Engage – Was It Really Over A Week Ago?

It’s 2am so apologies in advance for any rambling in this post but I’ve been wanting to write about the Engage conference in Antwerp ever since I got back last Thursday (and if I leave it much longer I might as well write about next  year’s conference).

This year Engage was held in Antwerp which is only a 3.5hr drive for me so we met everyone else there who came by train.  Top tip – don’t try and drive in Antwerp, the one way systems will get you every time.  Yet another beautiful city and conference location by Theo and the Engage team.  The Elizabeth conference center was spacious and since there were 400 of us and the Engage team had made sure to provide lots of seating / meeting areas, it felt right.  One thing I really enjoy at conferences is the opportunity to meet people (OK I hate approaching people to talk but I like being part of a conversation) and I had the opportunity for some great conversations with sponsors and attendees. I managed to bore people to death about my latest obsession (docker).  IBM also sent a lot of speakers this year with Scott Souder and Barry Rosen updating us on Domino and Verse futures and both Jason Roy Gary and Maureen Leland there to sprinkle some (Connections) pink around.  There was a lot of open discussion about technology now and what we were each learning and working with along with a fair amount of enthusiasm for what we’re each working with, so thanks to everyone for that.

This year the agenda expanded to including emerging technologies and one of my sessions was in that track – on IoT in the Enterprise, GDPR and data.  I try to aim my presentations at the audience I’m talking to and when it comes to IoT the IT audience naturally has a lot more concerns then line of business managers.  Outside of IT IoT is purely about opportunity but since IT need to take care of the rest my presentation was more technical with a security checklist for deploying IoT devices.  All the opportunity for businesses will inevitably involve a lot of work from IT in the areas of data retention, data analysis, security and process redesign.  Some really interesting technologies are evolving and IoT is very fast moving as evolutionary technologies are so now is the time to start planning how your business can take advantage of the incoming swarm of data and tools.

My second session was on configuring a Domino  / Cloud Hybrid solution with step by step instructions for setting up your first environment.  That presentation is on my slideshare and also shared below.  The key thing to understand about hybrid cloud is that as a Domino administrator you still manage all your users, groups, policies and your on premises and hybrid servers, in fact the only things you don’t manage are the cloud servers themselves.  Getting started with a hybrid cloud deployment is a good way to understand what the potential might be for migrating or consolidating some of your mail services.

As always the Engage team put on an amazing event, lots to sessions to learn from, lots of people to meet and a lot of fun.  I was very pleased to see Richard Moy who runs the US based MWLUG event there for the first time and I’m looking forward to attending his event in the US in August.   Finally my crowning achievement of the week was when no-one on my table could identify either a Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber song at the closing dinner and none of us considered cheating by using Shazam (I’m looking at YOU Steph Heit and Amanda Bauman :-)).  Theo promises us Engage will be back in May 2018 at a new location.   See you there.

Thoughts On Think

IBM have announced their new one-size-fits-all conference Think 2018 which will take place in Las Vegas next March.  This will consolidate several existing conferences including Connect (previously San Francisco and before that Orlando) , InterConnect (Las Vegas) and World of Watson (Las Vegas).

So to start with I’d like to say this is a great idea and what, as a 20+ year veteran of Connect (Lotusphere) and a newbie to InterConnect, I had hoped for.  However it’s also a lot of content, brands, interests, objectives and attendees to merge together so IBM to their credit are inviting feedback in their JAM session on June 20th on how best to do this.  I couldn’t wait until then and my friends are bored of hearing it so here are my top level ideas

  • Of all things let’s not separate brands into their own locations, especially ICS.  There is enormous value in being part of a larger pool of content, products and speakers
  • How about having a “brand” day at the end of the event or even the beginning so the brand focused strategy sessions could be presented to the brand focused audience.  Those brand days could be held at any hotel in Vegas
  • I’d hope that IBM maintain a single conference location for the main conference even if that means fewer and shorter sessions from everyone.

    To that end, I noticed InterConnect did not have the low level “how to” sessions that we’re used to in Connect. However there are plenty of great ICS user groups all over the world that do have those sessions.  Can we give up trying to find room for them in Think in favour of higher level more strategic sessions ?  I think so.

  • Why not group sessions together by interest area not brand.  ?
    • For developers working with ICS products, wouldn’t they also be interested in other development technologies and opportunities?  Why not have all the developer sessions across all brands near each other
    • As an admin much of my work involves integrating technologies and learning about what’s available across the entire stack.  The most valuable thing would be to make it easy for me to move between sessions / cross brands in one location. Whether it’s ICS, Cognitive, Security or Cloud – it’s all admin and I want to learn about it all.
    • For CIOs attending surely they would be more likely to go to multiple strategy sessions about multiple brands and products if they were located near each other ?
    • Having the opportunity for designated conference areas also increases the opportunities for networking with like minded people
  • Interconnect this year offered pick and go sandwiches and snacks over lunch in the Concourse (showfloor) which was a lot faster and easier than marching 1.5 miles to the aircraft hanger size room where the formal buffet was.  That’s also a huge space that could be freed up for more sessions.  Why not deliver cold sandwich lunches, more informal seating areas and more stations around the conference centre. There are also many places around to grab your own snacks or lunch.  I didn’t eat in the large hall at all after I realised how much time was wasted getting there and back.

Just a few thoughts that have been burbling in my head.  I’ll definitely be joining the JAM and you can register to do and read more about Think here

 

Bending iBooks (Mis)Behaviour To My Will

For those of you that don’t know, I buy a lot of books.  Around 30 – 40 a month.   I used to buy exclusively physical books but I like to keep ones I enjoy to re-read and I am fast running out of house so now about 80% of my book purchases are digital.  Sometimes from the iBookstore and sometimes from Amazon.  I refuse to play the DRM game but that’s a story for another day.  I now have around 3500 books in iBooks that I read via that app on my iPad and phone. In 2011 (I think) Apple introduced “Collections” so I could group books together to make them easier to find.  Apparently Collections have a maximum limit but I’ve never reached it because beyond about 40 they simply aren’t useful to have to scroll through. Here are a few of mine, I have 25 or so more

FullSizeRender 3

The problem is two fold.  With 3500 books and only 40 collections that puts about 90 books per collection which is a lot to scroll through unless they are sorted within the collection.  You can manually sort but Apple has a tendency to randomly resort everything by “most recent” (which seems to be triggered by any kind of update) so you can spend your entire life trying to sort things together.  Take Ben Aaronovitch for instance, a writer a like and I have filed his books under Steampunk/Fantasy (they are “urban fantasy”) but when he publishes a new book every two years it appears at the top of the collection, because it’s the newest.  Meanwhile all his other books are dotted all over the place and what I want to see is what I’d see if I shelved them at home – all the books by one writer grouped together.  iBooks has no way for me to do that and make it stick.  I can view by author but that’s not the same thing as I can’t move around in that view.

So what I wanted was simply to be able to have all books by each writer grouped together to make them easy to find in each Collection.  It turns out the fix for me was to turn iBooks (mis) behaviour against it.  I discovered that adding a book to a Collection actually updates a timestamp within the epub which marks it as recent for sorting purposes.  Even if the collection you are moving a book into is the same one it’s already in so this is what I did

  1. Step 1 in the iBooks app on OSX or iOS search for a writer “Ben Aaronovitch”
  2. Select all books found
  3. On OSX right mouse click and choose “Add To Collection” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  4. On iOS choose “move” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  5. That’s it.  No matter where all my Ben Aaronovitch books were they will now be grouped together and sorted at the beginning of my Collection.  I can then go through and do the same to any other writers I want to group

The nice thing is that this is a quick and easy process that can be repeated anytime you buy or download a new book but a writer you’re collecting.

Or maybe it’s just me 🙂

My NWTL Session – An Introduction To Docker

I have been working with Alan Hamilton’s NWTL (New Way To Learn) initiative, recording sessions on Verse On Premises and Docker.  I’m very pleased that the first of these, an introduction to Docker, is available on the NWTL site as a web recording.  If you’re a Business Partner you can register on the NWTL community to access everyone’s presentations here.

Alan has offered for me to share my presentions to a wider non-BP audience on my blog so here is my introduction to Docker aimed at people who would like to understand docker architecture and the work involved to be a docker administrator.

 

Thank you to Amanda Bauman who recorded this with me

My NWTL Sessions – Verse On Premises

As part of Alan Hamilton’s NWTL (New Way To Learn) initiative, I have recorded sessions on Verse on Premises, the first on Installing and the second on integrating it with Connections. My installation session has been updated into this blog entry for VOP 1.0.1 which shipped today May 8th.  I am sharing that and  my second presentation which is on how to integrate Verse On Premises with IBM Connections.  In my example I use Connections 6 as the instructions are the same as for Connections 5.5 but that isn’t supported by IBM currently to YMMV.

To access all the NWTL sessions if you’re a Business Partner you can register here.  Thank you to Amanda Bauman for recording the session with me.

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Integration Verse On Premises & Connections – Small Problem

This week I have been working on integrating Verse On Premises running on Domino 9.0.1 with IBM Connections.  Alright Connections 6 which isn’t supported right now.  The actual configuration is fairly simple and detailed on one page of IBM documentation.  It involves pasting some CORS redirection lines from the IBM document into your httpd.conf file and then replacing the server hostname with your own.

When I first did it against new servers the profiles integration worked fine but the Files (both accessing and uploading) as well as Follow/Unfollow actions failed.  That pointed fairly clearly to an issue with the OPTIONS request type and firebug confirmed that was throwing a 401 unauthorized error.  Finally I started to run out of ideas and asked Roberto Boccadaro if he could share his httpd.conf with me.  When I compared three separate environments the most glaring difference was with the SetEnvIf variable which is Step 5d on this page

SetEnvIf Origin “^https://(vop_server_hostname\.)?(domain_name)$” origin_is=$0

IBM’s instructions on that page tell us to use escape characters before each full stop so my variable setting would be

SetEnvIf Origin “^https://(mail\.)?(turtleweb\.com)$”origin_is=$0

However that was the problem.  The https:// caused the 401 error and I had to replace it with escaped forward slashes so my new URL is

SetEnvIf Origin “^https:\/\/(mail\.)?(turtleweb\.com)$”origin_is=$0

I applied that single change and everything immediately worked.

I have let the IBM documentation team know but if you have the same problem, check your SetEnvIf variable.

More Adventures In *** RHEL Configuration

I know I shouldn’t have blogged on Saturday – as soon as I think I have a problem fixed the universe rises up and slaps me roundly about the head.  So fast forward to the end, it’s Sunday night and I’m installing Connections on RHEL 7 so that’s good.  However to get there I had more hurdles which I’ll note here both for myself and for anyone else

I configured and enabled VNC and SSH for access which worked fine on the same network but not from any other network (“Connection Refused”).  The obvious first guess is that the firewall on the server hasn’t been disabled.  It’s always the first thing I do since I have perimeter firewalls between networks and I don’t like to use OS ones. So Saturday and Saturday night was an adventure in checking, double checking and checking again that I had the firewall disabled.  RHEL 7 has replaced iptables with firewalld but iptables still exists so my worry was that I had something enabled somewhere.  I didn’t think it could be my perimeter firewall since I had built the server with the same ip as an earlier server that already worked. My other guess was VNC being accidentally configured with –nolisten but that wasn’t true either.

By the time I went to bed Sunday morning I had ruled out it being the OS and was going to start fresh a few hours later.  I’d also noticed that although I could connect via VNC it was slow as hell despite having a ton of resources.

Sunday morning I decided to delete all the entries referring to that server’s ip on our Sonicwall perimeter device and recreate them.  That fixed the network access. The one thing I didn’t build from scratch was the one thing that was broken. *sigh*.

At this point I did consider switching to Windows 2016 on a new box but I already planned to use that for another server component and wanted to build with mixed OS. Also #stubborn.

So now I have VNC and SSH access but the GUI is awful. I can’t click on most of the menus and it keeps dropping out.  I’m running GNOME 3 and I can find endless posts about problems with GNOME 3 and Cent OS or Redhat so I bite the bullet and install KDE because all I want is a GUI.  KDE is as bad, slow, menus not clickable.  I make sure SELINUX is set to “Disabled” but still no luck.   I try installing NoMachine as an alternative method but that has the same problem with the GUI – slow, unresponding, menus unclickable and eventually a crash with “Oh no!, Something has gone wrong”.  Which isn’t nearly as entertaining the 100th time you see it.  Along the way I disable IPV6 entirely and found and fixed this bug

https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=912892

and this one

https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=730378

oh and this irritating setting

https://access.redhat.com/solutions/195833 “Authentication is required” prompt

Throughout Sunday I’m continually working with /etc/systemd/system/vncserver@:1.0 to modify the settings, create new instances, create new VNC users but no matter what I try it proves unworkable.

I’m using the Red Hat instructions from here which has a configurator you can use to automatically create the file vncserver@ file according to your settings.  I’m suspicious of that file because it has settings I don’t normally use like  -RANDR so eventually I edit the file and change

ExecStart=/sbin/runuser -l turtlevnc -c \”/usr/bin/vncserver %i -extension RANDR -geometry 1024×768\”
PIDFile=~turtlevnc/.vnc/%H%i.pid

To

ExecStart=/sbin/runuser -l turtlevnc -c “/usr/bin/vncserver %i -geometry 1024×768”
PIDFile=~turtlevnc/.vnc/%H%i.pid
Cleared the /tmp/X11.unix/X? directories and restart once more.  Everything including GNOME 3 works and it’s zippy zippy fast.

 

So. Note to self. Next time remove that RANDR setting and win yourself an entire day back.