Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Dangers of Inexperienced Testers

Having just rolled out a major upgrade to one of our flagship apps, we are currently beset by problems. Now I don't want to push all the blame onto the users, but at the end of the day, they insisted on a 2007 rollout, rather than giving us another month and rolling out around mid January, however it has meant that we have not had time to test most of the application and have to rely upon our main user to test things. However she is somewhat inexperienced in testing large wholesale changes to the system and in hindsight we have made a rod for our backs by not over-seeing testing ourselves. Sadly enough I keep hearing the comment, "Oh I didn't realise that needed testing because you didn't change it". When you have a complex application with everything interlinking, everything needs testing. Also the point of a UAT was completely miss-understood, the list of outstanding issues was reviewed and she checked that each had been fixed, but in true developer style, you fix some you break some.
Looking for the Silver lining in this one, hopefully this should mean that we get some kind of backing the next time we say "This isn't ready to be rolled out yet".

Thursday, 6 December 2007

It's Christmas Time

Well it's been nearly a month since my last post and things have been somewhat hectic, hopefully the project I am currently working on will be put to bed within the next 7 days and then it's back to some more interesting work. There's only so much pure Notes Client development you can take.
Omnifind is moving along nicely and once we iron out the last few bugs we will be looking to roll out into production early in 2008 with a view to expand on it's use probably quite quickly. IBM has worked closely with us to give it the "Wow" factor as our previous interface with Lotus Discovery server, was somewhat bland. Can I just say that when a salesman tells you he will make sure that XYZ gets done, I always get nervous and expect to be let down, however IBM have more than delivered on their promise and I have given us a product and interface that will please the users.
I am hoping to start delving into the world of Collaborative Applications over the Xmas break so expect information about those in the new year (unless the call of the Xbox 360 is too great!!!).

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

It can be hard work at times

When you work in an organisation where there is a direct split across Notes Support there are always issues which get bounced from team to team because no-one will step up and take ownership of problems. We have a team that is currently split into 3, we have a Notes Support/Day-Day Admin, sitting out in India, here in the UK we have a 3rd line Notes Support team and us Developers.
This does tend to mean that any problem that comes through with anything other than E-mail ( and in many cases those too ) being assigned to our Development group without any kind of investigation. The problem then occurs that once we have the call, trying to pass anything back that goes above, granting access the user is missing etc, is difficult as you have to almost diagnose the problem to the extent of coming up with the solution before they will agree that it needs to be assigned back. The guys in India are capable Notes admins and can do all the standard day-day stuff but are lacking in the confidence to investigate further and also to ask questions, although this is not just limited to the Notes field. Consequently a problem will sit with the Notes Admin team in India for a week or two whilst they do very little to advance the problem, before being assigned back to the 3rd line team who invariably are too busy with other stuff to give the time to fully investigate the problem. This of course leads to frustration for the users who only know that they phoned the IT Helpdesk, who logged the call to the Notes Team to look at.
How can we improve things????
Well first and foremost we have a team that is split across 2 continents and 3 different management chains, yep each team has it's own team leader who answers to another manager who them answers to another manager who then answers to the Global IT Director. Easiest solution to make is surely to bring all three teams under one manager who has some experience of Notes and can therefore cut through the bull-shit argument of "This is a Dev issue/This is an Admin issue", can push jobs directly from one team to another when it's obvious that assistance or extra knowledge is required and can have an overall view of what is going on??
We also need to look at other possible improvements, sharing of knowledge and opening lines of communication. Requests for help should not need to go through management and should be able to be made and actioned at a team level, high priority work withstanding.
In general things have to improve to make Notes a stronger product within our organisation.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Quickr vs Sharepoint : IBM vs M$

Well it seems as though we are fighting a losing battle here, Sharepoint seems to be rearing it's ugly mug more and more in discusions and our upgrade project to move to Quickr has been put on hold. I am left wondering if this is not the thin end of the wedge as discussion about the dreaded Exchange have also been held, although IMHO I do feel as though some sensible reasoning here will prevent a move from Notes as an E-mail system. However even if the worst comes to pass Notes as a development platform is far from dead and with the amount of database and development time required to replace all Notes systems, Notes is still going to be standing strong and flying the flag. Will keep you posted as things develop!!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Reply, but With or Without Attachments??

Mary Beth Raven has posted an interesting question over at her blog,

In Notes 8, (and previous versions) the default for "Reply" includes any attachment that might be in the message.
We are considering changing the default to "Reply without Attachment" for the Notes 8.0.1 maintenance release.

To me, previously Notes Admin, the answer is obvious, if users want to Reply with Attachment, they should have to work a little harder, we want to save disk space (Reply with Attachment is surely going to mean 3 copies, 1 from the original e-mail, 1 in the reply you send to Joe User and 1 stored in the copy of the reply you sent, after all how many users don't save their sent e-mail) and also reduce the bandwidth overhead.
However having experienced the backlash from users when we "tinkered" with the R6 template to make Send Without Attachment the default, it's something that at the end of the day comes down to communication with the users. They may be the bane of out life, but at the end of the day, if they are told what's happening they can't moan too much if they then forget and get something wrong. Personally this kind of option screams for a Preference setting in the Mail Template with an option for Admins to enforce via policy for one option or the other.
If they wanted to take this to another level, how about an option when you Save a copy of a Sent e-mail to save without attachments, whether it's a reply/forward or brand new e-mail. At the end of the day you have a copy of the file somewhere already, because you attached it to the e-mail or it's already in the e-mail you are replying/forwarding. Any thoughts on that as an option???

Monday, 24 September 2007

Admins, the bane of a Developers life!!

It comes to something when your Admins, won't download the new 8.0 server install so you can setup a server on a spare PC to try stuff you were shown last week. Bad form guys!!

Collaboration Uni - Recap

Well it's been a couple of days since I returned from Collab Uni and all I can say is that if you have the oppotunity to go next year then don't waste it. It's is 3 days of intensive theory sessions, informative sessions from the main players at IBM and a good chance to network and meet some of the main names in the blogging community.
The last morning of CU just proved to me I was in the right place, sat in the room with a variety of high profile names in the blogging community, from Bob Balaban, Mary Beth Raven, Rob Novak, Warren Elsemore and Wild Bill!! Anyway with Sessions from Bob and Mary, both with the standard, none of this is confirmed, so "We'll deny we ever said it" disclaimer, kind of leaves this section of the blog a little light, however the main message that seemed to come out of the IBM sessions was "IBM is listening", with oppotunities for feedback sessions like CU, meetings with Business Partners to review feature lists and the various blogs all waiting for you to comment, the oppotunities for us in the Lotus Community to feedback what is wrong and what is right about the product, should not be ignored. The other message is that Notes 8.0 is new, it's different and it's only the beginning, 8.0.1 is due out in January and the next Major Feature release is due our in the summer 2008, my money is on 8.5 as the version!!!
Well with all the talk about version numbers the nickname that seemed to have stuck through the conf was "Version After Eight", therefore when it came time for Rob to present Mary and Bob with small gifts for coming over, what else could they give them that a large box of After Eight mints each, nice one Rob!!!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Collaboration University Day 1 Recap

Well after a few concerns over my travel arrangements I managed to make it to CU on time. Just to upset a certain colleague, yes we did get a USB key this time!!!
Any way from the opening address by Rob Novak, through Mary Beth Raven's presentation which began with the theme from Sta Wars with The Rebel Alliance of IBM and Lotus battling against the Evil Redmond Empire with Notes 8 surely being the Alliance's equivalent of the Death Star, the overall message is that Notes is far from dead and surely is not far from being a market leader.
MBR also demonstrated the ways in which IBM are now opening themselves up to input from their user community via blogs, online feedback as well as more face to face interaction.
With the rest of the day following a path through
  • What's new in 8 with Troy
  • UI Consistency with Victor (Being taught English best practices by a Swede where else by CU!!)
  • Web Services with Bob
  • RSS Feeds with Troy (How come we only had 4 other people watching this one, surely the draw of Mr Novak is only so strong??)
Each presenter managing to keep the Brain weary masses interested.
Kevin Cavanaugh globe trotter extraordinaire, who presented Tuesday morning in New York and this afternoon in London, managed to fight through the jet lag to give the days closing presentation. The amount of information that he came out with that was new and exiting is more than I can cope with tonight, however expect more info here over the next few days and weeks.
For now can I just say Notes 8.0.1 Quickr 8.1, Lotus Symphony, Lotus Notes Traveller and more.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Rich Text fields and tables.

Oh boy are they a pain to do, but as I have just spent the best part of a day fighting them I will pass on some of the code that I have pulled together from various places on the web.

Firstly you obviously need a Richtext field and given I am assuming you all know how to set that up and grab it as a NotesItem, I'm not going to tell you how to do it.

Call bodyitem.AppendTable(dc.Count+1, 8,"",RULER_ONE_INCH, rtpsCols)
Append the table to the Richtext field, here I have a document collection and I'm making the table 1 row bigger than the collection so I can have a header. There are 8 Columns in the table, the "" is where you could add in a list of text if you are using a tabbed table. The Ruler_One_Inch denotes the left margin and the rtpsCols is the array defining the Style for each column.
Dim rtnav As NotesRichTextNavigator
Set rtnav = bodyitem.CreateNavigator
The RichTextNavigator allows you to move through the table, it's not as easy as saying put this value in the 4th row, 3rd column.
Call rtnav.FindFirstElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)
This sends the navigator to the first cell in the table.
Call bodyItem.AppendStyle(rtsTableHeader)
This sets the style for anything else added to the table, until you change it again.
Call bodyitem.AppendText(doc.Sortby(0))
Add some text to the table cell
Call rtnav.FindNextElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)
Goto the next table cell
Call bodyItem.AppendStyle(rtsTableRow)
Set the style to something else.

So there you go, the very basics on creating a table, stepping through it, adding text and changing styles.

However we have styles and that wonderfully titled rtpsCols still to go. So lets start with Styles, these are simply NotesRichTextStyles and in the code I am using the TableHeader and Row formats are as follows, and also fairly self explanatory.

Dim rtsTableHeader As NotesRichTextStyle
Set rtsTableHeader = sess.CreateRichTextStyle
rtsTableHeader.FontSize = 10
rtsTableHeader.Bold = True
Dim rtsTableRow As NotesRichTextStyle
Set rtsTableRow= sess.CreateRichTextStyle
rtsTableRow.FontSize = 7
rtsTableRow.Bold = False

I think it's always a good practice when you are building a table to have headers and potentially footers or row headings in a larger font to make them stand out, however you need to take into account screen resolutions and get the balance right between the amount of information on the screen and the readability of the font.
Finally rtpsCols, this is an array of NotesRichTextParagraphStyles, one for each column in your table, this example just uses the basics on the formatting available, Column Alignment and Column Width. Alignment is a numeric value 0 to 4, 0 being Left, 1 Right, 2 Full, 3 Center and 4 No Wrap. The Column Width is defined simply using the Left Margin and Right Margin values with the Left Margin set to 0 and the Right Margin set to the length you require.

Dim rtpsCols(8) As NotesRichTextParagraphStyle
Set rtpsCols(0) = sess.CreateRichTextParagraphStyle
This column in left aligned
rtpsCols(0).Alignment = 3
rtpsCols(0).Leftmargin = 0
rtpsCols(0).RightMargin = RULER_ONE_CENTIMETER * 0.75

Set rtpsCols(1) = sess.CreateRichTextParagraphStyle
This column is centre aligned
rtpsCols(1).Alignment =0
rtpsCols(1).Leftmargin = 0
rtpsCols(1).RightMargin = RULER_ONE_CENTIMETER * 5

Well that's it for my first attempt at RichTextTables, more soon if I uncover more gems.

Collaboration University 16 days and counting

Well it's only a couple of weeks to Collaboration University and it's certainly going to be a busy time until I get three days of brain stretching sessions from the great and the gods and of Domino World. The move into the center of London will certainly improve my travelling as I can "relax" on the train and tube, rather than the fight in a pool car last year.
Anyway between now and then I am attempting to put to bed the development on our Omnifind project and pass to the users for testing, fighting to get a revamp project near completion and also attempt to upgrade my PCLP to ver 7. Yes I know ver 8 is out, but I've been really lax this year what with one thing and another.
Anyone else out there who has used Omnifind or performed any development on it, do you have any recommendations for development tools to use, obviously Rational Application Developer is the best tool, however can anyone point me in the direction of anything in a lower price bracket???
Finally I am going to go and bug my Notes admins again as they have still continued to fail in the ability to download the new R8 client for me. Must do something about getting access to out Passport Advantage login!!!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Omnifind Rocks!!

I have mentioned Omnifind in the past, but for the first time in the 2 years we have been working with IBM, the product is finally starting to deliver.
We had developed a Knowledge Management system over the course of 18 months or so 2003-2004, with Lotus Discovery Server as the backend search tool and with a core set of data already loaded, we were only 2 weeks away from the release date when IBM pulled the plug on Discovery Server and announced that they would only support it for another 12 months. Well once we started talking to IBM things have been moved around and we are now hopefully about 2-3 months away from replacing the Lotus Discovery Backend with a nice shiny customised Search App running off Omnifind. This product's potential has now moved from a single app within a single dept to the potential of becoming our corporate search engine and again putting another peg in the ground for IBM/Lotus against the evil that is Microsoft within this company.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Design and Colors

I am currently about half way through the re-development of an old Notes Application and a thought suddenly occurs why do we let the users get involved. 3:23 on Friday afternoon I have the main user, the IT customer liaison type person, another developer and I stood round my desk arguing over the design.
Now there are 2 things wrong with this picture,

1. How did I let them get into an argument at my desk at 3:23 on a Friday afternoon, when I want to go at 3:30.
2. I don't give a stuff what the shade of orange is.

Yes we are arguing colors!!! Now I am a developer, I create code, I am not artistic, I have no thoughts on colors, shades etc. My wife will testify to that!!!
However I will say that at least they were arguing about the orange, which hopefully means that the argument about the shade of blue is over. We had to change the form/menu colors 3 times on that one.

Whilst I agree that the aesthetics are important, it's not something I really care about, I will talk to the user and tell them to talk to our graphics department to knock something up and then we go with that. This has worked well in the past and I feel has led to some top knotch looking apps, but this is the first time where the main user is female. Ok beat me about the head, I'm not being sexist (well okay it's probably a little bit) but it's a fact, every other time we get the stuff from graphics, we neanderthals gather in a meeting room, grunt over the layout and that's it. End of subject we design, build the interface and just get on with it.
This time round we have had 6 different logo styles, 5 different color combos, 3 different splash screens from 2 separate color schemes. And my biggest complaint, they keep asking for my opinion, come on I'm a man, I can't even have an opinion about paint for re-decorating or carpet colors. Why on earth would have an opinion about shades of orange!!!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Someone is questioning the future of Lotus Notes

Hmm, it must be a monday then.
To add in your two pence Click here
From my POV, the problem with comparing Lotus Notes to Micro$oft Exchange is that you can't compare Lotus Notes and MS Exchange. MS Exchange is e-mail, whilst Lotus Notes does e-mail as well. As well as what I here you cry, well lots of things, there are limits and certainly somethings that Notes won't do, but in terms of a development platform there are few limits and few technologies that you can't integrate into it. From a developers point of view, it's difficult to keep up with the capabilities of Lotus Notes, when I started, @Formula, LotusScript and a smattering of HTML & Javascript were more than enough to keep you at the cutting edge, these days you have all the Acronyms available to you, CSS, RSS, DHTML, AJAX, Dojo, the list goes on and on. In fact I have visited companies that don't use Lotus Notes for e-mail, they have Exchange as the E-mail system with Lotus Notes providing a development platform for purely Web based applications.
Questioning the future of Lotus Notes I feel is more about questioning peopes perception of Lotus Notes, if a company only sees Lotus Notes as an E-mail platform, then the likelyhood is that they will sooner or later move to Exchange. If Lotus Notes is viewed as an application platform that offers E-mail for free then it's here to stay.

Monday, 6 August 2007

ITIL, it's easy to understand, isn't it???

Well after the months of work that the IT department have spent invested in ITIL, we have now launched our service catalog to the rest of the business. However I personally hope that no-one actually reads it as it is just completely rubbish.
We have specified a set of SLAs that we will aim to meet, however if you read them through they don't mean anything to the business. For example, we have a number of SLAs for responding to voice-mails that hit the helpdesk, SLAs for getting that information logged as a call and SLAs for support teams to assign people those calls. So for example, a user phones the helpdesk and gets through to the voicemail, they report a server down, which should get logged as a Priority 1. The helpdesk now has 30mins to pick up that voicemail and once they do, they have another 30 mins to get that logged as a call and assigned to a support team. That support team has 10 mins from the time the call is logged to assign it to someone on their team. That team member then has.....
Hold on no they don't, all relevant SLAs have been met, the team member doesn't then have to do anything, there is no commitment to contact the user, no SLA for fix times etc. I do think that someone has missed the point here of what ITIL is about.
As I said if the users do actually read the Service catalog closely, they are going to realise that they are being screwed big time!!!

Friday, 3 August 2007

How to get screwed by 3rd Party body shops in India

It seems to me like I have spent the last 18 months interviewing in Chennai and that's not far off the facts, with issues with some of the developers we have actually hired, ranging from them not being developers at all to them simply not being up to the standard we require.
However the current issue we have is becoming a real pain and I am sure that others out there have come across this. It seems to be that our management is very keen on getting people from a 3rd party body shop, not a specific one as we have now hired from 3 different ones within the dept. In the past 3 months we have interviewed 3 people from this one particular company, 2 of which have been fine. In both these cases we have reported back to the parent company that we would like to get this candidate on board, in both cases these are Notes Developers but they also have team leader or man-management skills to head up the team in Chennai and take some of the day-day management away from me. Anyway in both cases we have had positive comeback from the company and then nothing, followed a few weeks later by the reporting back that the person wants more than we currently offer, eg. come and work in the UK etc. and consequently they are not joining the contract house. This after my company has given them an HR interview in Chennai, we give them a telephone interview from here in the UK, a technical test etc etc etc and we then find out that in fact we are interviewing these candidates almost on behalf of this 3rd party company who them come to us to try and get more if that is what the candidate wants. Sadly enough this usually never works as we don't want to bring a contractor over to the UK for 3 months (did this once at the cost of £4k per month on top of salary, where did the low cost go) where as if he was an employee of our company it would be a possibility.
We are still going through pain with this situation and I can't really see how we can get round this, one of the problems we have is that the kind of candidate we are looking for doesn't want to work for us and if they do we can't get them the kind of salary they want and while this perpetual cycle continues management are happily under the impression that because they have allowed you to recruit for a Developer that that will actually solve the problem even if you aren't actually able to find a competent Developer based on the salary they will offer in this Low Cost Center.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

It's Alive I tell you Alive!!!

Well another 3 weeks roll past and I haven't updated my this blog, the reason, everyone else in the dept appears to have gone on holiday. Anyway with this period passing and the arrival of 2 new Contractors here in the UK and another developer in Chennai things should improve somewhat.
Following my colleagues attendance at Collaboration University last week in London, the feedback on Quickr seems to be all positive and something that has to be pushed internally. I feel the work that Snapps have completed on the Quickr templates will go along way towards allowing IT departments to truly show what the capabilities of Quickr are, even if the templates are not all appropriate for the business. This is surely something that needs to be addressed with other applications, we used to have the "Nifty Fifty" that were Lotus produced Notes applications which could then be built upon. Surely IBM have in house applications they have produced that can be used as some kind of basis for releases. I don't mean that we need a whole suite of products that are going to allow companies to run their entire business on these applications, but for me I would be looking for small chunks of code that show off the nice things that Notes/Domino can do and can be modified to fit into other applications that companies already have or code. For example rather than a fully fledged application, just a couple of views that demonstrate In-View editing from a large application, a simple Web interface that shows Data Entry methods. Anything to spark interest in the product and have people go "Wow, we could use that in......" and then expand what they do with Notes and make it a better more relied upon product.
Some years back we faced the prospect of migration to MS Exchange and we did a calculation that we were going to have to spend 5-10 Man Years of work to get all our applications across to MS equivalent applications. Eventually we managed to fight off the threat and Lotus Notes rose from the ashes, in the intervening years we have integrated Lotus Notes where ever we can, building applications that have become critical to our business. If someone was now to come around and ask the question as to how long it would take to migrate, I would estimate the figure around the 20-30 Man Years.
This increase has been through making Notes do things that people had not envisaged it was possible to do and through the use of Internet resources and experts out in the Blogosphere. Releasing a set of small pieces of code that developers can use to demo and also easily understand, I know from experience how difficult it can be to try to unpick one element from a large template, is surely a benefit to IBM in the long run.
I know this is a topic that comes up for discussion regularly among the IBM Blogs but surely there is a reason for it and it will continue until IBM see sense.

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Monday, 9 July 2007

Is it me, or is it rather quiet around here.

I have just noticed it's been over a month since I have blogged here and for that I can but apologise. Work has gone through the roof and with my partner in crime out for 2 weeks on honeymoon it's got really hectic. However with a new contractor here in the UK, a new developer in our India office, plus another contractor both here and in India things should improve and allow me to do some more interesting developments and when I do I will post details of anything relevent here.

Friday, 1 June 2007

FeedDemon 2.5

Not exactly a Lotus Notes post, but the post fits more on my "sensible" (ok kind of sensible) work side, rather than the mad world side over at ChairboyRules!!!
I have been using Feed Demon for a number of years now, originally I purchased the 1 year option, but have since upgrade to a lifetime subscription. FeedDemon written by Nick Bradbury and released under the Bradbury Software banner, was acquired along with Nick & Bradbury Software in 2005 by Newsgator. This had lead to the tight integration between the Newsgator online RSS reader and the client of FeedDemon. Now rather than having to e-mail myself an RSS feed link and then add it when I get back to my PC I can simply login to Newsgator and add it there and then and FeedDemon will reflect the change when I next login. This is a product that has saved me a lot of time and kept me in touch with many blogs and news sites that update less regularly.
Given the price of $29.95, thats about £15 at the current exchange rates, I think this is a real bargain and an essential purchase for anyone who reads more than a few web sites.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

All quiet on the Notes Front

Well it's been a week or so since my last blog and for that I apologise, work has been somewhat hectic and shows no sign of improving, even though rumors persist that we may be increasing our team from it's current size of 2 to a potential size of 5. It looks as though we will add another member here in the UK with 2 more developers out in India. However with our previous track record with Indian Notes Developers I am not optomistic of any great success, however I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised.
The one thing that I can mention is that I have managed to install the Notes 8 Beta 3 client and can sum it all up in 1 word. WOW!!!
Yep this is a real facelife for Lotus Notes and is something that has been long overdue, it does make it look more Outlooky, however that is not such a bad thing, Outlook does have some nice features, however the power of Notes behind a more user-friendly interface can be nothing but a positive move forward.
I have had one or two crashes with the Beta client, but I'm putting that down to the setup of my PC and trying to run R7 and 8 Beta 3 on the same machine and having 2 copies of Notes & Designer open at the same time. Speaking of Sametime, I do love having just a single window for all of my active chats although I do think it's going to take some getting used to. I am having issues with the RSS feed reader but I think I need to sort out my Proxy server settings, at the end of the day I think that as time goes on more and more of the functionality is going to work it's way out of the woodwork, for example it took me 2 days to getting round to finding the Workspace!!!
More soon.

Friday, 18 May 2007


Well having spent the last three days in a classroom learning about ITIL, I thought it was time to present a sensible review of what ITIL means and what it could do for an organisation, there will I am sure be a less sensible review of ITIL and what it means for my current company, over at my less sensible blog, in a day or two.

The first question is obviously, What is ITIL, well ITIL is simply a set of best practices that any company can use, they don't have to use them all, in fact they could only use one part and ignore the rest, and that would still likely give them some benefits. ITIL covers the varied aspects of IT Service Management, from the poor people on the Service Desk, through the 3rd Line support guys all the way through to the Finance guys, the guys building your Business Continuity Plans etc. Most of the ideas are really simple common sense, but for many organisations, systems were put in place 10-20 years ago, have evolved and in many cases the technology whilst moving on has always been updated with an aim of keeping things the same rather than really making great improvements.
The biggest concept that some on our course struggled with is the view that any request to IT should follow the same path to start with, ie. through the Service Desk, if a user reports a server down, phone the Service Desk, if they have a problem with their pc, phone the Service Desk, if they want a new application, phone the Service Desk, if they want a PC, phone the Service Desk etc etc etc. This single interface to the user community should improve user perception of the IT Dept and also improve the flow of information within the dept as well.
Once you take in the "incidents" from the helpdesk and start looking at the overall ITIL picture, it becomes somewhat easy (as long as you can remember the acronyms, CDB, CMDB, MTBF, MTTR, SLA, SLR, SLM* to name but a few about 0.5% or so it seemed) to see how incidents/problems/changes flow through the departement in a controlled manner, totally different to many companies current systems I am sure.
Anyway I could go on and on and on about this but I think that for those people who want to look into ITIL, then training or consultancy are definately the best options as it is certainly one of those subjects where you need to ask questions to get a better understanding.

CDB - Capacity Management Database
CMDB - Configuration Management Database
MTBF - Mean Time Between Failure
MTTR - Mean Time to Recovery
SLA - Service Level Agreement
SLR - Service Level Requirement
SLM - Service Level Management

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Anyone looking for a job part II

Well someone finally got off their rear-end and this has appeared on Jobserve, you will have to put up with the madness that goes on here but if you can look past that this is a role with possibilities!!!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Anyone fancy a job???

Well somehow we have managed to get approval for a 6 month contract for a developer to cover maternaty leave, it's not me and it's not Chad!!! Anyone interested, location Reading(Berks, UK), right by Junction 11 on the M4??? Drop me a comment and I will give you the e-mail address to send in your CV. We are looking for CLP, R6 Lotusscript, JavaScript HTML etc, all the standard stuff.

An Admin Tip

The top three things a Notes Administrator should be concerned with are
  1. Security
  2. Security
  3. Ummm, Errrr Oh yeah, Security
Now the Holy Grail for security is first and foremost your certifies, secondly the membership of your Domin Administration group, that small group of tried and trusted individuals who know what they are doing, who have been on the Admin training courses and acheived CLP/PCLP and then theres the other member. That individual who has somehow managed to convince someone that they need the Admin access, who no matter what always seems to get someone to say "Oh but they really do need that access, so just leave them in there".
We have one of those users and I have kept mentioning it to people every few months, especially considering I don't get to be a member, have been on all the courses and used to be the Senior Administrator before I saw the Light, renounced the Sith ways and became a True Jedi and followed the path of the Developer.
Anyway today he managed to delete one of the production systems, 4.5 Gb accessible by our clients 24/7 as well as our employees and it's suddenly gone. Thankfully we managed to get it back within a couple of hours and with only minor inconvenience, those people who had uploaded data this morning will have to do so again and only a few users tried to get in as it happened to be over lunchtime.
Anyway so now I am really shouting (mentioning didn't work) to people to get him out of the group. With the right levels of admin access you can cater for "people" like this and we already have the security hirarchy in place with Global Admins, Country Admins, Developers, Help Desk Users and of course Domain Admins. However a system only works if it is used properly and not circumvented.
Anyway Rant over, I must get back to Development posts soon!!!

Friday, 27 April 2007

The Blogger comes in from the fecking Cold

Well having had him wind me up for some time over the state of my blog, inability of me to actually read his and then make sensible comments etc, it seems as though Mr Duffy has decided to come clean and reveal his true self. Anyway wander over there and say hello, please excuse his fecking language, lets face it even after the wind ups I keep going over there to see what he was going to say next!!!
So Padraig now that you have come clean post some Notes stuff, obvious we can't all post exactly what we are doing, what with corporate confidentiality and all that good stuff. But I try and build posts around the work that I do, for example I spent the latter half of last week building a pain in the arse MS Word report, extracting the info from Notes. Hence my last post.....
BTW As you point out, I do reside in the UK, in fact when you were at Windsor Castle you were only about 20 miles from my work!!! What did you think of Stratford??? Never been but it's one of those on my list of Historic places to do in the UK, along with StoneHenge and the Tower of London (actually walked past it on my way to the Lotusphere Comes to You event in London last year) among others.
Anyway back to the full-on techie stuff soon.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

MS Office and Lotus Notes

Well anyone who uses Lotus Notes will know, it's printing options suck and we are not talking minor suckiness here, we are talking Industrial Dyson on full power here. Ok maybe I am over stating the problem here, but there you go.
So Notes printing sucks, what are your options, well you can either purchase a printing add-on, at this point I will recommend Intelliprint, great printing but not as cheap as it used to be but still the best or at very least only option on the market, or you can try outputting your data into Word or Excel.
Now this is not exactly a 2 second task here I have spent a week building Excel Spreadsheet reports for some of our Sales Task Force, however the results can be brilliant and obviously take advantage of power of Word or Excel in terms of formatting and printout.
Now I could post loads of tips here and probably will do, however for now I want to post a few links to some of the articles that have got me started.

Breaking Par - 4 Part Article that contains loads of tips on MS Word Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; & one on Excel
Check out the MSDN Developer Site for Reference guides
Check out various blogs for hints and tips Jake Howlett and NSFTools spring to mind as great places to start, but many other bloggers will have posted tips that can be useful.

My First tip is going to be one that Jake touches upon in his post, create a list of variables that have the same names as those used in Excel or Word, build this into a script library and add it to your applications when you need it, it makes converting code from MSDN libraries a lot simpler when you don't have to convert all the variables they have, here are a few I have to start you off.

  • Const xlEdgeTop = 8
  • Const xlEdgeRight = 10
  • Const xlEdgeLeft = 7
  • Const xlEdgeBottom = 9
  • Const xlDiagonalUp = 6
  • Const xlDiagonalDown = 5
  • Const xlCenter = -4108
  • Const xlBottom = -4107
  • Const xlLeft = -4131
  • Const xlRight = -4152
  • Const xlTop = -4160
  • Const xlNone = -4142
  • Const xlAutomatic = -4105
  • Const xlContinuous = 1
  • Const xlThin = 2
  • Const xlMedium = -4138
  • Const xlLandscape = 2
Anyway that's enough for now, I have a Word report to build, time to practice what I preach.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Nothing to say today but this is important.

Time to get serious, please see the Alan Johnston link on the right.
I don't think that I can say anything about this that hasn't already been said by many other better people, but I have to add my voice to the masses.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007


Now that I have gone to the dark side and acquired an iPod, I am looking for various Podcasts to listen to. Obviously the Taking Notes podcast is already on my subscribe list, but can anyone else recommend any other technical podcasts that are worth listening too. In fact don't just limit it to technical ones, any others that cover Sci-Fi, Comedy, TV in general, Films etc.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Collaboration University 2007 - Follow Up

Good news it seems, my boss is happy to push for my colleague and I to both attend CU this year, likelyhood is that he will attend the Sametime Quickr event in July and I will attend Notes Domino in September. Things are certainly looking up!!!
Our Omnifind project is now moving into it's final phase as we are preparing to get the users to do some testing, I will post any useful information over the next few weeks, covering some of the gotchas that have caught us out along the way.
I have also added an RSS feed to the site, so those of you so inclined don't need to check each day.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Collaboration University 2007

Well after what was a great success last year with Collaboration University 2006 (I graduated from the London Class) Rob Novak and the Snapps.com team are really pushing things this year, with not 2 events as last year (London and Kansas), but 4 events covering Quickr & Sametime in July (Kansas & London) and Notes/Domino in September (again Kansas & London).
I really enjoyed the event last year and am already pushing for one of my colleagues to attend this year, however with the 2nd Notes/Domino event I can already see an option for me to attend the Notes/Domino event.
My only criticism from last year was that the event was actually held outside of central London and near Heathrow, whilst many attendees were staying in the Hotel this was not a problem, but as someone who had to commute for this, 3 days in the rush-hour was a bit of a pain, especially the journey back on day 1 that due to accidents and traffic jams, meant my 45 min drive took nearly 4 hrs. Anyway the events are going to be held at the Radisson Hotel opposite the British Museum which means that travelling to and from the event will be by train which, whilst possibly having it's own problems, to me is much more relaxing.
So go and register, although don't all go I do want a place!!!

Monday, 2 April 2007

Quickr and Snapps

Well if there a more exciting combination in the Lotus arena at this time then I haven't heard of it.
Quickplace has always been an application here that has never really found it's niche within this company, we have used it on a number of occasions to solve various issues, from giving access to external users to published files which we couldn't e-mail to them because their mail gateway would not allow files more than 1mg, to creating a basic website for one of the projects here. The problem is that each of these has never really shown off everything that Quickplace can do, and whilst it's a product that I know can be of great benefit to my employer, I never have the time to build applications to show off it's capabilities.
Now we have Quickr coming soon, a rebadged version of Quickplace that certainly promises much and I was already hoping that this new version, along with a new driving force internally within the company would give Quickplace/Quickr a real chance of getting a foothold in our application suite.
Now Snapps have stepped forward and announced a number of free templates that will be available for Quickr some point in Q2. Having met Rob Novak at Collaboration University last year and seen the work that he, Victor and the rest of the team have performed and the demos of their QWiki, the template for which, along with templates for QBlog and QDoc, have already been released (for free) for Quickplace, I am sure that these new templates are going to be showing off the best aspects of Quickr to anyone who cares to look.
Here's hoping that in a years time I am reporting back a resurgance in the interest in Quickr within my employer.

Good Customer Service

Well it doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I feel that one has to spread the word. As I mentioned on Thursday's blog, I have been trying out a demo of Ytria's suite of tools for Lotus Notes. This is not just a suite for Lotus Notes Developers, but Admin's can get a lot of use from some of the tools as well. Anyway having downloaded the suite, I had decided this was definately going to be worthwhile having, so raised the paperwork for a purchase. By some miracle this has been approved and should be being processed today, an impressive feat of acheivement for the approval process here I can tell you.
Anyway mid-morning I took a call from one of the Ytria sales team, calling me up having retrieved my details from the download form I filled in on their website. Now having experienced some hard sell with other companies I was already hardening myself to stop him mid-flow to explain that we were already sold on the product and were raising the paperwork to place an order. That's fine he said, I was actually phoning you to offer you a full 2 week trial of the product, the download only allows you to read the data, not change. He then suggested that he sends the codes anyway as that will hopefully tide us over until the order is fulfilled.
Now I know that this is not exactly un-heard of however it does give you a more positive feeling that this company will be easier to deal with in the future. Some companies I could name have been difficult to deal with, changing licensing deals etc. In one case we were informed that maintenance that we paid each year did not give us the right to upgrade to their latest product, I mean come on.
Anyway enough about the negative. I will post more on the product as I use it, however so far Ytria gets a thumbs up from me.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Slapping code together only works if you review before roll-out

Some Notes Developers do leave a little to be desired and with my two tame Notes Developers out in India, they do tend to come up with some real gems. Todays classic was found only as I was testing out some of the moduiles from Ytria's Suite of Tools.
Input Translation and Input Validation are two areas that some people struggle to understand, I know back in the day I have written some bizarre code there. Anyway this is a classic, the field is a Dialog List, picking up the options from a view in another database, which the developer has added a sort option to, you are not allowed to select multiple values. So when you have selected your single value, the following Input Translation runs.....

@Sort(@ThisValue; [Ascending])

It looks as though he originally attempted to sort the return from the view for the dialog list by adding the Sort to the Input Translation. Thanfully this has now been pulled from the code, thanks to Ytria again for that one.

For those of you just starting out :-

Input Translation = Change the value that I have just entered into the field
Input Validation = Check that the information I have just entered in the field is correct and point out if I have been a prat!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

A Minor annoyance

If there's one thing that does annoy me about Notes as a Developer (Yes I know this is the Lotus Notes Rocks blog, but it's not perfect, just accept that) a it's that some of the Lotusscript commands don't work as I feel they should.

The command that has caught me out today, not for the first time as well, is the view.GetDocumentByKey command. This seems like a fairly simple command and it is, it is very useful and I use it all over the place, however it does have what I think is a logical flaw. If you have a view containing a number of documents with the first column containing say a Town Name and this column is sorted.
Lets say we have a number of Documents covering various towns,
  • High Wycombe,
  • Reading,
  • Marlow &
  • Marlow Bottom.
I then run an agent to get me the Marlow entry, using the command view.GetDocumentByKey("Marlow") and lo and behold we now have the Marlow document. However down the line, the Marlow document is removed from the system, at from then on when the agent runs you would expect it to return some kind of error that the Marlow document no longer exists, however given the way the command has been built, by default it will accept a partial match and therefore returns the Marlow Bottom document.

Now there is a boolean parameter that sits on the end that will force it to perform an exact match, however by default a partial match is enough. For the novice developer this is very dangerous and I can speak from experience that it can cause major problems if you don't spot the need for the exact match.

An agent I wrote that went through a database each time a new document was created, checked against a particular number on the document to see if the doc number already existed with the same revision that the new document had and if there was such a document it was removed, as this new document was obviously supposed to overwrite it. For many weeks we tried to understand why sometimes documents with a zero on the end of the document number, went missing. Of course we eventually spotted the extra parameter and realised that if you created a Document 12345 Revision 1, if it didn't already exist in the system and Document 123450 Revision 1 did, that 123450 document would get removed.

That was the first time it caught me out and todays was the second hopefully I will remember to add the parameter every time from here on and there will never be a third!! So there you go, the first gotacha that you need to look out for if you are just moving into Lotus Notes Development.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Who am I.

Well I guess the obvious question after why we are here, is who I am.
I have been working with Lotus Notes on and off for about 12 years, firstly on and off as a Lotus Notes administrator, starting with Version 4.5 and later Version 5 and then for the last 6 or so years as a Notes Developer, Version 5 to date.
Programming is something I had enjoyed fiddling with back about 15 years ago but had never really considered it something I could make a career out of, and it was somewhat of a lucky, at least for me, break that landed me a transfer within a company from Admin to Developer and from there things have taken off.
Technology wise I mainly deal with Ver 6 and 7, although I have downloaded the Ver 8 beta, I also work with Sametime, Quickplace (or Qucikr as it's soon to be), Lotus Discovery Server (for my sins) and it's replacement Omnifind enterprise edition from the Websphere family. So there are I am sure a lot of topics to talk about.
This is an open forum so if you want to talk please raise you hand and type a comment. Feel free to criticise any products listed above, I am the first to admit they are not perfect, but do keep things sensible, for those of you who find my other blog I am sure you can understand.

Kind of inevitable really

Well I have been messing about in the blogging arena for sometime, the usual rubbish that people write over at ChairboyRules, I attempted to keep a Film & TV blog going over at Entertainment from the Chair, but that one died due to me not watching enough quality entertainment!!!
So that brings us here, and where is that I here you ask, well here is kind of what I thought I was originally going to blog about, Lotus Notes, however my original blog never rose far about, what I did this weekend. This blog will be purely Lotus Notes, I can't promise to blog everyday, but I will blog whenever I find something useful to write about, that may be a new coding trick, comment on an announcement from Lotus or even linking through to another of the quality blogs in the Lotus arena.
First things first though, can I introduce you to the list of websites and blogs on the right, I am not saying that they are the best Notes websites and blogs, but they are certainly the ones that I find myself reading most of the time and therefore make up the first entries in my blog roll.