A Few Days In Brussels #EngageUG

I have just returned from Engage UG – Theo Heselmans’ European conference, this year held at Autoworld in Brussels.  A beautiful location, even for someone who cares little for cars (but enjoys belgian beer, frites and chocolate).

With over 400 attendees, this was the largest Engage yet and I thought the energy level and excitement was higher than before due I think to the presence of vast numbers of the HCL team who were not only presenting but out in force in roundtables, social events and random “stop in the hallway” questions.

As the clock ticks down to the final signing of the contract to acquire Domino, Sametime, Traveler, Connections, etc, from IBM and transfer them in entirety to HCL we are all just waiting for that starting gun.

Richard Jefts brought some good news and the vision that HCL has for all the products they are taking on – see the prominence of Notes & Domino as well as (to my surprise and delight) Sametime.  Sametime is a significant part of HCL’s “Better Connected World” story. The intention, as you can see from other items on the wheel, is to open integration to other technologies and systems as a priority.  You will see an item on the wheel called “LEAP” and wonder what that is, it is the renamed Forms Experience Builder central to HCLs low-code development initiative. Think drag-and-drop form building through the web.

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There were probably 25% new attendees who had never been to Engage before. My session on Exchange on-premises and Domino at 8am had a nearly full room which is very unusual for an early technical session.  Tim’s session on DQL was also full.  All of our sessions will be published here over the next few days.

I also participated in a round table on template modernisation.  I will talk more about that on a later blog but I am co-ordinating a team who are working on updating the existing templates such as discussions and teamrooms. A demo of our live app  for iPhone was presented at Engage and the screenshot below showing the discussions template as it currently is (left), our app (in the middle) and the possible path it could take as iDMA progresses (on the right) gives you some idea of what we’re doing. iDMA is the Notes client currently for tablets and soon for iPhones.

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Speaking to Maxx Sutton @ HCL who heads up the iDMA development team, it’s clear there is an opportunity for both supporting existing and reimagining new Notes applications as iDMA itself develops.   For instance, the icon on the bottom right of the “where we could be heading” screenshot would be a ‘create new’ action that would automatically generate to support any “create” action that appears in the view in Notes. Still early days obviously, and I’ll be reaching out to the Community each step of the way.

Of course as usual our speaker gifts (both Tim and I spoke) were bang on.  Tim is researching if he can paint my yellow mini the grey and black of our own but I’m not sure I want to risk it.

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Once more – a huge thank you to Theo, Hilde, the HCL team, all the sponsors (including us :-), speakers and attendees plus the barman at the Sofitel who kindly brought drinks up to the roof for us.

Exchange 2019 On Prem Install

In a couple of weeks time I’ll be in Brussels presenting at Engage and one of my sessions is Face/Off Domino vs Exchange On Premises (Weds at 8am).  I have an Exchange 2016 install but since Exchange 2019 shipped last October I wanted to update my install with that so I could use the latest version to demo.  In truth very little has changed in Exchange on premises since 2008 but I don’t like using an old version in my presentations.  So this is the story of the 4 days it took me to complete the install.

Four. Days.

Day 1: My big mistake.  I decided to uninstall Exchange 2016 instead of upgrading it. I wanted an entirely clean server to demonstrate.  The uninstall failed half way through.  It wouldn’t uninstall and it was still listed under installed programs.  Several hours of trial and error and internet research confirmed this is a common problem with Exchange uninstalls and the “fix” is to flatten the machine and start over.  The problem was the Exchange install was on the same box as the Active Directory 2016 Domain Controller which I really really didn’t want to flatten.

Day 2: Being Stubborn.  I’d do just about anything to avoid flattening the entire box and rebuilding so some more internet research took me to several blogs that talked about manually removing registry entries in order to clean up the install.  Hundreds of registry entries.  After doing that I still couldn’t delete or rename the folder despite no services being present so then it was into safe mode to do the rename.  That worked and I started the upgrade to Windows 2019 (the only supported platform for Exchange 2019). You can now do an inplace Windows upgrade from 2016 to 2019 and that worked maintaining all my Active Directory settings.

Day 3: Accepting the inevitable. Off I go with an Exchange 2019 install once more which started to install then prompted me for the Exchange installer disk.  It wouldn’t take the mounted disk I had started the installer from.  After a few hours’ research I realised this is a common red herring error that basically means the server can detect some old installation files and won’t complete.  At this point there were no services, no directory, nothing listed under installed programs.  Sometimes you have to accept you’ve strayed too many hacks from your starting point it’s best to startover and do it properly.  Windows 2019 install #2 this time letting it blat the server and rebuilding Active Directory from scratch (luckily it’s just my demo machine and I could do that but good luck if it’s your production environment).

At the end of day 3 I had a new Windows 2019 Domain Controller fully patched and I was ready to start my Exchange 2019 install.

Day 4: The Long Road.  Before Exchange will install the installer program will verify you have all the pre-requisites required on the operating system.  There are many from IIS management tools to .Net 4.7.1 to the basic authentication system.  A scrolling page of missing features is shown with URL links explaining them.  Since 90% of those features were actually Windows features you go to add/remove features to install I don’t know why the Exchange installer doesn’t just offer to install them for me because it took some time to work out where in the multi level hierarchy of features each one was.  In addition serveral of the URLs brought up 404 pages on the Microsoft site refering to Exchange 2003 and that link not being available(!).  Anyway finally after a few hours of digging around, downloading libraries, installing features and restarting it agreed to install Exchange 2019 and I was done.

If you take one lesson from this it should be that the Microsoft solution to many problems seems to be “flatten and start over”.  For that reason I wouldn’t put Exchange on any machine you wouldn’t be happy to flatten and start over or replace.

 

Domino Mobile Apps On Your iPad & In The App Store

The mobile apps team at HCL have finally been able to release the Domino Mobile App into the Apple app store here. The app gives you access to your Domino applications as if using a Notes client and with no programming changes required. It includes full encryption and even local replication – that’s right, replication to your iPad.

I have been using the beta since last summer and it has become indispensable. So first things first, go to the app store and download the Mobile App or click on the image below.

Once it is installed you will need to connect to a server that can access your ID Vault. Having your id in a vault it how it is downloaded to the iPad so if you don’t have an ID Vault configured you need to do that, it should only take a few minutes to configure but you may have to wait a few hours for IDs to populate on your server.

First complete your name and server name. I am using a dummy server name here – the app will try and find my server..

This server isn’t reachable by name from where I am so I am asked for an ip or hostname. If you have a VPN on your iPad or are working on your internal network you can use an internal host or address but I am remote so I will use a public ip on a dummy server.

My next prompt was asking me for my Notes ID password and it wants the most current one which is the one in the vault.  Once it has that I am into the Mobile app and I can start opening applications and even creating connections to other servers in my local contacts.

Below is a copy of my ddm.nsf from the server – you can see it looks identical to my viewing it through a Notes client but it’s clearly on my iPad (see title bar)

..and a further example, a document opened in ddm.nsf.  You can see my action bar buttons are available.

Finally let’s look at a document library document in edit mode – you can see all the buttons, drop downs and action bars are visible and working.  Document Library is a pretty old template so it’s good to know older applications work well too.

I am afraid I don’t know what the licensing situation is. I do believe if you are licensed currently with an up to date subscription you can use this at no additional charge but I will update when I know more for certain.

Paypal and Direct Debits

What have you spent your morning doing Gab?  That would be removing over 60 direct debits set up in paypal since 2008.

Last week Pluralsight from whom I bought a 1 year license in 2018 went ahead without notice and charged me £199 for “another year” because I hadn’t checked the box to disable their auto renewal buried under my account details.  Strange they can email me multiple times a week with marketing promotions and telling me about courses but apparently can’t email me to tell me they will be charging me another year on X date and that I need to disable auto renew if I don’t want them to.  Even if I clearly haven’t logged in for months.

Lesson learned.  I cancelled the auto renewal, swallowed the cost and won’t ever use them again.

Today there was a charge from AVG Commerce for £99.99.  I haven’t used AVG in years having switched to BitDefender. The last charge was several years ago.  Apparently they just suddenly decided to charge me 2 year’s renewal for a product that had long expired, again because the auto renew was left on the account and because paypal had them as a direct debit.   The last charge was in July 2016 and this one was April 2019 so not even a renewal date.  At least AVG (who have multiple complaints of this behaviour on their site) offer a 30 day refund which I have applied for.  Luckily I could do that without logging in since their login is now a Salesforce login and no account details I have work.

I often use Paypal to pay for things because I would rather not share my credit card with every site but of course the downside is that Paypal won’t dispute a payment like that whereas my credit card company wouild.  So in I go to Paypal to deactivate all the direct debits that are on my account.

There were over 60.  Many times when I paid for anything with Paypal , even a one off thing like a game or theatre tickets it set itself up without telling me as a direct debit.  That means Paypal would have allowed that source to take payment anytime it wanted without notifying me until it was done.  Wordpress and GoDaddy were particularly egregious with multiple direct debits, one for every payment I ever made and all had to be deleted.

None of this would be an issue if Paypal would notify me when someone applied to withdraw money via direct debit or if they had a limit by date or expiry on how long the direct debit was valid, or even if they didn’t bury the direct debits far away from my home page.

I recommend if you use Paypal you go in and deactivate the direct debits you might unwittingly have in place.

Login to Paypal – choose “Settings” (the cog) and choose “Payments” then “Manage Pre-Approved Payments” – go ahead and cancel whatever you need.  I went from 72 to 5.

 

 

More Apple Cloud Issues & The Solution

If you saw my earlier post on my trouble with my  Apple iCloud account it looked by the end of it I had found a resolution (original post here https://turtleblog.info/2019/03/08/the-painful-journey-to-abandoning-icloud/).

In summary it appeared (from my investigation) that my iCloud account somehow got corrupted or modified in such a way that it became unusable and I ended up disabling iCloud storage for documents and desktop amongst other things to fix it.

Except it didn’t entirely fix it.

For the past few weeks I’ve had endless problems with Finder being slow. Spinning ball and up to 10 seconds to change folders, open a fie dialog in any application – longer for dragging and dropping files.  In addition Spotlight was broken, it would let me type a few characters then take around 10 seconds to fill in any suggestions which I then had to wait another 5 seconds or so to click on.

I tried all the fixes I could find including rebuilding Spotlight, removing the CloudMetadata.xml files and resetting preferences.  Things were definitely “usable” but not the way I found acceptable ie. how it used to be.  So last week I had a call with an Apple “genius”.  Two resets, a boot into safe mode (which took 45 minutes and caused hin to exclaim “oh my god”) and finally I caved and reinstalled the OS entirely (which leaves everything else in place).  The guy ended up ghosting me when I pointed out that he wasn’t actually identifying the problem, just hitting it with ever bigger hammers in the hopes it would go away and that if this final hammer (reinstalling the OS) didn’t work he better have a plan.

So this week I was back on my own with a Mac that was still slow and convinced even flattening and rebuiding wouldn’t necessarily help if the issue was related to my iCloud account.  Then I read a few community comments that put me on the right path – I removed all internet accounts from under system preferences.  In my case all I had was my iCloud account.  To remove it it had to save a copy of all my iCloud data locally and remove all my credit cards.  Then I removed the Cloud metadata (rm ~/Library/Caches/CloudKit/CloudKitMetadata*;killall cloudd) and restarted.

I reattached my iCloud account and configured what I wanted to sync, added my credit cards and went to bed.  This morning everything is working as it should including Finder and Spotlight so we’re back to the status before the iCloud corruption.  It seems the single only fix I needed was to remove the iCloud account from system preferences entirely and then re-add it.

 

Notes pre 10.0.1 crashing on Mojave

A customer reported this week that their Macs were suddenly all crashing when trying to send mail , reply or forward.  Which is odd.. until I found this technote with the following statement updated on April  1st

As of April 1, 2019, IBM does not recommend upgrading to 10.14.4 for customers running pre-Notes 10.0.1 releases (i.e. Notes 9.0.1.x).  We are currently working on resolving a crash issue that occurs after upgrading to this latest OS via SPR #ZNDNBAPSZB.  This is documented under TN #0879431.

TN #0879431 is dated April 2nd and says a fix will be provided soon.

If you’re having issues with Notes on Mojave 10.14.4 and you’re running a version prior to 10.0.1 you might want to consider upgrading or let’s hope HCL provides a fix soon.