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

By Date: February 2006

Reality God and the Universe

Master Gudo NISHIJIMA God is the Universe, the Universe is God. And then the Fusion between God and the Universe is called Reality. And when we sitting in Zazen, we can sit in God, we can sit in the Universe, we can sit in act, and we can sit in Reality. Therefore we can sit in Reality.

via Dogen Sangha Blog

Posted by on 27 February 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: After hours

The 7.0.1 @DBLookup/@DBColumn regression error breaks Blogsphere

What an unpleasant surprise: Our admin upgraded the server to 7.0.1. Blogsphere stopped working, throwing an HTTP 500 / Invalid @Formula Text expected. It turns out, that there are quite a number of @Unique(@DBColumns) in the side block subform which now (with the regression error) fail in better filled blogs. And I have only a little more than 250 stories. Should I patch Blogsphere (categorizing the views and eventually break other things), roll back to 7.0 or wait for 7.01a/7.0.2?

Posted by on 25 February 2006 | Comments (4) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?

image You scored as Moya (Farscape). You are surrounded by muppets. But that is okay because they are your friends and have shown many times that they can be trusted. Now if only you could stop being bothered about wormholes.

Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Serenity (Firefly)


SG-1 (Stargate)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by on 24 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Websphere, Domino and Java insights

When you are a LotusScript buff and make your first baby steps in Java and Domino, there are a few things quite different. Working on DominoWebDAV I learned a few lessons I'd like to share:  
  • Get yourself a copy of this. It is still the best transition from your sound knowledge of Lotus Script Domino Objects to Java Domino Objects  
  • Domino comes with an entitlement of a Websphere server, so this can be a good starting point. One caveat: Websphere likes to have EAR files for application deployments. When you start off with a simple servlet or JSP, it is most likely, that you just have a WAR file. When deploying a war file Websphere wants to know the application context (Tomcat on the other hand simply uses the WAR file name as context, easier but less flexible). When you enter "myapp" it won't work. You have to enter "/myapp/"  
  • When linking Websphere to Domino for authentication (a topic for another Thursday). Websphere by default activates J2EE security. This is a good thing for applications deployed in production, but a nightmare for a Java novice. So when you tick the security icon, untick the J2EE security icon below (in your development environment only of course)  
  • Before you get started with servlets, you might want to test your Java skills on an agent first. While the build in IDE is OK, editing Java in Eclipse is much more fun. To edit Java agents there, you can use the Domiclipse plugin.  
  • Not sure about Java itself? There is an excellent Java learning IDE called BlueJ. And there are the outstanding Head First books about Java, Servlets, EJB and Patterns.  
  • There are also plenty of places where you can get Java help and insights. My favourite places are Javaranch, Java Coffee Break and Jakarta.  
  • When looking at a specific problem to solve, check the Jakarta Commons before you start coding. There a lot of problems have been solved for you. For example there is a complete HTTP client, that handles authentication, cookies, html parsing or encryption for you.  
  • When you are done with a Domino object in Java, call its recycle() method. Otherwise you create a army of Zombie C objects that eat all your memory. Of course you need to be careful of the sequence. If you recycle a database object, you can't access the documents in there any more, even if you have a Java object pointing to one  
  • Have a look at session.resolve(url). This session method allows you to take a notes URL (notes://....) and resolve it directly to a database, view or document. That's a very nice shortcut thru the object hierarchy.

Posted by on 22 February 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: Show-N-Tell Thursday

What I do

The running joke goes "If you can't explain to your mom, what you are doing for a living, you must work in IT". The not so funny side is, that I do have difficulties to explain my bandwidth. Typical dialogues go: "So you are a programmer". "Hhm, yes I code software, but I also design it". "So you are a designer". "I also do architecture, requirements and usability". "So you are a project manager?" "Only if I have too, I'm more like an architect and coach". "Ah a coach - what sports?" "The sport of team work in software development".......
and so on.
I was long pondering to write an article what I really do (best). Today I came across a post from James Shore, which I mostly could copy:
" I'm James Shore and I make my living providing good advice to good companies. Have a software development team and think I might help? Give me a call and we'll find out."  and " I provide full-service consulting."
Other than James I'm not into Scrum but Crystal Clear. Crystal Clear works well with Notes and Domino, which I love. However I developed and coached in SAP, Java, .NET, xForms and XML. It's the team not the tools that matter in the first place. My credentials are less impressive than James (asides from winning APICTA awards two years in a row). Nevertheless, buzz me if your projects need a boost.  

Posted by on 20 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

Where I stay

The red circle, 4th floor. On the left side the blue and purple roofs are a primary and secondary school. The red roofs a little to the right is next to the 7eleven, the market and the coffeeshop. The line on the far right are the MRT (our public transport) tracks. The red roof right is the station.

(Image reporduced without any permission)

Posted by on 19 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

Become a Java Blackbelt

Do you know http://www.javablackbelt.com? I recently discovered this site and I like it a lot. There you can take exams about Java and related technologies like XML, Eclipse etc. While commercial sites charge you a fee for taking exams, Javablackbelt doesn't want you money. They want your contribution. So before sitting down to take an exam you need to accumulate points to "pay" for it. Points are collected by reviewing questions, contributing new questions or commenting on existing topics. Questions, edits and comments need to be accepted (see the site for details) to score. This way you get a double bonus: not only you can test your knowledge, but also you are required to crack your head what would be a good question to ask. Clearly the site doesn't aim at greenhorns (which I suspect is the group I still belong to regarding Java) since I couldn't figure out how you could contribute/benefit with only little knowledge

Posted by on 18 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

LAUG - Lotus Asia User Group -- 1st meeting in Singapore on 21 Feb 2006

It was very quiet around the Lotus community in Singapore the last few years. But now there will be some noise. Next week we will have our first meeting of the Lotus Asia User Group (LAUG). Our online home currently is a QuickPlace at Lotususergroup.org. Later the month we will have a Blog and other stuff for Singapore on a site of its own. The user group is designed to be regional and our friends in Kuala Lumpur will launch soon too.

Meeting details:

21 Feb 2006 - 06:45pm - 9:00pm (light refreshments will be available)

We meet at:

Raffles Campus Pte Ltd
3 Anson Road
Springleaf Tower #19-01
Singapore 079909

We have an elevator, so you don't need to climb to the 19th floor on your own.
The agenda has not been finalized yet, we will probably have a topic about Lotusphere and about the expectations regarding the user group.

If you want to join please let me know, so we can cater for you.  

Posted by on 16 February 2006 | Comments (4) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

UMsys - as old as Unix (sort of)

Today there is the "Anwendertag" (User's day) for UMsys in Munich. UMsys stands for Universal Management System. It is a meta management framework, that has been used for environmental management and eGovernment. UMsys is in the market for about 20 years. Already then it had the notion of people, places and processes - with special extensions for environment and government like substances, measurements or regulations.
It started as a terminal application build on Uniface and Informix. Ten years ago I helped to design the revision from UMsys/3 to UMsys/4 moving to C++ and Oracle as client server application.
This year will see another two or threefold transition. Since some of our users move to Linux, the client application will move to .NET/Mono or something else. In parallel a web client is under development. Here we opted to use open standards and leverage on xForms and XML. Our server runs on J2EE (Tomcat and Websphere have been tested) and uses the Open Presentation Server (OPS). I will talk about OPS in March at Singapore's XML Standards day. Stay tuned form more stories about environment, UMsys and xForms.

Posted by on 15 February 2006 | Comments (2) | categories: UMsys

Is OpenSource Software for you?

The Rotary Club of Singapore did host my talk " Is OpenSource Software for you?" today. You typically join Rotary at a later stage of live, so Firefox, Thunderbird, NVU or The Gimp are no household names there. Linux on the other hand is heard of. I focused on software that is available on The OpenCD and distributed some of the CDs in return to a donation to the sunshine box. The sunshine box is the charity 'war chest' of each Rotary club.

Update The talk was very well received. The 10 copies of The OpenCD were gone in a blink and the Rotarians could add a nice sum to the charity funds. The slides for the presentation can be downloaded here (PDF 1.2 MB)

Posted by on 15 February 2006 | Comments (2) | categories: After hours Singapore

4 things

So it is going around. Now it's my turn:

Four jobs I’ve had:
  1. Warehouse worker
  2. Mover
  3. Club Animator
  4. Tutor

Four movies I can watch over and over:
  1. Kundun
  2. Brazil
  3. Leon
  4. Spirited away

Four places I have lived:
  1. Goldbach
  2. Hain im Spessart (actually the websites background image is the house I lived in)
  3. Greussenheim
  4. Munich

Four television shows I love to watch:
  1. Starship Enterprise
  2. Moonbase Alpha
  3. Tatort
  4. I don't watch TV anymore

Four places I have been on holiday:
  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Sri Lanka
  4. Bali

Four of my favourite dishes:
  1. Laksa
  2. Wonton noodles
  3. Rojak salad
  4. Sushi

Four websites I visit daily:
  1. Bloglines
  2. Slashdot
  3. Heise
  4. Google

Four places I would rather be right now:
  1. in the Yellow Mountains hiking
  2. In Tibet, sitting with the monks
  3. In Bali in a nice spa
  4. In a jungle camp

So, there you go, 32 things you didn't really want to know.

Posted by on 11 February 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: After hours

Greed 3.0

Slashdot pointed to an article in the Washington Post. It reported, that John Thorne, a senior vice president of Verizon accuses the internet companies to have a free ride on their networks and wants to charge them for access. I'm not quite sure if an intoxicating substance, panic or greed made him utter this nonsense. If he bothers to read his own broadband subscription contracts: his subscribers pay, so they can reach all this sites. So Google, Yahoo and the like a the single big reason why the can sell broadband in the first place. Sounds like a soccer club who wants to charge the players for using the stadium after they sold all the tickets to fans who want to see them playing.
I don't know how lobbying and law-making works in the US, but if Verizon gets its way, it could throw the Internet in the US back for years. Anyway Google doesn't seem to sit idle, they have proven, that they can roll-out free WIFI backed access quite fast.
As the old Chinese curse nicely states: "May you live in interesting times".

Posted by on 08 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Lessons in Domino, Java, Eclipse and Tomcat.

Today was debugging day. DominoDAV is progressing and it looks like I can keep my promise to have the first version up this month. There are a few lessons to learn when debugging in Eclipse. I'm using Eclipse 3.1.2, Oxygen XML Editor plug-in and MyEclipseIDE as my main tools (for a complete list see my previous post). Since there are quite a number of plug-ins active, Eclipse is not exactly fast. Until you give it some breathing space. By default the memory constraint is set to 40-128 MB for the Eclipse JVM. Running a PC with 1.5G this seemed a little low. In the Eclipse directory there is the eclipse.ini file where you can adjust this setting. It is now 256-512 and Eclipse 4-6 times faster (measured totally unscientific).
When debugging nobody used System.out.println(...) anymore. Being 21st century people we use Log4J. The only drawback: It wouldn't work in Tomcat 5.5. After experimenting for a while and sniffing online I found the solution: You need to put the log4j.jar AND the commons_logging.jar (even if you never actually touch the content of the later) into the WEB-INF\lib directory. This opens the possibility to even remotely see the debug result using Chainsaw. When deploying to Websphere 6 you don't seem to need the commons_logging.jar, at least it was working here without it.
To get Notes working you need to have your Notes executable on the systems path and need to copy the jar files (Notes.jar for local access, NCSO.jar for Corba access) into the {tomcat-root}\common\libs directory. This is required, since the native libraries (a.k.a. DLLs) can be loaded only once. While there your Notes.jar can make friends with the Oracle or SQL Server jars, since they live in the same place.
Finally: When you launch Tomcat from the debugger (a nice feature of MyEclipseIDE, but also available in free plug-ins) it will ignore the path of your machine. So you are in for all the mysterious "Unsatisfied Link errors". In MyEclipseIDE there is a special setting "Library Include Path" for every server to configure. There you point to your Notes or Domino program directory and you are all set.
Finally: debugging multithread is not really fun. Since remote Notes call run in their own thread you have to take care of that. I really hope Bob is releasing (as promised considered during Lotusphere 2006) his pool manager as OpenSource soon.

Posted by on 07 February 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Management is from Mars and IT Professionals are from Venus

Jack Dausman started the dialogue with a post mentioning that 60% of the IT workers are ready to move one. Ben Pole, Kevin Pettitt and Jonathan Walkup chipped in. Of course I have my 2c to add to it.
I agree with Jack on training as key success factor as well with Ben on a need to shift the perspective from cost to benefit. I also liked the remarks about semi competent techies defending their turf. There is another dimension and that is communication.
We geeks tend to communicate in terms like: CPU, Uptime, Bandwidth, Storage, Access, Network etc. Managers tend to speak about money, corporate values, business development, key performance indicators and revenue-cost ratios. Both sides blame the other, that they speak in tongues, don't listen and don't understand. One problem is surly, that a lot of managers can't manage, so they resort to micro management (a.k.a. not trusting the techies due to a lack of people skills).
What can be done? First of all, when you move on you will take all your problems with you, so the solution is to solve your part first before moving on. There a several dimensions you can have a look. If you firmly think, that you know what is right, but you are not in charge, some lateral leadership could help. And while you are on it, beef up your negotiation skills. We became geeks because we found technology much more fascinating than business and numbers, however we need to translate our thinking into management compatible statements of cost and value. In a recent conversation a potential client was complaining our proposal was to expensive, so we ran the numbers:
" OK we can skip the validation routines, that would shave 2k from our price. But in return about 10% of the forms would have errors. To clarify them 2 engineers in two countries need to get online and discuss (if they discover them at all). That takes half an hour, given your internal rates for 2 engineers, that is about 0.2k. We don't calculate time for delays or damage for undiscovered errors. Your estimate is about 1000-1500 approvals / year, so the cost for saving 2k would be about 20-30k/year".
Suddenly they did understand. Of course it is very painful to break down everything we do into value prepositions. But it is not that difficult. We generally can set two types of cost: investment for improved productivity, speed, revenue and investment to avoid damage or higher cost. So the question is: how much do we spend on other things if we don't do that and how much will it cost and how likely will disaster strike. Once we make things measurable, even if the benchmarks are rather blurry, we find common ground with the management to negotiate. Once you master the skill and the situation doesn't improve (because you got one of them) it is time to move on. You new company will appreciate your ability to "speak management".  

Posted by on 06 February 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Business

Made my day!

1) Some Lotusphere observations from around the blogs
Axel on 1/24/2006 12:37:47 AM  
The coverage is really quite good.  
So far, my clear winner in the "most-informative-for-those-at-home" category is Stephan H. Wissel. This man is born for conference blogging.  

over here

Posted by on 05 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

BOF101 - Speaker evaluation

The verdicts are out. My session about DominoWebDAV - Domino as a file system was attended by about 25 people, whereby 18 filled and returned their session evaluation to IBM. I'm very pleased by the results:  
Quality of the material   94% Excellent - 06% Good
Quality of the speaker   89% Excellent - 11% Good
Use of Lotus products   67% Yes, 22% Undecided, 11% No  
Recommend update   100%  
Recommend speaker   100%

18 Lotusphere attendees is not a statistical relevant sample <g>, so I have to aim for a main session next year.  

Posted by on 04 February 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

Lotusphere 2006 - Wrap-up, Eat Your Own Dog Food and People

What a show it was. Yellow is the new black! While the announcement around Notes and Domino show a bright future for the product, I was mostly exited about the Workplace Managed Client offerings. And again: Please IBM give it a catchier name, Workplace Desktop as example. While other platforms seem not to be used to create the core products of that company, IBM is eating their own dog food. They base their development tools on RCP, Sametime 7.5 is an RCP application, the productivity tools are, Lotus Notes Hanover and the Workplace Managed Client. Very impressive. Time to get moving.

Nevertheless: the best of show were the people. Great on stage, great in the breaks, great to talk and party with. I finally was able to put real people behind the conversations and Blogs I follow and participate for a while. In no particular order:

Jack Dausman, Rob Novak, Rob Wunderlich, Bruce Elgort, Volker Weber, Richard Schwarz,   Ray Bilky, Libby the Notesgirl, Julian Robichaux, Alan Bell, Rocky Oliver, Declan Lynch, Ben Langhinrichs, The Turtle, Christopher Byrne, Joe Litton, the Penumbra Group members, David Ferris, Bill Buchan, Thomas Duff, Chris Miller, Carl Tyler, Ed Brill, Paul Mooney, Surjit Chana  and apologies to all I missed out in this little list.  

Posted by on 01 February 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Lotusphere