Software

Some other beginning’s end…

Some other beginning’s end…

I spent the past week at a conference in Orlando Florida like I have fifteen times prior.  IBM Connect (Lotusphere until last year) is an IT conference that focuses on IBM software and technologies.  It’s been a place where I’ve networked, met lifelong friends, learned all about the software that manages our business, engaged with IBM and had some fun along the way.

I think this might be the last time I’ll make the trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought the conference was great this year for the most part.  Having a host (Jay Baer) run the keynotes helped keep things moving.  Online a-lister Veronica Belmont hosted a bunch of events in the social cafe, and that was excellent as well.  American Authors opened the show and rocked the house, Seth Meyers shared some laughs with us, and Scott Adams of Dilbert fame gave a great session as well.  It wrapped up with a really inspiring session from NASA’s Dave Lavery and how the Mars Curiosity Rover came to be.

All of those things were awesome, but didn’t really speak to my business needs.

The opening general session showed a fake bank increase its fake profits with its fake website.  And while for a demo that’s fine, I would have really liked to have seen something demoed from an actual customer.  Call me crazy, but nothing ever works as well as the pie in the sky demos.  Seeing real world use would have made me happier.

And you could tell the old time Notes and Domino crowd hungered for something more tangible.  Hell, when the loudest cheers came for the brief time Ron Sebastian graced the screen, I don’t think that bodes well for your demo.

Next was yet another re-branding.  We’ve been through this before, and I don’t have a huge problem with it, but I really wish IBM would pick an angle and stick with it.  Changing Sametime’s name back in the day worked out so well, why don’t we try it again?  So it will be Connections Chat, Connections Meetings, Connections Mail… and will Connections be Connections Connections?  Is there a Connections Notes?  A Connections Domino?  It wasn’t as clear as it needed to be, and I bet downloading software from Partnerworld will now be so much easier right?  Right?

Next, let’s get to the technical tracks.  I saw a lot of really great stuff, and two of my team presented this year.  That said, my staff could really teach a lot of the XPages classes themselves, so I’m not sure those help us that much when considering paying again for another year.  I know I’m blessed with a particularly excellent team, so other companies probably get a lot more out of those classes.

In past years, almost every timeslot required a decision as to what session to attend.  Sometimes you could find three or four you wanted to see.  It was much easier last year to choose slots, and this year it was particularly trivial.  Other than a few minor exceptions I only had one session that would really stand out to me.  In fact there were several timeslots that didn’t require my attention at all.  I’m just afraid that the technical classes will continue to dwindle, and the HR, marketing and other Kenexa type stuff will slowly take over.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

One of the reasons I doubt it were rumors of long time folks responsible for the show stepping aside after this year.  I also spoke to several speakers who said they were done as well.  And these weren’t small name draws either.  People whose sessions you may have attended for years might not make the trip next year.  I just expect that after this year, there will be a precipitous drop off in the amount of things I want to see.

And you know what, that’s okay.  Things change over time, and I’m not really that upset.  Maybe it’s me growing up, the hair getting pointier, or simply getting old.  But I had a great week, and it seems like a great time to move on.

It’s not that we are moving on from IBM Technologies.  Far from it.  We just put in Connections, and will look to roll that out by mid-summer.  We already have Sametime 9 (Er, Connections Chat) in place.  Our business runs on XPages apps on Domino.  All of our mobile devices connect via Traveler.  I’m really interested in the new IBM Connections mail that was shown off (as soon as it’s available on premises.)  So we’re still very much an IBM shop, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

All in all, I felt that is was a very nice IBM Connect.  I learned a lot, was entertained and got to hang out with people who are genuinely like family to me.  I love this community of people and always will, but the community isn’t tied to one event, or one location, or one week throughout the year.  These friendships will survive whether or not we all migrate to Orlando once a year.  With all the good memories I’ve had of this conference, I’m going out on a high note, and these sixteen years will always be an awesome memory.

Like Semisonic says “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Indeed.

*I completely reserve the right to change my mind and go again next year, but I don’t think I will :-)

The anodized aluminum grip of Apple’s Messages

Since my day job is running an IT Department, I like to keep up with all different kinds of technology. I’ll often get equipment to test out and utilize in order to be able to talk about it intelligently and give the appropriate pros and cons.

To this end I recently obtained a Nokia Lumia 1020 smart phone. It runs the Windows 8 Phone OS and sports a 41 megapixel camera. It’s a very nice piece of hardware, and takes amazing pictures. It doesn’t have all of the applications I normally use on my iPhone, but I could live without some of those for the most part. The thing that really locked me in ended up being Apple’s Messages app.

Messages is the app on the iPhone that you utilize to text other phone users. It also has clients that run on Mac computers as well as the iPad. It’s very convenient to set it up everywhere. When people send you something on Messages, it shows up on all of your devices at once.

You can associate your phone number as well as any number of email addresses to your Messages account. I think at this point, you can find me by my cell number and something like 6 different email addresses. This is awesome, yet it really locks you in.

You see, while testing phones, I used a SIM card adapter to move my SIM card from my iPhone to the Lumia. I was able to fire up the Lumia, make and receive calls, and connect to the internet via LTE. Everything was awesome, until someone tried sending me a text via Messages.

Since I have Messages set up on a couple of computers and an iPad in addition to my normal iPhone, any time someone on IOS tried to send me a message it went to those devices and not the Lumia. I even had my wife try to send me a message using only the phone number, but, since her contacts had that number tied to my email addresses, it automatically sent through Messages anyway and bypassed normal SMS.

Unfortunately, the only way to avoid that is to go to all of your devices and disassociate your phone number from your Messages account. Once you’ve killed off the phone number, then people texting directly to that number should be able to get through. But the problem is all of the folks on IOS with your email address in their contacts. Those will still try to send via Messages rather than the phone number. So to really make sure you receive everything as a text message, the best bet is to disassociate everything from your Messages account.

It’s a pain in the ass sure, but it’s really the only way to do it. Otherwise you are bound to miss something coming through.

I do this for a living, and figuring it out and taking care of it was a pain for me. I can only imagine the normal end user trying to leave the platform. It would be a nightmare. So kudos to Apple, they’ve done a good job of locking you in a way that’s very friendly on the feature front, but a huge pain to ever get out of.

Rather than staying full time on the Lumia for as long as I wanted, I just switched back to the iPhone. It wasn’t the lack of Instagram, Flipboard or Sonos that ultimately killed Windows 8 Phone for me, it was the grip Messages has and my laziness to play whackamole in all my settings. Well played Apple, well played.

#ThanksBruce for your work at OpenNTF

SaveYourHairToday my good friend Bruce Elgort ends his tenure as president of OpenNTF.  For those not in the Notes community, OpenNTF.org is a repository of open source software solutions for IBM Notes and Domino.  These free software offerings have helped thousands of people and companies implement great solutions, and inspired many developers to learn techniques for programming for the platform.

This community would not be where it is today without Bruce.  His enthusiasm and dedication have really helped keep OpenNTF afloat and in the public eye for many many years.  He deserves every bit of praise he’s getting from all over the world today.

Thanks again for all of the hard work my friend.  Don’t be a stranger :-)

The Ongoing Notes “Legacy” problem

On an IBM WebcastLast week I was honored to part of a webcast that announced the worldwide launch of IBM Notes 9 Social edition.  I was able to speak about how our company uses custom applications built on XPages and Domino to run our business.  I also spoke as to how Traveler has helped our workforce be more connected, and how we are looking forward to integrating Connections into our Notes investment via Activity Streams and embedded experiences.

As the Director of IT for our company, I’m always trying to work with the best technologies to meet our needs.  Those are not always IBM technologies.  We use vendors like Microsoft, EMC, GoToMeeting, Salesforce.com, Basecamp and Box.com.  I tend to choose the best platform to fit our specific needs, whatever they may be.  I’m not simply an IBM fanboy.

That said, we’ve built the software that runs our business on XPages and Domino because it’s a great platform.  We can’t buy off the shelf software to manage our business, it simply doesn’t exist.  We could buy project management and warehousing programs, but it would be very hard to bend them to work the way we need.  That’s why Domino is such a strong platform.  I have a very small staff of very skilled developers who have built amazing applications that our business relies on to manage every bit of work we do. We have built it to fit our business processes exactly, and we can add in features at a very rapid pace.  We integrate everything including our Microsoft ERP system, and I couldn’t be happier.

So why am I writing a blog post mentioning “legacy” on the day the brand new IBM Notes 9 Social Edition is released?  Well, it’s because the market still sees it as legacy.  There has really been no discernible marketing to the contrary.  I’ll give you three quick examples that have all happened in the last couple of weeks.  All were manageable, but I can’t believe I even have to deal with them.

First, a client of ours had been auditing our warehousing software.  A German IT Auditor questioned (with much disdain) why were were using Lotus Notes instead of a “pro” warehousing system, and stated that the fact that we used Notes was a red flag.  This was from a very large, very well known organization, yet this IT Auditor considered Notes legacy and worthy of disdain.  It was even insinuated that nobody used Notes anymore.

I explained our reasoning for using Notes and Domino much like I did above, and then touted a brand new release of the product as well and over 100 million users worldwide, yet I feel that it fell on deaf ears.

The second one was an executive asking one of my employees what our “exit strategy for Notes” was?  When the exec was talking with people from other companies, and some of our clients, the general consensus was that Notes was dead and people couldn’t believe we were still on it.  So the executive assumed we had to be moving off of it soon.

Part of that is on me, and I need to continue to do a better job of internal marketing, but the reason I HAVE to do so much in the way of internal marketing is because there is little to no external marketing.  You really don’t know that Notes exists unless you deal with IBM on a regular basis.

The last thing that happened was a simple offhanded comment on the This Week In Tech podcast.  I don’t remember the context but the host Leo Laporte stated how he hated Notes and would never use it again.  Granted, this man hadn’t touched the software in over seven years, but he was still attacking it.  I’m sure he has no idea how nice the new client is, or how good the development environment is in XPages.  Yet, he still made that statement that was heard as fact by tens of thousands of listeners.

Those of you that know me, and have read this blog for nearly a decade know that I will take IBM to task when it’s warranted, and I will give credit where credit is due.  Obviously I believe wholeheartedly in Domino as a platform.  I wouldn’t use it otherwise, and I wouldn’t take time out of my busy schedule to record customer testimonials or get interviewed for quotes for press releases.  I am very publicly on record with the fact that Notes and Domino is the platform from which our business is run.

Today is a watershed moment.  IBM Notes and Domino 9 Social Edition has been launched and it’s the best the product has ever been.  It’s truly a great piece of software with so much potential in the right hands.  It would be really nice if the tech universe starting seeing it that way. I would just like the perception of Notes to get better in the marketplace, because right now perception doesn’t match reality, and hopefully IBM can work on changing that.

Sharepoint is the next generation of Lotus Notes

I got an email from a sales rep at a company called HexaCorp in Somerset, NJ.  In my role I get emails from vendors trying to get my company’s business all the time.  Most of the time I delete them and move on.  Once in awhile I’ll respond and let them know that either we don’t need their services, or we don’t use the software they are shilling.

So this exec, let’s call her Marilyn (because that’s her name) left me a voicemail and sent me a message stating that they were a Sharepoint partner and if we were planning any Sharepoint implementations or upgrades, that they would like to help.  Instead of just deleting it, I responded so she knew she was barking up the wrong tree.

Thanks for reaching out, but we don’t use Sharepoint and have no plans to.  We are an IBM Lotus partner, and will continue down that path, thanks.

So I figured that was that.  Until I got an email just now, this was the first line:

I discussed your email with my CEO and he told me that Sharepoint is the next generation of Lotus Notes.

Yeah… okay then. First, you had to discuss with your CEO?  And THAT is what he came up with? As you can imagine, my next email wasn’t as pleasant.

Remove me from your list.

That comment shows your ignorance of an entire software industry.

Sometimes the lack of knowledge people have about the industry simply astounds me.  There are a lot of things Notes related I can bitch about, but Sharepoint is definitely not the next generation of Lotus Notes.

So Marilyn from HexaCorp in Somerset, NJ, and your willfully ignorant CEO.  You may want to do some homework.

R.I.P. Napster

Today the Napster service was absorbed by Rhapsody in the United States.  I’ve been a long time user of Napster, and am really sad to see it go.

For those of you unaware, the original Napster program was basically a way to get free music.  You would connect to others and share MP3’s.  The MP3 format basically made it easy for anyone to rip a CD and make it available to the world.  So you could try any music you liked, but it also lead to rampant piracy.

Now instead of trying to embrace and extend the MP3 concept, record companies sued Napster into oblivion. It took a long time for music companies to come around.  And a lot of it had to do with Steve Jobs and Apple requesting that copy protection be removed from songs.  Once that happened, many services started to emerge.

Napster itself rose from the dead as a pay service for music subscriptions.  It had a better library than others as well as higher quality music files.  It also had the ability to download tracks for offline listening.  So I jumped back in, and got a subscription and have been a happy customer ever since.

But, alas, Napster sold its US assets to Rhapsody, so now as of today, I’m a Rhapsody customer whether I like it or not.  I’ll give it a fair shake as it’s been a couple years, but Napster has historically been a much better service.  We’ll see if Rhapsody has finally caught up.

If not, many other services have emerged.  Spotify, MOG, Rdio, Slacker and others are just waiting to fill my ear hole with tunes.  We’ll see which way I go.

My latest travel helper: Taxi Magic

Over the last couple of years as my pointy hair has grown, I’ve had to travel more and more for my job. I don’t mind travel, but I try to be ruthlessly efficient in how I go about it. While in Denver a couple of weeks ago I came across an service that will change how I use taxis forever. That service is called Taxi Magic.

I had just spent the night in a hotel in downtown Denver and I needed a taxi to get to our office. I hailed one down and we were on our way. As I was riding, there was an LCD screen in the back that was serving up entertainment and talking about the Taxi Magic service. I saw that it had apps for iOS, Blackberry, Android and Palm, so I figured I might check it out as I would need another taxi later in the day to get me to the airport. At the end of the ride, I was able to swipe my credit card and pay that way very easily. I thanked the driver and went to the office.

Later in the day when I had an opportunity, I downloaded the iOS application. It wanted me to set up some stuff, and it looked like the website would be a little easier to deal with, so I set up my account on the taximagic.com website itself. I was able to give my information, including credit card info to be saved for in-cab payments. Once I got it all set up, I went back to iOS and logged in from within the application. I needed a cab for a specific time, so I scheduled one right from my phone. I was able to choose from several participating taxi companies (I chose Yellow Cab) and then set up my time and told the app where I was getting picked up at and where I was going to.

The application scheduled the appointment, told me the approximate travel time and what the approximate fare would be. An hour before I was to be picked up I got a text message reminding me of the cab. Then as the time approached I received another text when the cabbie was dispatched and how far away he was. He arrived and we were on our way. When we arrived at the airport, I opened the app, put in the total I was going to pay (including tip) and clicked Pay. Within seconds, the driver received a confirmation code on his in-taxi computer and I we were done. It was super easy and worked so much more efficiently than anything I had done prior. In addition, my receipt gets saved to my account as a PDF for expenses later. You get to keep a history of all the rides you’ve taken.

So if you take cabs, I really recommend Taxi Magic. It was an awesome new use of technology and will totally simplify the way you go about your rides.

SIUED: Delicious Bookmarks

In the latest installment of Shit I Use Every Day, I give you the bookmarking service Delicious. Delicious is simply a website that allows you to save your internet bookmarks to it’s website. The main thing this does for you, is that it makes your bookmarks available from any web browser. It also serves as a backup for your bookmarks. I’m sure you know people, or have been one of those people, that have all of their bookmarks on a computer, and once that computer crashes they lose them all. Delicious prevents that by storing everything in the cloud.

The thing that makes it special for me is though is the Firefox Bookmarks add-on. Firefox is the web browser I use, and this add-on integrates Delicious into the browser itself. I personally ‘tag’ all of my bookmarks according to their function. So, I have tags such as webmail, travel, social, weather, photography etc. With the add-on I can add a toolbar that shows these tags. So now, if I click the tag for Photography, then I get a drop-down of all of the photography bookmarks I have. This add-on syncs with the website, so every time I add a new site, it shows up on the website and the toolbar.

The nice thing about this, is that I can add the toolbar to any web browser and log in. So the home PC, the home Mac, and the work Mac all have the add-on installed into Firefox. The bookmarks are consistent across each browser, and adding a site on any one of them adds the site everywhere. I use my bookmarks every day, so having them available and backed up at all times is pretty wonderful.

Delicious is free, and can integrate with Chrome and more. Check it out.

SIUED: 1Password

The second installment in Shit I Use Every Day is a password management program called 1Password. I first installed 1Password as part of a bundle of Mac software I had purchased, and then it quickly became essential in my day-to-day world.

1Password is simply a vault for storing all the passwords you use on various websites. You protect it with your master password, and it remembers all the rest. It can also generate random passwords for you with more security than something you might use yourself. This program makes it really easy to use random passwords on every website you frequent, and you as the user never have to remember any of them. If I come to a webpage that requires a login, I do a quick keyboard shortcut, enter the master password, and 1Password fills in the details for that particular website and it logs me in.

That’s not all, 1Password can store software keys, credit card info, notes and even things about your identity that you fill in on forms all the time. Then you can access any of that information quickly.

Now for those of you who are concerned about security, the encryption is 128-bit AES encryption. Which Agile software says “would take millions of years for a criminal to decrypt your data using a brute force attack.” So it’s VERY secure, and wont be getting hacked any time soon. The other thought is what happens if your computer crashes and you lose all your passwords? Well, they have that covered too via syncing with Dropbox.

If you have Dropbox (my first SIUED post) installed, 1Password can use it to store your data files. That means it’s automatically backed up to your Dropbox account. This also means that your password information can replicate to all of your Mac or Windows machines using Dropbox as well as all of your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.) If you install 1Password on any of those devices, and they have Dropbox, then all of your data is automatically available on any of those. Add a password to your iPhone’s version of 1Password, and it syncs to everything else. Edit and change a password on your Mac, and it automatically replicates that change around. So that means your passwords are available on any of those devices at any time. It’s convenience and backup rolled into one.

So save yourself having to remember all of those passwords, and get more secure in the process. Trust me, this is much better than writing your passwords on post-it notes, and worth every penny.

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