Fri 18 Apr 2008
LDAP Enabler, in the larger scheme of things
Category : Commentary/LDAPEnablerAgain.txt
Quite few years back, when I was working with an insurance company on their underwriting, claims and accounting systems, I've observed that the same piece of contact information can be found in each of the three sub-systems and they're often not synchronised.
And even when we've finally managed to keep them synchronised in one central system, they're not available to the email systems, and so each underwriting, claims and accounting officer would have their own rolodex, diary, Palm Pilot, laptop, phonebook, etc. And I've been wanting to find a way to obliterate all these redundancies, ever since.
So with LDAP Enabler, I have finally a tool that could potentially do all that.
I could enter contact information into the LDAP repository, and have it appear on everyone's Mac, MacBook, or iPhone, which they can then use to email, call, fax, send a piece of snail mail, or pay a visit to the contact.
And lets say I'm in the accounting department and I happen to find that a client or vendor has changed place of operations or contact numbers (often the accounting people are the first persons to know such things), and I can update my system, which transparently is pulling data out from the LDAP server, and so my update consequently propagates to every salesperson's iPhone.
Or someone new joins the company, so you create an employee record into the LDAP database, and this new guy subsequently gets email access, and access to the databases, etc, with just that single password.
While I talk about departments here and departments there, I actually believe that the future is increasingly one of much smaller, two to five-person companies. It's so hard to find good people to hire that I'd much rather work with just my wife, and my friend Hai Hwee, and that's it, the three of us, and I'm much happier for it. With that, you'll want things to just work with the minimum of effort - what I call No Sweat Computing - and hope to run rings round the bigger competitors.
While I'm sitting here writing this in a McDonald's, I take great comfort that my system continues to receive people, lay out my wares, make a sales pitch on my behalf, process the transactions, and most importantly, receive the money and tell me the good news.
So I'll always recommend that it is worthwhile spending time thinking about ways to build good systems. It's the difference between being happy or being harried.
LDAP Enabler is a real application now - it has an icon
Category : Technology/LDAPEnablerIcon.txt
I was wracking my brains about finding an appropriate icon for LDAP Enabler. It needs to convey the idea that it's a tool for setting up information about people (of course, you can set it up to store information about things, like resources and conference rooms, etc) but most people would use it naturally to store information about people.
And this information is hierarchically organised. This idea about hierarchy in the LDAP setup is so fundamental - you can't search for things if you mess up the hierarchy.
Anyway, I needed an icon to show that the application is (mainly) about storing information about people - lots of people - and the people are hierarchically organised, and the information is bounded by a domain.
I tried various permutations of the NSEveryone icon used in the OS X Directory utility, plus the Address Book icon, but they all seemed so cliched.
Then I remembered that I'm a member of that race that still uses the longest surviving ideographic written language on earth (not that I had retained much facility with that language, to my eternal shame, so thoroughly had I been immersed in Western education and ways of thinking). How would the Chinese write this if they have to invent a new word that would depict said notion?
It could be something like this :
So this is LDAP Enabler's icon. It's, of course, not any "real" word in Chinese. It's just my invention, but it's struck me just how close these ideographic representations are to icons. They both need to pack a lot of punch in terms of informational content, in such a small space. I've never thought of things this way before.
Category : Technology/LDAPEnablerAnnouncement.txt
I've been working on way to activate and configure the built-in LDAP server on Leopard with just one click. Once enabled, you can use the LDAP server to store contacts information that will show up on any Mac (and iPhone), and keep them all updated from one central point.
(You can download it from here to try. It'll only work on Leopard).
It's still a work in progress. But this version is at least doing something really useful in conjunction with the OS X Address Book now.