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

By Date: October 2005

Craftsmen vs. Tools

Seth Godin's latest Blog entry is titled Tools vs. Craftsmen. He describes how the prices for creative tools came down substantially. His conclusion is: " The bar's a lot higher, because access to tools is a lot easier". We have that situation in software development since Microsoft shipped BASIC with the first PC. You can download Java, Eclipse, #Develop, .NET SDK or Ruby for free. We got a lot more software since then and eventually the bar got lower (if you see and use crap all the time, you get used to it). However he is right: The bar got a lot higher if you want to be outstanding.  

Posted by on 31 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

When you want to be happy The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are there for you!

The Buddha
The last page of our little book will be a collage of photographs taken from Buddha images. This is a call to action. We are collecting pictures right now. You have a favorite picture of a Buddha face, statue, monk or temple? Send it to: mailto:pictures@buddhakids.org. We can't promise when and how it will happen, however we appreciate your  help.

Posted by on 29 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Buddhakids

ACTION REQUIRED: Your Lotusphere 2006 Birds-of-a-Feather Abstract Has Been 'Tentatively' Accepted

Got that in my inbox this week:

Hi, Stephan and Anand:

Thank you for submitting an abstract for a Birds-of-a-Feather session at Lotusphere 2006.  We are pleased to inform you that your  BoF below has been tentatively accepted for this year's agenda.    Please advise that you will be attending Lotusphere in another capacity, as facilitating a BoF is contingent upon your paid registration, sponsorship or exhibition in the product showcase.

Please review the title, abstract, and facilitators name(s)/title carefully, and let me know immediately if you need to make any changes.  Unless we hear otherwise, this is how your BoF information will appear in printed conference materials.  Also, please watch your email for room/time confirmations.    They will be coming out in the next several weeks.

Our Birds-of-a-Feather session:

Domino as a file system --- Sourceforge DominoDAV
DominoDAV is a Sourceforge project that allows to use a Domino server as a file server using the webDAV protocol. It makes possible to read and write Notes documents and/or store files as attachments in Domino databases. A series of XSLT filters allow the processing of many XML Dialects into Domino.
We will discuss the status of our efforts, demo the achievment and gather feedback where to take the project.

Now we need to find some budget to pay for all this.  

Posted by on 29 October 2005 | Comments (4) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Presenting OpenNTF in Kuala Lumpur / Malaysia

The official R7 launch event was quite funny. The stage was designed like a box ring and two boxers performed a fight. The yellow fighter (labelled Domino R7) knocked out the red one (labelled "Business Pains"). The crowd of about 350 people enjoyed the difference to the usually rather stiff IBM events. Seems like hiring marketing people from Microsoft (the new kids on the IBM block in SE-Asia are all ex-Microsoft) had some impact already.
After the two round ring fight and the introduction in the R7 achievements at about 10:45 I had my turn.
I created a fast paced crossfire of slides in a mix of my own and the "Identity 2.0" style. This already had worked out well in Beijing, where I mixed big pictures, screen shots, English text and Chinese characters. (see for yourself).
About 5% of the audience had heart about OpenNTF and I saw quite some amazed faces when I introduced the OpenNTF application line-up (Bruce can you check for IP that belong to Malaysia in the OpenNTF logs?). I made them laugh quite a number of times. The slide with Singapore and the arrow was too tempting. Malaysia and Singapore have a kind of love/hate relationship since Singapore broke away in 1965. So my punch line was "I live in Singapore, in case you don't know where Singapore is, its that little renegade island down south". Of course only Malaysians laugh about that.
The local IBMers were quite surprised too and they see quite some potential for OpenNTF in the Malaysian market. Eventually they want to support OpenNTF a bit. Of course details need to be worked out. After my session in the tea break a lot of people expressed their pleasure with the presentation and asked for more details. So mission accomplished <g>.

Download the presentation overview and have a look. Full PPT on request.  

Posted by on 27 October 2005 | Comments (6) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

IBM Lotus Notes/Domino 7 Live! --- OpenNTF

Tomorrow is the Kuala Lumpur IBM Lotus Notes/Domino 7 Live! event. While it is not on the official agenda on the web, the finalized agenda looks like this:

0900 hrs
SWG GM Kick Off by Ooi Sze Kai
Country Manager, IBM Software Group, IBM Malaysia Sdn Bhd
0910 hrs
Keynote & demo by Sean Poulley
Vice President for Business Development, WPLC Software
1010 hrs
Delivering Business Value Using IBM Lotus Notes/Domino 7 by Simon Lee
Lotus Notes and Domino Business Consultant, Asean/SA
1040 hrs
Lotus Notes and Open Source by Stephan Wissel
Principal Certified Lotus, Professional & Certified Lotus Instructor
1055 hrs
1110 hrs
How Notes/Domino help in addressing your business challenges? by Ngian Siew Siong
Managing Director of Suncity
1130 hrs
By Bank Rakyat
1150 hrs
Notes / Domino DEMO by Gary Lee Sweeting
Technology Advocate for Workplace Portal & Collaboration Software, Asia Pacific
1230 hrs
Buffet LUNCH (Standing Concept)
1330 hrs
Lotus Domino 7 Server & Admn Client Update by Krista Hiltz Kahn
WPLC Business Marketing Executive for Notes/Domino Platform
1415 hrs
Application development using Lotus Domino and IBM Workplace Tools by Tan Ai Nee
Technical Consultant - Lotus Software, IBM Software Group, IBM Malaysia Sdn Bhd
1500 hrs
PM Tea-Break
1515 hrs
Supercharging your IBM Lotus Notes & Domino Investment with IBM Workplace Products and Solution by Gary Lee Sweeting
Technology Advocate for Workplace Portal & Collaboration Software, Asia Pacific
1545 hrs
Closing / Q&A by Lee Kwee Heng
Country WPLC Brand Manager
1600 hrs
I will talk about OpenNTF . Thanks Bruce for moral support and some of the slides.

Posted by on 26 October 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

The 2005 press freedom ranking

The 2005 press freedom ranking compiled by the " Reporters without borders" is out. There has been a lot of movement in the middle, most notably the decline of the United States from 22nd to 44th place, while at top and bottom there is little movement with North Korea firmly claiming the last place. I'm sure the report will make it into the media (maybe not in the lower quadrant) and finger pointing, questioning and spinning will take place. The report is quite interesting proving the claims wrong that press freedom (fostered by democracy) both needs wealth and a long development time. East Timor is a shining example, being one of the youngest countries and topping all its Asian neighbours.
  2002 2003 2004 2005
USA 17 31 22 44
USA (outside) - 135 108 137
Germany 7 8 11 18
Singapore - 144 147 140
Malaysia 110 104 122 113
Indonesia 57 110 117 102
Thailand 65 82 59 107
Myanmar 137 164 165 163
East Timor - 30 57 58
Guinea 117 139 133 133

And its nice to see that Singapore has improve its ranking, while it still has to catch up with its immediate neighbours. I have "normalized" the values to the base 100, the result is the graph below.


We should never forget, that freedom is not 10 different types of cereals on your supermarket shelf, but: " Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently." (We had that Lady before)

Posted by on 23 October 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: Intercultural

Corruption and eGovernment

A hot topic on the 2005 Asia eGovernment Summit was corruption. All government officials present (Singapore didn't send one) admitted, that it is a huge problem in their respective country. One representative from the Philippines shared how they use eGovernment to curb bribery. Citizen in the Philippines can (like in many other countries) submit their tax declaration online. Not seeing a tax collector face to face eliminates the opportunity to bribe him. They also run an anonymous website, that is directly linked to the government fraud fighting agency. If you are a danger seeker - they have job openings.
In Singapore corruption is not a problem. The few cases that pop up are swiftly dealt with and end up with free accommodation in bar filtered air. When having a closer look at this zero tolerance policy you will notice, that it is only the final brick in the dam that stops corruption. The first layer here is a British style administration, that has been perfected by the Singapore Chinese, the second is the pay of the civil servants, that enables a decent life (for a minister that would be a decent 1M SGD). So it is easy to successfully take the moral high ground.
The picture becomes very different when you look in the surrounding countries. We had some good discussions and found, that you need to differentiate what exactly is happening when money changes hands. In most emerging countries taking a bribe supplements the meagre pay of a public servant, who's paycheck is growing much slower than the money earned in the private sector. Secondly especially in South-East Asia there is a culture to give presents when visiting each other. This presents are an expression of appreciation and are not seen as a bribe (unless you take the moral high ground). So drawing the line becomes more difficult. When you want to classify bribes you could distinguish three levels (I like that scheme, since it provides hooks how to handle them and it was my idea):
First a bribes that speed up a process, that would happen anyway. From what I have heard, that is actually the bulk of bribes given. Give a little fee to the officer and your visa application doesn't take four weeks but two, give a little more and it will be done in three days.
The second type are bribes to get an officer to do what he is supposed to so but threatens to procrastinate. This is basically public service blackmail.
The third type are bribes to achieve a result that is illegal or violates regulations and bylaws (most rampant in construction industry and in tender processes).
I personally consider the first type relative harmless by itself, but damaging since it lowers the shy to do the two other types as well. The Chinese came up with a clever scheme in their embassies to remove that "token to speed up the application". They made it official: there are different fees to be paid for different speeds of your application processing. You get a official formal receipt. It is kind of a service level agreement. This way there is no wiggling room for the officers to ask extra "speed money". Once this type of bribes has dried up, it becomes easier to get tough on the other both types.
To curb the procrastination black mail transparency and business process modelling can be the weapon of choice: let citizens know how long a process should take (with a given bandwidth) and provide an escalation path if deadlines are not met. Sounds easy but is tricky to implement, since government processes tend to be rather blurry.
For the last type then a zero tolerance policy with established graft fighting measures can help. However every coin has two sides. One typical method are tender requirements for expenditures exceeding a certain size. There is an incredible amount of money wasted for tender preparation since in a median cut you only win 2-5% of tenders you work on... and that project have to recover your opportunity cost, so they get more expensive. So the goal of fighting corruption sometimes clashes with the mandate to use resources efficiently.

Posted by on 21 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Beijing International Airport 22:00 (GMT+8)

The conference went very well and I'm on my way home. I arrived 10pm at Beijing International Airport, cleared checking and immigration and now have 90 minutes to kill. While a rather buy things at the airport shops, I do enjoy looking at the stuff. There are a number of beautiful shops here and even a Starbucks for a Tazo tea. There is only one little flaw -- they are all closed at 10pm. Seems there is some room for improvement. So I tried my luck with a vending machine, that promised alcohol free beer. Well out of luck too -- the machine dispensed a normal can and I don't touch alcohol for over 10 years now. But there is more to improve: China mobile provides wireless LAN at CNY 0.20/minute (that is ca. 0.024USD/minute). Unfortunately you need to be a China Mobile subscriber -- the English instructions at least didn't suggest anything else. Maybe I have more luck next time.

Posted by on 20 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Writing Chinese in the Summer Palace

When I see Chinese calligraphy I have a specific stereotype in mind: an old master with a long grey beard swinging the brush and uttering the deeper meaning of the words on paper. Seems my mental picture found its real life counterpart when I strolled Beijing's Imperial Summer Palace.


Posted by on 19 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Writing Chinese

Photo model at the Great Wall of China

The conference is starting tomorrow, so I did some sightseeing. The Great Wall of China is on the regular tour calendar in Beijing, so off I went. I was impressed and amused.
Impressed by the wall and amused by the local tourists...
Being on a picture with a Westerner seems to equally attractive for male and female locals. So I had some photo model sessions. Unfortunately my command of Mandarin is so poor, so I couldn't ask to get a copy emailed. Good fun.

Posted by on 17 October 2005 | Comments (5) | categories: After hours

Off to Beijing

On Tuesday the "2005 eGovernment Asia" conference will begin in Beijing. I'm invited as a speaker, so I leave Singapore tonight. Writing this, I'm actually sitting in the departure hall of Changi Airport using their free network access. Cable bound internet is free, wireless internet is charged by Starhub. I find, that the hour between check-in and boarding is best spend blogging, sending overdue emails and clean-up in-boxes.
I had the last run on my presentation with the best of my wifes before I left and she corrected some rather embarrassing typos in my Chinese. I'm trying to tell a story rather to "bullet-shoot" my audience (Oscon Identity 2.0 somehow set a new standard). Luckily one of the bloggers (sorry can't recall who) recommended iStockphoto.com for great pictures, so good quality graphics were affordable.

Posted by on 16 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

No longer are the students the professor's audience; students are the professor's apprentices.

Over at mathforum.org there is an excellent article (or would one say testimony) by J.J. Uhl from the University of Illinois how technology changed his lecture style for the better. Titled " How technology influenced me to stop lecturing and start teaching" it is a must read. He reminds us of the learning sequence that makes things stick in our minds: " intuition-trial-error-speculation-conjecture-proof."

Posted by on 16 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Lotus Notes 7 Launch in Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia - see you there!

The official launch for Lotus Notes 7 in Singapore is on the 20th October 2005. Unfortunately on that day I'm speaking on the 2005 Asia eGovernment conference in Beijing. I try hard, but being physically in two places so far apart at the same time doesn't work for me (yet). Luckily a week later the launch is in Kuala Lumpur, which is just a bus trip away (takes about 4.5 hours city - city vs. 3h city - city with the plane). The event will be fun, since it comes with a twist (Bruce, Vince don't squeal).

Posted by on 12 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

German Ministers

Including the chancellor (or is it chancelloresse?) 15 people will run Germany in the top tier of the federal government. Six of them, fronted by Dr. Merkel, our first woman at the helm, will be female, that is 40%. Rosa Luxembourg would be delighted.
Let us see if "Angie" will be the German edition of Ms Thatcher. My bet is, that we're in for some surprises.

Posted by on 11 October 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Lesson from the SPAM front: When you report SPAM, it will be filtered by the SPAM filter!

Got a SPAM message from a Hotmail account with the usual "lost-fortune" story. This time the claimed source was closer to home: "The Malaysian Central Bank". Knowing there is no such thing (it's the "National Bank"), I forwarded the message to abuse@hotmail.com.
I got the usual automated reply:

"This is an auto-generated response designed to let you know that our system received your support inquiry and a Support Representative will review your question and respond to you soon. Please note that you will not receive a reply if you respond directly to this message.
Thank you for contacting MSN Hotmail Support.
Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner."

to be immediately followed by the rejection of my message:

Delivery Failure Report  
Your document:   Spam in name of the Malaysian central bank  
was not delivered to:   abuse@css.one.microsoft.com  
because:   550 5.7.1 <Your e-mail was rejected by an anti-spam content filter on gateway ( for rejection may be: obscene language, graphics, or spam-like characteristics. Removing these may let the e-mail through the filter.>

Hurray! Reporting SPAM doesn't work for Hotmail anymore. This will look good on Hotmail's SPAM statistics: SPAM has gone away in Hotmail since none gets reported from outside anymore.

Posted by on 08 October 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: Technology

ADSL2 - ADSL2+ and customer service

I learned the hard way, that ADSL2 and ADSL2+ are complete different specs. My hardware zoo recently welcomed a Linksys ADSL2MUE for the upcoming speed upgrade of my Internet home connection. I bought the package from the retailer, not the ISP

ADSL Modem

When looking closer at the package, Linksys reassures you, that ADSL2+ is an option:

"The ADSL2 Modem is compatible with the latest ADSL standards including ADSL2 and is upgradeable to ADSL2+"

Singtel has adopted ADSL2+ (with PPPoA instead the usual PPPoE, but that's another story), so I searched the Linksys support site, where the ADSL2MOE seems to be non-existent. The only thing I found was the GPL software for it. Ok, contact customer service. Why wasn't I surprised by their answer:

Dear Valued Linksys Customer,

Thank you for contacting Linksys Technical Support.

To upgrade the ADLS2MUE to ADSL2+, the ISP will be the one who will update it to that standard. We do not have any available software that will set the ADSL2MUE device to ADSL2+ standard. You may check with your ISP on how you can upgrade it.

If you have further questions, you may reply to this E-mail so that we may further assist you.


[innocent supporters name]
Linksys – A Division of Cisco Systems, Inc.
Product Support Specialist

>Network Setup: http://www.linksys.com/edu

This correspondence is considered confidential and any reproduction for the purpose of public disclosure is forbidden without written permission by the author signed above.

I teach my children: Keep what you promise. Seems not to be valid for Linksys?

Read more

Posted by on 06 October 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: Buying Broadband

NSF to PST converter

In the last 5 month I got about 1000 search referrer hits with the search topic. My short answer to that question would be: Don't do it! However as the Buddha says: "You pick the level of your suffering yourself", there is a long answer too. I can understand, that people don't know where Hannover is or can/want to wait for it. Instead of "pouring out the baby with the bath", one can stick with Domino backends and use the Outlook connector for Domino to have it both ways: Outlook on the front end and Domino as reliable, cost effective and scalable infrastructure behind. Both IBM/Lotus and Microsoft offer a flavour of it.
But if you have to go:  There are a number of 3rd party vendors who offer migration products and services: are some examples. Microsoft also provides tools and advice.
My personal take: Stick with Domino. Just try to get that old email backup (was it a pst?) from your Outlook/95 backup opened in Outlook 2003 or use the build in fulltext search in the Outlook client. Use the connector provided by IBM if you must have Outlook.... or wait for Hannover. upgrade to Notes 8 (You also can enjoy yourself with R7 and the OpenNTF eMail template until then).

If you want to change something for the sake of changing why not implement " Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes"?

It cuts both ways. If you came to your senses and want to move Microsoft stuff to Notes (stuff as in Outlook, Office and Sharepoint) you have plenty of help too:

Posted by on 04 October 2005 | Comments (9) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Heart(disk) transplant*

My laptop hard disk was running out of space and also starting making funny noises. So it was time for a new one. First I though to reinstall everything from scratch. This would take some days time (actually hours squeezed into spare time over a few days) which I can't afford right now. So I started to look for an easy way out. I found TruImage from Acronis. It allowed me to clone my hard disk partition to the new drive that I had attached temporarily through USB. It also allowed to resize the partition in that process. Since my laptop has only USB1 copying the partition took a few hours (unattended). At the end TruImage shut down the PC, I flipped hard disks and now I'm a happy camper. Acronis provides a 14 day trial, so for a one off exercise it is free. TruImage does backup too, so I consider buying it.

* The pun does only work when spoken, not written.

Posted by on 04 October 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: Software