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.

We are the Champions, my friends.

A couple of weeks ago, IBM announced their Champions for IBM Collaboration Solutions. IBM defines a ‘Champion’ as the following:

An IBM Champion is an IT professional, business leader, developer, or educator who influences and mentors others to help them make best use of IBM solutions and services.

It seems like a broad description, but the Champions really are the best of the best in the IBM Lotus community. These people have contributed so much to help others across the world learn, use, implement and enjoy IBM Collaboration technologies. When it came time for nominations, only 50 Champions would be chosen WORLDWIDE. Yes, they were going to pick out the top 50 community leaders and contributors across the globe and recognize their efforts.

I was thrilled and extremely proud that two of my employees, Declan Lynch and David Leedy, were named as part of that illustrious group of Champions. Those two definitely belong in that list, and I am thankful and humbled that they help make my life at work easier every single day. We’re doing really exciting work right now, and I sleep so much better at night knowing that they are part of the effort. Thank you guys for being such great teammates and so good to the community as well!

In addition, I do have to say that a vast majority of those Champions have touched my Lotus life in various ways. The list of folks is quite awesome and so very deserving of the award. Congrats to all of you and thank you for your tireless efforts in the community. It really is appreciated.

SSL Hell

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you are very aware that I hate the way SSL is implemented on Domino. I mean c’mon, even the logo in the management database still has the old R5 Domino logo.

Anyway, at the day gig, we have a wildcard SSL certificate to handle multiple subdomains within our main domain. That means that each domain in the *.acme.com range uses the same SSL certificate. So X.acme.com and Y.acme.com both use the same cert. Domino handles this a little weirdly itself as you require a specific IP address for each SSL subdomain, but that’s not what I ran into this week.

What happened is that we need to use that same SSL wildcard on an IIS server. So, we simply downloaded it from our registrar and tried to install it within IIS. Problem is, it didn’t work. Searching for Google info on SSL on Domino is a little sparse, so my server admin contacted the registrar to see what they thought. They said we needed to export the certificate from Domino and then import it into IIS. For some reason, you couldn’t just install it on IIS once it was already installed previously on Domino.

So, I go to the SSL database on Domino and opened our keyring for our wildcard certificate. I looked around and couldn’t find an Export function anywhere. It doesn’t exist. In addition, Domino saves your info in a keyring file with a .KYR extension which cannot be read outside of Domino. So now I was at a loss. So once again I started googling info on this and came across this post. Kevin was exporting for use in Apache, but had come across the same problem that I just had.

He found a utility from IBM called iKeyman. This utility allows you to open a Domino .KYR file, and then export it to a PKCS12 (.P12) file. Once you do that, you can use another utility called OpenSSL to convert into whatever other formats you may need. For me, IIS was happy with just the .P12 file so we were able to use that and didn’t need to bother with OpenSSL.

So now, SSL is working on IIS and Domino. A huge thanks to Kevin for his blog post. I wanted to post as well to give a little more Google juice to SSL issues you may run into with Domino, SSL and wildcards.

IBM Champion Program

For many years we in the IBM Lotus community have thought that there should be a program that recognizes people in our community akin to the Microsoft MVP program. Well now there is. IBM recently announced the IBM Champion program. Here’s some more info:

The IBM Champion program recognizes exceptional contributors to the technical community — clients and partners who work alongside IBM to build solutions for a smarter planet. An IBM Champion is an individual who leads and mentors his or her peers and motivates them toward IBM solutions and services. Champions can be found running user groups, managing websites, speaking at conferences, answering questions in online forums, writing blogs, submitting wiki articles, sharing how-to videos, and writing technical books.┬áThe IBM Champion program recognizes and thanks these innovative thought leaders, amplifying their voice and increasing their sphere of influence in the technical community.

You can read more about it on the User Experience Community blog, or you can go directly to the site and nominate someone you believe deserves the honor. Please do, it will be nice to see some worthy community members get the recognition.

It's not you, it's me!

Hey baby. Yeah, I know it’s been quite awhile, and I’m sorry for leaving you hanging for so long. It’s just that I’ve been so busy lately… I know, I know, that’s never an excuse, it’s just the way it is. Work has been insane, I’ve been travelling a lot, and I haven’t had time to devote to us, and for that I’m sorry.

What’s that? Facebook and Twitter? C’mon honey, you know that you and I were never exclusive. Those two don’t have nearly as in-depth of a relationship and you and I do. Our love goes way back. It’s just that they are there mostly to have fun. They just want a quickie once in awhile, and I can actually fit them in. They don’t demand so much of a commitment. And it’s not that I don’t value OUR commitment, I do, I really do. It’s just that I truly haven’t had time. And quite frankly, I can slide in 140 characters once in awhile much easier than I can with you.

That’s not a knock on you at all. It’s me. I’m the one with the diminished time. You’ve always been there waiting.

I’ll come back around, trust me, I will. I hope you’ll wait for me. I think we may have to look for a new house to spruce things up too. Been hearing good things about Woodpress Woods, Joomla Junction, Posterous Prairies and the Townhouses at Tumblr. Maybe we just need a change to get that spark back. I dunno. But hang in there babe, we’ll work this out in the end. I know we will.

Love always,
Grey

My Lotusphere 2011 Photo Album

A gloomy goodbye

Finally got around to developing all of my RAW files so I could post my Lotusphere 2011 photo album on flickr. If you’ve never seen any of my Lotusphere shots, you can see a collection of the last 8 years of Lotusphere pics here.

I shot with a new camera (the awesome Canon 7D) this year, and tried to adjust everything manually. I also only brought one lens, so I wasn’t AS happy with my photos this year as in year’s past, but I still think things turned out pretty well. You’ll find pictures intermixed that I took with my iPhone and posted via the app Instagr.am too. I’m loving the app, and I hope you like the little glimpses of my days throughout.

Lastly, you can find a ton of Lotusphere pics via the unofficial flickr group as well. Hope you had a great time, and hope I captured some good moments for you!

Lotusphere 2011 Blogger Photo


BloggersLS11-1, originally uploaded by Greyhawk68.

Here’s this year’s annual on-stage blogger photo. I have two more that you can also check out on flickr and figure out which one you like the best. Needed a lens hood as we got some flare from the lighting, and I didn’t have the camera set up quite right before I handed it off, but they still turned out okay and captured the moment. Enjoy. Many of these folks are like family to me. It’s a shame we only meet in person once or twice a year! Thanks to Tim Davis for taking the pics!

I take it back, Lotus IS Dead

Okay, okay I know. That was an attention seeking headline, but after the Lotus – Not Dead Yet post of a couple weeks ago, I figured I needed to eat some words a bit. That said, truth be told, ‘Lotus’ IS fading.

Not the software mind you, that’s as strong or stronger than it’s ever been, it’s the branding that seems to be changing. Lotusphere saw little mention of the word Lotus, and almost no glimpses of the Lotus logo anywhere. This was obviously by design. Ed Brill has a great post on it, as does Alan Lepofsky.

You see, Alistair Rennie spoke on stage about how this was going to be the most significant Lotusphere yet. We didn’t really see any new products, or radically new agendas, so what exactly did he mean? Well to me, I think it was the simply the shift of IBM’s full support of the Lotus portfolio and the value it brings for Social Business. Like Ed pointed out, you saw people on stage from IBM that had NEVER participated in the past, and to the public’s eyes at least, never threw it’s support behind the Lotus portfolio.

Now, all of IBM gets that Social Business is indeed the next wave, and I believe that IBM looked at that and said. ‘Hell, we HAVE the best social business portfolio with Lotus, let’s leverage that, and do it now!’ I really don’t think I’m off base here. I think IBM truly now believes in these tools, and the best way to sell these tools is to sell them as IBM-branded products.

As much as I LOVE Lotus, and always have, the word ‘Lotus‘ is sometimes met with disdain and words and phrases like ‘legacy’ or ‘outdated’ or my favorite ‘are people still using that?’ How about IBM? People KNOW IBM, they know Smarter Planet, and will know Watson soon. So even though I’ll miss the moniker of Lotus, I fully understand if we start seeing all the branding go to IBM. And quite frankly, I’m okay with it.

IBM Notes and Domino, IBM Connections, IBM Quickr, IBM Sametime. Looking at that actually looks right to me, and quite frankly strengthens the ability of the company to truly market the products going forward.

Last year I was really excited about Lotus Knows. But I’ll be equally excited by IBM Knows, or ‘Social Business for a Smarter Planet. IBM Notes.’ Now wouldn’t THAT be cool? So who knows if they’ll keep calling it Lotusphere, or it will become SocialSphere or SmarterPlanetWorld or whatever. The event will still be awesome by any name, and now we may finally see the kind of push from IBM we’ve always dreamed about. We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but I, for one, am really excited about the possibility.

So congratulations to Forbes and the Radicati group, looks like those decade-old headlines may now become ‘technically’ right. Too bad for those prognosticators that the software is stronger than ever, it just has a new name.

Lotus is dead. Long Live Lotus!

Customer and Vendor panels CAN be cool

With all of the complaining about the panel discussions at the Lotusphere Opening General Session, imagine my initial thoughts when some of my press and blogger events included customer and vendor panel discussions. It was kind of a ‘oh here we go again’ reaction when I entered a couple of these special events. I was thinking that we might get more of the same generalizations as were seen during the OGS.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The special events were so much better and more engaging than what we saw during the first 90 minutes of the OGS. In one, we got to meet vendors such as Silanis, Genus, Sogeti and Meetrix. They each talked about their products and how they worked with IBM products, and how they made businesses more social. It’s obvious that IBM was hammering home the Social Business theme, but we still got to hear real world examples and got to hear how it really worked with the products we use every day. No generalizations.

Next was a Social Business ROI panel with Jamie Page and Brian Larson from Slumberland Furniture, Kristina Verner from Windsor University and some folks from IBM Trinidad. I spoke personally for a bit with Brian from Slumberland before the panel started, and they were doing some really cool things.

Slumberland Furniture is a family owned business who has both company owned stores and franchise stores. They needed ways to share information between corporate and the stores, but they had a lot of ways they needed to secure that info. So they might have to do it by region, or whether a store is a franchise or corporate, what department a person is in (Sales vs. Warehouse) etc. Well years ago when they were evaluating platforms, they had read the book ‘The World Is Flat’ by Thomas L. Friedman and it lead them to think collaboration was the way to go. They started out with Portal and Notes and quickly added Sametime, then Quickr and recently added Connections. This was a family-owned business who was run much like the company I work for, and it was cool to see how they embraced the same technologies we did, and coped with the same issues we run into. One other cool thing they did that really fit the social business mantra, was that many stores had their own video production teams, and those teams were utilizing technology from Genus integrated with Lotus products to share productions and roll out commercials and such. It was a neat use of the technology.

Next to talk was Kristina. She came from Windsor University in Canada and spoke about how the university worked closely with IBM and the city of Windsor and Essex county to make the region greener, help alleviate asthma attacks in the region, and converting waste from road projects into housing. They were heavy users of Connections, Quickr and Sametime, and used these technologies to coordinate efforts. This helped the region become recognized as one of the Top 7 Most Intelligent Communities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum. So to see such an accomplishment stem from Lotus products was re-assuring and good to see. You can check out their community portal here.

I think the main complaint from the OGS is that a lot of the talk of Social Business could have revolved around using any tools, not just Lotus. By comparison, these panels were hard core, real world examples of the software brands we love. IBM and Lotus products were being used, and used wonderfully. So panel discussions CAN be cool. Here’s looking forward to some more of these in the future!

Lotusphere 2011 Recap – Be Social. Do Business

Be Social. Do Business.

That was the mantra of Lotusphere 2011. Social Business was the big theme of this year’s Lotusphere. Everything revolved around the Social Interactivity of employees, customers, vendors and how it all impacts the world from a business standpoint. They talked about the major shifts in computing that caused huge disruptions in the ways people worked. Mainframes, Departmental Computing, PC’s, the Internet and now Social Networking. Lotus seems very poised to jump on this wave and ride it to the next level.

And Lotus SHOULD be poised, Lotus has always been about Social. Groupware, the term coined to explain software like Notes years ago, meant working in groups and collaborating and sharing. That’s not much different than the social networking of today. People just finally get it now, and it’s easier than ever to get people using these types of tools.

Alistaire Rennie stated that business today needed to be Engaged, Transparent, Nimble and Successful. Engage with your customers, be transparent about your company, even with it’s faults, and be quick to respond and take action when the social universe demands it. Do these things and it will make your company more successful. According to their statistics, companies that outperform their competition are 57% more likely to be heavily into social media use within their organization.

This year, there weren’t any HUGE announcements on the stage for the OGS. Sametime will get native clients on mobile devices like Android and iPhone, which is very cool. Shared Calendars will finally be a part of NotesNext. LotusLive Symphony is being released. It will give you online collaborative documents a la Google Docs. From all accounts, the Lotus online capabilities are better than Google’s at this point too. So the space should get interesting. And Activity Streams are coming to NotesNext and other products.

They didn’t show a TON on Activity Streams, but I think this will be one of the most important pieces being added to the IBM products. You’ll be able to tailor your streams of information to show you updates from internal social networks, external social networks, email, teamrooms and more. And based on business analytics being baked in, you’ll be able to cull down the stream to just the things that are really important to you. This has me the most excited because live in so many worlds that being able to get the right information in near real time will be a huge help for me.

Like I said, huge announcements were hard to find, but the thing I liked is that they are committed to more versions of all the core Lotus products. Notes, Quickr, Sametime and Connections are all slated to get new ‘Next’ versions, so to me it’s nice to have all of our main tools being worked on and updated without having to take the eye of the ball so to speak.

That said, for everyone I talked to here at Lotusphere, customers, vendors and reporters alike, they all pretty much hated the format of the Opening General Session. Too much time in customer panels, talking generically about social business instead of specifics of their Lotus Software usage. People at Lotusphere want demos in the opening session. They want fire and pizazz, not chit chat. I think that people would have been better if there was some big news released, but without that, all they had for excitement were the demos which were too short compared to the panel discussions.

As a blogger, I got to be part of some panel discussions later on in the week, and those were so much better. Real world use-cases with some fairly in-depth information of how companies were actually using the products to make their businesses perform better. I’ll write more on that in a later blog post.

For me, I’ve moved from developer and admin to Pointy Haired Boss in recent years, so I DID see some of the value in having business leaders get on stage and tell their stories, but they need to limit that a bit in the opening session. You have Keynotes all week long where that works a little better. The majority of the crowd are geeks. They want to see the tech, be wowed by the future, see Lotus be aggressive in marketing efforts, see new innovations. That’s what the opening session should be. Start out the week with excitement and a bang, and it will set the tone for the rest of the week much higher.

Overall the conference was as good technically as I’ve ever seen it. So many times there were two or three sessions at once that I really wanted to be a part of. Unfortunately there’s not enough time to hit them all, but the ones I made it too were such high quality this year. I have to commend the track managers for what they were able to accomplish.

This was my 14th Lotusphere, and like every year, it was like coming to a family reunion with family you actually like. IBM is really in a good position in the marketplace right now, which means I think that Lotusphere 2012 will be even better. Hope to see you there again next year!

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