Bells and Whistles Add Up With Lotus’ Latest


Lotus Notes/Domino 6.0 introduces some important new features for
administrators, including Domino Console, Web Administrator, and policy-based
management. There are practically countless smaller bells-and whistles,
too, largely aimed at giving administrators and end users a
smoother and more flexible user interface.


“It’s the 1,000 little things Lotus has done that make R6 a value
proposition,” contended Craig Roth, vice president of Web and collaborative
strategies at Meta Group. “Side-by-side time zones” is one of Roth’s
personal favorites.


Tim Kounadis, senior market manager for IBM Lotus Software. pointed to
color-coded e-mail as another usability feature. “You can tell immediately
whether an e-mail comes from your boss or from other team members.”


Many of the changes in R6, though, are much more sweeping. “R6 uses network
compression to reduce the number of bytes. This (lessens) waiting time for
clients and generally improves performance,” observed Joyce Graff, a VP at
GartnerGroup


Aside from Domino Console, Web Administrator, and policy-based management,
the bigger changes in R6 include remote server set-up; fault recovery,
easier replication, and an “intelligent” mail assistant..


A chorus of bells & whistles


The Notes R6 client, administrator client, and designer each feature a new
toolbar which totally replaces the SmartIcons in R5. Multiple rows of
icons can now be displayed at the same time. Drag-and-drop is simpler now,
according to Kounadis.


When Lotus introduces support for roaming users, these toolbar settings
and configurations will start following end users between PCs. Roaming user
support is currently planned for the first maintenance release to R6.


Lotus’s smaller GUI enhancements have been extended to welcome pages,
calendar and scheduling, and even spell checking, for example. In both
client and designer, the redesigned default Welcome page now includes
Personal Journal, Tip of the Day, and New Item buttons. End users can turn
Tip of the Day on and off. Administrators can modify the Tip of the Day
list.


Other “welcome changes”

Lotus now offers 13 different frameset styles for the Welcome page. In a
new Welcome page wizard, end users can now select between one to six
frames. If they opt for the single-frame home page, they can select from a
gallery of different layouts. Some sections can be customized by the user
with different themes and colors.


For users choosing multiple frames, Lotus has added a “switcher” for each
frame, which enables users to select between Notes databases, file systems,
and Web pages.


Administrators, though, can now lock the content of any frame in their
customized Welcome pages. When this happens, individual end users can no
longer change the content of the locked frame.


Color-coded calendar, medical spell checker


In the calendar view, “to do” and all-day events now appear up top. Lotus
has added color-coding to the calendar, too, to make it easier for users to
distinguish between various types of entries.


When spell checking documents, users can now switch to a foreign language
dictionary. English-speaking users will also be able to switch to
supplemental dictionaries, but “medical” is the only supplemental
dictionary supported right now.


New Domino Console


The new Domino console for systems administrators consists of two Java-based
application modules. The Controller module operates on the server.
The Console module, on the other hand, is designed to run separately on any
machine.


To connect from the Console module to a Controller, administrators need to
have their names input into the server document in NAB under the Security
tab. Access rights should be designated, too. Options include “full access
administrators; full remote console administrators; view only
administrators; systems administrators; and restricted system
administrators.”


“Restricted systems administrators,” for instance, are only able to issue
commands contained on a “restricted systems commands” list, which is also
accessible from the Security tab.


For administrators to access Controller from remote machines, the Console
must be operated on a publicly available port.


Monitoring


You can use the Domino Console to view Domino server statistics, and — on
several different operating systems — OS level statistics such as CPU,
memory, and disk I/O. Platform level statistics are available for Windows
2000, Windows NT, Sun Solaris, and IBM AIX and OS/400.


To see the platform statistics, use the Domino Console command “show stat
platform.” You can view individual network names, along with network
adapter names.


Domino Set-Up Program


In earlier versions of Domino, server configuration was database-driven,
via setup.nsf and setupweb.nsb. An administrator needed either a Notes
client or a Web browser to hook up to these databases. In R6, however, the
configuration GUI is also written 100 percent in Java.


Lotus has also gotten rid of the previous distinction between “Quick and
Easy” and “Advanced” setup. You can now customize some items on each setup
screen by clicking on the “Customize” button for the screen.


The new Domino set-up program is launched in the same way as the old one.
On Windows systems, you can either select “Lotus Applications Domino
Server” from the Start menu, or, from the command prompt in the Program
Directory, run the ‘nserver’ command.


On Unix systems, you should “change directories to the data directory
(default is /local/notesdata) and give the full path to the ‘server’
command in the bin directory (for example, “/opt/lotus/bin/server.'”


Lotus, though, has also left the old setup databases from previous releases
of Domino in the server installation for R6. So if you run into any
problems with the new user interface, you can always go back and use the
old setup procedure.


Remote Server Set-Up


The new Domino Java Setup program contains a subset of files for
configuring servers remotely over a network from any machine. Remote
administrators can configure Domino running on any of its platforms.


“Right now, though, you can only set up one server remotely at a time,”
Kounadis acknowledged.


Web Administrator


As in previous editions, R6 continues to offer Domino Administrator. For
management of Domino Web servers, though, you can now use the browser-based
Web Administrator instead.


Under Linux, Web Administrator must be used with the Netscape 4.7x
browser. On Windows 98/XP/2000/NT 4 PCs, you can use either Netscape 4.7x
or the Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 browser.


If you’re using the IE browser, make sure the setting “Check for newer
versions of stored pages” is set to Automatically.” Otherwise, the browser
might hand when drawing screen icons, according to Lotus’s R6 Release
Notes.


For authentication, administrators get a choice of Internet name-and-password
or SSL. Name-and-password authentication is enabled by default.


Web Administrator has almost the same user interface as Domino
Administrator. Most of the menu options, dialogs, and information boxes are
the same. Web Administrator, though, lacks a few of the functions performed
by Domino Administrator. It also presents certain information in a different
way from Domino Administrator. For instance, details about mail routing
statistics, mail routing schedules, and mail retrieval statistics are
displayed from Web Administrator’s Mail tab.


Moreover, Web Administrator’s Replication and Mail Messaging tabs contain a
Task tool, which can be used to enter Tell commands as well as to start,
stop, and restart.


What’s missing?


Functionality present in Domino Administrator, but absent in Web
Administrator, includes the Domino Server Monitor and performance charting.


To be managed via Web administrator, a server must be set up as a Domino
Web server. It must also be running the HTTP task. The server, though,
doesn’t necessarily need to be used as a dedicated Web server. According to
the Domino 6 installation guide, the Web server can also be used for tasks
like mail routing and directory services.


On the other hand, you must run the Administrator Process (AdminP) server
task on the Web administrator server, and you must setup administrator
access to the Web Administrator database.


Upon setting up administrator access, you can also restrict access rights.
You do this by using the Manage ACL tool on the Files tab to limit assigned
roles, corresponding tabs, and associated commands.


Roles can be restricted to one or more of the following: People&Groups;
Replication; Configuration; Files; Mail; MsgTracking; ServerStatus;
ServerAnalysis; and ServerStatistic.


Policies go automatic


“The new policy-based administration in R6 can be a real timesaver,”
maintained Meta Group’s Roth. Examples of policies that can be automated in
this way include passwords and mail archiving, for instance.


Beyond eliminating repetitive tasks, the new feature also makes uniform
policy enforcement a lot easier to achieve, according to IBM’s Kounadis.


After creating policies, administrators can use an established hierarchy to
automatically distribute the policies across a group, a department, or a
whole organization.


Policy-based administration calls for the use of both Setup Policies and
Desktop Policies The Setup Policies are executed just once per client,
during the initial client configuration. The Desktop Policies, on the other
hand, are applied only when there is a change in policy. Settings are
modified, however, only for clients affected by the policy change. For
instance, if a server gets a new phone number, the policy is modified only
for clients which use that particular server.


Also in R6, Lotus has added new welcome page customizations to Desktop
Policies. Administrators can push out bookmarks to users in whatever
configurations they want.


Sometimes, though, the “Default Welcome Page” field in the Desktop Settings
from of the Domino Directory may become blank. To correct this, Lotus
suggests that you put the Desktop Settings document in edit mode, click on
the “Corporate Welcome Pages database link, and cycle through each custom
Welcome Page to refresh the list.


“Save & Close the Desktop Settings document. Now, open the Desktop Settings
document in edit mode again and the ‘Default Welcome Page’ field will
display the list of custom welcome pages available in the database,”
according to the release notes.


“In the unlikely event that a server crashes.”


“In the unlikely event that a server crashes, Domino will shut itself down
and restart on its own,” Kounadis said. Available for Windows NT and Unix,
the fault recovery feature supports Domino partitions as well as Domino
clusters.


Only the affected partition shuts down, according to Kounadis. The others
continue to run. If a fatal error is found, the fault recovery feature will
restart only the affected partition, rather than the entire server.


On Domino R6 partitioned servers, all partitions share the Domino program
directory and an associated set of executable files. However, each
partition also has its own Domino data directory and Notes.init file,
meaning that each also has its own copy of the Domino Directory.


Replication made easy


“The ability to invoke replication functions is much more straightforward
in R6,” maintained GartnerGroup’s Graff. In R6, users can set the
Replication page as either a full page or slide-out bookmark page, for
instance. Databases can be organized on the Replicator page into
collapsible groups.


Databases can be dragged from bookmarks to either the Replicator icon, or
the Replicator page, and Notes will add those databases to the database
replication list. If you drag a database to the Replicator icon on the
Bookmark bar, the Replicator page will open automatically.


You can now get a replication progress report either directly from the
Replicator page, or through new progress bars located on the status bar.


SwiftFile, aka MailCat


Also new on the client side is an add-on called SwiftFile Mail Assistant,
described by Kounadis as “an intelligent assistant for mail.” SwiftFile
“observes and analyzes how you file documents, and makes suggestions about
where you might want to file new messages,” Kounadis added.


Previously codenamed MailCat, SwiftFile uses a text classifier to learn the
“mail filing habits” of individual end users. The software then uses the
model it learns to predict the three places where the end user is most
likely to file each incoming message. The predictions are then presented to
the user as three shortcut buttons.


Even if you’re not about to upgrade to R6, you can still play with
SwiftFile. A downloadable trial version is available free of charge from
the IBM AlphaWorks Web site.


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Jacqueline Emigh

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