What a pity

Here’s another great community based Sharepoint project but unfortunately it only runs on Microsoft Sharepoint Office Server (MOSS). Damm.


Podcasting kit for Sharepoint


That aside it is a great example I think of how using Sharepoint as a basis for you information storage is a good move. I expect in the future to see more and more releases like this that are built on the Sharepoint framework. Sharepoint is simply a tool. It allows the easy capture, sharing and location of disparate data. Best of all it is easily customized without the need to write one line of code, yet it can be extended to what you see above as well.


All in all a very flexible product.

New version of Live Writer

I use Live Writer, a free download from Microsoft, to create my blog posts and upload then to my blog. Live Writer works really well with Sharepoint but there have been a few issues, such as embedding YouTube videos. Microsoft have released an updated version of Live Writer, that is still in beta but is claimed to fix this and add a swag of new features.


Find all the information about the update and a link to download the software here. Here’s a summary of the fixes and improvements:


Video and Image Publishing Enhancements
  • – Upload videos to Soapbox
  • – Image cropping and tilting
  • – Additional border styles
  • – Support for LightBox and other image previewing effects (like Slimbox, Smoothbox, and others)
  • – Support for centering images
Editing Enhancements
  • – Auto Linking
  • – Smart quotes/typographic characters
  • – Word count
UI Improvements
  • – Revised main toolbar
  • – Tabs for view switching
  • – Improved category control with search/filtering


I have thus downloaded it and installed it over the top of the previous version and am now composing this first blog post with it. So if you are now reading this you know that I have been able to at least post updates to my blog with the new version. With that sorted I’ll try some other stuff shortly and let you know the improvements.

Live Mesh from Microsoft

One of the other things that I have been playing with of late has been Live Mesh from Microsoft. Basically, you install a client on your PC’s and Mobile devices and then nominate which directories on these machines you want sync’ d. This means that the information in these folders will be available on all machines. It also means that a copy of the folders is also kept on the Internet so you can access your data from machines that are not part of your Live Mesh.


At the moment Live Mesh is still in Tech Preview (which means you have to sign up for a beta) and you only get 5GB of online storage. Given that, from what I have seen so far it is a pretty good product. The installation is simple and nominating your Live Mesh folders is a snap. The Live Mesh client give you information about other machines in you Live Mesh and their status.


I find Live Mesh a handy little addition since I need to keep information in certain folders up to date on all my machines. This means I can work on documents in one location and know that if I move somewhere else I can continue to keep working on the same document. Another handy feature is that it provides an automatic backup of your documents. So if the hard disk on one of my machines fails I know my documents are located not only on other machines but also online. All I need to do to get access to them is logon via a web browser or install the Live Mesh client on a new machine and re-sync.


Personally, I see this sort of technology playing a bigger and bigger role. We are only now seeing the beginning of ‘cloud computing’ but mark my words this will be big. Most people really only want access to their ‘stuff’, they don’t care where it is they only want to get to it. They also don’t want to have to worry about backing it up and here’s where stuff like Live Mesh starts to come into its own. I agree there are issues around privacy but I feel these will soon be overcome with the integration of seamless encryption that means everything in a Live Mesh is automatically encrypted to a level beyond that any government agency can break. At that stage business will start jumping on board but long before consumers are going to lead the way with these sort of products.


It is all about having access to your ‘stuff’ no matter where you are and for me so far Live Mesh is a winner.

Can you notice the difference?

For those of you who are long time readers of my blog (shame on you if you’re not!), you’ll know a while back I went through trials and tribulations virtualizing all my CIAOPS machines. Basically, this meant that I could now run the entire infrastructure on a single piece of hardware. I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t a perfect solution but it did save lots of space, kept the power bills down and made management much easier.


Then after recent escapades getting SBS 2008 working I was so impressed with Microsoft Hyper-V I thought that migrating my existing virtual machines to Hyper-V would give it a nice boost in performance and again allow me to reduce the total hardware I have to maintain.


The first step in the process I figured was simply to transfer the existing virtual PC’s to the new hardware still running Microsoft Virtual PC. Even though the host operating system is Windows 2008 64 bit and “doesn’t” support Microsoft Virtual PC it will run. So the idea was simply transfer the machines to new hardware as a starting point. I duly shut down the virtual PC’s on the original hardware and committed all the changes to hard disk and then copied the images off onto the new hardware.


What I found on the new Windows 2008 64 bit host system with Microsoft Virtual PC was that the images did load but once there were two or more images operating they ran really slow. Ok, I thought, if I’m already this far down the track I’ll go Hyper-V. Another great thing about Hyper-V is that they can use existing Microsoft Virtual PC hard disk images, will alleviates the need to re-create the machines from scratch. This is pretty impressive when you consider that the virtual machine images I was going to use had been originally created in a 32 bit application. It’s a nice and easy way to go to 64 bit in my books.


I knew the major issue with Hyper-V was going to be the network cards since they would be different from those already installed under Virtual PC. Problem is you can’t add the Hyper-V additions to better support the new environment until you remove the old Virtual PC additions. So I had to fire the machines back up in Virtual PC, remove the Virtual PC additions and then save the virtual PC image back to disk. Now, after restarting the virtual machines in Hyper-V I could install the Hyper-V additions (needs 2 reboots). After that the only thing I needed to do was re-activate the operating system. Migration complete – I love virtualization!


Now all the CIAOPS infrastructure (including this Sharepoint blog) is running on a single machine under Hyper-V. Combined with an improved broadband link I think the performance is markedly better. What do you think?


The great thing is that I can still use the host same machine for testing virtual SBS 2008 RC0 and at a later stage can do a migration from my existing SBS 2003 R2. I also like the way that Hyper-V allows you to take snapshot backups which is going to be a real bonus when it comes to putting on updates and testing. Rolling back to a previous snap shot is a sinch. I’ve still got plenty to learn about Hyper-V but if you haven’t looked at it I recommend you as I think it is going to be pretty big.


Now, I’ll admit that what I have in place probably could be improved even further but on a cost basis I am ecstatic with what I have been able to achieve and the additional flexibility it is going to provide. It also has been very beneficial to get exposure to Hyper-V which I am liking more and more every day. If Hyper-V keeps working this well I am very confident that we’ll be using for most customers in the future, it just makes so much sense on so many levels.


Finally, one of the big benefits so far is also that the issues I was having with my Sharepoint blog server seem to have gone away. Maybe it’s just like getting new hardware? All I know is that it runs a hell of lot faster now!

I think I know why

I have been pondering why Microsoft have a manual migration process for Companyweb from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008. My conclusion is that in SBS 2008 there are at least two special items – Fax Center and Archived E-Mails, that would be lost if you did a straight old to new migration. So, the safest option is simply migrate to a backup site (oldcomapnyweb) on SBS 2008 and let the user copy data from there.


That is all well and good but what I can’t understand is why Microsoft simply doesn’t save these “special locations” as templates and then have the user add them in manually later if required. I have been testing that exact concept and it seems to work pretty well so far.


From what I see it is going to be far easier to migrate Companyweb directly from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008 and then add in the “special locations”.

First looks at SharePoint on SBS 2008

So I have spent a little time fiddling with Sharepoint (a la Companyweb) on SBS 2008 and have the following observations:


1. During the default installation it appears that Sharepoint data and programs get installed onto the C: partition. This seems to be the case with all the applications. You need a minimum partition size of around 65GB to complete the install. You maybe able to change this if you use the answer file method of installation. If you have a lot of existing Comapnyweb data or plan to then it is probably a good idea to relocate the Sharepoint data before you get too much further along the implementation.


2. It appears Companyweb is installed using the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition. This means that there is no database size limit but it also means that the Sharepoint farm can’t be expanded and the Embedded Edition of SQL can’t be upgraded. It also means by default that the Sharepoint data is on the C: drive under the Windows directory.


3. The move Sharepoint data wizard works really well. Running this wizard will allow you to move your Sharepoint data to another drive on your system. When you do move the data it simply replicates the same directory structure on the new drive. By default this means you will end up with a Windows directory on the drive under which will be the Sharepoint data (maybe confusing later on?). Interestingly, the wizard is smart enough to actually move the current content database rather than just the file. In my case because I had done a migration to a new content database I was afraid that it wouldn’t relocate it because it was a different name. But nope, it moved it. The wizards appears to move the data file, config file and search files by detaching the SQL databases, relocating them and reattaching. Pretty neat I’ll admit.


4. The default Companyweb installation has an item ‘Fax Center’ clearly the intended destination for faxes. Under this it has a number of sub-folders for incoming, outgoing faxes etc. Since my Companyweb migration was going to cream this I saved it as a template and then added it back to Companyweb after the migration, with exactly the same name and the fax configuration wizard picked it up. So it appears that if you delete ‘Fax Center’ in Sharepoint you can recreate it provided you use the name ‘Fax Center’ and the Fax configuration wizard will pick it up as a destination to route faxes. I’d like to know a bit more about how this actually works and how I could direct faxes to different document libraries I admit.


5. I noticed that Companyweb has a item ‘Archive emails’. I wonder what that is for? I wonder whether Exchange 2007 can archive old emails into this? That would be pretty cool if it could. Something worth further investigation when I get a chance. Anyone out there know?


6. Companyweb is obviously now 64 bit (since SBS 2008 is 64 bit) combined with the addition of more memory and better disk speeds the performance is much quicker than it was before. Admittedly, this was only a test machine but I get the impression that Companyweb will perform pretty well in new SBS 2008 installation. This will hopefully mean that more people will use it!


7. I am not sure whether Companyweb will forgo inbound emails because it is on the same box as an Exchange server. This was the case previously in SBS 2003 but maybe different in SBS 2008, I’ll need to look into that. If you go for SBS 2008 Premium you can always install Sharepoint on the second server and configure inbound emails there I suppose. I have the feeling that Companyweb still won’t support inbound emails but I can’t say definitely until I do some more research.


8. The migration of Companyweb from SBS 2003 appears to migrate the data to a new site called Oldcompanyweb on the SBS 2008 server. As I have said previously, I haven’t fully tested this but it is going to mean a bit of work for people who have invested a lot of information in the old Companyweb. Don’t forget all those people who have implemented Sharepoint v3 on SBS 2003 as well, there doesn’t appear to be anything in the migration notes about that. I think there are probably easier ways to migrate the old Companyweb data but I need to understand what Microsoft recommends before I make any assumptions. So another thing to the ‘to do’ list.


So there you have it. A few quick impressions of what I see of Companyweb on SBS 2008. There is still plenty of testing to do but from what I see so far I think Sharepoint v3 on SBS 2008 will work pretty well.

SBS 2008 Companyweb migration success

Here’s good old http://companyweb on SBS 2003 running under Sharepoint v2




Now here’s the same http://companyweb running on SBS 2008 after I had migrated all the content across:




There’s no trick photography, sleigh of hand or digital retouching here I have successfully been able to migrate Sharepoint v2 data from SBS 2003 to Sharepoint v3 in SBS 2008.


Having been able to migrate successfully before from Sharepoint v2 to Sharepoint v3 I knew that it would be possible but wanted to make sure on SBS 2008. I will admit that there is trick or two unique to SBS 2008 I had to overcome before I could get it working but nothing major. Now that I know it can be done I will go back and work on improving the process further.


Subscribers to my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide (WSSOPS) will soon be see a new chapter dedicated to the full migration process of companyweb on SBS 2003 to SBS 2008. If you aren’t a subscriber then you are going to face some hurdles but nothing that isn’t insurmountable given the information current out there on the Internet. I will save you a bit of time and say that you can’t simply backup Sharepoint v2 and restore it to Sharepoint v3. The rest you’ll just have to work out for yourself, sorry.


I need to have a closer look at migration options that Microsoft now has with SBS 2008 but I have a feeling that they don’t have anything for Companyweb, which I think will concern quite a few people. I may be wrong but I’m sure there are plenty or people who will want to migrate SBS 2003 companyweb to SBS 2008 companyweb but maybe I’m wrong?