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

By Date: March 2013

Round-Trip editing experience in web browsers

Our applications are increasingly moving to http(s) based interfaces, that is HTML(5) or apps. Besides the irony, that we abandon client applications on desktops to reintroduce them on mobile devices (is ObjectiveC the VB of the 21st century?), that's a good thing
However from time to time, unless you live in the cloud, we need to integrate into extisting standing desktop applications, mostly but not limited to Office applications. The emerging standard for this is clearly CMIS. Most office packages do support CMIS in one way or the other today. However it does not integrate into file managers like Finder, Explorer or Nautilus (at least not to my best knowledge at time of writing). One could sidestep that shortcoming by using CmisSync, but that only works as long as you have enough local storage and corporate security lets you do so.
Another challenge to sort out: once applications that "surround" Office documents are all HTML based, one should be able to commence editing directly from clicking something in the web based business application. So the criteria are:
  1. Ability to interact with documents using File-Open in applications (ironically the ODMA standard got that working more than 15 years ago, but died due to vendor negligence)
  2. Ability to interact with documents using the default file navigator (Finder, Nautilus, Explorer, mobile devices)
  3. Ability to have a full roundtrip editing experience in the browser. A user clicks on a button or link (or icon), the document opens, editing commences. When hitting the save button the original document is updated, so when someone else clicks on that link the latest updates can be seen there
Once you want to support non-Windows platforms (and work in multiple browsers) ActiveX (the approach Microsoft choose) is ruled out. Enter webDAV. It covers #1 and #2, with some difficulties to a point that the commercial package for webDAV on IBM platforms (Connections, Domino, Quickr) doesn't support Explorer on Windows 7, a flaw it coincidentally shares with a much older package, but not with the current project.
The challenge for #3: Whenever a browser encounters an URL with http(s) it will try to handle that target. If the mime type is not directly handled by the browser it will trigger the download of the file and hand it over to the application (with or without a dialog, depending on your settings). When the user then interacts with that document, it is the downloaded version in a temp directory. Changes are not send back!
On the other hand: if a user opens a file directly in the office application by selecting a webfolder, a mounted file system or directly specifying the URL, then roundtrip editing happens since the office applications check the URL for webDAV capabilities (I had some fun with Apache's TCPMon figuring that out).
The solution for this puzzle is to use a different protocol. Protocols are simply indicators for the operating system what application is in charge. The commonly known are http(s), ftp, ssh, mailto (and gopher for the old generation), but also notes or sap (and others).
For my approach I used webdav(s) as protocol name. On Windows protocols live in the registry, on other operating system in configuration files.
Once configured correctly a little helper application would pick up the webdav(s) URL from the browser, check for the default application and launch it with the URL converted to http(s) on the command line - and voila roundtrip editing happens (check out the project).
Of course some stuff needs handling: the office application doesn't share credentials with the browser, so SSO or other means need to be in place to ensure smooth user experience. Also MS-Office not only probes for webDAV capability of that URL, but also if that server behaves like SharePoint by probing an extra URL (some enlightenment what it is looking for would be nice).
On Linux (and probably OS/X) one doesn't need a C++ program to figure out the right application, a shell script does the trick.

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Posted by on 28 March 2013 | Comments (0) | categories: Linux Software

System Administrator's Mantra

All that can be automated is inherently boring
All that is inherently boring will slip my attention
All that slips my attention will lead to trouble
Sooner or later the trouble will catch with me
I therefore vow to fight the beast of boredom
With skills and scripts and automation
To spend time with and for what really matters

You, my user!

Posted by on 28 March 2013 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

We love Java and JavaScript

But there are the other too...

Comment from Oliver:" That's not originally mine. I never made a cartoon about LotusScript. I guess it originally was about VBA (or the like). Someone had forked the original cartoon. Why not ;) "

Posted by on 13 March 2013 | Comments (1) | categories: XPages

Commuting experiment

I live in the north of Singapore, the IBM office is in the east. Getting there either takes time or costs quite some money.
  Bus/MRT via Airport
(to office)
(from office)
(to office)
  1. Walk to the bus stop: 2 min
  2. Wait for the bus: 7min (could be anything from 0-15)
  3. Take SBS 858 to Changi Airport T3: 32min
  4. Walk to Airport SMRT station: 2min
  5. Wait for the MRT to depart: 10min (can be 0-15 min)
  6. One stop to EXPO: 5min
  7. Walk to the office: 5min
  1. Walk to MRT: 5min
  2. Wait for MRT: 2min (could be anything from 0-15)
  3. MRT to Tanah Merah interchange: 5min (it had to wait a little)
  4. Wait for EW line: 3min (could be anything from 0-10)
  5. Ride on EW line to Paya Lebar 9min
  6. Walk to Circle line: 3min (less if not crowded)
  7. Wait for MRT: 1min (could be anything from 0-10)
  8. Ride on Circle line to Bishan: 14min
  9. Walk to NE line: 2min
  10. Wait for MRT: 3min (could be anything from 0-10)
  11. Ride on NS line to Khatib: 12min
  12. Walk home: 5min
  1. Call a cab: 5min (anything from 2-45)
  2. Ride to office: 24min
Total duration 63 min (46-86) 64 min (55-100) 24 min (excluding call time)
Cost S$ 2.72 S$ 1.86 S$ 19.00
Remarks Bus was not too full, got a seat. Catch up on Social reading. Standing all the way During rush hours 25% extra!

Posted by on 01 March 2013 | Comments (2) | categories: Singapore