Ben Langhinrichs

August, 2009
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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.


Mon 31 Aug 2009, 04:08 PM
Teenagers will never cease to amaze me.  We live about an eight minute walk from the local high school, and I spent four years with my older son, trying to get him up in time to get to school, usually failing, and often driving him the two blocks.  While my younger son is a bit more willing to wake up, he is still a teenager ('nuff said).  He just started high school, and I have been holding my breath a bit to see how it goes.

But today, he got up an hour early, and will do so every day all year long.  Why?  Because then he can take Greek during "zero period", which is what they call the time before school.  He is doing this because he is also taking Latin and doesn't want to give it up, so he doesn't have enough slots in the day to take all his classes.  (Of course, only our school system would have a teacher insane enough to teach Greek, Ancient Greek at that, before school as well as during school)

I can tell that high school will be a different experience with this son.  I am very excited to not have to drive to the high school so often.  Of course, since I always get up with my kids, this also means I will be getting up an hour earlier as well.

Teenagers!

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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Mon 31 Aug 2009, 12:02 PM
Yancy Lent announced today the grand opening of Lotus Journal, a peer review journal for articles about Lotus software and related topics.  For those who don't know what "peer review" implies, it means that rather than reading various articles and trying to decide whether the author knows what he or she is talking about, a group of eminent Lotus bloggers help you to decide.  While I have some ideas for enhancements to make this even better (and will send them to Yancy directly), I think this is a great way to put together articles that is vetted by experts so that you can have increased confidence in the content.  Scholarly journals have used the concept of peer review for many years, and it is an excellent idea to bring to the Lotus software arena.

And it's all free (as in beer, or milk shakes if you are really lucky).  No charge content that has been approved by some of the industry's experts (well, and me).

Another great idea from Yancy Lent!

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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Mon 31 Aug 2009, 11:41 AM
As part of my testing for Notes 8.5.1 (Managed Beta 8 Refresh), I am simply re-doing earlier posts on rendering with the Notes/Domino 8.5.1 beta to see if it has has improved matters.  My original post actually used the beta of Notes 8.5, but there were no changes in the HTML between the beta and Notes 8.5.0.  There are slight differences between the HTML for Notes 8.5.0 and Notes 8.5.1 (Managed Beta 8 Refresh), but they do not change the appearance.  To see those minor changes, look at the very bottom of this post.



In Part 1 of this series, I showed how IBM's rendering of MIME messages could lead your customers to think you were still running Notes R5, and how iFidelity, which is in beta right now, would allow you to send out mail that looks like it does in the Notes client rather than the way it did in 2001.  In this part, I show a parallel rendering done when Notes data is displayed on the web.

In his insightful book, Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell describes how the human mind can analyze a great deal of data in an instant and come to a conclusion that might be hard to enumerate, but is nonetheless correct.  In one study, people looking at a 10 second clip without sound of various professors teaching could describe their teaching style, effectiveness and ability to maintain control.  Their snapshot evaluations matched those of students who had taken a course with that professor for an entire semester.

Similarly, when a person sees a webpage, that person makes an almost instantaneous judgment about the website.  When a person evaluating Notes sees a webpage rendered by Domino, they make a judgment about whether Notes is right for their organization.  It doesn't really matter that a good web developer could set stylesheets that would fix a number of the rendering issues, or that a website could choose to avoid rich text rendering entirely.  The snap judgment is made, and is the source of many of the negative comments about Domino as a web platform or Notes in general.

With that in mind, let's look at a table sent to me by a customer (with sanitized data) and see the rendering experience that might lead to that instantaneous judgment.  To be perfectly clear, the table was sent because it was rendering badly in CoexEdit.  All software has defects, but what matters is how you deal with them.  We fixed the defects in a matter of days, and sent a fix back to the customer.  The most serious defect shown below was there in both Notes/Domino 8.0.0 and Notes/Domino 8.0.1, and has been fixed in 8.0.2, a full year where this bug was evident, and longer for the many customers still on 8.0.1.  In addition, many of the other rendering issues shown below have been issues for at least the past five years, and a few have gotten worse in the Notes/Domino 8.5 beta 8.5.1 (Beta 8) than they were in 8.0.1.


1) Notes 8.0.1 (looks the same in Notes 8.5 beta 8.5.1 (Beta 8) as you might expect)


Table in Notes 8.0.1 client


2) Rendered by Domino 8.0.1 and shown in Internet Explorer 7  (the missing "Owner Occupied" and overwritten lines are a rendering bug in 8.0.0/8.0.1)

*** Content removed as not relevant to this post.  Go back to original if you want to see the garbled look of 8.0.1


3) Rendered by Domino 8.0.1 and shown in Firefox 3  (the garbled cells on the right are a rendering bug in 8.0.0/8.0.1)

*** Content removed as not relevant to this post.  Go back to original if you want to see the garbled look of 8.0.1


4) Rendered in Domino 8.5 beta 8.5.1 (Beta 8) and shown in Internet Explorer 7 with annotations of a few of the rendering issues (I actually left the same image, as it looks the same)


Rendered by 8.5 beta and shown with Internet Explorer 7

Some of these issues could be fixed easily with a stylesheet.  Others are very difficult to fix without hardcoding HTML.  All should be fairly easily fixable by IBM, one would think.


5) Rendered by CoexEdit 2.1c on Domino 8.0.1 and shown in Internet Explorer 7


Rendered by CoexEdit 2.1c and shown with Internet Explorer 7


No, don't analyze it.  Just glance at it and the annotated one above.  Which do you want your customers to see?  Which do you want prospective Notes/Domino people to see?  If a moment's glance doesn't do it, my case isn't made.


And for those of you reading down to here and wondering what changed in the HTML for Domino 8.5.1 (Beta 8), it is the order of the HTML parameters.  For example, in Domino 8.5.0, you get:  

<TD width="80%" bgColor=#efefef colSpan=4 rowSpan=2>

while in Domino 8.5.1 (Beta 8), you get:

<TD bgColor=#efefef rowSpan=2 width="80%" colSpan=4>

I have no idea what the meaning or significance of that change is, but it has no effect on the appearance, as the order of HTML parameters is officially not significant.

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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Fri 28 Aug 2009, 10:38 AM
If there is one thing that switching constantly between Notes client releases and Designer releases does, it is to give you an appreciation of the IBM development team working on these products.  While it is wildly annoying using Designer 8.5 due to the speed issues, it is also apparent just how complex the task of integrating in Eclipse was.  Switching to Designer 8.5.1 (beta) is wonderful, as it feels incredibly fast, and the effort involved deserves a huge round of applause.  Adding new functionality at the cost of performance is one thing, but then keeping that functionality, and adding new functionality, and squeezing out the amazing performance gains that have been demonstrated - that is huge.  Performance tuning isn't very sexy work, but it is essential to real users, and can make or break a product, and the IBM developers involved deserve a ton of credit.

Bravo!

(Yeah, it's a beta, but no way, no how, are they making it slower again for the gold release - I have confidence)

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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Thu 27 Aug 2009, 11:06 PM
<snarkasm>
This isn't kind, but in some ways it is deserved.  In September 2004, IBM released Lotus Notes 6.5.3.  Five years later, IBM is on the verge of introducing 8.5.1.  Let's take a quick peak at what those five years of labor have produced in the way of email fidelity.  Instead of looking at more nasty images, let's look at a bit of HTML, specifically that generated when sending the two tables shown in my post earlier today, All your base are belong to 8.5.1: MIME rendering.  To help you understand the change wrought in five years (encompassing major Version 7, major Version 8, major Version 8.5 and now Version 8.5.1 beta 8), I have highlighted the change with a red arrow:


HTML generated by Lotus Notes Version 8.5.1 Beta 8 (circa Aug. 2009)


Output in 2009



HTML generated by Lotus Notes Version 6.5.3 (circa Sept. 2004) with arrow highlighting the break that was removed


Output in 2004


Yup, a single break was removed.  What will the next three major versions and five years bring?  Only time will tell.
</snarkasm>

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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Thu 27 Aug 2009, 04:52 PM
As part of my testing for Notes 8.5.1 (Managed Beta 8 Refresh), I am simply re-doing earlier posts on email rendering with the Notes 8.5.1 beta to see if it has has improved matters.  My original post actually used the beta of Notes 8.5, so one might expect some improvement. since then.  Ironically, it looks worse, but this is Gmail's fault.


Translation can be funny, as when a Japanese game producer included the immortal words "All your base are belong to us!" as a translation of something that made much more sense in Japanese (I hope).  Translation, or any data conversion, is far less funny when it makes you look bad.  With Notes/Domino 8.5 due out in the not too distant future, I want to show a few different examples of how Notes/Domino 8.5 (beta) still translates poorly when sent outside to your customers and friends.

Part 1: Formatted e-mails sent to the Internet

It will come as no surprise that e-mail sent from Notes does not look the same as e-mail sent from other e-mail systems.  IBM is bashed about this all the time, and has been for a decade.  The really surprising thing is that so little improvement has been made in the past several major versions of Notes/Domino.  Let me show you an example that came directly from a customer to me several years ago.  The text has been made generic, of course, but the table has otherwise been left alone.

1) E-mail as it appears in Notes 8.5 (beta) 8.5.1 (beta refresh 8)


Original email in Notes 8.5.1 (Beta #8)


2) E-mail in GMail after being converted to MIME by Notes 8.5 (beta) 8.5.1 (beta refresh 8)


E-mail in Gmail after rendering by Notes 8.5.1 (Beta 8)


2a) & 3) Skipped steps that were redundant for this example


4) E-mail in GMail after being converted to MIME by iFidelity





5) For comparison, here are just the tables from Notes.  Compare with the tables from iFidelity above, and see how all annotated issues are addressed.


Original Tables


Conclusion: Notes 8.5 (beta) 8.5.1 (beta refresh 8) does little better at sending e-mail with full fidelity than it did in Notes R5.  iFidelity will allow your mail to go out looking the way you created it, not as translated by Japanese video artists might translate it.

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

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