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!

Error loading wiring Properties: property name is not unique….


http://www.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21578096&myns=swglotus&mynp=OCSSKTWP&mync=R

This just came in via a feed from IBM support. I hope you guys subscribe to the support feeds as well.

Personally I never came across this specific error but as I do work allot in large, multi nationals this is a good one to squirrel away and keep in my back pocket.

IBM Support – Change to AVP Telephone Support Processes


This fluttered across my desk today at a client site I am currently working at. It appears that if y are an AVP client (Accelerated Value Program) IBM will no longer get you right to a technician if you call in a ticket but rather wants you to enter it online and wait for a call back. At my current client this is the standard way of operating and the call backs are rather quick – however I have been at other sites where those cal backs have taken somewhat longer in the past. I don’t think there will be much change but I will keep my eyes open and the stopwatch at hand.

I am generally rather happy with IBM support, though some of my clients feel they to often try to solve their problems by asking them (the clients) to upgrade … let’s not get into that discussion as upgrades and point releases in large companies can be compared to the logistical equivalent of clearing a minefield.

 

Here from the email:

Dear IBM Software Accelerated Value Program Client:

We are pleased you chose IBM to provide high-quality solutions for your business and information systems needs. This email is to inform you that Lotus is making a change in their approach to provide support delivery. Below is an explanation of those changes that will directly affect how you receive ongoing support for your Lotus branded software.

In order to ensure consistency across the IBM Software Accelerated Value Program, effective Monday, January 2, 2012, Lotus will move to call-back mode for all PMRs. Customers will have the option to open PMRs via Electronic Service Request (SR), already a choice of the majority of our customers, or by calling 1-800-IBMSERV or your local country equivalent.

IBM Service Request (SR) is a worldwide, Web-based problem submission and tracking tool available in the IBM Support Portal and is a method of choice by many of our clients. Service Request is available 7×24 and allows you to open PMRs and to check the status of your PMR without having to call IBM and at a time that it is most convenient to you.

Our customers tell us that increased access to information and the ability to be self-sufficient in finding the solutions they need when they need them provides the optimum capability to manage their IT infrastructure. Lotus has an array of tools that make it easy or you. If you are unfamiliar with these tools, we invite you to learn more at Lotus Support — Just a click away! In addition, the IBM Support Portal also has many special features available only to IBM Accelerated Value clients. We are committed to meeting the evolving requirements of our customers and continue to focus on enhancing the tools and support we provide.

All of us in the Lotus Technical Support organization and the Accelerated Value Program team look forward to assisting with your software support needs. We are here to help you achieve maximum benefit from your investment in IBM software and support services.

If you have questions at any time about these changes, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thanks.

 

Domino, WebSphere and why don’t my Friends get it yet


As most people who know me in person can attest to, I usually am not at a loss for words. Some friends of mine actually have made a pact to kill my mouth separately after I die to make sure it goes to rest.  True friends will go to great lengths to take care of you … one way or another.

“The discussion”

I did find my inborn ability to fill the air with words challenged over the holidays when I engaged a good friend and collegue in a discussion about technology, future and IT work in general. We were griping a bit and the topic we were discussed was Domino and how the good paying jobs have become more scarce over the last 2 – 3 years. I imagine this topic gets repeated over and over again among many IT professionals.

To keep the whole thing short: I could not get the point across that as a Domino guy you have to see the writing on the wall and learn Websphere. More and more of Lotus IBM technology is now running on Websphere (Sametime, Connections, Quickr J . . .) and even if you don’t think that Domino will end up on that platform eventually, you need to add to your technology portfolio and make yourself more valuable. With Websphere in your back pocket you can do other projects as well. Add a dash of Unix and Linux experience … and you have the making of a nice Bouillabaisse. That Bouillabaisse will keep you fed for quite some time.

If you know a splatter of WAS – just to be able to integrade Domino with other Lotus IBM products – many of which are free entitlements to Domino licensees now – you have a whole larger pond you can swim in with more work to choose from with better rates and less competition.
I am a freelance IT consultant and started with Domino 18 years ago. I like it and do well and was lucky enough to have a nice year-long project I came off of in December and moved right into a new IBM Connections gig back-to-back.  But if you look out in the market and search for Notes/Domino projects they are getting fewer and fewer and pay less and less each year and the competition for those positions is quite fierce.

Yes, clients want oodles of experience and the knowledge you bring to the table but the price structure is not what it used to be. Look on LinkedIn and check how often you see somebody from India posting a question on how to “quickly learn Domino and maybe that thing called Notes” and you know where allot of the basic support jobs have gone to and what quality clients seem to be willing to live with nowadays. The only IT guys/girls working regularely now are either on the low end of the pay scale or the very top. If you are caught in the middle, the jobs you can find not as plentiful as they used to be and you are constantly searching, right?

Let me spell it out:

  • Change is good
  • Learning is a life-long necessity (damn – after all you did not learn Domino in elementary school, right?)
  • Expecting to do the same thing you are comfortable with for the next 20 years until you retire is not going to happen
  • WAS is not as hard as it looks – if you can take care of a Domino environment with all the moving parts and pieces WAS is not such a leap.

LEARN . IT . NOW . 

IBM Unknown errors running utilities – United States


Found this one looking through technotes today, really interesting. I often set up servers to run off-line maintenance on dB and often have servers running 32bit Domino on 64bit Windows. I have not yet run into a case where I noticed the additional errors that might pop up but is it good to now that I can ignore them.  I like my off-line maintenance routines and do not want to have to change them.

 

IBM Unknown errors running utilities – United States.

Lotus Notes 8.5.2 code error – The Tale of Regression


 

I am part of a Domino migration at a large client in the financial/insurance industry and we have been moving applications from Domino 6.5.5 to version 8.5.2 FP1. I know, there are newer versions out there but you can’t always upgrade blindly – this is going to be one of the stories why IN-DEPTH testing is so important.

The client has an application that has been around since R5 days, migrated and upgraded several times – both client and server versions and never an issue.

Suddenly we get reports (during testing – thank GOD!) that when using the app with the new client (LN 8.5.2 standard) that certain document do not get created – they vanish.

To make a L O N G story short – we opened a ticket with IBM support and after digging and prodding they produced this one for us:

(from the actual ticket)

******************* SUBSEQUENT CALL RECORD TEMPLATE  *******************
ACTION TAKEN:                                                           
Created a test DB in 85 and copied customer form and data.              
Found field “eml” caused the issue: SPR RDJS8APTK6.  

This is a regression error that made its way back into the Lotus notes 8.5.2 code stream. It was fixed in Notes 8.5.3 but if you are on 8.5.2 (no matter the FP level) you are snorked.

What we did

Since it is hard to determine with any certainty how many other applications out there might contain a filed called “eml” the decision was made to do a company wide, mid-project change and instead of rolling out Notes 8.5.2 we will be rolling out 8.5.3 and upgrading all workstations to which 8.5.2 has been deployed previously. A huge undertaking.

Had this not been found during testing it could have been very costly for my client.  As is, the change in scope will be massive and costly as well, but it beats having actual business processes interrupted and clients (actual consumers) be impacted.

So – the lessons everybody should take home from this:

  1. Test – always test even if it is a small point upgrade
  2. Test – with ALL server and client variations that you might have in your environment – do not skip anything
  3. Have test plans that are captured and documented across each scenario and can be compared apples-to-apples.
  4. DO NOT NAME ANY FIELDS, FORMS (or anything else for that matter)  IN YOUR APPLICATIONS “EML” – this error could possibly be re-introduced in a future code stream – you never know.

 

 

Background Agents not running or how shortcuts can cost you in Domino


I’ll keep it brief – short cuts will kill you.

 

I am on a Domino migration project where we are moving the client from 6.5.6 to 8.5.2. We are not upgrading servers but creating a whole new server environment on new virtual servers and will be moving applications over in phases. No mail, they moved to Exchange years ago.

We separated the development and sandbox environments out into new Domino domains (they were in production up until now) and we are in testing mode – each application individually.

That is where we ran into  … “issues” with simple background agents, specifically agents that send e-mail.

“Error connecting to server (servername): The remote server is not a known TCP/IP host,”

Agents fire, things happen and for the most part we are happy, but the above errors pop up again and again and mail is not being created. The mail never makes it into the mail.box, just errors in the logs and no mail at all.

This is where we came across this technote: and while reading it I am also glancing through the notes.ini on one of the servers that is having issues. I notice in there the “Mailserver=” parameter that has a different server name entered – that is where the above technote comes in and then a few Google searches on the [Mailserver] field and we knew where we had managed to trip ourselves in the process.

 

The [Mailserver] field

This is a little knows field since it has no UI equivalent and normally an admin would never have to fiddle with it – ever. However, when you take shortcuts during server setup and configuration though …. maybe you can guess? Yes, we set up one default server document, copied it 20 times, renamed the server name, updated all the server specific addresses and then copied the certificate into it. What that leaves you with is 20 server documents that all have the same one [Mailserver] field value – and the server that it pointed to was a temporary server that was turned off.

It took us a few hours of head scratching to figure this one out but by the end of the day we got it and fixed the field values on all servers. After that restarting the servers (not really necessary but I always feel better that way) took care of the rest and we were back in business.

Lesson learned: if you want to batch create and copy & paste things make sure you take care of ALL server specific information in a server document, not just the ones you can see in the document but the hidden ones as well.