Monday, December 28, 2009

NotesTracker Guide v5.1 now available from docstoc

NotesTracker, from Asia/Pacific Computer Services, is a software development kit (SDK) for enabling the usage profiling of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino applications.

Database activities such as CRUD (creating, reading , updating and deletion of documents) are logged in a common way across both Lotus Notes Client and Web Browser environments via a common reporting mechanism, in real time and via replication across the entire Notes/Domino domain.

NotesTracker was crafted to make it easy to understand how your Notes applications are being used, both at the broad level and in fine detail -- for compliance, security/privacy management, content control, knowledge management and all sorts of other purposes.

The NotesTracker Guide for version 5.1 has just been made available on docstoc (the online community and marketplace to find and share professional documents.), where it can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF document: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/20577539/NotesTracker-Guide---Version-51

image

NotesTracker Guide v5.1 now available from docstoc

NotesTracker, from Asia/Pacific Computer Services, is a software development kit (SDK) for enabling the usage profiling any of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino applications. Database activities such as CRUD (creating, reading , updating and deletion of documents) is logged in a common way across both Lotus Notes Client and Web Browser environments via a common reporting mechanism, in real time and via replication across the entire Notes/Domino domain.

NotesTracker makes it easy to understand how the applications are being used, both at the broad level and in fine detail -- for compliance, security/privacy management, content control, knowledge management and all sorts of other purposes.

The NotesTracker Guide for version 5.1 has just been made available on docstoc (the online community and marketplace to find and share professional documents.), where it can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF document: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/20577539/NotesTracker-Guide---Version-51

image

NotesTracker Guide v5.1 now available from docstoc

NotesTracker, from Asia/Pacific Computer Services, is a software development kit (SDK) for enabling the usage profiling any of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino applications. Database activities such as CRUD (creating, reading , updating and deletion of documents) is logged in a common way across both Lots Notes Client and Web Browser environments via a common reporting mechanism, in real time across the entire Notes/Domino domain.

NotesTracker makes it easy to understand how the applications are being used, both at the broad level and in fine detail -- for compliance, security/privacy management, content control, knowledge management and all sorts of other purposes.

The NotesTracker Guide for version 5.1 has just been made available on docstoc (the online community and marketplace to find and share professional documents.), where it can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF document: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/20577539/NotesTracker-Guide---Version-51

image

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tips for installing Webshots Desktop under Windows 7

Here are several tips for getting the Webshots Desktop software up and running under Windows 7.

I recently expressed my displeasure that Webshots was not officially supported for Windows 7, and (as of today, 19th December 2007) it still isn’t. Read more at my earlier posts:  Shame! Webshots.com still doesn’t support Windows 7 (updated) and How to view Webshots images under Windows 7 (updated)

This weekend, I decided anyway to try out the software, and am documenting a few points for my own future benefit and yours too.

Firstly, when you download and run the Webshots Desktop installer it’s an unfortunate fact that it assumes you want to install everything on your C: drive (the so-called “system drive”).

Note [21 December 2009]:
I suspect that you must use the Webshots Desktop Setup program version 3.1.5.7617 (or later) to get a successful Windows 7 installation.

As a general comment, too many other software products also make this unfortunate assumption. I make every effort to keep my system drive as trim as possible, so that my regular backups of it are are faster. I follow a methodology for installing non-critical applications (apps) on various other drives. (For example, I install utility apps on the D: drive, document and image editing apps of all sorts on the E: drive, Lotus Notes on the G: drive, Microsoft development tools on the I: drive, Java tools on the J: drive, and so on).

I decided a few years ago to keep all my Webshots image collections on the H: drive, thereby freeing up the system drive by more than 5 GB – amounting to nearly 16,000 Webshots images!

When you run the Webshots Desktop installer, it assumes that your image collections will be on the system drive. And it assumes that you only have the tiny example photo collection that comes with the installer.

So you have to go to the Advanced  tab and in the Photo Storage section change the location like this:
Webshots_altering_collections_location

Click the “Move Photos” button and wait some time (perhaps a few minutes, as in my case) to get a confirmation that the photos have been moved.

The trouble was that, in my case, my photo collections -- from before the Windows 7 installation from scratch mandated for Windows XP users --  were already stored in that folder (H:\Webshots Data\) and the installer doesn’t take account of this.

After exiting the Webshots Desktop program, what I had to do was to delete two files:
Webshots_deleting_collections_and_playlist_files
(Click for a larger image)

Actually, I renamed them, so providing a fall-back in case things went go awry, and deleted them when I was sure that everything had gone well.

The two files are named PlayList.txt and Collections.html (as shown in the illustration).

When the Webshots Desktop is restarted, it goes through the photo collections in the new location (such as H:\Webshots Data\) and rebuilds the two files. It might take a few minutes for this to complete, depending on the size of your photo collection.

After that, you should find your photos, stored off the system drive, are once again all available to the Webshots Desktop program.

My main reason for wanting this is that, with so many downloaded  photos, I need to activate the option “Show picture title” or else I don’t have a clue what some of the thousands of wallpaper photos are. (This is a big failing of the How to view Webshots images under Windows 7 approach.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to view Webshots images under Windows 7 (updated)

Some software providers are sure dragging their collective feet when it comes to upgrading their products to operate under Windows 7.

In November, a few weeks after Windows 7 went public, I commented that Webshots.com still doesn’t support Windows 7 and followed up a few days later that I had worked out a way to make the images available for viewing under the new operating system.

But I also mentioned that I wouldn’t document my method unless asked, which Glenn has just done. So here’s a brief summary of my approach.

CYA CLAUSE:
Note that I’m not saying that you should do this, just that it’s a way that I found would work and probably would for you, however I’m making no promises or commitment. (Review the Webshots terms of use.)

Webshots_license_agreement

THE PROCEDURE:
First, download and install Ultimate Webshots Converter (UWC), kindly offered as freeware by Hervé "Setaou" Bry

As with any data migration or conversion, you must have a good understanding of how the data that you’re converting. To begin with, during the download from the Webshots.com site, the images are stored in “albums” which amount to being Windows folders, like this:

Webshots_album_folders
(Click to view a larger image)

Be sure to read Hervé’s explanation that a folder of Webshots images contains both large images that are used as your Windows desktop backgrounds (wallpapers) and small “thumbnail” images that are used by the Webshots Desktop viewer program. Thus, the contents of a small album might look like this:
imageThe large wallpaper images have file names starting with “ph” (highlighted in yellow) and the thumbnail images have file names starting with “th” (highlighted in  yellow).

Before going any further, be on the safe side and make a copy of your entire Webshots data collection then work on that and not on your original Webshots images. Don’t say you weren’t warned, because now you are going to delete all of the thumbnail images since you do should not migrate them. (You can filter out the thumbnails via the UWC software, but that will be too tricky for some people, therefore I’m explaining a simpler approach here.)

Next, open a Windows command prompt, navigate to the main Webshots copy folder (not the original Webshots collection). In my case this was Webshots_migration_copy folder on the H drive:

Webshots_migration_copy In the command prompt, navigate to this drive and folder, then issue a command that will traverse the entire folder collection (all of the subdirectories,or albums) and delete all of the thumbnail images in one fell swoop, like so:
       del  th*.*  /s

The /s parameter is what causes the recursion through all the subdirectories and saves you a LOT of work.

I’m using PromptPal instead of the built-in Windows command prompt, but that is immaterial here, and it should give a result like this:

Webshots_copy_thumbnail_deletion_process Now you’re ready to begin the actual migration, so launch the UWC program and select Batch Conversion:
Webshots_UWC_batch_conversion1Select a suitable destination folder for the migrated images (1), specify that all the migrated images should be in a single output folder for display on the Windows 7 desktop (2), and then click the target folder selection button (3). You might want to investigate other options, such as “Avoid doubles, but that’s up to you:
Webshots_UWC_migration_folders_and_options In my example, the target folder selection (3) looked like this:
Webshots_UWC_target_folder_selectionWhen you’re satisfied that all options have been correctly specified, click the “Let’s convert!” button (4). Sit back for a short while (seconds, or perhaps several minutes, depending on how many Webshots images you have), and watch the file names as they scroll past:
Webshots_UWC_images_being_convertedLet’s assume that all went okay. (Sorry, I can’t help you if it didn’t so don’t even try asking.)

You’re now ready to tell Windows 7 that you want to use the migrated Webshots images as a changing desktop wallpaper. This looks very similar to the normal Webshots effect, with the one limitation that you don’t have the option to display the image title.

Look up the Windows 7 help for details, but essentially it’s done as follows. Firstly, right-click on the Windows 7 desktop, then select “Personalize” from the context menu and click on the “Desktop Background” link at the bottom:

Windows7_desktop_background_slide_show_optionFinally, select your Windows 7 desktop slide show options:
Windows7_desktop_background_slide_show_option2The most important thing is to point to the newly-converted images (1), all lying in a single folder ready to appear in all their glory on your Windows 7 desktop..

Choose “stretch” or whatever you want at (2), the picture change frequency at (3) and “shuffle” at (4) – and play around with these three parameters to suit your own requirements.

And there you are, all done! … A simple but lengthy sequence of steps.

UPDATE [19 December 2009]:
I checked the Webshots web site again today, to see if they had updated their statement of which Windows platforms are supported and it still only mentions Windows 2000, XP and Vista

Despite the fact that they don’t state their official support for Windows 7, I decided anyway to download and install the latest version of Webshots Desktop. The good news is that it seems to work fine under 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate.

My main reason for doing this is because, over the years, I’ve downloaded so many high-resolution images -- nearly 16,000 of them -- that I needed the picture title to be displayed else I have no hope of knowing what some of the images are.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

About recording user database activity tracking in IBM Lotus Notes/Domino 8.x

Who did what to the important contents of my database, when, and where? All good questions if you own, sponsor, administer or make design changes to that database.

This post was inspired by reading Vincenzo Capponcelli’s article in his blog, at Database-User Activity: da domino 8.x maggior dettaglio per inserimenti, cancellazioni, aggiornamenti where he says he’s just noticed extended capability of Notes 8.x databases, those with on-disk structure (ODS) version 51, to separately record database Adds, Updates and Deletes where in previous ODS versions only “Writes” were recorded.

I tried to post a comment on the blog but, at the moment anyhow, it rejecting attempted comments with error message “Comment has been disallowed by the Spam Filter” – so, Vincenzo, you need to fix this.

Luckily, I had saved my comments offline (I’ve been caught before by bugs and annoyances like this, on various web sites that should work far better than they do).
So instead of losing them when the error page returned me to a blank comments section, below is the knowledge contribution that I tried to make at Vincenzo’s blog.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ciao Vincenzo, da Down Under!
Yes, it is definitely an improvement to record the Adds, Updates and Deletes separately. However, when you say it answers the question "chi ha rubato la marmellata?" [who stole the jam?]

I don’t think it really helps a great deal. All that it answers, unfortunately, is "who MIGHT have stolen the jam?" and not "who ACTUALLY stole the jam?"

This is better than before, but not the complete story, since it still doesn't tell you what was deleted or changed, exactly when each event occurred, and so on. You might get the desired information from the Statlog server task, but this doesn't help for database actions performed while the user is disconnected from any server.

If you want a full audit trail, you need to write some code, perhaps using examples and tips from various web sites and blogs, or a couple of the tools available from OpenNTF.org to save you some effort.

There are some commercial offerings that go much further. For example, over the last ten years or so, I developed and enhanced a commercial developer toolkit (SDK) that I call NotesTracker, which records a lot of details about users who perform CRUD actions (Create, Read, Update, Delete).

And a range of other things, too. Continuing along the lines of Vincenzo’s question, this is sort of like whether the jam was marmalade, raspberry, strawberry, plum …

The tracking of document deletions proved the hardest, because of the way that deletion works in Notes/Domino, and this is explained in the NotesTracker Guide (free to download, from http://asiapac.com.au/UsageTracker_Download.htm#Documentation or http://notestracker.com/UsageTracker_Download.htm#Documentation ).


I've had some people ask me questions like "Can I determine who deleted certain important documents from my database right back in 2007?" (or quite a few months ago, anyway).

But they become very disappointed when I have to give them the bad news. That is, you must have previously switched on either the built-in Notes tracking (the "Record activity" option in the database properties) or in your roll-your-own tracking tool or a commercial one like NotesTracker.

And it must be configured properly to track deletions. For example, this is a user-definable setting in NotesTracker. See the snapshots here or here to understand what I mean.

Usage_V5_by_Action_by_Date[1]
(Click to view a larger image)

Naturally enough, they will not be able to discover the culprit before any such tracking was activated. Certainly not three or four years back, as one person asked me about, for sure!

According to the Admin Help database (under the topic "Managing database activity recording in databases") apparently only 64K is allocated to the native activity tracking, so you cannot even rely on it to keep more than a smallish amount of history. I would guess the built-in history that must fit into this 64K space will go back at most only a few weeks or months, depending on how busy that particular database is. The roll-your-own or commercial tools should enable you to retain tracking history as far back as you like, limited only by available disk space (certainly NotesTracker works this way).

But you'll get this storing of user activity only while the tracking was activated, of course. … Just like one of those crime movies where police find they can’t see who stole the Crown Jewels or the Mona Lisa because the video recording was switched off at the time the event happened!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lotus Software product branding – a tittle too far?

This diatribe of mine was inspired by Kevin Hansen's post earlier today: Lotus is a “tarnished” brand? Ouch!

For me, it's hard to know as far as branding is concerned. I don't think anybody can be sure what the end result of branding changes is going to be. Let me relate two brief stories.

Example (1) is the once-iconic Aussie airline that spent a small fortune changing their corporate name from "Ansett" to "Ansett." Did you notice it? That added period, or full stop if you prefer?

Apparently it was supposed to signify an increased sureness or definiteness to the brand, but I doubt if many people ever noticed the change, even when spelled out in large letters on the sides of their aircraft. Anyway, the airline went bankrupt during the hard economic times of the late 1980s, so adding that  period  surely was money down the drain.

Example (2) is the long-established and very famous Arthur Andersen (AA) accounting/consulting firm, who must have spent an even bigger fortune changing their corporate look during the mid-to-late 1990s. They did so by implementing with what was (to me) a rather subtle color change towards the orange/ochre part of the color spectrum. Did their clients really care about this, did it make or break any deals?

And where AA now? Indeed, some of you might not even recognize the firm's name, so quickly have they been forgotten by the masses. Bad practices by a few in the USA brought down the entire worldwide partnership. Luckily for some of the partners, who several years earlier had split off into the Andersen Consulting firm, the rebranding to Accenture turned out to be much more successful.

Moving on to the IBM side of the block... As an Australian employee, I was associated for quite a few years with the products from the IBM Rochester, Minnesota, line of products, which were designed specifically for use by small to medium-sized organizations.

From 1969 onwards there was the IBM System/3, the System32, the System/34, the extremely successful System/36 (S/36), and (introduced in 1978) the System/38. The S/38 had a fantastic system architecture, conceived in the early 1970s and living on strongly decades later in the current IBM i product range.

The IBM Application System/400 (or AS/400), announced in 1988, was  built by wedding the marvellously-advanced architecture of the S/38 to  the fabulous user-friendliness of the S/36, then adding in a whole raft of new capabilities. This has been continuously improved upon over the ensuing two decades.

Ten years or do after the AS/400 was announced, IBM decided to rebrand all of its hardware platforms with the "Series" moniker. The IBM PC became the x Series, the let-me-call-them AIX (or maybe Linux) range became the p Series,  the mainframe range became the z Series, and the AS/400 range became the i Series.

I suppose that the "series" concept  is somewhat logical from an overall IBM perspective, but I was taken aback when the "application system" connotation was removed from the Rochester product line and replaced with the "i" designation (which is not at all self-evident in terms of design intent, compared with the original AS/400 notion of being "application-oriented").

Then a few years later on the "Series" moniker was replaced with "System", for what reason I have no idea. So what once was the AS/400 became the "System i" and this still doesn't make much sense to me. But then, I'm essentially a techie type (running a nano-enterprise, so having to do sales/marketing and every other corporate activity only out of evil necessity), so who am I to raise such an objection against the determinations of the "MAD men" of IBM! ... Are   they as glamorous, I wonder, as the ones in the award-winning TV series?)

Now IBM has moved on a stage further, with the Rochester products rebranded  to just "IBM i" which certainly is short and catchy. What really worries me is that, in another wild flush of rebranding frenzy, the same "MAD" men or their replacements will decide to remove the vertical part of the letter "i" leaving behind only the dot , or what is called (by those in the know) a "tittle" -- which would certainly save some ink but may not be too good for brand recognition!

Let's give a thought now to branding for the Lotus Software part of IBM.

As for myself, I reckon that there's an strong and vigorous lease of life still left in the "Lotus" brand. AN I think that good comes from the slightly longer conjunction "IBM Lotus" -- as long as it doesn't gent any longer than that.

With or with the IBM prefix, I'm most happy to be associated with short product names like "Lotus Notes" (as well as “Lotus Domino” for the server side of things, yet another branding exercise), plus the others like "Lotus Sametime" and "Lotus Quickr" (but not with some of those ridiculously long, hard to remember product name mouthfuls that IBM has come up with from time to time).

Now that, with Notes 8.5.1, IBM has at last started delivering significant enhancement to the application-building side of Notes, I feel that all IBM needs to do now to really rejuvenate Notes is get a few more of its top executives to do the IBM version of the famous "developers, developers, developers, developers" dance by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. Is there somebody Brill-iant enough at IBM who would be prepared to start off such a dance craze?

The executives need to keep stressing, stressing, and keep on stressing that Notes is a powerful and flexible delivery vehicle for all sorts of collaborative applications (and not just a mere mail platform like Microsoft Exchange essentially seems to be). And to keep stressing that there has been a major reinvigoration, a renaissance, with Lotus Notes versions 8.0, 8.5 and 8.5.1 -- with more to come --  a rapid application development (RAD) platform par excellence,

Because IBM has such a vast range of software, hardware and services offerings, I suppose that IBM executives have a hard time coping with the massiveness of it all. So any Ballmer focussed and enthusiastic “developer dance” behavior is is a bit too much to expect from Sam Palmisano and his executive team! … Sigh :-(

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google aims to go “speedy” with HTML – let’s all support them


I sincerely hope that Google’s draft SPDY Protocol will be supported by all the big players in the Internetosphere -- my term, feel free to spread it --  since it has the admirable aim of significantly speeding up the Internet for all of us.

“In a nutshell,” they say, “SPDY adds a framing layer for multiplexing multiple, concurrent streams across a single TCP connection.  The framing layer is optimized for HTTP-like request-response streams.”

If the draft protocol page is a little too intimidating for you, you’ll find a nice overview of SPDY by Abel Avram here: Google Works on a Protocol Intended to Replace HTTP

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rearrange items in Domino Designer 8.5 working set?


Calling all Lotus Notes/Domino developers. Vote for this ideajam suggestion of mine requesting the ability to drag’n’drop items in the Domino Designer 8.5 applications list, as indicated by the green arrow:

Drag'n'drop to shift items in Domino Designer 8.5 working set

You could rearrange apps by doing this in the old Domino Designer, and frankly I find it a big pain not to be able to do the same in the new Designer.

The new working set feature is fantastic, the inability to rearrange apps by dragging them around definitely is not!

Technorati Tags: ,,,

UPDATE:
Just to make my point crystal clear, here's an explanatory video...



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shame! Webshots.com still doesn’t support Windows 7 (updated)

I’ve been using webshots.com to download glorious Windows wallpaper background images for years.

Well, I had been, but as stated still as of today (10 November 2009, several weeks after the general release of Windows 7) on the Webshots FAQs page:

What platforms are supported for the Webshots Desktop?
The Webshots Desktop is supported for Windows 2000, XP and Vista.

Well, that’s not good enough, not by a long shot!

I’ve paid my Premium membership dues over a number of years, in order to be able to download Windows desktop wallpapers in high resolution, and now you’re telling me that I can’t view them under the latest, brightest and whitest Windows version?

But now that I’ve upgraded to Windows 7, several months ago, all of my download time and effort not to mention the monies spent have gone to waste.

In my opinion, it’s rather pathetic and shameful that a large organization like AG Interactive, Inc. (the corporation behind Webshots) did not ensure that it had upgraded its desktop software and had it ready for release on the same day that Windows 7 was launched (22 October). What’s your lame excuse, AG Interactive?

I mean, really now… Windows 7 was in beta testing for a very long time.

Does anybody have insights on all this?


UPDATE [16 November 2009]:
I found out how to migrate all my 16,000 or so Webshots images into the appropriate form and location in Windows 7. They're now cycling every minute, to inspire me and lift my spirits!

I used a free migration tool, so all it took was some time and a bit of sweat. If anybody's interested, I'll outline out how to go about it (but not unless asked) ...

UPDATE #2 [19 December 2009]:
I checked the Webshots web site again today, to see if they had updated their statement of which Windows platforms are supported and it still only mentions Windows 2000, XP and Vista

Despite the fact that they don’t state their official support for Windows 7, I decided anyway to download and install the latest version of Webshots Desktop. The good news is that it seems to work fine under 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate.

My main reason for doing this is because, over the years, I’ve downloaded so many high-resolution images -- nearly 16,000 of them -- that I needed the picture title to be displayed else I have no hope of knowing what some of the images are.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Simple Signer Version 1.1 for IBM Lotus Notes released

When a Lotus Notes application is developed, it is a quite common requirement that it must be "signed" by an appropriate Lotus Notes user ID or Lotus Domino server ID before it will operate correctly in a production environment.

The developer (or developers) who over time created the various design elements in the database (forms, views, agents, etc) will have placed their own "signature" against each design element every time that they save it.

The situation commonly arises that the developer(s) who coded the database have  signatures that do not provide sufficient or appropriate authority for agents that are to run on a Domino server, for formulae to be executed in a form, etc).

This is especially the case for “alien” Notes applications that come to you from outside organizations such IBM Business Partners and Independent Software Vendors, but can be true even internally in your organization when there are multiple developers over time or for a specific release of the application..

Therefore a given version of a database application is put into production, its design elements need to be signed by a Notes ID with the appropriate authority. (Refer to the IBM Lotus Notes documentation for full details about the concept of signing Notes databases.)

Although signing is not all that difficult to do, it can be a somewhat circumspect process for the uninitiated!

Hence a few years ago I released the “Simple Signer” for IBM Lotus notes. This is a single-purpose database that was developed to make life a little easier for everybody (including myself) who at some time or other, frequently or only occasionally, has to sign Lotus Notes databases.

Its one an only design goal is to make it extremely quick and easy to sign each and every design element in a given database.

Just switch the Notes ID (if necessary), select the database to be signed, and click on the big pink button.

image

Note that it works only in Notes 6.0 and later versions (because it relies on the LotusScript  "Sign" method introduced in Release 6.0), but this is not much of nowadays.

Also note that the database’s design is not hidden, so by modifying a few lines of  LotusScript you can alter the way that signing is carried out, to sign only agents for example.

Version 1.1 has no functional changes, it’s still as easy to use as always, but the “Help Using This Database” built-in documentation has been enhanced to show you how add a toolbar button to make it faster to launch Simple Signer.

Download version 1.1 of the Simple Signer from either of our mirrors at notestracker.com or asiapac.com.au.

Golly, gosh, it’s nearly quarter past 1 AM here Down Under so I’m heading off to the cot right away after submitting this post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to resize text in embedded IE browser for IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony

Not all web pages are easy to read, and small text is one of the main culprits.

I have a bee in my bonnet about website usability. Indeed, that bee has been buzzing around in my noggin since attending a usability workshop as an IBM Systems Engineer way back in the mid-1970s.

Yes indeed folks, IBM has focused on good design for usability in both its hardware and software products for quite a few decades, way before some famous IT industry names were hardly a twinkle in their founders’ eyes.  (I’m thinking of the Apple Computers of this world and the way that people rave over the design of its iPhone and the like.)

For example, I recall back in 1983 or thereabouts attending an engineering design meeting at the IBM Rochester Lab in Minnesota, when I was going to give my feedback on IBM System/38 database journaling, an exceedingly important software feature that was about to be announced. But nearly all of that meeting finished up being consumed by a vigorous debate about the precise repositioning and relabelling of knobs on the system’s console. Now that’s what I call being picky!

Anyway, often when I visit a website I test to see if its text can be resized, and amazingly find that, being generous, not more than maybe fifty percent of sites provide for text resizing. A big FAIL for all those sites that overlook this basic capability.

TIP: review the tons of resource links here or backup site here that I’ve assembled about a wide range of usability and interface design topics.

Regarding web page text siding, one person in particular who seems to have hornets (rather than mere bees) buzzing around in his noggin: see Minimum font sizes for Thomas Baekdal’s firm views on this matter. His site has lots of other interesting articles, too.

The current crop of web browsers provide functions for zooming web pages, but the problem with this is that everything on the page gets resized, not just the hard-to-read text. Some of the browsers have a menu item, albeit often hidden away where a user may not find it, for text resizing.

When it comes to browsers that are embedded inside another product, such as IE inside IBM Lotus Notes or Lotus Symphony to name just two (and there are many more), sadly we find that there are rarely if ever any options that allow you to resize fonts or zoom pages.

With such embedded browsers you’re stuck with what font size the product designers built in. If your vision is poor, or if the built-in font is tiny, such embedded browsers can deliver a very poor reading experience.

Here’s my “how to” tip for today, which should assist you for all those cases where the embedded browser happens to be Internet Explorer, and this is the majority of cases.

Download and install the FREE EasyRead tool from Iconico. This provides two browser toolbar buttons labelled '+' and '-' (for Zoom In and Zoom Out respectively).

But these two buttons are not available for the embedded browsers, so instead you can make use of the similar EasyRead context menu options ‘EasyRead +’ and ‘EasyRead –‘ which, of course, are displayed when you right-click on a page. These context menu should work for you in most embedded browsers.

For example, below is what you might see from the embedded IE browser of IBM Lotus Symphony (similarly for Lotus Notes, and quite a few other situations). The two context menu items are circled:

image(Click for a larger image)

Issue resolved -- in most cases, at least.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Manipulating images resources directly in IBM Lotus Notes and Domino

See my suggestion for two new Lotus Notes formula language functions for programmatically manipulating images in Notes Client and Web browser environments, and please visit IdeaJam to place your vote on my idea.

Visit...
New formula language functions: @SetImageResource and @GetImageResource

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Internet filtering by ISPs? The ACS looks at technical pros and cons

Internet filtering is a contentious issue here way Down Under in Australia, as it is in other countries.

If compulsory ISP filtering is introduced in Australia -- as is possible, or maybe likely, in the not-too-distant future -- the ACS (Australian Computer Society) has just released a report recommending the creation of an independent oversighting system and an annual auditing process for blackIists.

It makes interesting reading. Take a look at the news release and the full report is downloadable in PDF format.

Much of what it says of course will apply in other countries.

How Aussies succumb to e-mail fraud (and other online evils)

Yesterday I penned an article about a favourite e-mail tracking tool of mine, eMailTrackerPro, see here.

Following that up, I’d like to point out that the Australian Institute of Criminology has just published a report related to that:

Consumer fraud in Australia: costs, rates and awareness of the risks in 2008 (by Russell Smith and Carolyn Budd).

Abstract

This paper examines the current evidence of the cost, extent of and awareness of consumer fraud in Australia. In 2008, the ABS found that approximately five percent of the Australian population reported being victimised by consumer scams, with personal losses reaching almost $1b. This paper compares the findings of the ABS survey with those gathered by the AIC during the annual fraud awareness-raising activities conducted by the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce. In 2008, a self-selected sample of 919 respondents to the AIC’s online survey reported being victimised by a wide variety of scams, including those relating to fictitious lotteries, phishing scams, financial advice and other attempts to elicit personal information from respondents. Individuals from all age groups were targeted in these scams, with older Australians being victimised to a similar extent to those in their middle years. Armed with an understanding of the nature and scope of the risks, consumer protection and other regulatory agencies can tailor their fraud prevention activities to maximise their impact—therefore reducing the extent to which consumers take up offers which are too good to be true.

Remember that, it applies globally (and in outer space too, I suppose):
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tools I like – eMailTrackerPro

A nice tool that I use every now and then to delve into the origin of a particular message is eMailTrackerPro from Visualware.

I’ve received many spam and suspicious e-mails over the years (nearly two decades as an active Web user). I’ve archived them all, an interesting collection they do indeed make!

By the way, this is the first in an occasional series about PC tools that I use and which I like enough to recommend to you – otherwise, I wouldn’t waste your time. And lest you doubt my motives, the products that I describe will in nearly every case be either freeware or paid for by myself.

For example, today I got this “Nigerian 419 scam” message:

From Miss Sarah Jones
Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire.

                        (CONFIDENTIAL MESSAGE)
Dear

Good thing to write you. I have a proposal for you.This however is not mandatory nor will I in any manner compel you to honour against your will.

I am Miss Sarah Jones, the only daughter of my late parents Mr.and Mrs Jones. My father was a highly reputable busnness magnet-(a Cocoa Merchant, Diamond and Gold Dealer)who operated in the capital of Ivory coast during his days. It is sad to say that he passed away mysteriously in France during one of his business trips abroad on 2nd March 2008.Though his sudden death was linked or rather suspected to have been masterminded by an uncle of his who travelled with him at that time. But God knows the truth! My mother died when I was just 4 years old,and since then my father took me so special.

Before his death on 2nd March 2008 he called the secretary who accompanied him to the hospital and told him that he has the sum of Seventeen  Million,Seven  Hundred Thousand United State Dollars.(USD$17.700) deposited in  SECURITY COMPANY in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire.

He further told him that he deposited the Consignment in my name as the next of kin,and he registered the Consignment as Family Valuables and finally issued a written instruction to his lawyer whom he said is in possession to handle all the necessary legal documents of the Consignment which he deposited in the SECURITY COMPANY and he instructed the lawyer to handover the documents to me whenever I need it.

I am  a university undergraduate and really don't know what to do.

Now I want a foreign partner who assist me to retrieve this consignment from the SECURITY  COMPANY in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire .

This is because I have suffered a lot of set backs as a result of incessant political crisis here in Ivory coast.The death of my father actually brought sorrow to my life.I am in a sincere desire of your humble assistance in this regards.

Your suggestions and ideas will be highly regarded.

Now permit me to ask these few questions:-

1.Can you kindly tell me what the type of a profitable venture this fund will uesd to invest avoid waste of it.

2). Can you honestly help me as your daughter?

3). Can I completely trust you?

4). What percentage of the total amount in question will be good for you after you have collected this consigment on my behalf?

Thank you so much.

Yours Sincerely,
Miss Sarah Jones

Please reply me in my private email address sarah209jones03@yahoo.co.jp for more details

Where did it come from (precisely, or as near as can possibly be determined)?

Well, I fired up eMailTrackerPro, copied the e-mail’s header info into the Windows clipboard, from where it automatically got pasted into eMailTrackerPro, thus:

image

Clicking on the Advanced Trace option yielded, after a few seconds hopping around the globe, the following earth map view and trace route table:

image

And selecting the View Report option (circled) gave a browser page like this:

image

Starting in central Africa and ending in south-eastern Australia. Easy, eh?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SDMS Version 4.5.00 for Lotus Notes/Domino released


SDMS is a very popular free “simple document management system” for IBM Lotus Notes and Domino:

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SDMS incorporates our NotesTracker capability, which enables comprehensive tracking of database activities for usage details (document creates, reads, updates, deletes, pastes, mail-ins, view or database opens, etc) and for monitoring database compliance (who did what, when, and where).

See our home page asiapac.com.au or notestracker.com for the download link to the current production version 4.5.00 of SDMS.

The e-mail merge feature was enhanced, as requested by a user of SDMS, now allowing any of the user's mail views and folders to be selected as the source of mail messages to be merged:

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Previously, just the Inbox was available for selecting memos. This view shows a merged mail memo:

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Also added was an agent to import SDMS documents from a different SDMS database into the current one (very useful, for example, when upgrading to a newer SDMS version).

You can better tailor the SDMS page header area, by specifying your own database logo image together with your website URL or your e-mail contact address.

Notes client header, showing user-specified logo (and logo description) plus website link:

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Web browser header, showing that (if you like) for the Web environment you can set up a different user-specified logo and logo description:

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And as you might expect, there are various usability improvements. Plus some bug fixes, of course!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lotus Notes 8 – windows title withdrawal syndrome?

For application support and development compatibility testing, I run up to four or five different versions of Lotus Notes on my system, at times several them concurrently in virtual machines. This can get a bit confusing at times: it’s quite easy to find yourself working in the wrong Notes version’s window.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taking advantage of one of the NOTES.INI settings that enables you to modify the window title and display whatever text you desire – refer to the Window_Title setting at IBM developerWorks.

For version 7.0.3 (running in the virtualized Windows XP Mode of Windows 7 Ultimate), I have:

image

Thus, the Notes Client displays:

image

For no particular reason, until today I hadn’t gotten around to trying this with Notes 8, and for the Release 8.5.1 managed beta refresh I set up the Standard (eclipse-based) Notes Client’s NOTES.INI file like this:

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However, the modified window title text did NOT appear in the title bar:

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Why not? In my dotage did I miss something obvious here, or doesn't this work (at least, for release 8.5.1)?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Please help Marek to solve his “dual Notes” problem

I’ve blogged several times about how to install multiple versions of Lotus Notes and Domino (releases 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) on a single system.

The most recent article was Coexistence of Notes 7 and Notes 8 on the same system. The following comes as a consequence of one reader contacting me to see if I could provide assistance with a problem that he has encountered.

Below is Marek’s outline of his problem, which I’ve taken the liberty to paraphrase slightly since he’s based in Europe and English is not his first language:

We are using in our company dual Notes, but not 2 installations of different notes but it is created with a VBS script a particular copy of the original installation. So we are running on 2 notes clients which are connected to 2 different servers with different databases.

I am working now on a VBS script, and am having problems with connecting to the right Notes session.

If I use Set Session = CreateObject("Notes.NotesSession")
it connects to the session of the first-started Notes client.

The problem is if somebody starts the wrong Notes client as the first the script just breaks down with an error message like “database not found”.

I was already thinking about how to identify the [appropriate] session and then switch it. Am able to identify the session (every session has his own INI where is stated the server and other login details) but I’m unable to switch the sessions.

The second idea was to register the nlsxbe.dll but both Notes clients are using the same nlsxbe.dll so this does not help.

I would really appreciate if somebody could help or come up with some good ideas and help move me forward.

Now, if you read my blog posts, it’s apparent that Marek is attempting something completely different from simply installing multiple Notes clients on a single system. His problem is a design/coding issue, not an installation/configuration issue as such (although I suppose that some configuration option or other just might have some effect on what’s he’s trying to accomplish).

Marek’s working in an area of Notes programming to which I’ve been little exposed, therefore I’m going to “pass the buck” over to the wider Notes development community. Do any of you have experience in this area (interfacing with VBS scripts) and are you able to give Marek any tips that will help him to achieve his objectives?

If you can help in any way, please reply to this post and/or contact me (for example via the home page of Asia/Pacific Computer Services, asiapac.com.au or notestracker.com) so that I can pass on to you Marek’s contact details, which I’m loath to include here in case the spammers get his e-mail address. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Coexistence of Lotus Notes releases 7 and 8 on the same Windows 7 system (using the new Windows XP Mode)

Back in February 2009 I blogged about Coexistence of Notes 7 and Notes 8 on the same system.

In previous years, I had written about how to install multiple versions of Lotus Notes and Domino (releases 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) on a single system, but from now on I’m going to stop bothering with releases earlier than Notes 7.

Specifically, at the moment I’m focussing on Notes/Domino 7.0.3 and Notes/Domino 8.5.1 -- I’ve been running the managed beta of 8.5.1 for a while, and liking it a lot. My main concern is that apps that I develop or modify under release 8.5.1 should be as compatible as possible with release 7.x, and thus most likely with release 6.x, which should cover the great bulk of Notes users.

Around two months ago, I experienced a motherboard failure, and my local hardware expert gave me the bad news that while it was still under warranty I’d be without it for at least a couple of weeks while it got repaired. So I reluctantly agreed to buy a new motherboard as a rapid solution, but being newer it obstinately refused to recognize the fifth hard disk drive under Windows XP (which had no problems recognizing it). Sadly for me, I was informed that I needed to upgrade to “a more modern operating system” ... I had a strategy of staying with Windows XP for a couple of years more, but (needing to remain compatible with what my clients were using) it could only ne Windows Vista, which I dislike – or, he suggested, why not skip Vista and go to Windows 7 (which was close to being finished now)?

So now I’m using Windows 7, the “gold” or RTM version. What’s more, it’s the 64-bit version, so that at last I can use more than 4 GB of RAM to support running lots of concurrent tasks, such as multiple VMs with various versions of Lotus Notes/Domino, and other such nerd’s dreams.

Indeed, in one of those earlier posts, I already recommended running side-by-side VMs as being the cleanest way to support multiple Notes/Domino releases on a single machine. Here I say “cleanest” because each virtual machine has its own Windows registry settings intact.)

I have a mere 8 GB of RAM installed (four 2 GB cards) because 4 GB cards were unobtainable at the that time, even though I aspired to having 16 GB, but 64-bit Windows 7 seems to manage RAM fairly well and for the moment 8 GB seems adequate.

I also took the opportunity change from a dual-core to a quad-core processor, so as to run more concurrent processes (managed by the very nice Process Lasso, highly recommended for the serious nerd). And now that I’ve gotten the repaired motherboard back, I’ve used it to set up a second system and have commenced a regimen of system-to-system dynamic backup (with around 6 terabytes of hard disk available), not really much more expensive than purchasing one of those relatively a “dumb” dedicated external storage devices.

Blimey, when I started at IBM way back in 1970, not even mainframes had anything like this much power, and even if they had existed they would have been unaffordable for an individual (millions of dollars)!

I chose to install Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) edition, and because I made sure that I got a new processor that incorporated with the requisite hardware virtualization  support -- see the Windows Virtual PC website. It explains that “Windows Virtual PC requires a CPU with the Intel® Virtualization Technology or AMD-V™ feature turned on.”

I’m able to load Windows XP Mode (which is available only with Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate).  Windows XP Mode is a licensed download for Windows XP Professional (with Service Pack 3) running under Windows 7 Virtual PC. Below we see the XP Mode window opened in the top center monitor, with the Lotus Notes 7.0.3 Client workspace opened inside it.

I do find that Windows XP Mode is quite seamlessly integrated with the Windows 7 host, I have found it to operate more closely like a stand-alone Windows XP machine than virtualised clients that I had  used previously, such as Lotus Notes Client running inside Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 or Sun VirtualBox.

ND851_with_ND703_under_Win7_XP_Mode_at_top

On the top center monitor we see Windows XP Mode (which is a  license, included with both Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions, for Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 running under  Windows 7 Virtual PC), and open inside it is the Lotus Notes 7.0.3 workspace.

Bottom left is the Domino 8.5.1 Administrator managed beta client,  with the Domino Server 8.5.1 (64-bit) console overlapping it in front.

Bottom center shows the workspace for the Lotus Notes Client 8.5.1 managed beta (with Windows Live Writer underlying it, Microsoft’s  excellent  Microsoft desktop productivity tool that I’m using to write this and all my other blog articles).

Bottom right is the Lotus Domino Designer 8.5.1 managed beta, which offers a major opportunity for designing and developing some amazing new Lotus Notes and Domino applications.

I really do need two more monitors, don’t I, so that I can run even more things at once!

UPDATE – 23 JANUARY 2010:
In response to a question just posed by Alberto about coexistence of a Windows 7 32-bit workstation with his 7.0.3 Domino Server – and possible problems such as replication errors. Here are images showing the on-disk structures (ODS0 for pre-Release 8 and Release 8 Notes databases:

Notes_7_ODS_43 Database created under Notes 7.0.3 Notes_8_ODS_48
 Database created under Notes 8.5.1

NOTE: please also read "Will Domino 7 corrupt my Notes 8.5.1 databases?" for more information about compatibility between various Notes and Domino releases

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Does Notes/FX work properly with Lotus Notes 8.5? … Help badly needed.

A new client has asked me to help redesign and modernize their key revenue-generating Lotus Notes application. They want to add new function and utilize all the latest Notes/Domino 8.5 capabilities to implement up-to-date look and feel

Generating all sorts of official letters and forms is a crucial part of their operations. In the current application, Lotus Notes/FX is used to automate the transfer data fields between the Notes database and all sorts of Lotus WordPro documents. We’re aiming to replace WordPro with Lotus Symphony and use LotusScript (or whatever) to perform the field updates.

In one of their two offices, yesterday they upgraded Notes/Domino from Release 6.0 to Release 8.5 – and immediately ran into a problem. Notes/FX is not working properly in the Notes 8.5 Client, creating what appears to be a WordPro document with blank fields.

(However, when the WordPro docs are opened later they DO have the expected data in the various fields. It’s just that is is extremely off-putting, to say the least, for the fields not to be visible at the time of generation.)

Is this one of the known UI bugs under Notes 8.5, with Notes/FX and/or OLE and/or WordPro 9.8? I conducted a number of searches, but didn’t come up with any problem reports about it. (Indeed, there are surprisingly few mentions of Notes/FX in general.)

The redesign (to use Symphony, etc) is only in its formative stages, so we’re urgently looking for a fix or workaround that will enable the fields generated by Notes/FX to be visible [as they were under Notes 6.0, which fortunately is still installed in their other office].

Every day counts. Any rapid feedback/assistance from knowledgeable IBMers and the Notes community will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Browser share mid-2009, a perspective

I’ve been tracking the so-called “browser wars” for quite a few years now, based on recording visits to my web site asiapac.com.au and its mirror notestracker.com (since 2002) and blogs (Notes Tone Unturned and others, since early 2005).

I’ve used SiteMeter and StatCounter and Google Analytics to track site visits. But I’m certainly not in ay way obsessive about SEO like some unfortunates, having too much regard for my mental health to get into that game!

I’m still basically a nuts-and-bolts guy, interested in the technology of IT, but recognize the need for web metrics as part of the marketing of my goods and services -- these days, mainly NotesTracker.

Here are some SiteMeter snapshots. Keep in mind that the number of daily visitors is rather modest, so that the visit percentages can fluctuate a fair bit from day to day. However they still seem to be in general agreement with browser statistics described at  sites like Wikipedia or w3schools or Market Share.

Firstly, from late June 2008, we see that Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) not on the scene, nor Google’s Chrome browser either:

image
(Click image to view an enlargement)

Around September 2008 we find IE8 beginning to show up, in low single-digit percentages:

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Here’s one from May 2009, during a period where there were lots of visits via links on Planet Lotus (obviously the mix of users being somewhat more technical leading to a higher than usual ratio of Firefox aficionados):

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A snapshot from 25 June 2009, pretty much the average browser type distribution. Usage of IE8 is gradually creeping up, but not yet reaching ten percent. All flavors of IE total around fifty percent, whereas in mid-2008 the total for IE was something like sixty to sixty five percent. IE8 plus IE7 plus IE6, No IE5 visits showing up though (yes, there still are some IE5 users out there, but not many).

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I expect that once Windows 7 is released, the proportion of IE8 users will gradually increase (relative to IE7 and IE6). I’ll keep reporting on the browser battles from time to time.

Since my early days in the IT industry forty years ago, I’ve been a keen evaluator of all sorts of products and technologies. Starting with early versions of Netscape browser, over the years I’ve tried just about every browser variant out there.

I believe in using the best tool for the job in hand, switching between tools as needed. My personal favorites, used daily, are Avant Browser and Firefox, or Enigma Browser specifically for Internet banking (because I find that Enigma best keeps under control the pop-up multiple banking windows, showing them as tabs inside the main instance rather than as external windows).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How views affect size & performance of Lotus Notes databases (like NotesTracker usage log repositories) — a case study

Some application performance tips, from a somewhat different perspective, for Lotus Notes developers and administrators…

Preamble - Performance still is important
Sooner or later, the performance of any application you’re using becomes important. It may start off performing quite well, and then begin to slow down and grind to a halt over time. In a few cases, it may perform abysmally right from the launch.


I spent more than two decades at IBM (starting in 1970, now long retired) and a fair bit of that was taken up advising, supporting and troubleshooting IBM customers on a broad range of performance-related matters. Forty years on, performance is no less important as we approach the end of the first decade of this 21st century.

We don’t usually notice a system’s performance at all when it is good, but we certainly notice it when it is slow. Think Google search, nearly always sub-second (which now we take for granted, and only notice the extremely rare slowdown), versus some other web applications that run at tortoise-like speeds. Overall, the performance of a system could be summarized as “what the end user sees and accepts as reasonable” for whatever applications they are running.

Once upon a time computing (or “data processing”) was nearly all in the form of batch batch processing on centralized machines, then along came mini-computers (smaller than corporate machines, typically in corporate divisions or departments or smaller businesses), then desktop machines (like the IBM Personal Computer, or PC), nowadays right down to handheld devices (PDAs, mobile phones, netbook PCs, etc).

As a general statement, the overall observed performance is the sum of the individual performance of each in a series or chain of stages involving different hardware/software components: central processing unit (CPU), main storage (RAM), buffers of various types, channels or similar data paths, communication links, the operating system binding it all together, and finally the applications being executed.

Then there’s the speed of movement of data between the stages: to and from non-volatile storage (persistent, long-term storage) on devices such as paper tape or punched cards in the early days, magnetic media (disks, tapes, diskettes), flash memory (getting faster and cheap enough to soon become widespread for bulk storage in the gigabyte range), and who knows what in the future (quantum storage, holographic storage, carbon nanotube storage, or whatever might eventuate).

The overall  performance of a transaction — the time from when a user requests something to be done until the last bit of the result is served back — is the sum of the performance of each and every link or step in the device chain. It depends on the not just the raw speed characteristics of each step, but on the workload being imposed (often in a shared user environment, such as a Web server).

There are nearly always complex interactions between steps and at each stage in the overall process: queuing for service, task execution (at some relative priority and , for some length of time or “time slice”, perhaps getting preempted and dropping back in the queue), recovering from errors (often badly designed and handled), and more. As I said earlier, it’s a very complex picture.

Sometimes you encounter poor performance because of inadequately funded hardware (and perhaps software), poor infrastructure design (low-powered servers, slow communications links, and the like).

But quite frequently it’s a matter of poor application design: bad or even erroneous coding, choosing the wrong algorithm for a sub-task, inadequate or even non-existent error handling, and much more.

Even an otherwise excellent service can be brought to its knees by a bad application, such as one with an extremely inefficient sorting algorithm, one that retrieves a data record in an extremely inefficient manner, one that waits for an error that is never going to be recovered from. One classic example is the deadlock or so-called deadly embrace record update situation, which can bring even the fastest of systems to a dead halt in processing your transaction (and at the very least locks out one other user too, but possibly more).


IBM Lotus Notes and Domino performance considerations
Here I’d like to share my findings on one aspect of performance that I haven’t come across being covered elsewhere, at least in the way that I’m going to explain it: the analysis of Notes/Domino view size as it relates to view indexing performance.

You’ll want to know how much hard disk capacity is needed to store the view indexes (indices, if you prefer) in your Notes applications, and from this get some feel for the effect on view index maintenance processing overheads which can have a major effect on overall Domino server transaction throughput and response times.

There are many resources from IBM and other parties which give excellent advice and guidance about analyzing and managing performance for both the Lotus Notes desktop client and the Lotus Domino server. I’ve no intention of going over this broad field, having already assembled many useful reference links for you at my web site here and its mirror/backup here.

Many of these (and other forums/blogs maintained by the Notes community) discuss the design of Lotus Notes views. Some of them give excellent tips for optimizing the performance of Notes views, either by optimizing view design (many considerations) or setting the properties of the views such as index refresh/discard options:

image  image




What follows is a brief discussion of views as they relate to NotesTracker (see here or here). I gathered this information when a user of NotesTracker asked me how to predict the size of the Usage Log repository database, and to give some guidance on when it should be archived.


NotesTracker concepts
NotesTracker is a set of easy-to-apply routines that you (once a licensed purchaser) can easily apply to the design of any of your own Notes/Domino applications. Read more about it in the NotesTracker Guide, a download link for which is on on either of the web pages mentioned a few paragraphs above.

Think of NotesTracker as a software development kit (SDK). Once you have modified the design of any of your applications, NotesTracker can write out a “usage log record” for each and every user interface transaction against that database: document CRUD events (Create, Read, Update, Delete), document paste-ins, document mail-ins.

You control what NotesTracker does via a NotesTracker Profile that you place in each database (on a replica by replica basis). For example, in the case of document update event you can specify whether or not field changes are tracked, and on top of that whether or not an e-mail alert is sent out (say, to Notes administrators or coordinators of that particular application database).

These events are logged as ordinary Notes documents, the same way for both Notes Client or Web browser interactions (no dichotomy here). For a given database replica, you can specify that the usage log repository be the database itself or en external Notes database. With this very generic logging mechanism, you have tremendous flexibility in the way that usage log repositories may be organized, as the following diagram illustrates:

NotesTracker usage log repository configuration flexibility

You might take the simplest approach, and send all build usage log documents to a single central repository. The top two groups of applications (circled in red and blue) indicate how you might instead set up a number of different repositories grouped by application category (Marketing, Finance, HR, Manufacturing, or whatever), and at the bottom (circled in green) have any database store its own usage log documents internally. Undoubtedly you would have many more Notes databases than illustrated above, but the same methodology applies.

NotesTracker uses nothing but regular Notes/Domino capabilities. Usage log records  (documents) are replicated in the normal fashion between servers, giving a composite organizational usage picture covering both Notes Client and Web browser activities.

How is reporting done? Via ordinary Notes views of course, nothing special. A pre-built set of NotesTracker views are distributed with the SDK, and you can extend or modify these views any way you like, no specialist skills being necessary. Indeed, all of NotesTracker was carefully designed so that no more than a medium level of Notes developer and administrator skills are required for installation, programming and administration (including security).

No end-user training is required whatsoever (indeed, they may not even be aware that NotesTracker capabilities have been added to a database, although there may be legal or organizational policies that require you to inform them that their actions are being tracked).


The build-up of NotesTracker Usage Log documents, and view index overheads
Because NotesTracker is creating usage log document (one document per user interaction), the Notes administrator will need to understand the ramifications: disk space consumed and server CPU workload implications.

Presumably this would be particularly important to monitor for databases where the usage log documents are being created internally (in that database itself) and could have a noticeable effect on view opening performance. It’s probably not so critical for central NotesTracker repositories (particularly if they are placed on a dedicated disk drive), because the usage log documents are being appended to what’s already there and the speed of doing so should be quite fast, though the effect (of rapidly adding many such documents) on view indexing might be considerable. But to stress again, this is “business as usual” in terms of Domino server administrative skills needed.

As a good first rough approximation, for NotesTracker the database size increases at 1.5KB to 2KB per usage log document. The growth rate needs to be monitored, and you should devise an appropriate archive-and-purge strategy if disk space is a worry. How frequently you purge log documents should primarily be determined by the length of time — typically a number of months (or even years) — for which you wish to retain usage metrics.

Of course, it’s not only document contents that take up space in a database. Keep in mind that view indexes will have a major impact on database growth, rather than the relatively small amount of data stored in the log documents. To reduce Notes Client view opening overheads (and Domino server workload needed to maintain the view indexes), the number of sorted view columns has been kept reasonably low. However, you may wish to alter the view designs to decrease the number of sorted view columns even further, or to make other changes that balance view opening times against indexing overheads to your satisfaction.

As a guide, one user of NotesTracker found that some 60,000 Usage Log entries occupied close to 1 GB of disk space, equating to an average of 16 to 17 KB per usage log document. I’m not sure if they removed any of the default views from the repository, or altered any of the views’ indexing properties, both of which could have a big influence on this average. (Naturally enough, other Notes applications could and almost certainly would have quite different characteristics. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.)


Disk Space management – the NotesTracker archiving agent
In NotesTracker there is an archive agent that can be run as-required or on a scheduled basis, giving you the control you need to remove historic log records for managing repository database size. The archive agent is discussed a little further on.


Monitoring and Managing Usage Log view indexes
The NotesTracker Repository is distributed with around 35 views. Some views will only ever contain a small number of documents, even down to a single document. Most of the views are based on a selection of Usage Log documents (all of them, or a subset), and might contain tens of thousands of documents depending on the level of activity in your applications and the length of time — weeks or months — that Usage Log records have been stored before being archived.

The set of NotesTracker views provided are configured generally to discard their indexes after 14 days of inactivity, and it’s simple for you to alter these settings if you wish.

You should monitor the NotesTracker view index sizes over time. If there is any view that is used rarely, you should consider setting its view the discard period to a smaller number of days or perhaps even consider removing the view from the Repository.

It’s interesting to note that NotesTracker has a unique method for you to make an extremely quick and simple, standardized modification to the designs of the views in a database, after which you can track individual view usage. This gives you a sound basis for knowing which views are heavily used (and should be retained) and which ones are seldom used (thereby being candidates for being removed from the database’s design). Indeed, one company purchased a NotesTracker license just to do this very thing.
To get a look at the innards of a Notes database, you could use a Domino console command of the form:
      show database database_filename

Here’s an example for database notestracker.nsf in subfolder notestracker_v5.1:

image

But let’s do things a much better way: using the Domino Administrator client to look inside the database. Consider a newly-created NotesTracker Repository database, which we select like this:

image

The resulting panel “Manage the views of this database” (next image) show as that a group of Usage Tracking views, circled in red, have indexes that are some three or four times larger than other Usage Tracking views (circled in green). The index size difference essentially reflect the complexity of the individual view designs, nothing else. For this exercise, it will be the views circled in red that we focus on., but this has no effect on the overall argument.

As mentioned above, this example database is quite small. It contains  only about 900 Usage Log documents and its overall size is only about 14 MB.

Firstly, a new “empty” copy of the database was made, containing no Usage Log documents as a base point. Its size with empty view indexes was less than 4 MB. You will notice that the various view index sizes ranged between 1 KB and 4 KB.

image

Then normal database activity was carried out for a short while: creating, reading, updating, deleting documents inn other databases. This generated some 6140 Usage Log documents in this NotesTracker Repository database.

Then each of the twelve commonly-used views circled in red in the following image was displayed, causing their indexes to be created. The repository database size increased from 4 MB to 74 MB, and the index sizes (focus on the twelve circled in red) looked like this:

image 

Note that this was somewhat atypical, having a very high disk space percentage used of 99.3% — because this NotesTracker Repository is essentially a logging database, the main activity being sequential adding of Usage Log documents. It is likely that most “normal” databases would in practice have a significant percentage of “white space” (until they are compacted).

Finally, a new copy of this database was made, and its size was reduced to 9 MB (an somewhat easier way to eliminate the view indexes, compared with manually initiating a compaction).

This indicates that the 6140 documents themselves occupied about 5 MB (that is, 9 MB minus the “empty” database size of 4 MB).

We saw a little earlier that with full view indexes the database size was 74 MB, therefore the 6140 documents had view indexes (for 12 views) totaling about This all indicates that each Usage Log document adds, as a simple approximation, about 1 KB per view!

Extrapolating this to thousands or tens of thousands of Usage Log documents obviously will lead to much larger overall Repository size. Obviously the removal of unused Usage Log views could significantly reduce Repository size.

Summary
This brief insight into view index creation should give you a more definitive basis for managing your NotesTracker usage log repository databases. The same general approach can be applied for managing the views in your own inventory of Lotus Notes/Domino applications.

I first learned about Notes in 1993, just into early retirement from IBM. Compared with the lumbering mainframe office systems architecture that IBM had spent a decade or more trying to get off the ground, I was (and still am) struck with the way that “plain vanilla” Lotus Notes and Domino do smart stuff such as replication with simplicity and elegance.

The basic underpinnings of the Notes/Domino document-oriented database architecture are still without peer, and there’s still a big role for it (compared with other platforms, which shall remain nameless, because Ed Brill and others in the Lotus community say quite enough to go around).

Let the battle rage on, competition is good for us all, keeping us all on our ties and leading to improvements all around. Crikey, it’s my 40th year in the IT industry, and I’m still enjoying it — I must be crazy!