Thursday, July 29, 2010

No room in the middle



I was lucky enough to be invited to give a presentation on cloud computing to IT West customers. Revisiting the topic again I came up with another analogy that I thought I’d share.

Back in the days when power stations dotted the land and there was no real centralized power distribution and generation you needed a swag of qualified people to maintain the systems. They needed to maintain everything from end to end, from the point of generation to the point of application. However, over time, what has happened is that these skilled people have been forced to move to either end of the spectrum.

By this I mean that they have either moved up into supporting the large end power distribution businesses or they have moved down to the consumer end directly supporting customers (i.e. being electricians). Now both of these occupations make good money but can you see what is missing? There are very few people now in the middle.

Would it safe to apply this model to IT? Could it be said that to survive you either need to move more towards the enterprise end of town or the consumer end of town? Thus, is the middle a potential no man’s land? It certainly seems so to me. This is probably because the customers in the customers are very focused on costs rather than value. Unfortunate, but just a fact of life.

There is certainly opportunity in the market in total but perhaps it is no longer uniformly distributed. I think that if you get stuck in the rut of being too small to be big and too big to be small you will lose out. I also believe that the energy required to become larger is very difficult so maybe it is time to look at becoming smaller and more nimble? I suppose it is a case of always evaluating your business if you are in IT but good businesses do this anyway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The PDF Project



Now that I have SharePoint Foundation 2010 running on SBS 2008 my next project is to get it to index Adobe PDF’s because guess what? It doesn’t by default!

Windows SharePoint Services v3, WSS v3, (i.e. the old Companyweb on SBS 2008) wouldn’t either but you could install an Adobe PDF iFilter, make a few registry changes and get it working (all the details are in my Guide). Interestingly, my hosted SharePoint site also doesn’t index PDFs. When I asked the hosting company about this they said they were looking in to it. I suppose that allowing SharePoint to index PDF’s is not ‘standard’ but without it is a significant drop in functionality I believe.

After doing a bit of reading on the Internet I couldn’t really find anyone that has definitively been able to get PDF’s indexed on SharePoint Foundation 2010. Once again this means that I’ll have to nut it out myself.

The first step in the process would be to install the 64 bit PDF iFilter from Adobe because no PDF’s will be indexed with out this. Again, make sure you install the 64bit version and to my knowledge there is no 64 bit version of Acrobat reader so if you simply install Acrobat reader on your SBS 2008 server you’ll only get the 32 not 64 bit version. Thus the specific need for the 64 bit iFilter.

The next step was to make similar registry changes that are made when you get PDF indexing going on WSS v3. The only thing to be aware is that the hive is now \14\ not \12\ but the rest of the registry path is the same. So I made these changes, stopped and started SharePoint Search Server v14 service, did a full manual crawl and did a search for terms that only appeared in PDF documents on my SharePoint Foundation 2010 site. No luck.

When I returned to examine one of the registry entries I found that it was missing. Hmmm..I re-did the entry and went through the search restart and crawl process. Still no good but again the registry entry was missing! Now that is interesting. It appears that when you restart the SharePoint Foundation Search V4 service it rewrites this registry entry. Ok, now where is it getting that from?

After some more digging it turns out that the entries in the registry actually come from a database in the SharePoint Foundation 2010 search database. So what I did was create an additional entry in this database for the registry entry that I wanted and again restarted all the services. Still no luck but at least the required registry entry for PDF’s was there.

My next guess on what was wrong was the specific GUID for the PDF iFilter which I guessed was now different from what it was in WSS v3. So I took a working WSS v3 installation and searched for all registry entries that matched the WSS v3 PDF GUID. From these I found a common string being ‘PDF iFilter’. I then searched the registry on the machine with SharePoint Foundation 2010 for the string ‘PDF iFilter’.

I turned up quite a few GUID’s but after comparing these to articles I found on the Internet I determined that the correct GUID is in fact
{E8978DA6-047F-4E3D-9C78-CDBE46041603}. I inserted that into the registry in the appropriate place, restarted all the search services again and ran a search.

Joy of joy’s, it works! Now I gotta say that most people probably don’t want to hacking the SharePoint search database just to get PDF’s to index on SharePoint 2010 but as far as I can see this is really the only option they have. I’m going to keep looking for a better solution but with the registry keys getting overwritten on each Search service restart it isn’t going to be simple.

So there you have it. You can index PDF’s with SharePoint Foundation 2010 but the process is not straight forward at all and is not a supported option at all. However, for those that really need to work it can be done. Full details and a step by step guide of how to do this will be added to my Guide for subscribers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A distraction on distractions



Following from yesterdays blog post on distractions here are some more articles worth reading if you are interested in productivity:

Blunt the e-mail interruption assault

The average information worker — basically anyone at a desk — loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions, according to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm.

Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows

But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.

"They're suckers for irrelevancy," said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Everything distracts them”.

Going on an e-mail diet

Booher's surveys of clients have shown that 58% of workers spend up to three hours a day on e-mail. Though some of that e-mail time is undoubtedly related to getting their jobs done, she says, much of it is a waste because messages are either poorly written or have little or nothing to do with business.

So the more distractions you can eliminate the more work you’ll get done. Simple eh? But how many people are actually doing this? To me it seems like they are adding more and more distractions.

If you want to track your productivity I’d suggest you have a look at RescueTime, ManicTime or Wakoopa. They all have free options so there is no cost and if does at least allow you to better understand how you are spending your time that is still a good thing isn’t it?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rework

I’ve found another book that I think business people should add to their list of reading. It’s called Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.



What I like about this book is that it challenges convention business thinking with common sense. The books is simple to read and broken up into small bite sections so it is easily read between appointments for busy business owners. Like many good business books this should make you stop and question the conventional wisdom about running a business. Sometimes the best way is not the same way that everyone else is doing it.

I am also a big fan of Jason’s business over at 37signals.com and would suggest that you check out what they have to help improve you team’s productivity.

I also found this video of Jason speaking about how going to the office is nothing but a distraction and couldn’t agree with him more. Scroll down the page to list item 1.


http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2010/07/top-10-tips-for-surviving-office-life/#more-364200 

As Jason says in the video, if you want a reason why you are spending so much time ‘working’ and not ‘living’ look at the interruptions that happen throughout your day. These all prevent you actually get working done, meaning you have to do it later. Many office cultures simply perpetuate the ‘culture of constant interruption’ or to put it another way, the ‘culture of nobody getting work done’. More of the interview with Jason is here - http://bigthink.com/jasonfried.

Don’t believe me? Have a look at the video and ask yourself whether your work environment functions like this. If it does then it is up to you to make the change if you want to be more productive at the office and actually have a life afterwards!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Microsoft InTune

If you weren’t aware then there is yet another cloud solution coming that I believe will make a major impact on the SMB space. It is called Microsoft InTune and will offer PC Management and security from the cloud.

It basically allows the installation of client software that connects the PC to the cloud allowing you to perform a number of tasks. Firstly you can monitor and examine the PC, you can also control the updates on the machine, you can also implement security and anti-malware and finally you can also use it for remote support. More information about the product can be found here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/magazine/ff742836.aspx

and the actual product site is here:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/default.aspx

The product is also in beta so I though I’d hurry along and sign up to have a look but unfortunately, it seems to be limited beta of which Australia currently isn’t part.



Damm! I’m sure that it will make it’s way ‘down under’ soon and I’m keen to give it a whirl as I feel there is real call for such a product especially deploy via something like Microsoft BPOS (which is the plan).



There are already plenty of other tools out there that do the same or more but I think there is certainly a call for something simple and standard, a bit like Microsoft Security Essentials. It won’t be everything to everyone but I certainly think it will appear to a large segment of the market.

I think this certainly adds value to a potential BPOS offering and will allow IT Professionals to offer a greater range of services at a lower cost. Combine this with the planned implementation of Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, Office Web Apps and improved Office Communications Server I think you’d really have to be mad to not at least be checking out what these offer and how they can be integrated into your business.

This is simply more evidence (for better or worse) that Microsoft is moving to the cloud in a big way. I also think they are approaching it in a smart way with things like the new SBS Aurora which is a hybrid solution. However, this means resellers are going to have to learn to become ‘cloud and proud’ as I say.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I was wrong

When I said two years ago that I thought SBS 2008 was going to be the last version of SBS (here’s the post). Interestingly, it has taken until now for the future of SBS to be revealed and it seems to be a bit of an each way bet.

 

Firstly there will be a version called SBS 7 that will be the traditional in house SBS with servers, Exchange, SQL and so on. However, there will be a hybrid version called Aurora that will be based on Windows Home Server and have services hosted in the cloud. You can read about these products here:

 

http://www.winsupersite.com/server/sbs7_preview.asp

 

and here

 

http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2010/07/12/announcing-previews-of-our-simple-and-affordable-servers-for-small-businesses.aspx

 

Interestingly the Aurora product allows up to 25 users while SBS 7 allows up to the traditional 75.

 

My observations?

 

1. If the average SBS install is 15 users then Aurora is going to be the product that is most popular.

 

2. With most businesses divesting themselves of infrastructure (especially small businesses) Aurora gets the nod again.

 

3. If you are a reseller and you haven’t started learning about Microsoft online services a.k.a. BPOS well here is what Steve Ballmer recently told partners at the Microsoft world wide partner conference:

 

“If you don’t want to move to the cloud, then we’re not your company.”

 

4. SharePoint Foundation 2010 is included with SBS 7 and via the cloud so it is probably going to be an even more utilized feature of SBS going forward. If you don’t know SharePoint, Office Web Apps, Office co-authoring then you are going to struggle to provide value above and beyond just installing common services like email.

 

Reading Paul Thurott’s review (above) I have to agree with the following:

 

“solutions like Aurora make more sense, I think, for a much bigger percentage of the customer base”

 

So, good news that SBS will live on in at least two forms. I will be very interested to see how Aurora performs against 7 given the push to the cloud, now even more so by Microsoft.

SharePoint site migrated

image_2_636C7028

 

As you can see from the above screen shot I have managed to migrate my public facing SharePoint site (http://supportweb.ciaops.net.au) into SharePoint 2010. I tried this a number of ways (in place migration, database swing, etc) all with abject failure. The most likely reason was a number of additional features and templates that I’ve added over time.

 

This time I used stsadm –o backup to save a complete copy of the site and then used ststadm –o restore to recover the site to a new clean SharePoint v3 installation. From there I did a database swing migration across to SharePoint 2010 which finally resulted in success.

 

image_4_7C68406D

 

That migration also migrated the blog that you are now viewing but as the screen shot above shows I don’t think it is as nice as what I have in SharePoint v3. So at this stage I think I’ll leave the existing site as it is until I can ‘tart’ SharePoint 2010 up a little. However, what this experience has shown me is that the quickest way to do a migration (and strip away the incompatibilities) seems to be to use stsadm to do a back and restore of the site to a new clean SharePoint v3 installation and from there to do a database swing migration.

 

Perhaps what it has also taught me is that the less modifications you make to SharePoint the easier it is to migrate, but that is pretty much the same with any other application then isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

KB983444 killed my SharePoint server

After learning the hard way a few years ago that Microsoft updates sometimes do bad things to nice servers I have always been extremely careful in how I update my internal SharePoint server. Now the box is nothing special, simply a stand alone server running nothing but SharePoint v3. The major difference is that it is a virtual machine running on Microsoft Hyper-V.

 

The advantage that a virtual machine gives me when doing updates is that I can shut it down, take a snap shot, power it back up and install the updates. If they go bad (which they did in this case) I can simply roll back to that snap shot quickly and easily. This ability allowed me to isolate KB983444 as the cause of the my issues (although I thought it was the Dot Net updates initially).

 

A further advantage of the virtual machine is I can take a copy of the machine and run it up elsewhere and test the exact system without interfering with the production system. When I locate the problem on the copied system I can apply it to the production system. Simple as.

 

The small amount of servers that I do maintain for testing purposes are all virtualized and having been that way for a few years now I’d never consider anything else. If you are an IT Pro and you haven’t looked at virtualization, especially Microsoft Hyper V for Microsoft server then I’d recommend you do if for nothing else than testing purposes. I can’t tell you the number of major update dramas I have been able to avoid by having the luxury of rolling back to a previous snap shot.

SharePoint Foundation on SBS 2008 – the video

I have just made available to all Windows SharePoint Operation Guide subscribers 3 videos that cover the whole process of getting SharePoint Foundation 2010 running on SBS 2008. These videos cover how to install the prerequisites, SharePoint Foundation 2010 on SBS 2008 as well as migration of existing Companyweb data.

 

I will be updating the Guide documentation to cover all the information in these video but I wanted to make sure that subscribers had access to this as soon as possible. Going forward I am planning on doing more video tutorials for subscribers as I think they arte generally an easier way to convey information quicker.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Now all my subscribers know

That’s right, the July update of the Windows SharePoint Operations Guide has been released to subscribers and it contains the complete instructions on installing SharePoint Foundation 2010 on SBS 2008. It takes you through the whole process as well as the integration with the existing SBS 2008 console.

 

In very near future I’ll also be covering in the Guide how to do a complete migration of any existing Companyweb site onto SharePoint Foundation 2010 on SBS 2008. I’ll also release these details via this blog but over a longer period of time as my first priority is to the people that subscribe to my Guide (thanks to all those). So if you really want to know how to do it step by step then I’d suggest you get my Guide (it’s cheap for the amount of time it will save you and you get for 12 months!).

 

Another upgrade to this month is the migration of the Guide to its own SharePoint site. Much like my new BPOS Portal the new Guide site will provide a much better platform to deliver content for subscribers.

 

image_2_189B413B

 

As you can see from the above screen shot the Guide covers a number of different versions of SharePoint including WSS v3, Foundation 2010, MOSS and even BPOS. Many of these are still a work in progress but the important things is that additional information is being added to these regularly. I used to update the Guide monthly but this new SharePoint site should allow me to do it far more regularly.

 

Now not only do subscribers now have a step by step process for getting SharePoint Foundation running on their SBS 2008 machines, they have a new site full of SharePoint content that is being updated daily and of course that have full access to the new CIAOPS BPOS Portal as that is a free inclusion for all Guide subscribers.

 

As AMEX says, the benefits of membership.

More Office 2010 videos

I’ve upload two more Office and SharePoint 2010 videos from a presentation I did recently.

 

The first video focuses on the changes that Office 2010 brings applications like Word including the ability to save directly to Skydrive.

Office 2010 and SharePoint introduction – Part 1

 

The second (and longer video) takes a look at OneNote 2010 and SharePoint 2010 especially Office Web Apps.

Office and SharePoint 2010 introduction – Part 2

 

As always I welcome any feedback and suggestions for what content you would like to see in my videos.