Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting started with Companyweb

I have made available a free e-Book I created called “Getting started with Companyweb”. It provides a step by step guide to getting started with Windows SharePoint on Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008). It is particularly aimed at those who have no familiarity with Windows SharePoint at all but maybe using SBS 2008 without even realizing the fantastic tool that comes with the software.

 

It also contains links to other documentation and some of the better online videos so that readers can extend their knowledge beyond what I simply presented in the document. The e-Book is available as a free download in PDF format from http://www.slideshare.net/directorcia/getting-started-with-companyweb.

 

Subscribers to my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide (www.wssops.com) will receive a copy of the e-Book in format in which they can rebrand for their business and make available for their customers. I plan to makes more of such guides available to resellers for rebranding, which is another great reason to subscribe to my SharePoint Guide.

 

If you have any feedback on the e-Book please let me know via director@ciaops.com.

Courses this term

In conjunction with Macquarie Community College I’m happy to announce the list of courses that I’ll be offering in the next term.

 

309M293 - Improve your Technology Skills (Thursday September 10 2009 9.30am – 4pm)

 

Technology is a critical requirement of most positions these days. This course will help improve your technology skills and make you more valuable to any employer. Get hands-on experience with technologies such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, blogging, Twitter and Internet search engines and learn how to use them to improve your job prospects.

 

309M301 & 309C103 – Networking Basics (2 locations and times)

 

Gain the knowledge and confidence to set up your own computer network at home or work. Learn the fundamentals of networking two or more machines, as well as many of the technologies that comprise the Internet. We look at IP addressing, protocols such as TCP, routers, switches, firewalls, security and more. This course combines practical hands-on training as well as seminar based content.

 

309M297 - Networking with Small Business Server (3 sessions starting Thursday August 27, 7-9 pm)

 

Small Business Server is growing in popularity, and our expert trainer will clearly demonstrate its benefits. You will learn how to install and manage SBS, plus gain critical insight into security, backup, internet access and general network management issues. Highly beneficial if you have network systems and want to enhance your management of the technology.

 

309M299 – Wireless Networking (2 sessions starting Thursday September 17, 7-9pm)

 

This course will provide an overview of the technologies available, and the benefits and downfalls of what wireless has to offer. See practical demonstrations of the installation of wireless networks and receive valuable information about setting up your own wireless network – whether for home or business – so that you can get it right.

 

309M291 – Do Email Less (Friday, August 28, 9.30am – 4pm)

 

Email is an important tool, however if used incorrectly it can be the source of frustration, anxiety and lost productivity. Ask yourself, have you ever been trained how to use email effectively? Chances are you never have. This course will show you how to configure your email programs to obtain the maximum benefit from them.

 

309M295 – Everything Google (Thursday 13 August, 9.15am – 3.15pm)

 

Google is now so much more than a search engine. It allows you to create custom calendars, schedules and to do lists. You can create and store documents that you can access from anywhere. You can also use it as your primary email account. There are maps and street views of just about everywhere. This course will show you how to use all these tools to enhance your online workflow.

 

To for more information on any of these courses or to enrol simply visit www.macquarie.nsw.edu.au. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SharePoint licensing

I’ve recently been looking in greater depth into the licensing of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). Given that it is a free download from Microsoft the typical first response is that you can run it wherever you can install it. Unfortunately, that is not true.

 

So here’s what I have discovered directly from Microsoft:

 

Windows SharePoint Services on Windows Home Server

 

“I can confirm for you that installing WSS to Windows Home Server currently is not supported or permitted by the licensing terms that govern the use of the software.”

 

Windows SharePoint Services on Windows Vista or Windows 7

 

Windows SharePoint Services is a component of Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2. Customers’ use of Windows SharePoint Services is governed by the license terms for their licensed copies of Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2.

 

Windows SharePoint Services on Windows Foundation Server

 

Stay tuned – yet to determine.

 

You may or may not know that it is technically possible to run Windows SharePoint Services on all these platforms but as I was told:

 

“I can advise that the Microsoft Software License Terms for these operating systems plainly state:

 

SCOPE OF LICENSE.  The software is licensed, not sold.  This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software… In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways...   You may not work around any technical limitations in the software[Emphasis is my own]

 

So even though it may be technically possible to install Windows SharePoint on these operating systems it is not licensed or supported. I think many people are starting to see the benefits of Windows SharePoint and are keen to use the product. Personally, I’d love to see it licensed on the above operating systems, especially for small to medium business, in order to keep costs down. I do however understand that it is a licensed product from Microsoft and must be used correctly.

 

When I have more information about Windows SharePoint Services on Windows Foundation Server I’ll post it here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

OneNote vs Email collaboration

Let’s have a look at a typical scenario that illustrates how inferior email can be as a collaboration tool.

Why email isn’t good for collaboration

You start off with a document in Word say. You create an email and attach the document, then send it to someone outside your business for review. If we assume both parties are using the cache version of Exchange with Outlook, you now have created three copies of that one file (call it version 1). The first, on you local machine, the second in your sent items as an attachment to the email you sent to your colleague and finally a local copy in you cached mailbox.

Next, assume that your colleague reviewed the document you sent by firstly copying it to their local machine. They modify the document (which we will now call version 2) and return it to you via email. Apart from the three copies of version 1 of the document at your location there are now two more copies of version 1 at your colleague’s (one in their inbox and one in the local cached version of the mail box). So we are now up to 5 copies of version 1 of the document. We haven’t finished yet though. There are also now three copies of version 2 of the document at your colleague’s, one on the local hard disk, one in the sent items attached to an email reply to you and one in the cached version of the mailbox.

Even before you receive the reply from you colleague the totals so far are:

5 copies of version 1 + 3 copies of version 2 = 8 copies of various versions of the one document.

Continuing on, you receive the amended document (version 2) via email and save it to the hard disk for review. That’s added another three copies of version 2 of the document (one in your inbox, one in the cache version of your mailbox and one copy on your hard disk).

So, for a simple 2 way review of a document we have potentially generated 11 copies and at least two versions of the same document. Think that’s bad? What happens if you were now working in a team of five people all reviewing the document multiple times instead of just two? You may now begin to appreciate how poor and inefficient emails can be for collaboration.

A better way?

There must be better way. Well, I believe using a combination of hosted SharePoint and OneNote there certainly is.

The most obvious solution would seem to be to host the document in a SharePoint document library and use the built in check in/check out features. That certainly overcomes the issue with multiple copies but it is perhaps not as good in solving the collaboration question of people contributing ideas to the document. A better solution I believe is to use a OneNote notebook, on a hosted SharePoint site in which the document is embedded inside OneNote.

Using OneNote still means that every member of the team has a local copy of the document but that is a good idea if they want to work with it offline. If you where to link to a SharePoint document library using Outlook you’d get the whole document library available offline which may be not what you needed. The embedded document in OneNote would allow the team to create notes, cut and paste information into the notebook, tag items and so on as well as work on the document. In the end it provides a complete and encapsulated collaboration environment.

Now, it would be possible to achieve the same result with SharePoint alone but I believe the simplicity of OneNote makes it a winner for most people used to collaborating with emails. As time goes by they could graduate to a SharePoint only solution but using OneNote with SharePoint provides a great introduction to the other benefits SharePoint can provide team collaboration.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when you install OneNote on your system it adds some additional buttons to your applications. One of these is in Outlook like so:


This makes it extremely simple to get information out of Outlook and into something more suited to collaboration. If you are using your inbox as a storage system for information that arrives in email why not take a look at using OneNote instead? You can download the trial version for free to see whether it works for you. Even if you simply use OneNote as your own personal digital notebook I think you’ll find that it will become an indispensible application.

Conclusion

Hopefully you can begin to appreciate that there are potentially many improved methods of collaboration apart from email. Hopefully you can also appreciate that tool like SharePoint and OneNote are designed with team collaboration in mind. Hopefully now you will thinking how much extra time you can save using the right tools for collaboration. Like all work, using the right tools makes all the difference. Remember you probably don’t get paid per email you get paid on how much work you get done.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opinions on OneNote

Once you have OneNote installed on your system you will notice that it adds an additional OneNote button to a few Microsoft Applications. The first of these is the Internet Explorer browser, which appears like:



Now you can simply highlight the information you wish to record in OneNote and then press the ‘Send to OneNote’ button.



So what I’ve done here is highlight some text and image from a previous blog post in Internet Explorer and pressed the ‘Send to OneNote’ button in the toolbar of the browser.



As you can see above, that exact information has been placed on a new OneNote page that I can file into any notebook I desire. One of the handy things it does automatically as well is also record where the information came from (i.e. the source URL). This makes it exceptionally easy to refer to at a later stage if required.



OneNote also provides the ability to ‘clip’ exactly what is on any region of the screen, much like a standard print screen. In the example shown above I have clipped part of my screen (showing a number of running apps) as an image directly into OneNote. OneNote will automatically time stamp the screen clipping for you as well as making searchable any of the text that actually appears in the image. Yes, that’s right – OneNote does OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the fly.



Apart from being able to simply type information into OneNote you can also tags. These allow you to categorize your information to make it easier to find later. Standard tags include things like: to do, important, question etc. You can even create your own tags. I’ll cover more about searching in OneNote in an upcoming post.

So there’s just a few reasons why I reckon OneNote is worth a look. As I have mentioned before you can download a trial version to get a better understanding yourself. If you do decided to buy a copy I think you’ll be surprised at how little OneNote actually costs, especially when you look at the benefits it can provide.

Ok, so OneNote is great but it does have a few drawbacks in my opinion including:

- No ‘reader’ program. This means you have to download and install the OneNote program before you can open OneNote notebooks. There are readers for other Microsoft Office products like Word and Excel, why isn’t there one for OneNote? How handy would it be to be able to send someone a notebook full of information that they could simply view? Please, oh please Microsoft a reader for OneNote!

- To obtain the best in collaboration OneNote needs to be back ended into a hosted SharePoint site for collaboration across the Internet. Admittedly, you can use Microsoft Office Live Workspace for free but wouldn’t it be nice if Microsoft could provide some space in the cloud for free? Microsoft has this facility via Skydrive for example, why can’t OneNote notebooks be stored there? (I’m still trying to work out whether this can in fact be done).

- Another similar product to OneNote that I use frequently is EverNote (which is free). One of the many handy things about EverNote is that it allows you to browse your notes via web page. You can even edit information in notes via this web page. I have found this invaluable when I’m out somewhere and I need a screen shot. I simply do a print screen, save it to a note in EverNote via the web and then when I return to my desk I simply sync my desktop EverNote with the web and I have the screen shot. Very handy!



I’ll go into more depth on EverNote in an upcoming blog post.
There are a few other minor annoyances I have with OneNote but these are the major three that annoy me constantly. Hopefully OneNote can learn from EverNote and add these few remaining features that would make OneNote a real killer app.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

OneNote on SharePoint


One of the most overlooked applications available from Microsoft is OneNote. It is a simple electronic notebook that allows you to store just about any digital information you can think of.


You can even use it to clip information directly from web pages. It is just such a handy application that if you haven’t had a look I suggest you download a trial.

I will leave the virtues of OneNote to another post, what I want to demonstrate here is how much more powerful OneNote becomes when it is utilized in conjunction with SharePoint. Basically, if you save your OneNote notebooks into a SharePoint document library then you can share the notebook between people. If the SharePoint site is hosted on the Internet then people connected to the Internet can collaborate easily.

If you need a free hosted SharePoint solution have a look at Microsoft Office Live Workspace. Combine that with OneNote and you have instant team collaboration anywhere you have an Internet connection.

So, how do you create a OneNote notebook that lives on SharePoint? During the process of creating a new notebook you’ll see a windows like this:


Selecting the bottom option then “On a Server” will then ask for the location of the server. In this case you simply enter the full location of a SharePoint document library like the one shown below.


If you now enter a new folder name OneNote will store the new notebook there with all the sections in files below this.


Once the new notebook has been created you can add any information you require. The information is not only saved locally but also automatically synced with the information in SharePoint. This allows anyone to work on the notebook.

Next time you open OneNote you will see the local copy of the notebook appear. You can continue to work on this copy but if you are connected to the Internet you will see a prompt at the top of the page asking you to login to the SharePoint site as shown:


Once you are logged back in the notebook will synchronize again so you will see any changes that other people have made and that information will be copied to your local machine.

If you take a look around your desk at all the information on bits of paper you should ask yourself why these aren’t in digital form. Once they are entered into a digital form they are easily backed up, searchable and shareable. I can guarantee that it will improve your productivity and reduce clutter. If it can do that for one person imagine what it can for a team of people?

If you are looking at tools to improve your productivity look no further than OneNote and SharePoint. You won’t be sorry you did.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Enough time


That’s something that no one ever seems to have these days, yet many seem to go out of their way to waste what they have. The problem is that time is not like money, you can never get more and you can’t accumulate it. Once it’s gone, it gone – forever. Have you ever stopped and looked at how much time you are wasting every day? Have you ever stopped and thought that perhaps you can do things better? With all this technology we have we should be, should we? If so why are so many people struggling to get enough time?

With that in mind I’ve created a new document called “Enough Time – 7 suggestions for reclaiming yours” which you can view and/or download from my Slideshare. It should help you firstly better understand where your time is being spend, secondly how to ensure you are giving things the right priority and finally how to eliminate distractions and get things done (as David Allen would say).

If you have any suggestions about how you have improved your productivity and eliminated time ‘leakage’ I’d love to hear. Simply send me an email (director@ciaops.com) with you comments, thoughts, recommendations or suggestions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wireless Networking Course

My Wireless Networking course is once again running at Macquarie Community College at Carlingford starting this Thursday night. It runs over two consecutive weeks from 7 to 9pm.

 

The course covers the basics of wireless from keyboards and mice through to WiFi. It also provides you with a basic understanding of TCP/IP networking including configuration and importantly security. The course also covers a complete configuration of a wireless access point including how to implement strong security.

 

To enrol or obtain more information visit the following link.

 

http://www.macquarie.nsw.edu.au/index.php?action=course&course_action=detail&code=209M299

Friday, June 12, 2009

BPOS Review

Here’s a worthwhile review of Microsoft’s Business Online Productivity Suite (BPOS). Called “Microsoft’s BPOS: Cloud Computing’s Silver Lining?”, it concludes:

 

“We couldn’t think of a single reason why an average person under real-world circumstances wouldn’t be better off with software as a service provided the look, feel, and functionality of the cloud app was identical to its packaged counterpart...except one.”

 

That one reason is simply if you have an old line of business application (like an accounting program).

 

One of the interesting points the article does raise is that the standard desktop software we currently use is only licensed. We don’t own it, even though we pay big dollars for it. So, licensing a package across the Internet is essentially very similar to way it has always been done, with some major benefits. You only pay per month, per user and you get access to the latest updates of the package rather than having to apply updates or install new versions.

 

Everyone agrees there are challenges for online software however as the article again says:

 

“If Microsoft doesn’t carry this service model to fruition, someone else, Google being first in line, will.”

 

As the article also highlights, we seem to believe that small businesses won’t make use of things like SharePoint and Live Meeting, where in fact quite the opposite will be true. They are going to embrace these tools since they allow them to run their business more efficiently. I feel these are businesses that are going to shed their existing infrastructure first (bye, bye SBS) and move en masse to online applications.

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the world is changing. Are you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Snapped

Here’s yet another example of why you need to think about what you post for public viewing on the Internet. The story “The family Christmas photo that became an ad for a Czech food store” demonstrates how once you upload your information to the Internet you have no idea how that information may be being used. It also shows how someone can use it for commercial purposed without acknowledging or paying you for something you created.

 

Generally most people would not hand over personal information to a stranger in the street if they were asked, yet they willingly do so on the Internet? How come? Seems to me, most people really don’t understand both sides of the Internet. Yes, there is plenty of good but there is just as much bad. The issue isn’t the Internet per se, it is the human beings that use it.

 

Value your privacy because the Internet sure doesn’t and once you surrender control of your information then it is lost for ever. Be ware!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Stsadm tech ref

Much of the administration of SharePoint can be done with the command line tool stsadm. Like any command line tool you need to know all the syntax to get the most from it but remembering or looking up all the parameters can be quite painful at times.

Here’s a nice graphic reference you can use when you work with stsadm commands.
 
It’s interactive so you can click on the command to get more information. I especially like how it is graphically coded so you know which commands are not available in the UI and which commands are new in Service Pack 2. This should make working with stsadm much easier.

You’ll find them site at:

WSS = http://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/windowsserver/sharepoint/dd418924.aspx

MOSS = http://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/office/sharepointserver/cc948709.aspx

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Look familiar?

Now where have I seen that face before? I’m proud to say that I’ve been profiled in a recent CRN (Computer Reseller News) article called “CIA man is an agent of change”. The article covers some of the history about my starting off on my own as well as my current thinking on the state of business as a technology reseller. For those who read this blog then there should be no major surprises (always nice to be consistent eh?).

 

One of the things the article didn’t cover is how I’m generally bullish about moving technology into the cloud via hosted services (especially email). Although detractors can point to many valid problems and challenges these are no different from those facing any previous instance of technology and because of this I am extremely confident that they will be overcome. As such, my advice to resellers is that at the very least you need to be aware of what hosted technology can provide rather than locking yourself into only on-site infrastructure. But then that’s a whole ‘nother article isn’t it?

 

Have a read of the article and let me know what you think (director@ciaops.com).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brain overload

Here’s an interesting article “Warning: Brain overload” which suggest that our obsession with digital content may in fact be affecting our poor little brain. It says:

 

“the sense of mind-lag and unease that result from info-overload may be causing significant levels of anxiety and depression.”

 

which means that more and more people feel they are falling further and further behind, in some way missing out. The article continues that:

 

“One fear is that habitual rapid media-browsing can, ironically, block our ability to develop wisdom”

 

because we are having to deal which volumes of information we simply do not have time to process what we receive deeply enough so we merely ignore it. We all apparently are born with the ability to empathize with others yet because we are now processing so much information we are actually caring less. In many ways this is making us less human. As the article says:

 

“Constant bombardment by outside high-intensity stimuli is not likely be healthy”

 

because our brains are now reaching capacity in the their ability to digest and make sense of all the information. The problem is probably not too much information simply that we have not taught ourselves how to effectively filter that information. It’s the old Pareto 80/20 rule. You have to work out how to get through the 80% of the junk to find the 20% that has real value. That is the trick, and it is something that most people do not appear to be improving. As the article says:

 

“The irony of high-speed modern mass communication is that no one is actually communicating.”

 

It seems like that more and more each day. The more everyone carries on about how much better we are with Twitter, Facebook, Web 2.0, You Tube and the like it would appear that we are losing our humanity. We are fast becoming like unfeeling machines. As the article concludes:

 

“Either you control your technology or it will control you”

 

Which is just like a recent article I’ve been working on call “How we’ve surrendered to technology” that I’m looking for feedback on, so if you have some time I’d appreciate any opinions.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June release

The June update for my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide is now ready for subscriber download. This month, amongst other things, I’ve included a few more tutorial section including:

 

- Taking files offline with Outlook 2007

- Creating a wiki and linking with Outlook 2007

- Mapping a Network Place

 

The Guide is fast approach 1,500 pages and now includes a full text index allowing you to locate the information you need quicker.

 

After our May birthday special the price has now returned the normal price of $299, however during June I’ll be offering the Guide for $99.67 a month over three consecutive months. I hope this term payment option makes it a bit easier for people who have been considering the Guide but just couldn’t afford the total purchase price in a single month. This way, for less $100 over 3 months you’ll get access to all the benefits of the Guide as well a full annual subscription.

 

At this stage the 3 month part payment option for the Guide will only run during June 2009 so hurry. Also, don’t forget that I have a number of other incentives if you recommend the Guide to others. Even if you aren’t a subscriber I’ll reward you if someone takes up a subscription on your recommendation.

 

For all the information about the Windows SharePoint Operations Guide go to www.wssops.com.