Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ugh! The ugliest creatures on the planet?

For the past few months I’ve been receiving the daily newsletter from the Chicago Tribune, reading with great interest the varied day-to-day news items.

Blobfish -- a  Microsoft Exchange user, perhaps?

I’ve decided to spend a few months comparing what’s been happing in and around Chicago with happenings in my home (Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria, Australia) just to see and muse about similarities and differences between these two great cities.

I’ve been to Chicago several times, mostly in transit during some of my many trips to the IBM Development Lab in Rochester, Minnesota (birthplace of the System/3, System/36, System/38 and AS/400 range of IBM machines, with which I was heavily involved as an IBMer).

It’s quite fascinating to see common issues surfacing at city, state and federal level (aspects of crime, public service, politics, public transport, politics, and many more), as well as major differences in many ways. More about the similarities and differences in another post, perhaps.

Star-nosed mole -- much more handsome! ... Probably a Lotus Notes user?

But today I wanted to alert you to some eye-catching photos, like those above, that Chicago Tribune is currently featuring: Ugliest creatures on the planet –- catch these photos while they’re still online!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

SEO Mastery – just a few clicks away?

I’m going through a phase of passing before I forget about them a pile of useful quick tips about this, that and the other thing.

This tip concerns SEO (search engine optimization) -- which anybody responsible for a web site should pay some attention to if they want to promote their site and get more people to visit it.

TIP: go visit SEO Mastering for a versatile set of SEO services and search engine optimization tools – and they’re all FREE.

The thing I really like about this site is that such a wide range of tools are all conveniently available to you in one place. Further, they have quite a few valuable articles about SEO and a wiki to go with that.

Patterns, briefly

Everybody involved with any stage of systems, from initial concept right through to everyday use, should read and absorb the valuable ideas in Ross Collard’s succinct article The Patterns That Surround Us.

It describes in a practical fashion all sorts of patterns, making many sensible points in a matter-of-fact way, without your having to wade through some of those excessively heavyweight tomes on the subject.

Another quick summary is the Wikipedia article Design pattern (computer science) -- in conjunction with Architectural pattern (computer science)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Attention: SIR, here’s another little Lotus Notes freebie for you!

Sir is a very simple Lotus Notes freeware mini-application for surfacing Notes database property values, such as Replica ID, that are frequently used by Notes developers and administrators.


SIR is predicated on the same design principle as my previous freeware contribution Simple Signer (available here or here). That is, SIR is deliberately designed to be “dead simple” to understand “dead easy” and use. (Worth striving for, no?)

Call it “single-minded” or “simplistic” if you like, you won’t ruffle my feathers, and I reckon that SIR will be  useful nevertheless. Sure, you can get this information from other places like the Infobox or Design Synopsis, but I was seeking a somewhat different interface.

Here’s what SIR looks like once you’ve selected a database and then clicked the long pink “Extract and display” button:


Nothing too sophisticated, nothing too complicated. You display the information and then can copy-and-paste it into your LotusScript or other code or use it in Domino Administrator, or whatever else you need to do with such database property values.

If you want to, you can optionally save the information in a series of time-stamped documents for subsequent reference and retrieval:


SIR Version 1.0 can be downloaded from here or here 

And note that its design is not hidden/ You’re welcome to add extra code to retrieve additional database properties that you need.  (Only basic LotusScript skills are required for this.)

Once again, it’s FREE, so enjoy! Oh yes, I should add that SIR was cobbled together in a few hours this afternoon, so please be kind and regard it as a beta for the moment. Be sure to send  me prompt feedback about any bugs or usability issues – and let me know whether you think it was worth the effort!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

[UPDATED] Lotus Notes/FX 8.5.1 to Lotus Word Pro field exchange failure -- solved!

Last year I asked for assistance from the Lotus Notes community, on behalf of a client, relating to Notes/FX failure to exchange field data with Lotus Word Pro documents, see:

Notes/FX – where “FX” represents “Field Exchange” -- is not something that many Notes users know about. It’s a nifty implementation of Windows OLE and you can read about it by searching for “Notes/FX” in the Domino Designer help database.

My client had been using it since the mid-1990s to send Notes document field data to Lotus Word Pro template documents and then print them for mailing off to their customers.

Notes/FX to Word Pro field exchange worked efficiently and unobtrusively all these years, until the customer decided to upgrade from Notes/Domino 6.5 to the exciting 8.5.1 release. He found during testing that everything except the Notes/FX field exchange worked seamlessly.

The field exchange simply would not operate. The Word Pro templates opened with their “click here” fields blank, instead of receiving data passed via OLE from the corresponding fields in the parent Notes document.

I did fiddle around with Windows registry settings, as suggested by respondents to my blog post, but didn’t seem to get anywhere. In the meantime, I started investigating other possible Notes to word processing document data transfer solutions.

These included Notes to OpenOffice, and after that (once Notes 8.5.1 was officially released towards the end of 2009) Notes to Lotus Symphony via the new LotusScript API. In short, these were fine for field exchange in one or two cases, but required quite a few lines of LotusScript to emulate what notes/FX was doing.

Particularly burdensome and worrying was the need to do hard-coding of field names (lots and lots of them). Of course, hard-coding of field names is quite satisfactory in a simple demonstration application which typically has only five or ten example fields (customer name, address, phone number, etc). But it’s intolerable for a production database like my client’s, which uses more than twenty such document templates, with some of them having dozens of fields to be exchanged.

As I said, I had originally fiddled with Windows registry settings and gotten nowhere back then. But for some reason, this morning I decided to have another quick go at it before giving up entirely on Notes/FX and starting into a very long haul with LotusScript and the Lotus Symphony API.

So I fired up the Windows registry editor (regedit.exe) and made the following change to the hive key (as highlighted in green):


TIP - a quick way to get to the Notes.Link section of the registry is to do a registry search on “Notes.Link” -- and you’ll need to hit F3 (Find Next) several times until you get there:image

And this is where you should finish up (click to view a larger image):


Highlighted in green is the hive key, and in pink is the command setting for Lotus Word Pro in Notes 8.5.1 (and for all I know this might apply right back to Notes 8.0), as highlighted in pink:

"C:\Notes851\notes.exe" -defini "%1"

The fix is very simple, in my case just the removal of all four double-quotes, finishing up (as highlighted in yellow) with:

C:\Notes851\notes.exe -defini %1

Once this simple Windows registry change was accomplished, the Notes/FX OLE data exchange from Notes fields to Word Pro fields worked properly again, what a relief!

HOWEVER… As is often the case, there’s a catch that makes this turn out not to be a universal solution. It will not succeed for most Notes 8 installations, which typically would be something like this:

"C:\Program Files\IBM\Lotus\Notes\notes.exe" -defini "%1"

And now you’re asking why this is so, aren’t you? Purely by empirical testing I discovered that you cannot have blanks in any of the folder names -- as between “Program” and “Files” (curse you again for this, Microsoft).

The presence of spaces is probably the reason for the double quotes being placed in the hive key for the Notes.Link registry entry, but apparently IBM has slipped up somehow in going from Notes 7 to Notes 8. It should be a very simple fix, and I hope they do it soon (Notes 8.5.2 would be nice).

In summary, if you’re one of the few Notes sites still using Notes/FX, you’ll need to install Notes 8 in a folder hierarchy that doesn’t contain any blanks, and also carry out the above simple registry change (which could be automated by scripting, I suppose).

Well, at long last I have a solution for my long-suffering client. Arrived at by chance or my twisted thinking and persistence perhaps, all the same I reckon that it’s a satisfactory workaround and some of you should be able to make use of it too.

Keep an eye on this post in case there are any corrections or updates after I liaise with IBM Support.

UPDATE #1 [19 February 2010]
Initial feedback from IBM Support was as follows:

This parameter is used to prevent malicious URLs to launch Notes via  Windows registry by having an "=\\evilhost\notes.ini" on the command line.
/defini %1 is used to provide an alternative Notes.ini file. If you replace this parameter you should not loose functionality.
"-defini %1" seems to be the best way to use this parameter. There has been issues using "/defini" as third party software like SmartSuite had troubles parsing this string.

Aha, it’s the old “blame third party software” caper! Rather amusing, since in this case the third party is the same as the first party, so it’s the right hand smacking the left hand! Anyway, I’m not quite sure what will happen next. Will they (the Lotus SmartSuite team via IBM Support) get back to me with further advice as to what I should do for my client? Will they provide a fix so that this parameter parsing trouble gets resolved and Notes/FX works properly again for Lotus Word Pro? … Time will tell.

UPDATE #2 [22 February 2010]
My client has confirmed that the registry change works. He is able to use all his Notes/FX to Lotus Word Pro links, and is at last able to forge ahead with his delayed Notes Client 8.5.1 installation.

He decided to install Notes 8.5.1 in the C:\Lotus\Notes directory (remember, the golden rule is to avoid any spaces in the path string).

I provided him with a .reg file so that he doesn’t have to manually edit the Windows registry, the contents of which are as follows. In case of word wrap in this post, note that there are four lines, the second line being blank.


@="C:\\Lotus\\Notes\\notes.exe -defini %1"

Save these lines with a file name such as NotesLink_command_adjust.reg and just double-click to apply the registry fix. Naturally, if you use some other folder than in this example, amend the fourth line being careful to use double backslashes for each single backslash in the path string. (Read more about such files at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spotty line numbering in Lotus Domino Designer 8.5.1

Line numbering is one of the nice features of Domino Designer 8.5.1, but its availability is rather spotty, so here’s a “heads up” (just for the record, as they say).

I’m still settling in to using this Eclipse-based IDE, and really like being able to turn on line numbering, from within the preferences for Domino Designer, thus:


Then suppose that you’re editing an agent, as in Figure (1), which is for a LotusScript agent (the same works for Java agents):


You simply right-click just near the left edge of the programmer’s pane and select “Show line number” in the context menu (as highlighted in green). Happiness and smiles all round!

Then I moved on to updating the code in an Action Bar button, and after four or five fruitless minutes found that (even though it’s LotusScript code) you can’t turn on line numbering in this environment. As shown in Figure (2) below, the context menu is the same as in earlier DDE releases (no line numbering option):


A pity, that’s inconsistency for you! … I hope it appears in a near-term future release of DDE.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Proof of global warming ... Means exactly what? Your input needed.

If you're reckon that you're good at logical, clear thinking, then go and answer this very basic question over at my Basic Questions blog!

Monday, February 01, 2010

How to open new windows into the world of IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.1

A Lotus Notes Client feature that “went missing” in Release 8.0 and 8.5 was reintroduced in 8.5.1 and, oh boy, am I happy about it!

I’m talking about the “Open In New Window” feature. I have a particular interest in this, not only because it eases life for developers and power users but especially because it enhances the value of my NotesTracker toolkit (see here if that link is down).

The NotesTracker development toolkit enables detailed application-centric activity and compliance monitoring for virtually any Lotus Notes/Domino application (you only need have designer access rights to make a set of simple changes to the database’s design).

NotesTracker will track and report, for both Notes Client and Web Browser environments, on document actions (CRUD: Create/Read/Update/Delete, document pastes and mail-ins, button clicks, etc) -- plus usage of views and a few other things that are of some technical rather than application interest.

Customers use NotesTracker for such things as monitoring Domino Directory changes (person and group documents, server documents, etc), monitoring activities against mail databases for security/privacy intrusions, and the like. … Anything, really.

Anyhow,  with Notes 8.5.1 “Open In New Window” is back at last, built in to the Notes Client itself (as in Notes 7 and prior releases).

It also comes in the form of a new Formula Language command, for use in other places:

@Command( [OpenInNewWindow] )

This new command allows your formula language code to open a document from a view, folder, or calendar in a new window instead
of opening it within a new tab within Lotus Notes.

Further, I’ve also noticed that there’s a new “Open in New Window” system action in some of the IBM templates that you can copy and paste into your own action bars:

Open In New Window action


Remember to select the
Include in right mouse button menu
(a.k.a. the context menu):


Why would you want to open a Notes Client window externally from the main Notes window, and how might you take advantage of this capability?

Well, here’s just one example: NotesTracker has the capability of generating (inside the Notes Client) what I call “breaking news” Notes views, quite analogous to RSS views on the Internet.

Imagine that you’re logging activities of a range of your Notes/Domino applications into a central NotesTracker Log repository database.

Of all the activities that you’re monitoring this way, usually some actions are more important or critical  than others. Say, if you’re administering your Domino Directory databases (earlier called “Public Address Books” or PABs), and you have a network of hundreds of Domino servers, which people are changing (adding/deleting Person or Group documents, modifying Server Documents, etc).

You’re very concerned about security fields being compromised across each and every one of your servers. Also, specifically for your hub servers, that certain key performance-critical fields (indexing, replication flow control, and so on) might get changed to poorly-chosen values that will cripple your Domino server performance.

Well, you can easily build a separate NotesTracker Log view that’s shows a subset of the log documents focussing on these concerns. Then (as shown in the NotesTracker Guide), make the view become RSS-like and open that view in a new window that move to one side and keep an eye on.

As soon as a violation occurs, the log document will appear in this view and you’ll be alerted pretty much immediately (for remote Domino servers, as soon as replication of each such  log document occurs).

Here’s a video that I whipped up to demonstrate the above points:

You’ll find a detailed explanation of setting up and using such Breaking News RSS-like views in the NotesTracker Guide, a PDF file downloadable from either or