Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Popularity of Facebook

Been thinking more about the popularity of Facebook. In one of the previous posts I was proposing that the reason is the fact that it allows non-geeks to create and maintain a web site. I now also think that it goes beyond this. A big part of the appeal is that you can add "applications" to your site that allows other to interact with you.
 
For example you could add a "game" application to your site and invite other to compete. Your web site is then updated with your gaming results. A bit like a medal of honour you could say.
 
The foundation of Facebook's popularity is clearly the "social" aspect. The ability to interact with people you know or have met anywhere you have internet access.
 
Now is it such a stetch to imagine this sort of application being recast into a business networking environment? I'm sure we all understand the potential issues but for a moment let's dwell on the possibilities. If you created a site that was your business and then invited your customers to link to your site. They could post their testimonials up there and you could interact with them directly. As they developed their own corporate site you could see if there maybe anyone else they know that could use your services.
 
The above is just one example that springs to mind. The more you think about the application to businesses the more you see that it will only be a matter of time before something like this emerges.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Second shot Microsoft exams

If you want to get a Microsoft certification under your belt then if you register here, take the exam before January 30, 2008 and heaven forbid, not pass then you are entitled to retake the exam again for FREE.
 
Having done a few Microsoft exams I know that some can be quite tricky. It generally isn't that you don't know the material, it is that you don't know exactly how Microsoft wants the questions answered. My advice is that if you are unsure then try and examine the question again from Microsoft's perspective (ie which option requires the implementation of more Microsoft software?).
 
Now with this free double shot you should have no problems getting through, even if it takes two goes!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

SharePoint and Social Networking (Business)

My last post about Facebook was leading onto my thoughts of using SharePoint for social networking. Seems like the SharePoint team has beaten me to the punch with the following post on their blog.
 
Now I think that social networking is much easier using MOSS than it is Windows SharePoint Services but I still maintain that the fundamental reason Facebook is so popular is that it allows 'non-geeks' to create their own web pages and then have other contribute. I certainly feel that SharePoint could be used in a similar capacity if it given some thought.
 
The ability to easily create and link pages as well as save content is probably the greatest strength of SharePoint. Inside Saturn Alliance I use SharePoint extensively to capture all that information that either doesn't get saved or ends up spread across many mediums. If I need something additional I just go in and create it. If I need to modify something I just go and modify and then boom it is up and working.
 
The power of the technology is not the product it is what it is capable of doing. People see the ability of networking with other in Facebook, to me, exactly the same is possible in Sharepoint.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thoughts on Facebook

All you hear about these days in the popular media is Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. We are also noticing a sharp rise in Facebook usage in many businesses whose Internet we monitor. Clearly more and more people are into Facebook.
 
Interestingly, we also heard about a company that has reversed it's policy on blocking Facebook because it wants to attract "younger" employees. Interesting eh? No Facebook access no attraction to work for you.
 
This got us to thinking, why is Facebook so popular? Could it be that these sort of sites allow anyone to create a page on the Internet about their most interesting topic (ie them)? Now, geeks like us have been doing web pages for years. If you want to see the earliest copy of our original web site click here. I think our first eb page went up in 1996 over 10 years ago and we remember how chuffed we were that we 'had a page on the Internet'.
 
Could it be that Facebook and MySpace provide a simple means for non-geeks to post information on the Internet so they too can be proud of being part of the revolution we know as the Internet? We're not sure and we don't have enough Facebook friends yet to really understand this yet.
 
What interests us most is how this phenomenon will be extended to businesses. Apart from the all the issue but imagine a Business Facebook site where business could go and post information about themselves, quickly and easily. They could also link to their customers who could endorse theire products and services and so on. We can see it happening.
 
However, the key to coverting the existing success of Facebook and MySpace to businesses lies in understanding the appeal of these site at its most fundamental.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Network basics course start tomorrow

It is still not too late to sign up for our Network basics course held at Macquarie community college. Click here for more information and to sign up.
 
The course will provide you with a good grounding on the necessary components and technologies required to network machines together.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Things should be back to normal now

Phew. Finally, our SharePoint sites should now be back to "normal". Because we basically re-installed SharePoint on both servers we needs to add back the ability to index and search Adobe documents ( ie PDF's).
 
By default SharePoint will do Microsoft files like Word and Excel but to index PDF's then you have to install some software from Adobe, then make some configuration changes (read registry hacks) and finally do a full re-index of the site to incorporate all the existing PDF information in SharePoint.
 
We have now completed all those steps so this SharePoint ( http://supportweb.ciaops.net.au ) and our internal SharePoint site should now be back to exactly the point before the application of the recent patch.
 
In thanks I'd like to offer a quick prayer : Our Father who aren't in heaven, please don't let this happen again. PLEASE.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lessons learnt from recent SharePoint crash

Here's a bit of retrospective of what we learn't after teh recent Sharepoint issues:
 
1. Don't be adventurous with patches, let some other poor smuck find the problem first. Wait at least 7 days before applying any patch to a system and make sure that you keep across other keep people in the industry like Wayne, Vlad and Susan (to name but a few). THese people are likley to find the problem first or have others come to them.
 
2. Make sure that you have a backup and the backup works. We have 2 backups, one is a full server backup using NT backup and the second is a Sharepoint data backup using STSADM. The full backup failed to restore TWICE so we had to revert to the Sharepoint backup. Problem with this is that it takes time to build up a suitable machine onto which you can recover Sharepoint ( Service Packs, Templates and the like). Since most of our Sharepoint stuff is virtualized we will ensure that we have a more up to date backup machine ready in the future. It is also probably a good idea to take an image of the server regularly using something like ShadowProtect. This means in the event of a disaster you can at least roll back to a previous point pretty quickly.
 
3. Realise the point at which you need to call Microsoft Product Support is probably much earlier than you think. If you don't work with thi stuff day and day out then a call to PSS could have you potentially hours and hours of wasted time. If you don't have access to PSS then again consult others in the community since they are all usually most willing to help. Also, keep in mind that it may take a while for any support to actually get hands onto the problem. In our case it took 24 hours, which was frustrating but in th end we were more than happy with the result.
 
4. All our Sharepoint sites (both internally and externally) DON'T run on SBS. Why? Well, we reckon SBS is the heart of our network and doesn't need to be strained with additional load when we can achieve the same result using other means (read - user Virtual PC). If Sharepoint had been on our SBS it would have caused an even more major distruption. Since it wasn't we could focus on other things while working independently on the Sharepoint issue. We acknowledge that in some places this is not possible but if you can, generally host Sharepoint somewhere else on the network.
 
5 Understand the fact that if Sharepoint or IIS is down you can't access ANY of your data! Let me repeat that ANY OF YOUR DATA. This is a single point of failure and admittedly fairly unique but if your business DEPENDS on Sharepoint day in and day out then you need to take steps to reduce the downtime or otherwise you'll have plenty of staff twiddling their thumbs.
 
If we think of more we'll post but hopefully everything is now looking ok.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

SharePoint Document Libraries video - Part 2

Click here for our latest YouTube video that covers the creation of views in document libraries for Sharepoint V3.

The day you don't read other people's blogs

This week was Microsoft's usual patch Tuesday. In the swag of updates was one for Sharepoint KB934525. Foolishly we installed that on both our internal and external Sharepoint site and broke both of them.
 
If we had read Wayne's blog entry or Vlad's then at least we would have been aware of the potential problem and chosen not to install the patch. Typically, we applied the patch before check our RSS reader and got burned.
 
After some initial too and frowing we tried Vlad's suggested fix but that didn't solve the issue. Seems that the reason for this was because we had installed the Sharepoint Groupboard that also caused problems.
 
Ok now things are getting serious with our two production Sharepoint sites down, time to call Microsoft Product Support. Now as a certified partner we were disappointed with the slow response to the issue. It took a whole day before we got anyone from Microsoft to get 'hands-on' with our problems.
 
In the meantime we attempted to do complete server restore of our internal Sharepoint site (since we have backups) and that failed (twice). The server restored but we got all sorts fo wierd errors. So not wanting to waste more time on that we built a new server and did a Sharepoint data restore (since we backup Sharepoint data as well seperately). A day later we had our internal Sharepoint working again just a Microsoft started working on our external Sharepoint site.
 
While Microsoft continued to work on the server in background we started the process of building yet another server in case we needed to do another Sharepoint restore for our extenal site. Watching the process that the Microsoft Tech had to go through there was NO WAY we would have ever been able to recover from the problems ourselves.
 
Anyway, after a full two days we finally had both Sharepoint sites working. After an initial frustration at waiting for service we have nothing but praise for our Microsoft Tech who stayed on the job and keep us up to date and then hung around after we left for the day to make sure it was all working after hours.
 
There are still a few bugs to iron out in the recovered site but as you can see (if you are reading this) then the site is operational. We'll post again shortly with some lesson learned about this experience but all we can say about KB934525 is DON'T DO IT unless you know that it may TOTALLY BREAK Sharepoint V3.0!

Monday, October 8, 2007

SharePoint video series

We've just created the first in a series of new videos that will focus on SharePoint 2003. The first series of videos will focus on Document Libraries in SharePoint.
 
To view the video click here, otherwise go to our general YouTube homepage at http://www.youtube.com/saturnalliance.
 
Each video in the series will delve deeper and deeper into the workings of SharePoint 2003. It is a constraint that YouTube only currently allows a maximum upload of only 10 minutes. We do appreciate that there are other options like Google Video but for the time being we'll stick with YouTube simply because of its popularity.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Master Chief if you please

Been playing Halo 3 on the Xbox recently and can recommend it. Never was a great fan of previous Halo games and only decided to take a look when a relative bought the game for themselves.
 
After initially letting them burn themselves out on it I snuck it away and played it myself and became pretty wrapped up in the not only the action but also the story. Unlike other games I've played it is pretty easy to play (I ain't too good on button mashing style games) and has a great flow so you don't get bogged down too much.
 
I think that Microsoft will have a major hit on its hands with Halo 3. Besides it being a great game you gotta see the graphics WOW is all I can say.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Microsoft Office Fluent user interface video

Wanna see what the new Office interface actually looks like? Maybe you or your customers have heard some bad things about the interface? Well with this video at least you can judge for yourself. Click here to be taken to the video page and then click on the Play Video button.
 
In our experience the new interface does cause some issues for traditional Office menu users but if they are willing to embrace the change then generally they all agree that the new interfac actually makes them more productive.