Ben Langhinrichs

April, 2006
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Thu 27 Apr 2006, 11:41 PM
Show and tell ThursdayThis came up as a request from the IBM Business Partner forum, but I thought I'd share it.  Alan Lepofsky asked:
After working with Notes at IBM for over a decade, I have several hundred DB icons on my Workspace.   I'd say I only use a dozen or so on a daily basis.

I'd like to dramatically clean up my Workspace, remove icons, even remove entire pages.   However, I know the day I do it is going to be the day I need "that link I was sent a few years ago about X".

I'm thinking an agent could scans all the tabs, and creates a document (or email) with links to all my DBs.   I can then save that document as a backup.


So, here goes.  This tip requires use of our Midas Rich Text LSX, but if you happen to already have it (a heck of a lot of people do, and probably a fairly high percentage of my readers, but if you don't, why not?):

Option Public
Option Declare
Uselsx "*lsxrtc"

Sub Initialize
   Dim session As New NotesSession
   Dim db As NotesDatabase
   Dim doc As NotesDocument
   Dim currentdb As NotesDatabase
   Dim newdoc As NotesDocument
   Dim view As NotesView
   
   Dim rtitem As New GeniiRTItem
   Dim new_rtitem As New GeniiRTItem
   
   Dim count As Integer
   
   Set currentdb = session.CurrentDatabase
   Set newdoc = New NotesDocument(currentdb)
   newdoc.Form = "Example Form"
   newdoc.Subject = "Bookmarks"
   Call new_rtitem.CreateBackend(newdoc.Handle, "Body")
   
   Set db = New NotesDatabase("", "")
   Call db.Open("", "bookmark.nsf")
   Set view = db.GetView("(All Bookmarks)")
   
   Set doc = view.GetFirstDocument
   count = 0
   While Not (doc Is Nothing)
      count = count + 1
      Call rtitem.ConnectBackend(doc.Handle, "URL")
      If rtitem.Everything.LinkReplicaID <> "" Then
         Print doc.Title(0)+":"+rtitem.Everything.LinkReplicaID
         Call new_rtitem.Everything.AppendLink(doc.Title(0), rtitem.Everything.LinkReplicaID)
         If count Mod=Then
            Call new_rtitem.Everything.AppendNewlines(0, True)
         Else
            Call new_rtitem.Everything.AppendNewlines(1, False)
         End If
      Else
         Print doc.Title(0)+":undefined"
      End If
      Set doc = view.GetNextDocument(doc)
   Wend
   Call new_rtitem.Save
End Sub

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Tue 25 Apr 2006, 12:01 PM
Alas, you have to feel sympathy for Wild Bill's mum.  While I am sure he is a good lad in his own way, he does tend a bit toward the... risqué.  On one recent occasion, his mother had finally had enough, and, as Wild Bill described it on his weblog, commanded:
Stop using four-letter words!
Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting Bill's mother, I have had the pleasure of spending a good bit of time with Wild Bill... and I feel a bit sorry for her.

So, here's my idea, inspired by the comments to Wild Bill's post.  Let's have a wee poetry competition, where we come up with poetry of any description that we can send to Wild Bill's mother to prove that, even if Wild Bill himself is incapable of doing without four letter words, his friends are more couth.

Here are some rules/guidelines:

1) No four letter words.  Five or three letter words are fine.  Contractions such as "don't" are still four letters.

2) Use whatever poetic form suits you, from Haiku to Sonnets.

3) Extra points for risqué language and double entendres.  After all, she said no four letter words, but she is Wild Bill's mother, so she would probably enjoy slightly off color humor.

I'll start off with the two entries I added to Bill's blog, but I hope to come up with more later.  Maybe we could send these to Bill's mother for Mother's Day (if they celebrate such things over there).

There was a young fellow named Billy
Who would wildly chase every filly
Shouting words so obscene
His mother did scream
"Please desist!" - you're sounding quite silly


I think I've never heard a speech
so uncouth as one replete
w' cussing (usually in a screech)
and words I would not oft repeat.


By the way, it is fine to post over on Bill's blog, as Rich and Jess have already.  Either way works for me.

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Tue 25 Apr 2006, 08:41 AM
This viral ad is silly, but fun.  There are others that are fun as well, although I should warn you that this is a time consuming way to start your day.

Via Mike Smith of the Turtle Partnership.

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Mon 24 Apr 2006, 09:39 AM
Not that I care deeply about these things, but my Technorati rating is in the top two tenths of a percent.  Gives you the feeling there are a lot of dead blogs out there.

GeniiBlog technorati rating

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

Mon 24 Apr 2006, 08:59 AM
Is it just me, or does this look photoshopped?  I can't imagine why it would be, but it looks wrong.  The white doesn't seem to match the rest of the photo at all.
Osama Bin Laden

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

Sun 23 Apr 2006, 08:29 PM
Show and Tell Thursday (any day)I have decided that expecting myself to actually post Show 'N Tell Thursday posts on Thursdays could lead to my not fixing bugs in a timely manner (see #10 below when you get to it), and so have decided to ignore the day of the week and simply post when and how I like, but I'll still use the graphic because it looks cool and isn't animated or noisy and doesn't spread kitty litter all over the place.

Oh yes, and I may update this post a few times to try to make it a bit more coherent.  If you don't like bloggers who edit their posts, you may want to avert your eyes for a few days and come back then.











Why bugs don't get fixed

It is a common question asked on the various forums I read, "Why hasn't [fill in the blank] bug gotten fixed, even though it has been around forever?" and since the forums are Lotus Notes forums, the questions tend to be about Lotus Notes bugs.  The funny thing is, if you hang around on Exchange forums, you hear the same questions, and the same with Oracle forums and pretty much anywhere else, including open source forums where the obvious answer is "because you didn't get off your lazy bum and fix it".

But in most of these cases, the software is not open source, and the lazy bums are perceived to belong to IBM... or Microsoft... or [name of software company].  But despite the frequency of the questions, many people seem genuinely mystified about why these bugs don't get fixed.  I am not expert, but I am in charge of fixing bugs myself (as well as responsible for inserting them, I'm afraid), so I thought I'd tackle the question head on and at least provide some perspective.

First though, I should dispel a couple of myths.

Myth 1) If you want a bug fixed, you should provide a business rationale.

While this may be true on rare occasions, it is often simply a delaying tactic.  If you want a new feature, a business rationale may be warranted, and even helpful, but presumably the features that are broken have already been justified.  Besides, very few people say "I'd buy Software X if that one bug were fixed".  Some people may stop using the software due to a specific bug, but even that is relatively rare (for a clear example, see Windows).

Myth 2) Once a bug is reported, it will be fixed as soon as the software company gets finished with the bugs reported prior to that - the FIFO theory.

This is manifestly untrue.  All software has bugs, and the more complex and important the software, the more bugs it will have.  Those who use Lotus Notes may not want to hear it, but it is true.  Therefore, software bug resolution is almost always a triage system.  "What is the most important bug in my area?" may be asked, but little consideration is given to "Which bug was reported first?"  This is actually a good thing, because otherwise the software developers would be busy fixing bugs that might effect just one or two users, or even chasing phantom bugs, while really important show stopper bugs were being ignored.  This is the same reason emergency rooms don't operate on a FIFO system, which may irritate you when you are waiting four hours for a broken leg to be set, but may relieve you greatly when you go in with a heart attack.

So, having put the myths aside, why don't bugs get fixed?  I have listed a few reasons in no particular order.

1) Bugs don't exist in isolation.  They exist only when they effect someone and are reported.

This is important to remember.  A bug may be found in software that has been around for years, but that does not mean the bug has existed in the software for years.  It means that a weakness has opened up.  If this seems untrue, consider a software package that works well for all its users.  All of a sudden, another software package starts conflicting with the first, but not in a way that can be blamed on the second piece of software.  The software that has been working so well starts to crash.  It shouldn't crash, and it even has a clear bug, but it wasn't a bug until the second software package came along.

Even more common is the bug that is not reported.  Like the tree that falls in a forest when nobody is around, the bug that is not reported won't be fixed.  For the software developers, it simply doesn't exist.  Of course, they might run into the bug themselves and report it, but until then it doesn't exist.  If there is a bug that has been bothering you for years, but which you have never reported, consider the possibility that nobody else has either.  It may be hard to believe, but I have watched major bugs reported to IBM months or even years after they were first noticed.  Once they were reported, they were fixed.  And no, reporting it to your mates down at the pub doesn't really count, unless you habitually share a pub with the software developers themselves.

2) A bug may seem easy to fix, but the bottom card of a house of cards may be easy to place but hard to remove.

It is not uncommon to see a bug that should be easy, easy , easy to fix, if only you could spend ten minutes with the source code.  What may be hard to see is that the bug may be in some very fragile code with comments that say "Don't touch on pain of extreme death" and with the original developers now working somewhere else.  It may be that the fix looks incredibly simple and tempting, but better judgement says "Fixing that will break a dozen other things, but I don't know which dozen other things."

3) The bug may not be in software that is "owned" by anybody.

This is one that many people outside the software industry may not quite understand, but it is critical.  Software developers have their areas of interest, their areas of expertise, and their areas of responsibility.  (Sadly, these may not always coincide, but that is a matter for a separate post)  Just as a carpenter won't want to fix your electrical problem, and a plumber may not want to paint your walls, a bug may not have a person assigned to fix it.  There are a number of areas on Lotus Notes that have fallen victim to this over time, including the rich text classes, MIME rendering, the formula language, etc.  When somebody is assigned, they may go after and fix a bunch of long standing bugs in that area, but you don't have much control over when that might happen.

4) It matter who reports the bug.

Somehow, bugs that get reported by General Motors seem to have a bit more weight than those reported by Mike Micro-ISV.  I think most people understand this one.

5) It matters to whom the bug is reported.

This is a bit less obvious.  Sadly, going through appropriate channels doesn't always work.  I have had bugs that have bothered me immensely reported (not by me because I didn't have authorization) to IBM support to no avail, but when I have found the right person at Lotusphere and showed the problems directly, they magically got fixed in the next release.  This does not mean the bugs shouldn't get reported through the proper channels (see #1).  It doesn't even mean that you can get hold of the right person.  It just explains why some bugs get fixed rapidly, just based on who hears about them.  A classic case came recently in the Business Partner forum, where a developer who participates said:
I re-opened [SPR X] ...and assigned it to myself to fix it (not that I need more work than I already have, but I want to see this fixed myself, so I'm just gonna do it ;-)


6) The bug may not be reproducible.

This is critically important, so I put it right in the middle.  If the developer can't reliably reproduce the problem, it becomes very, very hard to fix.  If it can't be reproduced at all, it almost certainly won't be fixed, no matter how earnestly you insist that it is a problem.  The problem may be specific to your machine, it may be specific to your odd combination of software and hardware, or it may be user error, hard as that may be to believe.  No matter what the issue, if it can't be reproduced by the developer, it usually won't get fixed.

7) The bug may have been fixed already.

I know it sounds incredible, but a number of times I have had people complain about a bug that has been fixed already, but they have not, or cannot, upgrade to take advantage of the fix.  While it is frustrating for them, it is even more so for the developers who have to hear the complaints even though they have actually fixed the bug.

8) The bug may not be considered a bug.

Sometimes, you think it should operate one way, and the developer thinks it should operate another, and there is no independent judge to back you up.  Unless you work for General Motors (see #4), the "bug" may remain.

9) The bug may not matter to anybody else.

This is related a bit to #4 and #5, but it is a frequent reason why bugs don't get fixed.  Yup, nobody cares.  I can relate to this one directly with two related problems that bother me greatly.  At Heinen's Supermarkets, where I shop regularly, the register receipt spells "Cheerios" incorrectly as "Cherrios".  It has done this for the past TEN YEARS, even though I have complained occasionally (because of #1).  It seems unlikely that this would be related to #2.  It could possibly be related to #3.  I am a frequent shopper, so it is unlikely an issue of #4, but perhaps I flatter myself.  Similarly, the BP gas station near our house happens to have a carwash, and an incredibly irritating message that flashes over and over saying "Cawash code good for thirty days".  There is plenty of room for the word "Carwash", but it was mistyped a number of years ago.  Again, I have complained to no avail.

The problem, I have decided, is that nobody else is bored or picky enough to care.  They know they bought Cheerios, not Cherrios.  They know they paid for a Carwash and not a Cawash, so they simply don't care.  And because nobody really cares, I will probably be fuming about these two bugs for the next decade.

And finally...

10) The developer may be busy updating his or her blog and simply not feel like fixing have time to fix your bug.

Lest that be me, I will go now and work on a few long standing bugs.  Sigh!

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Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.