Friday, September 28, 2007

compare and contrast

Am I the only one who goes a little cross-eyed trying to pick out which Lotus icon is which?

I end up having to click each of the Symphony icons to see what they are since the descriptions get cut off and the icons are so muted and the differences so subtle it's difficult for me to pick them out. At least the descriptions of the Notes 8 icons fit on the screen, but I still have to read them, versus previous releases where the icons were distinct enough I could figure it out more quickly. The icons are just a wash of orange.

Compare this to Office 2003 and Visual Studio 2005.

SNTT - Listing all the IP addresses for a computer

There are times you may want to know whether the current user is connected to your internal network. The really basic way is to just try opening a database. If it fails you know the user isn't connected. :-P But what if something else is going on and the server you try to connect to is down, or you decommission that server or you just want to make the code portable enough so it works in any environment?

The easy way to do this is to retrieve the local IP address. If it's in your range you know the computer is online. Most methods to get the local IP only give you the first one registered. This means if someone is connecting over a VPN the IP address you get won't tell you anything about access to the corporate network. You need to enumerate all the IP interfaces that are connected and figure out if one is connected to the LAN.

Now, how do you go about this? Well, you could go the low tech route and Shell("ipconfig /all > ip.txt") and then parse it. That's certainly doable, but then you have to make sure the user can write to the folder where you put the file, and be sure you clean it up. It gets messy. You could use Windows API calls, such as GetAdaptersInfo, but that doesn't tell you if the connection is actually active, just that an IP address is assigned (think disabled NIC's with static IP's), so then you need to add on a couple more API calls to verify whether each interface is enabled. Bleh.

Enter WMI. Microsoft started shipping Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) with Windows 2000, and it's also in Windows XP. Alongside WMI is Windows Scripting Host (WSH), which is an object wrapper around a lot of really cool functionality that you had to delve into obscure API calls to get previously. Using WMI and WSH you can easily get all the adapters in a computer, determine if they are active, and know with certainty what the user is connected to.

Function GetIPAddress() As String

Dim nicSet As Variant
Dim strIPAddress As String

'must have error handler enabled, as all
'adapters do not return all information
On Error Resume Next

Set nicSet = GetObject("winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}"). _

Forall nic In nicSet
If nic.IPEnabled Then
strIPAddress = nic.IPAddress(0)
If Left$(strIPAddress, 3) = "10." Or Left$(strIPAddress, 3) = "192" Then
GetIPAddress = strIPAddress
Exit Forall
End If
End If
End Forall

Set nicSet = Nothing
End Function

This LotusScript was converted to HTML using the ls2html routine,
provided by Julian Robichaux at

Thursday, September 20, 2007

sometimes curiosity is a bad thing

Notes 8 isn't officially supported on Windows 2000, but I know from first hand experience that the Basic edition works. That got me to wondering how far back you could go. I got it installed on Windows 95 B (which wasn't easy), but it won't load:

SetProcessAffinityMask is only available in versions of kernel32.dll that started shipping with Windows 2000. On a lark I tried copying that file to Windows 95, but then Windows wouldn't load. It looks like Windows 2000 is as far back as you can go and still run Notes 8 Basic without getting into hacking DLL files.

I knew you were curious about that. :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yahoo buying Zimbra

I got the following from Computerworld this morning. The SaaS collaboration space is getting pretty interesting. I'm not sure I buy into this as a viable solution, but there must be something here. Or it's over-hyped and being fed by a media and analyst frenzy. I suppose time will tell.
September 17, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- Yahoo Inc. has agreed to buy Zimbra Inc., a privately held company whose Web-hosted collaboration and messaging suite is considered a successful example of the software-as-a-service model.

Yahoo will acquire Zimbra for $350 million in a transaction expected to close in this year's fourth quarter, the companies said today.

With Zimbra, Yahoo becomes a competitor to Google Inc., Zoho, Cisco Systems Inc.'s WebEx and others that provide Web-hosted collaboration and communication suites.

Zimbra, like other Web-hosted suite providers, is also considered a rival to Microsoft Corp. and its Office suite and Exchange messaging platform.

Yahoo is buying Zimbra in part to boost the Yahoo Mail Web mail service and leverage Zimbra's client base in universities, small and medium-size businesses, and Internet service providers, Yahoo said.

In addition to e-mail, Zimbra's suite also includes calendar and contact management components, as well as an open platform that allows third-party developers to create mini-applications, called Zimlets, for the suite.

After the deal closes, Zimbra will become a Yahoo subsidiary.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

one decision down...

I started my digital camera search back in June, and between then and now I've been doing research and trying out different cameras. I sincerely appreciate the input everyone gave, and I finally decided on the Canon PowerShot S5 IS.

It is an 8 megapixel SLR-like camera with image stabilization and 12x optical zoom. After a whole lot of agonizing I finally decided this style of camera fits my style of photography. I often go from macro to 500mm zoom in a few seconds, and I just can't do that with a SLR. We also travel a lot, and the idea of lugging around extra lenses just so we could take the kind of pictures we've grown accustomed to was very off-putting. The real kicker was when I found it for under $350 from, which is half the cost of just the body of most of the SLR's I was looking at. They even included free shipping.

Our friend Pam loaned us her S5 (thanks a billion!) and here are a series of pictures Myron took in our back yard, looking across the marsh. All three pictures were taken with him standing in the same spot. No tripod was used. The first is a regular picture, no zoom at all. (The shadows are from the trees. He is facing slightly northwest and this is early morning.) The second is with the 12x optical zoom. The final is 12x optical with 4x digital zoom (48x digital equivalent). I don't think we'll be using the digital zoom much. Oh, and all those little gray blobs are snails. :-)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Notes 8 thoughts

I've been using Notes 8 Standard for doing development for a couple of weeks. Overall it's not been a very positive experience.


I tested on three computers:
  1. My home PC, which is an Athlon64 X2 5600+, 4GB DDR2-800 RAM, 160GB SATA-II 10,000 RPM hard drive, a nVidia 7600GS video card with 512MB RAM, and Windows XP 64-bit.
  2. My work PC, which is an Athlon64 X2 5000+, 2GB DDR2-533 RAM, 180GB SATA-II 7200 RPM drive, ATI Radeon X1650 512MB video card, and Windows XP 32-bit.
  3. My other work PC, a dual Xeon 2.8Ghz with 3GB DDR2-400 RAM, 64MB nVidia Quadro video, and 72GB SATA-II 7200 RPM hard drive with Windows XP 32-bit.
I turned off the "scan on access" setting in my antivirus client, then did some tests. The startup time after logging into Windows and waiting for everything to load averaged about 45 seconds across all these systems. Once loaded the time to open mail averaged 20 seconds, and often there was no hourglass icon to indicate anything was happening. Opening the Calendar averaged 15 seconds, again usually with no hourglass. Once loaded, switching from Mail to Calendar took approximately 1.5 seconds.

To me that's not acceptable. I shouldn't have to wait for anything on any of those machines, but I can actually watch Notes 8 Standard paint the screen on all three. The client machines I support are mostly in the late P3 and early P4 range, many have 256MB RAM, and nearly all have shared video memory. I didn't even bother testing on any of those.

Missing functionality

A few things got lost in the shuffle of moving Notes from a traditional C or C++ binary to a framework that is based on Eclipse. Here is a short list of the things I know are missing from Notes 8 Standard.
  • Roaming users - not available with Notes 8 Standard, and there are "issues" with roaming users in Notes 8 Basic that prevent you from creating new ones. The solution: don't register roaming users.
  • Citrix / Windows Terminal Services - not supported with Notes 8 Standard. You'll have to wait for 8.01.
  • The Productivity Editors are not integrated at all. You can access them from Notes 8, but I could just as easily add a shortcut to Word. That doesn't make it integrated. Actually, Word is better integrated since I can do Send To > Mail Recipient from Word, but I can't from the Productivity Editors.
I probably missed a few, but those are the biggies that people keep bringing up.

Stuff that changed

There are a number of things that don't work the same but the official response is that this is the new way it works (darkness is the new standard for light?), or it is being considered for a future release.
  • Double-click the Sametime icon in the notification area (system tray) and nothing happens. Right-click and all you get are some status options. Originally they wanted to do away with the icon altogether so I guess this is progress
  • The immediate Inbox refresh no longer works. You have to wait for your refresh interval to kick in and refresh your Inbox.
  • Using a custom image for folders is broken in Notes 8 Standard. Your old image gets skewed and looks warped, and you can't change it from the Standard client. You have to do that from Notes 6, 7, or 8 Basic. A fix is being considered for 8.x.

Upgrade issues

Some settings from Notes 7.x are not preserved.
  • The Universal Toolbar gets hidden during an upgrade from Notes 7 unless it has been modified. The other toolbars don't adjust accordingly so there's just a gaping hole in the toolbar area. So far the response is "this is working as designed".
  • When you show the Universal toolbar it sometimes has repeating icons.
  • The Chat toolbar gets hidden, too.
  • "Automatically add Option Explicit" gets turned off in Domino Designer.
And then the bugs...
  • Toolbars move around on their own.
  • "Open in Client" from Domino Designer doesn't work consistently.
  • Graphics artifacts when dragging dialog boxes around the screen.
  • The Replicator page sometimes pops to the foreground when there is no replication interval set. Once it starts happening it happens on 15 minute intervals, and going to the Replication settings, making a change, clearing it and clicking OK makes it stop. This only happened on one of my test machines.

Usability issues

I find many of the UI elements much too small. The Sidebar selector is so small I miss it more than I hit it, so I just go through the menus if I need it. The icons in the bookmark bar (docked Open bar) are also way too small for me. I find the new preferences dialog extremely confusing, even bewildering. The layout of the preferences is just as foreign (as compared to other Windows applications) as the old one was, but now it's both foreign and different from previous Notes releases.


As far as I'm concerned the Notes 8 Standard Gold release is actually Beta 4. It behaves so randomly that every time you open Notes it's like Christmas morning... or maybe it's more like Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and sometimes you end up with the vomit flavored one.

anyone else having problems with Netvibes?

I've been having an issue with Netvibes for a while. Arbitrarily it will decide to reset some of my feeds to only show the newest items, and it limits my maximum item count to the number of new items. For example, Ed's comment feed was mysteriously reset to only show 6 items. Now I know there are more than 6 comments on Ed's blog, so something is going wonky. I've gotten the same thing on just about every blog I subscribe to, including my own comment feed, so I know it's not just a specific template or server causing the problem.

I e-mailed Netvibes, but let's just say they've been less than helpful. I know that a lot of you use Netvibes, so could you tell me if you're seeing this too?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

a wedding and a funeral

The wedding - Congratulations to Kelli and Damien

Today we attended the wedding of our neighbor's oldest daughter. This is their first child to get married and it was a huge deal for them. The parents went all out to have an amazing event. The wedding service was presided over by a Catholic priest from Nigeria. He was engaging and funny while still being genuine and respectful. The reception was at the South Carolina Aquarium, and it was a lovely venue for the event. The food was wonderful and the cupcakes were crazy good!

This wedding was particularly interesting to me because it is the first black wedding I have ever attended. The traditions, the flow, the whole vibe and atmosphere was so different from any other wedding I have ever been to. It was a celebration of life in general, and was particularly striking in light of how my weekend started.

The funeral

In January 1995 I left my partner of nearly 3 years and moved in with James* and Steve. Steve and I became very close friends and did pretty much everything together. After living with them for nearly two years I decided to get back into the dating scene. Very soon after that I met Myron and moved to Charleston in May 1997. Over the course of the next several years Steve and I kept in touch, and since we were only 5 hours apart we visited each other fairly regularly. The distance changed the dynamic of the friendship, but it didn't particularly bother me. I'm not a particularly social person and, truthfully, am quite content being alone. I have no problem picking up where I left off with someone a few months or even a few years later.

Through the years the nature of the friendship changed. As I aged I matured, I started therapy, I was learning more about myself. Steve was also doing therapy, changing hobbies, and trying out new things. Then things took a weird turn. Comments were made about me not calling, e-mailing or visiting as often as Steve did. It escalated to Steve saying I must not care as much as he did because I didn't behave how he thought I should. I felt more like a long distance lover than a long distance friend. We had a rather heated exchange about what I perceived to be inappropriate neediness, but Steve thought was just part of being a friend. By this time we had nearly a decade of history together, so I agreed to try to work through the issues. In retrospect I think I was hoping that one of us would come to see the other's point of view more clearly.

I never should have agreed to do that, though. It was incredibly unfair to Steve because I had already checked out. I see now that for me the friendship was dead when it became clear that Steve's definition of friendship carried with it a list of demands I had no intention of meeting. I knew what it would take to be his friend and I thought I could fake my way through it. I carried on the charade for four or five years, and this past Friday after one more "you don't care" outburst I finally told Steve I was through with the pretense.

I can't change the past and I'm not going to beat myself up for doing what I thought was right at the time. I mourned the loss of the friend I had a long time ago. Now it's time to bury the guilt and move on. I'll try to learn from the mistakes.

*Not their real names.