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November 8, 2015 Leave a comment


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Is there a case for making IBM Notes/Domino free?

February 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Lotus Notes, which became IBM Notes/Domino, is probably one of the most mis-understood and under-rated application platforms out there today. I use the word Application Platform carefully, because most people that have come across Lotus Notes will have experienced it as a clunky slow old email platform, but in reality it is an extremely agile and powerful application platform with email just being ‘one’ of those applications.

Back in the day, Lotus/IBM and Microsoft duked it out for years over who had the best email server, and who had the best email client, but in reality that conversation has moved on a long way. eMail is a commodity product that most people are used to using in a browser rather than a full blown client. People don’t care about email, they’ve fallen back into the just-get-it-done category of software products where less is more.

That was always the issue with Lotus Notes, people immediately though ’email’, and dismissed it from a previous encounter of the product which was probably 5 years out of date and running on 4 year old hardware. ‘Lotus Notes?! It’s old clunky and slow’, would be what most customer used to tell me. Today, it’s far from old clunky and slow, but people are still thinking of it as an email client/server platform.

Beyond email, the Domino server (the server part as it’s called today) is still one of the fastest ways to build very rich and powerful applications. As an example, I’m working on a personal project which I hope to grow into a large business over the coming few years. It’s a database driven idea, and I’m building a proof-of-concept in MySQL, PHP and various other bits and bobs because it’ll need to scale. While I’ve been building the database schemas, updating them with indexes, keys, foreign keys etc, I’ve been struck by how easily and quickly I could have built this in Notes. What has taken me 2 weeks so far, I could probably have built in less than 2 days using Notes/Domino – I kid you not.

So why didn’t I use Notes? Two reasons. The main one is cost. The IBM world I came from is builds software for the corporate world not the little guy. I’d need a Domino server, cha-ching, and a Domino Developer client, cha-ching, and probably a Notes/Admin client too, cha-ching, and maybe web-access clients, cha-ching… and using it as a platform would mean getting an all-you-can-eat-web-access-client, CHA-CHING!! The second, is that there is no Developer client for the Mac, it’s Windows only.

But given that Notes/Domino is disappearing at a high rate of knots out of the corporate world, maybe it’s time to think of the little guys again (Notes grew up as a work group server). What if IBM said, here, take this and build things, we won’t charge you? That’s an interesting thought to me.

Notes/Domino is still a big (declining) revenue stream for IBM, so giving away everything doesn’t make any sense, however they could release/open-source an older version, say Release 5 to the world, or they could say it’s free for up to 500 con-current users, or what if they took all the internal mail MTA’s out and left only SMTP?

If your application become super-successful, there would still be the path to the latest supported version if needed, because Notes is ridiculously backwards compatible – an application built from R1 will run on R9.

Speaking of support, Notes has one of the largest, skilled, helpful, support communities out there. It won’t fix any bugs, but you’ll sure get a lot of help solving every other issue you can think of.

So there you go, making Notes/Domino free at some level, would provide the community with a very powerful application platform that might just change peoples view of what was always a very powerful product.

It would be nice to hear some day that people were developing on a Notes platform, rather than a MySQL/PHP.

Categories: Uncategorized

Raspberry Pi as a mail server

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Having recently been married, I wanted to setup a more family oriented email address for my wife and I, and with an eye on the future, for the kids to use too.

After spending ages trying to find a decent domain name that a) made sense and b) wasn’t already taken, this morning I registered

Having registered a domain name the next step was to find a mail provider, however my default go to was google who host my other mail domains, but google apps is no longer free, so I started researching other providers. Zoho are still free up to 5 users which might be OK, so I book marked them and moved onto the next challenged, finding a DNS provider.

It seems DNS services don’t come cheaply, and my usual provider, DynDNS wanted 30 bucks a year! So I go to thinking…..

I had a domain name and just needed …
DNS services
SMTP/POP3/IMAP services
Spam filters
Antivirus services

I looked over at my £30 raspberry Pi that sat under the TV, nonchalantly running a media service… I wonder…

If I added DynDNS to the list so that I could point my domain name to my RPi, then I could use Bind, Postfix, ClamAV and SpamAssassin all for free. In effect running the whole mail server on one little tiny low power box.

So let the project begin!

Backing up your Pi’s

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Backing up your Raspberry Pi isn’t very straight forward on a Mac, but if like me you’re short on memory cards and you want to keep what you’ve been working on so that you can go back to it later, then you’ll need to start backing them up.

The easiest way is going to be to make a full disk image of the memory card, so that you can be sure you have an exact replica of the file system.

Here’s how I do mine now.

Open a Terminal window and type “diskutil /list”. This will give you a list of disks currently attached to your Mac. The first one will be the main disk inside the Mac, and then any after that will either be your SD card, or could also be another disk image you have mounted. If you look at the Size column, you should be able to find which one matches the size of your SD card.
Once you’ve found the right card, over on the left is the device number that the MacOS allocated it when you plugged it in. In my case, my 8GB SD Card is allocated to /dev/disk1
diskutil list
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *250.1 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS MacOS                   249.7 GB   disk0s2
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *7.9 GB     disk1
   1:             Windows_FAT_32                         73.4 MB    disk1s1
   2:                      Linux
Once we know the disk number, we’re going to add an ‘r’ in front of the disk part to access it much quicker (just means that your back up will be quicker.  To back up the disk use this command:
sudo dd if=/dev/rdisk1 of=media.img bs=1m
This will create a file called ‘media.img’ which is an image of your SD card (you can call it whatever you like).
To restore the image you’d just use
sudo dd if=image of=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m
(assuming that your SD card is still /dev/disk1 when you plug it back in).
  • On my Mac, the 8GB card took about 20 mins to back up.
  • If you want to compress the image, you can use something like this: udo dd if=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m | gzip > media.img.gz (to restore an compressed image with “bunzip2 -dc media.img.bz2 | dd of=/dev/disk1”


July 3, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been looking for a native Mac blogging software for ages, and it seemed that MarsEdit was the only choice. MarsEdit is OK, but it’s pretty long in the tooth these days and really way too expensive for what I need.

Luckily, I stumbled across a free (at the moment) app in the Mac App Store called PixelPumper. It has a great slick UI for simple blogging and definitely worth a try as I see the developers are trying hard to add in new features. The one thing missing for me, is text alignment against images (which you can fix once you’ve published).

Categories: Uncategorized

Sat-Nav of the future

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

While driving the 270 miles home from Cornwall late last night, my brain kept me occupied by building the Sat-Nav of the future. One that would not just let me know the best way to get to a particular destination and have one eye on the traffic ahead, but one that would also add some new features: 

  • It would be aware of the journey length, and build in stops for breaks, lunches etc. Not just simplistic ‘if journey is greater than 3 hours then rest for 15 mins”, it would know what time I started, whether I’d be travelling through a meal time, or put in a stop for a coffee in the mornings, but not the afternoons. It would know if I was going to arrive back home say 45 mins before a meal, then I probably wouldn’t stop as I’d rather just get home.
  • It would know if I’m driving late at night, that I’ll more likely stop for a strong coffee, and it would know where I could get my favorite coffee from too
  • It would know how much petrol there was in the car, and whether I’d need to stop en-route to fill up, and would know how to get me to the cheapest petrol station without sending me miles out of my way.. and combine that with the tea, coffee, meal breaks above
  • It would know about incoming bad weather, and would adjust journey times accordingly, or re-route me around them. 

Using things like this, it would be able to tell me a more accurate arrival time, let me get there safely, save me money and take me to my preferred coffee shops. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Wedding Cars

January 8, 2013 Leave a comment

We’re knee deep in wedding planning this week and ‘transport’ is on the list of things to do. Being completely naive in this area, apart from wanting a nice shiny car, I launched myself into finding suppliers last night and was mildly gob-smacked at the cost to be honest. We have four bridesmaids, a bride and groom and the brides parents to get to and from the church as a bare minimum. This size party needs at least two cars if not three, and it seems that ‘a’ car can be anything from £250-£500 for a 4 hour period. That’s quite a chunk of the wedding budget! How many extra bottles of wine, or canapés, or flowers would that cover? There’s the temptation to economise here, maybe, perhaps, I could ask one of my friends with a fancy car to shuttle some of the bridesmaids to the church, or maybe the brides father good get a lift home with his son instead, and then you stumble across cars like this… 

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized