Ben Langhinrichs

February, 2004
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Thu 26 Feb 2004, 01:00 AM
In reading Rocky's recent monster blog thread, I was struck by a technical observation totally separate from the content of the thread.  Why do we, as Domino developers using Domino templates, put up with the single response hierarchy?  Imagine how much more easily one could follow the comments and responses with a hierarchy, just like any Domino discussion would have.

Almost all of the Domino bloggers use a standard Domino blog template, such as Blogsphere from OpenNTF, so it is not because we don't control the technology.  Blogsphere is open source, as are most of the Domino blog templates, and we are all very familiar with hierarchical response threads, yet nobody is jumping in to add this to Blogsphere.  A few Domino bloggers, such as Richard and Andrew, actually use hierarchical response threads, but they are using home grown templates not available to the rest of us.  Maybe this isn't much of an issue because most response threads are short in the Domino blogging world, but I would think at least Rocky would have some incentive.

How about it?  Anybody going to add this to one of the freely available Domino templates?  Who can get it in first?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 25 Feb 2004, 10:07 AM
I'll write this up as a position paper, but I just had to get it off my chest...

When people evaluate CoexLinks, they often ask the question, "Why can't we just use the Exchange Connector?  It does the same thing."

There are three answers, and I am never sure which to give first.  Here are the three answers, and you tell me which is most compelling:

Exchange Connector is Not Supported
This may seem a pretty blanket assertion, but the following three Microsoft technotes pretty much describe the story:

XFOR: Exchange 5.5 SP2 Notes Connector Does Not Currently Support Lotus Notes R5 Server (documents the lack of support for  Exchange 5.5 SP2, the most common configuration of Exchange 5.5. and Notes/Domino R5.x)

XCON: Microsoft Support Policy for Exchange Server Coexistence with and Migration from Lotus Notes/Domino 6.x  (documents the lack of support for  Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 with Notes/Domino R6.x)

XFOR: Lotus Notes Client Versions That Are Tested with the Exchange Notes Connector (documents that even in an unsupported, use at your own risk configuration, the last version of Notes they even tried out was Notes 5.0.10.  Since ND6 isn't supported at all as described above, this is not likely to change.)

Exchange Connector is Architecturally Weak Solution
This is also a fairly broad assertion, but it is not one Microsoft would likely argue with.  They built the Exchange Connector as a way to bridge the gap while people moved to Exchange.  Since few people are moving that way these days, they have abandoned the effort.  In any case, here are just a few of the myriad design problems:

1) Requires an R4 client running on an Exchange server.  The Exchange Connector requires an R4 client, yup R4 (see this technote and search for "4.62") running on the Exchange server.  So, an unsupported version of Notes running as client software on a server is the basis for this product.  There are many by-products of this poor design, not the least is this technote:

XFOR: Exchange Notes Connector Does Not Send HTML (documents the issue that if any user has their mail set to go out as MIME, the e-mails will simply be discarded, which is not surprising, since R4 didn't support MIME in messages)

2) Single point of failure.  The Exchange Connector must be set up so that all mail travels through one connector on a single Exchange server.  There is no provision for load balancing, different routing based on MIME e-mails, or anything else that would allow a larger organization, or a smaller one with diverse needs, to split up the mail.  If the rickety Exchange 5.5 server (only version supported) fails, all your mail routing stops.

3) Too many links in on document cause crashes .  The Exchange Connector must be set up so that all mail travels through one connector on a single Exchange server.  There is no provision for load balancing, different routing based on MIME e-mails, or anything else that would allow a larger organization, or a smaller one with diverse needs, to split up the mail.  If the rickety Exchange 5.5 server (only version supported) fails, all your mail routing stops.

Besides this, take a look at Microsoft technotes documenting many other issues: 253712245569181742253029, etc.

Exchange Connector Provides Very Little Flexibility Compared to CoexLinks
The Exchange Connector solves, or tries rather badly to solve, I should say, one problem in one way.  When it works correctly, it replaces doclinks with NDL attachments.  It does not accurately mark where the original link was, so if there were multiple links, a person may click on the wrong NDL link.  It does not provide disclaimer support so that recipients may not know why there is an indication that there is a link, but there is only an attachment.  It does not provide the ability to create Notes URL links.  It does not provide the ability to create Web URL links in case the Notes client is not available and a web interface has been added.  It does not allow limitation of the number of attachments for mail systems that limit attachments.

I could go on and on, but I'll save it for the white paper.  Let me know if you want to see more, and I'll happily provide an early copy before it is posted.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Tue 24 Feb 2004, 09:39 PM
I try not to be overtly political in this weblog, unlike Rocky in his recent post.  This post dances closer to the edge than usual, but it is still mostly about Notes/Domino and IT, even if it doesn't start that way.  That said...

When U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige called the largest teacher's union in the U.S. a "terrorist organization", his hyperbole raised an uproar.  Unfortunately, I am not sure that the many offended teachers (and relatives of teachers, since my mom was a teacher for many years) focused on the right issue.  What Mr. Paige said is appalling in an Education Secretary, but it shows a dangerous tendency that those in the current administration would do well to nip in the bud.  That is the tendency to label anyone opposed to you as "evil".  Now, it is natural to disagree.  I should know, as I am a Unitarian Universalist, and it is said that every group of five UUs has at least six conflicting opinions.  But disagreement is one thing, and labelling anyone who disagrees with you as inherently evil, immoral, or even stupid, represents a serious degradation of our civic discourse.  Actually, some of the responses on both sides to Rocky's post demonstrate this.

When Mr. Paige referred to the National Education Association as a "terrorist organization", he was wading deep into dangerous waters.  If the current administration starts taking advantage of the current "war on terror" to label opponents, or even those who shouldn't be opponents but have a certain disagreement with you, demagoguery is not far behind.  Many a dictator has slipped down that slippery slope, and I don't think that anyone in the U.S. from either party really wants the U.S. to go in that direction.  After all, when the South Africans are lecturing us on civil rights, we should know we have to watch our step.

"Whoa!", you may well say.  "I thought we were going to steer clear of politics.  What place does this have in a technology forum?"

OK, I'll tell you.  Ron Paige is not the only one straying over the edge.  I have in recent months read of jubilation over the security woes at Microsoft.  I have read fierce debates over whether J2EE or .NET was the "true path".  I have heard Linux and the Open Source movement accused of destroying intellectual property.  I have been accused of drinking the "IBM koolaid" for believing IBM when they say they will continue to add value to Notes/Domino.  All of these seem to me to be doing a bit of wading in dangerous waters as well.  Much of the world still runs on Microsoft platforms, and it is bad for all of us when those foundations are shaken by destructive viruses.  J2EE and .NET are two plausible directions, both with a fair amount of support and good arguments for their use, and they are still only two of many possible directions.  Linux and the Open Source movement are powerful forces for diversity in IT, which will serve everyone well, including Microsoft (the last really great innovations Microsoft made in Windows were due to competition with OS/2, and they sorely need a bit of competition).  IBM has demonstrated good faith in talking publicly about not just one, but two major upgrades to Notes/Domino, and occasionally we could actually believe them.

So, while we are right to jump on the Education Secretary for his deplorable characterization and contempt for a large group of dedicated professionals, let us not be too quick to gloat.  It is all too easy to see those on the other side of any issue as "evil".  I am certainly guilty of it myself all too frequently.  Let's remember that those involved in the "red scares" of the 1950's were genuinely scared, and were generally scaring themselves by convincing themselves of the inherent evil of the "other".  Whether the topic is social or political or technological, let's try to keep the discourse civil and skip the perilous view of our opponents as "enemies".

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Tue 24 Feb 2004, 07:57 AM
When developing applications for the web, I am well aware that there are cross platform issues.  There are more issues that I care to think about just between IE 5.5 and IE 6.0, which blows my mind.  Given that, I took a look at visitors to my site in the past 28 days, and the following statistics stand out (these all have at least one hit):
Browser
1.Explorer 6.x69.1 %
2.Explorer 5.x14.6 %
3.Mozilla 1.x9.9 %
4.Netscape 3.x3.1 %
5.Opera 7.x1.4 %
6.Netscape 7.x0.6 %
7.Safari 1.x0.5 %
8.Netscape 4.x0.5 %
9.Opera 6.x0.1 %
10.AvantGo 5.x0.0 %
11.Konqueror 3.x0.0 %
12.Lotus-Notes 5.x0.0 %
13.Mozilla 0.x0.0 %
14.Lotus-Notes 6.x0.0 %
15.MS FrontPage 4.x0.0 %
16.BorderManager 3.x0.0 %
17.Netscape 6.x0.0 %
18.iCab 2.x0.0 %
19.Windows 9.x0.0 %
20.Unknown0.0 %
21.WebTrafficExpress 1.x0.0 %


Now, I don't even know which browsers are which, in some cases.  That Lotus-Notes 6.x I can identify, but Windows 9.x? MS FrontPage 4.x has its own browser?  Netscape 3.x/4.x/6.x/7.x?  iCab 2.x?So, which of these are brand new cutting edge browsers, and which are antiquated, time to upgrade browsers?  Which support CSS in all its glory, and which are lucky to support tables?  It would be easy to dismiss all but the top three, but what is the "Firefox" everyone is talking about?  Is that Mozilla 1.x or Netscape 3.x?

Beyond what I see on my site, which of these do I need to test to responsibly declare that an application is cross browser compatible?  Do I have to test just the top two, three, four?  Is there a simpler chart that says these fall into four or five basic categories using the same engines?  Why is it all so complicated out there in the world of standards?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Mon 23 Feb 2004, 09:36 PM
I am working on a demo, and wondering what is the best way to call a formula or formula agent on the web.  There seem to be a few ways.  You can call a LotusScript agent and use it to call evaluate.  You can put the formula in a computed text and display the computed text.  You can create a formula button and compute and trigger the DoClick. You might even be able to call a formula agent directly with a URL.

But which is best?  Are any of them workable, or do they all have problems?  Any thoughts?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Sat 21 Feb 2004, 08:02 PM
I am greatly looking forward to the Admin & Developer 2004 conference in Munich, March 1 & 2.  I hope to see some of you there, and would be happy to meet any customers in the area.  One of the odd things about this business is that I often don't really know what region of a country, or sometimes even what country, customers are from.  Licenses are paid by credit card or wire transfer, and licenses sent by e-mail, so telephone numbers are often the only clue I have.  So show up and surprise me!

In any case, this promises to be an exciting conference.  Prof. Dr. Ludwig Nastansky and Bill Hume of IBM are keynote speakers, and there are lots of sessions for both administrators and developers.  Andrew Pollack is talking about the Administration Client, which was a wild hit at Lotusphere, with multiple overflow rooms and a repeat session.  Rocky Oliver is doing his extremely popular Extreme LotusScript session and a new session, I think, about rediscovering the power of formula language, a favorite topic of his and mine.  There are sessions in both English and German, and I think that many in Europe would find it worthwhile even if they don't live that close to Munich.  I don't think you'll find a better Domino conference, or a better combination of administration and developer topics outside of Lotusphere, and you don't have to travel all the way over the ocean.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.