Ben Langhinrichs

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April, 2018
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Wed 18 Apr 2018, 11:11 AM
ROI reaction gif
 
Way back in 1997, I released the Midas Rich Text LSX, a quirky-as-hell product which made manipulating Notes rich text not only easy, but kind of fun. You could sort tables on the fly, access almost anything, search and replace almost anywhere, lots of stuff, and it didn't think of rich text like IBM did, but like its users did. Fairly quickly, Midas became a hit as developers built all sorts of interesting and dynamic applications. It didn't cost very much, either. Personally, I thought it had a window of opportunity of about four years, if I was lucky, before IBM would swoop in and create something that would put me out of business. 
 
My youngest son was 2, and crawled all over me while I answered support calls. Fast forward 20 years, past a great many enhancements and additions and an eventual rename to the  Midas LSX, because it does so much more. The biggest reason people buy Midas these days is to generate high quality HTML/MIME/EPUB/CSV/etc. Some still use it for generating fancy emails or creating tables on the fly. My youngest is out of college now.
 
But about a half dozen times a year, I get a message from a company who has been using Midas for a decade or more, sometimes almost two decades. They've usually fallen off our radar screen, not on maintenance, not upgrading, just running apps that enhance their business year after year. They call because they switch servers or upgrade software, and manage to lose their Midas software or license or change server names so the license doesn't work. They call because this app which is so important suddenly doesn't work. Sometimes they know it is a problem with Midas, sometimes they've long forgotten they even use the product. I help them out however I can, though sometimes the combination of Notes version and Midas version is not only unsupported but dangerous. I'm helping one now that hasn't been in touch since 2004 for a Midas license they bought in 2002. Sixteen years, that app has been chugging along basically untouched. I wonder how many others like that are still humming away.
 
Sometimes, such customers buy a new license. Sometimes, I give them enough information that they get restarted with the old software and license they already have. The ROI is pretty spectacular, either way. Now, with Notes 10 on the horizon and the Notes/Domino sunset seeming further off, many of these companies are happy to spend a little more money and look forward to another decade or two of use.
 
It's been a long strange trip, as the Grateful Dead might say, and with Notes/Domino 10 on the horizon, it isn't over yet. I sell Midas to new customers, to old customers, perhaps even to you. It is not our most successful product if you simply go by total sales (that would be CoexLinks Fidelity), though it is close, but it is the longest running success story we have.
 
Have you tried Midas yet? There's still time to discover the magic, and even more time to enjoy the return on investment.
 

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

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Wed 4 Apr 2018, 02:39 PM
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There's a lot of talk about GDPR and its implications for Domino and other software environments. One frequent reminder is that backups and archives are included in the right to be forgotten. Now, if you are a small shop and have infrequent GDPR requests, anonymizing backup and archive copies might be a tedious but doable task. But what it you are faced with many of these?
 
One possible solution is the idea of pre-anonymizing. Imagine that every named person is given a unique id code, and a lookup table is maintained. Then the backup or archive process itself could include a translation process where the named person was replaced with the unique id code. If there were some later point where the named person needed to be forgotten, the archive itself would be left untouched and the index containing the name to id would have the name removed. Thereafter, the id would return "not found" when anyone tried to retrieve the name.
 
This isn't a perfect solution, and there might need to be a periodic garbage collection where all unknown ids were converted to a single UNKNOWN id, but particularly for difficult to access backups stored in long term storage, it would provide a way to "forget" without altering the storage. It also might require too much effort per backup/archive, though it would also conversion of various names, nicknames, email addresses, etc. to the single code, which would also make retrieval of information on a request easier.
 
I do wonder how referenced but non-specific names in rich text would be handled. If the rich text says "Alan told me we could bill Krangdon and CC it to Krangdon's VP of Operations" would Alan and Krangdon's VP of Operations need to be identified by context for both the purpose of notification and anonymization. I imagine there is some level of specificity beyond which you could not be expected to identify a person (e.g., Jim's wife), but if I am wrong, Watson is going to be needed just to find the references. Interesting times.
 
Note: For what it is worth, it would be possible to pre-anonymize working Notes databases, but it would take more effort than seems worth it. For example, in ACLs and such, you could use the id and then have a group named after the id with a single member for each internal user. But other places would be worse, and there would need to be lookups frequently, so I doubt it is a good idea.

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

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Fri 23 Mar 2018, 04:25 PM
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Time: The very near future.
Place: Megacyclopilis Inc. offices
 
Voice (on an intercom): Tabitha!
 
Tabitha: Yes, sir? Could we not use the intercom, sir? It's 2018. Besides, you're only in the next office.
 
Voice (whining a bit): But I like the intercom.
 
Tabitha: Very well, sir. What can I do for you?
 
Voice: Our sales force needs to move with the times. I've ordered 5,000 iPad Pro tablets, I need you to put together a meeting, all our top people. We need to talk about how to get SlickSales over onto those iPads pronto pronto. No expense spared. No time to waste.
 
Tabitha: But sir, SlickSales is a Notes application, and we have Notes 10...
 
Voice: What! Is that a problem? I knew there'd be a problem. I don't care what it takes....
 
Tabitha: Excuse me, sir. I meant that because it is a Notes application, it will run on the iPad Pro as is.
 
Voice: What's that? You mean we don't need a big project or to spend a lot of money?
 
Tabitha: No, sir. It will run everywhere. It's a Notes app!
 
Voice: Well, then, we don't need a meeting, do we, Tabitha?
 
Tabitha: No, sir.
 
Voice (somewhat disgruntled): Harrumph. Well, Tabitha, can you... get me some coffee?
 
Tabitha: No, sir. That's not my job. And may I say, sir, it is inappropriate for you to ask.
 
Voice: Yes, I expect you're right. But if we don't have a project and we don't have a meeting, I guess I can get my own damn coffee.
 
Tabitha: Yes, sir.
 
Voice: Would you...?
 
Tabitha: Two sugars, no cream, sir.
 
Voice: What would I do without you, Tabitha?
 
Tabitha: I don't know, sir.
 
 

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

Thu 22 Mar 2018, 11:03 PM
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Ever since I heard about IBM showing Notes running on an iPad at IBM Think, I've been thinking about the pros and cons. There are cons, of course, such as my having to port the Midas LSX to iOS, which should be interesting, but which I will do. I've also heard a certain amount of grumbling that Notes apps on an iPad are going to be far less attractive than native apps, or that performance is likely to be slow.
 
But I think those worries miss the point. I am a fairly hardcore developer, and I still have little desire to write iOS native apps. I have even less desire to negotiate Apple's App Store. I don't own any Apple devices, so I don't even know what the App Store is called. But I've heard plenty of stories. The thing is, very few companies I deal with have developers on staff who are more hardcore than I am. There are some, but the vast majority are happenstance developers. This is particularly true of Notes developers.
 
But what if that is an advantage? Suddenly, Notes developers can write apps that run on the iOS devices (or at least the iPad) which people want to use. As far as I can tell, they don't have to learn any iOS specifics. They don't have to learn to navigate the mysterious Apps Store and Apple's capricious ways.
 
They just write a Notes app and replicate. Will it be fantastically pretty? Maybe not. Does any company I know care much at all whether their apps are fantastically pretty? Not a one. These are businesses. They want to get business done. On the client end, they aren't terribly concerned about performance unless it absolutely sucks. They aren't all that concerned about "how native" the app is, so long as it is visually consistent enough that users aren't confused. In other words, Notes apps are fine.
 
And they will work on the iPad without a day more training for their Notes developers. Think about that. 
 
In fact, I think that might be compelling enough to get companies to switch if they just get an idea of the relative ease of making simple applications with Notes. Yes, I mean switch to Notes. I can see some departments and some companies doing that, and I haven't glimpsed that vision in a decade.
 
Now I just have to get Midas running. I might even have to buy an Apple product for the first time.
 

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 21 Mar 2018, 01:59 PM
I am excited that so many customers and partners are excited about Notes/Domino 10 and all that it can do. Even aside from the new features (which sound awesome), the excitement will get some reluctant companies spending on Notes/Domino again, and what infrastructure wouldn't be helped by an occasional revisit.
 
But my guess is that the solutions and features will not sufficiently address a nagging problem (which I most conveniently have a solution to). It may be that IBM/HCL will pour the resources in to properly convert Notes rich text to HTML/MIME, given that it is used at the very least in a) email, b) web rendering, c) REST services that deliver content, d) mobile apps, e) Traveler/Verse, f) etc.
 
Let's look at what AppsFidelity can do for example, what it has been able to do for many years while IBM has not been pouring resources in.
 
A table in the Notes client
 
Table in Notes client
 
 
 
Table rendered by the Domino 9.0.1 web server
 
Table rendered badly by Domino 9.0.1
 
 
 
Table rendered by the Domino 9.0.1 web server using AppsFidelity (no code changes or agents)
 
Table rendered well by AppsFidelity
 
See any difference? All this is done with an extension manager plugin which doesn't need to touch the design. It works with REST, with  web browser, with  XPages, with mobile apps. So, if IBM/HCL isn't going to pour the resources in to do this properly, you should know that you can fix it by getting a license to AppsFidelity. You can do it today, just as you could have done it a year ago or even ten years ago. Sure, it has improved since it was a Beacon Award runner up in 2006, but it has consistently been better than the Domino web engine. I'm betting it still will be in Domino 10.
 
Makes you wonder why IBM and HCL don't know about it.  
 
Try AppsFidelity yourself. Request an evaluation license today.
 

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

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Thu 15 Mar 2018, 10:40 AM
Yesterday, I showed how CoexLinks Fidelity handles symbolic fonts such as Wingdings and Symbol that are not properly displayed on the web. It was fun because it celebrated Pi Day, but I wanted to go back to a more common scenario you all may have seen, namely symbolic bullet items from Word . It only took me a few minutes to find this example from IBM's databases. This time I'll show how AppsFidelity differs from the standard web rendering. You'll notice more than the symbols, I suspect.
 
1) Original in Notes 9.0.1 rich text 
 
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2) Rendered by Notes 9.0.1 web engine
 
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3) Rendered by AppsFidelity 4.2
 
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4) Why not evaluate AppsFidelity for yourself?
 
If you would like to try AppsFidelity, just request an evaluation license, or contact us to set up an online demo and meeting.
 

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.