Lotus what? Nah mate, the world has moved on.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Et tu, Watson? IBM's supercomputer can critique your writing

Et tu, Watson? IBM's supercomputer can critique your writing:

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It's bad enough that robots are writing professionally (albeit badly), but now they're criticizing, too? IBM has unveiled the Watson Tone Analyzer, the latest tool in its "cognitive computing" suite of cookinghealthshopping and other apps. Once you input a piece of text, the system will perform a "tone check" to analyze three different aspects of it: emotional, social and writing style. Each of those is divided into further categories -- for instance, it can tell you if your writing style is confident or tentative, and whether the emotional tone is cheerful, angry or negative. From there, it can give you a breakdown of the overall tone and suggest new words to "fix" it.
But why? IBM says in the same way that you spell-check a document, you can now "tone-check" it too. For instance, if you want an employee letter to be more "agreeable," Watson suggests changing the word "disappointing" to "unsatisfactory," and "difficult" to "challenging." By swapping out enough words, you eventually get the right level of "agreeableness" or "cheerfulness" in a passage. IBM thinks this could help, say, advertisers, to make sure a marketing campaign matches "the personality attributes of target customers." In other words, Watson can help companies hawk beer.
Playing around a bit, I found it occasionally helpful, but it fell down more often than not. The main problem is that Watson was missing context, especially for words that have multiple meanings. In the sentence "I know the times are difficult!" it nonsensically suggested "arithmetic operation" for "times." It also doesn't understand sarcasm, humor and other styles, and just picks out individual words to determine the tone.
That said, the Watson Tone Analyzer is impressive considering that it's still experimental. For fun, I had it analyze a financial story generated by another robot, Automated Insights'WordSmith. If you'll recall, it wrote that story in a competition against an NPR staff writer, with readers judging the final result. Watson found Wordsmith's article unremittingly cheerful (96 percent), conscientious (94 percent) and analytical (49 percent). In other words, you'll get the facts, but you won't have any fun reading them. In comparison, Watson found the same story from an NPR writer to be negative (90 percent), but it wasoverwhelming voted more enjoyable to read -- by humans, anyway.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

If you’re not using what you already have, how can something else be ’better’

If you’re not using what you already have, how can something else be ’better’:

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If you’re not using what you already have, how can something else be ’better’

Mat Newman  April 22 2015 02:13:29
A constant theme in customer meetings recently has been educating our users about the entitlements they already have, the capabilities that are already available to them, and the tools that they have at their disposal. 

Figure 1: Shiny, BETTER? REAllY? 

Too often we have engaged with customers where the competition has demonstrated something "shiny" (for want of a better word), which the customer has gleefully latched onto as their reason for purporting to switch to another platform, without consulting their existing vendor to see if something equivalent - dare I say "Better" - is already available to them. 

Here is a short list of items that have featured heavily in those discussions:

  • ID Vault: The ability to easily reset passwords and sync security credentials with mobile apps,
  • Managed Replica's: Turns the Notes client into a "push-mail" app, effectively removing the requirement for mail replication schedules,
  • Managed Replica's: Enables the Notes client to send mail "in the background", alleviating delays in "Sending" email,
  • Full Text Index's: Want awesome search, on mail content, and attachments? it's been in Notes for years,
  • User policies: Control virtually every setting in the Notes client, enabling consistent configuration and enables many of the features that are not turned on in Notes "by default",
  • TDI/SAML: Single-Sign-On, for Notes, for external applications, and for browser based access, neat-O,
  • Live-Text: The ability to recognise almost any content within ANY Notes application (Not just the Email database, ANY Notes document),
  • Actions: What happens when Live-Text is recognised within a document? Configure an Action to perform the "Next Step" with that recognised text,
  • Widgets: Funky little gadgets which can be surfaced from any web-based application, linked with Live-Text and Actions to radically empower a user and dramatically increase their productivity,
  • Plug-Ins: Those add-ons that can totally transform the Notes client experience and interface,
  • Embedded Experiences: Going beyond Live-Text, Actions and Widgets to surface actionable content directly within an email message,
  • Connections Profiles: The ability to see who a person is within your organisation, their contact details, and access the CONTENT that person has created,
  • Connections Files: Send an attachment? Create 6 copies of a file in a simple exchange "Can you please update...", Really?
  • Presence: Is someone in the office, in a meeting, working on mobile, who knows?
  • Chat: You're online and I have a simple question ...

As I mentioned ... it's a short list (only 15 items), and if you're currently running IBM Notes 9, everything listed above is available to you NOW, FREE-OF-CHARGE with your existing IBM Notes client entitlements. 

And that's even before we start talking about the amazing development platform that is IBM Domino, with the ability to create truly transformational business applications that integrate with virtually any external system. Oh, and did I mention those applications can run natively in Notes, a Desktop Web-Browser or a Mobile device with very little effort? 

Got any questions about the items on the list? 

I would be happy to speak with you on how your organisation can get a "better", using what you already have. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Updates to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix - BlueMix Dev

Updates to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix - BlueMix Dev:

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A new version of IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix is now available for download. Here are some highlighted capabilities introduced in this update:
  • Map and unmap projects to cloud applications
    In the past, when an application was deployed outside of the Tools, you had to remove the application from the server before you could publish that same application from the Tools. The new map and unmap project feature allows you to map or unmap an Eclipse project to an existing application that is deployed outside of the Tools without redeploying the application to Bluemix. To map a project, right click on an existing application in the Servers view and select Map to Project.
    mapProjectDialog Updates to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix
  • Service creation wizard improvements
    The service creation wizard has been redesigned to:
    • Support the creation of multiple services and multiple instances of the same service in a single wizard flow.
    • Show service icons so you can easily find services.
    • Select free service plans by default. The free plans are denoted as ‘free’.
  • mutlServiceCreation2 Updates to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix
  • Dedicated Bluemix support
    The Tools now support connecting to a dedicated Bluemix. You can click on theManage Cloud button in the Bluemix server creation wizard and add the dedicated Bluemix URL to connect to a dedicated Bluemix.
    dedicatedBluemix Updates to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix
  • Password update
    You can update the password for an existing Bluemix server instance by right clicking on the server on the Servers view and selecting Update Password (previously you needed to recreate the server if the password had been changed or no master password had been set on the Eclipse secure storage).
  • Other improvements
    A number of performance and usability improvements have been introduced in this release:
    • The Tools are now more responsive during publish operations. Only changed applications are refreshed instead of refreshing all applications on the server.
    • The progress indication has been improved for long-running operations.
In addition to adding new capabilities in this update, we have also included a number of bug fixes and addressed a security vulnerability fix in this version.
If you are new to IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix, or you want to find out more, you can find more information below:

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Daniel Nashed's Blog

Daniel Nashed's Blog:

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First Perfect Forward Secrecy Ciphers shipped with 9.0.1 FP2 IF2

Daniel Nashed  30 March 2015 13:14:58
As posted before IBM shipped a new IF that introduces TLS 1.2 Along with this new version a set of ciphers have been added. 
Some of them are enabled by default and other can be enabled using notes.ini settings. 
Other ciphers that are regarded as "weak" have been removed from the default cipher list. 

So by default without any additional settings you get the ciphers that IBM currently recommends. 
What has been added to the default are the AEAD (AES-GCM) ciphers -- see details below. 

There are additional ciphers that will provide "Perfect Forward Secrecy" (PFS) for some platforms/browsers. 

IBM implemented Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman (DHE) ciphers. Those ciphers are used by many but not all platforms. 
That's why even if you enable them you the SSL Test Site will not give you a better rating because not all the reference browsers will use PFS. 

In addition those ciphers have a higher overhead to your Domino Server. Therefore IBM left the decision which cipher to add to administrators. 
You have to find the right balance between security and performance. 
Probably on a smaller server it will not have that much overhead. But on a larger server you might want to take special care and watch the CPU load of your server before and after you enabled the DHE ciphers! 

The current default setting is that the cipher order on the server takes preference. 

As mentioned before all the fixes currently have no design change because that will have to wait until 9.0.2. 
Therefore also the cipher spec has to be enabled using notes.ini settings as already described in our ConnectED presentation. 

There is a notes.ini setting described in a recent Wiki entry. Each cipher has an internal reference number that is standard. 
Domino uses the two digit hexadecimal number to specify the ciphers you want to have enabled on your server. 
The order of entries does not matter. You just have to make sure that you always use a two digit value per cipher -- even the cipher itself might have just one hex digit. 
There is no space between the cipher numbers. 

Here is what you get by default without any changes: 


3D = SA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA256 


In addition to that you have the folllowing new DHE ciphers available. 


So as an example when you want to enable all DHE ciphers and keep the other ciphers you set the following notes.ini setting and restart the servertasks like http. 


So you could add those ciphers to your cipher list using the notes.ini setting. 
Once you are done you can use the SSL Labs Test Website https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/ to check if the ciphers are properly configured. 
What is nice on the website is that the website will "simulate" which client type will probably use which type of cipher when connecting given the current settings of your server. 

Now you should have all the default ciphers and the DHE ciphers enabled. 

You should take special care which ciphers to disable because you could block out certain devices types. 

When testing with the SSL Tabs Test and also using Java applications I noticed that they will pick the DHE ciphers. 
But Java 1.6/1.7 does currently not support more that 1024 bits. By default Domino uses higher key-length. 

So Java sees that DHE ciphers are enabled and will try to use them. And it does not check before using it that it cannot handle larger key sizes than 1024. 

That means if you enable DHE ciphers you might have to consider to lower the key-length used. 
If you change the key-length to 1024 the SSL Labs Test site will report that your key is "weak". 

So you have to balance lower security with compatibility at this point. 

There is a notes.ini setting to specify the key-length for DHE ciphers. 

You could set notes.ini SSL_DH_KEYSIZE=1024 to resolve this incompatibility. 

There have been also discussions about other PFS ciphers that are used by other applications like older IE versions. 

"Elliptic Curves ciphers" (ECDHE..) are supported by older IE versions and by Windows mobile. 
But they are currently not implemented on the Domino side. 

All the development work in this area based by priorities and demand. And IBM is releasing it step by step with IF fixes. 
It's not confirmed IBM is working on those type of ciphers. I just wanted to mention it to explain why not all platforms will use PFS ciphers when you enable the DHE ciphers. 
Also the ECDHE ciphers have better performance than the DHE ciphers. But the first priority was to implement the DHE ciphers because most platforms support it. 
This was for sure not the last functionality update we get via a IF. I am looking forward to see that is next on the list. 

Not all of the notes.ini settings are documented yet. I expect that IBM will publish another Wiki article soon. 
I might update this blog entry or have a more complete article with more details as soon more information is available. 

-- Daniel 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sunway Group Moves to the IBM Cloud in Five-year IT Modernisation Plan

Well done to Mat! I miss Malaysia and I miss Mat, a lot. Not so much IBM (think Borat) but definitely Mat.

Of course this says nothing about Lotus Notes and Domino Mail in Sunway that will still be stuck in the dark ages after trying very hard to get them to upgrade. There is simply no real upgrade path available for Lotus Notes anymore. Version 9.0.1 will go down in history as the longest standing version ever that never received a single feature upgrade. It is the last version actually, ever.

Time to introduce Sunway to Binary Tree products. Apparently Connections plays nicely with Outlook and Exchange. Better than with Lotus Notes some may say.

Not withstanding my spurious comments above, well done Mat and the few Lotus people left in IBM Malaysia. Awesome work team!

Sunway Group Moves to the IBM Cloud in Five-year IT Modernisation Plan

Mat Newman  March 5 2015 22:00:00
Today was an exciting day as Sunway Group announced their plans to modernise their IT environment and expand their IBM Collaboration Solutions investment throughout the group. 

For the IBM Collaboration Solutions team here in Malaysia and across the region, the official announcement is a culmination of over a years work to successfully demonstrate the value of IBM's Collaboration platform in an extremely competitive evaluation of Sunway's existing systems and future requirements. Needless to say, the usual suspects were heavily involved in their attempts to lure away one of IBM Malaysia's marquee customers. The IBM team triumphed by showing IBM's superior vision, capabilities and deployment flexibility. 

Figure 1: Sunway Group President Dato Chew Chee Kin 

Figure 2:  Cheah Kok Hoong, Group CEO & Director of Hitachi Sunway

Below is the joint press release issued by Sunway and IBM: 
"Kuala Lumpur, 5 March 2015 —
 The Sunway Group (listed as “Sunway Berhad” on Bursa Malaysia) today announced that it is working with IBM (NYSE: IBM) to deploy IBM Connections Cloud to transform its IT and business infrastructure. 

IBM Connections Cloud provides an intuitive set of cloud-delivered online technologies for businesses that combine social networking and online collaboration, messaging, and web conference tools to support Sunway Group’s 12 business divisions across 50 locations worldwide.

Sunway Group’s President, Dato' Chew Chee Kin said that the key driver for the Group’s multi-million ringgit investment decision is to support its 13,000 employees via an ICT business transformation endeavour.

“In order to single-mindedly drive continual high level of satisfaction amongst our customers, suppliers and partners in the ecosystem, we made a deliberate decision to invest in Cloud-based solutions to immediately facilitate greater work efficiencies and collaborations across our businesses in Property, Construction, Hospitality, Retail, Leisure, Commercial, Trading & Manufacturing, Building Materials, Quarrying, Healthcare, Education and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT).”

Sunway’s deployment of IBM Connections Cloud will be implemented by Hitachi Sunway Information Systems Sdn. Bhd (“Hitachi Sunway”), a joint venture (JV) company of Hitachi Systems, Ltd. and Sunway Technology Sdn Bhd. Hitachi Sunway is a leading IT services and solutions provider in Southeast Asia.

Sunway Group will enjoy greater innovationwith IBM Connections Cloud as it is designed to give companies the ability to collaborate and easily work with others inside and outside the firewall. Furthermore, IBM collaboration solutions combine social networking, messaging and web conference tools that help simplify sharing of content in daily business interactions among its employees worldwide.

“As our employees and customers become more mobile- and social-driven, this major ICT upgrade will ensure that Sunway is at par with technology advancements for rapid business growth support, and to transform Sunway to be a social-savvy digital enterprise.” said Dato' Chew Chee Kin.

Cheah Kok Hoong, Group CEO & Director of Hitachi Sunway said: “Excellence in customer experience is a crucial component for the continued success of Sunway, and Hitachi Sunway looks forward to playing a key role to help Sunway achieve its IT business transformation, which among others, include turning it (the Group) into a truly ‘social enterprise’.”

“The IBM Connections Cloud facilitates the conglomerate with an extensive productivity platform to be more ‘in-tune’ with business dynamism, as well as social requirements in the daily interactions with customers, partners and colleagues,” he said.

“In short, this Cloud investment by Sunway will enable it to more seamlessly integrate ICT to effectively support and expedite Big Data interactions with its thousands of connections within its large business ecosystem,” said Cheah.

“Enterprises see the value of cloud but face a unique set of challenges around reliability, standards, security, and control in truly extending the use of cloud beyond IT. IBM Connections Cloud, with its enterprise grade security and control; deepens customer relationships, increases effectiveness, and optimize workforces. We are excited to work with the Sunway Group and help them achieve their business goals and aspirations,” said Paul Moung, Managing Director, IBM Malaysia.

About Sunway Group
Since its inception in 1974, Sunway Group has grown exponentially from a tiny tin-mining company to become one of Malaysia’s largest and most respected conglomerates with the establishment of 12 businesses in 50 locations worldwide. Community building, enriching lives, and entrepreneurship remain Sunway’s principal tenets as the group continues to transform lives through its core businesses of Property, Construction, and synergistic businesses of Hospitality, Retail, Leisure, Commercial, Trading & Manufacturing, Building Materials, Quarrying, Healthcare, Education and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). Underscoring its deep commitment to sustain the communities it builds, Sunway Group supports its communities with its social responsibility endeavours of far-reaching impact championed by Education, Healthcare and Community Aid, Reach-out and Enrichment (C.A.R.E.) programmes.

About Hitachi Sunway Information Systems Sdn Bhd
Established in April 2013, Hitachi Sunway Information Systems is a joint venture (JV) company of Hitachi Systems, Ltd. and Sunway Technology - to provide IT services in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.  Its core offerings include applications (ERP, Supply Chain Optimization), engineering solutions (PLM) and infrastructure & managed services (Systems & Storage, End-to-End Virtualization Solutions, Data Management/Storage, High Availability/Disaster Recovery, ITO Managed Services, Infra/Data/Cloud Security, Wireless Network Infra, Data Center Outsourcing & Cloud Services).  The company has established partnerships with leading global technologies provider such as Siemens, Autodesk, Spring Technologies, Oracle, Ariba, Netsuite, VMware, Trend Micro, NetApp, Symantec, Dell, Commvault, Citrix, Hitachi Data Systems, e-Lock, HP and IBM.  Our list of clientele come from various industries, namely Insurance & Financial Services, Automotive, Manufacturing & Distribution, and Construction & Engineering.  Headquarter in Malaysia, we also have offices in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines & Vietnam. For more information, visit 

Some of the media reaction to the event can be found HERE and HERE 

I am extremely grateful that the Sunway team tasked with evaluating in detail their current and future requirements looked beyond the check-boxes in the competing specification sheets and exhaustively compared the actual form and function of the solutions on offer. When an organisation goes to the lengths that Sunway did in comparing the possible, it becomes clear that IBM is the leader in providing a totally integrated and flexible solution. 

If your organisation is in a similar situation, we would love to discuss the possibilities with you. 

On days like today ... I really LOVE my job. 

Proud to be an IBMer! 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What you need to know about HTTP/2

What you need to know about HTTP/2:

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What you need to know about HTTP/2
Look at the address bar in your browser. See those letters at the front, "HTTP"? That stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the mechanism a browser uses to request information from a server and display webpages on your screen. A new version of the reliable and ubiquitous HTTP protocol was recently published as a draft by the organization in charge of creating standards for the internet, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This means that the old version, HTTP/1.1, in use since 1999, will eventually be replaced by a new one, dubbed HTTP/2. This update improves the way browsers and servers communicate, allowing for faster transfer of information while reducing the amount of raw horsepower needed.

Why is this important?

HTTP/1.1 has been in use since 1999, and while it's performed admirably over the years, it's starting to show its age. Websites nowadays include many different components besides your standard HTML, like design elements (CSS), client-side scripting (JavaScript), images, video and Flash animations. To transfer that information, the browser has to create several connections, and each one has details about the source, destination and contents of the communication package or protocol. That puts a huge load on both the server delivering the content and your browser.
All those connections and the processing power they require can lead to slowdowns as more and more elements are added to a site. And if we know nothing else, it's that people can be quite impatient. We've come to expect blazing-fast internet and even the slightest of delays can lead to hair pulling and mumbled swears. For companies, a slow website can translate directly into lost money, especially for online services where long load times mean a bad user experience.
People have been searching for ways to speed up the internet since the days when dial-up and AIM were ubiquitous. One of the more common techniques is caching, where certain information is stored locally as opposed to transferring everything anew each time it's requested. But others have resorted to tricks like lowering the resolution of images and videos; still others have spent countless hours tweaking and optimizing code to cut just milliseconds from their load times. These options are useful, but are really just Band-Aids. So Google decided to dramatically overhaul HTTP/1.1 and create SPDY; the results have been impressive. In general, communication between a server and a browser using SPDY is much faster, even when encryption is applied. At a minimum, the transfer speed with SPDY can improve by about 10 percent and, in some cases, can reach numbers closer to 40 percent. Such has been the success of SPDY that in 2012 the group of Google engineers behind the project decided to create a new protocol based on the technology, and that started the story that leads us to the current HTTP/2 draft.

What is a protocol?

You can think of a protocol as a collection of rules that govern how information is transferred from one computer to another. Each protocol is a little different, but usually they include a header, payload and footer. The header contains the source and destination addresses and some information about the payload (type of data, size of data, etc.). The payload contains the actual information, and the footer holds some form of error detection. Some protocols also support a feature called "encapsulation," which lets them include other protocols inside of their payload section.
You can think of it like sending a letter using snail mail. Our protocol in this case would be defined by the USPS. The letter would require a destination address in a specific format, a return address and postage. The "payload" would be the letter itself and the error detection is the seal on the envelope. If it arrives ripped and without a letter, you'd know there was a problem.

Why is HTTP/2 better?

In a few words: HTTP/2 loads webpages much faster, saving everyone time that otherwise would go to waste. It's as simple as that.
The example below, published by the folks over at HttpWatch, shows transfer speeds increasing more than 20 percent, and this is just one test with web servers not yet fully optimized (the technology will need some time to mature for that). In fact, improvements of around 30 percent seem to be common.
Example of HTTP page load speed (above) against HTTP/2 (below)
HTTP/2 improves speed mainly by creating one constant connection between the browser and the server, as opposed to a connection every time a piece of information is needed. This significantly reduces the amount of data being transferred. Plus, it transfers data in binary, a computer's native language, rather than in text. This means your computer doesn't have to waste time translating information into a format it understands. Other features of HTTP/2 include "multiplexing" (sending and receiving multiple messages at the same time), the use of prioritization (more important data is transferred first), compression (squeezing information into smaller chunks) and "server push," where a server makes an educated guess about what your next request will be and sends that data ahead of time.

So when will we get to enjoy the benefits of HTTP/2?

There's no real start date for the use of HTTP/2, and many people may already be using it unknowingly. The draft submitted on February 11th will expire in six months (August 15th, to be precise). Before expiring, it has to be confirmed and become a finished document, called an "RFC," or a new draft with changes has to be published.
As a side note, we should mention that the term "RFC" comes from "Request For Comments," but it's really a name for a finalized document used by the IETF. Also, an RFC is not a requirement, but more of a suggestion of how things should be designed. (Confusing right?) However, for a protocol to work properly, everyone has to follow the same rules.
The HTTP/2 technology is already baked into many web servers and browsers, even if it's still just a draft. For example, Microsoft supports HTTP/2 on Internet Explorer under the Windows 10 Technical Preview; Chrome also supports it (while it's disabled by default, you can easily enable it); and Mozilla has had it available since Firefox Beta 36.
If we talk about web servers, you should know that IIS (the Windows web server) already supports HTTP/2 under Windows 10 and it's expected that Apache and Nginx will offer support very soon (SPDY is already supported through extensions). This means that sooner, rather than later, we will all be using HTTP/2. And chances are you won't even realize it when the switch is made unless you're in the habit of timing load times for your favorite sites. Plus, you'll still just see "http" or "https" in the address bar, so, life will continue as usual, but a bit faster.

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