Domino, Notes and videotape
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Finally I get around to summing up day 2 of the Norwegian IBM User Group’s spring meeting that took place 21st and 22nd of May this year. This was also the day that I would give my presentation about my company’s introduction of IBM Connections, so read on to know about that.

It was a late night for some of us, but thankfully I turned down the invitation for nachspiel, which the German’s from Panagenda finds amusing since the word means something entirely different in their language (and don’t get me started on the German meaning of vorspiel…) so I managed to get up at a reasonable hour. Here’s a short summary of each session during day 2:

Become a Connections Administrator
Gabriella Davis, The Turtle Partnership

Gabriella Davis

Gabriella Davis

Let’s face it: IBM Connections is a bitch to deploy and administer. It takes days to install and it’s very hard to control. At least it’s hard when you have several other assignments at work and can’t devote your full attention to it. So Gabriella Davis’ presentation on how to become a Connections administrator was something I was really looking forward to. Her main points where:

  • Fight for your resources, IBM Connections demands a lot!
  • Have a deployment server
  • You can then choose to have one server for each application in Connections, or not
  • A Connections installation is only as good as its LDAP source, be sure to have a good one
  • People needed in a setup: Network admins, server admins, firewall admins, designers and the marketing department
  • Make sure you have all fix packs and files needed before starting a setup
  • Always install a test-server that mirrors your production server

A short summary on how you perform an installation and how to administer Connections:

  • Download the software
  • Install in this order: Websphere, Connections and then Internet HTTP Server (it will work without the latter but that’s not recommended) where the SSL certificate will be
  • Your database source can be Oracle, SQL or DB2. Choose the latter if you do not have your own database administrators
  • Remember Connections consist of at least 20 databases, so make sure you have plenty of memory
  • File attachments should be available for all servers. This is achieved via Connections Shared Data, use UNC paths
  • There’s a lot of shared data: Custom JSPs, customisation strings, profile types, language translation files and file attachments
  • If you move servers, make sure to always copy shared data beforehand
  • If you delete the search index, it will be rebuilt, so don’t panic
  • Make sure that the language for Connections is set to the same language as the the one you tag content with
  • If you delete a community you lose everything belonging to it, so you will need to do a complete rollback
  • Plugin-cfg.xml maps all applications. This file can be modified in Websphere but it does not validate so make sure you are in control
  • There’s no super admin user that will give you administration rights for everything
  • WSADMIN is used for sending commands

After the presentation I had a much clearer understanding on how Connections work, but I can see that it will not be easy to administer without taking a class and then work with it every day.

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Modernizing, Mobilizing and Socializing your XPages apps using 9.0.1 plus extensions
Martin Donnelly, Software Architect at IBM

MartinDonnelly

MartinDonnelly

XPages is a technology used for easily adapting your IBM Notes (formerly Lotus Notes) applications to web browsers on all platforms, as well as making them available on mobile platforms. The programming model is based on web development languages and standards (Javascript, Ajax, Java, CSS and so on). It was launched with huge fanfare 7-8 years ago and was hailed as the thing that would save Notes/Domino. The problem is that this has not happened.

I know that Donnelly is a clever guy who is very good with Xpages, but even though he works for the company, IBM themselves shows no interest in Xpages. The only ones keeping Xpages alive these days are the people behind OpenNTF. If you think this means I’ve no belief in Xpages, you are quite right. There are some people in the Domino community still going on about how wonderful Xpages is and that a lot of people use it. The latter is false. The number of Xpages projects in OpenNTF and the number of downloads (a few thousand) is a clear sign of that. Also: Compare the number of classes given or projects done with other (and much easier) web technologies than Xpages, and you will see that Xpages doesn’t even have a percentage of the market.

Also: Almost every single company using Notes/Domino that I am in contact with, and that’s quite a few, don’t use Xpages, and have no plans for it either. The same goes for every single company I talked with at the conference. TINE, who presented their new Ipad Solutions for their Domino sales databases, used absolutely no Xpages in their project. They used HTML5, Javascript, Ajax and REST. And that’s what we are going for in our company as well. So far we’ve done no development in Xpages.

But I still went to this presentation with an open mind. Unfortunately Donnelly didn’t say much more than what I already knew about Xpages, so after a while I stopped paying attention and did the final preparations for my own lecture. He did introduce me to the Single application wizard, which I will try out a bit, as I might have a few Notes solutions that could benefit for a very quick mobile conversion. But I’m not sure.

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Configuring a Single Sign On Experience For Your Notes Clients
Gabriella Davis, The Turtle Partnership

Gabriella Davis

Gabriella Davis

Gabriella again! The presentation was a bit similar to her presentation given the day before. A short summary:

  • Notes shared logon:
    • Removes the password from the id-file
    • You log on to Windows and then start Notes. Notes downloads from the id-vault (which means the first time you log on you have to write the password), removes the password from the ID file and stores it encrypted on the PC
    • For every logon the password will be decrypted and read
    • You must have an ID-vault.
    • You do not need to configure anything in the client, but you must create a security policy
    • What it doesn’t do: It does not synchronize with the http password
    • Can’t be used for Citrix or roaming profiles
  • LDAP authentication:
    • You only need one password and no synch tools
    • The user logs on to Notes/iNotes, Domino then checks if the password is the same as the http password stored in the person’s document in the Domino address book
    • Even if it doesn’t recognise the password, it will still check on the LDAP server and the LDAP server will determine if you are allowed to log on
    • Use Tivoli to change username, it can write directly to AD or Domino from there
  • SPNEGO:
    • A user logs on to Windows and AD generates a token
    • When a user tries to access Domino or a Domino web-site, a SPNEGO token is sent to Domino, Domino then checks with AD if the credentials are ok
    • AD is needed and this will only work in Windows and Internet Explorer (or in Firefox with a plugin)
    • You have to set up SSO or MSSO on Domino
    • The clocks on the servers must be synchronised
    • Run Domino with a specified service account and not the local system account
  • SAML:
    • Supports multiple OS-es and clients
    • Needs and ID-file in an ID-vault
    • User logs on and the logon attempt is sent to ID-provider. After confirmation you are sent the the original site via SAML Service Provider to decide if the user should be granted access
    • The user will not have to enter a password at any time
    • You must have ID-provider. IBM supports ADFS and TFIM. Others can be used, but check with IBM first
    • Requirements:
      • ADFS 2.0
      • IIS-server with SSL-certificate
      • ID-vault
      • Security policy in Domino
      • IDPCAT-database based on the idpcat.ntf template
      • Domino 9.0.1
      • Time and patience
    • Other:
      • Most complicated setup so far. Not in complexity but this involves 150 steps!
      • Remember to check that the ID-vault template is upgraded when the server is ugpraded
      • Unfortunately Traveler, Sametime and Connections are still not supported
      • No passwords are sent between the systems, so nobody can snap it up on unsecured connections
      • NO MORE VPN!
      • You still have the ID-file, so there’s no problem with being offline in the Notes client, however: Notes will ask for a password, it’s not recommended to combine with shared login

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How Brunvoll learned how to be connected
Hogne Bø Pettersen, ICT Teaching Manager, Brunvoll AS

Hogne B. Pettersen

Hogne B. Pettersen

Then it was my turn! I was invited to do a talk about Brunvoll’s (my employer) introduction of IBM Connections, or bConnect as we have decided to call it (be connected or Brunvoll connect, take your pick). I’m responsible for integrating and adapting bConnect into our infrastructure. While I’m partly doing that on the technical side, my main job is to train ours users to integrate Connections in to the regular working day. The goal is that bConnect should be the starting point every morning instead of your mailbox. Here are the main points:

  • I struggled with adapting our company to using the intranet or other collaboration solutions instead of email until new CEO arrived in 2011
  • I talked about partnering up with IBM for installation, and then later Item
  • I talked about the huge technical problems we had, and not all of them are solved yet
  • I mentioned that the integration og FileNet (CCM) and the use of libraries had made it impossible for us to move to a new installation
  • I talked about the complexity of administering Connections
  • I talked about user adoption and how it’s not a race, but more like an orienteering marathon
  • The importance of having the CEO and management group onboard
  • I emphasized that this is not an IT tool, and that the IT department really should not be the ones doing the user adaption, but in Brunvoll that was a necessity since I’m also the firm’s instructor when it comes to IT-based systems
  • You have to improve your users work day, this sometimes makes it necessary to do things a little bit more heavy handed than before, but in the long run it’s worth it
  • Train your users. Then train them again. And train them some more!
  • Have super users as your allies and as a second line of support between you and the users
  • Visit the users to get a feel of their working day and hold workshops
  • Use the plugins for Office, Notes and Explorer!

You can read the rest in my presentation, but I was very adamant to point out that this is a long, long process, and that sometimes it’s easy to lose hope. There’s also an age gap when it comes to who adopts very easily to this way of working instead of relying on email and network drives. The younger crowd grew up with systems like these, they didn’t learn about them long after their education.

My talk was very well received. I was a bit apprehensive about meeting with some of the IBM folks afterwards, since I had made some negative (but true) remarks, especially about FileNet. Even if I had emphasized that bConnect so far has been a success for us the negative things often sticks out. Thankfully Louis Richardson came up to me afterwards and thanked me, said it was a great presentation and that they needed to hear about problems like that.

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And with that my part of the ISBG spring meeting was over. I had a train to catch, so I didn’t get to see the last session about Sharepoint. Looking forward to the autumn meeting!

I attended the Norwegian IBM User Group (ISBG) spring meeting from on the 21st and 22nd of May. Just like last year, it was held in the city of Larvik, in a spa resort called Farris Bad. Farris is a very famous brand of mineral water that is bottled in this city.

My arrival was one day before, and thankfully other people were there, and I spent an enjoyable evening, being treated with beers from the Panagenda guys. This, while I really should have been preparing my own presentation for the last day of the conference…

I will here give you a short summary of each session I attended on day 1:

Keynote: How Smart are You?

Louis Richardson

Louis Richardson

Louis Richards, Storyteller & Enthusiast, Social Smarter Work – IBM
Richardson’s talk was about how conventional we become with age, and how divergent thought is less and less encouraged as you grow older.

He referred to a Dutch study showing that children, when asked where they wanted a third eye, always said “on one of my fingers,” whilst adults wanted to have it in the back of their head. People who don’t go by the book shouldn’t always be held back. Let the rebels be rebels. They aren’t always trouble makers.

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It’s not Social Business, it’s Just Good Business
Louis Richards, Storyteller & Enthusiast, Social Smarter Work – IBM
Richards also held the next presentation. He is not fond of the word social. – It’s not social, it’s just good business, was his mantra. – We have always built relationships at work and we communicate. It’s just that we are now able to do it digitally, and preserve it.

He encourages everyone to start sharing their knowledge:

  • Do not frown upon people sharing things via blogs or other media
  • Share your knowledge and encourage others to do the same. If you die, your knowledge and skills should be easy for others to get hold of
  • Don’t ask people for the information, search for it in the blogs, wikis, files and forum postings (if you have such tools)
  • Do not force people to report all the time. Let them do their jobs and then share their information with you

Like me he abhors meetings. – Too much time is wasted on meetings. The way to go about it is this: Share a file. Invite people to a meeting and refer to the shared file. If a very few, or nobody downloads the file, cancel the meeting.

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Sales Tool on Ipad/Iphone, Based on IBM Domino

Einar Ellingsen

Einar Ellingsen

Einar Ellingsen, ICT System Consultant, TINE SA
Tine is Norway’s biggest producer of dairy products and the company is owned by the biggest farming organizations. They have been running Notes/Domino for years, and on the very same day that we attended the conference, they launched their brand new intranet, running on IBM Connections.

Einar showed us a very impressive solution running both on Ipad and Iphone. It could also run on other solutions since it’s 100% web based. Before 2008, TINE had loads of paper forms that needed to be filled out for each order. In 2007 they started a project where Lotus Notes databases where used. These were replicated locally to each sales person’s computer.

The entire solution was developed by Einar, and I was very impressed. Here are some key elements:

  • Every sellers has their own calendar for appointments
  • There’s a built in chat function so that sellers within a region can communicate easily
  • You could snap a photo of an exhibition in a store and upload it directly
  • You could use a scanner to read the barcode for any product
  • You could generate KPI’s for a region, for a store, for a certain product within a store and so on
  • Orders are generated and sent to a mailin database. From here they are generated to XML files and sent to the EDI-server
  • There are help files and movies that the users can look at for assistance

Technology used:

  • SQL
  • HTML5 (no framework, just best practice)
  • Lotusscript and Java agents
  • Google Chart Grid
  • Google Maps
  • REST
  • Cumulus
  • FTP for transferring of orders to the EDI server
  • Ajax
  • Pic2Shop for reading barcodes
  • A-PDF Text Extractor
  • ImageMagick
  • The API in IBM Connections

Einar finished his talk by showing us the new Tine intranet, which is 100% IBM Connections.

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Simplifying the S’s: Single Sign-On, SPNEGO and SAML
Gabriella Davis, The Turtle Partnership

Gabriella Davis

Gabriella Davis

Let’s face it: IBM Notes and related products is a nightmare when it comes to having one username and one password. We all know this, and we have fought with this limitation for years. And the users hate having to log on several times after logging on to their computer.

Gabriella described the three techniques that we can use:

Single Sign-On: The Notes client is using the Windows AD credentials.
SPNEGO: The user logs on in Windows and AD generates a SPNEGO-token. When a user tries to access a Doino web site the web browser will send this token to Domino, which in turn contacts AD for validation of the token. If the token is valid, the user name will be returned, and since it found the user’s name, the system knows that access should be granted.
SAML: This is the future. It works on all platforms, not just windows, and it’s a standard. A user logs on to Notes. The user will then be sent to an Identity Provider which will ask for credentials (if the user is already logged on the credentials will be returned). The user is then sent back to Notes with all the SAML information. Notes will then use the SAML-service provider to check this information, and whether access should be granted.

The drawback with SAML is that it’s still not supported by IBM Sametime or IBM Notes Traveler. A solution can be to combine SAML with SPNEGO, because SPNEGO is supported by both Sametime and Traveler.

She also described using OAuth to let IBM Connections communicate with third parties like Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

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Quo Vadis – Where Do You Want to Go Tomorrow With IBM Notes/Domino

Christoph Adler

Christoph Adler

Christopher Adler, Panagenda
Panagenda has a great product called the Marvel Client, which we unfortunately don’t use at my company. However, Christopher’s talk was on more general topics. He talked about a company’s attitude towards Notes.

He also touched upon the fact that in the past you were a Notes/Domino administrator. Today you are responsible for a whole bunch of collaborative solutions. And all of them communicate with Notes!

He also talked about the importance of continuous upgrades and that whenever someone talked about changing email systems, you had to be aware of the fact that a lot of solutions in Notes are tightly integrated with the Notes mail template. Quite a few companies have burnt themselves on that fact.

And with that, the first day was over, for me anyway. I couldn’t partake in this year’s competition or murder mystery. I had to finally prepare next day’s presentation and I therefore also missed the spa bit. I did go down to dinner, and it was magnificent!

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Stay tuned for day 2!

IBM has launched IBM Connections 4.5.1. To promote how you can work better with the product, they have created a demo which quite brilliantly demonstrates how you can work much more effectively in your organisation instead of relying on just email.

Via blogs, where users can come up with suggestions and ideas that can be voted on, document review processes, chat and status updates, you can work in a way that is much more user friendly, immediate and more meaningful than what you do via other more traditional tools.

Check out the demo in the video below. Note that you can click on the video to watch it in full screen mode. The video is in HD quality, so that you can see all the details.

Marvel's Thor

The PWC conference hall certainly had decorations to my liking. How did they know?!?!

The Norwegian IBM user group meeting took place in Oslo Monday October 14th. For the first time I did a presentation, (yay!) but I will give a short report about the entire meeting here.

The meeting took place in the brand new PricewaterhouseCoopers’ building in Bjørvika in Oslo. The auditorium had certainly been decorated to my liking.

IBM Sametime 9

Bo Holteman, Unified Communication & Collaboration Specialist IBM Collaboration Solutions – Europe (boy, his business card must be long), presented the new Sametime package.

In short the higlight can be summed up like this:

  • No more licenses when connecting external users to the system!
  • The licensing model is simplified. There’s now three models: Sametime Communicate, Sametime Conference and Sametime Complete, where you can get an additional module for Sametime Unified Telephony.
  • If you have a standard Sametime license today you will be able to get Sametime Complete, which contains everything of the already existing Sametime Standard, Sametime Advanced and Sametime Unified Telephony Lite
  • The menus have been simplified to reduce the number of clicks
  • In video conferences all video images are showing, instead of like it is today where only the active speaker is shown
  • Scaleable Video Quality: No more lagging. The client tells the server how much bandwidth it will need
  • Maximum 6 video feeds at any one time, but hundreds of people can take part in a meeting
  • You can now run a presentation from a Community in Connections.
  • Easier to integrate chat solutions on web pages, this makes it easier to create chat solutions for customers and agents
  • IBM will come to your company and hold a 4 hour free workshop on how to upgrade

So what’s the catch? Well, this:

  • The server setup is even more complex than before! You’d think this would be impossible, but I’m not kidding.
  • In addition. the SVC makes it necessary for you to have two more servers! AND: THEY HAVE TO RUN LINUX!
  • The video conference solution for pads and cell phones is not ready yet, but will be released sometime during Q4
  • There are currently no plans for integration with Files in IBM Connections

Bo gave a good demo on both a PC and on mobile devices to demonstrate the functionality, and I’ll give Sametime 9 this: It really does work and looks great!

Download the presentation (in Danish)

Geno does social business for a better life

Geno is owned by ca 10 500 Norwegian farmers. Their main task is breeding and developing the NRF-cow (Norwegian red cow). Tore Søgård, IT manager at Geno, and Erik Borse from Item Consulting gave a great presentation on how to introduce IBM Connections into your organisation.

This was very useful for me, since I’m in charge of the training and I have the responsibility of introducing our users to the product. I got a lot of great input for our own approach to this, as well as a confirmation that we are on the right track.

Also: Item is our new partner on our IBM Social Collaboration tools, and it seems that we are in good hands. I did an entire blog posting on my internal IBM Connections blog at work on this presentation alone.

Download the presentation (in Norwegian)

Know Your Notes Client

Notes education

Remember to train your users in the use of IBM Notes!

Now it was my turn. I gave an hour long pep talk about all the cool features of the IBM Notes client, as well as how one should go about training ones users. My point is that a lot of people hate the Notes Client because it’s either badly administrated, or that people have no training using it (and sometimes it’s a combination of these two.) If someone put you in front of a complicated CAD program, or gave you Photoshop, and just said: “Get to work,” you wouldn’t be very productive.

I also think a lot of companies sin when it comes to Microsoft Office and Outlook as well. There are tons of hidden features in those products that would enhance your users productivity if they were just told about them. Train your users!

My presentation, was very well received, and people told me that they had both learned new features after having been Notes users for years, as well as been give ideas on how to train their users better. This reception made me very happy. Not least that a lot of people liked the idea of doing what I do at my company: A weekly Notes tip blog posting.

And thanks to Mat Newman for the inspiration to do this.

Download the presentation (Party Norwegian, but all screen captures and menu choices in English, so you should have no problem following it even if you’re not Norwegian)

The Euroka Moment: The Knowledge You Need to Understand Xpages

Paul Withers, IBM Champion and OpenNTF Director, now gave a talk on the underlying JSF framework of Xpages. Really insightful and good.

Download the presentation (in English)

The OpenNTF Domino API: Making Domino Work the Way You Want

This is a new community drive API that really simplifies how you use Java in your applications. A real eye opener for more than one developer, I think.

Download the presentation (in English)

Aftermath

After this IBM treated us to dinner and Paul Withers and I struck up a chord and sat talking during dinner, and continued on the train to the airport. We also took in a cup of coffee (hot chocolate for me) before our planes took off. Paul is a great guy and I think OpenNTF is in good hands.

As I left for my gate I realised that I had been sweating like all hell for a few hours, but everyone had been telling me it was cold.  On the plane in the seat next to me, was a nurse. She cast one glance at me and said: “You got a fever!” Then she told the stewardess she would take care of me during the flight. Nurses are heroes!