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Lotus Domino on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Via my blog subscriptions I picked this wiki article on getting started with Lotus Domino for Amazon Web Services (IBM Lotus Domino 8.5.1 on Amazon Web Services: A getting started guide) and decided to look into it. The availability of Lotus Domino on AWS was announced at Lotusphere 2010 so this was a good opportunity to look into it.

The setup steps in the wiki article are easy to follow although the Lotus Domino image isn't available in the Europe region "data center". I had to choose US East or US West to be able to select the Lotus Domino AMI (read: "image"). For testing that isn't an issue but for production you need to consider network latency to your server. If you have other existing AWS servers it may also be an issue as data transfer within the same region is free but isn't among regional centers which can become costly for maintenance operations etc.

Besides that it looks slick and allows you to easily setup test servers based on templates. Also you only pay for servers as long as they are running so it might be a nice way to test big deployment scenarios. As mentioned earlier on this blog there are a lot of other IBM templates as well (for DB2, Tivoli, Websphere etc.).

Note that Amazon is not alone in this space. As you might have seen in the showcase at Lotusphere Group is also promoting their GroupLive platform as a service (PaaS) product. Some European companies might want to partner with a European company than with an American company.

Know your (Eclipse) Target Platform

When developing plugins for Lotus Notes you need to know about Target Platforms in Eclipse. The Target Platform is what describes the functionality that's available to your plugin in the, you guessed it, target platform. You can use this to simulate your plugin running in a number of different scenarios or products (such as Sametime, Notes etc.).

The other day I found this nice blog series about Target Platforms and thought I would share.

Blog Series around PDE and Target Platform

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Fix your calendars week numbering with Notes 8.5.1 FP2

For us in Europe using the ISO standard for week numbering one of the fixes delivered in Notes 8.5.1 FP2 has been a long time coming. Previously when using the calendar regional setting of "Use my operating system regional setting" Notes would still get the week number wrong. Of course the solution was simply to specify "Always use the ISO standard" though it didn't feel right.

Now with Notes 8.5.1 FP2 there is a fix for this issue and Notes will now behave correctly (at least it does so on my client).

"SPR# FPAI7X7KL3 - There is a preference for how week numbering is handled in the Notes calendar. There are 3 choices for the preference: "Use my operating system regional setting", "Always use the ISO standard", and "Custom week numbers". Prior to this fix, the choice of "Use my operating system regional setting" was not working properly for those users who had their OS regional setting set for a country/language that used the ISO standard. It should be noted that this fix does not make an inspection of the registry settings (on windows platforms). Instead, the fix uses the Java JVM's settings for week numbering based on the country/language the user's OS is running in at the time the Notes client is started. "

There is nothing to fear than Websphere itself

Saw this link on Planetlotus.org and I think it's well worth making sure that more Yellowheads know about it. It's becoming clear that more and more Lotus products are being based on Websphere (which I understand and somewhat support!!) so getting to know Websphere is probably not the worst way to spend a weekend. This PDF from IBM (1 hour course to demystify Websphere Application Server for Lotus is now available) is a crash course introduction to Websphere Application Server, what it's all about and what the terminology is. I highly recommend you take a peek.

Microsoft MIX10 vs Lotusphere

With all the talk we have been having around Lotusphere presentations and the availability of session presentations and video afterwards it's strangely refreshing to see how Microsoft approach their MIX10 conference which was just held in Las Vegas. If you go to live.visitmix.com/videos you are able to download all presentations and download or stream all sessions as video (WMV for HD and h.264). They even provide a downloader to download all the contents in one go.

How do you like them apples?

All you wanted to know about the Notes directory structure

All you wanted to know about the Notes directory structure is explained here: "Understanding the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.x client directory structure" via Stephan Wissel.

"This article explains the changes that were introduced in the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 File System installation and describes them with respect to the installation, setup/launch/run, and uninstall phases in the client's life cycle. Also included are answers to some FAQs on the client file system."

Is there a need for a login-feature in Lotus Connections?

Let me start of by fending you off by saying no I do not mean that we need a way to log into Lotus Connections... :-) We have a fair number of those and all are actually well documented and are working just fine. What I mean is that I have been wondering whether we need a specific feature (like Profiles, Bookmarks, Search) to handle the login into Lotus Connections. So why do we need that when we have a working product today?

The Lotus Connections product today have one sore point which is really a hazzle and it's something that most customers would love to do and that's customizing the UI. Today customizing the UI can be done albeit it's a bit tedious and a lot of steps are necessary. It is however relatively easy to centralize the UI files and customize it in one location. All but for one thing. The login page. You can make Lotus Connections look the way you want except for the login page.

To customize the login page today you have to touch 15 files across all features. 15 files!! Are you kidding me?! The main issue is that every single feature has it's own login page located deep within each feature code base (as a JSP which is somewhat readily editable). Also editing this login page means you have to hand-carry the customizing across upgrades.

So that's when I thought about having an extra feature that handles the logging in. So instead of having a login page per feature you'd have a single login page in a single feature. Customizing that one would be trivial as it's just a single JSP and it could maybe be sourced as an include from the HTTP server where all the CSS and image files are already stashed. I know there are stuff to consider such that SSO would have to be enabled among features (plus probably a host of other things I didn't think of) but I think it's an interesting idea. From my limited knowledge of the Lotus Connections innards it looks reatively easy to implement.

  1. Check that the user has been authenticated (maybe in a Filter)
  2. If yes - super!! Allow into content
  3. If no - bummer!! Make a note of the url the user was trying to access in a session variable and forward to the login feature
  4. Once authentication has been completed do a forward back to the url
Simplified I know but interesting. Comments?!

How to get started with plugin development

I get a lot of questions (via e-mail and IM) on how to get started with plugin development for the Lotus Notes platform. Instead of answering them all individually I thought I would (finally) write a general purpose blog post to try and answer these questions in general terms.

First of I'm sorry to say that the current state of affairs for someone who want to get started doing plugin development for the Lotus Notes platform is grim. There is as you might have experienced very little material available for programmers new to the Eclipse world to build stuff for Lotus Notes 8+ clients. To make things worse the material that is available often cut corners or simply start out too advanced. That being said I am hearing muffled voices mention some material being developed and that IBM Lotus is focusing on this matter but it will be yet some time before it's out. Until that time and until we can upload information directly into the brain like martial arts skills are given to Nemo in The Matrix I suggest the following.

My suggestions for someone getting started would be to start by realizing that programming for Eclipse and hence in SWT for the Lotus Notes 8 client has nothing, what so ever, to do with traditional Notes programming. It sounds obvious but once you have accepted this it gets easier. Maybe not easier technically but easier to accept that this is a completely new field you're venturing into. If nothing else you stop looking to IBM Lotus for help and instead turn to the Eclipse side of the internet.

Before you start to whine I think this is just fine and how it should be. Really. Initially most of the stuff you need to know to get started has nothing to do with IBM Lotus but is general purpose Eclipse development information. It's like blaming Toyota for not telling you how to repair their cars. Toyota can be expected to tell you and document what's so special about their cars. They can't be expected to teach you the basics - you go to a car repair classes for that.

It's the same with Eclipse development. Learn the basics and specialize from there. You could say that we could expect information about the various ways to extend the client to readily available and better documented. I'll give you that... :-)

Once you're past that and before you embark on your journey first realize this. In Eclipse and SWT we build everything our selves and we're left to the mercy of the client and the differences that exist across the different platforms (Notes 8.0.x vs. Notes 8.5 across Mac / Linux / Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7). We're close to the metal with all the benefits, worries and problems that entail.

So if I had to come up with an action plan for learning about Eclipse / Expeditor / Notes 8+ development it would be something like the following:

  • Learn Java! Become proficient in Java! It sounds obvious but it's one of the pillars for being successful in this area. Pay special attention to the following areas as they are used heavily when developing for Eclipse:
    • Event publishing/subscription using listeners
    • Anonymous inner classes
    • Interfaces
    • Multithreading
  • Learn about GUI development in general. Resources for developing in Java SWING are just as good as those for SWT as many, if not all, of the concepts apply to both. UI development includes:
    • Widgets
    • Layout managers
    • Threading and the concept on an UI thread. What should and shouldn't you do on the UI thread!?
  • Learn about Eclipse and the Eclipse platform for building RCP (Rich Client Platform) programs.
  • Buy a book about it such as "Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse, The (2nd Edition)". It has been a good help to me.
  • Stop by http://www.eclipse.org/articles and take a look at the articles there.
  • Follow this blog :-)

As you can see it's no small adventure you're starting into. The learning curve may be steep but it's also rewarding to be able to extend the client beyond belief. If only you'd started learning Java earlier...

SSL certificates and the WAS plugin

Had some issues yesterday morning with the SSL certificate used between the WAS IHS plugin and WAS for a Lotus Connections installation (Dannotes in case you were wondering why you couldn't log in this morning). Again it turned out to be the all to well known "ERROR: lib_stream: openStream: Failed in r_gsk_secure_soc_init: GSK_ERROR_BAD_CERT(gsk rc = 414)" issue where the SSL certificate from WAS isn't trusted by the IHS WAS plugin.

The issue were "easily" solved by help of Technote 1264477 (GSK_ERROR_BAD_CERT error configuring SSL between Plug-in and Application Server V6.1). The solution is of course to extract the certificate from WAS and import it into the IHS WAS plugin keystore.

Configured the LinkedIn iWidget for Lotus Connections

Based on a blog post by Luis Benitez I configured the Linkedin iWidget for Lotus Connections yesterday. So if you're a Dannotes Lotus Connections user you can now configure your profile page to show your Linkedin data as well (my profile).

The widget works by showing LinkedIn data alongside the profile page if the profile owner chooses to. Each user has to authorize the LinkedIn API to show the data. If he/she doesn't it simply shows a message to that effect.

The documentation on how to install the iWidget leaves something to be desired but I managed and have it working now. I'm still IM'ing with a fellow yellow bleeder who is also trying to do the install. For him however it's not working and we cannot seem to figure out why. My best guess is that the widget cannot figure out that he's on his own profile but we're not sure yet. Maybe it simply worked for me because I also did it on my MyDeveloperWorks page.


eclipsebible.com via Radu.

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Complete guide to manually uninstalling "plugins" from Lotus Notes

As you probably know installing and uninstalling Java extensions ("plugins") into the Lotus Notes client is easy using either File >> Application >> Install, File >> Application >> Application Management or the widget catalog. Sometimes however this doesn't work and you'll have to resort to a manual uninstall. This blog post outlines the way to perform a manual uninstall.

We have to start with some basics though. A Java extension in Lotus Notes (also known as a "plugin") consists of two things:

  1. Eclipse plugin(s)
    The plugin is where the actual code and functionality is stored together with additional resources such as images, string translation etc.
  2. Eclipse feature
    The feature is what's actually installed from a Lotus Notes perspective. The feature points to the Eclipse plugins that provides the actual functionality. It's almso important to note that a single feature may reference multiple plugins.
Both an Eclipse plugin and an Eclipse feature are represented in the file system as JAR-files (files with an extension of "JAR") and both of them are kept in the file system. A JAR-file is just a fancy ZIP-file with a predefined folder structure. Eclipse Features and plugins are stored in two directories beneath your Notes data directory (<Notes data dir.>/workspace/applications/eclipse/features for the features and <Notes data dir.>/workspace/applications/eclipse/plugins for the plugins).

From the above it may seem obvious that simply deleting these files will uninstall a Java extension - unfortunately there's a final piece to the puzzle. Lotus Notes also keeps a record of what's installed in a file called platform.xml (stored in <Notes data dir>\workspace\.config\org.eclipse.update). Simply deleting the feature(s) and plugin(s) may seem to work but will misbehave for instance when activating the File >> Application >> Application Management interface. The solution is to edit this file as well.

The complete steps to manually uninstalling a Java extension is therefore as follows:

  1. Close Lotus Notes
  2. Open the "features"-directory (<Notes data dir>\workspace\applications\eclipse\features)
  3. Locate the Eclipse features to uninstall.
  4. For each Eclipse feature you need to open it and edit the feature.xml file. Locate the <plugin>-tags and fine the names of the referenced plugins. Note that there might be more than one. Combining the plugin id and the plugin version will give the full filename of the plugin (<plugin id>_<plugin version>.jar).
  5. Delete the Eclipse features you're uninstalling.
  6. Open the "plugins"-directory (<Notes data dir>\workspace\applications\eclipse\plugins).
  7. Delete the plugin JAR-file(s) you recorded in the step above.
  8. Open the directory containing the platform.xml file (<Notes data dir>\workspace\.config\org.eclipse.update).
  9. Edit platform.xml and go to the end of the file.
  10. Remove each entry you see for the features you deleted in the step above.
  11. Save and close the file.
  12. Since Lotus Notes also keeps a record of which Java extensions to load it's best to start Notes with some parameters to make it recompute the Java extension registry: notes.exe -RPARAMS -clean

Let me know if the above doesn't work for you.

Please note: Manually uninstalling a Java extension installed via a widget descriptor via a widget catalog/policy will probably just make it reinstall once uninstalled.

Project Agora Next - imagine this for Lotusphere 2011

I'm currently commuting doing some late catchup on what happened at Lotusphere. Among other things I was lucky to have Stephan tell me to go and check out Project Agora Next in the Innovation Lab (Agora: Next Generation Meetings). This is very cool technology.

Agora: Next Generation Meetings
Agora is a collaborative media service with the primary goal of surfacing information buried in monolith meeting recordings by making it accessible from a collaborative point of view, as well as from an information mining aspect. This web-based solution enables users to upload recorded meeting video and/or audio, automatically create transcriptions and attach metadata such as micro tags and comments. Tags and comments are identified along the meeting timeline highlighting items and segments of interest. The metadata can be edited and improved upon through collaboration. Metadata is used to facilitate searching for segments of interest, as well as collaboration and discussion.

So what does it actully do? Well imagine that you missed a web meeting and/or wanted to see what happened in the meeting. Instead of having to sit through the entire recording the system has transcribed the audio, indexed the transcription and slides for searching AND made a note when something of interesting happened. So what's "something of interest" you may ask. Well that's a slide changing, new speaking appearing, a question being asked etc. With all this info you can jump directly to the interesting sections instead of having to sift through it all. Way cool. Oh! And the system also automatically updates your calendar so that when you search your calendar for that meeting you cannot quite remember, you'll see the thumbnails and links to interesting spots right there in your very own calendar. It just got even more cool.

Besides being available in the Innovation Labs at Lotusphere Agora is also available now in LotusLive Labs (probably requires login to LotusLive but has some cool recorded samples) so you may check it out there as well.

Imagine stuff like Agora for all Lotusphere sessions coupled with a persistent Lotusphere Online community. How cool would that be. Persistent access to all sessions, transcribed for easy searching with a community aspect of tagging cool demos and the like. Wicked!!

Changing the way I approach selling the value of social software

Yesterday I spoke at Lotusphere Comes To You in Copenhagen (and will be again tomorrow in Århus) on Lotus Connections and how companies should consider implementing Lotus Connections. As part of the discussions we have been having at the office in preparation for these talks I realized that my take on social software has changed significantly. I have spent a great deal of time the last year(s) evangelizing, installing and talking about Lotus Connections but I never really took the time to stop and think about whether I was doing it the right way.

While preparing for the talks I realized that the discussion has changed from a "isn't this cool technology" and "you got to have this to be forward thinking" discussion to a "how can you live without it" and "you need this to be current" discussion. And I think that's where the ball dropped. You need this kind of technology to be current. Not forward thinking. Current.

From the discussions I'm having it still seems like many people think of social software as something related to their private lives. Social software is Facebook - it's not something for use on the job - at the office we use e-mail. For some reason many consider it an either/or and that the two doesn't complement one another. It's also becoming clear that many are so used to using specific applications that the concept of having multiple interfaces for the same data/functionality and that social capabilities may surface in many locations is foreign to them.

Another interesting thing I realized is that I need to stop talking about Lotus Connections as a product but instead talk about social software services. If we start discussing Lotus Connections as a product we quickly get into a technology discussion which it really isn't. We need to discuss the need for social capabilities. The customer may obtain these social services from other sources than Lotus Connections - they may come from LotusLive. I see this as an interesting way to approach the problem of getting social software into business.