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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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04/29/2004

Book Review - Defensive Design for the Web by 37signals

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – Defensive Design for the Web

Title
Defensive Design for the Web – 37signals
1st edition, 2004, 246 pages, New Riders

Target Audience
Web site designers/developers who need to learn how to reduce the frustration factor in their sites.

Contents
This book covers the subject of how to code web sites that gracefully handle unexpected conditions encountered by visitors.  

The book is divided into the following chapters:

Understanding Defensive Design; Show The Problem; Language Matters; Bulletproof Forms; Missing In Action; Lend A Helping Hand; Get Out Of The Way; Search And Rescue; Out Of Stocks and Unavailable Items; The Contingency Design Test; Contingency Design

Review
We’ve all visited web sites that promise cool things.  But somewhere along the way, you do something that is not quite what the program expected.  Maybe you entered an incorrect date or missed a required field.  Your joy quickly disappears as the site makes you jump through a number of hoops to correct the data or get back on track.  They end up losing a customer without even knowing it.  If you’re a web developer, this is a critical issue for you, and the book Defensive Design for the Web is what you need to start correcting these issues.

The authors present 40 guidelines that cover different aspects of defensive design, or contingency design as they call it.  Some are pretty basic, such as “Always identify errors the same way”.  Others require a bit more thought in the coding of the site, such as “Assist form dropouts by saving information”.  But instead of just stating the guideline and moving on, they take it a step further.  Using familiar and popular web sites, they provide “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” examples of each guideline.  By seeing the guidelines actually applied in real-life, you are much more likely to understand the problems associated with it.  I know if my site was used as a “thumbs down” example, I’d be motivated to get it fixed post haste.

At the end of the book, there is a contingency test you can apply to your site.  You start by taking the test yourself as a baseline.  After you think you’ve cleaned up the site, then have some real visitors use the site and take the test.  If you can do well in both these scenarios, then your site is better off than most others out there.  You’re probably also seeing a high rate of repeat traffic.

The book is easy to read, but you’ll most likely return to the guidelines over and over.  This is a book that is going to be no more than an arms-length away.

Conclusion
This is a “must have” if you develop web sites.  The concepts and tips in this book can make the difference between one-time and repeat visitors.  

04/28/2004

Book Review - IBM WebSphere Portal Primer

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – IBM WebSphere Portal Primer

Title

IBM WebSphere Portal Primer – Ashok Iyengar, Venkata Gadepalli
1st edition, 2003, 514 pages, IBM Press


Target Audience

Portal developers and administrators who are responsible for the installation and maintenance of WebSphere portal server.


Contents

This is a tutorial guide on how to install and configure WebSphere Portal, as well as how portlets are developed.


The book is divided into the following chapters:


Enter The Portal; A Portal Blueprint; Putting Up The Doorway; Customizing The Portal; Building Blocks; Personalizing The Portal; Portal Gatekeeper; Portal And Beyond; Portal Crossing; Installation Planning Worksheet; Jlog Properties File; Portal Related Web Sites


Review

IBM is pushing the concept of the portal very hard, and their portal branding falls under the WebSphere umbrella.  But unlike installing Notes/Domino or Microsoft Office, trying to get WebSphere Portal (WP) up and running is not a trivial task.  Things have to be done in a certain order with certain settings.  And then once that is done, you have to start configuring the portal environment with the portlets you want to use.  This book can help guide you through that whole process.


First, the good things…  There’s a good blend between background material on the J2EE technology involved and the “hands-on” tasks, such as installation and configuration.  The screen shots and step-by-step writing is very well done, and you should be able to get up to speed quickly.  I wish I had access to this book when I first started exploring WP a year or so ago.  It would have saved me a lot of time and aimless wandering.


Now the not-so-good thing…  Since IBM is banking on WP being the next significant business platform, they are enhancing and simplifying the software on an aggressive schedule.  As a result, the current version of WP has gone beyond the version used for this tutorial.  Normally that wouldn’t be deadly to a book like this, but in this case it may be.  The install process has been improved, as well as the administration process.  If the user is trying to follow along using the WP 5.x software, there won’t be a lot of matches.  That could prove frustrating to the beginning WP administrator.


Even with the version issue, I’d still recommend this as a good secondary book to add to your portal bookshelf.  There are still many basic principles that apply to version 5, such as the portlet development concepts, theming, and some of the out-of-the box portlets you can download and use for free.


Conclusion

The main drawback to this book is that WebSphere Portal is now up to version 5.x, and the book covers version 4.1.  Since WP 5 is significantly improved over 4.x, you may not get as much out of this book as you’d like.  But the basic information and explanations are solid and informative.

04/27/2004

Book Review - WarDriving: Drive, Detect, Defend - A Guide To Wireless Security

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – WarDriving: Drive, Detect, Defend – A Guide To Wireless Security

Title
WarDriving: Drive, Detect, Defend – A Guide To Wireless Security – Chris Hurley, Frank Thornton, Michael Puchol, Russ Rogers
1st edition, 2004, 495 pages, Syngress

Target Audience
Individuals who are interested in searching out wireless access points and defending their own wireless networks against unauthorized use.

Contents
This book covers the subject of wardriving (searching for wireless networks) and securing your wireless network.  The chapters include:

Learning To WarDrive; NetStumbler and MiniStumbler: Overview; Operating NetStumbler and MiniStumbler; Installing Kismet in Slackware Linux 9.1; Installing Kismet in Fedora Core 1; Attacking Wireless Networks; Basic Wireless Network Security; Advanced Wireless Network Security; Index

Review
The hacking concept of exploring technology is something that has always appealed to me.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t spend time cracking networks and breaking into things.  It’s more of a fascination of “what’s out there”.  And of course, with the advent of wireless networks and the affordability of the hardware, there is a lot more “out there” out there!  That’s where the concept of wardriving comes in…  Surfing the airwaves to see what networks exist.  This book will teach you what you need to know to join in this phenomenon.

In many ways, this book is a guide to running some common wardriving software.  Once the hardware needs are covered in the opening chapter, the authors start to go into packages such as Kismet, NetStumbler, and MiniStumbler.  They do cover software for both Linux and Windows, so you can benefit regardless of what OS you prefer.  Interspersed throughout the book is the technical details that will fill in the gaps to the basic “how to” information.  Examples of this type of detail are sidebars on active vs. passive WLAN detection, disabling the broadcast beacon, and troubleshooting GPS problems.  Once you get the software installed, you’ll learn how to map your results for future reference.

The book is also beneficial if you’re a network administrator.  There is substantial information on how to take steps to make your network less susceptible to discovery and intrusion, as well as what you need to do to improve the encryption capabilities of your network.  It is somewhat disturbing to see how many wireless networks are set up with default level access and no encryption.  The authors take great pains to distinguish between the discovery of access points and the actual use of them.  So while you may think that they are advocating illegal activity, they are actually making sure that you can be a wardriver without breaking any laws.

While generally I like the book, there is something that irritates me about it.  They use a lot of screen shots related to the installing and operation of the different software packages.  While that might be useful for installing the Linux software if you’re not a penguin-head, it borders on overkill for Windows software.  I really don’t need to see screenshots to know to press Next after the install splash screen and the directory location.  Once you’re running and configuring the software, that’s different.  It’s a minor point in the overall quality of the book, however.

Conclusion
If the concept of wardriving is something that appeals to you, this is a good one-stop book to get started.  Furthermore, if you run or are responsible for maintaining a wireless network, you’ll need to know this information in order to secure your network against unauthorized access.

04/27/2004

A new version of iWatch is out on OpenNTF...

Category Software Development

I posted version 2.0 of iWatch out on OpenNTF.  It has fixes for duplicate news items and wrapped/broken URLs in the newsletter.  It also allows the use of proxy servers.  Feel free to test it out and let me know what you think.

http://www.openntf.org/projects/pmt.nsf/ProjectLookup/iWatch

04/26/2004

Book Review - Cereal Killer by G. A. McKevett

Category Book Reviews

One of the benefits of mass transit and noontime workouts is that I get lots of reading time.  In the last couple of days, I finished Cereal Killer by G. A. McKevett.  This is part of a series (a Savannah Reid mystery), and I can see myself going back and getting caught up with this author.  A fun read...

Savannah is a private detective who used to be a cop.  Her former partner (Dirk) is still in the force, and they often collaborate on cases.  She's a southern belle who packs a few extra pounds and enjoys her food.  Dirk is a grump who shares her love of food and is always looking for a free meal.  In this episode, Dirk is called to investigate the death of a plus-size model who Savannah has admired.  It looks to be a case of heat stroke from too little food and unhealthy attempts at weight loss.  This is because she signed a contract to lose weight eating a particular breakfast cereal, and she's not where she needs to be.  Things then get a little suspious when another plus-size model with the same contract also dies in a hit-and-run accident that isn't what it seems.  Savannah goes undercover as a model to try and help Dirk crack the case.  And to add some subplot and color, Savannah's loud and man-crazy sister shows up from Georgia to meet a man she met over the internet, and then goes to pieces when the guy dumps her after the first night.

I'll admit a fondness for the female detective genre, but I was plesantly surprised with this one.  The characters are colorful, and all of the main players have flaws that make them less than perfect but oh so real.  I loved the interplay between Savannah and her sister, where southern speech patterns and sayings all come to the surface.  The story line strings you along and doesn't reveal the killers until the end.  The author also does a good job in examining some of the preconceptions about the size of a person and how it often is connected to their feelings of self-worth.

A light, enjoyable story , and extra special if you're just discovering this author.  Expect a few more reviews on her titles in the very near future.

04/25/2004

Book Review - Perfect Sax by Jerrilyn Farmer

Category Book Reviews

After thoroughly enjoying Mumbo Gumbo, I looked forward to reading Jerrilyn Farmer's latest Madeline Bean novel, Perfect Sax.  And I can say it was worth the wait.  Lots of stuff going on in this book...

Madeline Bean has just finished putting on a catered event for a charitable group, and she's ready to go home and collapse.  Unfortunately, that's not going to happen.  She finds some personal papers of a neighbor in her driveway and finds the person at the event.  When she tries to tell him that she has them, he thinks that she is trying to blackmail him.  His girlfriend also goes off the deep end on Maddie.  A rare and expensive saxaphone which had a $100K bid turns up missing when people go to claim their winnings after the event.  On her co-worker's request after the event, she loans her jeep to an employee for an emergency, but the employee turns up in Maddie's bedroom that night shot to death.  When the neighbor whose papers she found also turns up murdered, she starts wondering if she's next.  A number of people in her life could well be the killer and/or be involved in the theft, and she's not real sure who to trust.  To make it worse, she's falling hard for this guy who might be involved, and she's still not sure how she feels about her ex-boyfriend cop who wasn't quite yet divorce from his wife.  

Much like Mumbo Gumbo, the plot twists keep you guessing, and you don't get complete resolution until the end.  Maddie's an extremely likeable character, and you easily identify with her as she's trying to stay alive and not lose her sanity.  While her personal life is still up in the air at the end of the book, there is plenty of room to run with it in the next installment.  Good read, and good job by the author.

04/25/2004

Book Review - 3rd Degree by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Category Book Reviews

While I was in the emergency room with my son yesterday, I pretty much started and finished the book 3rd Degree by James Patterson and Andrew Gross.  This is the latest installment of his Women's Murder Club series, and it was an enjoyable read.

Detective Lindsey Boxer is jogging along one day when the house she passes literally blows up.  She rushes in to save a child, but three other adults die in the fire.  She quickly determines that it was not an accident, and the killer(s?) has left a manifesto demanding the reform of corporate greed.  Shortly after that explosion, another prominent businessman dies by a massive overdose of rictin, and the city knows a terrorist organization is on the loose.  They threaten a G3 economic summit meeting in San Francisco in a week unless their demands are met.  The race is then on to find out who the killers are, and what motivation they have for what they are doing.  The subplots involve (among other things) Lindsey's budding romantic involvement with the deputy director of Homeland Security who is also on this case.

Fast-paced writing, with really short chapters which keep you thinking "just one more chapter, then I'll put it away".  Plenty of character development, and he makes some good points on how the "have nots" of society are ignored and exploited by the "haves".  While you quickly learn who some of the killers are, you are kept in the dark about motives until the end.  Good stuff.  I also find it interesting how Patterson (a white guy) writes novels with main characters who are black (Alex Cross) and female (Lindsey Boxer).  Not often that you see a writer go cross-cultural AND cross-gender.

04/25/2004

Cache.dsk Renamed to Cache.ndk in Notes 6.x Client

Category Software Development

I still get tripped up with this one just from force of habit...  From the KnowledgeBase...

Cache.dsk Renamed to Cache.ndk in Notes 6.x Client

Document Number:  1102143

Problem
A customer cannot locate the Cache.dsk file in the \Data directory of the Notes 6 Client.

Content
In Notes/Domino 6.x the Cache.dsk has been renamed to Cache.ndk.

It was discovered that the .dsk extension on a file caused some performance issues with certain Windows operating systems, so the file extension was changed to .ndk.

No new functionality has been added, other than some of the newer Domino 6 Design elements will be cached in the file.

04/25/2004

Is it Possible to Clear the ACL Change History?

Category Software Development

Never know when you may need to cover your tracks...  :-)  From the KnowledgeBase...

Is it Possible to Clear the ACL Change History?

Document Number:  1095441

Problem
Is it possible to clear the ACL Change History (which displays under File, Database, Access Control - Log)?

Content
The Change History is part of the ACL.  The only way to clear the Change History is to clear the entire ACL.  

To clear the entire ACL through Notes:  Make either a new database copy or a *new replica - and uncheck the option to copy the Access Control List.  The exact steps are provided below.

Clearing the ACL via a New Copy

1.        Highlight the database.
2.        From the menu, select File, Database, New Copy.
3.        Enter an appropriate server and filename.  (Enter a different filename if you are copying the database to the same server or workstation.)
4.        Uncheck the copy option of "Access Control List."
5.        Click OK.

Clearing the ACL via a New Replica

1.        Highlight the database.
2.        From the menu, select File, Database, New Replica.
3.        *Enter an appropriate server and filename.
4.        Uncheck the create option of "Copy Access Control List."
5.        Click OK.

*Note:  For new replicas, making a local-to-local replica copies the ACL, regardless of the selection.  To ensure the ACL is not copied when making a new replica, ensure that you are not creating a new replica from a local database to a local database.  This issue of that ACL copying, regardless of the selection, applies only to the New Replica feature.

04/25/2004

How to Measure the Elapsed Seconds of an Operation in LotusScript

Category Software Development

It's been a bit too long since I posted any KnowledgeBase items...

How to Measure the Elapsed Seconds of an Operation in LotusScript

Document Number: 1092062

Problem
How can you time a LotusScript operation in terms of elapsed seconds?

Content
A code sample that illustrates how to time a LotusScript operation is provided below.

The code sample uses two NotesDateTime variables, Start and Finish.   The variables are set using the SetNow method.   When the operation has completed, the TimeDifference method is used to calculate elapsed seconds.  The number of seconds is then displayed in a messagebox.

If the code is run in a background agent, the contents of the messagebox are stored in the Notes Log.

Sample Code:

Dim start As New NotesDateTime ("")
Dim finish As New NotesDateTime ("")
start.SetNow
' Place your code here...
finish.SetNow
Dim elapsedSeconds%
elapsedSeconds% = finish.TimeDifference(start)
Messagebox "Completed in " & elapsedSeconds% & " seconds."

Supporting Information:

How to avoid issues when working with the TimeDifference method:
When working with the TimeDifference method, it is important to use it with NotesDateTime objects which have similar parameters.  If comparing dates, then both objects should be declared with only a date portion.  If comparing dates with times, then be sure both objects have a date and time portion when declared.

For example:

To compare a date to a date (working with the example above), you can declare an additional object which consists of only the date.  NOTE:  You only need to declare an additional variable if there is a need to preserve the original.


Dim time1 As New NotesDateTime("06/26/00")
Dim time2 As New NotesDateTime("06/26/00 08:59:59 PM")
Dim time2a as New NotesDateTime(time2.DateOnly)
Time12=  time1.TimeDifference(time2a)

To compare dates with times, you simply need to add either "00:00 AM" or "12:00 AM" to the object's declaration:

Dim time1 As New NotesDateTime("06/26/00 12:00 AM")
Dim time2 As New NotesDateTime("06/26/00 08:59:59 PM")
Time12=  time1.TimeDifference(time2)

04/24/2004

Life... It's the difference between what happens and what you had planned on...

Category Everything Else

Well, today was one of those Saturdays that I was going to relax...  The wife was back after three days at a conference, and I was going to just putter around a little...  A little reading, cut the lawn, work on iWatch a little, probably have dinner with Bruce Elgort...  So I planned...

The reality of it was spending a significant amount of time in the emergency room with Ian.  He woke up around 10 am and Sue said he was pretty out of it.  After asking what day it was for about the 4th time, she started to get a little freaked out.  He was throwing up and achy, and he couldn't remember anything from yesterday.  His blood sugars were dropping rapidly and we couldn't keep any liquids down him.  With diabetes, the margin for error is really thin, and his doctor told us to get to emergency.  We spent about six hours there with him getting an IV and glucose, a CAT scan and blood work.  Other than low blood sugar which we seem to have somewhat stabilized now, everything appeared fine.  Perhaps a viral bug of some sort...

On the positive side, I finished up Patterson's latest novel 3rd Degree in a single day...  :-)  Review to come later.

04/24/2004

Book Review - The ASJA Guide To Freelance Writing

Category Book Reviews

If you do freelance writing, you'll like this book...  The ASJA Guide To Freelance Writing, edited by Timothy Harper.  This book is a compilation of subject chapters written by a number of successful freelancers.  Each chapter is around seven to twelve pages, and condenses down a wealth of information into a quick reference for amateurs and professionals alike.  The chapters include the following (not a complete list):  Planning A Writing Business; The Writer's Office And Tools; Seven Secrets Of A Successful Magazine Query; Research: Finding The Right Stuff; Writer-Editor Relations; This Pen For Hire: Leveraging Your Skills; and Writers And The Law.

This is one of those unusual books where the subject matter has to be practiced during the writing of the book.  Each of these chapters could easily be viewed as a freelance writing assignment for each author.  Because of the experts that have been chosen for each chapter, you get top-level advice that is an example of how freelance writing should be done.  I highly recommend this book...

04/23/2004

Interesting headline...

Category Humor

Gotta love sites that don't know American slang...

http://www.financeasia.com/Articles/06DD9861-F82C-4BFA-96CC2D57EB769A9E.cfm

For those non-American readers of this blog...  "Pecker" is a derogatory term for male genitalia, and "head job" can be used as a euphemism for oral sex...  Or you could group "Pecker head" together as a derogatory term for an individual.  Any way you go with it, you couldn't have gotten this one into the New York Times.  (Thanks for sharing, Mark!)

04/21/2004

Barry Bonds and the steroid controversy...

Category Everything Else

I'm not a huge baseball fan until the playoffs, but I do spend too much time watching ESPN and following sporting news.  And if you do that, you of course are aware of the BALCO trial and the possibility that Bonds was using steroids provided by his personal trainer.

Now, I am not so naive to think that since someone said they haven't used a substance, it must be the truth.  I think that Bonds has built in his "alibi" when he states that he never "knowingly" took illegal substances.  That gives him deniability if it turns out his prior samples test positive.

But here's what I'm *not* seeing reported currently.  Testing is now in place (not stringent, but it's there).  The focus is on the non-detectable designer steroids that may have been used before.  But Bonds is still as big as he was before.  He's still as strong as he was before.  And he's hit home runs in seven straight games.

Either he's still taking and masking the juice (unlikely with the increased scrutiny), he's taking but being protected by the league (highly unlikely unless you're into conspiracy theories), or maybe...  he really does work out hard, is really gifted, is legally supplementing, and has been telling the truth.

04/21/2004

Book Review - Angels And Demons by Dan Brown

Category Book Reviews

I finished Angels And Demons by Dan Brown the other night.  This book rocks as a recreational read!  This is by the same author as The DaVinci Code, and it looks like it was a previous work that was re-released after the success of Code.

Symbologist Robert Langdon gets an early morning call from a person in Switzerland claiming to have a dead body with an Illuminati brand on his chest.  The caller turns out to be the head of CERN, and he's concerned about the Illuminati cult that everyone thought was dead.  Langdon ends up in Switzerland to lend his expertise in the symbol, and from there is rushed to the Vatican when a massive explosive anti-matter device is stolen from CERN and is set to blow up the ancient seat of the Catholic church.  A dead pope, kidnapped cardinals turning up branded and dead, an ancient secret society that everyone thought was extinct, and a countdown to finding and stopping the explosion.  On top of that, the plot starts twisting at breakneck speed in the last 100 pages.  

This is a book I could have easily plowed straight through and been perfectly happy in doing so.  The pace of the story never slowed down, and the turns at the end weren't quite what I expected them to be.  I wasn't highly thrilled with The DaVinci Code, as it went off in some theological directions I didn't care much for.  And I also felt it was the author espousing his beliefs in novel form and pounding the reader over the head about them repeatedly.  This book is more a crime/conspiracy novel set in the Vatican, but not so heavy on alternative theology.

Definitely one of the better recreational reads of late...

04/21/2004

Cool tip... custom view icons in R5!

Category Software Development

I had a request today from a user to implement a "Star" rating system on certain documents.  She wanted the view to show one through five stars based on the input on the document.  I know you can use custom view icons using image resources in N6, but I didn't know if you could pull that off in the Notes client in R5.  Well...  A little research using MartinScott.com's SuperSearch feature, and I found the following.  Perhaps you knew this already, but I didn't.  Put the solution in and it worked like a charm...  :-)

FYI: Custom View Icons in 3 Easy Steps

Posted by
Kevin Pettitt on 1.Aug.02 at 12:59 AM using a Web browser
Category
: Domino Designer -- Views  Release: 5.0.9a  Platform: All Platforms

I just happened to notice a number of unsatisfied requests in this forum for the ability to show a view column icon (in Notes, not Web) OTHER THAN the limited set provided. As it happens, this is way easier than people think, and I'm a little surprised this is not more widely known. I'd love to give credit to the originator of this idea, but I can't remember where I found it. If its you, take a bow.

OK, enough with the fluff:

1 - Create a text field on the document form called "URLIcon" (actually, I don't think the field name matters, but play around). The value of the field must be the name of an Image Resource present in the database design. The field can be a dialog list or free text, editable or computed, doesn't matter.

2 - In your view column, set the formula to point to this field. Check the column property "Display values as icon". You might need to adjust the "Lines per row" setting of the view, as well as the column width of the icon column, to account for graphic size.

3 - Ensure your boss is at lunch before screeming with glee, jumping up and down, and making various hand gestures vaguely remiscent of your favorite kung fu movie.

04/20/2004

Still climbing the reviewer ranks at Amazon...

Category Book Reviews

Up to 2524...  The jumps are not coming as quickly, but they are still going up.  It used to be that I could move up one or two places and knock off 700 - 1000 places on my rank.  Now a good jump is around 100 places.

It will be interesting to see if I can get up to my goal of breaking into the top 1000.  Just have to keep all those "useful" votes on my reviews coming in!  :-)

04/19/2004

So far, mostly good on the new cable internet setup...

Category Everything Else

So far things are going relatively well on the cable internet front.  The installation guy arrived today at the promised time, which was good.  My plan had been to have them install the outlet upstairs, and we'd connect wireless from that machine.  But due to placement of the entry point to the house and the number of feeds we already have, it would have been messy.  The alternative (which I hadn't considered) was to hook the modem up to Cam's machine in the basement (near a cable outlet) and just run wireless on the upstairs box (and my laptop).  That worked out much better.

After the guy left, I installed the the Netgear router as recommended by Runtbert.  This is a wireless router with four ethernet ports to plug into.  At first, Cam's box was running *really* slow with the router providing the firewall services.  But after a couple of reboots, his response time seemed to pick up, and the Intel bandwidth check site showed him running between 2.7 and 3.0 MB.  I configured the WEP encryption and tried my Orinco Proxim wireless card.  But I couldn't seem to get over 48kb speed.  Not real good.  I went back to a wired connection to the router, and after a short while the speed started to pick up.  I was able to download both the ND7 server and client betas at the same time at just around 310 kb.  Pretty good.

Cam is upstairs right now trying to install the wireless PCI card into the upstairs machine.  We'll see how that goes.  Hopefully since that card is a Netgear product, it will produce decent speeds.  Once we get that connectivity going, then I can cancel our DSL and MSN accounts.

04/17/2004

Book Review - Radio Userland Kick Start by Rogers Cadenhead

Category Book Reviews


I recently had the chance to review the book
Radio Userland Kick Start by Rogers Cadenhead.  So what's a blogger who doesn't use that software doing reviewing a book like that?  It's always good to know what else is out there, and Rogers has done a really good job creating a guide to get you going.

The book is divided into four parts with the following chapters:  Tuning in to Radio Userland; Publishing a Weblog; Enhancing a Weblog; Reading RSS Newsfeeds with the News Aggregator; Upstreaming Files to a Web Server; Designing a Weblog Theme; Calling Scripts to Create Weblog Content; Creating Outlines; Backing Up Data; Exploring the Object Database; Creating New Tables and Other Data; Editing a New Script; Writing Statements and Calling Verbs; Reading and Writing to the Database; Using Variables and Arrays; Working with Loops and Conditionals; Developing Web Services with XML-RPC; Sending and Receiving Email; Handling Errors and Debugging Scripts; Creating and Distributing Tools; RSS; OPML; XML; XML-RPC; Index


The book opened my eyes to the fact that Radio Userland isn't just "blogging software", but is in reality a development environment for content management.  It edits your content, aggregates news feeds from other sources, and publishes the content to your hosting service.  It also does scripting for building specialized tools to work with your content.  Rogers' examples are easy to follow, and help you to understand exactly what types of tasks you can build on your own.  Regardless of whether you're a blogger who can't program or a techno-guru who wants to start sharing thoughts, you should be able to benefit from this book.


The statement is made that Radio Userland has no official documentation manual and that the author hopes that you'll consider this book the next best thing.  Based on what I see here, I would agree with him.  

04/17/2004

Book Review - Hack Proofing Your Identity In The Information Age

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – Hack Proofing Your Identity In The Information Age

Title
Hack Proofing Your Identity In The Information Age – Teri Bidwell, Michael Cross, Ryan Russell
1st edition, 2002, 370 pages, Syngress

Target Audience
Anyone who is an internet user and hasn’t thought about protecting their identity.

Contents
This book outlines the issues involved in protecting your identity in an online environment, along with giving practical suggestions on how to do so.

The book is divided into the following chapters:  Identity Theft: Are You At Risk?; Protecting Your Hard Drive; Keeping Your Email Private; Self-Defense On The Web; Connecting To The Internet Safely; Are Your Kids Putting You At Risk?; If You Become A Victim; Configuring Your Browser And Firewall; Index

Review
If you’re a long-time techno-geek, you’ve no doubt been aware of the risks of exposing your identity on the Internet.  You make sure credit cards are only used over encrypted links, you don’t fall for phishing scams, and so on.  But as more people have started to go online over the years, the incidents of computer crime and identity theft have risen dramatically.  To combat your exposure to those scams, you should read Hack Proofing Your Identity In The Information Age.

The typical computer user will pick up quite a bit from this book.  The first chapter will introduce the concept of identity theft and how easy it is for someone to glean information from you and use it to open credit accounts.  There is also information here on how to avoid theft by non-electronic methods, such as securing your mail and cell phone.  Subsequent chapters go more into detail on specific areas, such as email and web browsing.  While the authors rightly state that it is impossible to completely protect yourself against a determined attacker, reading and implementing the material that you find in this book will significantly decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

To the techno-geek who’s been living in the computer age for a long time, you will undoubtedly know most of this information.  Even so, it’s not assured that you will never become a victim.  The chapter titled If You Become A Victim is a good reference on what steps to take once you determine that you’ve been targeted.  Since it can be a stressful experience to clean up the damage, the convenience of having all the steps spelled out for you can be a lifesaver.

Conclusion
A good book for people who have never considered the risks of identity theft as they surf the internet, as well as for someone who is trying to clean up the damage once the theft occurs.

04/17/2004

Book Review - Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin

Category Book Reviews

I stayed up later than I should have last night finishing Phillip Margolin's latest novel, Sleeping Beauty.  Margolin is another one of my "must read" authors, and I look forward to each new novel from him.  And once again, I was not disappointed.

The author actually tells two stories by jumping between past and present, and allows them both to meet up at the end.  Ashley Spencer is a teenager who's father and best friend are murdered by a serial killer, and she narrowly escapes.  After it appears she is getting her life back on track, her mother is murdered by the same person.  That's the story that occurs in the past.  The current story is being told by a writer who's sister was put into a coma by the same attack that killed Ashley's mother.  He wrote the story as a tribute to his sister, and he's added some new chapters after the killer was captured five years after the attacks.  That is occurring in the present, and that's about as much of the plotline that I'll reveal here, as a number of twists and turns start happening that definitely keep you guessing as to the outcome of it all.

The writing is tight and emotional, and you get to know the characters very well without a loss of action.  He throws in a number of well-timed plot turns that alter the entire direction of the story and how you view the players.  I'll admit to a bias here as the writer is from Portland, Oregon and his stories all take place in the local area.  It's enjoyable to read stories where you can vividly put yourself at the exact location where the action is occurring.  

Great read, great story, and I highly recommend this one.

04/15/2004

Offshore-Proof Your Career...

Category Software Development

An interesting article on Monster.com:  Offshore-Proof Your Career

I find it amusing that two of the five involve working for the government.  The one I wish more people understood was "Be An Intrapreneur".  For those unfamiliar with the term, it means acting like an entrepreneur while you are an employee of a company.  Look for opportunities to stand out and add value.  Look for ways to do new things that aren't being done currently.  It's like being a consultant within the company you work for.  By doing that, you'll stand out from everyone else and be less likely to be viewed as a commodity.

04/15/2004

The Retrosexual Manifesto...

Category Humor

Forwarded to me from Bas...  
----------------------
Please allow me to vent. I have had it. I've taken all I can stand and I can't stand no more. Every time my TV is on, all that can be seen is effeminate men prancing about, redecorating houses and talking about foreign concepts like "style" and "feng shui." Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, metrosexual, non-sexual; blue, green, and purple-sexual - bogus definitions have taken over the urban and suburban world!

Real men of the world, stand up, scratch your butt, belch, and yell "ENOUGH!" I hereby announce the start of a new offensive in the culture Wars, the Retrosexual movement. "

The Code :   ...

04/15/2004

I need to keep remembering... I have an audience... :-)

Category Everything Else

I had a cool but slightly sobering experience with my blog today.  I got a comment on my review of the book Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer.  The comment was from the author herself!  She thanked me for the nice writeup, and we had a few email exchanges.

Now, it's cool that an author of a book you wrote about would take the time to comment about it.  But it was a little sobering to know that if I had trashed the book, she would have seen that too...  :-)

Hopefully the author of Understanding Disney won't stumble across this site...

04/14/2004

Book Review - Cascading Style Sheets - The Definitive Guide by Eric A. Meyer

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – Cascading Style Sheets – The Definitive Guide

Title
Cascading Style Sheets – The Definitive Guide – Eric A. Meyer
2nd edition, 2004, 507 pages, O’Reilly Publishers

Target Audience
Web developers who need a comprehensive guide on the use of CSS1 and CSS2 technology.

Contents
This book is an extensive guide on cascading style sheet technology, specifically the CSS1 and CSS2 specifications.

The book is divided into the following chapters:

CSS and Documents; Selectors; Structure and the Cascade; Values and Units; Fonts; Text Properties; Basic Visual Formatting; Padding, Borders, and Margins; Colors and Backgrounds; Floating and Positioning; Table Layout; Lists and Generated Content; User Interface Styles; Non-Screen Media; Property Reference; Selector, Pseudo-Class, and Pseudo-Element Reference; Sample HTML 4 Style Sheet; Index

Review
Most of my development work is not concentrated on the user interface.  To date, I’ve been able to live with just a minimal amount of HTML and JavaScript knowledge.  But more and more I’m being drawn into web design work, and CSS is playing a significant part in that.  In order to have the information I need to do my job, I got a copy of this book and I’m glad I did.

Meyer does a nice job in balancing the material between code examples, reference to cover all the parameters, and example output to show what the code will do.  I think the last part is very important, as it allows you to visualize the type of effects a certain command will have, and from there you can start to apply it to your own web site.  I am undecided as to whether this would make a good first tutorial for someone just learning CSS.  For me, it’s a better reference guide once you have some basic CSS understanding.

There is one formatting decision that the author made in the second edition that some might find irritating.  He decided that to keep the book from growing too large, the information about which browsers support which features would be dropped from the print version.  You can get that information from the online web site, so it’s not like you’re left in the cold.  But if that information is important to you and you want one-stop reading, this book might not be what you want.        

Conclusion
A solid reference manual on CSS that you will use for coding examples, parameter reference, and visual examples of the effects you can obtain.

04/13/2004

Book Review - Glorious Appearing by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins

Category Book Reviews

I got on the library hold list pretty early for the book Glorious Appearing by LaHaye and Jenkins.  This is the 12th and final book in the Left Behind series, a Christian historical novel based on end-time biblical prophecies.  If you've read the entire series up to now, you should enjoy the conclusion as laid out in this book.  Well done, and a vivid portrayal of how events could play out during that time.  

Overall, I enjoyed the series a lot.  I did think that the series could have been cut down to eight or nine volumes without losing much in the story.  The middle volumes tended to just mark time with not a lot of story advancement.  Still, one of the best novel treatments of pre-tribulation rapture theology.

04/13/2004

Book Review - Unite The Tribes by Christopher Duncan

Category Book Reviews

Do you work at a company where most of the energy is spent fighting each other instead of the competition?  Unite The Tribes is an extremely good book that outlines a program for learning how to focus the company to conquer the real enemy, your competitor who would rather you didn't exist.  This should be required reading in most all large corporations.

04/13/2004

We have a trifecta! All our home computers have now been rebuilt! :-)

Category Everything Else

I've chronicled my travails in rebuilding the home desktop machine over the last few months due to, ahem, shall we say, unknown downloads from unidentified members of the family.

Saturday morning, I woke up to some bizarre error message on my laptop which I couldn't recover from.  So, Saturday was "rebuild the laptop for the first time" day.  At least I had the opportunity to delete some programs I wasn't using any more.

And now, I sit watching Cameron rebuild his $40 desktop machine.  His video card appears to have gone wonky and prevented a full bootup.  Rather than try and repair the install, he decided he wanted to reformat the drive and start over.  He now has Windows reinstalled, internet connectivity restored, and has switched back over to the on-board video connection.  

I'm impressed...  :-)

04/12/2004

Book Review - The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

Category Book Reviews

This is a book I've looked forward to for a long time, and I wasn't disappointed.  The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning is a continuation of the Cliff Janeway series, and I really wish this guy would write more.  Very good stories...

Cliff Janeway is an ex-cop who left the force after an excessive force incident, and he decided to open a book store specializing in rare and collectible books.  Dunning is an actual bookseller, and you can tell he knows the field well.  Janeway decides to buy a $30K volume by Richard Burton (the explorer) and is contacted by an elderly lady who claims to be related to someone who knew Burton well.  There is also rumor of a journal that Burton kept during a time period before the Civil War, and it could shed light on how the war actually started.  She claims that a large collection of the Burton works were stolen from her when her uncle died, and Janeway promises to try and uncover what may have happened to them.  She dies shortly after he makes the promise, and he can't let it go.  The search leads to the seedy side of the book-selling world, and soon Janeway has made a few enemies who want him dead.  He has to balance his promise against trying to stay alive and not cause any injury to the people surrounding him.

As a crime/mystery novel, the story is good.  Janeway is an interesting character, and you quickly become wrapped up in his quest.  For me, the element that makes it a special read is the backdrop of book selling.  I love books, and I love reading.  I can identify with the search for that hidden treasure and how it feels to hold a unique volume in your hands.  If you love books, Dunning will quickly become a favorite author.

04/12/2004

Book Review - Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer

Category Book Reviews

I finished a fun read a week or so ago.  It was Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer.  Farmer's books involve a caterer named Madeline Bean who finds herself involved in crime mysteries not of her own choosing.  In Mumbo Gumbo, she is called on to do some writing for the final episode of a hit show called Food Freak when the head writer disappears.  No one knows where he took off to, but the people who write, produce, and star on the show all seem to have something to hide when it comes to his disappearance.  Bean's cop boyfriend is working on some serial killings that appear to be drug-related, and the two stories start to intertwine when a body is found in an arson fire of the head writer's home.  I'll stop there to avoid giving away any more of the plot...

The writing is well done and the dialog is fun.  The story seemed to get a little muddled in the middle, but I'm not sure if it's because it really was or if it was taking me some time to finish the book and I lost continuity.  Regardless, readers of the amateur female detective genre will enjoy this book.

04/08/2004

Best practices for Lotus Notes application development?

Category IBM/Lotus

I was asked today if I knew of any resources that outlined best practices for Lotus Notes application development.  I know there used to be the Best Practices Guide database that had some hints, but that hasn't been updated in quite a few years.  

Does anyone have anything or know of links to good articles that cover this subject?  The person who asked me wants to put together a paper for a client who is looking to get a better product than they've gotten from a parade of developers (of varying skill levels) over the years.

04/07/2004

Misadventures In Indian Outsourcing

Category Everything Else

BusinessWeek Online:  Misadventures In Indian Outsourcing

An excellent story about how an attempt to offshore some development for a small firm nearly cost the start-up everything.  It also points out that the monthly cost per programmer isn't your only expense, and there is plenty of risk analysis that needs to occur.

04/07/2004

Offshore Opt-out

Category Everything Else

In Baseline Magazine:  Offshort Opt-Out

A few companies are starting to offer customers an opt-out option for offshore processing of their information.  If the customer opts to use onshore processing, their work may take longer or be more expensive.  It will be interesting to see if this gains any momentum in the marketplace.  It also should make for some interesting system changes to route processing based on a customer's preference.

04/07/2004

iWatch is now available for download on OpenNTF.org!

Category Software Development

You can now download the iWatch application on OpenNTF:  

http://www.openntf.org/Projects/pmt.nsf/ProjectLookup/iWatch

Awhile back, I announced that Marquam Group had allowed me to release our Notes application that provides an interface to the Google News Alert service.  Both Carl Tyler and Bruce Elgort ran it for the last month or so and it passed their tests with flying colors.  Actually, we've been running it at Marquam Group for quite awhile.  Bruce and company got it posted up on OpenNTF as version 1.0, so feel free to download it.

Carl even added a Sametime bot to the interface to get the news alerts in that fashion.  It hasn't been released but one day and it already has a thriving add-on market!  :-)

iWatch is a Notes client application that allows you to create and store Google News Alerts completely from within the Notes client.  The news alerts come back and are parsed out into individual Notes documents for easy reading and searching.  A newletter agent allows you to set up customized newsletters to get a daily recap of your items of interest.  That way, a department can have a number of Google alerts going on, and you can set up your newsletter to only see a fraction of them that are pertinent to you.

It's not a terribly complex application, but it is extremely useful for monitoring news about subjects, clients, customers, and competitors.  

And if you'd like to make my wife and kids very happy on our vacation in December, feel free to click the Paypal button on the project page and contribute to our vacation fund...  :-)

04/06/2004

Book Review - Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre

Category Book Reviews

My wife was in Chicago recently for a quilt show, and she picked up a book for me while she was there.  It's called Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre, and it's an interesting coffee table book.

To start with, the size of the book is unique.  To emphasize the "tallness" of the subject matter, the book measures 18 inches by 8 inches.  It definitely doesn't fit on a bookshelf too well.  Each two page combination in the book examines one of the world's tallest or most unique skyscrapers.  The photography is well done, and the description and history of the buildings is often interesting.  If you're an architect or someone who appreciates the art of structures, you'll think this book is wonderful.  The only fault I can find with it (and it's more me than the book) is that the author tends to wax lyrical about artistic details and concepts that sometimes go a bit overboard.  I guess I'm not "in touch" with my inner self...  I found myself thinking "It's a building!  Get over it!" more than once.

04/06/2004

And *another* blog debuts, with a great name...

Category Blogging

Punk'd By Notes by Michael Sobczak

http://www.punkdbynotes.com/hosting/msobczak/Blogs/domblog-v1.6.0/punkdblog.nsf

04/06/2004

I'm so disappointed... My Lotusphere 2004 bag just bit the dust!

Category Everything Else

I think of all the Lotusphere bags I've had over the years, the 2004 version was my favorite.  Nice backpack design, roomy padded slot for my laptop, lots of pouches and zippers to hide stuff, comfortable to wear, and not at all gaudy like the geeky yellow backpack of 2001.

But alas...  today I had to bid a sad farewell to a close friend.  One of the straps started to fray where it attaches to the base of the pack, and it finally worked all the way through to separation.  While I could just just use the remaining strap for my right shoulder, it really limits the usefulness.  And since it ripped out right at the base, there's nothing to sew it back onto.  

I really liked that backpack.  It was easy to travel with and held quite a bit (probably too much in retrospect).  The 2003 pack already ripped out before I left Lotusphere, so that one is out.  The yellow backpack is OK, but it doesn't ride very well on my back.  I'll have to see if I can dig out the pouch version that had the metal plate on it.  That one worked OK.

Bummer...

04/06/2004

Some more spam comments...

Category Humor

"Proven (barely legal) seduction techniques" - What I wouldn't have given to be part of *that* legislative debate...

"Enough is Enough Thomas" - No, this wasn't from my wife...

"Get the hottest makeup for Spring" - yes, just a little foundation and moisturizer to get rid of all that problem combination skin...

"Increase breast size naturally" - Note to spammers...  Wrong gender.  I need to *lose* weight, not gain it.

"Turn Back The Hands Of Time - Complementary Trial" - so if I get sent back in time and don't like how things turn out, I don't have to pay?  

"disgustful lackey curium you'll squawbush steer ascend slander ingersoll demo barton duck sheath candlewick causal charity" - This one just *sounds* wrong!

"Get more inches now!" - *That* would really screw up the whole Team-TSG concept now, wouldn't it?

"Get your 0nline MBA now!" - apparently spelling and/or typing is not part of the MBA Curriculum these days.

04/05/2004

Is gephyrophobia a common ailment?

Category Everything Else

Yes, I had to look it up to figure out what the technical term is for fear of bridges.  

In Portland, we have a river that runs through the middle of the city separating the east from the west side.  The bus I take to work crosses the Burnside bridge, which is a couple blocks long, a drawbridge, and pretty open.  It looks like a city street with water underneath it.  Now, on a number of occasions, I've seen people board the bus two blocks before the bridge, pay their fare, ride across the bridge, and get off at the first stop after the bridge.  

They probably walked more than three blocks to get to the bus stop to begin with.  I've seen people cuss out the driver because he wouldn't let them ride over the bridge without paying.  Granted, some of these people looked more along the lines of street people than office workers, but still...

I've never quite understood why people would pay $1.25 to go four blocks.  Is the fear of bridges a common ailment that I'm not aware of?

04/05/2004

A little self-promotion...

Category Everything Else

Today was one of those fun days when you see your name and/or work show up in a number of unexpected places.

To start with, I got my email copy of CLiPpings, the Lotus certification newsletter.  Each month they list two or three e-Pro articles in that month's issue, and my Application Development Tool Roundup was one of the three.  Very cool...

Then, out on SearchDomino, I saw an article by Brian Mahoney on LotusScript vs. Java.  Being that Joe Litton and I have lived in that area for awhile, I started reading.  Lo and behold, at the end of the article, Brian pointed out our Team-TSG site along with our Advisor articles and personal web sites.  That was pretty cool too!

In the mail today, three copies of this month's e-Pro arrived, so I can file those in my clipping file.

And finally, I was able to check out my recorded session on e-Pro's site from their online conference.  I need to listen to learn from my mistakes, but still, it was nice to see that available to registered attendees.

All in all, a pretty good ego day!

04/04/2004

Notes/Domino 6.x Agent Security Model and Private Agents

Category Software Development

From the KnowledgeBase...

Notes/Domino 6.x Agent Security Model and Private Agents

Document Number:  1114269

Problem
In Notes/Domino R5, in order for users to run their Out of Office agents, they have to be listed in the Agent Manager agent security setting for "Allowed to Run Restricted LotusScript Operations" because sending mail is a restricted operation.  This means that users can create any LotusScript agents using any restricted methods, and can conceivably create bad agents that could do harm (such as causing endless loops) to the Domino server.  Most users, however, do not create LotusScript agents, but instead create Simple Action or @Formula agents in their mail files.  Most users in Notes R5, who do not have Domino Designer clients installed on their workstations, also never change the default agent, so these agents are set to run as private agents.  In order to prevent these user-created private agents from running, the Notes/Domino Administrator in R5 can restrict who can run Private agents in the R5 server security settings.  This effectively blocks most user-created agents, but is not truly secure as a user-created shared agent will circumvent this security.

When customers upgrade to Notes/Domino 6.x, the upgrade path defined explains that they should upgrade their servers, then clients, then the client mail file designs.

Customers who were previously using the method described above of restricting private agents to limit who can run server agents in R5 find that when they upgrade their servers to Domino 6, these agents start running.  The reason is that there is no longer a setting to restrict who can run private agents, but there are additional settings for who can run simple action/formula agents.  The problem is that in the Domino agent security model, the agent restrictions are hierarchical.  So if users are allowed to run restricted LotusScript agents, they are automatically allowed to run Simple Action or Formula agents, as that is a lesser restriction.

The solution in Domino 6.x is to set the users' access level in the Access Control List (ACL) to their mail files to "Editor".  At that level, when they enable the Out of Office agent, a new function kicks in that enables it on behalf of them but it is actually run by someone else (by default this is Lotus Notes Template Development).  When done in this fashion, the users do not need to be given access to run restricted LotusScript agents, so they can be restricted from those operations and the simple action/formula agent operations.

Unfortunately, in order for this process to work, the users MUST be given Editor access and they MUST be using a Domino 6 mail template design (Mail60.ntf).  If the users have a higher access level, it will simply sign the Out of Office agent with their ID and they will need rights to run restricted LotusScript agents.  If the user is not using a Domino mail template design, the functionality that enables the "run on behalf" agent is not available.

For many customers, though, there may be a significant time difference between the time the servers are upgraded and the time the mail files are upgraded, because the Notes Clients must be upgraded during that time.  During that time, private Simple Action and Formula agents that were created by users that will not run on a Domino R5 Server will run on a Domino 6.x Server.


Content
This issue was reported to Lotus Software Quality Engineering, and was addressed in Notes/Domino 6.0.3 and 6.5 (Software Problem Report #SSHE5FNNBU).

With either of these releases (or higher) installed on a server, and the Notes.ini parameter, Enforce_Personal_Agents=1 is added to the server's Notes.ini, users must be specifically listed in the field called 'Run Simple Action/Formula Agents' of the Server document, in order to run those agents.  The hierarchical security restrictions will not flow to that field.

A common configuration in the Server document would then be:

Run Restricted LotusScript Agents:  */Organization

Run Simple Action/Formula Agents:  admingroup, devgroup

Individual users not listed in "admingroup" or "devgroup" would be allowed to run their Out of Office agent.  When they attempted to schedule any event or scheduled Simple Action or Formula agent, they would be informed that they did not have execution authority to run those agents.  Users could still schedule an run private and shared LotusScript agents that they create.

Related Documents:
Notes Does not Allow Users to Run Out Of Office Agent but Have No Rights To Run any Other Agents
Document #:  1085284


Related LDD Article: Decoding the New Notes/Domino 6 Agent Features:
http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/today.nsf/62f62847467a8f78052568a80055b380/177bbe55c6848ae000256c44003aee17?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,julie,agent

04/04/2004

How Does Notes Domino 6 Document Locking Feature Work?

Category Software Development

From the KnowledgeBase...

How Does Notes Domino 6 Document Locking Feature Work?

Document Number:  7003259

Abstract

This paper is intended to give a brief overview of document locking, which is a new feature beginning with Notes Domino 6 (ND6). Document locking is a way to dramatically reduce replication/save conflicts, and to otherwise ensure that when one user is editing a document, no one else will try to do so. If the document is in a database replicated amongst Domino 6 servers that communicate easily with one another, then the feature works very smoothly. If some of the servers are extremely remote, or

Content
This paper is intended to give a brief overview of document locking, which is a new feature beginning with Notes Domino 6 (ND6).

Document locking is a way to dramatically reduce replication/save conflicts, and to otherwise ensure that when one user is editing a document, no one else will try to do so.  If the document is in a database replicated amongst Domino 6 servers that communicate easily with one another, then the feature works very smoothly.  If some of the servers are extremely remote, or are in different domains and do not communicate directly with each other, or the system is a mix of R5 and Domino 6, then various problems will ensue.

How to enable document locking

-        Enable the feature called "Allow document locking" on the first tab of the Database Properties dialog box
-        The database needs to be ODS 43 (ND6)
-        You will need to have an administrative server selected in the ACL
-        You do not need to compact the database

What happens once document locking is enabled

Once enabled, you will find that every time you edit a document, the status bar indicates, "Document successfully locked."  Likewise, when saving/closing a document, "Document successfully unlocked" is written to the status bar.  This requires no extra steps for your users.  Behind the scenes, whenever the document is put in/out of edit mode, two fields are written to: $Writers and $WritersDate.  The first field is a read/write access names field, the same as an AuthorNames field.  The second field is a time/date stamp.  These fields are used to let the system know that the document is locked.  When unlocked, these fields are blanked out.

Note that you can alternatively lock/unlock a document via the Actions menu (or right-click and choose Lock/Unlock from the pop-up menu).  If you lock a document this way, it remains locked until you unlock it.  If you lock a document implicitly by simply editing the document, it unlocks automatically when you come out of edit mode.

If the database has no replica copies, then using this feature is trivial.  But let us assume that there are replica copies on multiple servers.  In that case, when you try to edit a document, the server makes a call to the administrative server to make sure that this document is not locked.  If it is locked, you are given an appropriate error message.  If it is not locked, then you are given the lock.  For this reason, it is critical to the smooth functioning of this feature that the servers can all communicate with the administrative server easily.  If they cannot, or if that communication is slow, then your users will experience a host of problems, from incomplete error messages to an inability to edit/save the document.

Note that the feature can handle local and dial-up access.  It gives the user a message to the effect that it will try to synchronize the edits when connected, and will generate a rep/save conflict only if necessary.  The user will get an email message with the results of this attempt.

What happens in a mixed environment

-        R5 client trying to edit an unlocked document.  This is not a problem.
-        R5 client trying to edit a locked document.  Client generates an error message on save, cannot save edits.
-        Web browser trying to edit an unlocked document.  This is not a problem.
-        Web browser trying to edit a locked document.  Rep/Save conflict, if appropriate.  No error messages.  Note that you could program something into your form, or in a WebQueryOpen agent, to check for $Writers and give a warning to web users if a value is found in that field.
-        ND6 client trying to edit a document on an R5 server.  The following error message displays:
"Server does not support this version of the network protocol."
Note that your ND6 client will have the menu option to Lock/Unlock, but the server is not able to support that call.

In summary, this is a very smooth feature if the database replicates among Domino 6 servers that can easily communicate with each other, and if the users have ND6 clients.  If your system is not set up this way, you should do appropriate testing to ensure that you can at least train your users as to what error messages or problems they may encounter.

04/04/2004

ASCII Generator...

Category Everything Else


From Bas...  I always wondered who had enough time to figure these things out...


http://www.network-science.de/ascii/
(____ \        / __)/ __) |                _    
_   \ \ _   _| |__| |__| | _   ____  ____| |_  
| |   | | | | |  __)  __) || \ / _  )/ ___)  _)
| |__/ /| |_| | |  | |  | |_) | (/ /| |   | |__
|_____/  \____|_|  |_|  |____/ \____)_|    \___)
                                             
______        _            _
(_____ \      | |          | |
_____) )_   _| | ____  ___| |
(_____ (| | | | |/ _  )/___)_|
     | | |_| | ( (/ /|___ |_
     |_|\____|_|\____|___/|_|


04/03/2004

Book Review - The Book Of JavaScript

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – The Book Of JavaScript

Title
The Book Of JavaScript – Dave Thau
1st edition, 2000, 397 pages, No Starch Press

Target Audience
Beginning JavaScript coders.

Contents
This is a conversational tutorial on JavaScript coding designed for people who have not used the language much (or at all).

The book is divided into the following chapters:  

Welcome To JavaScript!; Using Variables and Built-in Functions to Update Your Web Pages Automatically; Give The Browsers What They Want; Rollovers: Everyone’s Favorite JavaScript Trick; Opening and Manipulating Windows; Getting Functional: Writing Your Own JavaScript Functions; Giving and Taking Information With Forms; Keeping Track of Information with Arrays and Loops; Timing Events; Frames and Image Maps; Validating Forms, Massaging Strings, and Working with CGI; Cookies; Dynamic HTML; How to Fix Broken Code; Beyond the Browser: Plug-ins, ActiveX, Making Music, and Java; Reference to JavaScript Objects and Functions; Answers to Assignments

Review
There are numerous books on the market that deal with learning JavaScript.  There is everything from simplistic guides to the person building their first web page, to in-depth guide for the professional web developers, to detailed reference guides that document every feature.  On that scale of coverage, this book falls somewhere on the lower end of the scale.  That’s not a bad thing…  It’s just good to know what the target audience is.

The tone of the author’s writing is conversational and a little quirky.  He uses a number of examples in each chapter to illustrate the subject matter, and they illustrate the points well.  Each example is dissected so that the reader can follow along and understand what each line is doing.  By the time you are finished, you should have a solid understanding of the basics of JavaScript.  At that point, you should be ready to pick up a more detailed book and start learning the intricacies of the language.

The only bad thing about the book at this point in time is the age of the book.  He assumes that the reader is working with either Netscape 3.0 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0.  On one hand, most of the stuff you see here should be supported now in any browser.  On the other hand, there’s something to be said for learning the latest information on more up-to-date platforms.  The age also shows up when you examine some of their web site samples.  Obviously, the sites have been updated since the book was written, so you can’t very well follow along any more.

Conclusion
A solid, if somewhat dated, tutorial treatment of basic JavaScript coding.  Easy to read, and very good explanations of code examples.  

04/03/2004

Book Review - The Linux Cookbook

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – The Linux Cookbook

Title
The Linux Cookbook – Michael Stutz
1st edition, 2001, 396 pages, No Starch Press

Target Audience
Command line Linux users who want practical examples of how to do things.

Contents
This is a detailed book on how to accomplish a number of tasks using the command line interface of a Debian Linux distribution.

The book is divided into seven parts and the following chapters:  

Part 1 – Working With Linux - Introduction; What Every Linux User Knows; The Shell; The X Window System
Part 2 – Files – Files and Directories; Sharing Files; Finding Files; Managing Files
Part 3 – Text – Viewing Text; Text Editing; Grammar and Reference; Analyzing Text; Formatting Text; Searching Text; Typesetting and Word Processing; Fonts
Part 4 – Images – Viewing Images; Editing Images; Importing Images; PostScript
Part 5 – Sound – Sound Files; Audio Compact Discs; Editing Sound Files
Part 6 – Productivity – Disk Storage; Printing; Cross-Platform Conversions; Reminders; Mathematics
Part 7 – Networking – Communications; Email; The World Wide Web; Other Internet Services;
Appendices – Administrative Issues; Linux Resources on the Web; License

Review
The true Unix geek and guru seems to be addicted to the command line interface of their system.  Why use a mouse and a graphical interface if you can do it all via the keyboard and arcane system commands?  If that appeals to you and describes your world, then this book will appeal to you.  

Now, before I say anything else, there’s one thing that the reader should know.  This book was written in 2001, and I’ll assume that the richness of the desktop graphical interfaces was not available back then.  The book seems to be written from the assumption that the command line is the only game in town.  The author makes a statement in the opening where he says this book will show “everyday users – artists, designers, businessmen, scholars, or scientists” how to use the tools and applications.  I’m here to tell you…  the average “user” he targets isn’t in this group.  You show me a typical accounting supervisor who will use a command line interface, and I’ll admit I’m in error.  But it isn’t going to happen…

The book is written in “recipe” format.  Each example is numbered, and any other special handling instructions are included up front (like additional packages to download).  The command syntax is listed along with a “to get this type of result, do this:” list of command parameters.  If you are interested in trying to accomplish a task as part of a shell script or to avoid using an interface with unnecessary features, this format will help you zero in on the specific information you’re after.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the author is targeting the Debian Linux distribution.  You may find a few variations you’ll need to accommodate if you are running something different, but overall you should find value regardless of what Linux distribution you are running.  It’s all solid information if this is the type of Linux work you are doing.

Conclusion
A good title for Linux geeks or wanna-be geeks who want to learn how to use the command line interface to accomplish tasks.  Definitely not a title for typical desktop users of Linux.  

04/03/2004

Book Review - Linux In The Workplace

Category Book Reviews

Book Review – Linux In The Workplace

Title
Linux In The Workplace – Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc.  (SSC)
1st edition, 2002, 324 pages, No Starch Press

Target Audience
Users of Linux desktop environments who need to learn the basic tools that are equivalents of Windows software.

Contents
This is a highly illustrated, detailed explanation of the basic programs and utilities found on a typical Linux desktop environment.

The book is divided into the following chapters:  

Introduction; Learning About The Pieces; Logging In and Moving Around; Managing Files; Getting Organized; The OpenOffice Suite; Alternative Office Software; Working with Graphics; More on Graphics: The GIMP; Communication: Working with Email, Usenet News, and Faxes; Accessing the Web; Customizing Your Desktop; Making Job Backups; Using The Command Line; OpenOffice Default Key Bindings/Keyboard Shortcuts; What Does What: Matching Your Task with the Appropriate Program; Creating and Maintaining a GPG Key for KMail; Index

Review
When I first looked at Linux way too many years ago, it was nothing more than a DOS style operating system that required a fair amount of geekiness to use.  For various reasons, my experimentation with it didn’t go much further.  I recently gave it another shot and was blown away by how far it’s come and how close to a Windows environment you can get.  But what Linux programs do what when it comes to normal day-to-day activities?  This is where Linux In The Workplace comes in.

This is not a book on how to download and install a Linux system.  To get that type of information, you’ll need to check out some other title.  But once you get your Linux system set up, you’ll need to know how the desktop works, how to find files, how to create a document, etc.  Using the KDE graphical interface, the authors show you the commands and menu options available to you.  You’ll quickly find that there is a matching Linux process to do just about everything you would do in Windows.  Once you’re comfortable with the desktop interface, they then start to examine different productivity tools, such as OpenOffice.  You will quickly find that you can, once again, do just about anything in OpenOffice that you would need to do in Microsoft Office.

There is a chapter towards the end that gets into the command line interface that is part of Linux.  Power users will find this useful to see what they might be able to do if they want to push their knowledge.  True geeks will definitely want to find another title that goes into command line information in depth if that’s what their next step will be.  And average users can bypass this information with no problems.  

The authors have successfully (in my opinion) walked the line in the amount of information they convey in the book.  They don’t try to tell you absolutely everything there is to know about a utility, but they do give you enough information that you can effectively use it right away.

Conclusion
If you’re looking to try out a Linux desktop to replace your Windows operating system, and you need help understand what the different utilities and programs are, this is a perfect book to help you make that jump.  

04/01/2004

Learn To Swim Or Learn To Drown

Category Software Development

In this month's issue of e-Pro, Scott "Turtle" Wenzel has an column titled Learn To Swim Or Learn To Drown.  In it, Wenzel makes the case that if you are content to simply code programs and applications, you will be outsourced (and you deserve to be).  The only defense you have against the outsourcing trend is to understand and communicate with business units, add value to the customer, and strive to understand and know as much as you can in the world of IT.

I realize this is an unpopular stance in IT these days.  You will hear people complain that they have done all they can and they are still outsourced for cheaper labor.  But bottom line is this...  Striving to make yourself more valuable to the business, to be a partner with the customer, is the only logical response to this trend.  

If you sit and complain and do nothing, you're sure to be outsourced.  If you strive to become invaluable to the business, you may still be outsourced, but you'll be a more valuable commodity as you look for a new job.  The landscape *has* changed, and the days of easy job hopping are gone.  It's going to take hard work and innovative thinking to survive in this new environment.  More so than ever before, you are responsible for your attitude and skills, and what you do to improve in those areas will make a huge difference in how well you survive.

04/01/2004

Want a good reason to start learning Eclipse?

Category IBM/Lotus

From Computer Business Review Online:  IBM Says End In Sight For Tools Move To Eclipse

Soon we'll be at the point where a basic knowledge of Eclipse will be foundational to working with all the IBM tools.  Now would be a good time to get started!

04/01/2004

New e-Pro Article: Lotus And WebSphere Application Development Tools

Category Software Development

e-Pro was kind enough to let me write the Lotus And WebSphere Application Development Tools article in the April issue.  I learned a lot about the variety of tools out there for each side of the IBM/Lotus offerings.  Definitely worth a look (not for what I wrote, but for the list of tools out there!)  :-)

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