Connections Certified – Finally!


As if yesterday I am now finally IBM Connections certified:

cert

I had had just no time previously but here at Connect the certification tests are all free for participants so I went for it – and past! It was about time too, having worked with Connections for the last 6 years not having a certification just seemed strange. I do not test well (my dyslexia makes it hard for me) but I guess doing all these crazy IBM Connections projects finally paid off.

Yippie!

2014 – What is waiting at the starting line for this year?


Since I finally got back to my bog and wrote a short / brief “2013-in-a-nutshell” post, I thought it might be time to also look ahead. There is allot hat I am working on, here the short list:

 

Connect2014

Yes, I mentioned I am going and what my (not very short) list of must-see presentations are. The other reason I like to go is that is a great time to talk to vendors and colleagues to see where the market and technology is going and what clients are (likely/maybe/hopefully) looking for for the future. It is not just fun and golf – even if my wife thinks otherwise.

Connections Training

I speak frequently at LUGS and seminars on IBM Connections administration, that goes hand-in-hand with the Connections training that I offer as part of my business. This last year has seen allot of one-on-one / one-on-many training where I make the whole Connections install a training seminar for the client where they learn not only how to install but how to document, what decisions they need to think of ahead of time and then how to think ahead to production / operations. I also do class-room hands-on training where I bring in a VM environment and the participants get hands-on and get to break it and repair it. When necessary I actually created “broken” snapshots that I have them fix. Hands-on is the only way to go really

For 2014 I am thinking slightly larger …. I am partnering with a good friend of mine to munch off his good reputation and experience … ;) there will be some more detailed announcements on this later in the 1st quarter. for right now it is still  “Pssssst .. it’s a secret

Technology Trends

Over the last few years I have seen a big uptick in my IBM Connections business and a decline in Domino work. Not because I think Domino itself is declining but because the base knowledge in the market place out there is good and clients see less need in bringing in outside talent – upgrades and migrations yes – or integration work with other systems but not really for basic Domino operations.

Recently I also see a large uptick in Sametime inquiries – ST9 is making allot of clients thinking of upgrades and they want help. Also, they want ST to integrate with more – video, telephony, awareness in every other system they can get it to work in … ST9 looks good for me and I like the changes and (some of) the simplifications in the product – and I think that the licensing changes that IBM put into place will drive allot more adoption.

International Work

I also see an uptick in my “international” work. Whereas my focus used to be 99% North America I do get more inquiries for Europe and Asia … I speak several languages which helps but that is not the real reason, I just guess this internet thing really makes the world smaller and brings us closer in many different ways. Now, if I could just somehow get an app that does something about time zones and jet lag …..

 

 

I am curious to talk to my colleagues out there and see what the technology barometer is showing them – that is one of the reasons I always try to attend Connect (LotusPhere) – but for now all I can say is that 2014 looks good!

Preparing for Connect2014 – My preliminary list of must-attend sessions


Going to LotusPhere Connect2014 again, and really looking forward to it. I just went onto the Connect2014 website and made a listing of all the sessions I am interested in … turns out that I have to find a way to clone myself so I can see all 37 of them ….

As to be expected most of the sessions i am trying to cram in are around IBM Connections and Sametime – though I admit that I put more emphasis on Connections since I do allot of Connections work. I am really interested in some of the sessions that deal with Connections administration since a large part of my business is actually not just to install and configure but admin training for individuals and groups. I am always interested in what others do or how they approach problems – there is yet so much for me to learn, no matter how long I have been doing this already!

Here a highlight of a few sessions I really am looking forward to:

  • AD305 : IBM Sametime iWidgets: Extending Connections’ Use of Sametime
  • ID404 : Pushing the Borders – Extending and Customizing IBM Connections
  • ID403 : Social and Content – Better Together with IBM Connections Content Manager
  • ID605 : Make Your Microsoft Stack Social with IBM Connections
  • BP307 : Practical Solutions for Connections Administrators – Tips and Scripts for Your Daily Business (you really need to see this one!)
  • BP304 : What We Wish We Had Known: Becoming an IBM Connections Administrator (The British/Irish Invasion …. should be good!)
  • JMP201 : What’s New in IBM Connections Administration and Configuration
  • ID301 : IBM Sametime 9 Voice and Video: The Value Today and the Roadmap for Tomorrow
  • JMP204 : IBM Sametime 9 Deployment Workshop (this will be good, Wes Morgan is always a good for an interesting session) 
  • SHOW400 : IBM Sametime 9.0 Media Components on Linux for the Windows Administrator

All these great Jumpstart sessions will really screw my weekend up … but I guess there is no way past them! There are many more sessions, I just can’t list them all right now. I hope they don’t clash to badly schedule-wise or force me to do sprint from one side of the place to the other in 5 minutes ….

What sessions will you guys be attending?

 

 

 

 

 

Social Connections V – StarWars all over again?


If you are reading this you are social and somehow are involved with the whole IBM software stack relationship social thingamajig or another …. So, unless you live under a rock you have heard of the – very successful – SOCIAL CONNECTIONS shindig that happens on a regular basis and is instigated (among several other, very hardworking individuals) Stuart McIntyre.

In spite of being the model of British reserve and gentleman-ship, Stuart is well know and renowned for his strength in the “the Social Stuff”, or as we like to say – the FORCE is strong in him . . .

Social Connections V is coming up this June and somehow I managed to weasel my way into it and am speaking this year. Thank God Stuart chose the neutral country of Switzerland to host it, that way my antics are unlikely to break up the European Union (it is not a member), set off a minor border conflict (nobody messes with the Swiss) or cause a rise in sea levels (no ocean, but they do have part of the Alps).

Here is a link that the very kindhearted and capable Femke Goedhart tweeted earlier today with a sneak peek of what is in store. Personally, I think most people will come of the Swiss chocolate, the alphorn blues band that will be playing in the lobby and lederhosen that Stuart is planning to wear in celebration of his newly discovered Swiss ancestor who is distantly related to Wilhelm Tell. It is a fascinating story that he is sure to recant to you if you just prod his modesty enough – he is quite shy about his fame as we all know. I also surmise that Tim Clark might have an interesting tidbit or two to share and with Gab “No Problem” Davis around there will be enough interesting content to cover for the fact that my session will be dealing with the finer points of Swiss Cheese Fondue . . .

So, if you think you are interested …. and have the time to watch all the amazed/shocked Swiss who will be gather around the hotel to stare at us in wonder – you should attend … even if it is only to hear hear Gab say “Not a Problem!” in that droll accent of her’s ….

PS: if you are wondering why I mentioned StarWars in the title – no reason other than the big Roman Numeral “V” in the title and that I turn green and shriveled like Yoda when I drink green beer on St. Paddy’s day . . . Switzerland will never be the same after this. I pity the Swiss, really . .

Technote: Connections iFix / CR installation problems


Just a quick one:

IBM Failed to perform extraction error when applying CR or iFixes to IBM Connections 4.0 – United States.

 

This technote just came through and I thought it was rather timely since I was battling this very scenario with one off the test/DEV environments at my current client a short while ago.

If you read the document you will see that it mentions “if the shared files space has changed” but there is another scenario under which this can happen (though related) and deinstal and subsequent re-install of features or the whole application – especially if you switch between a root and non-root install in AIX/Linux.

The details on what files to review/update are in the technote above and I suggest to anybody who has ever had an iFix or CR not go quite as they wanted to review the settings and file this nifty technote away in their little “I know this” storage space for future reference.

 

IBM Connections: Metrics / Cognos and the HTTP timeout . . . .


Let me preface this post with a statement:

I really, really don’t like Cognos. Metrics is a pain as well.
And .. in case it lacked sufficient emphasis … I really, R E A L L Y don’t like  Cognos.

 

This is an interesting one that I have been battling with for quite some time at my current client. We had been running into errors with Cognos reports not finishing and the only errors we saw were in the syemOut.log files for HTTP sessions suddenly being reset:

 [3/5/13 11:51:05:341 EST] 000000b8 CognosBIReque 3 com.ibm.connections.metrics.reportgeneration.cognos.CognosBIRequestProcessor processCognosBIRequest post jobTemplateSearchPath=/content/folder[@name='IBMConnectionsMetrics']/package[@name='Metrics']/folder[@name='static']/jobDefinition[@name='jobtemplate5']

[3/5/13 11:56:05:532 EST] 000000b8 SystemErr R java.net.SocketException: Connection reset

Metrics sends Cognos 5 HTTP requests for each report time range – these correspond to the Jobtemplate1 – Jobtemplate5 reports in Cognos that are called and executed. These HTTP requests are synch calls so they have to stay connected and wait until the Jobtemplate call is finished so metrics can update the process. for all successful calls yo will see HTTP status 200 results and that is exactly what you want. We were seeing the above resets for calls to the Jobtemplate4 and Jobtemplate5 calls – it was KILLING ME.

Metrics was not at fault – it has it’s timeout settings in the metrics-config.xml file (secsPerRequest) and that was set to 3600 so it was off the list of culprits.

We reset the HTTP servers plug-in.xml setting for timeouts (ServerIOTimeout) first to 400 seconds and then to 600 and we saw no change.

We then did a test – we changed the interService href in the LotusConenctions-config.xml file as follows – btw that only works because we have a single Cognos server, not a clustered pair:

sloc:serviceReference bootstrapHost=”” bootstrapPort=”” clusterName=”admin_replace” enabled=”true” serviceName=”cognos” ssl_enabled=”true”> 
<sloc:href>
 
<sloc:hrefPathPrefix>/cognos</sloc:hrefPathPrefix>
 
<sloc:static href=”
http://connect.domain.com” ssl_href=”https://connect.domain.com“/> 
      <sloc:interService href=”https://cognosserverFQHN.domain.com:9443“/> 

Drum-roll ….. Here we go, it fixed the issue, but now the progress display (“xxx% complete”) on the metrics page to be permanently stuck at 0%. What this did do was point ut to the problem …. the F5 load balancer that we in front of the dual HTTP servers. It had a permanent 5 minute http thread timeout set and was killing ANY thread that was going over 5 minutes.

 

The Takeaway:

Metrics/Cognos spawns exactly 110 jobs for each Community metrics update request, many of these requests will go over 5 minutes and you should check that any device/server in your network has a higher HTTP timeout seting.

 

Sametime Video Chat Widget for Connections – Supposedly it still works in V4


My current client had this implemented in their V 3.x environment and we asked IBM if it will still work in V4 …. supposedly it does.

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/lotus/downloads/sametime_videochat_plugin.html

I am implementing it now but there are some inconsistencies with the ST server so I will have to dig through the ST logs and God only knows what else to make it work. Not sure if IBM is working on a version that is “more compatible” (it ain’t English but I have no better way of saying this) to Connections  V4.x, but I hope they are. This one is not very pretty to look at when it is added to a community at it’s current build.

 

I will keep y’all updated on the progress.

Connections 4.0: Tails from the Upgrade Part 2 – Oracle


This is an interesting one for all of you out there that utilize Oracle as your database server.

Character Set:

The approved character set for Connections is AL32UTF8. You  might have a look at your database and discover that you are running some other character set but that you are seeing no issues – at least in Connections 3.x

 

In comes Cognos . . .

Cognos will NOT install (fails to connect to the dB without errors) if your Oracle character set is anything other than AL32UTF8. The reason is that it expects a certain date format that it will not find in another character set.

Funny enough Connections would probably work – both the update wizard and the subsequent install but you will not get Cognos to work – sorry. You will need to create a new Connections database in the correct character set, export the data from the old one and import it into the new dB and THEN run the upgrade wizard – or alternatively run the individual SQL statements (allot of DB Admins prefer that – this way they can change temp folder settings etc.).

Depending on your V 3.x database size that can be quite an undertaking, fro what I hear from Oracle dB admins (I am definitely NOT in that league) the export and re-import into a new database is the way to go.

 

 

More to come soon . . . .

Connections 4.0: Tails from the Upgrade Part 1


As a few early risers might have already read on some blogs and press releases, IBM has released Connections 4.0 to the general public this morning – here woudl be Ed Brill’s blog as one of the many announcements.

I have been working for a client I shall call TWSSU (=”They Who Shall Stay Unnamed”) and been part of a large Connections implementation since last year.  As part of this environment we have been working on a V4 upgrade for quite some time, to the point where we started developing new look-and-feel designs and customizations on every code drop of the Beta cycle (that is a tale onto itself) and received the Connections V4 code early along with some “interesting” draft documentation for V4 … I know it’s unfair and mean, but sometimes it is fun to be me!

I have been under and NDA until today (general availability – finally!) so I have not been able to talk about any of the interesting items that are likely to pop up during a migration.

To that end I will start this tale  in small doses and hand out some of the more interesting tidbits in several blog posts, starting with the basics right here:

OS Requirements

Ditch any old Windows 2003 servers you still have, they are no longer supported. If  you were planning to re-use some of your existing infrastructure and they are windows 2003 … sorry. You can still run TDI and probably DB2 on them but anything with WebSphere on it will require Windows 2008 or AIX/UNIX/Linux. time to buy that next license pack from Redmond if you want Linux, otherwise Red Hat/CentOS is your best bet.

The detailed system requirements are here - be patient with the new design for the document for right now … it is still work in (design) progress and – as I find it personally – rather confusing. From what I hear IBM looked at it and is workgin on it. Hey – it is still better than some of the documentation that I have come up with over the years … :)

WAS Version: 7.0.0.21 – SDK/JAVA

This was a painful experience for me – and partially self inflicted. Well, I had the excuse that the documentation was not yet ready. when IBM says that you have to install WAS FP 21(and a few more fixes separately) they don’t just mean WAS FP, IHS and Plugin FP- they also want you to install the SDK part of the fix pack. For most of us this is not something we are used to as most applications bring their own SDK or at least update it during the install process.

Connections has been significantly re-architected (more on that later) and contains a feature called “Comon” that is in charge of serving up all the static content, along with jsp’s, scripts/code and all the fun stuff that the features share among themselves. This feature will not initialize correctly – UNLESS – you have the SDK installed since it is only certified to run with a minimum Java version of WAS 7.0.0.21. The install works and throws no errors, all the other features will start but common will not initialize (the errors in the systemOut.log are confusing and I needed serious IBM help to find the root cause – THANKS DAVID!)

Configuration XML files – There are ALLOT of them

There are about 19 features running on a full blown Connections environment now so there are naturally more configuration files. Also, the configuration of some items was moved to separate xml files (I like that – more later) so you can’t just port over all your old files, and in many cases not even the settings since they have changed.

I suggest to run a dif between your existing config files and the new ones, I use Beyond Compare for that (my favorite tool!). That will show you quite clearly what settings are different, what new settings exist and what the default settings are. Not all of the settings are documented in detail in the WIKI so  … be careful and start slow.

Cognos … The uncharted land

This is a new one for us. I have never touched Cognos before and without the help of my main man Vijay F. (full name shall remain secret to protect the innocent …) I am not sure if we would have gotten through the experience unscathed.

We found a few problems in the install that have already made it into the documentation so you have the benefit of our sweat and Vijay’s expertise. Just make sure you install Cognos first and have the right client version of the DB system you use installed.  AND – having more expertise in SQL than I do helps – it seriously helps. More on this at a later stage.

 

Stay tuned for more . . .

This is the end of part 1, more will follow next week: database upgrade/migrationss and new iFixes for V4 that get released along with the new version … yippie! We will have fun!!

Newsflash: Connections 4.0 WIKI/documentation is out!


Great news – just found it!!

http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/lcwiki.nsf/xpViewCategories.xsp?lookupName=IBM%20Connections%204.0%20documentation

But keep in mind, itis still in the process of being edited and will improve over time. Don’t look at the System Requirements pages yet – they will be updated soon as the current format is  bit confusing.