[ubuntu-uk] IBM & Ubuntu - but what about Lotus?

Alan Bell alan.bell at theopenlearningcentre.com
Wed Oct 21 07:56:18 BST 2009

I have been working with Lotus Notes and Domino for 10+ years. I had a
server running Redhat and Domino 5, the first release that ran on Linux.
The notes client was once a C application, with a basic core and a front
end framework that ran on Windows, OS/2, and some Unix. It didn't fit
the platform UI guidlines of any of them, but that was OK, because it
was cross platform. Then they added Windows specific bits and dropped
the other platforms. After a while they realised that Windows was not
the only thing in the world and tried to get it running on the Mac and
Linux, but it was all a bit too windows specific, it had also put on
rather a lot of weight over the years. Rather than actually fix what
they had, someone had the bright idea of stuffing the bits that did work
inside Eclipse, a big fat Java based cross platform UI toolkit that IBM
wrote in the first place and open-sourced. They decided to attack
Microsoft Office too by taking a copy of OpenOffice.org 1.1.6 (a bit
slow and fat) and stuffing that into Eclipse too. OOo was dual licensed,
SISL and LGPL and IBM were depending on the permissiveness of the SISL
to scoop it up, rewrite the UI and stuff it into a framework they call
expediter and then into Eclipse. They have been unable to take a new
branch from OOo because OOo went LGPL only from 1.1.6 and that would
have forced them to LGPL the expeditor framework which they really
didn't want to do. They say they will take a new code drop from OOo 3
but I am not sure how. In theory they could de-couple expeditor and OOo
to such a degree that it would be considered linking like a library, at
the moment it goes way beyond that loose coupling.
So over the years it has had bits bolted on such that now the installer
on Windows for the Notes Client with the Domino Designer(not released
for Linux) and Domino Administrator(not released for Linux) and Symphony
editors (the OOo bit) and Sametime (a single-protocol pidgin) weights in
at an impressive 608MB

Notes is quite a misunderstood application. People think it is an email
client with a poor user interface. By most accounts the email bit
doesn't suck as much as it used to, but for me it never was an email
client. It is a document oriented non relational database. You can write
applications that have forms that people fill in, then route to other
people. The forms can be quite complex and the data from the documents
that result in filling out a form can be displayed in views. These bits
can be pulled together very fast into a coherent and useful multi-user
distributed application. When you have a tool such as that it is trivial
to knock up a little database for each person and allow them to fill out
a form with to,cc,bcc, subject and body fields and then shuffle the
resulting documents about between user databases. You can then call it
email and it will work just fine, but won't be the best email system in
the world.
The really interesting core of Domino is the document oriented database
engine. Damien Katz worked at Lotus for many years then left for a bit
and decided to write a new database, based on some of the core concepts
of Notes, but brought up to date and without the layers and layers of
stuff piled on top of it. The result is CouchDB, which as luck would
have it, is installed by default on every Karmic Koala.

So by all means try out the IBM collaboration suite for Ubuntu, it lacks
Domino Designer so you can't do any of the interesting stuff, but you
can have a Notes client if you want. If you haven't used it before then
I don't think you are going to like it much. For me the future of
collaborative application development is Ubuntu, desktop CouchDB and
python based user interfaces with replication to internal CouchDB
instances and to Ubuntu ONE.


mac wrote:
> I guess you may have seen this interesting development:
> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/20/ibm_canonical_ubuntu_lotus_us_package/
> The mention of the Lotus suite made me wonder if any of us have tried 
> it, and could give an opinion.  I've thought about trying it out, but 
> the reviews have been a bit off-putting.
> Anyone got recent experiences of Lotus + Ubuntu to share?
> mac

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