Truth can sometimes be a relative term like Beauty. This is my truth about the domino environment I live.

    Just had to post this - Domino Uptime

    John Ballard  November 18 2009 09:06:21 PM
    The message indicates:  The uptime of this server is excellent! Great Job!  

    I wonder what the threshold for this message is?

    Image:Just had to post this - Domino Uptime
    btw this is a test server and there's only one user.  I wish production servers could be pushed this long.
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      Jack of All, Master of None

      John Ballard  October 28 2009 12:53:24 PM
      I'm done with Domino,

      It was good while it lasted, and even if the Domino Designer is free to use now, that does not change my decision.  Version 8.5(.1) had some interesting features and could have perhaps developed into a productive tool, but it seriously hampered my ability as a designer (speed to code, speed to debug, speed to make changes).  There are other tools out now that are Open Source ( or free to use ) that run on Open Source platforms.  Therefore, Domino will only continue to exist in Domino shops.  Smaller businesses cannot afford to pay license costs, nor can they invest in a web page done in Domino.  They want code that is portable and code that can be changed by anybody, not the high-priced Domino expert.

      So the talent pool does not grow.  No new developers are added into the Domino fold - just the people already there get gray hair, gain a few pounds and try to bill their clients for whatever they can.

      Sounds kinda cynical doesn't it.

      Well, the Domino security model is a great foundation, but the designer update to eclipse was a disaster.  I just wish the developers of Django had used Domino just once to understand the security model, then they would have a powerful platform to build on.  I am really impressed with the sites that now use Flash to prepare their images.  I think it makes a great looking page with all the cool features that one can do with Flash.  Also the DOJO stuff for validating the web page before it gets sent back to the server is really cool.  The implementation of AJAX in Domino is very specific, it's always based on an older version of Dojo, and unless you want to learn how to trick Domino into playing with Dojo in different ways, it's limited.

      Today the business model is to provide a sufficient set of capability to accommodate a specific need - FOR FREE!  Then you can pay for additional features if you want them.  Making the Domino Designer FREE but requiring a licensed Domino server is clearly not the spirit of this new business model.  I haven't read any of the reasons for making the Designer free, but I think I am proof that the number of Domino Designers is a decreasing proposition, and perhaps the mentality is that a reduced cost will entice more adoption.  Why doesn't IBM send Domino code into Open Source?  That way I'm sure I will get access to many more templates, skins, applications, etc.

      My day job was pretty exciting when I was adding Domino value to the organization - new workflows, new portals, integrating disparate data sources - really cool stuff, but now the organization is maturing and workflows are being drawn into SAP, our portal is being outsourced (and it's business model is less expensive for us too), and the disparate sources of data are being absorbed into the SAP Business Warehouse.  Web pages need to be cool, and the time required to get a Domino web page/form to look cool just costs too much.

      IBM bought up a company to launch Foundations.  What will happen if all that is replaced by OpenSource software - it will be history.  So even embedding Domino might provide some neat security features and the iNotes development that was SOOO advanced for it's time - will become obsolete.  But without the OpenSource community behind it, it's going to cost IBM way too much to develop a product that will only exist in a small niche.  Doesn't sound like a good place to invest.

      I spent 13 years with Domino.  I will always be a Domino expert up to 8.5, but it's history for me now.  I want to earn SAP dollars!
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      Advanced AJAX and javascript validation of forms

      John Ballard  June 14 2009 10:11:33 PM
      Sometimes going back to the server to validate data makes sense, and other times the rules are quite simple and you can validate data from within the form itself.  With Domino though it's a little difficult making the form work for you, especially when it's for the web.  

      Recently I finished a project that was built to run in the Notes client.  There was actually quite a significant amount of functionality, where most fields had an on-change event.  Frequently however, the on-change event was simply to refresh the fields and hide-whens on the form.  For example, when a field was not entered correctly or not entered at all, the item label text for required fields would be red.  When the values entered were acceptable (depending on other data entered on the form) the item label would be set to the normal colour - blue.  Also when the form was saved there were other things that happened like comments were acquired because the values had not changed in the expected manner or direction, or values were compared with historical averages and outliers were flagged.  This application worked well on the LAN but it was kinda slow for others trying to run the application over the WAN.  With Notes it's easy to fix things like that by putting in a replica on the 'other' side of the WAN, but things become problematic when the number of replicas increases (and other problems surface like currencies, time zones, sequential numbers, etc.).  Browser-based applications would solve this completely.

      So, how does one get more of the rich validation into a browser?  XPages are supposed to do this for you, but in my experience there is not enough control over how the validation occurs.  There are a few controls, but really these are just implementing somebody else's nice javascript code like Dojo. Hey, you know that by the time we get gold code for xpages, the Dojo version is already out of date?  So, the issue is, do you invest time in learning how to make more customized interfaces with the xpages paradigm, or not.  Why should I continue to invest in learning XPages when other Open Source projects are flying so much faster?

      I really gave the 8.5 Designer a real test.  I was using the beta version and I tolerated a lot of the issues I ran up against.  The code went gold and I reinstalled my whole PC to get the fastest speed possible.  Unfortunately, everybody knows this:  SPEED SUCKS!  Eclipse might be IBM's saviour, but it has certainly dropped my productivity big time.  Not only that but I have lost whole chunks of code - background something happens - maybe I click to fast or didn't wait for something, but four times now my application has just decided to go South until I invest hours figuring out how I broke it (usually making a copy of code from a backup and pasting it back into the current application).

      You may have read my other posts, but I think now the Open Source community - whatever software you're working with, is becoming a powerful force.  There are now some good applications as well as development environments.  Clearly Domino has some powerful built-in features, but I am seriously considering whether I should invest my time in new Open Source projects, or continue to work with Domino and XPages.  I know Open Source projects will become feature-rich, but I don't know whether IBM will catch on and provide developers with improved productivity.
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      My Weekend’s Work

      John Ballard  June 5 2009 04:27:59 PM
      Well Hello,

      I thought I would have some good productive time to work on my web stores, but CentOS does not support php 5.2 and that's where the whole thing went to hell in a handbag (where did that saying come from).

      I have an old test server - a Dell Poweredge 2650 full of scsi drives.  It's got a nice PERC /3i RAID controller that has worked flawlessly for many years.  I decided to try Fedora 10 so I downloaded the live CD and started installing on my one-large RAID5 drive.  It seemed to go well until the first reboot.  After booting, it seems that the system is not able to load any volume - just the boot loader.  I bashed my head against the [whatever] for a long time however, this is NOT my area of expertese.  After probably 100 hours of installing and changing kernals, blah, blah, I gave up.  Clearly that was not a weekend project.

      Now that I invested so much time in the server, I had to start reinvesting in my life. 

      Bought a pair of Jet Skis (long story, one was DOA),
      laid down 5 pallets of new grass,
      painted the garage floor,
      the air conditioner stopped working...

      Air conditioners:  about a decade ago, it was clear the capacitor in my AC unit was on it's way out.  The compressor would start but I could take the garden hose and start the fan enough to get it going.  I knew all it needed was the capacitor, but being new to the area I could not locate a store that would sell just a capacitor.  To make a long story short, that capacitor cost me $212 installed.  This time I knew better.  It was the capacitor again and the fan motor would not start but the compressor would.  It was Saturday.  So, I turned the system off for the whole weekend while the temperature was in the mid-90's.  Monday morning I went to the store, got a replacement capacitor and installed it by noon Monday.  This time it cost only $27.  That's an industry that trying to make itself into a monopoly.

      There's no monopoly on web servers though.  Apache is running most of the web, and I would say that the domino http engine is actually pretty good.  In the past it hasn't been put in my experience lately it's been robust enough not to have to tweak it all the time.  However, it's all the other stuff around an http engine that makes or breaks a project.

      Now I have to get back to productive work.
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      Source of Templates (Domino templates or Open Source code)

      John Ballard  April 4 2009 10:43:48 AM
      Everyone has used templates to start a project.  Some templates are great, others require a lot of re-work, but the template offers a designer a great place to start.  In the past a Domino server comes with a number of great database templates - Discussion, TeamRoom, Blog, Directory, Contacts, Journal, Document Archive - you know the standard ones.  You can also get good templates from OpenNFT and the Sandbox.

      I'm sure someone has built a web-store using Domino.  In fact Domino would be a great choice since the security model is built-in and you can develop your shopping cart for return visitors with ease, however, I cannot find one.  I did, however, find a whole pile of very good open source web-stores.  I though I would try installing some of them and to my surprise they were actually quite good - out of the box!

      osCommerce
      This package has been Open Source since it's conception and has a massive following of users.  Since the user base is so large there is great support - from solving issues using the forum to adding new functionality using templates submitted by the user community.  Since osCommerce is Open Source the type of add-on includes all kinds from skins for appearance, to great payment modules connecting to any number of payment providers or banks.  The number and variety of add-ons makes this a very powerful platform for any developer.   There are other companies that could provide support for this product for a charge.  Many providers of servers/data centers can install osCommerce as part of the hosting agreement.  osCommerce can be installed by ftp so it's not hard to set up this web-store without actually touching any physical server.  The DBMS is MySQL which is pretty standard and there are a pile of tools available for managing it, as well DBA skills translate very easily.  Building reports has been my problem in Domino and the DB2NSF feature was the tool that would really help me.  Now that it's changing I'm not sure I should invest in another brand-new technology (or in IBM's mind they will develop a whole new set of classes to learn).  I'd like to develop SQL code that is transportable.

      Magento
      Support for this Open Source product can be purchased directly from the company that has made their product available under the Open Source license (GPL I think).  This gives another vehicle for those who want to run the package right out of the box.  The web-store can be installed by FTP or better yet, it can be installed by executing a few command lines from an ssh connection, having the server (hosted or physical) download the package directly.  Unlike osCommerce the community supporting Magento is relatively small, but it is growing. The DBMS is MySQL so skill sets are the same as for any other Open Source code.

      My point with respect to Domino is that the Open Source community is becoming quite significant yet there is not a viable OS community building templates for Domino.  As a Domino designer  I now realize that I will have to start playing in another environment (Ruby [on Rails], Django, PHP, etc) in order to be more productive.  I know I have committed a big part of my life to Domino and I feel I know it inside out (including XPages in 8.5), but I also recognize that I can't continue to build everything from the ground up.  [As an aside, in my corporate life I find myself gluing systems together more often and making the (SAP, Notes/Domino, MS Office) applications work together.  It's more about providing solutions to problems than creating a slick web-app.]

      This weekend's project is to get a web-store (or a few actually) up and running with a connection to PayPal.  Let's see how I do with Open Source software...
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      DB2NSF

      John Ballard  February 9 2009 08:34:41 PM
      I have just gone through a massive effort to identify the 'best system'.  I thought I was on to something when I could use xpages and query views when I have installed Domino on DB2.  If you take a look at some of my posting on Notes.net you will find that there will be no further development of the DB2NSF feature.  I hope that any of the applications that I have developed are not in jeopardy. 

      The issue I have with many applications is that I have to build a view for any possible query that a user could conceive.  In one application the number of views required for 'pre-aggregated' data was 100 times the number of other views.  The concept of a query view would be the answer to many issues, including making the number of design element s manageable, but most importantly, the server would be able to keep up when new documents are added.

      With the annoncement that there will be no further development of the DB2NSF access server, then I would hope that IBM does offfer the query view concept within the domino designer - somehow.  We'll see...


       
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      Xpages: additional productivity or additional frustration?

      John Ballard  November 25 2008 08:00:00 AM
      Xpages are new in Domino 8.5 and they seem to be the answer to improving a designer's productivity writing web applications.  The only reason I have explored the use of Ruby on Rails or Django was to get out of the javascript quagmire and into a more productive application development environment.  The domino server already comes with Dojo 1.1.1 installed so that is clearly a library that can be used directly, but xpages are supposed to help by adding another layer on top of everything that's already available to a domino web application designer.

      In my first attempt with Notes/Domino 8.5 beta 2, I discovered many bugs.  Bugs really don't help with the learning experience.  In fact, trying to learn a new language/methodology/library is difficult when everything works well, but when things do not work, the first area one examines is one's own code - 'what have I done wrong' or 'what concept am I missing?  Here are a few of the items that I encountered:

      @dblookup
      @dbpath
      have to click three times to select an object after clicking outside the object window
      the data view does not update until the xpage is close and re-opened,
      table design behaviour is different than in the notes designer,


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      Can Domino be related to Web Frameworks like Django and Ruby on Rails?

      John Ballard  November 5 2008 08:12:37 PM
      What is an Open Source Web Framework?  I'd like to know so at least I can be a little objective in deciding whether Domino still cuts it in this Open Source world.  Unfortunately I am a 12 year Domino veteran and obviously I compare everything to the environment I know.  So, I installed Ubuntu desktop, eclipse, the PyDev plugin and Django.  I was also going to explore the client side with Dojo/jQuery, but I'm not there yet.  Here are some of the details that went into my exploration.

      Ubuntu Desktop 8.04
      • used a graphical user interface to shorten the learning curve - I'm a Linux newbie
      • was recommended to me since it has an easy interface to add packages apt-get
      • Installation on a VWMare session on a Windows host actually went quite well
      • Python 2.5
      • MySQL
      Eclipse
      • Installed without many issues
      • PyDev Python plugin editor
      • HTML/CSS editor plugin (just put the jar in the plugin directory
      Django 1.0
      • Install it in the Python Sites directory
      Once all the components were together as much as possible I tried to use the Eclipse environment to start a simple project.  The whole intention of Eclipse was to be able to have a one-stop IDE just like domino designer, but with the open source compnents.  However, I quickly found that the Django development web server ran outside the Eclipse better than when it was integrated into the console.  I also started finding that the numerous python commands available were not available from within Eclipse, so slowly but surely, I began editing the Python and html files in separate editors.  Firefox with Firebug installed also provided a good environment to see what had been loaded and which style sheets were being used.

      In the end I dumped the Eclipse enviroment since it slowed down the development process.

      My project was a simple poll application that is included with Django.  I got the admin interface working (which is something I think could be easily added to Domino/Designer) and was actually pretty impressed with some of the built-in widgets and features.

      BUT - there is a massive but - I wanted my application to have READERS fields.  As I tried to find out how I might be able to ensure that only certain authenticated users have access to certain records/documents I came across a comment that "...Django designers are discussing that feature for a subsequent release...".  That hosed my whole project.  I'm not going to build my own user authentication.

      So, what is my Domino truth?  Domino is a mature rapid application development environment that has the features required to build real-world applications in a single consistent environment.  More on the Dojo side later...
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