Sunday, October 21, 2007

Firefox can cause add-ons (extensions) to stop working

Here's another one of my occasional posts aiming to hopefully reduce other peoples' angst ...

I was happily working away with Firefox version the other day (October 20th), when out of the blue a dialog box popped up informing me that version had been installed and would come into effect next time that I started the browser.

That seemed innocuous enough. I'd seen the update message a number of times before and had no issues with the newly-installed version. But this time, things were different!

When I restarted under version I went looking for tabs at the bottom of the screen -- put there as an option of the nice Tab Mix Plus add-on (extension) -- and was surprised not to find any tabs down there. Then I looked to the top, and this is where the tabs now were to be found (without any directive from me).

Thinking this must have been a minor perturbation, I tried to open the Tab Mix Plus control panel but it was nowhere to be found, nor were any of the controls for various other add-ons that I use. So I opened the add-on manager window, and found that all the add-ons were there but in a strange state, as shown in the first image.

I've started a discussion about it at this posting on ITWire and looking at this page you'll see that some people have no problems with the upgrade while others have the same problem that I encountered. Who knows why, it seems random!

Strangely, the following suggested fix that worked for me doesn't help everybody. You'll find it at mozillaZine under the topic "Corrupt extension files" on the page Unable to install themes or extensions - Firefox
  1. Quit Firefox

  2. Remove the files extensions.cache, extensions.rdf and extensions.ini from your Firefox profile folder. (Go to the Firefox profile folder and look inside the "extensions" folder. You will probably have to unhide the latter folder in order to locate the three files in question.)

  3. Restart Firefox

After I restarted Firefox, there immediately appeared a dialog box stating that three add-ons were incompatible with this version, so I followed the advice and disabled/deleted them, after which the add-ons all appeared as with version, thank goodness. (It also prompted me to do some housekeeping by uninstalling various add-ons that I've experimented with but rarely if ever use.)

It beats me why the Firefox v2.0.0.8 installer couldn't identify those problematic add-ons and save me all the pain -- but that's life!

Now I've decided to turn off automatic installation, via Tools > Options > Advanced as follows:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Out of Africa ... and into Iraq, or was that Mauritius?

For sheer inventiveness, you have to hand it to some of the "darker elements" who use the Internet.

Reportedly, the designers of XXX-rated sex and porn sites are amongst the earliest adopters of new web design techniques, putting some more conventional sites to shame.

This also seems to apply to the scamsters behind "419 fraud" -- named after the relevant section in Nigeria's criminal code , this country being the original centre of such activity.

I've kept copies of typical 419 messages going back to 2003, when such frauds really started getting popular. These messages came thick and fast until about 2005, at which point they seemed to die down and other more obtrusive forms of malware took over (spambots, key loggers, and all the rest of it).

Well, it's a case of "down, but not out" it would seem. Some scammers must still be profiting from this old-hat approach, and a message that arrived overnight tickled my fancy enough for me to want to post a copy of it in its entirety, if only as an appreciation of the scammer's black art.

My apologies to the "Mr John England" sending from an anonymous Hotmail address. Strangely, your client IP address tells me that you're probably in Mauritius rather than Iraq. Anyhow, I felt that others might want to know about your kind offer, so here it is verbatim:

Subject: A massage From John. To You.
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2007 15:06:21 -0200

Dear Friend,
With due apologies for interference in your privacy ,my name is John England, an Army contractor attached to the US Army corps of engineers in Iraq. The reason why I am explaining my findings to you are to seek for your assistance to enable you contributes immensely to the actualization of my dream.

on the 30th day of August 2007, I and my group of men under my supervision were alerted on the need of some urgent reconstruction works in Haifa Street, a long thoroughfare of high-rise buildings built and occupied by Saddam Hussein when he was alive here in Baghdad. Immediately we proceeded to the site and as we commence work to our utmost surprise we discovered a huge underground bunker in one of the buildings. Upon investigation of the bunker to our surprise we discovered one very lager box safely hidden and sealed together with numerous other boxes filled with different item, However I was attracted to the large box which was the only sealed box of them all, I told my men to open the box in order to find out the contents and when they were opened to our amazement the boxes contained US Dollars which amounted to $46M after time was taken to count them in bundles and rolls.

I however instructed them to keep this in high secrecy so that we can have the money to our selves, they all agreed to the plan, I wisely took the decision for us to share the money between our selves right there in the room to avoid suspicion in moving the very large box and that led me to having US$10.2 Million (US$10,200,000) as my own share of the money after which I concealed it in one box and decided to get the money out of the country but first I hid the money in a safe and untraceable location.

I am now in desperate need of a Reliable and Trustworthy person like you who would receive, secure and protect these boxes containing the US Dollars for me up on till my assignment elapses here. I cannot leave the boxes here in Iraq like most of my men have foolishly done due to many reasons one of which is because Iraq is getting unsafe and dangerous everyday and a full blown civil war among Shittes and Sunni Iraqis may start any moment. I assure and promise to give you 14% of this fund, however feel free to negotiate what you wish to have as your percentage in this deal.

Please assure me of your keeping this topmost secret within you so that my job would not be jeopardized.

My Sincere regards,
John England.

I'm not sure about your reference to the "very lager box" (presumably it contained some beer), and I don't think that the "Shittes" would be very impressed with your message. Your use of the English language certainly belies your surname, Mr English!

By the way, what's your telephone number and street address in Iraq, or even Mauritius, so that I can contact you by regular mail? And may I have your bank account details too, just your credit card logon and password will be okay? Your 14% offer looks a bit low to me, how high are you prepared to go? You can post all of your replies as comments to this Blogger article.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yes or No? Make up your damned mind!

I was sent this classic by my fellow ex-IBMer and good friend Gordon Newell. He was an IBM harwdare specialist, is now proprietor of Chalcot Micro Systems, and builds all my desktop systems for me.

Here it is:

For the sake of the search engine robots, here's the message text:

Thank you!
Your from has been sent.

Need more Tech Support from us?

Click [Yes] to Tech support page, [NO] to Home Page.

[ OK ] [ Cancel ]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Top 8 Reasons to Love IBM Lotus Notes 8 - Webcast

Ed Brill, Business Unit Executive of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino sales, worldwide, extols the the next major feature release of Lotus Notes, due to be released any time now.

Understand how these collaborative advances, are helping users work the way they want, for the better. (You can download the presentation slides as a PDF document for later review.)

As earlier pointed out, we have tested our premier product NotesTracker against this year's two public betas of Notes 8, and it passed with flying colors. Not a single change to the NotesTracker code or design was required; that's upwards compatibility for you!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

An error was encountered while opening a window!

I've written previously about pathetically inane error messages that lurk in dark corners of otherwise good software, waiting to spring out at you when you least desire them.

Today's beauty is one that lives in the current latest release 7.0.2 of the IBM Lotus Notes client (imminently to be replaced by the brand new Notes 8 client based on the IBM Expeditor/Eclipse architecture).

This is all that you're told. No more, no less!

So, there was an error, was there? And one that was encountered while opening a window, was it? What a masterpiece of exposition! What design committee thought up that one?

If you get yourself into this predicament, you'll find that this artfully vague message will be regurgitated every time that you try to relaunch the Notes Client following the crashed session.

As it turns out, the solution is quite simple: open the Task Manager and cancel the ntaskldr.exe Notes task.

Would it not be easy to modify this error message to suggest such a remedy? No, no, of course not: let's leave it there to bamboozle even more users!

Why not eliminate the stupidities in your old code, and not just plow ahead creating new code?

There's more info about this situation in IBM support Technote 1224056 which states this "was addressed in Notes/Domino 6.5.6. It is reported as no longer occurring in the Notes/Domino 7 and 8 releases." ... I'm not too sure about that! Time will tell, eh?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Web 2.0 -- on a wing and a prayer!

"On a wing and a prayer" ...
  • In poor condition, but just managing to get the job done. (from The Phrase Finder)
  • In a desperate situation and you’re relying on hope to see you through. (from World Wide Words)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I've written a few posts about "Web 2.0" during the last year or two, and consider that I have a reasonable understanding of the concept -- even if I reckon, a little dismissively perhaps, that it's sort of like the notion "This is the place to be!" and will inevitably be replaced by some other faddish concept.

Another current favorite term is AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML): not an architecture or a product specification but an approach or very general methodology for designing and developing Web applications. Some of them, like Google Maps, really are very nice! But already there are dozens of incompatible developer toolkits (I've listed a small sampling of them at and

Then there's SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) not to forget Web Services, with an "acronym soup" of terms (such as SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, ...) -- indeed so many and varied are they that the pithy catch-all WS-* is generally used for convenience. Some people treat the terms SOA and Web Services synonymously, so there's a degree confusion or misinformation going the rounds. (They're not synonymous, but Web Services can form part of an SOA design.)

Like others, I'm getting annoyed by all this excessive hype about "Web 2.0" and I've already predicted its inevitable demise ... See Web 3.0 is Underway -- but "Web Pi" is unreachable ... I like the graphic so much that I'm repeating it here:

Apparently somebody else quite independently has come up with the same construct. See The we is evolving into web pi (though without having fleshed out the concept very far, only proffering "pi is good as u can C").

All that aside, it was two web interactions earlier today that irritated me top the point that I had to vent some steam in this blog.
To me, the most ridiculous thing about "Web 1.0" (not even Web 2.0) is that it's based on the fragile Web Browser as the delivery vehicle, rather than some sort of session-aware rich client.

And, as often happens, it was only a little thing that drove me over the edge today: I was carrying out two extremely simple browser-based transactions.

Firstly, while doing some Internet banking at the ANZ Bank website, I quite inadvertently pressed the Back button on the left side of my mouse (the result would have been the same if I had pressed the Back button near the top of the browser window). You already can't say what happened, can't you, because it has happened to you too? I got an error message saying, in effect, "You idiot, you are not allowed to use the browser Back button at this time. For your safety, you have been disconnected. Please log in again and restart your transaction. (By the way, did we tell you that you're a moron?"

How repugnant this is! How can they keep getting away with this when another Australian banking institution's site that I also use for Internet banking gracefully takes me back as page, as I expected. Is it not fair to expect that if one bank can do it properly, they all should? (By the way, apart from this fundamental design flaw I find the ANZ Bank's site quite nice to use.)

Secondly, a little later in the day, when three or four pages into filling out a multi-page questionnaire at the Australian government's Centrelink site, I inadvertently did the same thing again. Fancy me being so naive to expect the Back button to take me back one step here, either! The principle is the same, however in this case I was told:
Error 500: Unable to restore flow execution with key '_coed-2907-2533-8831-4187A77DB2BA_k0512D7BE-125B-2129-A2FA-5C769C52F9EB' -- permission denied.; nested exception is The continuation id '0512D7BE-125B-2129-A2FA-5C769C52F9EB' is invalid. Access to flow execution denied.
So until they sort out some simple architectural matters such as proper handling of the browser's Back button, why are they progressing at breakneck speed toward "Web 3.0" or whatever comes next at the bleeding edge of the hype cycle?

The whole issue of browsers (in all their flavors) versus "fat clients" or "thin clients" with their various advantages/disadvantages needs to be more fully worked on. And even if the industry moves toward SaaS (Software as a Service) with centralized Web processing via ultra-fast broadband, there's still no way that I would carry out certain types of activities on anything but a local Rich Client platform, with local control (of backup, security, performance, etc). Well, them's my preferences; I fully understand that yours might be different.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Calculating Documentation Cruft

There's a new (13 July 2007) article over at Dr. Dobb's Agile Modeling Newsletter portal, titled Calculating Documentation Cruft

Here "cruft" is designated as:
  • C = The percentage of the document that is currently "correct".
  • R = The chance that the document will be read by the intended audience.
  • U = The percentage of the document that is actually understood by the intended audience
  • F = The chance that the material contained in document will be followed.
  • T = The chance that the document will be trusted.
Read the article to find out how the "cruftiness" of your documentation is calculated.

At the bottom of this newsletter there are also some very useful hot links to other agile documentation strategies and approaches, including the following one for general issues surrounding communication.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Serious, or Seriously Funny?

Last night I again watched two of Australia's best-known movie critics Margaret Pomeranz's and David Stratton's weekly show At The Movies on ABC TV, and they both admitted that it was well into the movie Lucky Miles before they realized that it was meant to be taken as a comedy, although a "bitter-sweet" one.

It was the same experience for me when I read Angsuman Chakraborty's June 2nd, 2006 posting: Top 10 Reasons Not To Use Coding Conventions / Standards

Is he serious, or is he doing it all with a tongue-in-cheek approach? Make up your own mind!

For example, what about this one:
5. Coding convention makes your code easier to understand. That makes your job less secure. Maintaining good coding standard means your code can be understood by anyone and your project easily outsourced to some lowly-paid Indian’s in Bangalore (the horror!).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Poor web page design of "My Vodafone" (Australia)

I tried to report this very bad page design about a year ago, and it was only today when I revisited Vodafone Australia's "My Vodafone" home page that I found it unchanged.

I'm not surprised, actually. This is just another case of some combination of poor web page design, woeful usability testing, weak project management, who knows what. Apparently it was done by an external web design firm. Vodafone shouldn't have paid for this. As one of the very early Vodafone Australia customers from around 1994 or so, I'm quite disappointed about it, really. (Those responsible for creating and releasing this weak page design should get a rap across the knuckles!

(Click to view a larger image)(Click to view a larger image)

When I first opened this page soon after "My Vodafone" was launched, I kept clicking on various parts of the central area of the page (in the image, surrounded by a thick black line), this to me seeming to be the natural thing to do for a page laid out like this. To my annoyance, this central part of the page was entirely "dead" (no active hyperlinks whatsoever), and despite my fault report still is a year or more later. The only live parts are restricted to the navigator column on the left.

This page would make an excellent discussion point (as a bad example) in Jakob Nielsen's book: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed

Saturday, May 05, 2007

China powers on!

I haven't been to China since my last business trip there for IBM in 1991, but still follow its progress with fascination. Shanghai's landscape has been vastly altered since then, and it seems that the same is now happening in Beijing due to preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.

With regard to China's technological advancement, a couple of reports are worth reading:

The Chinese and the Japanese have a markedly different approach to doing business. It's quite fascinating to compare the second report with another new one from INSEAD:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ecosystems -- for this and that

I just came across Eclipse Ecosystem (a blog by Donald Smith, Director of Ecosystem Development for the Eclipse Foundation).

This is a blog with a difference, as exemplified by the post: Measuring the Health of Ecosystems

It made me wonder what some other communities of interest would look like when put under a similar magnifying glass -- if you could do it.
  • Lotus Notes/Domino Ecosystem?
  • Linux Ecosystem?
  • Microsoft .NET Ecosystem?
  • IBM Mainframe Ecosystem?
  • IBM System i Ecosystem?
  • NetBeans Ecosystem?
  • Firefox Ecosystem?
  • Blogging Ecosystem?
  • Skype Ecosystem?
  • (and so on)
I wonder what they would look like. ... Is anyone out there in the blogosphere able and willing, or daring enough, to set up any other ecosystem blogs?

Monday, April 30, 2007

SDMS version 4.2 is now available

Click to view a larger image

SDMS version 4.2 is now available for download.

Get your copy from the download page here or here (go to the middle of the page for the download links and password).

Be sure to read the Help About and the Help Using documents before using the new features, which include:
  • Readers field security to control who can read sets of documents (a user request).

  • Sets of documents, once approved for publication, can be set to display within a given date range (which can be in the future).

  • The refresh interval of the Breaking News view can be specified from 5 seconds to 2 hours (previously was fixed at 60 seconds).

  • The header fields can be collapsed to free up screen "real estate" (a user request).

IBM Mainframe Strengths and Values - for Gaming?

There's a new IBM Redbook out that's worth a read by those (probably many) pf you not too familiar with the IBM mainframe world: IBM System z Strengths and Values

I've talked about mainframes before. See, for example, Mainframes - the "dinosaurs" are thriving. There are some good arguments for using mainframes to consolidate workloads, simplifying systems administration (including virtualization, which IBM mastered around three decades ago), and reduce overall power consumption.

For a few years now, IBM has been reinvigorating its mainframe program, starting with a Mainframe Charter in 2003.

This Redbook covers such aspects of IBM's System z mainframe range as:
  • A business view
  • System z architecture and HW platform
  • System z software
  • Security
  • Resiliency
  • System Management
  • Consolidation
  • Enterprise hub for SOA: integrating and extending assets
  • Enterprise hub for data
All very fine, if not just a little conventional. ... But who would have predicted IBM's latest nimble move:
Cell Broadband Engine Project Aims to Supercharge IBM Mainframe for Virtual Worlds (Press Release)

IBM Collaboration With Brazilian Game Developer, Hoplon Infotainment, Looks to Hybrid Platform for Advanced 3D Simulations; Unique Mainframe Architecture Speeds Integration With Cell/B.E.

ARMONK, NY & FLORIANOPOLIS, BRAZIL - 26 Apr 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today disclosed a cross-company project to integrate the Cell Broadband Engine™ (Cell/B.E.) with the IBM mainframe for the purpose of creating a hybrid that is blazingly fast and powerful, with security features designed to handle a new generation of "virtual world" applications, such as the 3D Internet.

The project capitalizes on the mainframe's ability to accelerate work via "specialty processors," as well as its unique networking architecture, which enables the kind of ultra-fast communication needed to create virtual worlds with large numbers of simultaneous users sharing a single environment.

Drawing on IBM's research, software and hardware expertise, the project is being undertaken in cooperation with with Hoplon Infotainment, a Brazilian online game company whose software is a key component of testing the capabilities of the new environment.

"As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality -- including 3D graphics and lifelike, real-time interaction among many simultaneous users -- companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," said Jim Stallings, general manager, IBM System z. "To serve this market, the Cell/B.E. processor is the perfect complement to the mainframe, the only server designed to handle millions of simultaneous users."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Web 3.0 is Underway -- but "Web Pi" is unreachable

I was quite chuffed to read over at Dr. Dobb's Portal that Web 2.0 Arrives to Find Web 3.0 Underway

How far will it all go? What will they claim next?

What nonsensical hype! Let me remind you here and now "Web 4.0" will never be achievable, according to my very own theory espoused last year in "Web 2.0" and "Web Pi" -- Reject Reality and Substitute Your Own!

Feel free to adopt the term "Web Pi" (a mere attribution is all that I ask).

Remember, you saw it here first! Transcendentally yours ...

Monday, April 23, 2007

How to fix Eudora spell checker not remembering added words

(Click to view a larger image)

I know from my tracking of hits on previous posts -- such as Best way to install the Netgear FR114P Print Server under Windows XP -- that tips like this can save some people grief, so here's another one.

I upgraded to a new purpose-built top-of-the-line desktop system late last year, and part of that involved installing my trusty old friend the Eudora mail client. I've been using Eudora since a few years before Windows 95 and Outlook came out, saw no good reason to stop using it when Outlook appeared, and there are important features in Eudora that Outlook doesn't provide even now well over a decade later.

Naturally I ensured that Eudora's spell checker was turned on. (There's nothing so unprofesssional as sennding out messsages that are ridddled with spelling misstakes, is there?)

After adding some words to the "ignore" dictionary (see image at top), I discovered in subsequent sessions that those supposedly-added words were not being remembered.

There ensued a few hours of fruitlessly checking all the option settings, reinstalling , and other assorted attempts to resolve the problem. Eventually I gave up, and called the Qualcomm support center.

I expected to get the "usual "support center runaround" and was very pleasantly surprised to immediately be given the resolution: sometimes the file named uignore.tlx that's used to store the added words (see image below) can get into a state where its read-only attribute is set on.

You simply switch off this attribute (ensure that you see "a" rather than "ra") and the problem is solved. The added words can then be stored in this file rather than just appearing to be stored, and life goes happily on.

(Click to view a larger image)

In retrospect, I'd recommend that they put out a dialog box which warns when you try to add a word that it cannot be stored and which indicates the problem resolution. But at this stage of the Eudora life cycle I'd be surprised if they do this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NotesTracker Version 5.0 -- released on 4/4/2007

Just in case you missed the release of NotesTracker Version 5.0 on 4/4/2007, you can find the announcement at our NotesTracker news and tips blog

There you'll also find links for the follow-on updates to SDMS and CAPTURE both of which which have been upgraded to NotesTracker V5.0 level).

If you're unfamiliar with NotesTracker, now's the time to try it out. ... And to download the NotesTracker Guide for a full description of all the new V5.0 features such as the tracking of "special documents" in a database, and e-mail alerting whenever actions occur in a database (document Create, Read, Update,Deletion, Paste, Mail-in, etc).

(Click to view a larger image)
Example of an e-mail alert sent when a "special" document was accessed (in this case, an update)

The Dire Consequences of Fixed-Price IT Projects

Is it wise to accept fixed pricing for an IT project (or any other project, for that matter)?

There's a brief but salutary article with the above title over at Dr. Dobb's Portal, well worth a read by anybody involved with software projects. Go to

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dr. Pongsol SOLves the PONG (of durians)

I see that Dr. Songpol Somers of the Horticultural Research Centre of Thailand has advanced the state of the scientific art by breeding a variety of durian fruit that has a mild smell.

Durian trees grow in south-east Asian countries (Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines, etc), and I believe that their unique fruit come to ripeness in the first half of the year (from February onwards). These days, the whole fruits are available around the world, following the Asian diaspora, once to be found only in Asian food shops but more recently even in supermarkets.

The accompanying picture of a durian showing two whole fruits plus an opened one comes from Wikipedia and (as the nearby coin indicates) it's about the size of a football (ovoid shape). Here are other good descriptions from and Durians are quite heavy (5 kilograms or more), with a hard spiky shell or husk that you definitely wouldn't want to fall on your head from the tree! The shell can be prised apart into segments, and in each segment lies the treasure: two or three seed sacks with an easily-broken outer membrane holding soft flesh that has about the consistency of a custard apple. The inedible, hard seed is several centimetres long (an inch or so).

When fresh, the flesh has the most unique of tastes, with some of the elements of vanilla and similar exotic flavors.

The taste is hard to put into words. I suppose the same could be said for any flavor: you've got to try it yourself to understand and appreciate it. Suffice to say that some people will never take this step, since the opened fruit has a most distinctive, strong aroma. Even the unopened fruit can be detected from a distance!

Some people cannot tolerate the smell. The most common saying is that it "tastes like heaven but smells like hell." The article (under the heading Flavour and Odor) has a couple of other quotations, one of the more notable being that of author Anthony Burgess: "like eating vanilla custard in a latrine."

I first became aware of the existence of durian decades before, when as a youth I read about it in one of (probably) Anthony Burgess' books about Asia. During my business trips for IBM in various Asian countries (during the 1980s and early 1990s) I was always on the lookout for durian, and eventually encountered it, first in Singapore then later in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

My first taste was tentative, but I didn't find it at all bad and soon became a devotee. I recall ordering durian for dessert at the Newton Circus outdoor food market in Singapore. I asked for it to be brought to my table after I had finished the main course. When the fruit stall vendor served it to me all of the Americans, Australians and British tourists sharing my table quickly moved as far away from me as they could, right to the other end of the table! There's no accounting for taste, as they say. When I started bringing durian home here in Australia, my wife (and kids) had exactly the same reaction as the tourists, but now she enjoys it too without being in the least put off by the smell.

After several trips, I started buying whole durians and having them wrapped in several layers of newspaper inside two or three plastic bags. Then I would sneak them into my hotel and jam them into the refrigerator in my room, hoping that by keeping them cold as well as tightly wrapped the smell wouldn't permeate. This seemed to work, since I didn't ever get a reprimand from the hotel staff (perhaps they knew and were exceptionally understanding). I eventually was able to do the same in Hong Kong. ... Ah, those were the days.

Thse days it's easy to buy whole durians -- mainly imported from Thailand -- here in Melbourne, not only is Asian food shops but even in the local Safeway-Woolworths supermarket.

After more than a year of abstinence, I recently polished off one and must say that I enjoyed it immensely. (During one of my trips to Asia, one of the locals expressed great surprise that I enjoyed wolfing down large servings of durian. He warned me that eating too much was supposed to make you feel "heaty", a term I have never encountered before or since and can only guess that some people feel hot after eating durian.)

SMD - Smell of Mass Destruction? ...
I didn't ever try carrying my durian onto the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) subway in Singapore. That would have been going one step too far, since the Singaporeans are well known for their strict interpretation of rules and laws including those for public cleanliness and order (think cigarette butts and chewing gum). I didn't want to risk being fined or maybe even locked up just for giving in to my passion for durian. They even have a special sign at MRT entrances warning you not to even try doing it (see picture)!

(Click to view a larger image)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Linux, Linux on the wall. Who's the prettiest of them all?

Local Aussie IT commentator Stan Beer has been trying out some Linux alternatives to Windows and on 12th April wrote Kubuntu looks nice but come on fellas, wireless input followed the next day by Ubuntu fanboys on Linux Today arise for wireless input rant

I have just added my own views as a comment to Stan's blog, and thought that it would be useful to post them here in my own blog as well ...


To a greater or lesser extent all software "sucks" (to put it in charmless U.S. vernacular). It's not at all surprising that you had issues with you wireless mouse and keyboard.

The advantage of the various versions of Windows is that they have a HUGE installed base, leading to an abundance of device drivers and other third-party software products big and small. Due to the relatively limited number of versions, there's an excellent chance that you can easily enough find a solution to just about any problem you have. But even with something as well understood as Windows, you can still have unresolvable problems with device support (especially if you purchase "el cheapo" products with faulty or feature-incomplete drivers, and you certainly can't blame Microsoft for that).

I've now received a copy of Vista Business as part of the "But now with Windows XP and get a free copy of Windows Vista" coupon for the new high-end desktop system I purchased just before Christmas last year. However, I'm going to stick with Windows XP Pro for quite a while, because (a) it's extremely stable and already does everything I want, and (b) due to the nature of my business, I have a very large number of software products installed that are not yet Vista-enabled, so I don't dare or care to switch across and undergo the agony that's sure to follow. So my copy of Vista will be sitting on the shelf for quite a few months yet.

There are so many flavors of Linux (and UNIX) that the installed base of any one of them is relatively small (compared wit Windows), and so the volume of device drivers and other software is somewhat restricted. While at IBM, I was involved with the first release of AIX (IBM's implementation of UNIX) back in the mid-1980s. IBM did an enormous amount of work before release AIX Version 1.0, particularly in eliminating what it saw as a large number of security holes in UNIX. They also developed a more menu-driven approach to using the system, which some UNIX purists did not like at all because they were accustomed to using the command line interface of whichever UNIX shell they preferred and considered AIX's menu structure as being too intrusive. You just can't please everybody!

With Linux, there are now so many distributions that it's a nightmare trying to keep up with what's available, even within a single variant (such as Ubuntu, or whatever). So the very diversity and openness of Linux brings its own problems.

I've been using Microsoft's Virtual PC (VPC) over the past few years to install and test a range of Linux distros,with wildly varying degrees of success. VPC emulates a fairly basic hardware configuration, and maybe that's a problem in itself, but I suspect not. Roughly half of the distros installed okay. With the other half, there was a common thread: the display device drivers misbehaved. One category was that the initial installation screen was totally unreadable (typically having bands of colored lines with no discernible text), so that the installation had to be aborted at the very start. The other category was when the installation went okay, then when I rebooted the same sort of garbled display occurred.

Which distro succeeded or failed was quite unpredictable. For example, I purchased a license for Linspire 5.0 (which is the son of "Lindows", this original product name having to be dropped following intense legal pressure from Microsoft). Linspire installs and runs on Virtual PC without any problems. From the same stable comes a free variant called Freespire, but disappointingly it spews out the same sort of unintelligible initial install screen as some others. (So it seems that the underpinnings of Freespire are somehow different from those of Linspire.)

(Click to view a larger image)
Apparently the fact that Linspire contains a raft of proprietary device drivers is enough to upset some Linux purists. But I'm trying to be nothing more than pragmatic here: if it works well out of the box (and has good commercial support if you need it), that's fine with an IT veteran like myself. And it's probably quite good enough for your average end user, who certainly won't have the least desire to get involved with the cryptic, arcane and obscure side of Linux.

If two Linux variants from the same stable act differently, then it's not at all surprising that those from different stables yield such divergent outcomes. Here's a series of relevant articles (by one "Briard") on this theme "Linux Desktop – Is it an Option for Normal Users?" that are well worth a read: PART 1 is at and PART 2 is at and PART 3 is at (they are in Gizmo's Tech Support Alert, in itself an extremely useful source of valuable information ... ).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another weird LotusScript compiler problem

I had barely told you about a LotusScript compiler error that I had a few days ago (see The curious case of the "Name previously declared" LotusScript error) when I was subjected to another wasted hour or so earlier today due to a similar quirk.

This time when I opened certain databases I got the message "Duplicate PUBLIC name ACTIONTYPE in USE module" (see image).

Why was it happening in some databases, yet not in others with identical design?

An hour or so searching for duplicate definitions (for a field named 'Action Type') led nowhere,. Anyhow, (a) There was no duplicate field definition in the database, and (b) Exactly the same LotusScript code was working in other databases without generating this error message!

I tried deleting the script library and copying it back in again, with no joy. Eventually, I just deleted the entire database and recreated an empty one with the very same design, then copied the documents back in. No more error message: who knows why?

It would be a rather good idea for IBM to fix such quirky LotusScript compiler behavior instead of just charging ahead with new stuff all the time.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Four Yorkshiremen, punched cards, and other tales of woe

Oh, there's so much stuff out there on the Web. I recently came across The Art of Unix Usability by Eric Raymond and Rob Landley. Talk about "memory lane" ...

Not so much concerning the Unix aspects of this book, but some of the other they describe from the "dark ages" of computing: way back in the dark ages of the 1960s and 1970s. Thoughts of my first ten years at IBM (during the 1970s) came flooding back to me. And the pictures in this free online book that got to me were the Teletype machine with its paper tape input/output, the IBM 029 Card Punch, batch computing.

I hope that you've listened to the classic 1974 Monty Python sketch "Four Yorkshiremen"

Well, I have my own version of this tale to share with you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
In the mid-1970s I spent a year or so going out on a limb and working on the IBM System/7 (see The sentinel: the IBM System/7 and IBM System/7 and Plant Automation). At that time, the System/7 was a leading-edge sensor-based, real-time computing machine. These days we'd considered it vastly underpowered and prohibitively expensive, but that was then and this is now.

These days, a few thousands dollars will get you a desktop or notebook PC that is vastly more powerful than systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1970s. And the software (operating systems, developer tools, programming languages, desktop productivity applications) are in many (but not all) ways so much more advanced than what was available way back then in computing "prehistory."

Here's my version of the "Four Yorkshiremen" story, from 1975 or 1976...

  1. I volunteered to work on a project that involved a set of IBM field developed programs (FDPs) called "Plastic Injection Molding System" or PIMS for short. This was a set of sensor-based applications for the monitoring and control of plastic injection molding machines. (It was 3 or 4 months into the project before I ever laid eyes upon one of these machines, which didn't help in extending the PIMS software.)
  2. The PIMS package detected events happening on the injection molding machines such as the molds opening and closing, and you could get reports on demand by entering various commands into a Teletype console.
  3. The IBM customer essentially wanted (a) to get a report automatically generated at the end of each 8-hour shift (rather than just on demand); (b) the machine operator to be able to press a button every time a faulty part was molded, and get the number of faults included in the shift reports; and (c) whenever a molding machine went into maintenance mode, the shift supervisor had to insert and turn a key to indicate this, when it went back into production mode the supervisor had to turn and remove the key. and the total time in maintenance had to be recorded and reported for each shift. This involved making some fairly basic changes to the PIMS package, rather like working on an operating system with very low-level assembler code that had to take into account hardware interrupts of all kinds. It was extremely interesting, but also rather challenging.
  4. Once I had learned the System/7 Assembler Language, I got stuck into the real work. The code changes were punched into IBM 80-column punched cards by keypunch operators at the IBM's then office at Sturt Street in South Melbourne (long ago converted into apartments). This card deck got bigger and bigger as the project progressed, eventually filling several card boxes (a pile of cards at least a metre in length, always with the nagging worry that somebody would put them out of sequence).
  5. The card deck went into an at-best daily assembly (compilation) run, overnight, at the IBM Data Centre. It usually generated a listing a few itches thick, but one night it went haywire and I found three full boxes of printout waiting for me the next morning!
  6. Being rather complex assembler code, it didn't always come back clean the next morning (and that's putting it mildly). This usually meant several days went by before a clean assembly was reached and things could progress to the next stage.
  7. I then had to take the punched card out put deck from IBM to the Mobil data centre, so that the deck assembly code could be transferred to paper tape. (IBM didn't have a paper tape punch machine in their own data centre in Melbourne.)
  8. The punched-card output deck held a representation of System/7 machine code, not human-readable alphanumeric characters. Some of the cards in a deck were extremely flimsy, because the machine code on them was so dense that more than 50 percent of the card had been punched out as "chads" (see binary punched card). When the cards were read in at the Mobil data centre, sometimes a card or two would be torn up during card reading. I would then go back to their data centre to carefully flatten out and reconstruct each torn card, then painstakingly (on an IBM 029 Card Punch machine) re-create the card, put it back in (hopefully) the correct sop in the card deck, and resubmit it.
  9. If the cards all managed to be read in without damage at the Mobil data centre, they would then punch out a paper tape image of the System/7 machine code. Naturally, this step had its problems: for example, the paper tape punch took some time to "warm up" and could generate a faulty image. This happened several times, each time adding an extra day to project duration.
  10. I would take the paper tape, then drive (some 15 or more miles southeast of downtown Melbourne) to where there was a System/7 machine installed at another IBM customer site. I would power it up, then carefully feed the paper tape through the Teletype console into the System/7's memory. Only then could I start testing and debugging my modifications to PIMS.
  11. If the program didn't cause machine checks, I could then save it in an electronic form. There was no hard disk on that particular System/7, so guess what this was: would you believe onto cassette tapes! (There was no hard disk on that System/7 until right near the very end of the project.)
  12. If the program test failed, it meant going back to step 1 again.
  13. After a while -- quite a few weeks, I can't remember how many -- I had something that might possibly do what the end customer required.
  14. Five or six months after project start (fast for those days) the end customer's System/7 was delivered. It got wired up to the injection molding machines, and at last I was able to start visiting their factory (about ten miles west of downtown Melbourne) and perform testing in the real production environment.
  15. After a fair number of repeats of the above steps, my modifications/extensions to PIMS started to do what was expected.
As you might gather, it was all a rather painful experience. A far cry from the things that can be done in the 21st century, and the relative ease with which they can be done. But I don't regret it for a moment, and I certainly learned valuable lessons from it that stood me in good stead later on.

LotusScript and the Curious Case of the "Name previously declared" error

During final testing of the NotesTracker Version 5.0 (released on 4/4/2007), I was amazed to get an annoying LotusScript error popping up where it should never have.

It turned out to be what I'd term a "quirk" of the LotusScript compilation process and happened with only one of about six databases that I was testing. The reason that I'm writing about it is to assist others who might encounter the same quirk in future and hopefully give them a few ideas about resolving the matter and so save them some time and heartache.

It occurred when I tried to replace the NotesTracker V4 LotusScript subroutines in the Database Script design element of the database with their V5.0 editions. The new code steadfastly refused to compile and kept giving the "Name previously declared" error message.

Keep in mind that I had already updated the Database Script section of three or four other databases without encountering this, and it was indeed puzzling (and frustrating). I did all of the usual things: checked for duplicate name definitions (Dim statements), but there were none. Naturally I tried the "Recompile All LotusScript" tools option but that didn't fix the problem either.

I turned to Google search ( ) but nobody seemed to have reported exactly the problem I had.

There ensued more tearing out of hair, muttering uncomplimentary things about Lotus, blaming global warming, tossing salt over my left shoulder and incantations to the compiler gods -- all to no avail.

Then, in a burst of inspiration from the primitive "id" part of my brain I hit upon the solution (see image). I deleted the entire Database Script, as shown, and pasted exactly the same code back into the Declarations and subroutines areas of the now-empty Script.

And it worked! There was no compilation error and at last I was able to save the Script.

Go figure it out. I certainly can't.

Apparently something got "screwed up" in the internals of the Database Script's structure that caused perfectly legitimate code to fail.

So if you encounter this LotusScript error and all the usual techniques fail to get your code compiled, try this technique to clear out all of the code in that section (Database Script, or whatever) and paste the code back in.

A few hours lost, but a useful lesson learned: sometimes the LotusScript compiler will reject perfectly satisfactory code. In this case there's a chance that you can overcome the compilation problem by removing all of the subroutines in the object (the Database Script, or a Script Library), performing a Save (or Recompile All LotusScript), and then pasting it back unchanged.

I've coined a motto for such LotusScript quirky behavior:
If you can't beat it, delete it!... And then, repeat it.
Did this help you? Please let me know.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Some Calamitous Error Messages - Redux

I've bemoaned the sorry state of "modern" software before (as have many others at various "this product sucks" sites).

My pet peeve is silly, meaningless, inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, thoughtless, and just plain stupid error messages.

I strive to make my own code display error messages that are as meaningful and helpful as possible, but it seems that not everybody does --and this is the year 2007! What hope is there for mankind?

Aunt Calamity has her own ideas over at the "ghost in the machine" web site: Here are illustrations of a mere a few that I've encountered just in the last few days. They come from a variety of software products (the vendors all do it).

  • Top image (Techsmith Snag It v8.2.2) -- if there there are 0 seconds left, are we going into some sort of hyper-time?
  • IBM Lotus Notes v7.0.2 -- What on earth does this mean? (Maybe there's a connection between the digits in the version number and in the error message body "7" and "0" and "2" ?)
  • Qualcomm Eudora (actually this is a deficiency in Windows dialog box architecture, it's not really Qualcomm's fault ) -- Apart from the gobbledygook message text, why can't the "OK button be labeled "Cancel" and the "Cancel" button be labeled "Debug"?)
  • NTI Shadow 3 -- which of several concurrent jobs is the one that has just been completed? (I've asked them to add the Job Name to each message, but they haven't done it.)
Device drivers, and the code that calls them, are consistently bad offenders. Here's one that I came across at THE DAILY WTF recently. "Very Strange: Attempt to disowned by driver after WIN32 Checks out. Disown attempt ignored."

Very strange, indeed!

I could go on and on, but won't bother, and I'm sure you could add your own beauties to the collection!

IE7 vs. Firefox browser share at (end of March 2007)

(Click to view a larger image)

Part of a continuing series -- refer to this previous post, for example -- here's the latest browser share chart on 30 March 2007.

There's something of a resurgence for Firefox (over 30 percent share for once), while IE7's growth seems to have slowed over the last month.

I'm rather surprised that Internet Explorer 6 still holds around a 40 percent share. I would have expected more users to have accepted the Windows XP automatic update path and have had their systems upgraded to IE7 by now. Any comments?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Seven Deadly Signs

Ben Moore writes:

"My favorite kind of client is the type that will actually get his application into production. Beyond the rate that he pays me, a running-in-production application is what I want. ..."
Read more here: 7 Signs Your Project Will Never Make it to Production

One of the seven signs is "After a payment or two, the client asks if you can reduce your rate" -- so what are the other six?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

All that nonsense about XML

Here's a splendidly cathartic article about XML that everybody would benefit from reading (and broadcasting):

XML and the document format mind bender ... "You need to look a level or two deeper if the real value proposition of XML (and it is real) is to be realized in your organization. "

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Equinoxious? Not really...

It's great weather down here in Melbourne, Australia (circled in red in the attached images) just at the moment. Warm, lazy autumn days are rolling on ... Today is our autumn equinox, so we'll be getting less sunshine from now on. But I'm sure you're feeling happy about it up there in the northern hemisphere.

Summer Solstice (Southern Hemisphere)
Up north, the polar bears are snoozing.

About ten years ago, I purchased at a sale for the princely sum of three Aussie dollars, a copy of a great little desktop software product called EarthTime. It was originally developed by Borland and then passed on to Starfish Software. Unfortunately they incorporated it into the SideKick suite and it no longer was a standalone, but the whole caboodle seems to disappeared from the face of the earth now. Read about it here at Wikipedia if you like a bit of nostalgia.

Today: Autumn Equinox (Southern Hemisphere)

Thankfully I've held on to my now priceless copy, and it has proved to be extremely handy as I call customers and friends all over the world. Fantastic value for a mere three Aussie dollars, eh?

Getting back to the point, I felt like sharing three EarthTime representations for this month's equinox and last year's two solstices.

Winter Solstice (Southern Hemisphere)
A dark time to in Antarctica,
but good for Icelanders and the Inuit.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Understanding SOA Security

Earlier on int this blog, I've made several posts about Service Oriented Architecture, such as SOA means Business! or SOA's Business Value and also a couple of glib posts about "Web 2.0" such as Web 2.0 approaches.

(SOA is often mentioned by some commentators in the same breath as Web 2.0, but it's definitely not synonymous. In fact, SOA applications don't necessarily even have to run across the Web, though in many of not most cases they will. I'm obviously not the only one who thinks this, as indicated by tow recent posts: Can, or should SOA be implemented without web services? and TRUE or FALSE: SOA cannot be implemented without web services? )

Not to forget my own concept of "Web Pi" ... see "Web 2.0" and "Web Pi" -- Reject Reality and Substitute Your Own! By all means feel free to use the term and espouse the concept (if you're game), but it's a cynical enough concept for me to have a deep-seated psychological need to keep attribution to it!

Anyhow, one of the essential requirements of SOA is that all services must observe appropriate security.

And if you want to learn more about this, you'll be hard pressed tot find a better source than the new IBM Redbook Understanding SOA Security: Design and Implementation (Like all Redbooks, it's free.) So go download it and have a good read!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Auntie's messages are a calamity

I continue to be amused, annoyed, upset -- but not surprised -- with warning messages and error messages and warning of all sorts.

They can pop up at the most unexpected times in the oddest places, sometimes where no equipment at all is involved, such as with mistranslated signs in hotels and other places. Some of these can be side-splittingly funny, others might have more serious implications. There are numerous examples, just one of which is Beijing cleans up its sign translations

The field of software (including "firmware" or embedded software in devices such as TV remote controls and microwave ovens) is a fertile spawning ground for this.

There are those signs/messages that do not convey useful information or use poor wording or terminology (such as "Note item not found" ). And there are those that give misleading or even totally incorrect information (such as "The specified agent does not exist" ). Please don't get me wrong: these two examples are not meant to imply that the world of IBM Lotus Notes is worse than any other! It's just that I had them at hand elsewhere in this blog and easy to cross-link to.

In most cases, poor messages like the above are unintentional. Just imagine what you can come up with if you really try, and indeed Aunt Calamity has done this for us: see ghost in the machine.

Go on, go on. Suitably inspired by Auntie's contribution, why not become mischievous (or even miscreant) and start generating your own in this fashion!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rich Internet Applications - State of the Union (recommended reading)

One of my favorite Java experts and commentators Yakov Fain has just published a comparative summary and list of things to be considered with respect to Rich Internet Applications.

He primarily covers the pros and cons of using Java, Flex, WPF (Microsoft's Windows Foundation Platform), plus AJAX -- also touching upon other tools, such as OpenLaszlo, GWT (Google Web Toolkit), and Nexuses.

Read Yakov's nice article over at JDJ:
Rich Internet Applications - State of the Union ... What's your technology choice for implementing RIA?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Which one is "bigger" -- Microsoft or IBM?

There's an IT industry debate that has been going on for a decade or more now, about whether or not "The mainframe is dead."

IBM certainly doesn't think so, and they are making a concerted n effort to get young IT people interested in mainframes and all they can offer. See, for example, these eWEEK reports: IBM to Spend $100 Million on Mainframes and Mainframers Learn New Tricks and Long Live the Mainframe.

It seems that part of Their campaign to rebuild interest in the field involves several new IBM Redbooks. The first of these is Introduction to the New Mainframe: Large-Scale Commercial Computing and here's part of the abstract:

Today, mainframe computers play a central role in the daily operations of most of the world’s largest corporations. While other forms of computing are used in business in various capacities, the mainframe occupies a prominent place in today’s e-business environment. In banking, finance, health care, insurance, utilities, government, and a multitude of other public and private enterprises,
the mainframe computer continues to provide the foundation of large-scale computing to modern business.

The reasons for mainframe use are many, but generally fall into one or more of the following categories: capacity, scalability, integrity and security, availability, access to large amounts of data, system management, and autonomic capabilities. This IBM Redbook is designed for readers who already possess a basic knowledge of mainframe computing, but need a clearer understanding of how these concepts relate to mainframe planning, implementation, and operation.

There are a couple of other associated Redbooks:

IBM has been providing IT products and services to the enterprise for many decades now (for at the very least three decades before I joined them in 1970). And with Service Oriented Architecture being all the rage these days in the enterprise architecture space, here's another IBM Redbook that's well worth reading: SOA Architecture Handbook for z/OS

- - - - -
Well now, it's February 2007 and statements are being made that Windows Vista is "the biggest operating system ever written". Using what metrics, I wonder. (If I were a scalawag, I would say "biggest amount of hype" -- but as a mild-mannered reporter I resile from saying that!)

The z/OS operating system has its roots in OS/360, going way back to 1964, so there's decades of accumulated wisdom and knowledge in the z/OS operating, and in the associated IBM mainframe hardware architecture. In my opinion, for enterprise-scale computing the cruddy 32-bit and 64-bit Intel style hardware architecture are quite inferior, as are the Windows operating systems. I'll agree that Windows is getting better all the time, but so is z/OS (still being tweaked some forty years after its conception).

Another product range that is dear to my heart also comes from IBM: currently it's known as the IBM System i (with its operating system being called i5/OS). Before that it was called the iSeries, and before that the AS/400 (with operating system OS/400). Its progenitor was the IBM System/38 (with operating system call CPF - Control Program Facility), conceived in the early 1970s and announced in 1978. But its essential architecture is still very much alive and well as the System i, with major enhancements being made in each new release.

One thing that really irks me about the Wintel platform is the hiatus between 32-bit and 64-bit modes. I would like to use 64-bit Windows XP on my brand-new dual core AMD desktop system, but I'm simply not prepared to since I would have to go through purgatory due to lack of device drivers, and on top of that doubtless have to buy new 64-bit versions of applications (if they existed, and in many or even most cases they don't). I clearly recall that when the System/38 and later the AS/400 changed their internals to go from 32-bit to 48-bit and later 64-bit mode, customer applications were automatically adjusted by the system to run in the new mode without any application redesign whatsoever and a minimum of fuss. Superb! In comparison, the Wintel approach is quite horrid.

Anyhow, getting back to my original theme: Which one is bigger, Microsoft or IBM? Microsoft certainly is bigger in terms of overall annual software revenue, yet I'd say that IBM is bigger in terms of the considerable range of software products that it offers. Microsoft has a strong research arm and generates lots of patents annually, but I think IBM well and truly beats it with some ground-breaking fundamental physical research (and more patents annually).

To take an area of software where IBM has always been strong, namely database. Even venerable hierarchical database IMS is still in production, but around 1980 IBM released its first commercial relational database DB@, and it has gone from strength to strength. Not to denigrate Microsoft;s current versions of SQL Server (which are very competent indeed), but IBM's latest DB2 9 release (code named "Viper") with deeply integrated native XML support are quite superb. See for example DB2 9 for z/OS Roars to Life and DB2 9 pureXML Guide

I notice that one favorite part of IBM has reached quite a milestone. See the Special report: Celebrating 50 years of the IBM Journals

Since the first publication of the IBM Journal of Research and Development in 1957 and the IBM Systems Journal in 1962, these Journals have provided descriptions and chronicles of many important advances in information technology and related topics ranging from atoms to business solutions. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IBM Journals, this report highlights a selection of significant papers published in the Journals, along with brief commentaries. The Journal editors chose papers which were very highly cited in the technical literature, described technologies of historic significance, or provided an important overview of a field.
This would make a scalawag (not me) ask what Microsoft was doing in 1957 ...

So, which one is "bigger" and how do you define bigness? Who cares, some of you will be thinking, but if you're interested why not have your say!

IBM invites you... Tune Your Servers!

IBM's Redbooks are sometimes of considerable to those who don't use IBM software and hardware, one example of which is TCP/IP Tutorial and Technical Overview

They've just come out with an update for Tuning IBM System x Servers for Performance with the following abstract:
This IBM Redbook describes what you can do to improve and maximize the performance of your business server applications running on IBM System x hardware and either Windows, Linux, or ESX Server operating systems. It describes how to improve the performance of the System x hardware, the operating system, and specific server applications.The book is divided into five parts. Part 1 explains the technology implemented in the major subsystems in System x servers and shows what settings can be selected or adjusted to obtain the best performance. Part 2 describes the performance aspects of the operating systems: Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and VM ware ESX Server.Part 3 introduces the performance monitoring tools that are available to users of System x servers. Part 4 shows you how to analyze your system to find performance bottlenecks and what to do to eliminate them. Part 5 examines specific performance characteristics of specific server applications. his book is targeted at people who configure Intel and AMD processor-based servers running Windows, Linux or ESX Server and seek to maximize performance. Some knowledge of servers is required. Skills in performance tuning are not assumed.

But I'd recommend this Redbook to all and sundry, because of what it indicates in its foreword (emphasis mine):
The genesis for this book began in 1997 when, in response to increasing customer demand for performance information, I decided to write a white paper addressing real-world performance issues. The title of that document was Fundamentals of Server Performance. This document was so well received by customers, business partners and IBM® support personnel that IBM decided to use it as the basis for a new Redbook addressing a multitude of real-world server performance issues. And in 1998 the Redbook Netfinity Performance Tuning with Windows NT 4.0 was published.

Now in its fifth edition,
Tuning IBM Systems x Servers for Performance is by far the most comprehensive and easy to understand performance guide specifically developed for Industry Standard servers. Yes Industry Standard servers, so if you deploy non-IBM servers you can also benefit greatly from this book. The explanations, tips and techniques can show you the way to better understanding server operation and solving even the most complex performance problems for any Windows or Linux®, Intel® or Opteron based server. In addition, this book will enlighten you on some of the special and unique performance optimizations IBM Engineers have introduced into IBM System x™ servers products.

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the team that wrote this latest version. Thank you for keeping this vital work current, informative and enjoyable to read. I’m certain the universe of server administrators and IT workers who benefit from the vast knowledge included in this volume also share my gratitude.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anthropology of users of Lotus Notes versus Microsoft Exchange?

Now I know something new: What's a hominid versus hominin versus hominoid?

But there's something that I haven't worked out, so perhaps you can help me decide.

In the taxonomy described in the above article (not overlooking "humanoid"): where should be placed the users of IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino/Workplace/Quickr/etc versus the users of Microsoft's Exchange/Outlook/SharePoint/etc, versus users of Open Source/Linux/etc, versus ...?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Agile documentation - easy but important?

I've just been working on some enhancements to my free Lotus Notes application SDMS - a Simple Document Management System (also available here). Being a good little boy, have been finishing off my efforts by documenting the new features.

And by serendipity I've just been reading a new article by Scott Ambler, and it seems to make sense so I recommend it to you:

Agile Documentation Strategies ... It's not as hard — but more important — than you think.
And while you're at it, read more by Scott Ambler, such as Examining the Big Requirements Up Front (BRUF) Approach in which he argues that
BRUF leads to significant wastage, that an evolutionary approach to development is must less financially risky than serial development, and that you should take an agile approach to requirements.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

IE7 browser share at (mid-February 2007)

Compared with last month's visit pattern -- see IE7 browser share at (mid-January 2007) -- it would appear that over the last week or so Firefox has had a major resurgence, as seen in the following illustration:

(Click to view a larger image)
I suspect that visits to other sites will follow a noticeably different trend, since visitpors to my web site and blogs are probably mainly "technical types" who would favor Firefox more so than general users [who probably are not inclined or can't be bothered to use other than Internet Explorer].

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Best way to install a Netgear FR114P Print Server (and possibly others) under Windows XP

I'm adding this posting just so it might help others in my plight and save them some trouble.

UPDATE (27 April 2007):
It just occurred to me, after seeing the number of hits on this post, that the technique described below (LPR) for installing print servers goes beyond the specific Netgear model discussed. So it's quite possible that this tip would be useful for installing just about any print server under Windows XP (and maybe under Windows Vista too, although I haven't tested the latter).

- - - - -
For a couple of years I've been using (under Windows XP) a Netgear FR114P Pro Safe™ VPN Firewall w/4 Port 10/100 Switch and Print Server to support an older but still quite adequate laser printer that only has a parallel printer port -- no USB or Ethernet connection like many of the newer printers.

The set-up procedure that I always used previously, without any major problems, involves setting up a "Netgear Printer Port Driver" using the supplied Windows installer. However this time, for my brand-new dual core desktop system, no matter how many times I tried the procedure using all variations that I could come up with, the required printer port never appeared. Naturally enough, this in turn meant that the Windows XP "Add Printer" procedure didn't have any way to install the printer.

The set-up procedure had worked well enough in the past, but I had no idea at all why it failed miserably this time: there were no diagnostics, and no method for troubleshooting the problem.

After spending much of yesterday afternoon tearing my hair out, I decided to give up on the provided installer and start searching the forums and knowledge bases for a workaround.

Luckily, in a rather obscure forum I came across a hint that led me to the reference manual for the newer Netgear Pro Safe Wireless 802.11g Firewall/Print Server Model FR114P. It contained the vital extra information that was not in the older FR114P manual:

  • For Windows XP and 2000 only: use TCP/IP Line Printer Remote (LPR)
    printing, rather than installing the Netgear Printer Port Driver.
  • No printer port software needs to be installed.
  • Windows XP or 2000 users can print directly to the print server router. Print jobs are spooled (queued) on each computer. The computer sends the print job directly to the LAN IP address of the FR114P [not via a printer port].
It seems that the "printer port" approach is really meant for the older Windows operating systems (Windows 95/98/ME/NT4) and the TCP/IP Line Printer Remote (LPR) protocol is a superior way to set it up for Windows XP.

I have extracted the relevant chapter and posted it for you at FR114P Print Server Installation for Windows XP (also at FR114P Print Server Installation for Windows XP ) and I hope it saves you some time and stress if you come up against the same problem!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

IE7 browser share at (mid-January 2007)

Continuing my regular series of posts on browser share for visits to (and to its mirror site). Over the last month and especially during the last week or two, there seems to have been a decrease in Firefox share from 20-25% daily to 15-20% daily.

The Firefox drop-off has been taken up by Internet Explorer 7 with the total for IE6 plus IE7 now having built up from around 70% daily to nearly 80% as shown in today's pie chart:

And over at Microsoft's IE Blog we have Group Manager Tony Chor proclaiming:
I’m pleased to report that on January 8th, we had the 100 millionth IE7
installation. However, even more important than installations is usage. According to WebSideStory (the company we use to measure browser usage), as of this week, over 25% of all visitors to websites in the US were using IE7, making IE7 the second most used browser after IE6. We expect these numbers to continue to rise as we complete our final localized versions, scale up AU distribution, and with the consumer availability of Windows Vista on January 30, 2007.
I presume that when he refers here to "AU" he means "Automatic Updates" (or the like) and not Australia!