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

By Date: November 2006

No more "Everybody uses MS Outlook at home"?

Vista is coming, so is Office 2007. The brand new all shiny ribbon looks utterly familiar (OK, it was at the bottom of the window and less cluttered in 1998). It seems Microsoft has taken a few lessons from IBM (not only about software processes from the OS/2 team) and comes up with the most confusing licensing scheme ever. While the Vista versions can be understood (4 packages, take the biggest, have it all), the Office schemes are pretty confusing. 8 editions are available (if you are an enterprise, otherwise it's 6) which are all packaged differently. Most stunning: Home, Student, Small Business, Professional and Ultimate don't contain the Outlook mail client anymore. Is Microsoft ignoring their loyal student user base (hey they will make future purchase decisions!)? Or do they want to hook them onto Windows life? Also Small Businesses might not be amused. Also if you want to get as much features as possible you have to shell out a whooping 1078 USD for Office & Vista Ultimate (and end up using Groove for eMail). That might be even more than your Vista ready PC might cost you.
Read the full review yourself.

Posted by on 28 November 2006 | Comments (2) | categories: Software

Home automation confusion

Being a real geek I want a home that reacts to my voice (Enterprise anyone). So I started looking around what the state of the art in home automation is. Confusing is a mild expression what I found out there. There are many different standards and philophies available in the market. The good folks at Futurehomes helped me to bring light (pun intended) to the darkness of my knowledge. I finally settled on a combination of PLC Bus and X10.

Anthony and Ernest were quite exited, that they could switch on and off the lights in their room (we used the Sleeping-time-moon and the Story-telling-spotlight as gunea pigs). She-who-must-be-obeyed murmured something along the lines of "Boys and their toys". So some convincing needs to be done there.

Lessons learned so far:

  • Check carefully what system you want to use: does it have all the components / functions you are looking for (get a white-paper with good questions)
  • Components from different manufacturers have different abilities. E.g. the RF receiver from Marmite can be addressed from the RF remote and the X10 bus. A competitive product (forgot the name) from China can't be addressed from the bus.
  • Start bottom to top: first play with modules you plug into a regular socket then move on to installed components (which your certified installer will install for you)
  • Once all devices work (switch on/off, dim etc.) move on to the fun part: plan scenarios
  • Devices that can be reconfigured with a push of a button make a great game: randomly reconfigure them and let the kids figure out which light is triggered by a specific button
  • Get a phone and a PC module to control it further (have good passwords once you connect to the outside)
I haven't settled on the PC software to use. Homesser is for sure a candidate. However I'm looking into Linux based stuff (could I get that running on a Linksys router ?) just for the fun of it.
Stay tuned for updates.

Posted by on 18 November 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

Volker likes Expeditor and Notes 8

Kevin had an engineer to engineer talk to Volker and now he likes the full Notes 8 client. In the comment threads there are some questions about what Expeditor actually is. At the IBM Software Universe in Mumbai I had to explain it to my audience. Here is my explanation:

Update: My English grammar sucks. Second paragraph reworded after vowe's comment.
Update 2: My take on the Microsoft architecture.

Posted by on 15 November 2006 | Comments (5) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

WIFI @ Jakarta International airport.

Usually the green Starbucks sign at an airport signals a nice cup of tea and Internet access. So Jakarta international airport looked promising. The Thinkvantage access manager picked up the BizNet hotspot of a local provider. A quick check: payable access. Hhm not as nice as the free access in KL but at least the possibility to offload emails written on the Taxi ride.
Unfortunately BizNet provides no option to pay online, but at least claimed to have iPASS access. If it would work it would be fine, but I just got "Access denied" without further explanation. So over to the counter smiling at the cute Barista: "I'd like to buy a Biznet prepaid card". "We don't do Biznet at the airport anymore". So I'm out of luck. So I decided to let customer service of BizNet know about it, so they can fix it:

Hi there,
I tried to log on to your network at the international Airport in Jakarta. Neither the login using IPASS worked nor the Starbucks staff would know about your prepaid cards. Also I didn't find any possibility to pay online. I guess I'm not the only frustrated potential international customer you loose revenue to. I would love to use your service and pay, but you need to give me an opportunity to do so.

Best regards

The answer came promptly, both from sales & customer service:

From: "Customer Care" <customer_care@biz.net.id>
Dear Mr. Wissel,
Thank you for your information.
We accept your suggestion for further improving our services to our customers. We apologize for any inconveniences it may cause you.
Should you have any questions and/or require further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Thank you for your kind attention and understanding


Didn't really answer my question. Didn't get me online. Didn't make me rave.

Posted by on 14 November 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Travel

eMail best practises workshop

Today I'm moderating a workshop on email best practices. I will cover writing style, management of recipients, functional subject lines etc. Over a bLaug they nicely summed it up:

Forward This Funny
To BCC or Not to BCC

Posted by on 07 November 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Furniture, Moving and Google

Next Thursday we have our first appointment with HDB to finalize the purchase of our new apartment. In about 2 month we will move. Until then all renovation works has to be awarded, a mover has to be picked and new furniture procured. Quite a lot of work besides a busy travel schedule (no I don't think home decoration is the sole domain of she-who-must-be-obeyed). So our living room table is covered by a lot of home decoration and renovation magazines and brochures.
Since I would like to have some custom made furniture we also started to talk to carpenters, only to realize, that they have a tough time to understand my not-so-usual ideas. So I started hunting for a tool to visualize my ideas and found this little gem courtesy of Google.
play-sleep-hide-store bed
So it looks like Anthony and Ernest will get their new play-sleep-hide-store beds after all.

Posted by on 05 November 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: Singapore

Singapore in a Song: We live in Singapura

Some of the passages in the song require local knowledge to be appreciated. A little background: The video was recorded at the Singapore parliament. The artist Mr. Brown produced during the recent general elections the "persistently non political podcast" since the government would have required registration and a permit for any political podcast. Episode 6 was the most famous of them all mocking some election incidents: Political aspirant, Jeff Lopez, the Man and His Ideas*, goes for lunch. And finds himself embroiled in a controversy focuses the spotlight on his very integrity and credibility. This audio podcast does not contain "persistent political content" because that is prohibited during the election period under the Singapore's Election Advertising Regulations.
Remember, prison got no broadband!

"The Man and His Ideas" is a subtitle of a Lee Kuan Yew biography. LKY is Singapore's founding überfather.

Posted by on 02 November 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Singapore

doc.ComputeWithForm Revisited

doc.ComputeWithForm seems to be confusing for a lot of developers. The Designer Help states: Validates a document by executing the default value, translation, and validation formulas, if any are defined in the document form. No word about computed Fields. In Notes 4.6 they didn't work, which still can be a problem for some. Starting with R5 they compute even if sometimes it doesn't look like. Also some challenge and an odd behavior remains.

In a nutshell these are the facts you need to keep in mind when using doc.ComputeWithForm:

  • For editable fields the Default, Input Translation and Input validation fields are executed. The Default formula is executed when the field does not exist in the document. Typically that is only the case for a new document, but can be true also when the item was removed through code or the field was added to a form later
  • For computed fields the formula is executed
  • For computed when composed fields the formula is executed if the item does not exist in the document (same rules apply as for the default formula)
  • Computed for display formulas are NOT executed. Therefore any formula depending on a field value of a computed for display field will take the value as empty thus producing unexpected results
  • Side effects in Formulas like FIELD xxx := or @SetProfileField are executed. @Commands are not. Also @DeleteDocument has no effect.
  • Self referencing fields are problematic. A Formula like @if(@thisValue="";1;@ThisValue+1) results in values 2-4-6-8 etc. You might change your formula to this: @If(@ThisValue="";1;@IsDocBeingEdited;@ThisValue+1;@ThisValue) and use LotusScript to increment your counter manually
  • @IsDocBeingEdited returns @False, so you can influence if a formula is executed in the UI or with ComputeWithForm. A standard blocker for fields would be: @if(@IsDocBeingEdited;"";@Return(@ThisValue)).
    Memento: You can't use that for display only fields since they MUST compute when you open a form, while all other formulas don't compute in read mode (OK: Defaults for new fields compute [but are not saved] as does the Window title)
  • You might want to use a special form to use with ComputeWithForm. There you can do all sorts of data massage without writing lengthy LotusScript code. The code snippet would look like this:
    oldForm = doc.Form(0) doc.Form = "SpecialComputeForm"
    Call doc.ComputeWithForm(false,false)
    doc.Form = oldForm
    This also allows you to ban evaluate() from your script code thus keeping LotusScript and @Formula strictly separate
  • None of the Form events are fired. So no LotusScript, JavaScript or @Fomula in Form events (QueryOpen, QuerySave etc.) execute. Is is @Formulas in fields only
  • When your field returns more than 15k of data the summary flag is not set, so you can't use it in a view column. This is a bug that has been reported as SPR# TNIT5EYJ9N. Didn't find it in any release notes yet.

That pretty much sums it up.

Posted by on 02 November 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: Show-N-Tell Thursday

One more reason to build Domino applications

Catching up on my blog reading I checked the http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/11/01.html on Joel on Software. Joel explains what an SQL injection bug is and how vulnerable a lot of sites are to that. An upcoming report from Mitre (cited here and here) claims that SQL injection and cross site scripting are rapidly becoming the attack vector #1 replacing buffer overflows as prevalent security hole. Joel had posted a solution how to avoid that quite a while ago. However this coding style doesn't seem to be too wide spread.
Of course you can use Domino for your web application and don't bother about SQL or if you can't live without SQL let DECS and LEI do the heavy lifting instead of "cleanscrubbing" your strings yourself.

Posted by on 01 November 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes