Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cannot Move Web Parts on Page

This simple little issue has cropped up at least twice in our environment. Most recently it happened because we started using a new alternate access mapping. Previously we encountered it when migrating from IE 6 to IE 7.

The Javascript needed for editing pages (and other stuff, no doubt) cannot run without adequate browser security. Check that the site is included in Trusted Sites or the Intranet Zone and that your policies (for the zone for the specific browser version) enable scripting. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Migrating Content Databases from RTM to SP1

We did a migration, copying a content database from an RTM farm with a SQL 2000 back end in North America to an SP1 farm (no infrastructure update) with a SQL 2005 back end in Europe (and another in Asia) in order to give a starting point for replication (using a certain major replication software).

It was easy. We restored a backup of to the new database server. It's now a SQL 2005 database. If you try to simply attach this database to the SP1 farm in the Central Admin GUI, when you browse to it you will get an error with a useless link to a Microsoft site (that's what we got). 

To make it work, with the database not attached, we ran:

Stsadm.exe -o addcontentdb -url -databasename

If you want to check the database version, you can run:

SELECT * FROM Versions

There is a nice table of the database versions here http://blogs.msdn.com/shaden/archive/2008/01/10/migrated-to-sp1-checking-your-database-schema-version.aspx. You are looking for for RTM, for SP1. You can see the rest of the database versions in the post linked above.

Where's my Easy button? I hope this is really as good as it looks.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Live Recording with the Zoom H2

See also Part 2

For the casual (low budget) recorder (previously know as "tapers"), if you wanted top quality and the ability to record concerts lasting many hours, the iRiver H120 was a great way to go. I like to think I was on the forefront of the iRiver-for-tapers movement, and helped promote using these great devices for recording concerts. You see them a lot these days.

For the uninitiated, the iRiver was a brickish iPod-like device with a little hard drive and great DSP stuff. It even had digital ins and outs. The Rockbox project adopted it and created some great software for it. I started using mine for shows in January 2006. I later bought an H320 too and Dale has been using that one. 

I hate to come out and publicize it. It may impact the resale value of the iRivers. But here goes: the Zoom H2 can be had for about the same money as good second-hand iRivers (iRivers in questionable condition are fairly cheap, though). The H2 can do a lot more. Most significantly, the H2 has built in mics that aren't bad and it is 24 bit.

I have done only one concert with the H2, so if you were expecting the definitive guide to recording with this device, come back in a few months. What I have found so far, though, is that the thing sounds good. The mic capsules inside the H2 are pretty good (there are four of them, read about it here).  The electronics do a good job of capturing that decent sound and digitizing it,  and the user interface beats Rockbox.

The H2 has two cool mounting options - a regular camera tripod thread, or a mic-holder/mic stand adapter (which I used with a regular boom. It has a volume control range that worked well for a very loud live venue. Functionally, it gets high marks for out-in-the-open taping. For less overt recording, it may have it's drawbacks, but the H120 with Rockbox also leaves much to be desired for clandestine taping.

As for the show I chose as my first with the H2 (I didn't really choose it, the H2 I ordered arrived two days before the show, so I took it), to be kind, it was memorable. It was the third or fourth time I went to the Jigsaw Saloon and Stage's Thanksgiving eve show. The place is always packed, and that always makes it fun. The sound in there is always WAY too loud. The bass bins on their main stacks are way too big for the venue - a lot like the Beachland Ballroom used to be. 

Since I didn't have my 16GB memory card that I'd ordered (I only had a 2GB card) I could only get 59 minutes at 96 kHz 24 bit, so I decided I would only record the Lords of the Highway. It turns out they got stuck all the way at the end of the bill, so I had to listen to the other 5 or 6 bands they put on first. I didn't like any of them, except for Uncle Scratch (always fun) and the Whiskey Daredevils. I had seen them before, but not with their new guitar player, Gary Popcorn (Siperko?). That guy could really play and it made the entire evening worthwhile. I just wish that I had recorded their set. I stopped him (Gary) and told him how much I enjoyed his playing at least three times.

The Lords got on stage about 1:30 and started playing about 1:32 after the crappiest two minute sound check I ever heard. It was their first Cleveland show with new bassist, Jimbo, so of course all of us fans (those who were left) were enthusiastic. Overall, though, it was too short. Insultingly, the sound guys shut off the PA in the middle of a song at 2 AM. Need I say more?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Look for BobKlass.Info

I am a copycat. Scott recently added new theming and functionality to mylifeinaminute.com and it prompted me to look at some alternatives. After two or three minutes of shallow thought, a new theme was selected.

It looks and works better for me on my new studio monitor in 1920x1200 (yes, it's the month long Black Friday celebration when new gear finds its' way into my setup).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prophylactic Reboots of SharePoint Servers

Up front, I will admit that I've always been a fan of prophylactic reboots of servers. Any servers. In the NT4 world, weekly. In the Solaris world, monthly. And in the Windows Server 2003 world, monthly. But things are not always equal, and SharePoint is a huge wild card.

WSS/MOSS 2007 causes IIS some heavy duty pain. Put it up, leave it up, and eventually, it will die. We've all seen it, and I'll bet those of you who are lucky enough to run SP1 or other patched up  systems have seen it too. Hopefully we will get all patched up soon too, but I don't expect that to make things perfect.

The unexpected crashes of IIS seemed to do the most damage to the indexing process. The indexer itself can take a hit and stop functioning (you probably will see a lot of junk in the event logs) or the web front ends it is trying to use might unexpectedly crash. We got slightly toasted (not quite burned) by this several times.

Since we started rebooting the farm Saturday night (before Sunday's full crawl), things have been better (I would hate to say perfect, but it has been perfect).

I know that server folks don't like prophylactic reboots. They really would rather address the problem, but since some of what ails SharePoint servers are real bugs, memory leaks, etc., this kind of thinking has to give way to good, old fashioned, weekly reboots.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Halloween Psychobilly Party to Remember

Some of my friends call psychobilly "halloween rock." This seems especially appropriate when that season rolls around. Last Friday's show was a special kind of party because it marked the last Lords of the Highway show with Sugar on bass. 

Lords fans are like a family (a family that likes to party!) We turned out in big numbers since this was a special occasion. Crazy people, some in crazy costumes. 

The Music
The Slackjawed Yokels, Horror of 59 and Lords of the Highway were on the bill. The Yokels reunion sounded great and was a blast. I've seen Horror of 59 a couple times before. Since Sugar will be in the band from here on out, I will give them more attention. The Lords gave one of best performances (out of how many have I seen?? - It feels like maybe 50?? but probably less).

The Recording
Bob and Dale Boots had the recording rigs going pretty well (Keith the taper was there with his too). We got a feed off the soundboard to one iRiver and another room microphone up high on a mic stand to another iRiver. We haven't combined them yet, but it should make a great surround mix.

The Photos
I almost didn't bring a camera. I wish I could capture a night like this on video, but the Beachland Tavern is just too darn dark. I grabbed my old Cannon and had it in my back pocket most of the night. That's what you see above. I have Dale's pics on a different computer and maybe I'll post those too. He got some good shots.

The Beer
If the Beachland didn't make a killing that night somebody robbed them. It was flowing. I must criticize the bad Great Lakes on tap (I think it was Dortmunder, but it tasted like soap). I got it early in the evening (early was around 10:30 and my complaint was not answered with a free one as it should have been). I switched to other stuff, and had plenty! It was a good time for all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Wish I Took This Advice ...

... then, as the man says, you couldn't blame me for any of the mess!

Do what you like today. I voted absentee a few weeks back. At least I could tune out most of the garbage that flies through the air during election time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Is No Way to Promote Tourism

How about extreme nasty tours. The weather is Cleveland is turning sour. It should stay that way for a while. Tourists are now few and far between. But it's not so bad that one can't enjoy a brisk walk by the sea shore!

Beats me where the audio went on this, but just think shwwwwwwwwew ...
and a little rock and roll at the end.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Verse Uverse, We All Verse

Ma Ma Ma Belle! I'm not sure what the AT+T breakup was really all about in the first place, since so much of it came back together. Once upon a time there really was very little competition in the U.S. in most of what was then the telephone business, but look what it is now. AT+T has a few competitors, but it has huge market share in so many of today's (much broader) communications markets.

They now have all of my personal communications. And long before even cell phones, in the early days of home Internet service, I was wishing for a single provider to sell it all to me. Somehow I now wake up in the middle of the night and it has happened (it could be because I missed one of my Lyrica pills, though, because my skin also feels like it's peeling off).

My TV, home phone, cell phone, and Internet are all from the same provider. AT+T Uverse was the latest addition to this pile, with television and Internet services. So, what's it like? It certainly is impressive to look at the router config screen and see that 25 megabits of IP are coming into my house.  I haven't had the service long enough to say much about reliability. 

There definitely are limits to what it can do. I am supposed to have 6 mbit down and 1 mbit up of Internet. This seems to be rock solid, unlike the cable TV provider, which felt inconsistent. Cable was supposed to be faster on the down side, but it seemed to be spotty. On the TV side, yesterday we were recording two HD programs and watching one regular program in one room. When I tried to tune to an HD channel in another room, it said it could not (sorry, Dave). I can live with that (I watched a different, recorded HD program).

We bought the whole bevy of channels - 341. There are maybe 10 more HD channels than we had with cable (48, I think). It comes with a DVR you can access from other sets (or even control over the Internet). It can record 4 programs at once, two HD. American HD is a lot of data - 1920x1080 - so that's pretty impressive. Although we usually are not technologically deprived, we didn't have a DVR before this. It a keeper, something we can't do without. Pausing live TV. Gotta have it.

As a quality freak (but really only an expert on the audio side), I was concerned about excessive compression on the HD cable channels. With cable, you could see lots of artifacts if you looked at where subtle gradations of color were supposed to be. Uverse was supposed to be better, using MP4 compression. I don't think it holds up very well under close scrutiny either, though. Color gradations seem less blotchy, but animation of things like background colors is jumpy. Only a picky person would notice, and I would need side by side installations to give a more accurate account. And that ain't going to happen.

So, I am happy, but I won't save any money (not much, anyway) and the difference in the amount of service we are getting is negligible.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Route 66" on WRUW

Eclectic. To me, that's always a positive word. I suppose there may be some things eclectic that I would want to avoid, but I'm not sure what they would be.

The term is perfect for describing a radio show I have been enjoying the last few years. It is inexplicably called "Route 66." You can find this show on WRUW 91.1 FM in Cleveland or http://www.wruw.org/ every Wednesday from 9:00 A.M. to Noon.

Your DJ Carl's shows normally cover multiple genres, often within one set. It is always fresh and heartfelt programming. And eclectic. Not to the point of obscurity, but in range. You can get everything from jam bands to punk rock, classic rock, any form of jazz, world music, odd imports. Nothing is off limits (although I'm not sure I've ever heard him delve into any orchestra music).  All mixed up and presented with a curious thread. 

You can check out some older shows as well: http://www.wruw.org/guide/show.php?show_id=163

Carl - for that dip into orchestra music that I think you should feel challenged to make, rather than the usual 19th century longhairs, maybe some Moondog would work.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy Birthday John Lennon

John Winston Ono Lennon
9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980

... and an early happy 72nd birthday to Bill Wyman (October 24, 1936). This is a picture of me with Bill a few years back. It was at a book signing at the Rock Hall. I was standing with a few other people waiting for Bill and didn't realize that I was standing almost right next to Gary Brooker ("Whiter Shade of Pale").

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Relative URL's In a SharePoint Masterpage

I've mentioned that I hate branding, right? It is kind of nice, though, when you get it right. I've had some recent little successes that have made me happy. Or it may be the Lyrica I've been on for the past month that keeps me happy (nice drug).

OK, so while you are out there messing with masterpages, you might want to add a static URL link that goes to the current site. Here's mine that worked so nicely:

Text="Metadata Search "
runat="server" CssClass="ms-SPLinkButtonInActive" Font-Size="XX-Small"/>
"$SPUrl:~Site/../Search.aspx" goes to a page saved at the root of the subsite. Naturally, you could specify a path into the subsite as well.

There also was a significant amount of pain that went into the meticulous placement on the masterpage. I'm not sure if I am satisfied with the way I did that. We'll see when I roll it to the QA and production environments. It is pretty! Likewise, I'm still debating on the actual location of that file, etc., but in the mean time, you've got your relative URL.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Adding a "Fake" Item to the Views Dropdown

I recently built some demos using Bamboo Solution's fantastic "List Search Advanced" web part. I called it "Metadata Search" since that's what it really is - a search on any of the columns (but not documents in a library). We needed to have a search limited to individual lists but we couldn't use the out of the box Advanced Search web part because it needs a defined scope.  We have too many subsites (Microsoft recommends no more that 200 scopes, or something like that). We could have tried to roll our own, but Bamboo Solutions to the rescue! Highly recommended.

The primary use of the Bamboo search web part will be from a special search page that I will add to the site template. In looking for other ways to incorporate it, I came up with something interesting. I created a view called "search."  It didn't matter what was on the view because I hid it.

Then I edited the web part page and hid the view web part (in the Layout section). It is now a web part page which shows in the view drop down, and I can add web parts to it. I added the Bamboo Solutions search web part, but it could be anything. Instructions, maybe.

Do not remove the list view web part from the page. If you do, the page will no longer show in the drop down. You may then need to delete it with SharePoint Designer.

The users turned down my idea, but it's still a nifty (stupid) SharePoint trick that I'm sure I will use someday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

SharePoint Search Hammers and Crowbars

Search can get stuck in some funky ways. Who knows why - disturbances in SQL connectivity, disturbances in the force? 

I recently had a rather nasty bout with some stickiness. One of the query servers was not communicating properly for some reason. Even after a restart, our full crawl would stop almost immediately (when it tried to propagate). The last message it would show was "the query server xxxxxx is not responding." xxxxxx was one of my web front ends and which also is a query server. As I said, the restart (small hammer) of that server did not help.

The BIG hammer I used to pound this out was to go into Central Admin and remove the search query service from this server and then re-add it. Ultimately, this got us past this bump.

Along the way, I was finding the full crawl stuck, and it would not respond to a stop command. The crowbar I used to get this done was to restart the Office Search service on the indexing server. 

It pains me to do these things!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

SharePoint Reminder - Tickler System

OK, I know you really smart SharePoint people won't even have to think about this one. But I thought about my user's application needs for a good 10-15 minutes before I came up with this one. So for the really smart ones, this is no use, but for anybody not feeling quite that sharp, maybe you can save half that think time (you still had to google "sharepoint reminder" and find this post!).

So this is really simple. All you need to do is:

  1. Have a reminder date (not necessarily the due date). This can be a calculated field, based on due date (like =[Expiration Date]-30).
  2. Create a reminder view that filters based on the reminder date (is less than or equal to today).
  3. Use an alert or an RSS feed (now that was easy).

This thing does not need to be any particular kind of list or library. I know it's a brain dead simple solution, but if you were having a mental block, maybe this will help.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Holy Cash Flow, Batman

Scott Hoag pointed out that Bamboo Solutions has released this very interesting SharePoint price calculator:


We stuck in everything for our four farms and it spit out an estimate of the list price of the SharePoint implementation. It is somewhat staggering - list prices.

I have been a long time Microsoft stockholder. To me, this is further evidence that the stock is way undervalued (in case their outstanding earnings weren't enough)! Buy some stock today.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dogfish Head 120

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I have this thing about Dogfish Head brews. They are my favorite, even though I come from a town where we have one of the best craft breweries - Great Lakes - and I worked with the people who started the very large creative brewery, Crooked River (I think it was mostly software money that financed that company in the beginning). I probably told far too many people about the beer aging in my basement. There is a big pile of it. It's an investment! After you drink with me, you may think that I am this huge beer snob (snob is so cruel, I just appreciate the good stuff). I'm just a connoisseur for crying out loud.

So today I finally popped open one of the "holy grail" beers. A Dogfish Head 120 that had been aging for a couple years. Here is my review from BeerAdovcate.com:

"If anyone asks, Dogfish Head 90 is my favorite "everyday" beer. That's not to say that it isn't special, it's just that it is readily available and I wish I could drink it every day (but of course that would cause health problems). I have always loved it, and I have never aged any of it.
At first the Dogfish Head 60 was a disappointment to me. But I later realized what a dope I was. It was just something completely different. Now I love it, especially on tap.

"A few years ago (when my son started at Purdue) I was able to procure a few bottles of 120 in Indiana (they can't sell it in Ohio - too much alcohol). They were around $10 each. I just let the suckers sit in storage until today, when I finally had one (I have been meaning to do this). I had good reason, I wanted to relax and enjoy something special - I deserve it. 120 did not disappoint.

"I had an opportunity to buy preaged bottles of 120 at their brew pub in Delaware last summer but for whatever reason I passed (I am pretty sure the price was in the $15 range and I was already spending a bundle there). But the one I am drinking is one I aged myself. It's over two years old. Everything seems to be settling in on it.

"It is sweet, hoppy, well balanced. There does not seem to be a boozy smell whatsoever. The alcohol is definitely there, but the smell is not. The smell actually is a bit weaker than I would like. Everything else about this beverage is what I would expect from a well aged, over hopped, over malted ale. Smooth.

"It was worth the wait and the $10. Now I have to think about (1) when to drink the rest of them and (2) how to get some more to put up for later. And how the hell do you follow that act?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law

I can be a curmudgeon. For me it's "acting my age" (and settling in to the years ahead). I have a right to act this way. An example of curmudgeonly behavior in public might be insisting on being addressed as "Mr. Klass." At work or at home it might include niceties and protocols just "because I say so."

Our lawyers have an (at least partially deserved) reputation for curmudgeonly behavior. Many of them demand respect in a way that is difficult for the uninitiated (and especially IT persons) to appreciate. This has always worked OK with me since I naively give everyone credit for having made it this far through evolution. The fact that they are here at one of the biggest law firms in the universe must mean something. Never mind the amazing academic and professional accomplishments of these people.

This lawyerly curmudgeoness is amplified (exaggerated, at times) in Mark Herrmann's The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law. This nifty little legal best seller is required reading for new lawyers wanting to make their way through the ranks at a major law firm.

As a long time law firm IT person, I also think it is useful for non-lawyers to get the curmudgeon's pointers about quality of work, his basic rules for writing, etc. It is a quick read (more like a big pamphlet) and the humor makes it fun. So I declare it required reading for anyone who works in this environment.

"It's a shame that they waste licenses to practice law on people who ask questions like this."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fairport Lighthouse Triathlon July 27, 2008

Back when I ran marathons I got into quite a rut. Although I had traveled to some out of town races, I found it very easy to simply do Cleveland's in May, Erie's Eriesistable Marathon in September and the Toe to Tow (Towpath) Marathon in October. I think I did those same three races six years in a row. That's the definition of a rut.

Towards the end of my marathoning days I started doing the Fairport Lighthouse Triathlon. I have now done that race something like 10 out of the last 11 years. But it never feels like a rut. It is always exciting!

It never ceases to be amazed me how comfortably I can complete this race with little or no training. Yesterday was no exception. I went in worried (I had swam that distance once in 2008 and rode bike the distance only once, and never had I combined events). I have been running a little more lately, upping my puny mileage a bit.

I didn't worry about much else. I was forced to stick new tires on my bike on Friday, but that was an improvement. The race went very smoothly for me. I swam strong, biked strong and ran OK. I don't really keep very good track of my times on this race from year to year - they are always about the same.

Two of my close colleagues from the firm were also doing the race, making it that much more fun. Mona Lombardi, who also did this race last year, improved her time substantially. Jean Ference flew in from New York to do the race (bringing her bike on the plane!). She took second place in her age group. Jean just whizzed by me on the bike! I am honored to be in the company of these athletic women!

The race is one of Lake County, Ohio's best kept secrets. It may be run simply and the old fashioned way, but it works. It is a beautiful setting and the weather is almost always perfect. Yesterday was gorgeous. 168 men and 100 women participated. Since Jean won an award we stuck around for the ceremony. Check out the photo album - click on the photo-link (I will add a few more in a couple days).

Friday, July 25, 2008

They Don't Put Out Any Good Music Anymore -- NOT!

I recently ran into an old acquaintance who is an aging rock music aficionado and he said something to the effect of "They don't put out any good music anymore." I think he meant it, and I told him he was wrong.

Last night I heard The Raconteurs "Consolers of the Lonely" for the first time. Right now I am listening to it for the third time. This album single handedly shoots my old friend's statement to pieces. Although I've listened to a bunch of other great new albums this year (how about Aimee Mann's "@#%&*! Smilers," for instance), this one is at the top of my best of 2008 list.

Great songwriting, brilliant production and a powerful rocking sensibility put this up there with the best albums in recent years. Get it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moving Central Admin (Again!)

You will note that I wrote about misadventures moving Central Admin a while back (http://bobklass.blogspot.com/2008/03/how-to-move-central-admin-site-even-if.html). Maybe I should have read my post before I went to do it again, but things seem to have worked out OK this time, sort of doing it the right way.

We added two more servers to our main North American farm (now four WFE's and an indexer, and I'm not sure how we will distribute other shared services - Enterprise stuff is new to us). We had previously been running Central Admin on one of our two WFE's and the indexer ONLY indexing. One of the new WFE's is to be dedicated to indexing, and it seemed like a good idea to move Central Admin there. This will make even more sense when we add decent load balancing to this setup.

So I ran the Config Wizard for the first time on the freshly built box and indicated that it should host Central Admin. When it was all done, it pops up Central Admin, running off the old host. Hmmm. Time to read my old post. Those misadventures didn't really seem to be relevant, but I was considering running the Config Wizard on the old host to remove it. Or mess with alternate access mappings. I may still have to do that - there is some baggage in there.

In the end, though, I typed in the URL to the new host and Central Admin was running (in two places!). From the new one I just stopped it on the old and everything seems to be fine. I guess that was the right way!

P.S. - There was just one more thing. After an IIS reset the CA site stopped functioning (I don't even care why). So I went into ../_admin/AlternateUrlCollections.aspx and changed CA there to point to my new site. NOW I'm golden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Elegant Solution or Kludge?

According to those who know, SharePoint databases shouldn't get extremely large. What I gather this means, is 50 GB is large, 100 GB is very large and 200 GB is excessively large. In an industry like mine, that's not a lot of data.

Our main SharePoint litigation support application has been a big hit, and it is beyond very large and on its way to being excessively large. We present visitors to this site a "My Sites" table of contents as there are hundreds of sites but very few users are members of more than a couple sites.

With the success of the application, it is easy to foresee growth many times what it is today, so we needed a way to deal with this. Our solution is to have multiple site collections and a custom table of contents that represents them all in one place. Users create new sites self-service, so we just force them to the one site collection that is open for new cases. It's seamless to the users - they do not need to know anything about what is under the hood.

In answer to the title question "Elegant Solution of Kludge," I'll glom the two together and call it an elegant kludge. What do you think?

Monday, July 07, 2008

In Training

Well, I am, sort of. Some of you might not know that I used to run marathons (very slowly). I quit in 2000 after about 13 years and 36 marathons (including three or so where I did not finish, but I did at least 20 miles). My time varied from 4-5 hours. Back in that day, I did have to follow a strict training schedule in order to get to the STARTING line (more important than getting to the finish).

Now ... not so much. I usually do the Turkey Trot in Cleveland on Thanksgiving (5 miler). And I may do the Johnnycake Jog in Painesville this month, just so as to get together with my old neighbor, Chris Emminger. My one big event is something I've done for the last 10 years or so, the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Triathlon. It's a real mini - 500M swim in Lake Erie (can be a little choppy), 20 KM bike, 5 KM run.

I actually have been "training" a little - a couple bike rides, a very little bit of swimming. Lots of excessive eating and drinking (no, wait a minute). The first time I did the race I found out about it two days before and "trained" for one day. It's always fun (see last year's blog on it). July 27th, Fairport Harbor - come on out!

From "Summer" 2008

The other side of the "training" thing was going out to see my friend Frank Foti's steam engine running this weekend. This hobby is definitely model trains gone wild. They carry many passengers on these miniature trains, winding through the lovely woods in Kirtland.

Here is their track from the air.

Frank - Thanks for the ride.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Clapton, Return to Forever and Patrick Sweany

Of these varied shows I've gone to recently, the most pleasing was the wonderful Patrick Sweany (Band) at the Rock Hall last night. Let me explain.

I saw Eric Clapton at Blossom a few weeks back. I had never seen him before (it's hard to believe because I have HUNDREDS of his recordings), and I wasn't doing anything better, so I grabbed the GPS, jumped in the tC and headed South. Traffic was horrible, and if it weren't for a bold move (passing the Blossom exit and using the GPS to take back roads), I would have been late, as was much of the crowd.

What we were treated to was vintage Clapton - sounding much like a 90's show of his. Doyle Bramhall II was his second guitarist. Even though he is a major talent, I wished I could see Clapton with Derek Trucks - or both Trucks and Bramhall. Trucks is amazing. As it was, it still was a quality show, and very exciting in parts.

I had poor seats, and the venue is too big - these are the reason I had never seen him anyway - he always plays big venues. Schoolboy was there with his iRiver H120 Rockbox and was sitting right in front of a speaker, so the recording sounds pretty good.

I saw Return to Forever last week in Cleveland's lovely (sort of) Plain Dealer Pavilion (at least the place is lovelier than the name). It's a 5500 seat outdoor venue with a pretty urban setting and a cute tent. Unfortunately, the seats (at least on the floor) are very uncomfortable (too close together), and the sound is bad. It was a first for me for both the band and the venue.

Return to Forever always was one of my favorite fusion bands. This re-incarnation of the band is the perfect line-up of virtuosos - Lenny White, Stanley Clarke, Al Dimeola, and Chick Corea. They played some of their challenging repertoire and schoolboy's recording shows that the performance was somewhat sloppy. The solos by Al and Chick made it all worthwhile, but the poor sound and seating made the concert a disappointment.

Patrick Sweany is one of the treasures of Northern Ohio. I've seen and recorded him several times. At last night's Rock Hall performance Patrick was his usual energetic and spontaneous self. Pretty much throwing the set list away after the first song, he worked the crowd, trying hard to include everyone. He was especially good at bringing the small children in attendance into the show - inviting them on stage and letting them screw up his songs.

It was all very entertaining and I wished I could have gone to Patricks other gig later that night, but I'll just have to vow to catch him more frequently. Keith (the frequent taper) was there with his family. I forgot that he has recorded Patrick hundreds of times. The crowd consisted of maybe 50% tourists and 50% hard core fans. We all enjoyed it.

I was disappointed to see he had a new bass player and drummer, but they were great. Part of Patrick's act is for the bass and drums to jam in between songs. The new guys did up some classic jams in the vein of John Entwhistle and Jack Bruce. Wonderful. The opener, Christine Jackson, was also very good. She had a full band (I had previously seen her open for Buddy Guy as a solo act).

So of these three shows, I enjoyed Patrick Sweany the best. Better than Eric Clapton or Chick Corea and Return to Forever. And it's not because I'm cheap (the Rock Hall show was free).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Changing Breadcrumb Text for a Sub Site

We had some sub sites that had been created a while back and part of the breadcrumb was all caps. We since had changed the parent to be mixed case but the sub site still showed it as all caps (Firm > DEPARTMENTS > Subsite instead of Firm > Departments > Subsite ).

I tried re-saving the "Title, description and icon" but that didn't work. It was simple enough, though, to move the site elsewhere and then move it back. All better.

It may be kind of low-brow, but it works.

Regional Settings Are Simple

Regional setting look like something they got right in SharePoint. At least sort of.

This very clear and simple article sums it up nicely: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101774731033.aspx

I will attempt to make things even more concise, so as to distill this down to what I needed to know as we prepare to roll out farms in Asia and Europe.

  1. Don't set a time zone in the Central Admin Web Application General Settings as this will override the settings on the site collection or sub site (unless that is what you really want to do).
  2. Users will need "Edit personal user information" permissions if you want them to be able to set "My Regional Settings" (off the Welcome menu).

When a sub site is created it inherits the locale settings from the parent. These can be changed at the site level.

If a user has permission, they can override the setting for the sub site. When they uncheck Always follow web settings, they get locale, time zone, calendar and alternative calendar(??), work week and time format settings.

That's pretty simple. I will need to verify that this works consistently.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mike McCartney Gets It

Last night I went to an event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum where Mike McCartney, who not surprisingly reminds me a great deal of his older brother Paul McCartney, gave a talk about his photography (and life in general). As Liverpudlians always seem to be, Mike is very charming and talkative, and he has had many interesting experiences.

In talking about his work, Mike expressed a love for taking pictures. To him, having a camera around so he can capture images is an important part of his life. I think it it his most profound way of expressing himself. I was very pleased to see him expressing the opinion that, although it is important to know how to use the medium (craft), the quality of the camera (technology) is of much less importance. I very briefly talked with him about this, and he and I agreed that WHAT you are doing with the camera (where you point it) is what it is all about.

Unfortunately, people I know who fancy themselves amateur and "professional" (I don't want to insult anyone with a "wannabe" prefix) photographers don't seem to get it. Maybe you can be a good photographer, but you can never be any kind of artist unless you understand this. Seeing an image taken with a decent cell phone camera, for instance, would INSPIRE an artist to dump the expensive Canon (not forever, just for a bit) and take a series of crude but cool photos. I have been inspired by my cell phone camera many times (although that doesn't make me a great artist either). The musical equivalent would be a toy piano or a cheesy electronic organ. Or a Danelectro guitar.

The extremely low-light (cell phone camera) photo above was taken at the Rock Hall today. Mike was signing autographs and generally just hanging out and being the lovely man that he is.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cancún Vacation

Last week I traveled to Cancún with my wife Gayle, daughter Holly and son Matt. We all certainly needed a vacation, and we were glad to spend some time together. We went to an all-inclusive resort - you know the drill, all the food and drink is included. This was great for us as we felt uninhibited and ate a drank a lot. The food was great. The drink was plentiful (I got the most, but both kids had a quite a bit of alcohol on this trip).

It was beautiful and hot, and we would go again if the opportunity afforded itself. Check out our photos (this is just a sampling):

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Summer" 2008 - Has it Started

It's been pretty chilly here - not quite summer - but we are trying to force our way into it. We shivered through an Indians game (if only we had been in the sun more the shorts would have been fine), went swimming (once), and now Cedar Point (on a very pleasant day).

How about those puffy cheeks from the "Rocket Sled" that is the front seat of Top Thrill Dragster.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not Quite Gilligan's Island

I am headed to Cancun with my family very soon and we all may be in for some technology withdrawal. OK, so they have electricity, satellite TV, and some pretty lively entertainment, from what I've heard. Buses and boats and whatnot are plentiful too. Clearly our all inclusive hotel will qualify as an overindulgence of eat and drink. BUT ... no phone, no net, not a singly luxury ... as primitive as can be.

Although we should be able to get cell coverage, it will be absurdly expensive (for us impoverished gringos). We are all quite used to calling anyone, anywhere (in the US), any time, especially amongst ourselves. That's out.

I thought about using our FRS and GMRS radios that haven't seen the light of day for several years, but they aren't legal in Mexico. They have FRS (no GMRS) but our radios are not certified for Mexico. I might take a couple anyway, but my family always thought they were extremely hokey.

I have found that no hotels in the Cancun zona have free Internet of any kind and the only free Internet I have found was one spot at the airport. That would leave us paying $20/day at the hotel (I think) or something like $7/hour at a cafe. I'll probably have to spring for that.

Part of the purpose of the vacation (for me at least) is to get away from the keyboard, so maybe that's not so bad, but I hope the withdrawal symptoms can be mitigated with tequila.

It would be nice if the professor were there to figure out how to fix our cell phones and connect to the Internet with coconuts and bamboo.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Direct TV Dumping Satellites for Blimps?

I look out my office window and see a Direct TV blimp fighting its way through the wind. I wonder: Is Direct TV dumping satellites for blimps?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rock and Roll Boulevard

Greetings from the corner of Rock and Roll Boulevard and Lakeside Avenue in beautiful downtown Cleveland. While I was in Vail, Colorado last December, an announcement was made that one of the main streets here (the one that terminates at Lake Erie with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, East 9th Street) was being renamed "Rock and Roll Boulevard."

This was pretty cool for me, as a charter member (and frequent visitor) of the Rock Hall, a native Clevelander, and someone whose office overlooks the Rock Hall. I'm not sure if they made a big deal of the announcement - I was out of town, but they have very quietly put up street signs underneath the East Ninth signs that say Rock and Roll Boulevard. Last week they also changed the signage on the building itself (see photo). Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Constitutes Technical Competance for an End User?

Unfortunately, IT people berate non-technical people all the time. Much of the time we don't understand why so many of them "don't get it" and why they are SO far behind. Although these attitudes are to be expected, they do not breed a good customer service environment. So try to put on your rose colored glasses and think that the glass is half full. There is (probably) a reason why this person is in the position they are - someone thought they were valuable (and people are WAY more valuable than machines - maybe not systems, but most machines - but that is a topic for another day).

With that respectful disclaimer in place, I have some ideas about good users vs. bad users. It's interesting, you have bitching and moaning from both of these. Good users bitch and moan constructively, and bad users, well, for many reasons. The constructive bitching and moaning is one way to tell the good from the bad.

What is the bad user bitching and moaning about? Sometimes it is everything. Nothing works. Everything sucks. Nothing is designed right. Everything is too slow. I have tried many times to turn such users away from the dark side and maybe I have even fixed a few of them - permanently - transforming them to competent users. Although this is a worthy goal, don't drive yourself crazy trying to save everyone from their (most likely self-inflicted) technological hell.

Just listen. Is there something they are doing wrong that you can correct? Is there something you can build to better accommodate their work?

Another way to differentiate the competent from the incompetent is by how well they can accomplish what they do with technology. Does it enable them, or get in their way? Most of the time we are not well qualified to make such judgments, but we are entitled to our opinions. Some people take what is given them and soar. Others get mired in problems they cannot overcome. I think we know which ones we'd rather have for customers, sponsors, etc.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spell Check Fix Clarification

The MOSS 2007/WSS 3.0 spell check bug (that supposedly IS fixed in SP1, but I'd like to know how they fixed it) has had work arounds documented several times, but I'm not sure any of these were complete. Neither will this one be, but I have two observations I would like to share.
  • You do not need to have any special permissions on the root of your site collection (just read).
  • Spell check can also be broken with inadequate permissions in the %windir%\temp on the web front ends.
The standard "fix" is to have a document library called "Spelling" off the root of each site collection, and in that library you need a junk document named "Custom Dictionary.txt." It doesn't matter what is in this document. The users need to have at least some (read?) access to the root, but to this Spelling document library they need these permissions (and nothing more):
  1. View Items
  2. Browse Directories
  3. View Pages
  4. Use Remote Interfaces
  5. Open
With this access, depending on what they have in the root, they may not be able to see the list, and they defeinitely cannot even open it in Sharepoint. They are unaware it exists.

The other problem we have seen is that on the %windir%\temp folder (usually C:\Windows\Temp) on each of the web front ends, the Network Service needs the following permissions:
  1. Traverse Folder/Execute File
  2. List Folder/Read Data
  3. Read Attributes
  4. Delete
  5. Read Permissions
Being cruddy work arounds, I'm not sure how well these are documented anywhere. These are the steps we have had to take to keep working. It is a shame that the SharePoint community has had to endure bugs like this. Unfortunately I am pretty sure most of us will not be taking SP1, so we won't see how they fixed this problem.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Backup/Restore "Duplicates" and Broken "Content and Structure" (Settings.aspx)

This took a couple hours of staring at things and looking at every side of everything. I had used STSADM to back up a site and restore it to another site collection. This went pretty well, except for two problems:
  1. Two of the lists showed up twice in the "All Site Content" (viewlsts.aspx) and
  2. Content and Structure (settings.aspx) would error
#1 Symptoms
I tried deleting one of the lists. Oops. It deleted both (there really only was one). Hooray for the Recycle Bin!
The allitems.aspx for each list showed two web parts for the list (this is significant).

#2 Symptoms
You could navigate to any of the lists and stuff if you opened Content and Structure from another subsite, but you could not get to the root of this site.

Delete the extra (duplicate) webparts from the allitems.aspx and all three problems went away.

Why? Ha! You tell me! But I am happier, and the users are happier. I'm just not very warm and fuzzy (welcome to my life with SharePoint).

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to Move the Central Admin Site, Even if You Already Screwed it Up

Revised! And also see http://bobklass.blogspot.com/2008/07/moving-central-admin-again.html
Moving the Central Admin site the right way is easy:

Run config wiz on old, removing
Run config wiz on new adding

But what if you did something to screw that up, like:

Start Central Admin on new server (through Central Admin)
Stop Central Admin on old server (through Central Admin)
Run Configuration Wizard on new server

which would leave you with NO Central Admin server?

You will have to try a little harder if you really want to screw things up. To fix it:

Run Config Wizard on new and REMOVE central admin
Run Config Wizard on the old and remove central admin
Run Config Wizard on new and ADD central admin

Similarly, you probably could redo the old Central Admin if it were screwed up and then do it the right way once everything was back the way it should have been. The right way:

Run config wiz on old, removing
Run config wiz on new adding

That's all fine, but sometimes SharePoint just won't do things the right way. My production server didn't present the option to remove the Central Admin site (why?) until I removed it from the farm and added it back (and the first time I ran the Config Wizard it took over an hour!).

But then it looked like the "right way" wasn't working. Upon close inspection, everything seemed to be where it should be. The problem was that the alternative access mapping for Central Admin needed to be changed (it still showed the old server). So just put in an explicit address and include ../default.aspx and navigate to the maintenance page, or just use ../_admin/AlternateUrlCollections.aspx and then change it to your new Central Admin server.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Sharepoint Virtualization - Numero Drei

Hopefully I won't seem like a person who waffles. Or someone who jumps to conclusions. I have tried to be objective and I tried to make the testing meaningful. I will share here an unsanitized version of what I published to our team:

Our tests were performed with a two server MOSS 2007 farm with the same databases running on a fairly robust (physical) SQL cluster. One server was an indexer only, and the other served the SSP, web front end, etc. No special Sharepoint caching was turned on for any sites. The physical servers tested were HP servers with 2GB RAM and two (older) 3.4 ghz dual core processors in each. The virtual servers ran with 2GB RAM and variously 2 or 4 processors on an ESX system that I believe had two dual quad core machines and LOTS of RAM.

Three categories of test were performed:

  • Indexing performance
  • Web page traffic
  • Document library traffic/search queries

Results were monitored from various sources - HP OpenView, Loadrunner, WAPT, Windows native, and subjective.

1. Indexing
Indexing virtual to virtual with 2 processor machines seemingly outperformed physical in all categories except CPU usage, which was significantly higher on the virtuals (though acceptable). The time to complete the index was almost the same for physical and virtual farms.

We did not have any HPOV data on the indexer.

2. Web Page Traffic
An older script was run with Loadrunner, simulating 250 users for 15 minutes. The script was web page views only. In general, the virtuals outperformed the physicals in these tests. Neither was overloaded.

3. Document Library - File and Search
A short script was created to download two large files (30 MB) repetitively and do some search queries. This is a realistic document library scenario of Intranet content being downloaded simultaneously by multiple users. The script was run with WAPT via several different PC's, with anywhere from 20 to 200 sessions simulated. The tests were run from the same part of the building and presumably through a small number of ports on the same network switch.

None of the systems performed this test well. Heavy file activity can be the bane of SharePoint's existence, even though we often use it as a document management system that is easy to use and access from any office. Large files are common, and access to such files usually cannot be managed (if it were managed, we could easily cache such files and more easily serve up large files to many users).

The physical servers were slow but remained responsive during this test. CPU utilization was usually below 50%, with some higher spikes. Four processor virtualized servers remained responsive during this test, but were very slow (slower than the physicals) and CPU utilization was between 30 and 75%, with some higher spikes. Two processor virtualized was almost non-responsive. CPU utilization rose to 100% and stayed there as long as the test was permitted to run. This happened for as few as twenty connections.

I don't want to draw too many conclusions until we have had further discussion of the testing. There may have been other limitations to tests 1 and 3 from the SQL server. Microsoft spends more time discussing SQL than it does SharePoint servers in the latest tuning info http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=105621&clcid=0x409. I previously distributed this Microsoft tuning document (published in late December).

Microsoft recommends using 4 or 5 web front ends (without much qualification). Serving up files over 15 MB or having content databases over 50 GB is taxing on SharePoint and may degrade performance significantly. This latest tuning information from Microsoft is very conservative.

Our tests indicate that multiple processors are a key to maintaining reasonable performance from web front ends. Indexing seems to work fine from a virtual server.

So am I objective or what? My tests did little to confirm any of my original line of thinking.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Virtualizing SharePoint Part Deux

Be sure to also read the next part - Numero Drei

We are still not finished with our virtualization tests, but I had to document this early stage of enlightenment (especially since the part one post seems to have been pretty far off the mark). Since virtualization very likely will be a part of my SharePoint experience from now on, I imagine there will be a part 3, 4, etc.

The state of the art of virtualization is a lot better than I thought. One of our IT groups has been building out the infrastructure for VM such that the virtuals will have a much better future than physical machines. Using multiple dual quad core servers with scads of memory, VMWare ESX is pretty amazing stuff.

The purpose of this study is to determine our server needs for a build-out of SharePoint to include new farms in Europe and Asia with up to a terabyte of data in each, and increasing North American capacity to up to two terabytes. There are around 5000 users in 30+ locations (heavily weighted to North America). The current farm is smaller (4 machines in our North America data center and less than 200GB of content). It is currently running on brand new IBM boxes (our SQL cluster is a little bit older). New 64 bit multiple quad core SQL machines will be used (VERY physical - brutes) and all the disk is on SANs.

The way it looks from the early virtualization testing, my SharePoint future is all virtual. 100% virtual. Indexer, WFEs, apps (SQL will have those big, new 64 bit physical machines). For SharePoint servers, tested performance of a VM is comparable (often better) than physical, with so many other advantages that I probably won't want ANY physical servers for the buildout, and I will probably give up the physicals that we already have.

When I started this process I was concerned that the risks of going virtual were high. I am almost convinced that it is the best way to go for high availability and performance. It does not seem to save a lot of money, but it saves some. There may be some hard to quantify costs savings (administration, power, cooling, etc.) and fortunately I will not be under much pressure to put numbers on such things (I'd make them up!).

The final conclusions will come in future posts, but this is encouraging.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holiday Valley February 16, 2008

After my first skiing trip to the Rockies last December I had hoped to get to someplace closer to home a bit sooner so I could evaluate my old skis vs. the hot new stuff I rented at Vail. I also wanted to judge the lameness of the comparative experience.

Too much time has passed, though, so I couldn't judge the skis. My long, old things seemed OK. The experience is what it is. A hill a third the length of somplace like Vail (but it feels like a fifth) and terain that probably isn't a fifth in size (you can't compare them, really). The snow was perfect at Vail vs. your typical Eastern ice in New York (ice is damn fast, though, and a challenge). The lines were a bit long this weekend too, but bearable. They were sledom long at Vail.

My conclusion is that I can still have fun on day trips to Holiday Valley, and do them like I always have, with healthy trips to the Hearth (my usual restaurant) and the bar, which is so unlike my Vail experience, where I only hit the bar afterwards.

I have a story of an altercation with one of the bartenders at the Yodeler Lodge bar. I ordered an Ellicottville Brewing Co. IPA (or pale ale) for Bryce and an Ellicottville Brewing Co. Amber for myself. She brought me back what looked and tasted like Miller Genuine Draft. I told her it was the wrong beer and she said it wasn't. I said the kegs were switched when she insisted it was right. She even poured another to show me. I told her it was OBVIOUSLY the wrong beer - the color was all wrong (that EBC Amber is very pretty in the glass, it doesn't look anything like Miller). She dramatically threw the one beer in the sink, asked me what I wanted then and took the other away. She practically threw my change at me. I should have thrown the tip at her.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Virtualizing - Part 1

Be sure to read the other parts of this series (because it changes a lot!):

Hopefully it won't be a misnomer to call this part 1, but at this point I really don't have a lot of hard info, just my thoughts. Later, when we've tried it, I'll add more (we all hope, right?).

If you think about how the Sharepoint components work, it is easy to rule out SQL and indexers for virtualization (at least for a large farm, as we are deploying). That leaves web front ends, query servers and application servers (Excel, Infopath). We have run our farm with query server and web front end combined. The applications will be new to us very soon.

So for us, the low risk trial will be to use the (very beefy) virtuals for applications. This especially makes sense since these are processor intensive. With WFE's, there is too much risk of underperformance. What if the cache reads are too slow? We can't have it not work well.

So I am advocating that we proceed this way.

I've been lax with my posts as I try to rest my right arm - too many mouse clicks. Very painful. I'll be back!

Check out part deux.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spurious SMTP Errors in Logs

On a MOSS farm where you have SMTP running on one server, the rest of the servers want to run SMTP too, but they will complain over and over in the logs that they cannnot find the appropriate directory structure.

I suppose you could install and not configure SMTP on these servers, but it is eaier to just create a dummy of the structure they want.

Under the C:\INETPUB folder create a ..\MAILROOT folder and under that create a ..\DROP folder.

This will stop a whole bunch of bogus messages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to Change a MOSS Server to a Different Farm and Configuration Database

OK, big disclaimer on this one. I didn't RTFM. But this is what I did to reconfigure our large farms (6 web/query servers plus two indexers).

If you just went to a server and ran the Configuration Wizard, you would find that you cannot switch configuration databases. If you went into Central Admin (even if it is running on another server) there is a Remove Server link. If you click it, it tells you not to do it that way. Listen to what the box is saying - do not do that. Do what I say below!

The first thing to do is run Add/Remove Programs, select Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007, Change, Repair. At the end of the repair it needs a reboot.

Then you rerun the Configuration Wizard and it may know you were trying to "repair." If not (I have seen inconsistency on this), go back to Central admin and remove the server (this time answer yes). If it was still connected to a config database, exit and restart the wizard after removing the server from the farm at the ../_admin/FarmServers.aspx page. Back in the Configuration Wizard, it will now bark that it can't tell if the server is in a farm (although it seems to know that it once was). This is actually a good sign. OK that BIG message box, and then you have no choice except to disconnect from the farm. This seems to clear out any remaining settings regarding the farm. Good stuff.

Then (I think you can guess this), you rerun the Configuration Wizard. Now it is like the first time you ran it on a freshly installed server. You can connect to another config database and it will run the full range of tasks (this whole process is one of the cooler administrative things I have ever seen - I wish the rest of the software was as cool!). It syncs up all your installed features and stuff. You are done, and ready to give this server a role in your farm.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

SharePoint Book Reviews

People often ask me if there is a particular SharePoint book that I recommend. Sometimes they want basics, sometimes developer stuff. I have had a hard time finding SharePoint related books that I liked. I know I should have spent more time in the book store at Tech Ed last year, but it was a very busy conference (networking 7/24, don't ya know). Visiting the computer section of the local Barnes and Noble's, Borders, etc. can also be a very unfulfilling experience if SharePoint is what you are after. The local library (even in this lovely major metropolis) is only somewhat more fulfilling. Visiting Amazon, there seem to be a number of potentially good ones out there. I will give the scoop as I see it on the few that I know pretty well.

Since we consumers in the U.S. see these books on the shelf and recognize their publishers' branding, I will identify these by publisher. No slight to the authors intended! There is more method to this madness - I think that Wrox is on to something, and they actually have a useful, coherent layout of books.

Wrox - SharePoint 2007 and Office Development

This book turned out to be very good. They have a "tree" of related books, and this is at the top (the bottom being the "beginning" books). It explains a lot of stuff in fairly good detail. Best I've seen. It doesn't have a ton of code in it, but it has some, and it explains how things fit together.

Wrox - Beginning Sharepoint Administration

Beginning Sharepoint Administration was the best "basics" book I have seen. It had twice the detail in half the space of the "Administrator's Companion" book I have.

Apress - Workflow in the Microsoft Office 2007 System - It seems to go a long way towards explaining how things work, and it has some decent examples. Unfortunately it can't make the product function better than it is!

Microsoft - Office Sharepoint Server 2007 Administrators Companion - I can't say much nice about it. Maybe I dislike it because it was free. It never seems to have the answer to any questions.

Be sure to avoid older SharePoint books! There is little about WSS 2.0 or SPS2003 or anything earlier that would still be relevant.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Publishing Site - Create Page - Permissions on Master Page and Page Layout Gallery

When I had this little problem yesterday, I fairly quickly (almost instinctively - that's getting scary) knew what it was. The title of this post may be all the hint anyone would need to fixing such a problem.

I set up a power user as a full control of a publishing site. Yet he could not create a page. To make a (medium) story short, the permissions on the master page / page layouts gallery were very restricted. I don't know how they got that way - either one of us admins/owners/developers screwed it up or the upgrade process did (this was once an SPS 2003 site, up since January 2006, converted to MOSS last June). Once everyone was allowed to read the gallery, the problem was fixed.

I am fairly certain this is only for a publishing site (or at least for a publishing site but not a team site). I think with team sites the (fewer) page layouts that are available are contained within the content types for that template (or something like that). I hope this helps!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

WSS 3.0/MOSS 2007 SP1 First Impressions

Impression 1 - the Databases

I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I didn't think about it enough. What should one expect in SharePoint (WSS and MOSS) SP1? I could think of a few insidious bugs and things - simple stuff like site templates that don't hold chrome state. But I hadn't thought about how it would be delivered and implemented.

If you think about it a little, you come to the realization that a small portion of fixes might be in software that goes on the file system, but the majority of the stuff will be in the databases. That should make you go - o, oh. Danger Will Robinson. So that's what you should expect, an upgrade, similar to what you went through from WSS 2.0 / SPS 2003 to 2007, but maybe ratcheted down by several degrees of difficulty. But still a very serious undertaking.

Impression 2 - the Documentation

I AM impressed. This right here is a great read if you are at all enthusiastic about SharePoint: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=105621&clcid=0x409. This is highly recommended reading. One more time - READ IT. It has what they are calling "updated guidance." There are some new ways to categorize your installation (how to determine if you are small, medium or large). Then there are some hard core recommendations (almost warnings) about how to set up your system and thing to avoid. Much of this is important to know and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with SP1. You will find numerous other links from this document and elsewhere, but start here - trust me, it's interesting.

In some ways, it is an admission of not readiness for prime time. Let's not forget the obvious - SharePoint is sitting on top of SQL Server. As long as this is the case, it is a poor substitute for a file system (and it cannot be an industrial strength document management system). Until the future versions are built on Bitlocker, it has serious limitations. That version should be out in a couple years (my SWAG).

Impression 3 - Fixes and New Features

Here is where I really have not finished my homework. Uh, I think the fixed a lot of stuff - I read about some. And uh, I saw one cool feature (necessitated by the documentation they released that said to keep content databases under 100GB) a new switch in stsadm to move a site collection to another database. I'm sure there are more cool features, but I haven't gotten to them or the bugs in any detail.

So I'm stuck on the process for now, and I probably won't have time to dig in further for a month. Don't expect a trivial or simple upgrade to SP1. I didn't expect that, but I still was somewhat surprised by the scope.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

SharePoint Branding (if you must)

I am resistant to SharePoint branding. Back in 2006 we branded an SPS 2003 portal, partly for fun, partly to learn and partly because we hoped it would be a positive thing. Besides being pretty ugly, it had so many issues we never attempted to fix them. When we upgraded that portal to MOSS 2007, we left the branding behind. Other than that bad experience, the other reason I am resistant is because screwing with the branding has a huge potential downside - there is a lot you can break, and little you can enhance.

You could completely change the appearance of Microsoft Word (not just functionality, appearance). But why would you? How is this different? Expectations, that's how.

We have had to brand a couple 2007 systems at the firm. For the first one, we hired an extremely well known SharePoint Branding person. She was great to work with and fixed all the issues we fed back at her. It is important to note, that even if you are pretty expert at the process, it is replete with pitfalls. We went through numerous iterations to get things right with that first branded 2007 site. For our branded second site, we decided to try our hand at it.

Modify a Default or Start Minimalist?

I think it depends. Maybe if you were staying fairly close to out of the box, modifying what was already there might be OK, but it won't take you long to realize that you have poked a hornets nest with a stick.

We had some interesting design directives. I don't think they add anything from a usability or content standpoint, but they made for an interesting project. We were to make it look like a newspaper or a newspaper web site. Mostly black and white. A few balanced columns. Masthead look. Times family fonts. Since none of this is anything like out of the box, we started with a Heather Solomon style minimalist page (http://www.heathersolomon.com/blog/articles/BaseMasterPages.aspx).

Near the bottom of this page (but not all the way down), we stuck a layout table that looked like what we needed. Then we started moving some things in there, and other things into a hidden section. We liberally cut and pasted code around the master page and from the default master page.

So Many Styles

Creating styles and sticking them in a custom CSS is simple, but there are a LOT of styles that need attention. We had to change colors on all the little border pieces and stuff. This can take a while to find. We used the IE Developer toolbar and similar tools in FireFox to find and test these components.

I would estimate that so far we have around 40 hours in this process - maybe 16 for me and 24 for my co-worker - and so far we have a good demo. But we have a long way to go. We figure we will need to fix up a theme to take care of pages originating from ../_layouts/. We also have a number of loose ends and I am sure that we will get a bunch of further requests (fonts, graphics, and we have not yet done the home page layout). Based on that, I have to estimate that we have at least another 80 hours of work before we can go to a QA phase.

I know that some of the content we will end up presenting in this site will get a lot of use, but I am of the opinion that the branding will neither make nor break this project. Content is much more critical. I would rather work in an out of the box environment than a branded one. What we are creating doesn't look like Sharepoint. So what?