Lotus Notes

Sorry for the weather in Columbus, Ohio – we’ve migrated to Exchange 2010

My company would like to apologise for the weather (ie tons of snow) that Columbus, Ohio is currently experiencing. We believe it is entirely our fault as we have started our migration from Lotus Notes to Exchange 2010 – something I believe would only ever happen if Hell froze over. Therefore we are totally to blame for the weather.  Thankfully there is no way we are going back to Notes, so it looks like this weather is here to stay.

Mark emails unread in Lotus Notes

One of the things that annoyed me about Lotus Notes was the inability to easily mark emails as unread once opened. However today I accidentally found out that by pressing the Insert key this will toggle the read/unread state of the email. However, if you have a mixed state of read and unread mails, then all the mails turn to one state which will be the opposite state of the currently selected email.
I asked around in the office and nobody knew this trick – I discovered it by accident when trying to delete an email and I missed the key. The only downside to the trick is if you miss the insert button and hit delete instead – I am not responsible for any sudden outbursts of swearing if this happens!

Zapnotes – my favourite application

Unfortunately Lotus Notes hangs on my pc all the time with no apparent reason. It does look like it has issues with replicating databases, but the database that has problems can change and about 20% of the time it does actually work. The other 80% of the time is a pain as I am working offline, go to my mail and all the recent stuff is not there. Alternatively I go to shut down Notes and it fails because it gets stuck on trying to replicate. So my favourite tool at the moment is Zapnotes which does a good job of killing notes processes and restarting notes. Sometime though I get the error message “An error was encountered while opening a window” – this can be solved by clicking ok to close notes and then running (in my case) c:\program files\lotus\notes\nsd -kill
No need for a reboot.

“Your availability time range is invalid, please correct” Lotus Notes error.

I got the “Your availability time range is invalid, please correct” when I went into my calendar options in Notes to try and fix another (unrelated) issue and for the life of me I couldn’t see why I would get this error message. The screenshot below shows the settings that I saw.


However, if the Sunday box was subsequently checked, the time for that day was displayed and the time for some reason was set to be from 02:00 pm – 02:00 AM which is not a valid time range as it spans over to the next day.
So if you get this message, remember to check the disabled days first.

Lotus Notes Productivity

I’ve been doing a lot of research,reading and studying in improving my productivity and time management recently. This morning I came across the Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes document which really strikes me as an oxymoron. Notes seems to be the most counterproductive piece of software out there and it is not helping me in my productivity. So maybe I’ll get this document to see how it should be done.
One of the things that I picked up from one of the books was to use 1 calendar for everything which is ok if you are single and don’t have a spouse that also needs to see your calendar but they don’t work for your company and have access. As we both have google accounts, I thought that syncing the Notes calendar to google calendar would work as then my wife can see the google calendar and we could both use the calendars to ensure we didn’t doublebook events. I did find the Companion Link for Google Calendar software but it doesn’t work very well.
The synchronization takes forever (when it does work) and I’ve ended up with duplicate entries in google but with different times – 1 hour apart I could understand due to some funky dst issues, but these are a couple of hours apart. Recurring appointments are not supported (although recurring appointments that have been canceled appeared in gmail but active recurring appointments didn’t)
Still, at least I now have a base copy in Google calendar which I will hopefully be able to keep up to date.

SBS training

Had a good days training at the Small Business Exam Cram today. Today was mainly focussed on the Sales & Marketing aspect of the system but we also went through the initial install and configuration of the server. Everyone had a laptop with SBS running in a virtual pc and it was soooooo slow. It was comforting to find that it was slow on these laptops though as I was wondering if I had something wrong on my install of sbs on my own laptop which was also incredibly slow (although once the system is up and running it’s not too bad).

During lunch, most of the attendees got out their work laptops and surfed to get email, messages from work, did some work or in some cases just watched the IT Crowd from Channel 4 which you can’t get in america now 🙁
Anyway – the funny thing was that the couple of guys behind me were complaining about how bad the network was after everyone had fired their laptops up – and blaming it on the bandwidth hogs of vpn, remote desktop and other such tools (that I was using). Mind you – you’d be crazy to not use vpn or rdp in a room of techies as there were quite a few copies of ethereal and network sniffers running. What I did find amazing was that the people using outlook2003 all complained that they weren’t able to contact their servers back at the office due to the bandwidth requirements, but I had the once in a lifetime opportunity of saying “If you were using Lotus Notes you wouldn’t have that problem” and actually meaning it. Normally I’m *blaming* Lotus Notes for causing me problems.

We were given homework to do tonight – to complete the Sales and Marketing assessment which was actually fairly easy – especially as you can keep retaking it (for free) until you achieve a passing score – it took me 2 attempts! The scary thing about this is that you are then halfway to becoming a Small Business Specialist, and so is the company that you work for. Some discussion this morning took place about Best Buy and the Geek Squad going for Small Business Training and how they were trying to get the Small Business Specialist certification – this was a worrying prospect for a lot of the consultants as they can’t compete on price (which a lot of small businesses will focus on) and they are nervous about the fact that it is unlikely that the Geek Squad are going to do a very good job. It was even more disconcerning when I pointed out that in theory the GeekSquad only needs *1 person* to get the qualification and then the whole company, countrywide, can claim Small Business Specialist accreditation. To me that is just wrong (although it was pointed out that it is more likely that each branch is going to go for accreditation individually) but it does make you think……..

A new blog – at the office.

A couple of my workmates have been pointed towards this blog when they need technical data that I’ve come across in the past. We were also discussing the need to let other techs know when our tools subdirectory is updated with new content (such as the mbsa visio plugin mentioned in the previous directory). I mentioned that a blog was needed and we thought that we could use one of the notes blog templates that is out there. We then thought that it would be a good idea to use the blogging facility within sharepoint as we do not have much experience with the software and this would give us real world experience in using sharepoint AND having an internal (and possibly an external) blog at the same time. Hopefully this will get approved next week and we can start to use it. Now I just need to find a RSS reader for Lotus Notes to read peoples updates. (We were originally going to use the KnowledgeBase discussion template within Notes but that doesn’t notify us whenever there is new content like it is supposed to do)

The things I learnt today

1. If a computer freezes every 20 minutes, is it safe to upgrade the bios (which might solve the problem)? A tricky question and in my case, the answer is no. The computer crashed during the bios update and consequently was Columbus’ biggest doorstop. Fortunately I had made sure the machine was under warranty before I began but still had to endure a 45 minute phone call with Dell as they troubleshooted the call. The last 2 minutes went something like this
Dell: Sounds like you need a new motherboard.
Me: Yep
Dell: Sounds like you knew I was going to say that.
Me: Yep!
The engineer will be on site tomorrow to swap out the part although they asked if I wanted to do it. Very cheeky on their part seeing as though the company is paying for the warranty and the coverage – why do their job for them? That and the engineer can sit and wait whilst the lengthy diagnostics runs and I won’t.

2. If you use Lotus Notes as your mail client and synchronise your databases to the server, it doesn’t synchronise your address book (which doesn’t need a replica on the server either to confuse matters). Instead you go to Actions/Synchronise Address Book. Why you have to do this I don’t know *cough* you don’t have to do that in outlook you know – its all included in the synchronisation/offline capabilities *cough*. I’ve also not worked out how to get that command onto a toolbar so I have one click access rather than going to the menu to do it (or even better to automatically do it). I’ve also yet to work out what they synchronise journal does as I dont see an option for a journal in my notes client – this notes client lark is a steep learning curve.

3. If users complain they can’t see unread email in outlook, make sure that the messages view does NOT have the “Use Group” menu item selected otherwise it is possible to hide last weeks mail, including unread emails, in this one line within the view (and its too complicated for the users to go to the unread emails view)