The September 2004 Blog
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AYTMTB? (Wednesday, Sep 29)
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While I was chatting (the instant message kind) with my boss and a co-worker today, all of us realized that we were way out of touch with the world of IM acronyms. Sure, I can fling around an AFAIK or a BTW with relative ease, but I think my acronym vocabulary is limited to about 8 or 10 phrases.

A quick Google later, and my boss sent us a link to the acronym list at netlingo so we could study up and start chatting properly. Here are a few ones that were new to me, and I'm going to try to work them into chats over the next few days:

NIFOC -- Nude In Front Of The Computer
NAK -- Nursing At Keyboard
PDOMA -- Pulled Directly Out Of My Ass
WITFITS -- What in the F*** is this Sh**

Of course, I may have to keep my door closed a little more often than usual...

Notes Mail Portlet (Monday, Sep 27)
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There's a new article on LDD today about the Notes Mail Portlet for Lotus Workplace. I know that probably sounds trivial to many of you, but that's actually kind of a big deal to me. As we were evaluating WebSphere Portal a few months ago, that was one of the things that kept coming up: "Why is it that Portal has such poor support for Notes mail?"

Here's what I think is really good about the concept of the Notes Mail Portlet (keeping in mind that I haven't tested it myself, just read about it):

I'm not sure if this is a Lotus Workplace only kind of portlet, or if it works in WebSphere Portal too, but one nice thing about Workplace is that you can test it out really cheaply. When I went to a Workplace launch event not too long ago, they were saying that all you have to do is buy a few licenses at $25 per user and you get the full server software package for free (Mac was there too, so maybe he can correct me if I heard wrong).

So for about $250, plus whatever the maintenance fee is, plus a couple of test boxes (or virtual servers), you've got yourself a Workplace test environment. Not too shabby.

UPDATE: more discussion about this on Ed Brill's site.

Lotusphere Dress Code (Sunday, Sep 26)
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For no particular reason, I was skimming through the "Exhibitor Guidelines" for the Lotusphere 2005 Product Showcase, and I noticed this requirement:

"All booth personnel shall dress in Business or Business Casual attire. Business Casual is defined as slacks and polo-style shirts with company logos. Costumes of any type, bathing suits and scantly clad representatives are prohibited."

Now, I'm no lawyer, but "scantly clad" is different from "naked", isn't it? I mean, "scantly" implies that you actually do have clothes, but they're kind of few and far between. Naked, on the other hand, would actually be "unclad". I dunno, I'm just thinking out loud here...

Bloggers In Pajamas (Thursday, Sep 23)
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Over the past several days, I've heard many very different people make reference to the term "bloggers in pajamas". I've been wondering where it came from, and today I ran across a quote in this article from the Washington Post:

Former CBS executive Jonathan Klein complained on Fox News that "these bloggers have no checks and balances. . . . You couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing."

That was in reference to this whole situation where Dan Rather used a very suspicious document as the basis for a news story about George Bush's service in the National Guard (I'm not even going to bother to link that to anything, because if I do then I'll get flooded with comments by people who don't agree with the content of the link... if you have no idea what the story is you can Google "CBS Dan Rather National Guard" and get plenty of hits). The blogger part of the story is that, in a large part, bloggers were the ones who called the document to question in the first place, and it spread through the "blogosphere" (I hate that word) very quickly.

So anyway, I think that's where the whole "bloggers in pajamas" thing came from. Ditto for references to "pajama brigade" and "pajama news" and the like.

Keyboard Shortcuts In Notes (Tuesday, Sep 21)
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To follow up on my stupid mail tricks entry from the other day, here are a couple of IBM technotes that list a lot of keyboard shortcuts in Notes:

If you're running a slightly older version of Notes, I also posted copies of the keyboard shortcuts for Release 3 a while back too.

A really cool keyboard shortcut that doesn't seem to get mentioned too often is SHIFT-BACKSPACE. You can use that in Domino Designer when you're coding as a seemingly unlimited "undo" command. For example, start typing some code in an agent, then start deleting words and letters and lines, and then start pressing SHIFT-BACKSPACE. Everything you deleted will start reappearing, one by one. This works with Formulas, LotusScript, and Java.

Let There Be Lightsabers (Monday, Sep 20)
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As we all know, the original Star Wars trilogy is finally available tomorrow on DVD. If there are any left in the store, I'll be buying a set on the way home from work tomorrow.

I actually have a pack of production painting reprints from the original Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope), which were sold in a bundle in 1977 as "The Star Wars Portfolio", by Ralph McQuarrie. They're not really storyboards; they're more like conceptual designs for the characters and the whole Star Wars world. I was flipping through them last night and looking at the pictures and reading the notes below each one, and it was really cool stuff. A few items of note:

Also interesting was the thought that went into some of the seemingly unimportant details of the story. For example, one picture describes how the Tuscan Raiders have moisture collectors under their chins (like we'd know what those were by looking at them), and another mentioned that "the large spaces [in the interior scenes of the Death Star] may have helped air circulation, but McQuarrie also speculates on the need for psychological space on such a space station." Obviously, these guys truly were building a world as they were sketching out the film.

Since I know you might be interested, I scanned in a few of the pictures for you. I have 21 pictures in idea if that's a complete set or not, but that's how many I've got. I didn't scan them all because, well, I probably shouldn't be scanning any of them, but they're just so fascinating I couldn't help myself (and the entire set is probably scanned and available elsewhere in the Internet if you really looked). Also, my scanner wasn't quite as wide as the pictures, so they're all cropped off just a little bit on the sides. Anyway, here you go:

Animals In My World (Sunday, Sep 19)
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When I moved to Florida several years ago, everyone told me to watch out for the insects. They weren't necessarily different from other insects in North America, they were just bigger...sometimes by surprising factors.

Maybe because of this, or maybe just because when we came here we moved into a new house that happened to back up to a sizeable stretch of woods, I've been a little more attentive to nature and wildlife since I've been in Florida. Sometimes you can't help but notice it (alligators and enormous bugs), and sometimes you really have to take an interest (birds). For what it's worth, here are a few pictures from my backyard:

We have deer that come into our yard in the middle of the night and eat our flowers, but I don't have a camera with a night-vision lens so I haven't been able to snap any pictures of those. There's also an interesting variety of birds that fly through (hawks, egrets, the occasional heron, and a red-headed woodpecker that's the size of a well-fed cat), but those are really hard to get good shots of. I keep trying, but the birds blend in to the trees so well that it ends up looking like you're taking a picture of a tree.

Anyway, I'm not sure what brought that on, but that's your nature lesson for today.

Stupid Notes Mail Tricks (Thursday, Sep 16)
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Here are a few "stupid mail tricks" for Notes that might come in handy for you:

Sorry if all those things are simple and obvious. It's just that whenever I show them to other people they seem to be surprised, so I thought I'd share with the class.

Why Does Microsoft Avoid Tabbed Interfaces? (Tuesday, Sep 14)
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I know that this is an almost hypothetical question to ask, but I've been trying to figure it out all day and I can't come up with a good answer:

Why does Microsoft seem to avoid tabbed interfaces in its products?

I use a wide variety of software products that use tabbed interfaces very effectively -- MyIE2, Firefox, Lotus Notes, WebSphere Studio, any number of text editors -- and it is just such a natural way of working with multiple documents in a single application. Certainly better than having to go to the top menu and click "Window" and then choose the one I think I want to bring to the top, or having to pick from the dozen or so windows I have crammed onto my taskbar. So why does Microsoft, who (all bias aside) tends to do a fantastic job of designing user interfaces on their applications, refuse to add a tabbed interface to their products? Especially their core Office products, where you frequently have multiple Word or Excel or whatever documents open at the same time?

Maybe I'm just overlooking something. The only tabbed app from MS I can think of is Excel, and that's only within a single spreadsheet, and that's only [really] because Lotus 1-2-3 used to do it. Are there other apps that I'm missing?

The reason I bring this up is because we were having a discussion about Portal today (both the WebSphere product and the concept overall), and one of the people in the discussion mentioned that one of the "bad" things is that you can't ALT-TAB in a portal.

Now, I've heard that argument before, and I'm just baffled whenever I hear it. Why is that bad? Why is that even an issue? Just because the Microsoft paradigm is to ALT-TAB between the 50 windows you have to keep open on your desktop in order to have all of your instances of Word and Internet Explorer open simultaneously, why does that make an application that can have multiple windows and programs open in a single tabbed interface somehow inferior? How is it a weakness to have a better interface?

Heck, if it's that important then we could just turn ALT-T into a keystroke combination to switch between tabs on the portal. Maybe that would solve the problem.

I don't know. To me, it's sort of like complaining that you can't adjust the throttle on your fuel injected engine. You don't have to adjust the's fuel-injected. Different design...

UPDATE: I just noticed that Visual Studio .NET makes good use of tabs. Very nice.

Stan's Blog (Monday, Sep 13)
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Hey look, Stan Rogers has a blog! Finally...

Misc Airport Ramblings (Saturday, Sep 11)
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I really love going to airports. I've travelled a fair amount, and I'm no Ed Brill or anything, but I've been through plenty of airports and I still really enjoy them. There are a lot of things that fascinate me: the advertising (both subtle and blatant), the businesses that tend to thrive in that environment, the rainbow of attitudes that people have as they stroll or barge on by. I guess I just like studying the airport sub-culture or something. I don't quite know how to quantify it.

Anyway, here are a few miscellaneous airport ramblings from my recent trip to Atlanta -- possibly not as interesting as my last airport ramblings (which weren't necessarily interesting either), but you can stop reading any time you want.

First, as I was leaving Jacksonville, the lady at the metal detector asked me if my shoes were Skechers or Doc Martens. That seemed like a strange question at first (because I wasn't in airport mode yet, realizing that heightened shoe awareness is probably a quality that is sought after and groomed in professional metal detector watchers), but after a second I answered "Skechers" as she waved me through. I beeped, put the shoes on the baggage x-ray, and walked back through silently. As I went past her, she told me that I wouldn't have beeped if they were Doc Martens. Someone at DM should really advertise that.

Second, as I'm typing this from the hyper-caffeinated refuge of a Starbucks in the T-gates at Hartsfield, I realized how great of a marketing tool it was for Starbucks to offer wireless access from most of their stores. Unfortunately, this particular one doesn't seem to have wireless (or none that I can connect to anyway), but that's what brought me here. Heck, even milkshake-drinking Ben Langhinrichs went on a Starbucks quest on a recent trip, just to connect to the Net. Wireless brings coffee-drinkers and non-coffee-drinkers alike through the doors, gives the store a more visible brand, and gives them that much more differentiation over other coffee shops. Small cost, big reward. Great marketing.

Last, I have a laptop horror story from the Atlanta security gate. I was at the metal detectors, so I took my laptop out of the bag and placed it into it's own tray, removed my non-airport-friendly Skechers, and went on through the detectors. When I came out through the other side, the three people ahead of me were still collecting their bags, repacking their metallic belongings, and trying to get out of the way. I watched my stuff come through -- laptop, shoes, laptop bag, carry-on -- and then started re-shoeing and putting the change back in my pockets.

When I looked back up, my laptop was gone.

No longer there. Gone. Absent without leave.

I looked up at the security guard, panicked. I said, "My's not here. What happened to my laptop?" The security guard looked at me like I was speaking in tongues (maybe I was at the moment, it was hard to tell), stared for a second with dull eyes, and said "Are you sure?"

"Yes, it was right here. I saw it come through the x-ray, and now it's gone..."

The guard looked around very slowly (my sense of time was probably extremely compressed at that point, as it is when people on TV get in a car wreck, but he was way too slow for my taste at the moment), and then asks if it looked like the one that the guy in front of me was packing in his laptop bag. I rushed over to look and said that it was a Dell like that one (a detail that was probably lost on him, unless he knew as much about laptops as the lady at JIA knew about shoes), but it was a little different.

He then walked, again very slowly, over to the big security information desk that overlooks the entire area. "Cool," I thought, "he's checking the surveillance tapes. Very efficient." After a lot of conversation, he ambled back over and said that no one had turned one in at the desk.

Moron! I've been here for all of about two minutes. Of course no one's turned anything in. Someone took it and walked away with it. People don't "accidentally" grab a laptop that's not theirs, and then immediately bring it over to the security desk. They "accidentally" grab it and disappear down the escalator.

At this point I'm wild-eyed, and the security guard is becoming extremely disinterested. I may have been reading him wrong, but it looked like he was trying to figure out a way to get rid of me, so he could clear the line. Another guard came over and asked me what was going on, and I told him, and he kind of looked away and tried to supress an "oh well" shrug.

So I'm standing there, not really knowing what to do and not really getting any help, and one of the guys from the x-ray machine slides a laptop down and says "Here it is man." And sure enough, here comes my laptop. "Where was it?" I am able to ask, slackjawed. He smiles and says it was at the bottom of a stack of those tubs that you have to put your laptops and shoes in, and he must have picked it up and put it in the stack of empties by mistake. "I thought it seemed heavy," he joked.

The other guards literally turned their backs to me, as though I'm some kind of homeless lunatic that they are trying to avoid eye contact with, and then laughingly ask the guy to tell the story again. I was still kind of in shock, half-expecting an apology that wasn't coming, and laced up my shoes and gathered my things and left.

Man, that would have sucked to lose my laptop.

JavaScript innerHTML Weirdness (Thursday, Sep 9)
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This is completely unrelated to anything, but I was just watching King of the Hill, and Hank Hill said this to a geeky young defense lawyer with a ponytail:

I ought to tie the long hair on your head to the short hair on your ass and kick you down the street.

I'll bet the writers are still laughing at that line. I can't help loving the fact that shows like King of the Hill and the Simpsons are allowed to use the word "ass" now. It's just the kid in me I guess.

But anyway... My new code testing buddy steve was having another problem with the JavaScript datepicker routine that I've been working on. He had some global JavaScript variables that were defined in the onLoad event of the page body, and they weren't working properly after the datepicker was called. The variables in question referenced elements that were on the page body itself (like frm = document.body.forms(0)). Apparently they worked fine prior to a call to the datepicker, but not afterwards.

I did a little testing (I didn't have steve's code, so I created my own test pages), and it looks like the problem had to do with the way I was adding a div and an iFrame to the page, which are required to display the datepicker in the first place. I was using a technique like this:

document.body.innerHTML += "<div ...>";

It appears that when I do that, existing global JavaScript variables that have a handle to objects on document.body aren't refreshed properly. I'm not sure if that was a problem on Mozilla, but it definitely was on IE 6. New references to objects on the page worked just fine, but the old ones were stale, which caused subtle and unusual problems.

The fix seems to be to add the div and iFrame elements to the page with calls like this:

var newNode = document.createElement("div");
newNode.setAttribute("id", "whatever");
newNode.setAttribute("class", "someClass");

This is a much more "DOM-friendly" way of adding the elements, and IE seems to be much happier with it. I actually don't know if this will fix steve's problem, but it fixed one that I was able to recreate.

If you're still interested (and still reading), new versions of the database and the standalone page are available for your review. Thanks again to steve for helping me debug this thing.

Beware The Small Earthen Dam; Another DatePicker Fix (Wednesday, Sep 8)
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First, I just want to pass this on because I thought it was funny. I was checking the weather reports for the progress of Hurricane Frances as it went over Georgia, and I found this advisory for Atlanta:


Okay, I'm no engineer, but I'm going to go on record as saying that if you live near any small earthen dam that is holding back enough water to damage your house -- regardless of the weather -- you should probably try to permanently move to higher ground. Sell your house or drive your trailer somewhere else or something. That's not a smart risk.

In other news, I made a couple more changes to the Lotus Notes Web Datepicker (and the associated standalone page example) that you might be interested in.

That's all for now.

Notes Datepicker Update (Monday, Sep 6)
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I made a minor update to the Lotus Notes Web Datepicker that I posted yesterday. The change allows you to easily specify the date format you'd like to use (mm/dd/yyyy,, or whatever), either globally within the script library or for a specific call to the datepicker display function. I also updated the standalone page example so you can see it from the comfort of your own browser.

I'd also like to repeat something that I mentioned in my comments yesterday: namely that I'm a bad UI designer, and if anyone comes up with one or more alternate CSS stylesheets for the datepicker calendar I'd be happy to post them or link to them from the database download page.

In fact, that whole kind of community development would probably be better served if this was an OpenNTF project. Any opinions on that? Would this be a good OpenNTF project, or is the whole thing too simple to warrant creating a whole project around it?

Lotus Notes Web Datepicker (Sunday, Sep 5)
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I finally finished fleshing out the JavaScript for a drop-down datepicker to use on the web forms of my Notes databases. I've played around with other libraries (written by other people) to do this before, but for various reasons (including the fact that I enjoy coding this sort of thing) I decided to write this one myself. Design goals were:

So what I ended up with was the Lotus Notes Web Datepicker. All the code is actually in a Notes 6 database, to demonstrate how easy it is to use the code with your own databases (an example form is included, of course). If you're not using Notes 6 yet, you can see it on a standalone page and steal the JavaScript in the normal way from there.

Frances Cometh (Thursday, Sep 2)
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Hurricane Frances is supposed to hit the coast of south central Florida on Saturday afternoon and then proceed northwest across the state and to the panhandle. That's what they're saying now, anyway.

It's a biggie, pounding the Bahamas as I write this. With any luck we won't see too much of it at my house, but I feel bad for those people down on the central coast (I don't care what Nathan says about playing frisbee ;-).