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Lotus Community Call presentation

Below is a link to the presentation (click the image for the presentation in PDF format) Tim Parsons and I gave in todays Lotus Community Call. Besides a stunning picture of myself and Tim the presentation contains some info on how to get the RedWiki plugin sample projects from SVN. That info isn't on the wiki yet but I'll get it there as soon as possible.

Why calendaring is hard

Part of working with calendars is working with timezones and - dare I say it - daylight savings time (DST for short). A calendar program/service/API that doesn't support timezones, are able to used named timezones and thus handles DST is worthless. Naming timezones is really key to all of this as a timezone like GMT+1 doesn't mean anything and cannot be used to anything meaningful. Why? Well for one there is no indication of whether we're in the Northern Hemisphere or in the Southern Hemisphere - in the former it's winter and the latter it's summer. Believe it or not but it actually affects whether daylight savings, or summer time as it's often referred to, is in effect.

Now that's why naming timezones make sense. In Java for instance timezones are normally named by the city or region it affects. For instance I would normally use Europe/Copenhagen or at least Europe/Paris as the countries in the European Union switch at the same times. Lotus Notes, or Java in Notes to be exact, actually report my timezone as Europe/Paris when I ask it. Now this makes sense as this timezone incorporates information on the UTC offset, whether or not DST is observed and if it is when the switches occur.

But that's actually not enough. Why?! Well because time point in time where DST changes occur may change over time. So actually a calendaring system needs to know when changes occurred in the past and when they will occur in the future. For instance Chile is postponing the switch to DST by two weeks in 2011 with extremely short notice (Chile Extends DST Due to Energy Crisis, IBM Technote 1470631: Chile extends daylight saving time two weeks in 2011). And only in 2011. If you're working with people from Chile and scheduling meetings in this period there is a big chance things will go wrong.

You might remember that the US also changed the rules the DST dates was calculated some years ago to standardize across the states but it is still a very local decision as whether to use DST or not. It's actually down to the county to decide. Take a look at my favorite example Indiana and see how confusing it is.

So while timezones and DST rules appear simple they are anything but and it's why calendaring is hard.

And the timing of this blog post isn't coincidental. The US - where DST is observed - changed to daylight savings time on Sunday 13 March where as we wont make the switch in Europe until 27 March.

iWhat?! Should iNotes be renamed?

Thursday I returned a call from a customer. The customer called because he had heard about Lotus iNotes and since they had iPhones at the company he thought it would be a perfect match for mail on the phone. Well yes - sort of... While iNotes does have three modes and one of them (iNotes UltraLight) works very well on a mobile web browser it's far from ideal. It actually took me a while to explain that what he was looking for for his "iDevices" wasn't Lotus iNotes but Lotus Traveler.

Now I know the product names so it was hard for me to understand why it would confuse anybody but after thinking about it some more it's actually starting to make sense to me. The product name Lotus iNotes is confusing as it suggests that it's a solution for iDevices which it really isn't.

I never thought that I would make a case for renaming iNotes but it actually makes sense now.

Now I know that iNotes has been around as an IBM Lotus name long before the rise of the iPod/iPad/iPhone devices but the mind share isn't on the IBM side. It's probably confusing more customers than it's benefitting. Should we return to calling the Lotus iNotes something else? We could probably come up with a shorter name than "IBM Lotus Domino Web Access" but maybe it's actually quite a good name as it explains what it is. Maybe "IBM Lotus Web Mail" would do. I think I for one will stop referring to Lotus iNotes but that name.

What do you think?

IBM contributes LiveText to Java sample project on OpenNTF

As I've highlighted previously on this blog I've done quite a lot of work on LiveText to Java integration in my How to extend Notes 8-series. This week IBM contributed a sample on OpenNTF showing of the same thing - the project is New OpenNTF Sample: Eclipse Live Text Action. I recommend you take a look at the project as well as my series of blog entries for information on how to extend the Notes client yourself.

On language vs. regional settings

At the office we're doing a brand new version of our OnTime Group Calendar (more on that later) and for that we're revamping our entire settings system. Both to make it more flexible and to make it easier for users. Where ever possible we're opting for sensible defaults instead of asking the user.

With sensible defaults and revamping the settings system also comes taking a long hard look at the way settings are set and what they mean. What is a setting? What is a global setting? What is an application setting? What constitutes a language setting? What constitutes a regional setting? Are the two last ones actually the same?

For OnTime 2011 we've opted to split the setting system into two parts:

  • Global settings that applies across the OnTime Suite (Sametime enabled/disabled (due to license restrictions on API usage), language, region, ...)
  • Application settings (i.e. how did the application look when I used it last)
The two most important settings from the global settings in regard to this post is the language code and the region code. We've chosen to let the user select the user interface language independently of the region they're using. So what does that mean? I might choose to use US English as the user interface language but that doesn't mean that I want dates in m/d/y format and times in 12 hour format. That's why it makes sense.

Our regional settings contains all date/time related formats but also specifies two calendar related settings. These are first day of the week (Monday vs. Sunday) and minimum number of days in first week of the year (4 (ISO8601) vs. 1). This means that if you use the Danish regional settings we automatically apply the way we calculate week numbers.

LotusLive and Lotus Connections are examples of applications that does it the other way around (and the wrong way if you ask me). It sets the region (date/time formats) based on the language chosen so the only way to get correct (for me) date/time formats is to choose Danish as the language (although I prefer English user interfaces). As you probably guessed I think that's wrong :-)

March Lotus Technical Information and Education (LTIE) community meeting

If you're interested in plugin development and the recently published RedWiki on plugin development for Lotus Notes, Sametime and Symphony (easy url is http://bit.ly/pluginredwiki) be sure to join us for the March March Lotus Technical Information and Education (LTIE) community meeting. The conference call will be on 22 March at 10am Central Time (10am Eastern, 3pm CET).

For more info head over to the Lotus Technical Information and Education wiki on Lotus Greenhouse (look under "When we meet" at the bottom of the page).

LotusLive - Your account has been updated. Really?!

Update 3 March 2011: Apparently being vocal helps. I was contacted by the LotusLive Support Manager and my issue was quickly resolved. Apparently the renewal of our company subscription caused a change in my account that required a technician to fix it. I was assured that they would look into the support process and that IBM understands that their support didn't live up to my expectations. Although I appreciate IBM reaching out to me and the help I got it still leaves an open question was what happens with support down the road.

Yesterday morning (my time) I received an e-mail informing me that my LotusLive account had been updated. I later found out that this e-mail had been sent to all employees in the company because our LotusLive subscription had been renewed for another year. Later I also found out that at least 5 employees has been affected like this and are experiencing the same cloud fail. Below is a copy of the e-mail from LotusLive.

Hi Mikkel Flindt Heisterberg,
Your user account with LotusLive was recently updated. The 
account is associated with the following company : 
IntraVision ApS. 
The recent updates are reflected in the following 
information. Please take a moment to review.
You are currently subscribed to:
eXpresso? | 1 user account(s) | Expires on Feb 28, 2012
Skype? | 1 user account(s) | Expires on Oct 29, 2011
LotusLive Engage | 100 user account(s) | Expires on Mar 11, 2011

Your role(s) for this user account: 
Administrator
User

Finally, if you have questions, e-mail us at support@lotuslive.com.
This e-mail was generated automatically. Do not reply.

Sincerely,

The LotusLive Team 
https://www.lotuslive.com

LotusLive offices are located at: 5 Technology Park Drive, 
Westford, MA 01886, United States.

Without thinking more about it I deleted the e-mail and continued on my workday as I was headed to Lotusphere Comes To You in Århus that day to present. A bit later when I was in the train heading to Århus I found out that I was not unable to log into Sametime which was wierd as Bleedyellow.com Sametime worked as always. I tried to sign into LotusLive on the web which brought be to a EULA of some sort which I quickly accepted and then boom! No LotusLive for me! I was greeted with an error dialog informing me that I couldn't access that page and a message saying: "If you have recently registered, you can access LotusLive shortly when we have finished processing your request. Try logging in again in a few moments to start using the services."

Logging out and back in didn't do anything for me. Waited 20 minutes but still nothing - bummer!! Major bummer as my presentation for LCTY was in LotusLive so not being able to access LotusLive put me on the spot - and not in a good way. My account had been rendered inoperable and I was unable to access LotusLive at all.

I fired of an e-mail to LotusLive support at 11.23am to have my account fixed. At 11.35am I received a confirmation e-mail back from LotusLive Support telling me that the e-mail had been received. Then I didn't hear anything else from LotusLive Support until 8.09pm last night! Almost 9 hours later?! Of course I didn't see that e-mail until this morning so now I have been unable to access LotusLive (web or Sametime) for more than 24 hours and still no help from LotusLive Support. What is worse is that the e-mail back from LotusLive Support simply asks me about the error dialog that I'm getting - WTF! I just logged into their system so shouldn't they be able to find a log of what's happening to my account based on username? That's how it works in most other systems.

So what's the lessons learned so far? For now I have found a new crucial factor when deciding on which out-sourcing/cloud partner to use - where is the support based. It's quite clear from this experience that no support personnel is based in Europe. Or they are extremely understaffed.

So now I'm frustrated and we have a couple of employees not able to work in LotusLive (no "Connections" and no Sametime). Not a good day for cloud services from IBM. I will keep you updated as I continue to wait for LotusLive Support to come back to me.