John Head – an IBM Champion for IBM Collaboration

Congrats to John Head for being named one of this year’s IBM Champions for IBM Collaboration Solutions.  Way to go, John.  The honor and the recognition is well deserved for someone who’s been a tireless champion of Lotus for so many years.


IBM Lotus Domino: Classic Web Application Development Techniques – Book Review

The folks at Packt Publishing are continuing to expand their shelf of IBM Lotus books.  Their latest addition – Classic Web Application Development Techniques by Richard G. Ellis.

Before I tell you how absolutely awesome this book is, I have to get something off my chest.  The word “Classic” in the title is the absolute key word here.  Mr. Ellis starts off the book by saying that everything here was written for and tested with Domino Designer 8.0.  Upon reading that sentence I just had to go back to the very first page to check the publication date: someone is playing a trick on me.  Alas, no tricks.  The book was indeed published in March of 2011.

The book also stays away, far away, from anything related to XPages and says so right off bat.  But it is about classic development after all.

Once you get over those two facts, the book is actually very good.

I was afraid that it would stick to the trivial topics of web enabling Domino applications and using framesets and tables to layout an application.   Of course, you can’t talk about web development without explaining the basics of including HTML in a Notes form.   And the book certainly does mention framesets and tables.  However, it quickly moves to more advanced techniques of using DIV tags and CSS to effectively build a modern-looking web application.  And for Notes developers who are not faint of heart, there are even sections devoted to advanced JavaScript and AJAX calls to boost performance.

If you are an advanced Domino developer building web applications every day, this book may not be for you.  But if you are a Notes developer who is making a transition to the web and want to know how to web enable your awesome Notes apps without looking like they were built by 5th-grader in 1999, get a copy of the book.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better single source collection of Domino web development tricks.

Look, ma. I’m in a book!


In THIS book

I was fortunate enough to be a reviewer of Packt’s new book in the IBM’s series: Lotus Quickr 8.5 for Domino Administration.


Lotusphere 2011 recap

It was last week this time that I was saying goodbye to the sunny and warm Orlando and dreading facing the 6-foot piles of snow on my driveway back home in Chicago.  A week later, I keep looking back at Lotusphere 2011 and wondering what it was that I walked away with.

Last night, someone asked me how the Lotusphere went and what was new.  I summed it up in two words: “Get. Social”.  “Oh yeah,” I added, “and Xpages”.

I could’ve mentioned all the various sessions I attended (the most in years), the new layout of the showcase floor, the debate of whether the attendance was up or down, whether there were more or less exhibitors  or even Harry Potter on Wednesday night.  But to me, the social and the Xpages were the key themes of the conference.  And that was disappointing.

On Sunday, after the Business Day Open General Session (OGS), one of the IBMers asked me what I had thought of it.  I told them that it left me very disappointed: there were no new product announcements, no new directions, no demoes — nothing but “get social”, “get social”, “get social”.  “Then, ” the IBMer replied, “you will be even more disappointed by the Monday OGS.”

When you go to a software company’s biggest annual conference, you want to be wowed by all the great cool stuff they’ve been working on during the previous year and are getting ready to release.  You want to see new and improved versions of existing software, breakthrough new software ideas: things that will ensure the said software company’s market leadership and growth.  To me, all of that was missing from Lotusphere 2011.  Or maybe I’m just old and cynical.

Or maybe it is better to have my (most likely) last Lotusphere end on a down note: I won’t be sorry not to return.

But I am going to miss this..

What did you think of the event?  Was it better for you than it was for me?

Advantages & best practices of local mail replicas

Many congratulations to Luis Guirigay for having his article on Advantages and Best Practices of Local Mail Replicas published in the Domino Wiki.  After many review cycles the article was finally added to the wiki.

If there’s anything you wanted to know about local mail replicas but were afraid to ask, Luis is the ultimate authority on the subject.  It’s great to see another article published by the PSC team.

Moving on up to the Exchange side

I took the plunge.  I finally did it.  I moved.

As some folks read and reacted with disbelief on Twitter, I switched my email platform from Notes to Exchange.

We, at PSC, have been running both systems in parallel for quite some while:  Exchange for the Microsoft team, Notes for the IBM/Lotus team.  And as a Mac user, I just wanted to use Mac Mail and iCal.

Sadly, Lotus continues to take the high road when it comes to allowing people to use clients other than Notes with its Domino servers.  And Exchange 2010 integrates rather nicely with Apple and its native Mac apps.  I’ve been tempted to make the switch for quite some while now.  End of the year, my calendar being pretty empty, seemed like the right time to do it.

I am rather impressed how simple and uneventful the move was.  I had to setup some general mail settings (signature, refresh frequency), configure appearance and configuration of my BlackBerry, that was about it.

I used IMAP to download email from Domino into Mac Mail.  That way I still have easy access to all my messages from Notes.  Mac Mail allows me to easily move things around between accounts as does iCal and Address, making populating my newly minted Exchange account a snap.

The biggest issue I had were my contacts.  For some odd reason, Mac Address would not import all contacts exported from Notes in a VCF file.  Out of 300-some contacts, it would only import 13 – 15.  I had to resort to the magic of Outlook 2011, which imported everything perfectly and synchronized with Mac Address.

If I think about it, I’ve never ever used anything other than Notes for email in a corporate environment.  We’ll see how this experiment (pardon, “move”) works out for me.  I yet might switch to Outlook 2011.

One thing I miss already is the ability to be prompted whether I want to save a copy of the message in my Sent folder.  Not happy about my Sent folder filling up with silly 1-line responses.  Anybody knows if Mac Mail can be configured to prompt?


Can IBM Vulcanize Lotus’ tires?

In Russia, vulcanization (вулканизация) is a popular method of repairing damaged tires and, often, a profitable roadside business.  So when listening to presentations on Project Vulcan, I can’t get an image of an Eastern European road tire shop out of my head.

Vulcanization may be a good idea for a new tire on a commuter car.  How well it will work for a 20-year-old Lotus  and a set of tires that are at least 10 years old remains to be see.  Will IBM be a happy vulcanizer, giving its Lotus a new lease on life once Project Vulcan goes live?

Or will IBM find that its Lotus has too many other problems that go deeper than a set of patched up tires?

Project Vulcan is a great vision that has a lot of passionate support among Lotus’ teams, betting that customers will embrace this vision of collaboration of the future.  The question, of course, will the customers want their employees to be able to do all of their work from an enhanced inbox or will they exchange their freshly vulcanized Lotus for another ride.



XPages? Why?

Somebody asked today, “If you are using a Discussion database in your environment, have you converted it to the new XPages template?”. My answer, “Why?”.

In all of the excitement around XPages, amongst numerous blog posts one message seems to be missing. Why XPages? Why should I care? The I in this question is not the geeky technologist I who gets excited by the new technology and the <xp:this.resources> tags. The technology is very cool and it lets me do things I was never used to be able to do in Notes and in ways I could never use.The I in this case is a business person and an executive. Why should I care about the XPages? Why should I invest in my team learning and using XPages as opposed to any other technologies?

Adoption of XPages (just like of any other technology) in the business world will and should be driven by benefits and cost savings and not by cool tags.

Whether you’re staying with Notes or migrating to another platform, if you have an investment in Notes applications, XPages is for you and your team.

If you’re migrating away from Notes or moving to the cloud, chances are that you will no longer have the rich Notes client on many desktops. In an organization’s portfolio of Lotus Notes applications about 25% of applications can be categorized as Business Applications. Those make heavy use of custom workflow and security. They are very complex and could be very costly to rebuild using any other technology. These apps are the perfect candidates to be moved to the web using the XPages technology.

You will be able to move your apps to the web, remove dependency on the Notes client and provide users with a modern Web 2.0 UI.

If you are staying with Notes, then you’re upgrading the rich client and your users want modern web based applications but your development team is still using methods from 10 years ago, which all leads to same robust tired looking applications. With XPages you can kill several birds with one technology:

  • make your users happy with modern looking applications
  • make your developers happy by letting them write modern code
  • extend your apps to the web and mobile device with the same code base

In both cases, you will have a happy user community impressed by UI improvements your team was able to achieve. And generally, Happy users = Happy IT department. And nobody has to know how much money you saved by converting the apps to XPages vs. rebuilding them from scratch in some other technology.

IBM releases LotusLive Notes

The cost of email is $5 per user per month.

Today, IBM unveiled LotusLive Notes, a service that delivers your email in the cloud on a server sitting in one of the IBM’s data centers.  What differentiates this from other cloud email offerings is the choice IBM allows users to make: use a browser or use a Lotus Notes client to access your email.  Effectively, a company could move (outsource) its email infrastructure to the IBM cloud and not impact how people use their email.

I got to try LotusLive Notes.

The browser interface was the same familiar iNotes 8.5 (or DWA) interface that we all know.  The main difference was the clean and simple black, blue and white color scheme of the interface.

Configuring my existing Lotus Notes client to connect to LotusLive was a snap.  I downloaded a configuration tool, a small NSF, from LotusLive, opened it in Notes, clicked a couple of buttons and the tool did the rest.  It even worked on a Mac.  The only downside, the tool required 8.5.1 FP5 or 8.5.2.  Since I was on FP4, I had to go ahead and upgrade to 8.5.2., which was actually a surprisingly painful process, not at all related to LotusLive.

As a consultant advising companies on messaging infrastructure management, I have to wonder how LotusLive addresses some of the common messaging problems: SPAM, anti-virus, content retention and discovery, backup and restore, ID and password management.  An integrated service from Sonian provides eDiscovery services but some of the other areas I’m yet to explore.

An interesting sideline, now that my email is in a Domino server in the cloud, I should be able to connect/integrate it with my existing on-premise Domino infrastructure.  I’m not sure what I would do with it yet.  In my early tests I wasn’t able to create new databases or open any of the system databases on the cloud server.

All in all, LotusLive Notes is an excellent cost-effecient way to outsource your email eliminating the cost of hardware and server maintenance associated with running your own mail servers.

All in all,

New LotusLive first impressions — me like!

OK, sarcasm aside.  I’ve spent the last hour playing with the new features on LotusLive.  Without going into too much details, I like it.

The default interface, which you can customize, looks better.  The color scheme doesn’t look like iNotes that you know and love.  It just feels better overall, more polished, more professional.

I’ll reserve the final judgement call until after I get to play with other integrated apps.  But the first impressions are really good.