to allow Websphere AppDev Studio to easily incorporate Domino forms and views into JSPs. This can't be hard - the design elements are easily accessible via XML - some transforms to JSP and you are done. The other is to generate J2EE deliverable design out of Domino Designer - sounds much cooler. Not sure that the comparison of Notes/Domino to cc:Mail and OS/2 helped.
The roadmap also hinted at a separate new RAD tool, neither Designer not WSAD. We'll just have to wait and see whether this comes to fruition - and on what platforms.

CRN mentions iNotes support for Mozilla 1.01/Netscape 7 on Linux.

Nomenclature and meaning

A number of other folks have noted that Lotus have made an announcement informing us that during this quarter a number of products will get re-branded. I don't care for the term "Brand", it always brings to mind a hot piece of metal and a cow in much distress!

Notes and Domino continue on oblivious.
Quickplace is now IBM Lotus Team Workplace.
Sametime is now two products - IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and IBM Lotus Web Conferencing.

It is interesting to read the supplied PDF and it tells more by what it doesn't say than what it does.

There are a number of products that have yet to acquire a new name including the following:

Sametime Enterprise Meeting Server
Sametime Everyplace
Domino Everyplace
EasySync Pro
Domino.Doc

I expect that these products will shortly move on to greener pastures in perhaps different corners of IBM's software universe. All the Everyplace and sync stuff will most likely end up with Websphere, but who knows what will happen to Domino.Doc.
I'm sure we'll find out next week.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Heirarchy of needs

I was planning to write some comments on what might be coming up at Lotusphere next week - but instead spent saturday afternoon anticipating this.
I was up on the roof with a garden hose - there were two houses between my back fence and the flames.
Gouger St, Torrens ACT
This house was in the next street.
Luckily the wind blew the flames past us and apart from 24 hours without electricity we are all fine.

Update: Images above are lost, but you can see more in the Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Outlook in your face, Domino out the back

Microsoft Outlook 2002 Connector is Microsoft's equivalent product to iNotes for Microsoft Outlook.

Installation was straightforward on my machine which is a Win2KPro box with Client/Designer/Admin 5 & 6 and a Domino 6 server running. It does require a Notes 5 client to already be installed on the workstation. After adding a new service to my profile, Outlook was able to display my mail and calendar. Access was a bit slower than the raw Notes client, but certainly useable.

Using mail was pretty smooth, but there was a very noticeable delay when launching Outlook, I assume to construct the inbox/folder structure.

Displaying my calendar and creating meeting invitations worked as advertised. I found that meeting acceptances generated by Outlook turned up as ordinary messages, not meeting acceptances, in either the Notes client or Outlook. To my mind, this effectively negated the usefulness of the tool - if it can't do the full range of calendaring tasks, then it is not much use.

This tool also does not have any of the offline support that is provided by DOLS, it is only for "connected" use.

In the end, I have uninstalled it. Without 100% support for meeting scheduling and replies it is not compelling. I'll stick to IMAP and LDAP to give me the mail and directory services I need - which also give me the option of not using Outlook (mail.app anyone?).

Having said all that, I have never found the iNotes for Outlook product to be reliable. I have tried a number of times to get it going, always with limited reliability - when it worked at all. I don't think I'm a Notes newbie, I've been using Notes since 1992.

I went Googling to see what others think of this product, the only substantial article was TechWeb: Microsoft Debuts Outlook 2002 Plug-In For Domino and some comments from Ed Brill here.

Lets face it, the Notes client - she just goes.

Brick Testament

Brick Testament
This is another one of those "too much time on your hands" projects.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

iSync - Take Two

Happily, my second attempt with iSync was more successful than the first. First step was installing iCal 1.02 which was very sneakily released with no fanfare after the issues with 1.0.1 surfaced. As with these type of tools, it is always wise to proceed slowly (once bitten etc). All of my "real" data is on the Palm m505 - data on the others is expendable.

Firstly I removed all the existing devices from iSync, deleted all entries in iCal and Address Book and removed my machine from the .Mac sync list.

Next was simply a matter of adding the devices one at a time. The m505 was first to sync with the Mac (iCal and Address Book), then the T39m and finally .Mac. I synced twice with each device before adding the next.

In the end, it all worked relatively painlessly. If only someone at Apple had tested iCal with my timezone before I did, the experience would have been great (as expected). Of course there are some annoyances with the relatively limited feature set.

It is very slow - my machine is a G4/466 with 384Mb, but it takes 10 minutes, without counting .Mac.

All the Palm data goes into one calendar in iCal - I'd prefer all my categories to be created as separate calendars, so I can differentiate items.

There is a general lack of control of who wins/loses in the sync. You should be able to tell iSync that the Palm always wins and .Mac always loses etc. These features have been available on various PC sync tools for years. On my PC at work I have Outlook and the copy of Chapura PocketMirror which was free with the m505. This software is very slick (and fast) with lots of config options. My favourite is the ability to specify an action for the next sync only. It will also allow a Backup or Restore to/from Palm Desktop as a one-off action.

All in all, though, it does a good job. I like dropping the M505 in the cradle and hitting sync, knowing that the phone in my pocket will also be up to date.

Still haven't tried to get both the M505 and T39m to sync via Bluetooth at the same time. There is always one more little tweak.........

Useful Python - not an oxymoron

Another Bleedin Monty Python Page provides scripts for the four television series and heaps of script snippets from movies along with the odd sound.

Philosophical Reference Material

I have been reading a few philosophically-oriented books recently and found this reference to be a useful summary of various points of view.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Thought for the day - January 13

Why is writing with a fountain pen so much more pleasurable than writing with a ballpoint?

Friday, January 10, 2003

Filling the gaps in a Domino environment

I have been dropped into documenting some of the additional tools we use to manage our Domino environments. As with any Domino implementation of more than a trivial size we have developed a number of useful databases and agents to make administration more bearable. Our network covers the globe but some far flung parts provide limited communications bandwidth. These tools let us do remote admin without trying to establish an admin session to a server across one of the thin pipes. We still do remote admin if we need to, but often a change needs to be made everywhere and AdminP isn't perfect.

We have built a notes app that enables our help desk staff to create both Notes and Active Directory accounts. In this way we can keep the NT account in sync with a common shortname, and know the accounts are always in sync.

The other main component is a Global Admin Tools (GAT) database that contains a bunch of configuration documents and agents that let us reach out and whack stuff wherever it is. At the moment, it can do the following tricks:

Office group creation and population - each office has a set of standard groups and this agent repopulates these groups each night from the Domino directory;

Central Office group population - same concept as above, but more sophisticated collection of groups;

Orphan mail database notification - just to make sure that AdminP is doing its job this agent checks mail databases against person docs and tells us of any orphan mail DBs;

Mail Culling - everyone's favourite topic. Mail policy allow each mail user 100Mb of mail. Each week this agent runs and if the mail is over 100Mb, deletes messages over 75 days. YES - we do have a warning in the mail DB postopen to warn the punter, and YES we run a compact before the cull;

Create replicas on all cluster members - There has been a variant of this agent at every place I have worked that used clustering. Agent checks specific directories on each server and creates replicas of the DBs on other cluster members if they don'
t exist. Does R6 do this automatically - we'll find out soon;

Update ACL entries for a specific database - we have a range of databases that are specific to each office and don't have replica here. We can created a profile in the GAT DB and update the ACL of these DBs at each location in one swoop;

Create Full Text Index for a specific database - create a profile and create a FT index on every server where DB is located;

Delete a specific database - deletes any DB, template or file on any server;

Change "remove documents older than..." setting for a specific database.

Deploying Servlets on Domino

At work we are testing our first real Domino application that is built from servlets. Data (as XML, of course) is sent via HTTP from another system direct to the servlet and then into a Notes DB. It is a new version of an existing application that uses a combination of mail and replication to get the data to its destination. The current version has a few too many steps in getting data from A to B and the new process removes the dependence on replication and mail for information delivery (our network is global and there are quite a few places to hide !).

Anyway, the new version looks good. The data is either at one end or the other, not in some intermediate mail.box or replica, so the business process owners are happy. The developers like the new tools that they get to play with, NetBeans or Eclipse, providing a much nicer coding environment than Designer (if not as well integrated into Notes).

The only unhappy person in the project is me - poor admin guy. Deploying servlets on Domino is awful! Just lob them in the right path under the server data directory and then fiddle with the servlets.properties TEXT file (assuming the server document has the right servlet engine config settings - not the default ones). This is crap !

I know (don't tell me) there was a better plan, can you say "Garnet". But once the powers that be decided a that real servlet implementation (v2.2, SOAP etc) was not what we (the Customer) wanted, they should have at least come up with a better plan for managing what functionality the product has now. There are config documents for some server features and a multitude of different web config docs. Creating one to replace the servlets.properties file could not have been too complex a task. So, we will end up having to automate this process ourselves, because Lotus have only done half the job. On each of Domino server we already have a database that we use for distributing files and DBs (create a new doc in the DB, attach the files, specify the destination server(s) and path and stand well clear to let replication and agents do the rest). Initially the servlets.properties file will be the same everywhere so it can just be attached along with the Java classes etc. Longer term we'll (when I say we I reall y me
an Jeff who builds our admin tools) generate the file from scratch based on details in a config doc in our distribution DB.

All this gives me the feeling that IBM are not serious about Domino as a development platform in the medium to long term. I'm sure you have all seen the roadmap where, eventually, there is a big purple J2EE box with a few small yellow "collaboration" boxes buried out the back. Note how Sametime and Quickplace are also migration to this environment and off Domino as a host.

I also think that we who use, manage, or develop in the Notes/Domino environment have been spoiled as virtually all the tools we need have been available (or can be built) on the one platform. The idea of having to bolt on another tool is anathema to us. I think this need for bolt-ons will continue, and probably accelerate, in the future. This means more time spent on developing "glue" to ensure multiple products work seamlessly (or give that appearance to the end user). You either take a sip of the nice Websphere Kool-Aid - sign signon (gulp); modern servlet engine (gulp); J2EE (gulp) - mmmmmmmmmm - or scour the net for brave souls like these and these doing the same thing with other products. Can you hear the whispers saying "dot net will solve all your problems - its part of the operating system too".

On the other hand, our environment is well suited to ordinary Notes applications - global distribution and skinny communications links to lots of places. We have servers in each location for speedy access and replication makes the most of the comms. I'd hate to imagine all browser-based applications coming back here or lots of terminal-server (can you say dumb terminal) sessions. These "classic" Notes applications will continue to serve most of our needs for the next few years.

In summary, I'm disappointed at the ugliness of deploying a servlet-based Domino application compared to an "ordinary" Notes one. I think it is an example of the more general lack of commitment that IBM/Lotus have for moving Domino forward. Domino is not dead, but its application environment is not keeping up. There will come a point in the future when the classic Notes application is so far from the mainstream that the cost of bridging the gap will be large. Websphere is obviously IBM's strategic product and they are positioning it right next to Domino so that this seems like the easiest course (and smallest jump), but the gap is so large and ever-widening that there is little downside in looking at the alternatives.

Support of a variable nature

Half-assed support contract by Chris Toohey reminds me of the story behind this hint. About 3 months ago, the mail router on a random server would suddenly not be able to route mail to a particular location. Touching the connection docs and restarting the router would resolve the problem for a few days. We dutifully logged a call with Lotus and told them the details (global network, half way through rolling out Notes to replace cc:Mail, adding a server a week, Notes has been running happily for 18 months).

Initially Lotus were clueless - their first suggestion was that we had a corruption on the NAB and that we should just push out a new copy. I told them we wouldn't do that unless they could provide a better reason than "we think it might fix it" - it was not a trivial exercise. I wanted to know why it had only just started happening and had not been a
problem for over a year.

Then they thought the server might be caching old (wrong) addresses to other servers (have a look at a server doc and look for $Saved.... fields) - but the IP network had not changed.

Our connection documents were using the server clusternames as destinations. On a vague hunch I created server groups and used these in place of the cluster names in the connection docs. The routers seemed happy with this and declined further misbehaviour. So, the router must treat groups and clusternames differently - thought I. No, said Lotus, you have dodgy $Saved addresses in your server docs. What they suggested was to stop all servers, purge all the $Saved fields from the server docs and bring up the servers one at a time so they all got the changed docs and we could manage replication.

Again, I refused as I wanted some form of assurance that this was the problem - but they only said it was something to try and we should try it. We had mail routing quite happily using the server groups, so I was not keen to make a lot of effort to satisfy one of their hunches.

After sending a shirty mail telling them that I wouldn't try their latest suggestion at our expense as we had so far tried four other "fixes" that had had a 100% failure rate and AGAIN explaining the problem, the issue now gets passed to someone (who knew more than how to search kbase) very deep in the bowels of the support centre. Note that this is now eight weeks since the problem started happening and six weeks since I put in the fix to the connection docs.

Well it seems that the server does have some hard limits when using clusters. Cluster.ncf can only retain a fixed number of clusters. If you use clusters as destinations for mail routing and the number of clusters in your network goes over that limit - then bad routing karma comes to visit. Groups are managed differently and are not affected. "Try this magic notes.ini setting" came the reply and this will fix your problem.

The routing tasks now have a wider horizon, able to see further and discern their more distant brethren, providing a merry conduit for communication.

And I get to say "I told you so" to Lotus.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

People like us

Somewhere in here are another couple of pearls of wisdom regarding Macs. There is a certain happy feeling of rightness in the world when you find that someone whose writing you admire turns out to share a favourite bigotry too. Just listen:

Apple came out with a batch of apps today, and they're all niftily spiffy, but the company is doomed because the computers aren't fast enough, and people will always prefer PCs which let them do Apple-type things half as well but twice as fast, and besides, there are no games for the Apple, which is why I threw out my camcorder because it couldn't play chess.
There. I think that covers it.

New ideas - big and small

Physicist proposes deeper layer of reality - and moves towards a more deterministic model. I'm pretty certain that before I die there will be a major change in our understanding of fundamental physics. The current model seem messy and inelegant - to my simple-minded understanding at least. There must be something deeper.
And at the other end of the scale - a ring of stars around the Milky Way.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

New Powerbooks

PowerBook G4 12 PowerBook G4 15 PowerBook G4 17
Apple have announced a cool new range of PowerBooks (above) including a monster with a 17" screen. I want the little one with a superdrive and connected with 802.11g Airport Extreme at 54Mbs.

iSync

First attempt with iSync 1.0 and iCal 1.0.1 ended with all the calendar entries times being smashed on both m505 and iCal. Seems there was a bug in iCal 1.0.1 that caused problems with some Pacific area timezones (ZE10 in my case). All calendar entries got shifted a curious number of hours and minutes. I have calendar data back to April 95 (when I got my first Newton - mmmmm) and did not fancy fixing them manually.
So, now I have downloaded iCal 1.0.2 and restored my Palm m505 from a backup I'd taken a few days ago on my Win2K box at work. Will try again after cleaning up iCal and .Mac data tonight.
But - Bluetooth sync to my Ericsson T39m worked well - but not at the same time as the m505 with the Bluetooth SD card. Should they both be able to sync via Bluetooth concurrently ?

Will post the results of tonight's attempts at synchronisation. Will work for sure this time ........

Ferdinand Bauer

On the weekend we took the kids and Amanda's mother to see an exhibition of paintings by Ellis Rowan at the National Library here in Canberra. Ellis Rowan had an international reputation as a painter of beautiful, scientifically accurate images of flowers (often accompanied by birds or insects). The exhibition was OK, but somehow didn't quite impress me as much as I was expecting.

But, outside the exit of the exhibition was another small display consisting of other botanical items from the NLA's collections. There were a couple of items from the Library's own Banks' Florilegium, and quite a few by Ferdinand Bauer. The last time we were at the Library, Amanda had to drag me from the bookshop before I bought a Bauer print (I got a pair of John Gould's parrots, circa 1840 instead). This time the shop had a wider range of botanical prints to select from - they were printed from the original engravings by Nokomis Press. Alecto Historical Editions' in the UK have done a wider range including Birds, Fish, Amphi bians and the odd Marsupial. Financial prudence prevailed again but not before finding the Catalogue from An Exquisite Eye, an exhibition of Bauer's work staged in Sydney in 1998. If I can't have one of these prints, then a book full of them is somehow a reasonable consolation.

I have a soft spot for Bauer's work - it is an enticing blend of scientific accuracy and artistic expression. By pre-dating all other specimens a number of his paintings have become the type material (or definitive specimen) for a species. Acanthaluteres Brownii is such a species.

Ferdinand Bauer accompanied Matthew Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia from 1801-1803 and drew the plants and animals they encountered.

One day I'll get one. It would be cheaper than a PowerBook.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Cluster Limit

Do you rely on clustering to provide failover for mail delivery? Is the number of clusters in your Domino domain growing? Beware - there is a fixed number of clusters in R5 (not sure if it is still there in R6) that cluster.ncf can contain. If you have more, the server starts to forget clusters and is unable to route mail to them. There is a notes.ini setting that can increase the number.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Pepys again

The item on Pepys' Diary last week reminded me that I had got most, but not all, of the way through "The Shorter Pepys" a few years ago. It was interesting at first, to see how life was lived in 1660 in London. But the interest waned after bearing with too many chines of beef, barrels of oysters and dishes of anchoves. No wonder he had to reform his diet half way through.
The other interesting revelation was the fluid way he switched from work-related to personal tasks and back again many times during the day. Most people I know tend to have much more cleary separated work and personal lives and don't tend to switch between them with the ease of Samuel Pepys. Or is it just thay my job is currently 9-5 at the one location and Samuel would be some form of executive consultant flitting between meetings at various corporate clients and having more Frequent Flyer points than he knew what to do with.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Evolution continues

To continue the Evolution theme for today, Metafilter points to Future Animals. An attempt to extrapolate animal evolution 5, 100 and 200 million years into the future.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Barrels of Oysters

Pepys' Diary via Ben Poole. Within two hours of me clicking through a link on this page to get to Ben's site, he had parsed his referrer log, found this and found the time to write a few nice words. So next time I start feeling that subtle pressure to write something here, it will be his fault too. Thanks Ben !

Evolution

Last night I watched a repeat of Evolution on SBS. I missed it the first time it was shown. This episode was a pretty comprehensive discussion of Darwin (for a television program) and until I looked at the website this morning I hadn't realised that this was only the first of seven episodes. I thought it was just a comprehensive discussion on the origin of Darwin's theory but now can look forward to another six weeks of stimulating viewing. It is also nice to see Stephen Jay Gould instead of just reading him.

Looking around the show's website I found a link to another PBS production called Faith and Reason which I have also not seen. There is also a library of reference material including items like this discussing how to approach the "conflict" between Evolution and religious beliefs in a teaching context.

The episode finishes with the last line from Darwin's 1859 thesis:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Christmas Reading

Whilst Christmas shopping with Amanda we happened upon a bookshop in the city that I hadn't been to before. I can assure you I'll be going there again. Almost immediately I came across two books that called out for purchase. Happily Amanda had not yet found me a gift, so a little arm-twisting secured these two. They journeyed home with us to be duly wrapped and take their lonely place amongst the veritable multitude of presents for the kids.

Let me just say that I have not yet got to the second book yet. Its day will come soon enough.

The book that first caught my eye in the bookshop was The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. I picked it up ( a nice little hardback) and read the first two lines, smiled, and knew that I would enjoy the rest. Sometimes you just know. This modest volume is brilliant - full of dazzling lines and perceptive observations.

Each chapter discusses an aspect of travel (Anticipation, the Exotic) by comparing the Author's experiences with the thoughts and ideas of a philosopher, author or poet. The chapter "On the Exotic" tells of Gustave Flaubert and his yearning for the exotic world of the "Orient" and Egypt - far from that of his upbringing in early 19th century France. His contempt for the contemporary petit bourgeois was the primary theme for his most well-regarded novel Madame Bovary. I had heard of, but not read, the book so, while the kids were spending some of the money that they got for Christmas, Mme Bovary was discovered and purchased. What fabulous characters! They are all either stupid, vain, arrogant or ignorant and it is difficult to have sympathy for any of the main protagonists. Flaubert's contempt for these people (and French society) leaps off the page through the jibes and barbs aimed at these deserving targets. Th e joy of thi
s fiction is that Emma and Charles Bovary, and the dreadful apothecary Homais are all people you may meet today. If you have not yet had the pleasure, go and read Madame Bovary and see how little society has changed since 1840.

Other chapters wander through the Lakes District with Wordsworth or Provence with Van Gogh, uncovering observations that ring with immediate truth.

Along with Madame Bovary, I also bought another of Alain de Botton's works The Consolations of Philosophy. A quick glance tells me that there is more perceptive observation in store. I love it when you come across a new author that opens up a rich new seam of work to explore. I'm not quite through this strata yet as Alain has written a couple of other books. Next tangent is Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes - which will bring me back to History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters which is already in the library at home.

Motivation - Not!

The 2003 Demotivators collection - This collection is just the thing to brighten up the life of a cube-dweller. They are all very, very funny. Go and have a look right now - I promise you will laugh. Trust me.

January 2003 Reading List

Books sitting in a pile just waiting to be read
The Consolations of Philosophy - Alain de Botton
Conversations About the End of Time
On Equilibrium - John Ralston Saul
Kant and the Platypus - Umberto Eco
Exploring Philosophy - Steven M. Cahn

Books on the shopping list
Beyond Belief by V.S. Naipaul
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Flaubert's Parrot - Julian Barnes
Lila: an Inquiry into Morals - Robert Pirsig
How Proust Can Change Your Life - Alain de Botton