Archive for May, 2012

Simply 'i' › PHP ZipCode to TimeZone

May 30th, 2012 Comments off
I have been building a database of customers to call and found one slight issue, I needed to be able to workout which timezone each of the contacts are in so I only call when its suitable for them! I started off by using one of the online ZipCode to TimeZone converters and manually adding [...]

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Steve Pitcher › IBM i App Store?

May 29th, 2012 Comments off
Stuart Bramley mentioned on Twitter that IBM i should really have it's own "app store."  He may be on to something there.  There's oodles of IBM i content on the web, from how-to's to fully functional applications someone has built and shared with the community.

I don't think anyone has tried to consolidate any of these tools into a community repository.  If there is one, please let me know.  But if one didn't exist, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in helping to facilitate one.  If anyone in the IBM i world wants to weigh in with ideas or offer some help, or heck if you have a handy app you'd be willing to share/sell then please let me know.

My first thought...wouldn't it be awesome to browse and pull an app directly onto your IBM i similar to a PTF download in Fix Central?  Why, yes.  It would be very awesome.

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I THINK THEREFORE IBM-i blogs › Notice: Undefined variable: key in comment_prepare_thread() line 900 of comment.module

May 25th, 2012 Comments off
how to research and fix drupal database errors

Oh its horrible when Drupal decides it's got a headache and throws an error message out:

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Steve Pitcher › Fact Checking Articles – "IBM ditches Siebel" and Lotus Notes being "left behind?"

May 21st, 2012 Comments off
In reading this blog I'm amazed at the leaps of faith taken in order to draw conclusions about IBM and the future of Lotus Notes.

IBM Ditches Siebel

"What is perhaps interesting, however, is that IBM, the owner of Lotus Notes (which itself is being left behind), should also move away from a computer-based system to a cloud or web-based solution."

I have a couple of issues here.

How is Lotus Notes being "left behind?"  Does the author provide any backup?  According to analysts in the link below, IBM wanted something that will integrate with their existing tools, like Lotus Notes.

Also, one of the reasons why IBM chose SugarCRM is because of it's ability to run on-premise, according to IBM's Gary Burnette, Vice President of Sales Transformation.  The benefit of that would be the “flexibility in where and how we run it.” 

Please see the following analysis of IBM's switch to SugarCRM:

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Steve Pitcher › Fact Checking Articles – "The problem with Lotus Notes"

May 21st, 2012 Comments off
I'm going to clear up a few factual errors on the blog where the obviously Google-biased author (or perhaps authors...I don't know because they don't publish any names) have made Lotus Notes a target.

I encourage you to leave a comment on that blog to express your dissatisfaction with the factually incorrect content.
The problem with Lotus Notes

"IBM’s Lotus Notes is still used by many companies around the globe, but with the advent of cloud-based infrastructure those same companies are beginning to realise there is life outside Lotus."

That's a fair statement.  Investigating all the options do help businesses make well informed decisions.

"Ironically, even IBM itself with its development of CloudBurst has got the bug."

CloudBurst?  I think that's under the Tivoli line...the author should check out IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. 

"However, companies using Lotus Notes and looking to switch are not staying with IBM but moving to Google."

Links?  References?

"Now, you could be forgiven for thinking why are they moving away from a system they’ve been using for years to another company offering something different.  I think the answer to that lies in the basic problem with Lotus Notes. "

Here we go.

"The latter still needs to be hosted on a normal computer.  Documents created in the software are still stored on the business’s computers.  Google Apps, on the other hand, are stored remotely on Google’s own servers.  Moreover, each application is integrated with all the other applications, ensuring easy access and switching."

"Hosted on a normal computer?"  Well, my Lotus Domino servers run on the IBM i operating environment on top of IBM Power Systems hardware.  That's not a normal computer because it doesn't fail.  Ever.

Or do you mean a normal client computer?  I can get my Lotus Notes mail on just about any device, from laptop to Android to iPad.

What's wrong with business documents stored on the business's computers?  That's what a server is for, right?  What benefit does Google have over my IBM i on Power Systems servers?

"From what I gather, Lotus Notes lacks this integration facility; or if it has it, then it is seemingly inefficient.  This means, in a highly competitive business environment, this can cause major problems. "

As far as integration is concerned, and that's what the "i" in IBM i stands for by the way, we're all set.  Even on the client side, Lotus Notes has plenty of integration capability built right in.  I have plugins called Widgets that allow me access to many different applications/solutions, both on-premise (Sametime, Quickr, Connections, custom apps) and hosted.  Heck, I'm sure I may have a couple of Google Gadgets integrated inside Lotus Notes.  Integrated with one click.  Simple.

"To be fair to Lotus Notes though, the product itself has stood the test of time adding new features as and when needed.  However, I don’t think the creators of the software really realised the impact that cloud would have in such a short space of time.

Even Microsoft was late getting off the starting blocks with its Office 365, and while I generally prefer using Microsoft products offline, the cost of both is huge."

Again, the author assumes that IBM isn't in the cloud computing space or hasn't heard the scuttlebutt about IBM Docs.  If the author would link to a ROI sheet or a cost benefit analysis of Google Apps vs IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, or even on-premise Lotus Notes/Domino it would marginally help the credibility of these claims.  Perhaps there's a reason there's no links, references or studies.

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Steve Pitcher › Fact Checking Articles – "Switch from Lotus Notes to Google Apps"

May 21st, 2012 Comments off
I'm going to clear up a few factual errors on the blog where the obviously Google-biased author (or perhaps authors...I don't know because they don't publish any names) have made Lotus Notes a target.

I encourage you to leave a comment on that blog to express your dissatisfaction with the factually incorrect content.

Switch from Lotus Notes to Google Apps

"If you still use Lotus Notes, then I think you will find you are a dying breed.  Recent research has found that 1.75 million businesses have already made the move to using Google Apps."

Is the author(s) eluding that 1.75 million businesses who used Lotus Notes are now on Google Apps?  The only reference similar to this I can find is that Google Apps has 1.75 million customers...probably more as this article is 3 years old.  So are all these customers former Lotus Notes customers?  I'd seriously doubt it.  So how are businesses using Lotus Notes a dying breed?

"Like Microsoft’s desktop office suite, Lotus Notes has been used for many years.  However, unfortunately, while many business and other users have enjoyed the simplicity of the software, the company behind it has not really kept up to date by switching to using a cloud computing system.  As such, the product is fast becoming obsolete."

The company behind Lotus Notes is IBM, who've offered a cloud-based option since 2009 called LotusLive and since have rebranded it IBM SmartCloud for Social Business and further expanded their offerings this year. 

"What’s more, many people – employees in particular – who use Lotus Notes in work tend now to use Google products at home."

Is the author(s) eluding you can't use Lotus Notes at home?   If so, that's entirely untrue.  Or is the author(s) eluding you can't use both?  If so, again untrue.

"Lotus Notes also has one major drawback.  As it is still a desktop office program it will require constant updating, which can invariably cost a business a lot of money.  In an economic climate where costs are being looked at regularly, employing in-house tools is no longer economically viable.  Outsourcing is now more cost effective."

There are many options for deploying Lotus-based mail.  Lotus Notes is a client program, not a "desktop office program."  Again, eluding it's only available in the office.  Updating clients are not nearly as complicated as the author(s) imply.  If you look at IBM's free Lotus Notes Smart Upgrade tool, I can literally take a couple of hours to set up an automated upgrade rollout that manages itself.  It's hardly an expensive or time/resource consuming initiative to upgrade software. Also, I can get my Lotus mail on any computer that runs Lotus Notes (home or office), on any device with a supported web browser through iNotes (a web based interface for my Lotus Notes mail), or on mobile devices like iPod/iPad/Android through the no-charge Lotus Notes Traveler solution which integrates my Lotus Notes mail into the native mail clients on said mobile devices.

"Furthermore, as Google is a cloud-based technology, companies can more easily share files with other employees and staff over the internet.  Of course, many businesses do possess intranet facilities, but here again this type of system still requires maintenance, which is probably costly."

I can personally share files via Lotus Notes email, via Sametime file transfer, via IBM Quickr places, via IBM Connections.  I can also get to these services via the internet on many different devices, not just a desktop computer.  We've never had a problem sharing files.  And the maintenance is not costly or time/resource intensive.  I set up these servers and clients and they just run.  Period.

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Steve Pitcher › Old Perceptions Seem to Linger On Like It’s 1988

May 17th, 2012 Comments off
Trevor Perry started a thread on LinkedIn asking people "what it would take to call the platform IBM i?"

I posted the following comment, but I think in my mind I wanted to understand "what do people gain by calling IBM i on Power Systems an AS/400?"

I call it IBM i on Power Systems, and educate my users to do the same, because of two main reasons:

1. It's the name of the OS and hardware that we currently run.
2. It ensures that everyone in the company, from shop floor to CEO, is aware we are investing in modern technology. Yes it's backward compatible and runs the old green screen apps, but that Sametime 8.5.2 rich web meeting and PHP web app for production control is thanks to IBM i.

Anyone who mentions "the 400" around me in my shop usually leaves the ensuing conversation with a greater appreciation of our IT department, our systems and, if I do my job right, the confidence we can deliver modern solutions they perhaps thought were not possible on "the 400."

To answer your question, what would/did it take? I had to change my perspective. What would I gain by wrongfully calling it "the 400?" Absolutely nothing. I've gained so much more by rightfully calling it IBM i on Power Systems and taking a little time to provide a little education; something many IT folks have abandoned as not "part of the job." I strongly disagree. Education opens the doors that people aren't even aware of.

An AS/400 is from the 80's and 90's. I don't want my name attached to any business decision that involves moving forward in 2013 with an AS/400.

So, if you call it an AS/400 or an iSeries or a System i...what do you gain from that?  Familiarity?  A comfort zone?  If so, you should've went into accounting or something else relatively stable and safe.  As an IT professional, where the tools of the trade change very often, you're losing the opportunity to engage someone and educate them on the technological monster IBM i on Power Systems is!

Any other reasons?  Please leave them below.

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Steve Pitcher › Using Lotus Notes Policies to Improve the User Experience: Part 1 – Dynamic Desktop

May 16th, 2012 Comments off
I've been speaking with many users on Twitter who have restrictive policies imposed on their Lotus Notes clients. 

Here are a few policies you can push out by default to improve your Lotus Notes users experiences from the get go.  I usually just set the initial value, so users can modify these settings after the fact.  For instance, the majority of our users want previewed mail to be marked as read, which Notes doesn't do by default.  I turn this on with a policy and educate users they can change it if need be.  Users need to be aware what options they have.  If they don't like a feature, they need to know they are able to change it.

All of these are in my Desktop Settings/Dynamic Desktop policy.

Basics Tab
Enable "Syncrhonize Contacts" on the Replicator = Yes
Set to ensure Notes users have their updated address book in iNotes.

Widgets Tab
Enable Live Text
Show the My Widgets panel in the sidebar
Live Text and Widgets are awesome so let users know what they are and that they have access to them.  But before you do this, you should really build and publish a widget catalog!
Train users to email each other widgets, show them how to download and add Google Gadgets to their sidebar panels.  For a head start, check the Widget Library on OpenNTF and please check out the Lotus Learning Widget.

Mail Tab
Allow refresh of Mail Quota on hovering over indicator = Enable
Have you ever adjusted a quota and told a user to "just wait a bit" for the quota indicator to change?  Just tell them to mouse over it for an instant update.

Enable silent failover when a server goes down = Enable
Why tell users your primary mail server is down and make them choose if they want to fail over to another replica?  Allow seamless transition to the secondary server. 

Enable upgrade of all local NSFs to latest ODS version = Enable
Users can benefit from the latest ODS on local applications only if they actually have the latest ODS on local applications.  This makes it easy to do.

Preferences Tab > Miscellaneous Sub Tab
Mark documents read when opened in preview pane = Enable
Make Internet URLs into Hotspots = Enable
Drag and Drop save as eml file = Enable
This is great if a user wants to pull an email out of their mail file.  Show them it's there!

Preferences Tab > Window Management Sub Tab
Display Sidebar = Yes
Hide "Sametime Contacts" Panel = No
We want our users logged into Sametime and have the panel visible every time they launch Notes.  This is one of the few policies I don't let users adjust.

Custom Settings Tab > Notes.ini Sub Tab
AttachmentActionDefault=1 OR 2
This will ensure a user doesn't have the pesky pop-up asking them if they want to open, edit, view or save the attachment they just double clicked.  Setting this to 1 will open the attachment by default.  Setting it to 2 will edit the attachment by default, enabling them to save it back to the document they just opened it from.  We're saving clicks and making things less complicated for users with this one.

Custom Settings Tab > Managed Settings Sub Tab
We use Sametime, so many of these are related to our Sametime environment or how Sametime interacts with the Lotus Notes calendar or our embedded Sametime clients.  FYI, I've already enabled token based single sign-on between our Domino, Sametime, Quickr and Websphere servers.

authType=ST-DOMINO-SSO;, Enforce
Lets us use single sign-on to our Sametime server.

loginByToken=True;, Enforce

Login by token.

tokenLoginOnly=True;, Enforce
Token only login.

savePassword=False;, Enforce
Disables a user saving a password.  When they do it seems to mess up that token login. ;)

autologin=True;, Enforce
Automatically log the user into Sametime

logging.service=service.notes;, Enforce
Ensures the user's chat history is saved to their mail file.

logging.default=0;, Enforce
Ensures the user automatically saves chat history.

Ensures Sametime client cache is refreshed upon each Notes login

logging.enabled=True;, Enforce
Enables chat logging.;, Enforce

Sametime host name.;, Enforce
Sametime server name.

useCanonicalNamesOverride=1;, Enforce
Ensures we use canonical names to allow presence awareness in Notes views;, Enforce: SetOnce
Sametime meeting server name.

serverPort=9082;, Enforce: SetOnce
Sametime meeting server port.

useCommunityCredentials=true;, Enforce: SetOnce

Lets the user use their Domino server credentials;, Enforce: SetOnce
Sametime community server name.;, Enforce: SetOnce
Authentication server name

useAuthServer=true;, Enforce: SetOnce
Set to use our an authentication server (i.e., our Domino server) as the authentication server for Sametime

resetUser=true;, Enforce: SetOnce
Resets the user settings to ensure they pull down the latest and greatest settings on login to Notes

earlyStartupLogin=false;, Enforce: SetOnce
Disables the Sametime login window.  Why give them the login window when you're using single sign-on?  Don't.

autoChangeMyStatusInMtg=true; SetOnce
Automatically change the user's Sametime status if they're in a meeting.

whenIamInAOnlineMtg=true; SetOnce
Automatically change the user's Sametime status if they're in an online meeting.

enabled=true; SetOnce
Enables status changes for user calendar entries

notes_enabled=true; SetOnce
In Calendar Service page, specify whether to check Lotus Notes calendar for meetings to allow auto status changes.

If you have other tips on other desktop policies to enhance a user's experience, please let me know.  I'd love to hear about them.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Mail Settings

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Simply 'i' › Zend moves support for ZendDBi to alternative supplier.

May 15th, 2012 Comments off
A recent article in IT Jungle just announced that Zend is going to be moving support and future development for Zend DBi off to another supplier. I did a quick review of the website for Percona and the pricing for their support for MySQL and various add-ons they have created and found the following price [...]

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Steve Pitcher › Ahaheim Recap

May 8th, 2012 Comments off
It's hard to sum up a conference that's not over yet.  Just know that I'm not.  I'm actually just giving a quick recap of my last few days.

I'm the newest member of the Common Americas Advisory Council (CAAC).  We met for two days of meetings this past Friday and Saturday before the Common User Group annual meeting and expo in Ahaheim, CA.

I arrived in Anaheim after about twelve hours of travelling from Nova Scotia.  Air Canada, you're not Westjet in terms of in-flight service, but you got me there with only one stopover in Montreal.  While I love Montreal I only had 45 minutes to change planes.  I had to sweet talk my way to the front of the line in both security and US customs and sprint hard to the gate (with belt, passport, Blackberry and wallet in hand) in order to make my connecting flight to Los Angeles International airport. 

While I can't talk about the specifics of our CAAC discussions, I can tell you that we are working very hard to represent the requests of the IBM community to our many partners within IBM.  As Common President Pete Massiello said in the opening session this afternoon, 62% of CAAC requirements have been delivered by IBM within IBM i releases 6.1 and 7.1.  I will stress that parts of the other 38% can still be put out in technology refreshes or future version releases.  The point is, the CAAC is working with IBM to ensure community needs are being addressed and IBM is doing a darn good job of addressing those needs.

From my brief time on the CAAC I can say it's a very effective relationship.  I can't wait to contribute more.

After our CAAC discussions, my time at Common was limited to the Sunday sessions as I had to fly back Monday morning.  As I've mentioned to many people, my company's IT department is very much in a support mode right now so even if I stayed in Anaheim, I'd probably be on the phone all day.  I do, however, plan on being in Columbus, OH in the fall and in Austin, TX in spring 2013.  While there, I intend on spending much time volunteering as I can.

The Sunday opening session was awesome.  I was adopted by the IBM Power Systems Champions (as I'm a Collaboration Solutions Champion) and asked to share the stage with them.  What a treat. 

The electricity and optimism from IBM and their customers at Common is just unreal.  I'm even more stoked to be running IBM i than ever before. 

See you in Columbus!

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