PermaLink Big bag of random stuff10/27/2008 01:51 PM
A few Domino issues, a few political issues, news from around the house, and a gripe.

Does anybody know of a decent way to write PDFs from Domino data, on the fly, on a Unix platform, and return said PDF to the user's browser for viewing or saving? I've run across a lot of tools which will convert HTML to PDF, lots of solutions that only run on Windows, that require a Notes client, or other deal-killing limitations. Basically what I'd like is to say, "here's a view, server. Write its contents to PDF using these style and formatting options, and then ship it out the HTTP task."

It's been frustrating. In a pinch, something like Primeapple's Notes to PDF could work, but it would require that we have a Windows server sitting somewhere that's willing to take and process those requests. Or perhaps a thing whereby we could output the view to XML and then process it into PDF? Anybody any ideas?

I've learned again that there's such a thing as a web app not being "Domino" enough. A system we're reworking now started out as a grand adventure into the Yahoo User Interface (YUI) libraries, and then, after we simplified it again, got back to being much more dominolike, which is good. I was really getting a headache dealing with all the external stylesheets and libraries and all the YUI calls that had to be beaten with a hammer to accept a typical Domino web object and do something with it. My strong recommendation now is, start with what Domino can do, and only when you run out of its native powers and abilities should you go using external script libraries to "enhance" it. As I've said recently, I have yet to find things Domino truly, truly cannot do. However, you do have to have a realistic sense of the point of diminishing returns, and learn when to make the leap over to using something else if it's genuinely better.

My favorite example of a horrible "Domino" app was something a contractor did for us (or to us) a couple of years ago. We had as a requirement that this app be written in Domino. However, the contractor, figuring they knew better than we did about what we needed, snarfed some ColdFusion code they'd written some time earlier for some other system. They took all the resulting JS and HTML and everything else, plopped it into a series of Domino forms and pages, flagged the whole mess as pass-thru HTML, and said, "there's yer Domino app!"

I cannot even describe how awful it was. And yes, this was a major, major contractor that slurps up billions of dollars from customers every year.

I have not invited them back.

I was out on Sunday getting supplies to build a rabbit hutch for Suzette (this on Sam's first birthday, October 26). On the way back, with plywood on the roof of the TDI, I passed a couple of... ahem... rather trashy houses along a state highway near our houses. Beat-up houses, one with an old 1970s Chevelle station wagon collapsed on the front lawn, another with a sagging camper around the side, and both with enormous McCain/Palin banners out front. I was tempted to take pictures of them both and put them on Flickr, with the caption, "we don't want nobody sharin' our wealth!"

It's getting to look like the end of the line for McCain/Palin, I have to say. There's just a vibe out there that Obama is going to win, possibly bigger than any election since 1996, and people are already starting to think ahead to changes that can be made and how to go about them. For McCain, he'll go back to the Senate, finish out this term and probably retire. For Palin, she'll go back to Alaska and finish out this term as governor, then either be removed for abuse of power or else get voted out at the next election. And the Republicans will be without a serious alternative voice for some years. McCain has largely sold out the centrist Republicans for the sake of the religious right, for whom Palin is the darling. I suspect you'll see more fragmentation in the GOP than you've seen since 1974, or even 1964. Yet there are no moderate future Nixons out there... seems like all the alternatives for the GOP are even more right-wing than McCain would ever care to be.

But, Suzette now has a large hutch in which she can take care of kits when we start breeding. And she can woof at us when we try to clean out the hay and Milk Duds.

One more gripe about politics before I go, though... and that's with "one-issue voters."


With all the real issues that are around us, with all the different and conflicting "hard" problems that confront everyone, why in the hell do these voters (many of them, but not all of them, Republicans) think we should take their opinions seriously when basically their political worldview seems to boil down to, "we don't care about the economy, about jobs, about war, about economic collapse, about freedom from surveillance and spying, about abuse of official power, all we care about is telling other people how to live their lives?"

I mean, really. Mr. and Mrs. White Working-Class Religious-Right Voter, is your life so in control, your circumstances so good that you have the luxury of worrying about whether a woman chooses to exercise control over her body? Whether gay people can or cannot marry? Do you really have that luxury? Why is telling other people how to live their lives so important to you? Are your beliefs so tenuous that what other people do or don't do can "threaten" them?

How's about you get some more durable beliefs, quit worrying about how other people live, and pay attention to what's really important instead of to sideshows intended to distract you from the mess that has been made of issues that are much, much more important?

That is all.

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1. John Smart11/07/2008 10:55:22 AM

I think I can shed light on your political gripe. If you believe that fetuses are babies, then every day, there are thousands of institutionalized killings, for money, of the most innocent of the innocent. If you held this viewpoint, then this is a more important issue than war (especially when there's no draft involved), and it's more important than the economy.

I myself don't agree with this, and am pro-choice. I don't want to suck your blog into a flame-war about the abortion issue, so I won't explain why I disagree. I will say that I can empathize. I don't know how adamant pro-lifers can stand "knowing the truth" (their truth, anyway), seeing others ignoring it, and being unable to stop it! It must be heartbreaking and soul-crushing. It is in some ways a miracle, and a testament to this nation, that pro-life related violence is an exception rather than the norm.

2. Turtle10/27/2008 08:49:03 PM

Whoa, all excellent leads on the PDF stuff. Thanx doodz, I owe you a beer at the Sphere!

3. Tony Palmer10/27/2008 06:56:32 PM

I recently posted an examples of a view to pdf on my blog, the underlying tool was iText (linked above), but I provided a simple layer on top. All you need to do is wrap the code in an agent, that writes the pdf to a temp directory, then attaches the file to a notes document and finally redirects the browser to open that attached pdf file.

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4. Michael Marcavage10/27/2008 06:10:47 PM

I have developed an application that will very easily allow you to convert Lotus Notes docs to PDF.
There is no install needed.
It should not care what OS the server is.
You just need a place to put the DB
alittle bit of setup and your users are good to go.

Should you be interested, feel free to contact me at


5. Brad Hair10/27/2008 03:39:18 PM

As far as making PDF's from your data (Domino or otherwise) that you can provide to a user, my favorite right now is OpenOffice. I took an article from The View ,from back in 2006 I think, and modified that some to do my dirty work.

In our production system, we have a process that takes data on an iSeries, merges it with some data in a Notes app, then passes it to my "CreatePDF" function. The function takes the stuff passed to it, and builds an OO document, then just saves that as PDF. In our case, we send the resulting PDF to an email address that came from the iSeries data. But you could do anything with that PDF once it is built.

You can get OO for most languages and for most platforms. And with a bit of work, I am guessing you could get your view to export (as XML) and bring that into OO for saving as PDF.

And as far as the political gripes go, I am not nearly as convinced as you that the Obama fad is a foregone conclusion. Me thinks the race is a lot tighter than the polls or pundits would have you think!! But then I take those with a (very large) grain of salt.

And BTW, you said "...future Nixon...". Not so sure that anyone, right or left, is too keen for another one of those

6. Rob McDonagh10/27/2008 02:54:03 PM

Did you look at Java-based solutions? iText is free and people have used it with Domino. Vince Schuurman was first, I think, though I can't find his blog post at the moment. Others have done it as well, though:

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and more on iText:

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