Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: November 2004

Brunei InfoCom Technologies Awards 2004

Together with the Bruneian company Teleconsult Snd Bhd I architected the eLearning platform ePLATO earlier this year. In Brunei we were using the platform to have what I would call "narrated eForms". Complex online eGovernment forms are broken into pieces and filled in as part of an eLearning course. At the end the participant knows about the how and why of his submission and has a filled in form ready for processing.
This unique concept of blending learning and citizen-government transactions has won the Brunei InfoCom Technologies Award 2004 (BICTA 2004) in the category eGovernment.
News coverage is a bit patchy, there are two online articles that both fail to name the winners:
...so I had to resort to the good old scanner to document it:

Posted by on 28 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

Old challenges resurface --- The Domino upload control is still a mystery --- can you solve it?

When I was posting about my XML wish list, I remembered that I had that wished before. In 2001, when Gary Devendorf was in charge of XML in Domino I already suggested the enhancements. You can see links on the R7 beta forum
When going through the archive I also found, that I tried to demystify the Domino upload control. It first became available in Quickplace and made it's debut on Lotus Domino in version 5.08 with the first incarnation of Domino Web Access (a.k.a iNotes). I tried to figure out how that control worked, since I wanted that in my own application.

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Posted by on 25 November 2004 | Comments (1) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

My X-M(L)as wishlist for Domino 7

I posted the link to my post @ IBM already on fromDomino.com. I was wondering how many of you:
a) like the suggestions
b) would like to see them implemented ( Bruce Elgort does)
c) will help to promote the idea
And what would it take IBM to actually put it on the ND7 feature list.

Posted by on 24 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Fighting Pirates with a Data Center

Our local newspaper featured a story about the regional efforts to curb the piracy problem. A alliance from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines will collaborate and share information to track down and stop piracy. To coordinate the effort a new data center will be located in Singapore

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Posted by on 19 November 2004 | Comments (1) | categories: Singapore

Meeting Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer What do Richard Stallman and Steve Ballmer have in common? A lot more than meets the eye on first sight:
One: They are each others nemesis. They don't name each other. Stallman is "the guy who wrote GLP" and Ballmer "The big monopolist".
Two: They both came to Singapore in November 2004
Three: They both firmly believe in what they talk about and have a hard time acknowledging each others view
Four: They both would need some dress code advise. While Richard was talking barefoot, Ballmer was wearing brown shoes to a otherwise flawless dark business suite

Ballmer and the whole Microsoft crew was talking about value creation and shifting IT spending from maintenance to more productive work like new development. Of course the new Microsoft solutions will help there (so they claim). While I applaud that goal (who wants to do maintenance anyway) it looks to me, that savings in maintenance budget will rather result in budget cuts.... and I don't know (outside the consultants scene) much successful administrators in development roles.

Ballmer claimed, business value is the centre of their universe: anticipating business needs and creating value before the business community even would know about this need (or even create the need). Microsoft, so Ballmer, is committed to innovation which is documented in the 3000+ patents Microsoft will file this year alone. Microsoft's vision are agile enterprises driven by agile high performance teams (and Microsoft solutions of course).

On OpenSource and Stallman Ballmer got very firm: they don't believe in Intellectual Property (which is true, Stallman says IP is FUD and distinguished between: copyright, trademarks and patents as unrelated right) and all Open Source users are in jeopardy because law suites will hit them, with Linux alone violating 200++ patents (he mentioned an exact figure with "more than" in front, which is a contradiction in terms).

So what a difference: Stallman on one site: believing in freedom, community and sharing, Ballmer on the other side believing in vision, responsiveness and innovation. My conclusion: they both are right and they both are wrong. It is our task to find a balance between community and commerce. For my taste commerce has the much better lobby (see a future post about pirates).

But surprise, surprise even Microsoft is not alien to the concept of free (free as in beer) software: every participant returning the conference evaluation form was rewarded with a free copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2003.

Steve Ballmer obviously was on high power stress, observing his body when taking questions I saw the muscles stiffing in defence. Only when I asked him how he relaxes from his job, he visibly let go and appeared much more relaxed. Besides the usual stuff like family, sports (running and Golf) Steve mentioned reading eMail in Singapore Airline's First Class would be quite relaxing. So the notion stands: Singapore Girl you are a great way to fly

Posted by on 18 November 2004 | Comments (2) | categories: Software

Net - Records

WebLog Languages that can't combine sounds to form a new word face interesting challenges when expressing new concepts. Computer has been translated into "electronic brain" and computer trainer into "teacher of the electronic brain": 电脑教师. The term Blog, which is pretty new, has a nice symbol and meaning: 网记 Records (or Memories) of the net. So taken literally it means: Blogs are the memory of the internet. How thoughtful.

Posted by on 17 November 2004 | Comments (2) | categories: Writing Chinese

Birthday Surprise

baristasun.jpg  No, no surprise party, but a bunch of thoughtful business people. My friends at SUN Microsystems Singapore surprised me with a copy of Sun Java Desktop System. But the biggest one: Martin Coles, President of Starbucks Coffee International did send me the Starbucks book. I'm impressed.

Posted by on 16 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Do I smell birthday cake?

I added some changes to wissel.net. Most visible is the layout. The sidebar turned orange and moved to the left. I also added an image that locates readers based on the IP address (When clicking on the image you see the big picture and how you can add that to your own blog/website). I would like to know who you are! Post a reply or send a message!
Happy day to all of you!

Posted by on 16 November 2004 | Comments (2) | categories: After hours

Domino 6.5.3 - DominoCompleteDoctype - Be careful what you wish for.

When I did read about Domino's fix for the incomplete doctype on the:gutted:geek I was itching to test it. After upgrading the server to 6.5.3 I activated DominoCompleteDoctype=1 (you can use 1 for HTML 401 transitional and 2 for HTML 401 strict) only to see most of my web databases fail: CSS rendering was gone and JavaScript didn't load. Among the applications fail also was Blogsphere, the template this Blog is build on.
We had a public holiday yesterday (the Hindu Depavali, it has clear advantages to live in a multi cultural environment, Monday Hari Raja holiday follows), so I got some breathing space to investigate. It turned out it was a case of old R5 work around and subsequential "Chin Chai" work (sloppiness). Before R6 we used to put JavaScript and CSS in pages and forms. And since you can twist and tweak JS/CSS with @formula in a form/page I often keep them there (one of my favourite tricks: generate JavaScript out of the document I am viewing using a special view and a form formula, makes design much less cluttered). Domino delivers them as mimetype text/html.
As long as browsers run in Quirks mode it doesn't matter. The very moment you force them into standard mode all of them get picky about the mime types. So you need to change the mime type in your forms/pages that contain only css/js to "text/css" or "text/javascript". Luckily Domino allows you to do so on the form/page properties.
There is another catch: In standard mode CSS now seems to be case sensitive. class="rightcolumn" would not match .RightColumn { } anymore. (Now I would wish for a tool that shows case mismatches in CSS vs. HTML). You need to fix you html or css.
So happy testing of your web applications!  

Posted by on 11 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Now Reading

It is not brand new in the book stores. However Pfeffer and Sutton provide very valuable insights into corporate dysfunction and how to fix them.
The knowing doing gap
The contents touches on all areas where knowledge isn't put into action and why. My personal favorites are "Memory as a substitute for thinking" and "When fear prevents acting on knowlege". But read for yourself:
  1. Knowling "What" to Do Is Not Enough
  2. When Talk Substitutes for Action
  3. When Memory Is a Substitute for Thinking
  4. When Fear Prevents Acting on Knowledge
  5. When Measurement Obstructs Good Judgement
  6. When Internal Competition Turns Friends into Enemies
  7. Firms That Surmount the Knowling-Doing Gap
  8. Turning Knowledge into Action

Posted by on 10 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Not so divided after all?

The election results make one believe, that the US is a deeply divided and mainly conservative country. However following Churchill's statement "I don't trust any statistics if I haven't forged them myself", you can get a very different view when looking at the data from different angles. The good folks at the university of Michigan have redrawn the maps to reflect population rather than state size and added shaded colours to reflect voters percentage. It is worth a look!
And there are the doubts about the validity of the election results (particularity in Florida).
I wonder is it a case of sour loosers or rotten ethics (probably a bit of both)?

Posted by on 10 November 2004 | Comments (1) | categories: Intercultural

How much paper education do you have?

I talk a lot to HR managers over here (and head hunters). They all emphasis the importance of the degrees you hold. Yes it's plural of degree they talk about. Even if it is 20+ years ago, to land a job here you must have a bunch of them, at least in this part of the world.
So I asked how much of the really important degrees do they see landing on their desks:
  • Masters in "Getting Things Done"
  • Phd in "Recovering from Failure"
  • Certificate in "Constant Self Improvement"
  • Advanced Diploma in "Motivation and Leadership"
  • Diploma in "Taking Risk and Responsibility"
  • Bachelor of Arts in "Vision, Creativity and Stamina"

So we have quite a double standard: high expectations on paper and so so performance in practice. This gives me quite a head ache to communicate, that there can be all this qualities.

Posted by on 08 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Good Luck USA!

Today you exercise your basic right, you enjoy the freedom to vote. May you pick a leader that benefits all citizens. And remember it doesn't matter if you pray to Jahwe, the Lord or Allah. Your are praying to the same god, and this god may bless you!

Closing with the words of the Buddha: "You pick the level of your suffering yourself".

Posted by on 02 November 2004 | Comments (2) | categories: After hours

Meeting Richard Stallman

Stallman and the NotesSensei
The Singapore Management University ( SMU) invited Richard Stallman to speak about Open Software for developing countries and about software patents. The session was co-organized by the UNDP, who takes a clear stand pro open software. Stallman is a very entertaining speaker who advocates his message with great passion and humour. He made the audience including me laugh quite a number of times.
Stallman stressed, that free software does NOT mean free as in beer, but free as in freedom. He highlighted, that the English language seems to be poorly equipped to distinguish this terms and that local languages seem to be more suitable to express the difference of these concepts.
Stallman himself seems to personify the nemesis of any sleek software executive. He was standing barefoot at the podium exposing manners of personal hygiene that, measured with European middle class standards, are rather questionable. Either he didn't really care or it was a very carefully crafted performance (maybe he secretly wanted to be a member of ZZTop ).
Intellectually I think Stallman is brilliant.
The points he raised were well crafted and presented using strong metaphors and on-the-dot explanations. Stallman lives software development, so when he explains the 4 freedoms free software is about, he counts from 0 to 3. This surely earns him points with the developer community, but make communication with people who don't understand or care for developer's lingo more difficult.
In a nutshell his stand is, that software should be supported and paid for by the community of developers and users and money be made by customization and support. Commercial propriety software vendors in his are land lords who are only interested in a rent and want to exploit the users by making them dependent. I only partly buy that argument. It lived off the fiction, that most of the users would be able to articulate in a programmers compatible way how they want software to work. Stallman himself is the living example, that development and progress are often (if not every time) are driven be spirited individuals. Also it does not match with my previous experiences. However I'll try to summarize his points. 

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Posted by on 01 November 2004 | Comments (0) | categories: Software