FeedDemon RSS Reader ( 10/10 )

Image:FeedDemon RSS Reader ( 10/10 )
I find that FeedDemon is probably the most useful tool for web browsing. It lets me stay on top of hundreds of websites and blogs very efficiently

It uses the RSS feeds from the sites and downloads summaries of the articles. You can browse these off line and, most usefully, the system can quickly let you see which sites have new information

I originally paid about 30 GBP but its now free. I have attached my current OPML file which can be uploaded into most RSS readers – be warned it does have a lot of junk in it !

Image:FeedDemon RSS Reader ( 10/10 )

Improvements in Notes 8 HTML email rendering

Prior to Notes 8 the rendering of emails was always very hit and miss n Notes.

Another issue was that Notes automatically displayed images in HTML emails and these could sometimes be tracked by spammers to indicate that the email had been opened by a real person.

With Notes 8 there are two big improvements in this area – the first is that the rendering is much better and the second is that the images can be blocked.

The example on the left shows how the Avnet Newsletter has rendered much better in Notes 8 ( on the right ! ) than it did in Notes 6.5.4. This is one of the most striking changes for users Notes 8

Image:Improvements in Notes 8 HTML email rendering

Displaying all of your Image Resources in a view easily

an extension to Martin’s database

Image:Displaying all of your Image Resources in a view easily

Image Resources can now ( version 6 ? ) be displayed in views. This has quite a few possibilities including showing thumbnails in the corporate directory which I will post later but for now I have posted this example which builds on an icon database by Martin Vereecken.

I have added an agent called “Create documents for Image Resources” which will cycle through the design elements and create a Notes Document for each of the image resources – this then allows them to be displayed in the view. I have also added two views for this purpose, the first is a flat view and the second a twistied view where the categorisation is based on the image resource name

The code is in the .lss file at the end and I have also added a copy of Martins database with the agent added.

How I got started with Lotus Notes

The Critical Machine Incidents Black Book

Quite a few people have been blogging about how they got started with Notes so I thought that might be a good place to start this blog.

I am a Manufacturing Engineer by background but in my Engineering roles I always struggled to make my information and work processes as efficient as I wanted them to be – given that Information and Work Processes are the main part of an Engineers job this was always a bit frustrating – then I came across Notes and a whole new way of working ( and ultimately a new career ) opened up.

I first came across Notes in 1995. At the time I was working for a multinational chemical company and I needed to find a way to improve our Critical Machines Incidents Black Book process. The company took safety very very seriously and the Black Book contained reports on all of the life threatening failures of mechanical equipment in the company – each of these had been written up and reviewed by senior specialists before being distributed to the Chief Engineers of each of the business units ( 50 + people ) who in turn cascaded these reports to 5000 + Engineers. The catalyst to establishing the system had been a particularly nasty accident in which some people died. The investigation had shown that the particular failure mechanism in that particular model of machine was previously known about in one division ( where corrective measures had been put in place ) but not in the division where the fatal accident happened.

While this was a good process for its time the main problem was that the “Black Book” was in reality only a book in one physical place as each of the new incident reports were sent out in memos and the completeness of this valuable collection of knowledge was very limited. I ( as usual ) was frustrated by this paper process and set about trying to put this information in a database so that it could be searched and distributed as a whole. When I asked the head of IT for the Engineering Division ( a quite progressive chap ) what I could use he said he had just the thing – a new system called Lotus Notes

He gave me a new database shell, a design licence ( I presume ) and set me off. After much fiddling and dissecting of the mail template I developed a system which allowed new serious machines incidents to be reported, written up, reviewed and then published. The system was perfectly suited to Notes, there was total security for the draft documents until they had been trough the review process, interested parties were informed by email as soon as a new report was published, reports could be sorted by type, process fluid etc.. and the whole archive could be searched.

I don’t want to sound overly zealous about Notes but the transformation from a well intentioned paper black book to an effective searchable knowledge base with work flow and security just blew me away and opened up a whole new way of working – and I still haven’t seen another platform that can do this so well.

To cut a long and rambling story short I ultimately got to the point where although I loved being an Engineer ( and hoped I was a good one ) I became known as the guy who used databases all the time so in 2000 I started FoCul Ltd ( I’m Cull and my wife’s maiden name is Foster* ). FoCul has now delivered over 200 applications like this one ( although they are much better constructed now ! )

A nice thing was that although the company no longer exists its Engineering Division was sold on and in January of this year ( 2008 ) I came across that first database on a customers workspace – the work flow process is no longer in use but the knowledge lives on !

* I should point ( for her employers peace of mind ) out that my wife has never worked for FoCul but was obviously hugely supportive as I set it up.

Toshiba Dynadock USB docking station with DVI out ( 9/10 )

Image:Toshiba Dynadock USB docking station with DVI out ( 9/10 )

The Toshiba Dynadock is pretty amazing – it provides a DVI socket, Lan and multiple USBs through a single USB input. I actually have a second Rextron XtraViU VCUD20 USB > DVI adapter daisy chained to this to give me two independent ( Dual monitors )  AG Neove 19″ monitors and the Toshiba M700 tablet PC screen. I find that my efficiency is much better with two decent screens, particularly if I am using multiple Virtual Machines at once

I am still learning to configure it – there seems to be a few glitches when you try and use the tablet in slate mode – moving the pen up and down actually moves it left to right – but overall it is pretty good.

I was slaved to a Dell D600 prior to this because I believed that only Dell made a docking station with the space for a second PCI graphics card whereas the Dynadock will work with any laptop. Note that the latest drivers from Displaylink support indpendent ( extended ) monitors in Vista and not just mirrored as suggested in the Toshiba bumf.

The brains behind both the Dynadock and the Rexton have been developed by a British company called Displaylink – If I could buy shares in them I would because they look to have captured this lucrative market. Samsung are even doing monitors with usb inputs.

The dynadoc was 100 GBP from dabs.com
The Rexton was 35 GBP from microdirect – although the image showed one of these which would have been slightly better
2 x AG Neuvo 19″ 1280 x 1024 with a 3 yr on site warranty from ebuyer.com  90 GBP each