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.

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