Friday, November 30, 2007

Can I just say these people still don't understand e-commerce

Well it is coming up to Christmas time and the "easiest" way to go shopping is the via the net right? Let me just show you how even big suppliers don't understand e-commerce.

Firstly, I wanted to buy some DVD's and CD's from a major retail chain. I login with my credentials so it knows who I am and records my purchases. Nowhere can I see how many "bonus points" I have with this supplier on the page, which would be nice. So I select what I'm after, add it to my shopping cart and then head to the checkout. After putting my credit card details in I'm now taken to "Verified by Visa". Here I have to put in a "Verified by Visa" password that I have no idea what it is. Sure I set it up but this is the only site that I've seen that uses "Verified by Visa". Not having my password means that I am unable to complete my purchase. So I request my password (which terminates the checkout process anyway). I have to wait a few minutes and check my email for the details, then I go back in and re-order everything, put in my 'Verified by Visa' password and complete the transaction (and only get shown my bonus credits at checkout). When I receive a confirmation of my purchase on the web site I also receive an unknown pop-up that gets blocked by my browser. Hmmm... I wonder what the pop up says and if it is important? I take a screen shot of my completed transaction details because I know what is about to happen next. I enable pop ups in the browser so I can see what the message and is and surprise, surprise my completed transaction details have disappeared from the original browser window because the window was reset when I enabled the pop up.

Issues :

1. Why, oh why do I have to jump so many hurdles to give you people my money? Why, oh why can't I check my 'Verified by Visa' password BEFORE I have to enter it? Why, oh why can't I elect to not use 'Verified by Visa' if I so desire? Sure there is security risk but I just want to pay my money and get out. Dumb.

2. Why is the site using pop ups? Geeze fellas these things went out with Internet Explorer 4.0. The only things that use pop ups these days are annoying ads and spyware. Every browser these days blocks pop ups by default so everyone is going to have the same problem of losing their transaction info if they view the pop up. Was there are warning prior to processing that I should enable pop ups? No. Dumber.

Next, I went to purchase some books. I locate the first book I want and add it to my basket which conveniently displays. Ok boys, now how the hell do I get back and make more purchases? I scout around the page and see no indication of a return link. So where's the encouragement for me to buy more? Finally I find that if I click on the company's logo in the top left of the screen I go back to the main site. Hmmm...my basket now shows that it has 0 items. I click back on my basket and find that it does in fact still have my initial item. I again return to the main page and make more purchases. When complete I proceed to the checkout where I am asked for my loyalty card number. Yes, I do have one of those. I enter the number and it says "invalid number or password". Hmmmm.... ok I'll request my password (again) and guess what it was correct! So what's the problem here? After much stuffing around I work out that the number I need to enter must not include any dashes ('-'), I must just type the number in straight. Where the hell did it tell me that? Bloody hell I just wasted 5 minutes trying to working out what I was doing wrong when all you needed to do was tell me that I should only use the numbers on my loyalty card. Mr(s) supplier, you have either just wasted my valuable time and gotten pissed me off or I have wasted time I could have spent shopping for more product on your site.

Issues:

1. Navigation. Has anyone else except the snow boarding web designers and poor suffering customers ever looked at the shopping basket page? Clearly not, since it must be so bloody obvious to press the logo in the top left of the screen to return to the main page to purchase more (Yeah right).

2. If you give me a card with a number separated by dashes I am going to assume that when I'm asked for that number you want it exactly how it is printed (ie with the dashes). If not, then pay me the courtesy of telling me this rather than wasting my time and pissing me right off. Dumbest.

In the end, sure I made my purchases and sure maybe I should be more forgiving but take a look at the check process differences between US and Australian sites. The big US sites really make it easy and want me back, these Australian sites just piss me off so I would rather go into the store. C'mon guys get the fundamentals right. Set you sites up to make it EASY for the customer to buy, stop putting all these barriers up. You complain about the lack on online sales but have you EVER looked at the check out process through the eyes of real consumer? I doubt it, I doubt it and that is plain stupid.

High CPU usage on the Trend security server

Having issues with high processor utilization or :

•It takes a long time to open applications

•High network bandwidth usage occurs

•Programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook slow down

Then the following article from Trend may help

http://esupport.trendmicro.com/support/viewxml.do?ContentID=EN-1034528&id=EN-1034528

It involves the installation of a hot fix.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blocked file types in SharePoint

Any files trying to be uploaded into Sharepoint V3.0 with the following file extensions will be blocked by default :

ade
adp
app
asa
ashx
asmx
asp
bas
bat
cdx
cer
chm
class
cmd
com
config
cpl
crt
csh
der
dll
exe
fxp
hlp
hta
htr
htw
ida
idc
idq
ins
isp
its
jse
ksh
lnk
mad
maf
mag
mam
maq
mar
mas
mat
mau
mav
maw
mda
mdb
mde
mdt
mdw
mdz
msc
msh
msh1
msh1xml
msh2
msh2xml
mshxml
msi
msp
mst
ops
pcd
pif
prf
prg
printer
pst
reg
rem
scf
scr
sct
shb
shs
shtm
shtml
soap
stm
url
vb
vbe
vbs
ws
wsc
wsf
wsh

This list will apply not only to the uploading of documents, but also to extensions changes of documents once they are in a document library. So if you have .zip file in a document library and try to unzip that file into a document library and the .zip contains a .exe file then that document won't extract.

To configure blocked file types:

  1. Go to Sharepoint 3.0 Central Administration.
  2. Select Operations page.
  3. Select Blocked File Types under Security Configuration.
  4. Modify the list to include or exclude the file extensions required.
  5. Click OK to save and close.

SharePoint V3.0 file locations

When you install SharePoint V3.0 onto SBS 2003 using the standard "side-by-side" installation you will find the following locations in use :

<install drive>:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\Data\Applications\<instance ID>\Config - contains global configuration files used by the search engine, like language specific noise word and thesaurus files along with the thesaurus schema XML file.

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\SERVER12\Server Setup Controller - critical setup files that might be needed later fro re-running certain aspects of the setup and configuration wizard.

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\BIN - executables like stsadm and prescan.exe

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\TEMPLATE\LAYOUTS - administrative pages address by the _layouts relative path on the Sharepoint sites.

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\TEMPLATE\IMAGES - is the _images realtive path for images addressable anywhere in Sharepoint sites.

SharePoint V3.0 databases


When you install Sharepoint V3.0 onto SBS 2003 using the recommended installation from Microsoft you will end up installing the WMSDE database that was mentioned in a previous post. This is typically referred to as the <SERVER>\Microsoft##SSEE SQL instance. Now of course you could manipulate this from the command line using the osql commands but if there is GUI interface why no use that? If you download the Microsoft SQL Management Studio and install that you can use a GUI to interact with the WMSDE Sharepoint databases.
So what do these databases do ? Well :
  • Sharepoint_AdminContent_<GUID> stores the information related to lists, document libraries, tasks and so so on of the Central Administration site.
  • Sharepoint_Config_<GUID> stores information about the configuration of your Sharepoint farm. Things like servers and their role are saved here. If the farm involves a multi server environment (with web front ends, content and search servers) then how the whole farm is configured is held here. BY default each server in the farm checks with the configuration database every 30 seconds.
  • WSS_Content contains information related to lists, document libraries, tasks, wikis, blogs, structure details, security information and so on for your Sharepoint user site.
  • WSS_Search_<Server> contains search metadata, history log, search log and so on that is used for the inbuilt Sharepoint search functionality.
Remember there is only a limited amount of things you can do with the SSEE instance but the GUI certainly makes it easier and now at least you have some idea as to what each database does!

SharePoint V3 databases

When you install SharePoint V3 on SBS2003 in the manner recommended by Microsoft (side by side installation), SharePoint will install Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (Windows) known as WMSDE.

WMSDE
The MSDE version that ships with Windows SharePoint Services is called as Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (Windows)-(WMSDE). WMSDE and has no storage limits unlike MSDE.

When you install Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services on a single server using the defaults, you have an installation that uses Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (Windows) (WMSDE) for your databases.

Some of the WMSDE Limitations as follows.
1) Cannot use WMSDE for web farm setup.
2) WMSDE overcomes limitations that MSDE has (like 2GB size limit, number of simultaneous connections). However you can't use it for anything else, because you can only use it for a specified signed schema (WSS Schema).
3) No Full Text search.
4) The instance of WMSDE installed can be used only by WSS.

Also, no matter where you specify the installation of Sharepoint you'll find that WMSDE installs under the Windows directory, which typically is on the C: drive of your server. Now this drive may not have enough space if you are planning a large Sharepoint environment so beware as WMSDE, from what we can determine, has no database limits. This means that the Sharepoint database could in theory grow and fill the entire C: drive.

If you are looking for the location of the Sharepoint V3 content databases that have been installed with WMSDE you'll find them at :

c:\windows\sysmsi\ssee\mssql.2005\mssql\data

This will be the case if you have SBS 2003 standard or premium and simply accept the default installation options for Sharepoint V3. If you have SBS 2003 Premium, that includes some version of SQL, then you are able to have the Sharepoint content databases reside on the SQL server, which typically will be on the data drive of your server and not the system drive. However, to achieve this configuration you need to do thing differently from the way Microsoft recommends.

More on that later.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Search Server Express 2008 running on SBS 2003

We now have Search Server Express 2008 RC running on a Small Business Server R2 Premium. After installing Windows Sharepoint 2007 we installed Search Server Express 2008. Now because it is SBS 2003 R2 Premium (which includes SQL Workgroup 2005) we decided to install the Sharepoint databases there. During the Search Server Express 2008 installation it seems to look where Sharepoint is installed and if it is at least on SQL Server 2005 Express or better it installs its own databases in the same location. so in our case we now have Windows Sharepoint 2007 and Search Server 2008 Express both configure to use SQL 2005 workgroup databases.

Now it did seem to take quite a while to complete the configuration of Search Server Express 2008 on the SBS machine, but we have generally noticed this to be standard. So don't worry, Search Server Express does take a while to complete its installation. With the software installed we created a data share and dumped a whole lot of files in there. Next we scheduled Search Server to index not only Sharepoint but also this data share.

Once the schedule has run we could now successfully search both the server data share and Sharepoint. Impressive to say the least. Now that we were a bit hypo with this success we decided to install Search Server Express onto our production SBS server. Whoa there....we then remembered that Search Server Express 2008 still isn't production software yet! Over the years we have learnt the hard way that you SHOULDN'T install beta software onto production machines.

Dang, we'll just have to wait for the final code to be released but the more we see the more we love Microsoft Search Server Express 2008.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talk about a D'Oh moment

Recently restored a server using Shadowprotect and had issues with the Active Directory upon reboot. The error said that Active Directory couldn't be loaded. Hmmm...Ok so we restore from a different image and end up with the same error. Ok, this doesn't make sense, the image worked not long ago and nothing since then has changed. Ah ha, because the image is >60 days the Active Directory is now too old to load with the current date.

Now back in the Novell days you could set the 'epoch' time to the current time and get around the issue. So we started looking at which utility to use to reset this in Active Directory. Strange, why can't we find anything. This could be a problem, until someone pointed out that couldn't we simply set the server date back in the BIOS, restore the data, boot and change the date. D'Oh, how stupid are we??

We did this, changed the date and it all worked - geeze aren't we stupid? So after we changed the date, we updated the server with the latest patches and re-imaged. Image how much time we would have wasted if someone didn't suggest simply to change the date? Days!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oh dear Microsoft

Ever wondered why Microsoft Office 2007 documents didn't seem to appear in the search results of Windows Sharepoint Services? Hmmm, turns out, according to Microsoft "This problem occurs because a 2007 Office IFilter is not installed".

Is there a solution? Well yes and no. Yes in the fact that there is this KB article, and no in the fact that it involves installing Word and hacking the registry of the Sharepoint server. Now we're not too sure whether this happens on EVERY Windows Sharepoint installation or just in some circumstances but we can tell you that if it does the solution is sure nasty.

I think that perhaps it is a good idea to wait a while until Microsoft releases a proper patch for this problem. In the meantime we'll have to check to see whether all our Sharepoint sites are affected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More than 30,000 views

We've cracked more than 30,000 views of our technology videos on YouTube. That works out to an average of almost 850 per video we have posted (currently we have 34 videos available). Our most popular video is Getting started with Virtual PC, which has been viewed almost 4,000 times.

You'll find all our videos at http://www.youtube.com/saturnalliance. As always we welcome any feedback or suggestions you on how to improve our offerings. also, if you would like to see us cover a particular topic in our upcoming video also please contact us.

Thanks to all those people who have taken the time to watch our videos, provide ratings and feedback. We hope that you'll continue to watch what we upload.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WSUS causing SBS reporting issues

Seems like some update that WSUS pulls down automatically has caused an issue with the SBS reporting. We have seen something similar when there have been OEM issues with WSUS. For more information we suggest you take a look at the official SBS Blog posting. which should give you everything you need to know.

The solution appears to be that under WSUS 3.0 you force a resync from the console. since this can't be done with the standard WSUS 2.0 on SBS 2003 R2, the best bet appears to be simply to wait for WSUS to resync with the server. Admittedly, it is a bit of fingers-crossed scenario but for the time being their doesn't appear to be much choice.

In all honesty, can't say that we like or use WSUS that much at all. There are far better solutions from third parties out there. True, you have to pay fro them but when you look at the additional functionality and flexibility it is well worth the investment.

Also reading Susan Bradley's blog, seems that SBS R2 installations are not the only ones experiencing issues. See the following Computerworld article for the impact on enterprise users. And all of this the day before patch Tuesday - Yeah WSUS !!!

The Microsoft WSUS have now posted an official response to the WSUS issue. You can find it here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Home server offerings are coming

Wanna see what people like HP will be offering Microsoft Home Server on? Click here for a multimedia demo of the Media Smart Server from Hewlett Packard.

Must admit that box looks really sexy, which it needs to be if it is going to succeed as a consumer item but will it succeed? Do most consumers really want the added complication of a sever at home? Don't they really just want more disk space to save all their junk on? Today's NAS (Network Area Storage) devices are becoming more sophisticated yet simpler to use because they fulfil just one need.
Now, sure there'll be a market for home servers for the geekier consumers but on a wide scale? Hmmm..not so convinced yet. Now, I could certainly be wrong about this but I don't see as much potential as some of the suppliers see (knowing the consumers that I know).
Don't get me wrong, I certainly believe it is only a matter time before every home has its own server and perhaps this is just the first attempt at that offering. Much like the early days of Small Business Server, there will be plenty of challenges but you gotta get into the market before someone else does.
It will very interesting to see the prices of these devices when they hit our shores. I wonder whether they will make in time for Christmas? You gotta think so.

The day the guns fell silent

 

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month 1918, the guns finally fell silent to mark the end of the First World War.

It was a conflict that involved Australian forces and resulted in almost 60,000 killed and 153,000 wounded, most in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium. It is hard today for us to imagine the shocking conditions and strain that these men went through in the defence of their allies. Sadly, apart from Gallipoli, we don't seem to truly provide such men with the recognition for their sacrifice that they deserve.

On this Remembrance Day we encourage you to stop and remember these men and all those who have died for their country in the vain hope that their conflict will be the war to end all wars. For those interested in the contribution of our troops during World War One in Europe, please see our web site at http://www.ciaops.com/guides/battle.

Lest We Forget.

Restoring with Shadowprotect video now available

We've added a new video that details the basics of restoring information using Shadowprotect on Small Business Server. You can view the video directly on YouTube by clicking here.
 
The video will cover the basics of restoring a single file using the Windows interface or restoring a whole volume by booting into the Shadowprotect environment directly from their bootable CD.
 
Look out for additional videos on Shadowprotect coming soon that will cver topics such as: complete server recovery, Exchange recovery, etc. As always, we appreciate any comments or feedback on what we have created.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Search Server Express - first impressions

We have managed to get Search Server Express installed on a test Sharepoint machine and we admit that we are a little disappointed. Why? Well, we thought that Search Server would integrate directly with Sharepoint. It doesn't. It basically creates a seperate (Sharepoint-like) site on the machine that is used purely for searching.
 
This means that the existing Sharepoint integrated search functionality stays as is (from what we see so far). However, the Search service does search the Sharepoint content directly and you can extend it to search things like web sites, file locations and public folders. This is where the real power of the application is going to come into its own.
 
Imagine setting up Search Server to crawl not only your Sharepoint but also every data on your server automatically! This will be a godsend to finally be able to locate all those documents strewn out across server hard disks.
 
Apart from this what we like so far about Search Server is the fact that it is easy to configure, simple to add crawling locations as well as perform maintenance tasks like launching a full crawl. The Search Server admin site has plenty of information about the searching status and configuration which was alwasy something that was hidden in Sharepoint.
 
So initially we were disappointed the it didn't integrate directly with Sharepoint but the more we use it the more we like it. Can't wait for the RTM version now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sharepoint Search Server Express

One of the really cool features of Sharepoint has always been its ability to search through all the content on your site. Now Windows Sharepoint Services (ie the free edition) did a great job but not as much as the full blown Microsoft Sharepoint Server (MOSS, ie not free). The MOSS product search had far more functiinality and things like "did you mean", "sounds like" and so on.
 
Well now Microsoft are making a version of this Enterprise Search available for FREE yes FREE. It's called Search Server 2008 Express and you can find out more info by clicking here.
 
It looks really good and should be an excellent add on to Windows Sharepoint Services, however on the initial reading we think it may have trouble if installed with Sharepoint 3 on SBS. We will confirm this as we are currently in the process of test the Release Candidate which you can download.
 
We'll post more information about what we find soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Small Business Server course starts this week

This Thursday 8th of November is the start of our 3 week Introduction to Small Business Server 2003 course to be held at Macquarie Community College.
 
It's not to late to enrol if you are interested. For more information about the course following the link :
 
 
The course will give you all the information you need about Small Business Server as well as the basics of setting up a server and getting users and workstation connected.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Some more Facebook fiddling

Been looking at what else one can do with Facebook, especially say promoting this blog. Even though the address details are posted on my Facebook page it is unlikley that people will click.
Now there are plenty of "blogging" applications in Facebook but which one???? Interestingly I came across this post from Joel Olsen's blog -
------------------
Your Posts on Blog friends and real social networking features to promote them
Blog friends is a facebook app allows you to add your blog posts and see your friends posts and a whole lot more.  The coolest thing is when you add this app, add your blog you can see your recent blog entries, your friends blog entries, and even your friends friends posts up to a maximum of 20 (default of ~5).  The next layer of coolness is your ability to say what you're interested in, so it then tries to pull in posts that you're interested in.  So let's say you add SharePoint to your list.  Now across your own network of friends 2-3 layers deep you're getting the latest blog posts.  Then in your news feed you can see who clicks on what blog posts.  Powerful.  This is one of my favorite features.  People can then also comment on your blog posts right through facebook.  Power of social networking.  Just going to the app group I see that I have 37 friends who also have this app.  Wish it told me how many friends they have that use this app. :)

Some tips:

  • click on "more»" next to blog post titles to read the full post without leaving your profile
  • click at the foot of posts to share them with any of your facebook friends
  • visit your Home page to see which posts your friends are reading
  • keep your Interests up-to-date to get an even better service
  • By the way to add bloglines or any of the other blog apps on facebook, login go to your profile click on applications in the left hand corner.  Then click browse, search for blog.  Here's some of what you'll find including descriptions clipped directly from facebook.
    Live Blog is simple and easy to use blog, yet introduces powerful features like setting your mood, location, and music. Supports HTML and Youtube videos. The whole entry is displayed on your profile. Works in both the left and right sides!
    Flog lets you quickly and easily integrate your existing blog into your Facebook profile. Get more exposure for your blog and share your content with friends. Join the Flogosphere!
    HotBlog is the most awesome blog app available on facebook! It looks great in both the left and right areas of your profile, and HTML is allowed! Blog with photos, stylized text, and more in just a few clicks.
    Blog Friends Find great blog posts—sociably! Blog Friends taps your interests and social network to bring you just the blog posts that *you* want to read.
    Blog Link Put a screenshot of your blog on your profile. Perfect for Xanga, Blogspot, MySpace, or any other site. Get more visitors!
    Blog RSS Feed Reader Great way to drive traffic to your personal or corporate blog from your Facebook profile. Customise the application with your own image, description, published dates and more. Also sends emails to your friends when your blog is updated.
    Feed Friend  Subscribe to your friends' blog feeds within Facebook. You can even display them in your profile! If you write your own blog, you can include a 'subscribe' link under your profile picture.
    myBlog is an application that displays the contents of your blog, using an RSS Feed, on your Facebook profile. myBlog will also send updates to all your friends whenever you add a new post.
    ----------------------
    So I went in and added a few of these to my Facebook page just to get some idea and I must admit that I am pretty impressed! The more I look at all this Facebook stuff the more potential I see for it. Sure it needs a bit of "business-tuning" but I'm sure that ain't far away.
    So if you've got a Facebook account then look me up.

    Shadowprotect on SBS video

    We have just completed our latest YouTube video. This video looks at the process of backing up using Storagecraft's Shadowprotect. This product takes scheduled image backups of your server that allow you to qucikly and easily restore either a whol file or a whole server much quicker than traditional methods like tapes.
     
    Click here to view the video on YouTube. This first video looks at the process of creating Shadowprotect backups. The next video will look how to restore information from these backups.
     
    We recommend Shadowprotect to all clients with server machines. Shadowprotect also has a desktop edition which will take constant image backups of desktops as well. Sure a desktop machine may not be as important as a server but it still takes a long time to run up if the hard disk fails. That is why we have implemented Shadowprotect on all our internal workstations so we can get these up and running quickly in the event of a failure.
     
    Please let us know what you think of this video (the audio is a little poor, we know) and watch for the next one coming real soon.

    Thursday, November 1, 2007

    Dot Net issues

    Having issues installing DotNet updates via Windows Update? Try:

    Run cleanup tool:
    http://astebner.sts.winisp.net/Tools/dotnetfx_cleanup_tool.zip

    and select remove (cleanup) .NET Framework 1.1 from the dropdown list.

    Download the .Net framework 1.1 redistributable package from here
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=262d25e3-f589-4842-8157-034d1e7cf3a3

    and install it.

    Download the .Net Framework 1.1 Service Pack 1
    https://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=A8F5654F-088E-40B2-BBDB-A83353618B38&displaylang=en
    and install it.