Wednesday, 30 January 2013 Hangout: Mobilising IBM Notes and Domino Applications

I hung out today with Chris Toohey, Chris Warden and Rob Rumaner discussing the mobilisation of Domino applications.

Monday, 28 January 2013

My thoughts on the IBM Opening General Session

I am not in Sunny Florida. I am in a wet, rainy Slough, but I still managed to watch the IBM OGS whilst ploughing through lines of code trying to find odd quirks. I was kind of excited and also appalled at the same time. They got a lot of things right. But one thing really blew the whole deal for me.

It started in a burst of energy showing the new Notes 9 (available for general use, in March). The "integrated inbox" is very much the central point. People do not want to go to different locations to get their information. Certainly I don't. I could really do with having a single reference point. But there is the issue of Signal to Noise ratio. If you are following people, how far do you go? I don't use Twitter on the whole, because most of the time it is all noise. I'ts only at times like this, where everybody is focussed on a single topic that the the stream actually gives valid meaning. But even then I only followed named people. If I listened to the #IBMConnect tag then I would have been swamped with spam as it was flooded with spam after it started trending.

"SteamPunk is the next big thing." Wait, what? Apparently IBM have determined through their social analytics software, that the "next big thing" is something that died out years ago. I guess the Urban dictionary they fed Watson, not only taught it to swear but sent it into yesteryear.

Then it started into a huge amount of marketing demos showing how analytics can help market your products. During this time, one tweet stood out and made the whole point.
Marketing is all very well. But I am not into marketing. I'm a tech geek. A developer. A hacker. Marketing is pointless to me. But then again, this OGS is not about the technicalities. It's more about what drives a company. But the overriding impression I got was that the marketing leads the company to the forefront. I don't think so. What leads the company is the product... something that the customer will buy. Analysing and talking about it comes afterwards.  Perhaps if you were using it to create new products then I might be more impressed.

On the whole, it was all about IBM's products and connectivity. What it completely lacked was anything which showed that you could extend that in the way of development to match the way your company works. We (at RIM) have Connections. But people don't use it because it doesn't allow you to extend it to how we work. OK, I'll amend that for those of you who are now shouting at the screen. We're not allowed to extend it. Like most of the way the software is controlled in many companies, it's locked down by IT. One of the reasons I have flatly refused to upgrade from XP to anything else, I wouldn't be able to install all the Dev kit and stuff which I use in my day to day job. IT are brilliant for handling the rest of the company that live in Outlook (we run both Notes and Outlook side by side. Guess which on I use.), Word, Excel, and the odd Powerpoint or 20. But IT do not do a good job when it comes to technical stuff. In fact, I know a lot of the technical people here in the office have customised their installations. It's what we Geeks do.

But when it comes to the marketing gumpf included in the OGS there was absolutely no mention of any ability to extend their new analytical features. Very interesting stories. But lacking in anything for us Geeks.

Maybe customising is limited to applying a new skin or UI? But woe betide you if you go for the SteamPunk option.

New BB10 feature - Smugwipe.

You have probably already heard of the BB10's time shifting camera features. Now it appears that we have a new feature.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Calendars and time

So there I was doing my normal round up of Tech news when I come across an interesting article about Calendars.

Now it seems that there have been a number of issues surrounding iPads and iPhones regarding it's usage of calendar details. I put this down to the target audience for this device being the consumer market. Your average Joe Public does not really go in for Meetings and Invites. Adding a dental appointment or meal with a friend yes. But not your average business usage involving multiple attendees across time zones. Thats more the realm of the business user.

I'm not saying BlackBerry is without it's faults. We have had our fair share of calendar issues, especially when it comes to custom re-occurring meetings synchronised via the BES. But the main source of this confusion comes down to one thing: compatibility. The main spec for handling calendar stems from Exchange. MS have one way of handling Calendars and the BES specification was made to that spec. Of course Domino does things differently and the linking of the two methods has caused no end of confusion over the years.

Now we are starting to leave the BES system behind and handle our connectivity and information exchange via Traveller. Whilst Active Sync is an adopted standard, Lotus are still pulling the odd trick to make things work in the Domino world. And there are still a few things which don't work as expected (eg. Flagging an email for followup with an alarm) so I guess there is still work to do on both sides.

One source of confusion when dealing with Domino is how the data source can change. If you create a repeating meeting, then that single document is the source of all information. The moment you create an exception to any appointment then Domino creates up to three child documents with  the info - Meetings before the exception, the exception itself, and meetings after, which now carry the details. The parent is now just a place holder and source for the original details. And woe betide people who delete any of those child documents. Now add it the fact that a lot of users constantly re-edit these child documents and you have a viable recipe for confusion all round. This is not easy. Is it any wonder that the calendar handling portion of the BES takes up more space than the mail handling?

The world wide differences in how calendars, time zones, daylight savings etc. means that everybody will discover more and more bugs. Just deal with it and report your bugs to the necessary teams. All us Devs are working towards a common good. Even if the commonality is disparate systems.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year's Resolutions

1920x1200 + 1050x1680.

Yeah, yeah. Old joke. But never the less, I find it important to handle multiple screens. For one thing I always have multiple applications open at the same time. My Windows system is set to automatically launch various programmes upon start up. Opera, and Notes being the primary two main ones. There are secondary applications depending on whether I am at home or work.

The more astute of you will have looked at the above figures and realised that one is landscape, the other is portrait. Notes is always on the landscape screen. When I'm reading or editing documents it is always on the portrait screen. When faced with a wall of text I find it easier on the eyes to break the length of the lines into more manageable chunks. If the lines are too long it is harder to read.

I find also that programming is easier in portrait. So my Visual C is on the portrait screen. But Notes Designer is on the landscape screen. Mainly because the Eclipse IDE breaks things into sections and the primary section is small enough that you don't lose track of where you are. Proper indenting also helps... something you don't get when you are writing that long boring technical manual.

And one final word on one of my biggest sources of confusion. Confusion for other people that is. I don't have any icons on my "desktop". Nor do I have wallpaper. Quite frankly I don't see the point. Whon people look at my screen over my shoulder they always ask how I can find things. I always ask them the same question when I see their screens with thousands of little icons all over their desktop. I don't have them because 99.999% of the time my screen has full size applications open. I don't see any background. Files are all in their respective project directories or saved away in databases. Applications are started from the shortcut toolbar or the All Programs list as needed. Any time you can see the actual background of my screen is when it is not being used. And these days that is very few and far between.