Upgrades - Love Them or Hate Them, Why You Should Do Them

By Nigel Cheshire

Like it or not, we live in a world of upgrades. Users of consumer electronics, cars, and of course software are constantly bombarded with marketing efforts to persuade them to upgrade to the latest version.

Not that the concept is new. The Ford Model T that was first produced in 1908 was considered pretty nifty by thousands of people who could now afford a car. But the lights were powered by oil or acetylene, and to get the thing started you needed to hand crank it. Electric lights were added in 1915, and the electric starter did not make an appearance until 1919. If you’d bought the earlier car, and you wanted those features, you’d have to upgrade.

Until relatively recently, upgrading was something you did pretty infrequently. I remember my parents wrestling for months with the decision of whether or not to upgrade to a color TV back in the late 60s. In the end, it was the Apollo 11 moon landing and the promise of TV pictures beamed live from the moon that persuaded them to take the plunge. (Of course, the live pictures from the moon were in black and white, but we’ll skip over that minor detail.)

My point is that, back in the 60s and 70s, a consumer electronics purchase was a big deal, something you did maybe every 10 years or so. It was the video games boom in the 80s, and in particular the Sega/Nintendo battle of the consoles that followed it throughout the 90s that really started the trend toward constant, frequent hardware upgrades.

And then, in 2007, along came the Jesus phone. Apple quickly cottoned on to the public’s appetite for new features and was happy to oblige, with a new phone update coming every year.

But what about software upgrades? Typically, they are a lot easier to do than hardware upgrades, but for some reason they are often overlooked. If a new version of your mobile phone’s operating system adds a new feature that you’re interested in, (Apple Pay in iOS 8, say) then it you’ll most likely run the upgrade. If it’s a bunch of security updates and something less appealing (did anyone say dark mode?), then you might just skip that upgrade.

As software developers ourselves, of course we like to encourage our customers to always upgrade to the latest version of our products. Other than the fact that we like our customers to be able to take advantage of the latest features that have been added, it also makes life easier for us (and them) when technical support is needed. Each new release includes a number of bug fixes, and it’s easier to track down a problem if we know that there’s no possibility that this is something we already fixed.

When it comes to upgrades to HCL Notes and Domino, you’re talking about upgrading an application platform, which is potentially a whole different ball of wax. Notes, of course, is famous for its backward compatibility. In theory, you can take an application that was written for Notes 1.0 (or, to be fair, let’s just say Notes 3.0) and run it, unchanged, on the latest Notes/Domino version 10.0 platform. I say “in theory” because technically, of course, there have been some changes that can cause problems in your applications.

For example, as new features are added to LotusScript, new reserved words have been added to the language. It’s a good idea to check older applications to make sure they don’t use those reserved words already. In some cases, the behavior of certain calls changes from version to version. The Javascript property “navigator.appName“ would return the string “Lotus Notes” in R6, while from R7 onwards it would return “IBM Lotus Notes”. This would cause a problem if a developer used “if ( navigator.appName != 'Lotus Notes' )” to avoid running Javascript in the Notes client.

So, software upgrades are generally a good thing. But upgrading your Notes and Domino infrastructure can cause some problems if you have custom built applications running on the platform. Which is why we developed Teamstudio Upgrade Filters. This is a set of filters that works in conjunction with Teamstudio Analyzer to identify potential problems in your Notes and Domino applications in advance of an upgrade. The latest version of Notes is, of course version 10, and it’s not immune to this potential problem. So applications that work fine on Notes/Domino 9 could have problems on the new version of the platform. The latest version of the Upgrade Filters has a whole set of filters dedicated to upgrades to Notes/Domino 10.

To learn more about Upgrade Filters click below. Or, if you just would like to talk with us about your upgrade project, there are many ways to contact us. We’re always happy to chat!