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

By Date: November 2005

To (Work)flow or not to flow --- this is the question

I'm reviewing a customer's travel request application. You know that stuff with approvals for travel, advanced cash, expense claims and a bit of travel agency involvement. My client has 5000 users using it on a 4way server and is planning to extend usage to 15000 users soon.  Users already complain, that the webUI is dreadfully slow.Currently the application is running on R5 build with Lotus Workflow 3 (the artist formerly known as Prozessware). Moving to R7 has been decided. Now the big question is: upgrade to Workflow 7 or replacing the code with custom or alternative workflow.
I think Lotus Workflow is an awesome product (Disclaimer: I'm German and Prozessware was German too). It reassembles the original concept of documents flowing through an organisation kept together by a binder quite nicely. Also you can design an awful lot of complex workflows using a simple to use workflow painter. On the other hand: our workflows are linear chains, pretty straight forward and the (web) UI is a bit too generic for my taste: Instead of approve/reject buttons you typically would have a radio button or a dropdown to set your status and then use "Activity completed" to trigger the workflow engine for the next steps. It nicely preserves a complete audit trail in the same db which keeps the indexer busy (since an agent is shuffling the trail to a different database), since we have a lot of documents created/deleted within a few minutes.
So the big question: Generic, well designed Lotus Workflow or specialized (but still configurable) speed tuned version?
Any opinions on that?

Posted by on 27 November 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Domino 7 and Websphere 6 on Windows - Part II

I finally got it working, whoha! The plug-in installation script makes 2 assumptions about the Domino installation, that were not matched by my installation: first it assumes, that the Domino program directory is the parent directory of the data directory, second, that this is not a root directory. In my case the data directory was n:\Domino7 (instead of something like r:\Lotus\Domino\Data). I mounted the N: drive under c:\data, so my Domino data directory would be c:\data\Domino7. And reran the installation. Actually I flattened out the Websphere before, just to make sure the new attempt wouldn't be haunted by zombies. This time the plug-in.xml was created as expected. However neither the DSAPI filter nor the INI variable were configured.
This time it was an easy fix. Edit the notes.ini and add:
After that edit the Internet site document and add the DSAPI filter:
The rest of the configuration is within the plugin-cfg.xml file and according to my tests are just fine. Mental note to self: keep the Domino data directory 2 levels deep and separate program and data directory only after the final installation. On Unix/Linux of course a symbolic link would do the trick.
So it is time to develop some Webspino/Domisphere applications. Something like DominoWebDAV.
Next stop: Domino 7 and Websphere 6 on SUSE.  

Posted by on 24 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Domino 7 and Websphere 6 on Windows

Encouraged by the ease you can make Domino 6.5 and Websphere 6 to work together in all areas (HTTP, LDAP, Single SignOn) I tried my luck with Websphere 6 and Domino 7. Unfortunatly the Websphere plug-in installer doesn't offer Domino 7 as an option (nota bene: in R7 the location of a lot of Java stuff has moved like where to find Notes.jar). So I gave the 6.5 selection a shot. The LDAP integration worked smooth like silk, however the HTTP integration did not happen. The DSAPI filter entry wasn't created. So I peeped on the R6 installation and added the DSAPI filter name:
domino5_http.dll. When I restarted the HTTP task I was greeted with an error message:

ERROR: WebSpherePluginCfg variable not defined in notes.ini
      Define variable WebSpherePluginCfg=Location_Of_plugin-cfg.xml
      in notes.ini and restart the server

ERROR: WebSphere HTTP DSAPI filter initialization failed.  Return code = 3

Hhm. A quick check on plugin-cfg.xml files showed, that there is only on in the Plugins/config/templates directory. That for sure doesn't fit into an active configuration. Luckily there is a Plugins/bin/configurewebserver1.batcommand file which should do the trick. Unfortunatly it terminates with an error too. Well I won't let them quit to easy on me, so I had a look into the batch file. Websphere uses an amazing mix of batch files calling each other The parameters in the file look like this:

"C:\Java\WebSphere60\AppServer\profiles\default/bin/wsadmin.bat" -conntype NONE -f "C:\Java\WebSphere60\AppServer\bin\configureWebserverDefinition.jacl" webserver1 DOMINO "N:\\" "N:\\Domino7\\names.nsf" 80 MAP_ALL "C:\\Java\\WebSphere60\\Plugins" unmanaged rohandaNode01 rohanda windows

The error stated the input parameters like:
Input parameters:

  Web server name             - webserver1
  Web server type             - DOMINO
  Web server install location - N: N:\ Domino7\names.nsf
  Web server config location  - 80
  Web server port             - MAP_ALL
  Map Applications            - C:\Java\WebSphere60\Plugins
  Plugin install location     - unmanaged
  Web server node type        - unmanaged
  Web server node name        - webserver1_node
  Web server host name        - windows
  Web server operating system - ...nothing here ...

So it looked like the "N:\\" wasn't such a good parameter. I replaced it with a wild guess:   "c:\\Program Files\\Lotus\\Domino" and the installation batch file stated the right parameters and got very busy configuring the server. At this point I'm not sure if that wrong parameter is caused because of Domino7 or because the Domino server binaries are located on a different drive that the Domino data. Restarting the Domino still complained about the missing Websphereplugincfg. So back to square one and some peeping how it runs on the Domino6. There should be a plugin-cfg.xml in the C:\Java\WebSphere60\AppServer\profiles\default\config\cells\rohandaNode01Cell\nodes\rohandaNode01\servers\webserver1which isn't there.
So another try.... stay tuned

Posted by on 23 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

eMail abuse --- it's not me!

From bouncing messages I learned today, that a flood of viruses is send specifically to Singaporean email accounts with the fake sender info@wissel.net. In case you came to this site to look who attacked you: It is not me. There is no such email address. The sender's address is totally fake. I also find that disgusting.
Nevertheless --- have a great day!

Posted by on 23 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Gone Phisching

Owning ideas

An old German folk song goes "Die Gedanken sind frei" (Thoughts are free). Not any more. With the introduction of "Intellectual property" the concept of owning immaterial things is hammered into our minds. Closer scrutiny reveals, that the various rights lumped together as IP didn't have that in mind. Copyrights, trademarks and patents are very different rights protecting very different things. Property rights were created for the fact, that if I own a thing, you can't own it. But if I tell you an idea I still have it and now it can travel. Ideas are not a scare resource, they get richer when they travel. However the term "Intellectual Property" creates the impression that it is a scare resource.  
Doc Searls reminds us to watch the language: " While the one side talks about licenses with verbs like copy, distribute, play, share and perform, the other side talks about rights with verbs like own, protect, safeguard, protect, secure, authorize, buy, sell, infringe, pirate, infringe, and steal."
This is a substantial difference. The very nature of ideas is, that they cannot be owned because they are not physical. And spreading an idea from the originator doesn't make it dissappear there. So the mental model of "intelectual property" is flawed in its very nature. We rather should stick to discriminating trademarks from patents from copyrights and have a deep thought how far we want to push idea protection. The very fabric of learning and cultural exchange is based on the fact, that ideas are shared, explored, altered and shared again. When you look into the history of languages, there were attempts of special interest groups (priests, sects or ruling class) to restrict the usage of language. All this attempts failed in the long run. Either the restriction didn't work or the language faded away.
An article in "The Guardian" sums it up nicely:
"This is madness. Ideas aren't things. They're much more valuable than that. Intellectual property - treating some ideas as if they were in some circumstances things that can be owned and traded - is itself no more than an idea that can be copied, modified and improved. It is this process of freely copying them and changing them that has given us the world of material abundance in which we live. If our ideas of intellectual property are wrong, we must change them, improve them and return them to their original purpose. When intellectual property rules diminish the supply of new ideas, they steal from all of us."  

Posted by on 20 November 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: Technology

Apprentice, Journeyman and Master

You might have wondered why I use this metaphor in the sidebar to describe what I offer. I always though to write a long rant about it. Now I don't need that anymore. Jeff Atwood points to a blog entry by Rob Walling:
... a long text you want to read for yourself ...
The Bottom Line
Training is critical to any company that writes software, and apprenticeship is the best way to bring new developers on board, make them feel at home, improve their skills, and keep them happy and growing. You'll keep experienced developers in touch with new approaches, compliment them by asking them to share their wealth of knowledge, and hopefully create a few friendships along the way.  

Posted by on 18 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

Your body is under attack --- by the food you eat.

There is a very interesting article over at WeLikeItRaw. It points to research done in 1930, that finds cooked food lets our bodies defence system react as if it needs to fend off an attack increasing the all over stress level. My preliminary conclusion (of course 100% unscientific <g>): Unless we can offset that stress through an appropriate setting (nice dinner, lustful food, friends, good mood etc) better stick to raw food. So no more midnight pizza or candy bars when hacking away in the night. Rather stick to apples and carrot sticks.

Posted by on 18 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Domino 6.5.4 and Websphere 6.01 on Windows

A client of mine wants to run DominoDAV. So they decided to take advantage of their Websphere entitlement for Domino. Since the entitlement doesn't state a version we decided to give Websphere 6 a shot. Having struggled with Domino Websphere integration before (Portal 4 is a beast) I told the best of my wifes I won't be back for dinner. Actually I wasn't. I was in time to pick up the kids from Kindergarten (which closes as 5:30pm). Installation runs like a piece of cake. The installer for the plug-in lists Domino 6.x in the menu and does everything. Authenticating against the Domino LDAP, LTPA single sign on worked on the first try. The instructions given in the IBM security Redbook for Websphere 5 are still valid and quite helpful, while the Domino integration part is missing from the Websphere 6 security handbook. Of course you need a big box for satisfying result. I hit only two bumps on the road, the first one due to my disbelieve it could be easy: We tried the snoop servlet myserver:9080/snoop and it worked. Then I spend 20 minutes trying to figure out under which URL the servlet would be available on the Domino port. There seemed to be no configuration so myserver/servlets/snoop didn't work. Finally I tried myserver/snoop and TADA... works as designed. So the DSAPI filter for Websphere uses the Websphere application configuration to redirect URLs from Domino, nicely done!
The second bump: When you link the Websphere to Domino's LDAP you specify the name base (like o=myorg -> /O=MyOrg ) which is added to all lookups. While this works fine for the users it seems not to work for groups (which by default are flat). I also wonder how it would work if you have more than one org in your Domain. Seems I need to brush up my LDAP skills a bit.
Now I'm itching to try that on Linux with a Domino 7.0 server.

Posted by on 09 November 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Intelligent Design --- not for the Vatican

For Roman Catholics (still the biggest Christian group) intelligent design is a no topic. The Vatican issued a statement that sees Darwin's evolution in line with the Genesis. I'm curious how more fundamental Christian groups will take that. Anyway some of them still have to learn the difference between science and believe (via Slashdot / The Australian ).  

Posted by on 07 November 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: After hours

Fighting Zombies

Seems like the Australian government got the right idea. They start taking the ISVs into the responsibility to shut down zombies. There is quite a bit over coverage world wide. At the end the solution to curb unsolicited use of the Internet lies at the access ramps. Unfortunately the definition of "unsolicited" is in the eye of the beholder, so what weeds out a pest can also be used to suppress. I don't think that will be a problem in Australia, rather further up North (much further).  

Posted by on 07 November 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Gone Phisching

TV cutback

I'm not a TV fan despite working there before. I sometimes spend mindless hours trying to relax. So I try to limit access (... and lead us not into temptation style..). However we have had Cable TV. Hallmark, Disney, Discovery, National Geographics, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and others came in the family package. Until Sunday. Then Ida had the sudden insight, that the kids spent too much time in front of the TV and that Ernest's eyesight seems worsening. So since Monday, gone is the decoder, we are a cable pay-TV free household. Some basic channels remain, so its not close to last time, but a good start.

Posted by on 01 November 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: Twins

Want to infect your PC with a root kit? - Buy a SonyBMG CD

There is a very interesting story at sysinternals about the hunting down of a root kit infection on a PC. A root kit basically is a piece of software, that hides itself from normal view on the PC and intercepts the functionality. Root kits are usually found in criminal context (hackers, maleware, Trojan horses) and are typically installed without the PC's owners consent. In this case consent wasn't given either but the culprit was a copy protected CD from Sony BMG. I'm sure the late founder of Bertelsman (BMG stands for Bertelsman Media Group) rotates in his grave for behaviour so much below his standards. Seems like Greed 2.0 in full swing.
One comment suggest, the only way to fight this is with you purse strings. So it looks like Sony and its subsidiaries lost me as a customer. So no Sony TV, no Sony HiFi, no SonyEricsson phone, no Sony BMG CD/DVD and less Sony entertainment -- including the Aibo.  

The Sony Digital Restriction Management stint has stirred quite some response online. Some of the voices:

and much more: http://www.google.com.sg/search?q=sony+drm+rootkit

I'm curious how they will spin it. What really surprises me: Sony is known to be obsessed with quality control in whatever they make, how could this slip their attention (or didn't it?). In case you want to complain to Sony, why not use their online form?

Posted by on 01 November 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: Technology