Thursday, March 28, 2019

Is it time to renew your Domino ID Vault certificates?

IBM issued a Technote today detailing the procedure for renewing ID Vault Trust Certificates and Password Reset Certificates. They expire after 10 years. ID Vaults were first introduced in Domino 8.5, which was released December 2018, 10+ years ago now. So early adapters of the ID Vault will increasingly be having to renew their certificates.
The Technote describes:

  • The error message that signals that your certificates have expired ("Not a valid ID or the ID is corrupted");
  • The procedure for determining the expiration dates of your certificates; and 
  • The procedure for renewing them. Unfortunately you can't just recertify them. You have to remove the expired ones then issue new ones.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

My favorite feature of Sametime Meetings

Call me a dinosaur, but I love Sametime Meetings. Here's why. It has the best chat functionality of any meeting software I've seen. What I like about it in particular are two things:

  • You can categorize entries in the chat window according to five predefined categories.
  • When the meeting ends, Sametime generates a meeting report that organizes the chat entries by category.
The five categories are:

  • Group Chat
  • Minutes
  • Action Item
  • Question
  • Starred Item

If you just enter text in the chat window, your entry defaults to Group Chat. But you can select another category before you hit Enter. That entry and all following entries are under the category you selected until you select another one.

Sametime Meetings chat category pop-up list

When you end the meeting you see the dialog below, where you can choose to generate a meeting report or not, and where to store it. I have a subscription to Sametime Meetings in IBM Connections Cloud, where I also have subscriptions to IBM Notes Mail and IBM Connections. So the dialog defaults to saving the report to "My Files", my cloud-based file storage area.

Sametime End Meeting dialog

I don't go around testing the features of meeting products. So it may be that other meeting software has these features too; but I haven't seen them in WebEx, GoToMeeting, or Zoom.

And I really don't in my life have much call to conduct meetings. But were I, say, the Chair of a regularly scheduled meeting I might designate someone in the meeting to take meeting minutes by entering them in the meeting chat window. And I would put all action items and unresolved questions there too.

By entering that information right in the chat stream for all to see, the meeting attendees could act as proofreaders, flagging errors as they occur. Then, after the meeting ends I would use the meeting report to follow up on action items, unresolved questions, and important ("Starred") items, perhaps distributing parts of the report to the people assigned to carry out each item.

What's not to like about this? (Now, if only the process of installing the screen-sharing browser plug-in were a little easier and faster...)

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Traveler user's iPhone stopped working over the weekend; interesting reason why

Monday morning I received notice that a Notes Traveler user's iPhone had stopped sending/receiving messages. I see this sort of thing occasionally and I generally respond by issuing a Tell Traveler User command to obtain the device ID of the user's mobile device, then issuing a Tell Traveler Reset command to resync the devices. That almost always resolves the user's problems.

But this time when I issued the Tell Traveler User command it came back with a raft of errors I had never seen before. The first one was that the user's name wasn't in the mail database's ACL.

So I opened the Domino Directory to the People view and saw that the user's Person document had two (count 'em, two) replication/save conflict documents. I thought, aha, maybe Traveler is getting misled by all the Person documents for this user.

I compared the content of the three documents and none of the name fields (or for that matter any fields in the first few tabs) were different among the three documents. But I did see that the Last Updated field under the Administration tab was different for all three. They were all updated the previous Friday, late in the day by IAM (the SSO service used by the organization). The "winner" Person document was the most recently edited, so I deleted the two conflict documents.

Then I opened her "winner" Person document and saw that she had been renamed at some point in the past (because Domino preserves a user's former names when it renames a user, say, with a new married name). I noticed also that her mail database's file name was formed from her first initial and former last name, not her new last name. That was normal.

Then I opened her mail database and saw three unexpected things:
  • The title of the database was still set to her former name; 
  • The ACL had only her former name, not her new name in it; and
  • The Owner field was still set to her former name, not her new name.
All should have been set to her new name when she was renamed. I wondered if someone had attempted to rename the user manually instead of correctly telling the Administration Process to rename her. Occasionally a Windows administrator, unfamiliar with Notes architecture, will assume they can do that and, in the process, will make a mess of everything - not that I expected anyone at this company to be so dumb.

It occurred to me to have a look at the Administration Requests database to see if there were any Rename-related documents in it. Sure enough, there was an Initiate Rename in Domino Directory document. It had been created late the previous Friday, and the request had been carried out. But, curiously, there were no follow-on Rename documents. By now there should have been a whole train of them.

The Administration Process, running on each Domino server, checks the Administration Requests database every minute or so throughout the day. When it discovers new requests it attempts to carry them out. If it succeeds, it typically generates the next request in a given series. Then, when it checks again a minute later (or maybe an hour, a day, or a week later, depending on the nature of the request), it carries out that one, and so on until the whole process of (in this case) renaming the user is complete.

I checked Administration Help and read about the Initiate Rename in Domino Directory step of the Rename process and it became clear to me what was going on. After the Administration Process carries out the steps required by the Initiate Rename in Domino Directory document (which are to make certain changes in the Person document, among them adding user's new name to the top of the list of names in the User Name field), it waits for the user to log into Notes. When the user does that, Notes will check with the user's mail server to see if it needs to respond to any changes made regarding the user on the server. When Notes does so, it discovers that the user has been renamed, and it makes a number of local changes as a result:
  • Notes pulls the user's new certificate down from the server and merges it into the User ID, which as a result includes the user's new name along with her former name;
  • Notes renames the user in the ACLs of all local databases and in configuration files such as notes.ini; and
  • After Notes has done all that, it creates the next Rename request in the Administration Requests database for the user: Rename Person in Domino Directory.
At this point the Administration Process can complete the renaming process. That is, it can carry out the steps defined by the Rename Person in Domino Directory document and all of the documents that will follow it. It will rename the person in a raft of places, including (but not limited to) group documents, ACLs of various databases throughout the domain (including, most importantly from Traveler's point of view, the user's mail database), and Names fields in any databases in the domain where it locates the user's former name.

So what must have happened, I concluded, is that the user was renamed in Notes so late on the previous Friday that her copy of Notes had not had the opportunity to update itself and create the Rename Person in Domino Directory document. So the user was renamed in the Person document, thanks to the Initiate Rename in Domino Directory document, but no place else. As a result, Traveler could not see that the newly renamed user had sufficient rights to the mail database and stopped updating the user's iPhone. The user could see over the weekend that her iPhone had stopped functioning; so she opened a support ticket, the one that was assigned to me.

Late Monday morning I telephoned the user. Because it was a holiday (President's Day), she still had not attempted to open and log into Notes on her laptop. I asked her to do so and, voila, all the dominoes described above started falling and, voici, eventually her iPhone started working again. Oh la la!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Notes/Domino security vulnerability patched by IBM. You should apply this fix soon.

IBM has discovered and (on Friday, December 14, 2018) released a patch for a security vulnerability in NSD (Notes System Diagnostics) for Windows. So now is a really good time to upgrade your Windows-based Domino servers to 9.0.1FP10IF5 and your Windows-based Notes clients to version 9.0.1FP10IF6. (Or you could upgrade them to version 10.) Here's the Technote with the details. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Beware of stray cables

I just watched this scary video demonstration by Kevin Mitnick of KnowBe4 of a lightning cable that infects any computer you plug it into (well, the demo used a Windows 10 computer) with malware. In the demo Kevin suggests that we stop leaving cables plugged into our work computers, implying that the demo lightning cable could be swapped in when our back is turned. And don't use any old cable that you might find lying around? "You need to stop, look, and think", he says, "before you plug any device into your computer."

But Kevin leaves a lot of other questions unanswered:
  • How can we determine if a cable is malicious?
  • How can we tell if a cable we buy in a store is malicious or not? 
    • Do we have to stop buying non-Apple branded lightning cables now?
    • Are Apple branded cables save, even?
  • Can we use anti-malware software to protect ourselves if such a cable is plugged into our machine?
Hey, reader, sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

IBM Notes 9.0.1, MacOS High Sierra, and Java 8. Part 2.

After I wrote my Jan 24 post about running Notes on MacOS in Basic Mode, IBM released Notes 9.0.1 for MacOS Interim Fix 13. IF13 provides a fix for the problem I described in that post, which was that upgrading Java on the Mac to a version higher (more recent) than Java 8 Update 151 caused Notes to fail to start. That surprised me because, on the Windows platform Notes provides its own JVM; you can install whatever Oracle JVMs you like under Windows without affecting Notes at all. But it turns out that Notes running on the MacOS platform does not come with its own JVM and does rely on the Oracle JVM that you install on the machine. And, of course, Java 8 Update 152 caused Notes to choke and die.

In any case, the workaround at that time was to run Notes in Basic Mode, which effectively reverts Notes to running the old Release 7 Notes client written in C++, naked of the Expeditor wrapper that provides the new features of  Notes that debuted in Release 8. In Basic Mode, Notes does not use any Java-based features.

Another odd thing that I discovered since writing my last post is that the Notes 9.0.1 installer for the MacOS platform is "broken" with respect to MacOS High Sierra. The first time you run it on a machine running MacOS, it fails in the Provisioning stage, with the following error message:
File /Applications/IBM Notes.app/Contents/MacOS/rcp/rcplauncher.properties not found. Provisioning process failed to launch or was terminated before status could be determined.
Then the installation fails.

The fix for this is, of all things, to rerun the installer. The second time around it succeeds all the way through. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How to run IBM Notes in Basic Mode on MacOS

Late last week a RockTeam client notified me that a user upgraded Java on his Macintosh to Java 9.0.1, then discovered that IBM Notes would no longer start on the machine. The client is a software publisher and the user is a developer. He figured out how to run Notes in Basic Mode (i.e., without the Eclipse wrapper that provides additional, Java-based functionality to the Notes client, which is known as "Standard Mode") and concluded that his upgrade of Java must have caused the problem.

My client asked me to help figure out what the problem was and how to get Notes running again in Standard Mode. With IBM's help (I opened a PMR) I soon discovered two things:
  • This IBM document states that 64-bit Notes running on MacOS does not support Basic Mode.
  • This IBM document states that 64-bit Notes will not run on MacOS if you upgrade Java to version 8 Update 152 (or later).
The first document above turns out to be inaccurate; Notes will in fact run in Basic Mode on the Mac. The second document is accurate; Notes will not currently run in Standard Mode if you install Java 8 Update 152 or later on your Mac. So the user has two options: Downgrade or remove Java; or settle for running Notes in Basic Mode. Running in Basic Mode, one loses the Open button, the full-text search field in the upper right corner of the Notes window, and the right sidebar and all the Java-based apps that it contains.  The subject user has decided for now to live with Basic Mode. The company isn't a big user of the "Social Edition" features of Notes, so Basic Mode probably meets all of this user's current needs.

What interested me about this was that, from the way he described the problem, it was obvious that our user was not a Notes guru, knowledgeable about Notes's different running modes. He is a developer, though, and knowledgeable about Java and Eclipse. So he was able to just figure out how to get Notes to run without Eclipse. I thought that was pretty ingenious of him and asked how he managed to do it. So far the only answer I've received from him is "by brute force".

But I did some testing myself and learned that you can indeed start Notes in Basic Mode on the Mac. Here are the two ways I found:
  • Set the variable UseBasicNotes=1 in Notes Preferences. Notes Preferences is the Mac equivalent of notes.ini, where one would set this variable on the other supported Notes platforms. When you set this variable, Notes always starts in Basic Mode, i.e., without trying to wrap itself in Eclipse. If you want to run Notes in Standard Mode, you have to remove this variable or reset its value to "0".
  • Issue this command in Terminal:
    "/Applications/IBM Notes.app/Contents/MacOS/notes" -basic
    • NOTE: The quotes are necessary because of the space between "IBM" and "Notes.app". 
    • Notice also (my fellow geek) that I appended "-basic" to the command. Under Windows you could append either "-sa" or "-basic", but "-sa" did not work for me under MacOS.
I know there's a way to create a script to run the above command with a mouse click (or two). I'm not a UNIX guru, so I don't know how by heart. When I find some time, I'll figure it out and post that information here.