Notes 8.5 FP 1 and a weird shortcut key

Notes 8.5 fix pack 1 is out. I’ve downloaded it and applied it to a few machines. It does seem to fix a few random problems with the initial 8.5 release.

I haven’t applied Domino FP1 to our server yet though. I need to wait for the weekend to do that. I haven’t had a lot of problems with 8.5, overall. I’ve had a few issues with SMSDOM crashing occasionally. I’m on the most recent version; I upgraded SMSDOM right before I upgraded Domino itself. I’m not sure if I should blame this problem on IBM or Symantec. I also upgraded Backup Exec on the Domino server recently. That seems to be working OK, though the Backup Exec Domino agent isn’t yet certified to work on 8.5. The Backup Exec upgrade was a pretty big jump, since we’d been running version 10. There isn’t a way to directly upgrade from 10 to 12.5, so I just uninstalled 10 and did a fresh install of 12.5, then re-created my daily backup job.

As I side note, I discovered a weird shortcut today. Hold down Ctrl+Alt while you’re going into your inbox, and you’ll load the “non-java” version, basically the same thing you get if you run Notes in basic mode. I picked this up from a forum post written by Mary Beth Raven. I’m not sure how useful this is to anybody, but for some reason, I think it’s kind of cool.

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.

GTD progress – weekly review

I spent some time today screwing around with different ways of doing GTD stuff in Lotus Notes. I tried the free GTD for Lotus Notes database created by Brett Philp. I also played around with Things To Do 2 by Chuck Connell. Both of these databases are well-done and interesting, but neither one quite worked for me.

I wound up going back to the method detailed in the GTD and Lotus Notes document available from DavidCo. The basic idea there is to use the to-do functionality built into the Notes mail template, with a few tweaks. That works pretty well, but there are still a few things I don’t like. I’m going to try and ignore those things for now, since I’m the kind of person who can easily spend *way* too much time just messing with my “system”, and never get any real work done.

Once I got a bunch of data into the Notes to-do screen, I did my first weekly review. It was definitely an incomplete review, since I really haven’t gotten everything into the system yet, but it was kind of instructive. I really do have a lot of stuff on my plate right now. I’m somewhat intimidated by the prospect of getting everything into one system and really getting my head around it all. I definitely haven’t experienced the “stress-free” part of GTD yet, though I think (and hope) that I’m on my way!

GTD and Lotus Notes

I downloaded the GTD and Lotus Notes guide from DavidCo today. I’m not quite sure if was worth $10 for a thirty-odd page PDF file, but the system it laid out made some sense. There’s another system available here that might be better, and doesn’t cost anything, though.

One hang-up I’ve always had with any kind of productivity system is that so much of my “stuff” lives in Lotus Notes e-mail. I’ve looked into ways to embed links to Notes documents into an external system, but I’ve never found a good way. Notes doclinks work great in Notes, but if you try to paste one into, for instance, OneNote, you just end up with a little block of XML. (I know that I can save the doclink to a file, then attach the file to another application, but it’s not real useful for me if I need to go through that extra step.)

Well, I haven’t gotten past chapter 3 in the GTD book yet anyway, so I probably shouldn’t be worried about implementation details like this yet.