comic-con panels

I spent some time this afternoon watching bits and pieces of Comic-Con panels on YouTube. I found a funny bit from a Torchwood / Doctor Who thing here. And a great bit from the Chuck panel here. And a page of embedded clips from Kevin Smith’s panel. And a page of clips from Joss Whedon’s panel. Not quite as good as actually being there, but the lines are shorter, the seats are more comfortable, and the coffee’s cheaper!

useful AutoHotKey script

I’ve been using AutoHotKey for a while now. I’ve got a few macros programmed into it that are pretty much wired into my brain at this point. There’s one thing I’ve been meaning to write for the last year or so, and just never got around to it. Well, I was in the middle of something on Friday, and I just decided that I needed to stop what I was doing, and just figure out how to write this macro. It turned out to be a lot simpler than I though it was going to be! Now I feel kind of stupid for putting it off for so long.

Basically, I wanted a macro that would do a “Paste Special / Text Only”. Mostly, I needed this in Lotus Notes, but there are other apps where it could come in handy. Long ago, I’d taken care of this in Word with a simple one-line VBA macro. But, I never really knew how to do this in Notes. The reason I need this, is that I’m often pasting text from Word, or a web page, or some other app, into Notes. The text goes to the clipboard as formatted text, and if I just do a straight paste into Notes, all the formatting info gets pulled in, and it’s usually not a good match for the default e-mail formatting in Notes. So, I’d settled on just selecting Edit, then Paste Special, then Text from the menus. But that’s a lot more work than pressing Ctrl-V.

Before yesterday, I’d never looked at the AHK docs closely enough to realize how simple this was. The contents of the clipboard, in plain text format (that’s the key there!) are available in a system variable called “clipboard”. So, all I really needed to do is call SendInput on that. Duh. Just to get fancy, I also decided that I wanted to trim trailing whitespace from the clipboard contents. So, here’s a simple macro that trims trailing whitespace from the contents of the clipboard, and sends it out:

myStr := clipboard
myStr := RegExReplace(myStr, "s+$","")
SendInput %myStr%

I just have that mapped to Ctrl-Shift-V, so I can paste text anywhere, without formatting, no problem. And, yes, I could have written this in one line, but I broke it up so it would be easier to see what I was doing.

The point of this story, I guess, is that AutoHotKey is a wonderful thing, and that some things are simpler than you think they are, if you just sit down and spend a few minutes reading the docs.

a few more notes on the Aspire One

After considering a few unlikely scenarios as to how I might create the factory restore DVDs for the Aspire One, I just broke down and did the obvious: I went out to Costco, and bought an Aspire accessory pack. It contained a USB DVD burner, wireless optical mouse, and a simple case. I didn’t have any trouble hooking up the DVD burner or the mouse. I went ahead and made the restore DVDs, no problem. Then, I also created an image backup of the drive to DVDs, using Acronis.

I also removed the trial McAfee software today, and replaced it with F-Prot. So, at this point, I think I’ve got the thing all set up and configured the way I want it.

Acer Aspire One

I just got the Acer Aspire One that I ordered from Woot last week. I didn’t have any problems getting through the initial setup stuff. I’ve got all that done, and I’m letting it download Windows updates right now. My initial impression is that it’s workable, but I’d never want to use it as my main computer. The keyboard is cramped, but usable. I don’t think I could touch-type on it though. (I’m typing on my MacBook right now, and I’m pretty quick on that keyboard.) The trackpad is really hard to use. I hooked up a USB mouse, and I’m using that instead. The screen is small enough that it’s hard for me to read stuff on it, depending on the font size. So, basically, I think it’ll be a good machine to take with me on an overnight trip, for instance, where I just need to check e-mail, and I want something more than just my BlackBerry and/or iPod Touch. I think if I was going on a week-long trip, I’d still want to take my MacBook or Inspiron.

I didn’t have to uninstall too much bloatware from it. Both Microsoft Works and Office 2007 Home & Student were installed on it. I removed Works. I own a copy of Office 2007 H&S, so I just entered my product key on that. Google Desktop is installed too; I may remove it, or I may keep it. For anti-virus, it’s got the usual 60-day McAfee license. I’ll probably remove that, and go with F-Prot, which is what I use on my desktop PC. Or maybe I’ll pick up this package from Amazon for $20, and just keep using McAfee.

Lotus Domino 8.5

I upgraded our main Domino server to 8.5 a couple of weeks ago. It’s holding up pretty well so far, though it has crashed once. I was going to call IBM support on that, but I didn’t get around it it, and the server hasn’t crashed again, so I’m hoping that was a fluke. I’ve been meaning to write up some notes from the upgrade that might be useful to anyone else in a similar environment to my own, but I hadn’t gotten around to it until now. I hope I can remember everything I wanted to mention.

First, if you’re upgrading a mail server to 8.5, there’s a bug in the installer that deletes some important files, such as dwa7.ntf, from the previous install. See this forum post for a complete list. That should be fixed in 8.5.1, but for now, back up those files before upgrading.

Second, I got a weird error message during the upgrade that I can’t quite remember right now. The bottom line on that was that I had to uninstall 8.5, reboot, and reinstall, and everything was fine. So, if you get a weird error at the end of the install, don’t panic, just uninstall and reinstall.

IBM’s documentation on the upgrade process is spread out in various places, and can be somewhat hard to find. This knowledge collection on the Domino wiki is a good place to start. And this document provides a good step-by-step walkthrough on what to do right before and after upgrading. Basically, doing fixup/compact/updall, and stuff like that. It looks like they’ve actually updated this doc since I last looked at it. It shows a modification date of 7/8/09, just a few days after I did my upgrade.

After the upgrade, this blog post has a nice list of things you should look at and think about. Not everything in the list is likely to be applicable in every environment, but it’s a good list to review. There’s probably at least one thing on there that you haven’t thought of.

On the client side, I have installed the full 8.5 client (with Designer and Admin) on my own machine, and a couple of others. I’ve also rolled out the 8.5 “basic” client to a few people. The basic client looks and works pretty much like the 7.x and 8.0.x client. The full client, on the other hand, looks a lot different. I experimented with the full client for 8.0, but gave up on it, since it was way too slow. They’ve really fixed the speed issue with 8.5, but it’s still slower than the basic client, and I wouldn’t recommend rolling it out to anybody with less that 2 GB of memory.

Looking at the designer and admin clients, the admin side isn’t much different from the 7.x or 8.0 admin clients. It looks and works pretty much the same. I’m sure there are some improvements, but I haven’t really noticed anything different yet. On the designer side, though, there are a lot of changes. The basic designer screen has been changed quite a bit. When you get into actually changing a view, or a form, or a script library, or whatever, the experience hasn’t changed much. But the basic interface around the edges, for picking a design element to work with, is different. And there’s something going on the first time you open a database or template in the designer. I’m not sure exactly what it does, but it adds a few new objects to the database. I don’t think you can normally see these objects, but they show up in TeamStudio Ciao.

Ciao is a great tool for version control that I’ve been using for some time. It hasn’t been updated for 8.5 yet, but it does work OK, for the most part. I did have a problem opening up one template in Designer. I think something happened to corrupt it when I first tried to open it. After that, I couldn’t get it to open at all. I had to trash it and restore a copy from backup tape. That one worked fine. I’m not sure if the problem I had was caused by Designer or Ciao. EIther way, I should mention that I e-mailed TeamStudio support, and got a call back the next day from a couple of guys there who filled me in on their plans for 8.5 support. Basically, they’ll be supporting it as of 8.5.1, which is fine. I really appreciate them for getting back to me and being honest and clear about their 8.5 plans. With a lot of companies, getting info like that out of them is like pulling teeth.

I guess the last thing I should mention is the mail template. I upgraded myself, and a few other users, to the new template. I like the look of it, for the most part, but I’ve found myself having a hard time getting used to a few things. Follow-up flags have, for some reason, been moved from the left side of the inbox view to the right side, for instance. No clue why they did that. And yes, I know I could customize the view and put them back on the left. I really like the way they’ve implemented a more traditional multi-select functionality into the template. It’s nice to be able the ctrl-click and shift-click and have that behave the same way it does in any other Windows app. I could probably write a few more paragraphs on the mail template, but I’m going to restrain myself.

One more thing I should mention: The key functionality for 8.5, as far as I’m concerned (coming from 7.x), is the new out of office service. I think this was actually introduced in 8.0, but we skipped that release. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people complain about the old out of office agent. Everyone always expected OOO replies to be instantaneous, and they weren’t. Even after explaining it to certain people, they would often forget, and ask me about it every time they went on vacation. And some people just couldn’t accept that Domino didn’t have a way of returning OOO messages instantaneously. Oh, and don’t get me started on the access control issues that could arise with enabling and disabling the OOO agent in a user’s mailbox. So far, the OOO service seems to working fine. OOO messages are returned quickly, and enabling/disabling the thing doesn’t seem to be a problem. I haven’t read too deeply about how it works, but it does, and that’s good enough.

So, heck, this was an unusually long and rambling blog post. If there’s anything in here that helps anyone else out with an upgrade, then it was worth writing. And, even if no one else ever reads it, at least I’ve gotten some of this stuff out of my head.

Windows 7 in-place upgrades

Based on this article and this one too, both by Woody Leonhard, it looks like I won’t be able to do an in-place upgrade from Vista Ultimate to Win 7 Pro. I’m running Vista Ultimate on my desktop PC and my Inspiron laptop, and I was actually hoping to do an in-place upgrade on them both. Oh well. I guess if I’m forced to do a wipe & clean install, then that gives me the opportunity to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit too.

I was really hoping I could get away with an in-place upgrade though. It wasn’t that long ago that I did a clean install of Vista on my desktop PC, when I bought a new hard drive. It took a lot of time to get everything re-installed and set up after that. And, on the laptop, I’m a little worried about getting all the Dell drivers installed and working after a clean OS install.

I guess if I have to do it, I’ll figure it out. I’ll probably try 64-bit on the laptop, and see if it works. If it does, that’ll be great. I’ve never had a 64-bit OS on any of my Windows machines at home, so that’ll be something new. My desktop PC has a 64-bit chip too, but it’s an older AMD chip, so I’m a little leery of trying a 64-bit OS on there, without first replacing the motherboard and CPU with something more modern.

Windows 7, and lots of it

I pre-ordered a copy of Windows 7 Home today, to go along with the two copies of Win 7 Pro I pre-ordered a while back. My plan is to install Pro on my desktop machine and my Inspiron laptop, and to use the Home upgrade on either my new Aspire One, or a VM on my Mac. I don’t think I’ve ever bought three copies of an OS upgrade before. I hope it’s worth it!

I listened to a podcast on Windows 7 yesterday that was pretty interesting. If the company I work for was in better shape, I’d love to roll out Win 7 to all our users. I don’t see any way we could afford it though, either financially or in terms of the time commitment. I think we’ll be sticking with WIndows XP for the foreseeable future.