Friday, November 26, 2010

TIP: How I got Acronis True Image 2011 to install (a workaround)

I’ve been using Acronis True Image for backing up drives on my Windows desktop system for a number of years. For me, it seems to work more consistently and reliably than other tools I’ve used in the past, such as Norton Ghost.

These backups have saved me on more than one occasion. I really like the way that True Image works.

SO when I found that Acronis True Image Home 2011 had been released, and what's more is available at a big discount and with a free copy of the Plus Pack add-on till 3oth November 2010, I immediately purchased a copy online.

I expected the installation to go flawlessly, as had all my previous installations of True Image, but this didn’t happen at all.

When I launched the installer executable, nothing seemed to happen, no error messages, nothing at all. On closer investigation, I noticed (using Windows Task Manager) that the installer would always terminate in a second or less.

So I jumped on to the Acronis support site, and tried to start up a chat session with a member of the support team. First disappointment was that theis support function was  available only during USA working hours – a BAD POLICY, Acronis, you should realize that you need to support your customers in all time zones and have offer chat feature 24/7 (that’s the reality of the Web, surely you know this).

Anyway, I waited up until after midnight and started up a chat. Without going into boring detail, the support session finally finished up at 3 AM Melbourne time with the support team member claiming that my Windows installer needed fixing/updating (I use 64-bit Windows 7), and asking me to download and run the Windows Installer 3.1 Redistributable (v2) but whn I tried this it “spat the dummy” and didn’t work anyway. I noticed on that page that a newer version (Windows Installer 4.5 Redistributable) was available.

However… being a suspicious type, I strongly suspected that I’d been given a “bum steer” about this supposed Windows installer Redistributable problem, so decided to do some alternative research before messing with Windows redistributables.

I did a Google search and found nobody reporting the same prpblem. A few people had mentioned (with this and earlier version of the True Image installer) that they got some error messages before the installer failed. However, as mentioned above, I didn’t even get a single error message.

In one of those eureka moments, I decided to peek inside the True Image installer executable, guessing that perhaps it was a self-extractor (zipped package) rather than a monolithic executable. And this is where my lucj changed, as per the following image:


Highlighted in yellow (1) is the True Image installer, and following the red arrow (2) inside 7-zip you’ll see that indeed there was and MSI Windows installer.

With fingers crossed for good luck, I selected the Open option (3) from the right-click context menu -- and much to my relief the installation commenced. After this, everything worked as painlessly as with earlier versions of True Image.

I hope this helps others of you out there. And Acronis, you need to examine this and fix up whatever problem there is with the monolithic installer package for True Image Home 2011  (the exe file).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Earth Alerts ... Sometimes mother nature gets a little upset!

I just came across the Earth Alerts web site today, and found it fascinating.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods, wildfires, landslides...

...these are the kinds of things our planet dishes out, which arouses human curiosity, fascination and fear.

I had never stumbled upon it before, despite a long-term interest in all things scientific and a web page dedicated in particular to oceanography, surfing, waves, tsunamis, earthquakes and the like -- to which page I have now added a link to Earth Alerts.

It comes in two flavors. Earth Alerts Version 2010 is a freeware Windows-based desktop program.

If you don’t want to install the above desktop application, then point your web nrowser at the online Google Maps version, which gives eye-opening results like the following:


Blimey, this is for a quiet day. Indonesia is suffering from continuing earthquakes and two volcanoes – one of the volcanoes being Anak Krakatau as if that hasn’t caused enormous devastation in the late 19th century (40,000 or more deaths).

There are volcanic eruptions and tremors all over the globe (but for some reason Iceland isn’t showing any activity at this moment, despite the enormous air traffic disruption that it caused earlier this year).

I’m really happy to be located in Melbourne, at the south-east corner of the Australian mainland (where the white hand-shaped icon appears). Australia is geologically a very stable continent, with few earthquakes strong enough to cause injury or damage.

I feel really safe here, except that maybe a Qantas jet engine might fall on me, just as one did on poor Donnie Darko Video from everywhere!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How to uninstall Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.1

I’ve been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a number of years, and just last week got my hands on the latest incarnation, Version 11.

I decided to uninstall version 10.1 and start afresh, retraining the voice recognition learning engine to make allowance for a different headset and to take advantage of any new features.

But when I tried to uninstall version 1.1 it kept asking for an installation disk “1” that I knew didn’t exist anywhere on the planet, with the inevitable result:


Nothing that I tried, including a bit of fiddling with the Windows registry, enabled the product to be uninstalled.

So I did a little web searching, and on Nuance’s support site came across the answer, see How to completely uninstall Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10

Just in case that page disappears from the Nuance web site at some stage, I used the second method successfully, which is as follows:
Uninstall with the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 "Remover Tool"
If uninstalling Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 from "Add or Remove Programs" and from the Product DVD fails, use the Remover Tool to completely uninstall Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10:
Note: Using the option below will not deactivate Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 or allow an additional installation to be activated.
  1. Click Here to download the Remover Tool.
  2. Save the "Dragon10.1Remover.exe" file to the Windows Desktop.
  3. Back up any user profiles (if any exist).
  4. Double click on the "Dragon10.1Remover.exe" file.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions.
  • The user must be logged into the machine with administrator rights before running this utility.
  • When selecting a different location to re-install Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 after using the Remover Tool to uninstall it, the installation path reverts to the location of the original installation. To uninstall Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 and re-install to another install path, we recommend using the uninstall feature in "Add or Remove Programs".
And that’s all there was to it, thank goodness! I subsequently was able to install NaturallySpeaking Version 11 without any further problems.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bridge stolen? Writing blog posts the “live” way.

Just managed to upgrade to Windows Live Writer 2011 after many attempts over the last few months.

I kept getting an obscure error message, typical of what happens when the multi-component Windows Live gets itself into a mess. As with other such “black box” software packages, it was impossible to determine what was going wrong under the covers. I was at my wits’ end and couldn’t find a solution anywhere, but suddenly yesterday something changed (a Windows Update, or a new version of the installer, perhaps) and it “fixed itself” more or less.

Widows Live Writer (WLW) is an excellent free desktop tool for creating and maintaining blog posts, and these days I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I use WLW for all my blogs, which are on Google’s (but WLW also acts as a front end to WordPress, TypePad and more).

This is just a fill-in blog post, giving me a chance to play with the enhancements in this version of Live Writer, such as the ribbon.

Blogging couldn’t be made easier! who_stole_the_bridgeI’ll simply drag an image from the file system into the work area … then use the ribbon to right-adjust the image, and hey presto, there it is over to my right!

A quick speel chack (see bottom image) and I’m ready to click the Publish button.

By the way, the road sign is in Ireland, I think. Did somebody steal the bridge, or take it away for repainting, or what? I hope that they mandate life vests under  car seats over there!

I used the very handy Inpaint, a quite valuable and inexpensive graphics tool, to remove some extraneous objects from the image.

Here’s a snapshot of Windows Live Writer 2011 in action on this blog post:


My conclusion? The ribbon takes a bit of getting used to, but after that it’s  “no sweat” as we say here Down Under. Windows Live Writer 2011 is definitely nicer to use than the previous version (which itself was already far better that using the browser-based editor provided by Thanks, Microsoft.

Monday, October 04, 2010

NotesTracker Guide Version 5.2 now available from Scribd

Read all about NotesTracker Version 5.2 in the guide now also available from social publishing and reading site Scribd.

Get the guide (a PDF document) from

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Lotus Sandbox is available again, with bananas

Users of the decommissioned Lotus Sandbox need lament no more, it has been brought back to life and is available for downloads once again (no thanks to IBM).

I recently commented about its passing and yesterday there was a reply posted with the good news.

You’ll find that it has a new “banana home” courtesy of Peter von Stöckel and you can see the Sandbox again here.

Go read Peter’s blog posts about it at Notes.Net Sandbox and Notes.Net Sandbox, part 2

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Big Blue’s Lotus sandbox blues? Give us back our biscuits!

Add to the list of unfathomable corporate decisions IBM’s recent making unavailable the much-loved Lotus Sandbox archive, see here, please go read it.

I do refer to the Sandbox several times per year but haven’t visited for a month or two, and was only alerted to this sad action by Thierry Cayla’s R.I.P posting and I agree with him that it’s not one of IBM’s smartest moves.

So I sent of the following via the developerWorks feedback link on the Sandbox page and maybe you’ll consider doing so too if you’d like to see the Sandbox archive revived.

Here’s my developerWorks feedback to IBM (why not have a go yourself?) …

Bring back the Lotus Sandbox. There were still valuable downloads on it that aren't available elsewhere (such as Consequently  decommissioning the Sandbox will prove to be a disservice to the Lotus Notes/Domino community. Even if you don't actively maintain but merely leave it there as a "legacy" resource, it will remain of value to the Notes community. Could you not afford the trivial expense of leaving it there? Surely your budget is not so constrained that you can't afford the disk space and download bandwidth?
- - - - - - - - - - -

With the boilerplate response: Thank you for giving developerWorks your feedback. Your comments give developerWorks important information that we will use to further improve our design.

Time will tell if they do anything positive about this unimpressive decision.

This reminds me a bit of IBM Australia’s decision, back around  1989 or 1990 -- when admittedly the economy was getting a bit tough, and the usual aggressive annual sales growth targets were being missed -- to stop supplying free biscuits (cookies, if you prefer) in the IBM coffee rooms across the nation. Rumour had it that the biscuits were costing IBM Australia the not inconsiderable amount of some $150,000 per annum (or maybe it was $250,000), so it was probably an understandable decision for the times.

But I can’t see how merely keeping online the Lotus Sandbox could be imposing any such unbearable cost on IBM Corporation.

So IBM,  please reconsider, and make available again the “knowledge biscuits” stored in the Lotus Sandbox.

Help me, concerning the Lotus Domino Designer 8.5.2 Help database

I remain puzzled about the Domino Designer 8.5.2 Help database, which only seems to mention the previous 8.5.1 point release. This is what I found when I opened it:


This is the file help85_designer.nsf that I opened from the Help folder.

Thinking that somehow I might have “stuffed up” the installation (even though I deliberately installed the new release into a brand new folder and not simply overwritten the folder that I had used for release 8.5.1), I contacted one of my clients and he reported the same.

Is this a faux pas on my part, or were there simply no new application design features in the Notes/Domino 8.5.2 release which the IBM information developers found worthy of writing about?

Am I going crazy? … The answer to that rhetorical question is undoubtedly a resounding “Yes!” … But maybe I’m not the only one?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Is there an offline version of The Lotus XPages Domino Object Maps (for v 8.5.2 and 8.5.1)?

The online interactive Domino Object Maps for versions 8.5.1 and 8.5.2 are very useful Help resources for the for Lotus Notes/Domino developer.

In case you missed it, they’re accessible here:

I wanted to make a offline copy, mainly to get snapper performance, by downloading each of the above-referenced pages and all their sub-pages. But this didn’t work, with many of the sub-URLs pointing to other pages external to the base URLs.

Can anybody provide a method for making/obtaining a working offline copy of each map structure in its entirety?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Installing Lotus Notes 8.5.2 on Windows 7 – a cautionary tale

I wonder what Pseudolus would have thought if he had encountered this “gotcha” while installing Lotus Notes 8.5.2 (assuming that they had PCs in ancient Rome, of course).

If you’re not sure who Pseudolus is, go take a look into A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and have a giggle or two, because you shouldn’t take life seriously all the time. There are some video snippets listed on this Google search results page, here’s one of them:

Anyway, let me now amuse and divert you. Here’s something for everybody, comedy tonight! …
Last weekend I eagerly downloaded IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.2, uninstalled version 8.5.1 and proceeded to install the new version of each.

The Lotus Domino 8.5.2 server installed like a dream, in the usual 5 minutes or so that it takes – it certainly is painlessly easy, a dream ride (especially compared with installing many other server products).

Then I moved on to installing Lotus Notes Client, Designer, Administrator desktop product. I expected this to take a little longer, perhaps ten minutes or so (including the Lotus Symphony productivity suite). I had no problems with any of the beta versions of 8.5.2 and expected no issues with the gold code version. But this is where I suspect Pseudolus or one of his zany associates must have decided to add a bit of spice to my weekend!

The normal initial dialog box showed up, namely:

As an aside, this is one of the very few installer panels out there which clearly and explicitly explains what it’s going to do with the extracted files. There are some installers which do not make it clear whether they’re merely going to extract the files into a program directory from which they are executable without any further ado, or whether the extracted files will be used to install the software (and also what will happen to the extracted files once the installation is over, for example automatically cleaning up by deleting these files). So congratulations to IBM for coming up with a perfect example of how this installer dialog box should be worded. Other developers of installer dialogs should take note.

As you can see, I decided that I wanted to keep the installer files and replaced the default generic name with a meaningful name (LotusNotesDesignerAdmin852) for the folder where I could finf then for subsequent installations. Note that my Windows temporary directory is on the F: drive and this drive has about 50 GB of free space, far more than the Notes installation should require, so I expected no dramas to ensue.

But guess what? I was wrong! A few seconds later I got this:

At this stage, clicking the OK button caused the installer to exit.

Now, I simply couldn’t understand why the installer wanted to use the C: drive when I had told it to extract the files to the F: drive, but took a look at the C: drive nevertheless. It’s a logical drive (on a far bigger physical drive) which currently has more than 23 GB free of its total 80 GB size.

So why on earth did the installer claim “There is not enough space on drive C:\ to extract this package” since the extracted package is much smaller than this?

Still very puzzled, and in no mood to spend more time that Saturday trying work out why this contradictory fatal error had occurred, I went to my secondary Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) system and extracted the package there. As I had hoped and expected, this time the very same extraction phase proceed to completion, so I copied the extracted files over the network and was able to install the Lotus Notes 8.5.2 clients (with Lotus Symphony) in the expected ten minutes or so without further drama, and get on with some development/testing work. I’m still not sure why it worked on the secondary Windows 7 system but not the primary one (a subtle difference in Windows security configuration has crept in, or some such thing, I suppose).

Later on, I examined the C: drive’s contents for any possible cause for the wayward drive space claim. While this has nothing to do with Lotus Notes, I discovered to my chagrin that there’s a folder C:\Windows\winsxs that holds more than 30 GB of executables. I kid you not. Talk about Windows systems becoming  bloated!

It turns out that this folder, introduced with Windows XP, is the container for the “side-by-side” assemblies used to ameliorate the “DLL hell” issue for which Windows is infamous. Read more at Wikipedia or here. And mine holds over 20 GB in total contents. ... Crikey, fair crack of the whip, and stone the flaming crows (to coin three Australian sayings).

But this still didn’t explain why the “not enough space on drive C:\” error message was raised, and I remained puzzled. Until this morning, that is, when it suddenly hit me that this is one of those misleading messages, the wording being a “red herring” that causes you to waste time looking for causation in the wrong places.

It wasn’t an “out of space” error, but an authorization problem. It’s one of those situations, all too common with Windows 7 (and I suspect Windows Vista too, but I skipped over this Windows release so have no direct experience).

I find that Windows 7 can be extremely fussy about what you can do with folders and files on the C: drive, and any software you develop should be careful about what you expect your users to do with the C: drive (actually, with the Windows “system drive” which might not always be the C: drive). Always carefully check that you application will work properly (without failing due to authorization issues) if it touches a Windows 7 system drive!

The solution to quite a few Windows 7 errors is to execute a program using the “Run as administrator” capability, like this:


If you encounter the same error, this is all you have to do to get back on track. I hope this tip saves you some heartburn -- and that you enjoyed a look at “A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” too.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Best desktop search tools (reviews - NetworkWorld, July 2010)


I’ve been flat out and haven’t had a chance to work on my Searching for Desktop Search blog for ages and ages.

I thought that I’d mention that NetworkWorld has recently published some desktop search reviews:

Best desktop search tools

I’ve tested many (at least a dozen) desktop search programs for Windows over the last five or more years, including X1 and Copernic search, and I could really tell some stories about them!

But at the moment only have dtSearch Desktop installed on my 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. Currently, I’m actively using only Windows 7 search (when I migrated from Windows XP as soon as Windows 7 was released in August last year, I discarded some of the other desktop search programs).

While Windows 7 search has many good features, one thing that I really dislike about it the ability to readily enter advanced searches (with Boolean search arguments, etc), as  you can using dtSearch like this:


All that Windows 7 gives you is this:


or this inscrutable nonsense at the top right of Windows Explorer:


What Windows 7 desktop search badly needs is an approachable query interface, say like Google’s “Advanced Search” form:


But one distinct advantage for Windows 7 is that it’s built in, and the indexer works unobtrusively and continuously in the background. I find its performance impact to be unnoticeable, and due to the continuous “on the fly” indexing you can query documents added just a few seconds ago.

More about this, and the some distinct advantages of dtSearch, some other time when I have a moment or two to put down my findings.

Laptops in Love – Portables Amoureux

A classical tale of love, hardware-wise, in the French style. … “L’amour toujours” as experienced by two laptop computers.

It’s been out at YouTube for a couple of years, but is quite cute and worth a view. Be forewarned that the tragic conclusion may cause a little weeping!

Catch it here or watch it below:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What’s Good Enough for Goldilocks?

There’s a “Goldilocks Principle” as Dr. John Sorflaten describes at Human Factors International. [Link corrected, thanks Kevin]

Goldilocks went into the three bears’ home and tested their chairs, beds and porridge, until she found what for her was “just right” (or so the fairytale goes).

His article fits in very neatly with the theme of my “Leave good enough alone” blog. Go take a read of it there, and find out how to apply the Goldilocks Principle to design.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Upon what premise do you not say ‘upon-premises’?

Crikey, mate, and stone the flamin’ crows! Even we Aussies in our antipodean backwater, an island far from the birthplace of the English language, know the difference between ‘premise’ and ‘premises’ so there’s no excuse whatsoever for you northern hemisphere dwellers to mangle the English language like you keep on doing!
I’ve been extremely interested in spoken languages since I started learning French and Latin at the beginning of my high school years. Since then I’ve dabbled to a greater or lesser extent in other tongues: German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese (Mandarin, or Putonghua). Apart from any practical use – during a visit to a country, or meeting foreign visitors your own country -- when you find out even a few words and phrases of another language you begin to better understand and appreciate the peoples who speak it.
And I know that spoken languages are ever-changing and adapting, with old words or word usages continually being changed, extended or dropped.
Apart from their distinctive pronunciations, Australians, New Zealanders and (?) South Africans tend to use British variants, while our North American friends often have diverged. As the saying goes, we’re "separated by a common language."
I’ve written about this before, please refer to We landed momentarily, upon a premise … Cloud computing? Phooey! Since cloud computing is being increasingly discussed, I’d like to reiterate the distinction that I made there, this time adding a bit of colour (color, if you prefer):
So, you might implement a cloud computing solution based on the two premises that it would firstly save you money and secondly be faster to implement than an on-premises, or in-premises, solution (one located on your organization’s data center, for example). But it would be incorrect to say “on-premise, or in-premise” solution.
I’m a bit disheartened when I hear the incorrect ‘premise’ usage so often. But on the other hand I’m heartened by IBM peoples’ proper usage. for example in the announcement IBM LotusLive 1.3 adds e-mail services for both new and existing Notes Domino customers and Ed Brill’s blog posting LotusLive Notes: Open for business! … However some very naughty people commenting on Ed Brill’s posting used the incorrect ‘premise’ attribution.
Oh how so much I’m whingeing about presence or absence of a single letter “s” – but I’m a pedant, a “language nerd” … and proud of it!

UPDATE (06 October 2015)
I just stumbled upon a Wikipedia post that gives  a derivation of the term:
Premises are land and buildings together considered as a property. This usage arose from property owners finding the word in their title deeds, where it originally correctly meant "the aforementioned; what this document is about", from Latin prae-missus = "placed before".

In this sense, the word is always used in the plural, but singular in construction. Note that a single house or a single other piece of property is "premises", not a "premise", although the word "premises" is plural in form; e.g. "The equipment is on the customer's premises", never "The equipment is on the customer's premise".

A comment on: Ultra-fast broadband will be slow on overseas links (The Australian)

Australia’s NBN (National Broadband Network) has just had its first point-of-presence officially opened in Tasmania, with the chance that the whole NBN visionary infrastructure project might be canned by the Coalition (Liberal-National) parties if they assume power after next Saturday’s federal election.

There have been many threads or streams of discussion about the politics, business case and technologies of the NBN. One of the various threads argued by the politicians has been about the link speeds involved: Why we need a uniform 100 Mbps network (and in the last couple of days, the fact that tests have shown the NBN will actually support 1 Gbps, which is no surprise to anybody up with technology but caused appalling incredulity on the Coalition leader).

Anyway, a little to my surprise,The Australian newspaper had this article by Sturat Kennedy the other day: Ultra-fast broadband will be slow on overseas links which will be news only to the naive, but I suppose for their sake is worth an airing.

Then across at the NBN Australia group at LinkedIn there was this commentary on the above article. This article won’t be publicly accessible, I guess, so I thought that I should repeat my contribution to this NBN group discussion below, for public view.

- - - - - - - - - -

I’ve been closely following IT technical issues, such as systems performance and communications technology developments, with all their twists and turns, for decades during my career at IBM and afterwards as an independent consultant.

It's been well understood for decades that the overall performance of a service (such as accessing a web site) is dependent on the individual performance of each of the sometimes many steps that contribute to that service.

In this case, the performance of the local device (desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, or whatever), the various communications links (wired, wireless, satellite), and the remote-end service (usually a web server). Understanding and correcting or tuning performance can be a very complicated art.

Queuing theory can be applied to the individual steps an you can come up with a good estimate of the overall performance behavior as well as that of each individual step (each "link" in the chain). There's a queue at each step, and the overall total service time can be estimated by summing the service times of all the individual steps.

Behavior of queues at times can be rather strange and unexpected, such as on a freeway at certain busy times of the day -- see a fascinating "shockwave" queuing example at (and be sure to watch the video).

It's been well understood for decades that the overall performance of a service (such as accessing a web site) is dependent on the individual performance of each of the sometimes many steps that contribute to that service.

In this case, the performance of the local device (desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, or whatever), the various communications links (wired local wireless, satellite), and the remote-end service (typically a web server). Understand and fixing/tuning performance can be a very complicated art. Queuing theory can be applied to the individual steps an you can come up with a good estimate of the overall performance behavior as well as that of each individual step (each "link" in the chain).

For a specific session (such as connection to a local or overseas newspaper web site) it's not much use having one very fast link unless the other links are similar in performance, so a balanced series of steps is optimal for both performance and cost reasons. Or, looking at it in reverse, it's not much point having lots of fast and expensive links if even one link is much slower (and some local country sites can be poor performers, it's not just overseas links and web sties that are slow).
Coalition leader Tony Abbot says that Labor's NBN is like getting a Ferrari when a GM Holden Commodore is all that's needed and affordable.

This affordability argument is oversimplistic. A better analogy would be a fleet of ambulances that, suppose, is measured over a period (weeks or months) to be running at an average speed of 55 Km.hour. It'd be a false economy to purchase a fleet specifying that ambulances only need a top speed capability of, say, 70 Km/hour since much higher speeds are often needed.

Russell Yardley [a respondent in the LinkedIn group’s discussion] mentioned other reasons for having high speed, such as for cloud services. Consider one such service, off-site backup. You might have tens of Gigabytes to be backed up regularly, perhaps daily. What broadband characteristics make this feasible?

Currently most Australian ISPs don't offer high enough upload speeds for such backup to be realistic even if carried out entirely with the country, much less across the Pacific where there are many providers of such a service. Very high speeds for upload -- as well as download, for the recovery phase -- are essential, and it's here that the Holden Commodore analogy breaks down. (Not to mention that Australian broadband plans all count traffic, making such a backup/recovery service unjustifiable in terms of cost as well as performance.)

I could go on and on ...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Broadband antics Down Under, with the looming 2010 federal election

I’ve been closely following communications technology developments, with all the twists and turns, for decades during my career at IBM and afterwards as an independent consultant.

I'm an example of the lucky few here in Australia with a cable broadband choice of both incumbents, Telstra and Optus. Lots of people can get only one or the other (but many Australians unfortunately can get neither).

In Australia, cable has so far generally been available mostly at the level of DOCSIS 2 modem standard. I used the Telstra service for two years, then cancelled it once the contract had expired because Telstra refused to hook me up to their 100 Mbps DOCSIS 3 cable offering. This is typical of Telstra's tendency to "play funny buggers" to use the vernacular, no more so than during the reign of former CEO Sol Trujillo. Acting like this has been their wont, to the intense annoyance of many customers and prospects, and perhaps still is -- although their stance seems to be softening just a little with new management -- fellow ex-IBMer David Thodey get in touch with me if you want a few tips!

Therefore I dropped Telstra cable and switched over to iiNet ADSL2+ with Annex M (the latter only offered to their business customers) which at 1.3 Km from the exchange gives me reliable speeds of 17-18 Mbps downstream and 2.0 Mbps upstream. So while most ISPs offer ADSL only at a maximum of 1 Mbps upstream, double this speed is easily achievable via Annex M if your ISP offers it (same ADSL2+ modem at your end).

iiNet has recently launched what they term "bonded DSL" which requires a second copper line and a special dual-WAN-port modem. This supposedly can almost double downstream and upstream speeds (for me this would be something like 35 Mbps/4 Mbps). My initial reaction is that, for me, it's a bit messy to set up and on the expensive side, but for others it could be their only way currently (pre-NBN)to achieve tolerable speeds.

For me it was a fortunate coincidence that just as I reached my 2-year contract end with Telstra cable iiNet became  the first non-Telstra ISP to offer ADSL2+ (rather than just the slower ADSL1) on my local exchange, Burwood in Melbourne. This exchange is in the heart of suburbia but was deliberately held back from the higher 2+ option for two or three years by Telstra, again playing "funny buggers" to the disservice of its customers.

Running a software consulting business from home, and not being a "leecher" or movie downloader, I've found the  downstream 17-19 Mbps to be quite adequate for my needs 99 percent of the time. I've been carrying out network performance testing all along, and find that iiNet's ADSL2+ is perfectly capable of transferring at close to the nominal 18 Mbps whenever the remote site allows, but this is probably less than 5 percent of the time. Many remote sites, generally those outside the country but including  lots of in-country sites, are not capable of reaching and maintaining more than a few Mbps. I found even the Telstra DOCSIS 2 service rarely connected to sites at anywhere near its nominal 30 Mbps, with few sites reaching even 16 Mbps and most averaging just several Mbps.

However, there ARE occasions when you want/need very high transfer speeds, such as downloading a movie or (in my case) uploading large software files to my web sites. It is beyond question having the choice of operating at high speed is an essential operational requirement -- that is, a "business" case can be made for it (whether the operating environment happens to be commercial, government, or private).

To make an analogy, suppose that a fleet of ambulances is measure over a period of weeks or months to be running at an average driving speed of 55 Km.hour. You'd have to be crazy to try to save  investment  monies by specifying that the vehicles fleet only need a top speed capability of, say, 70 Km/hour because their are times when high-speed travel is of the essence.

In other words, when you want speed you REALLY want it!

False economies like this are to be avoided, at all cost so to speak. This is why the Coalition's piecemeal 2010 broadband policy with its stated target of 12 Mbps "minimum peak speed" (whatever exactly they mean by this) is quite unsatisfactory, if not naive.

Queuing theory informs us that once the a resource is utilized about 60 to 70 percent of its nominal top speed, then its behavior typically becomes very erratic, and that's why a broadband network needs to have far higher nominal speeds than the average user wants to run at and pay for. So, our NBN has been designed and engineered to run very fast: initially announced at 100 Mbps, but with much higher speeds possible (and just the other day a speed of 1 Gbps was announced, easily achieved with current communications technology).

Certainly not everybody requires the very fastest broadband speeds, and it's heartening to see that pricing so far announced by several ISPs for the pioneer NBN roll-out in Tasmania begin at relatively inexpensive rates for a 25 Mbps low-end package. (Packaging and pricing surely will follow the trend of becoming even cheaper as the NBN is rolled out across the nation and economies of scale kick in as well as ISP competition increasing.)

Talking about competition, Optus seems to have been doing their homework and investing sensibly in infrastructure, and they've just announced (for their Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane cabled regions) what they call "Supersonic Broadband" running at DOCSIS 3 speeds (up to a nominal 100 Mbps downstream and a useful 2 Mbps upstream), for a very reasonable $20/month on top of current cable rates. Thus far, Telstra has announced this only for Melbourne, and they seem to have gone quiet on this anyway so they'd better watch out!

We use Optus Cable at home, and for those of us lucky enough to be in Optus-cabled areas this is a serious option for getting NBN-style speeds (until the NBN makes it way across the nation, or definitely if the Coalition wins next weekend's federal 2010 election and do away with the NBN). ... Here Down Under we're living in interesting broadband times indeed!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Embarcadero Developer Survey July 2010 – and for the Lotus Notes developer community?

I just stumbled upon a recent report from Embarcadero Technologies (July 2010), which is interesting enough in its own right:

Developer Survey Report - Embarcadero Technologies July 2010

The web-based survey was conducted during June/July 2010 with responses from “a wide array of application developers” worldwide.

The largest group of respondents identified themselves as software application developers with 89.6% of the responses, it says:


Naturally enough it talks mainly about Embarcadero’s constituency, and in particular looks into development on Windows 7 and there some interesting results for this (go read the full report for yourself).

Here’s one chart that caught my attention:


This set me wondering -- if ever IBM were to conduct such a survey with the Lotus Notes/Domino development community -- what sort of statistics and charts would arise.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A great Lotus Domino admin tip (from Clippings newsletter) -- UPDATED

I really HATE administration in all its shapes and forms, and much prefer doing application design and development. But none of us can escape doing admin, so every little thing that helps reduce the burden is worthwhile knowing,

Nevertheless, I just wanted to broadcast the tip that’s just been published in the latest Lotus Clippings newsletter (August 9, 2010 edition, which hasn’t made it yet to the Clippings website but probably will soon).

The following tip is provided by Warren Elsmore, Senior Architecture Consultant for BE System, based in the UK. He's been working with Notes and Domino since release 3 and is a regular conference speaker throughout the world, including Lotusphere. His expertise covers Lotus Notes, Domino, Sametime and Quick Administration and especially mobile devices.

Domino Server Properties Box

This tip is really simple - in fact so simple that you I guess you’ll either have been using this for years - or never knew it was there!

In the Domino Administrator, open the properties box without having anything selected. Or open it and use the dropdown to select ‘Server’.

What you’ll get is the properties box for the server. OS, CPUs, RAM, physical drives and disk space, even user figures and transaction figures as you see below… All in one place - simple!

Nice one, Warren. The only issue is that there weren’t any images in the Clippings newsletter – stingy, they be! So I had a peek at my main Domino server and took the following snapshots:









image_thumb12  ….. image_thumb14

Advanced (corrected image):


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A great Lotus Domino admin tip (from Clippings newsletter)

I really HATE administration in all its shapes and forms, and much prefer doing application design and development. But none of us can escape doing admin, so every little thing that helps reduce the burden is worthwhile knowing.

Nevertheless, I just wanted to broadcast the tip that’s just been published in the latest Lotus Clippings newsletter (August 9, 2010 edition, which hasn’t made it yet to the Clippings website but probably will soon).
The following tip is provided by Warren Elsmore, Senior Architecture Consultant for BE System, based in the UK. He's been working with Notes and Domino since release 3 and is a regular conference speaker throughout the world, including Lotusphere. His expertise covers Lotus Notes, Domino, Sametime and Quick Administration and especially mobile devices.
Domino Server Properties Box
This tip is really simple - in fact so simple that you I guess you’ll either have been using this for years - or never knew it was there! 
In the Domino Administrator, open the properties box without having anything selected. Or open it and use the dropdown to select ‘Server’.
What you’ll get is the properties box for the server. OS, CPUs, RAM, physical drives and disk space, even user figures and transaction figures as you see below… All in one place - simple!
Nice one, Warren. The only issue is that there weren’t any images in the Clippings newsletter – meanies, they be -- so I had a peek at my main Domino server and got the following snapshots:

image  ….. image

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Reveal the error, for crying out loud!

The Eclipse-based Lotus Domino Designer certainly throws up some weird error messages at times, does it not?

I usually find it best to ignore the message, just click OK and try to get on with life as if nothing ever happened. The errors never have affected any subsequent development work that I’ve done, so “let sleeping dogs lie” seems an acceptable pragmatic approach (though in a perfect world I’d be supposed to spend hours or days trying to establish the nature of each such error and get in touch with IBM to report it and/or get the problem fixed).

Today’s little “Reveal Design Element” gem appeared before me, for the first time ever,  when I launched the Designer:


Crikey! No comment necessary.

As a general observation, I find that the Eclipse-based Designer puts out far too many dialog boxes that display internal workings of the Designer (informational things such as copying this or that internal object) and in my opinion are unnecessarily exposed to you, taking up time, causing the screen to flicker, and then disappearing after some seconds. These are things that the legacy Designer wouldn’t waste time showing you, and are part of the reason for the new Designer being distinctly less snappy.

This is part of what I regard as the lumbering, spasmodic and inconsistent behavior of the Designer (especially in comparison with the speedy legacy Domino Designer).

So according to my own experience the new Designer can be very off-putting and unproductive at times, and this becomes very inefficient especially when in the course of work you have to carry out the same design steps many times in succession. I’ve found that previously simple tasks such as copying forms, views, scripts (and so on) can behave quite erratically, appearing to have happened but not always being accomplished, causing rework. I could say a lot more about this, but will leave it for another time. If anybody at IBM ever wants to discuss this Designer aspect with me I’m happy to oblige.

However, I must be fair and state that some of this erratic behavior might be at least partly caused by the sometimes erratic way that I’ve found Windows 7 to work (with regard to the painting of screen contents, for example). I push my Windows system really hard at times, and it’s far from being as robust and dependable as I’d like. So the fault might lie in both IBM and Microsoft camps. All that I can say is that my overall experience is worse compared with when, prior to August 2009, I used to run Domino Designer Version 7 (or earlier) on good old Windows XP.

Not too encouraging, considering that these days I run 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate on a fast quad-core desktop machine with 8 GB or RAM (which never all gets used up) and multiple disk drives with oodles of free space. Hey, I’ve been a performance specialist (nerd, if you prefer) since the 1970s and should know what I’m talking about.

To continue on my merry theme, I’ve also been big on usability since the mid 1970s, once again courtesy of my time as an IBM systems engineer.

Therefore I’m intensely irritated by the generic “See error log for more details” dialog that the Eclipse-based Domino Designer spits out all too regularly:


In this example, at least there was an attempt made to describe the nature of the error: “Data does not have correct format for type.” But it’s a pretty lame attempt, wouldn’t you agree? There’s enough space in the dialog box to indicate in brief the nature of the “data” and also the expected format and the type, is there not? Knowing this could obviate a visit to the error log, so be more informative in the dialog box itself?

Of course, I’d better add that lots and lots of other software is riddled with shoddy messages like this, I’m only using these two examples from Domino Designer since they happened to me earlier this afternoon.

Don’t make things so hard! We don’t all have to be Eclipse gurus, do we? Since you designed the code that wrote the log file, obviously you know where it’s located, so tell me precisely where it is. Even better, why not provide a button or hotlink which I simply need to click so as to have the log opened?

‘nuff said … Or maybe, too much said by this grumpy old man!

NotesTracker Guide Version 5.2 now online at Docstoc

You can now read the Version 5.2.00 edition of the NotesTracker Guide at Docstoc.

Read or download it here:


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SDMS Version 4.5.10 for Lotus Notes released (03 August 2010)

The very popular free Lotus Notes application SDMS (a Simple Document Management System) was released today (3rd August 2010).

SDMS has been upgraded to incorporate NotesTracker Version 5.2 which itself was released only yesterday.

image There’s also a fix for the Category and Sub-Category fields (the drop-down list was being blanked in edit mode).

It was one of those simple bugs that was “staring me in the face” and for some unknown reason I only just twigged to it a few days ago. … Duh!

Go get your free copy of SDMS Version 4.5.10 either here (Dallas server) or here (Sydney server), and ENJOY.

Monday, August 02, 2010

NotesTracker Version 5.2 released (02 August 2010)

NotesTracker gets even better with the release of Version 5.2 and you can find out where to download the evaluation edition and the NotesTracker Guide Version 5.2 from the companion blog:

NotesTracker news and tips

One of the new features is the ability to track attachment changes (filenames and sizes), for example:


This example shows that one attachment was removed (circled in red) from the Notes document, and one was attached (circled in green).

So read all about it at NotesTracker news and tips

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I’m an old Old Spice man! ... And Oh Yes: NotesTracker version 5.2 is imminent

One of the few things I have in common with Old Spice man is that I happen to use Old Spice deodorant. But I don’t have a horse or a yacht.

As an old codger I can attest that my Old Spice stick does keep that “old man’s smell” at bay! It keeps me fresh -- and even perhaps pleasant to be near -- as I struggle and sweat to keep abreast with what’s happening in the IT world, while trying to maintain a mastery over a tiny little portion of it, in this my 41st year in the game.

This includes further refining and tweaking NotesTracker (see links at right) including combing through the NotesTracker Guide and making changes here and there with a view to improving NotesTracker’s ease of use even further.

Also, I’ve finished functional and regression testing of the next release, and am happy to tell you that NotesTracker Version 5.2 is now ready for final packaging and imminent release (in just a matter of days, I expect).

The major new function in NotesTracker v5.2 is the option to log the names (and sizes) of document attachments as they are changed. The attachments themselves are not logged, since this would add vastly to the log repository disk space usage.

I’ve also tested and highly recommend the excellent Notes Reconn freeware (from -- and have expanded the final section of the NotesTracker Guide, describing how simple it is to use Notes Reconn to produce very nice-looking and informative charts.

These give you even more ways to comprehend and visualize the usage of your Notes applications. Here’s an example:

NotesTracker 3D cylinder chart -- Database actions by username

The single-character legends on the right correspond with the NotesTracker action types, which are: C = Create a document, D = Delete a document, F = Failed document deletion attempt, G = Generic NotesTracker action (these can be any activities that you designate, such as pressing the Send button), P = Paste a document, R = Read a document, U = Update a document, X = Create a document via a Web browser, W = Web Read, Y = Web Update. (There are other loggable application actions that don’t appear in this example: V = a View is opened, O = Opening of a database, E = a document deletion attempt was indeterminate, and M = Mail-in of a document.)

Watch this space for the NotesTracker v5.2 software release announcement.

Meanwhile, you can download the NotesTracker Version 5.2 Guide from here or here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lotus Knows? … Not all the time!

I’ve been using IBM Lotus Domino Designer a lot recently, after quite a few months of irregular use.

I often wonder what IBM’s usability specialists are doing with their time when they allow certain things to go feral and linger on to cause us continuing pain.

Perhaps a lot of the IBM/Lotus people who, over the decades, have developed Notes don’t actually use it much in the manner that we practitioners out in the field do. They do it in spades for Notes Mail and the like, but seem to have forgotten to do so for the Domino Designer product.

I’m got a toothache today, and am not happy about having to visit the dentist again! I had hoped that last month’s visit was the last time I’d have to see the insides of a dental surgery for a good while. So maybe that’s the reason behind my rant today, I’m usually much more affable!

Anyhow, I’ve been using the application “Refresh Design” function quite a lot of late, perhaps dozens of times per day, and I’m getting totally annoyed by the following dialog and extremely tired of having to click on the Yes button time after time:

imageWhat is patently missing is the “Don’t show this again” or “I know what I’m doing” option that I’ve suggested, highlighted in yellow. This option is a common feature of similar dialogs in all sorts of software, even in other parts of Lotus Notes, so I’m not asking for too much am I?

And of course I’m asking the Notes design team to make this available in Domino Designer as soon as possible, and to systematically review other dialogs that we weary end users are presented with many times per day, and ensure that the same option is present in them.

IBM continues to invest in Lotus Notes, they assure us, so why not divert a very modest amount of time and people resource to do this streamlining? I’m pretty sure it will generate a big payback and a ton of appreciation from us!

Please add your own similar requests below, for IBM’s consideration …

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

TIP – Another way to recover from Lotus Notes 8.5.1 replicator failure (“Unable to invoke program”)

I was just cruising along, using Lotus Notes 8.5.1 for development, and wanted to replicate a database with a client’s server.

Rather than business-as-usual replication, out spurted the error “Unable to invoke program” …

Image:Badkey Corner - Unable to invoke program and Lotus Notes

A bit of searching around the IBM support knowledgebase, various Lotus-related forums and community web sites led me nowhere.

Thee were some pretty drastic solutions, including uninstalling and re-installing Notes client, which I didn’t want to have to do. Others like this that talked about disabling the Multi-user Cleanup service (in Windows) but this didn’t apply in my case because I’m running a single-user Notes installation.

The folks at Badkey Corner had the following post: Unable to invoke program and Lotus Notes which included the advice: “Re-running client setup to generate a new names.nsf, desktop6.ndk, and bookmark.nsf resolved the issue.”

Rather than doing this (it’s a pain to delete the desktop8.ndk file because then you have to spend ages setting up your Notes Workspace again, which has lots and lots of database icons for all the applications that I work on).

It was my birthday yesterday -- and let me tell you that I’m two or three times older than many of you – but there must be a few parts of my burnt-out grey matter still working, because I got the inspiration to delete the Cache.NDK file and to my pleasure this solved the problem, as I had guessed that it might. Replication was back to normal again.

The beauty of this solution is that (a) it’s quick, and (b) you don’t lose as much as you would if you followed other suggestions. I hope that this tip works as well for you some day and saves you some sweat and tears!