SharePoint databases

I’ll be talking about the storage requirements around Windows SharePoint Services v3 (WSS v3) specifically here.

 

One of the core components required for WSS v3 to operate is a place to hold its content and configuration data. It does so in SQL databases. There are quite a range of SQL databases available from Microsoft starting with the Embedded and Express Editions (both free), moving up to Workgroup, Standard and Enterprise. There are also different versions when you consider SQL 2005 vs SQL 2008. The good news is that they can all be used to store WSS v3 content and configuration.

 

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Feature comparison (Embedded Edition is not listed here)

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Feature comparison

 

Prior to installing WSS v3 on a machine a SQL Server instance needs to exist. If one is not present then you can select to have WSS v3 install SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition (SSEE). Now SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition is a far cry from the old MSDE database although it still does have limitations (as you would expect in a free version). The most important of these are the fact that it doesn’t come with any GUI tools, cannot be version upgraded and cannot be accessed across a network. Another overlooked default is that fact that it installs itself, programs and data, into the C: drive which can lead to space issues later. However, one major plus of the Embedded Edition (unlike the Express Edition) is it does not place a limit on the size of a database (the Express Edition limits databases to 4GB in size).

 

Thus, the Embedded Edition is a great option to get started with WSS v3, especially in the fact that you can work around some of the initial limitations. For example, you can download some free GUI administration tools from Microsoft and you can also relocate the databases to another drive to free up space. This is exactly what the SBS 2008 ‘Move SharePoint databases’ wizard does. I have heard people say that you should use a more upmarket version of SQL (e.g. Workgroup or Standard) because it give better performance. I must admit that I have never been able to prove the fact that SQL Embedded Edition is any slower than SQL Standard for typical WSS v3 sites. Now that may not be the case when you get really large WSS v3 sites ( ie > 4GB) but how many WSS v3 sites have you ever come across that are that large initially? Not many I would think. The only reason I can see you wanting to use a more upmarket version of SQL is if you wanted some of the specific high end SQL tools and abilities, like integrated SQL backup and restore as well as clustering. However, for most WSS v3 sites, at least initially, this is generally not required and because you can easily upgrade to another version of SQL later if required it doesn’t make sense to me to go this expense until absolutely necessary.

 

image_4_34E93C60

 

If you are happy using the SQL Embedded Edition that comes with WSS v3 then you can simply complete a Basic install (although not on SBS 2003 which requires a side by side install to prevent things from breaking). This will install SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition (SSEE) onto you machine, install WSS v3 and use SQL Embedded Edition automatically to store content and data. Nothing could be simpler. If however you want to use another version of SQL server as your data repository that version needs to be installed prior to installing WSS v3 and then you’ll need to select an Advanced install.

 

The difference between a Basic and Advanced install are quite marked in that a Basic install does everything for you, including setting up the first WSS v3 site. With the Advanced installed you need to do everything manually.

 

In summary then, WSS v3 requires a version of SQL Server to hold its content and configuration databases. You can choose from a wide range of SQL Server version from Microsoft, however the Embedded Edition that comes with WSS v3 is suitable for most initial deployments. If you plan to do much work with WSS v3 then it is beneficial to have a good basic knowledge of SQL Server as well.

 

Detailed information about WSS v3 databases and installing options can be found in my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide along with more information about getting SharePoint up and running in a business.

Peeved

I know that I need to update my anti-virus to stay secure and I understand that it is a critical component of my computer security but I can tell you that it is really pissing me off at the moment.

It seems like every time I turn on my PC and at least once during the day I get this message to update my signatures. By default you don’t usually get these messages as it all happens in the background but because it was happened so often I changed the default to prompt me so I could keep track of what as going on.

So when I booted up this morning I get another update message like so:

As I said initially, I know this is necessary and I’m not picking on any vendor, since I all believe they have the same issues to some extent but it just goes to show how bad things must be out there on the Internet if I’m constantly getting these updates.

Now getting the updates is fine but the way that it bogs down my machine when it applies the updates is infuriating! It isn’t a short period of time while that happens either. It seems to be getting longer and longer. As you can see from the latest update, that’s 2.3MB to be downloaded and installed. What happens to the poor people on slower Internet connections?

It all goes back to my contention that we are losing the battle against the bad guys on the Internet. How many years has it been now and yet it seems that number of vulnerabilities, viruses, trojans, compromises, spam, etc is not only increasing but increasing exponentially. We are building our future on a platform that was never designed to incorporate security, it has simply been ‘tacked on’ later as an after thought. Given that PC’s are now in the hands of people with absolutely no idea about how to stay secure we are increasing our vulnerability everyday. We are creating a larger and large playground for the criminal underworld to flourish.

Articles like “1 in 3 Windows PCs vulnerable to worm attack” and “Downadup worm now infects 1 in 16 PCs says Panda security” further highlight the problems. This doesn’t help either:

The worm exploits a bug in the Windows Server service used in Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008.
since it clearly highlights that no matter how much “security” is taken into account with software it is still created by humans (usually under commercial restrains) and can never be perfect. Don’t be under the illusion that vulnerabilities solely exist in Windows, they potentially exist in every piece of software every written. We hear more about their effect on Windows machines because they are most popular. Software developers do create and release patches but not very many people actually apply them, so we have the worst of both worlds.

I must admit that I think it is almost getting to the point where vulnerable machines need to be denied access to the Internet or automatically fixed. That again opens up a whole can or worms in regards to accessing people’s private machine and other software compatibility issues but I think we need to consider what is the greater evil here. If people don’t patch and protect their machines they make the eWorld so much more dangerous and less friendly for everyone.

We live in a strange world where on one hand you need a license to drive a car yet on the other you don’t need one to create another human life. Maybe it is something that is just going to be a fact of life forever now but I can tell you that at the moment it is really pissing me off!

Twitter grade

Here’s another interesting Twitter site that I discovered from one of my new Twitter followers (Scott Bennett – thanks Scott). When you put your Twitter handle into Twittergrader you get something like the following:

What the hell does that mean? I’m not really sure given that I only have 19 followers. There isn’t much obvious info on the site to qualify what the grading is all about and how you go about improving your ranking if you wanted to. There are some nice search tools that help identify top cities, top users and so on but really how is this going to help your business? To do that it needs to have a lot information about how the actual grade is calculated.

I suppose it still early days for these types of sites but I can’t really understand the desire of increasing your grade just for the sake of increasing it. It is sort of like those people on Facebook with a million ‘friends’. It would seem to me that the more ‘friends’ you have on Facebook the less friends you have in the real world.

Technology for technology’s just doesn’t make sense, show me something that makes my life easier and then maybe I’ll pay attention!

Kakrafoon

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I’m still ambivalent about the business benefits of Twitter. I cannot help but be amazed at the sheer number of Twitter applications there are out there. One that I ran across recently, Twittervision, actually shows you a map of the world and overlays tweets like so:

It is a strangely mesmerizing display that provides no real benefit apart from the sheer fascination of watching these tweets display over time. It sort of reminds you of going to a party where the sheer number of people talking creates such a din that you have to speak louder, which conversely increases the din further.

This all kind of sounded familiar to me somehow but I just couldn’t remember where from. That is until I remembered this passage from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:
“It is worth repeating at this point the theories that Ford had come up with, on his first encounter with human beings, to account for their peculiar habit of continually stating and restating the very, very obvious, as in “It’s a nice day,” or “You’re very tall” or “So this is it, we’re all going to die.”
His first theory was that if human beings didn’t keep exercising their lips, their mouths probably seize up.
After a few months of observation he had come up with a second theory, which was this – “If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, their brains start working.”
In fact, this second theory is more literally true of the Belcebron people of Kakrafoon.
The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity amoungst neighbouring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy.
As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy.
Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to anyone within a five miles radius, they now had to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become.”
Maybe in his infinite wisdom and far-sightedness, Douglas Adam foresaw the development of
Twitter as something akin to the punishment inflected on the Belcebron people of Kakrafoon. There must be some reason why people spend so much time broadcasting such inane parts of their lives. So far, I can only conclude that Twitter has been inflicted on mankind by a Galactic Tribunal as punishment for something.

Clearly, I must have missed the court notice in the Galactic Herald so I’ll never know why for sure. Perhaps the only thing to do perhaps to avoid Twitter-mania is to act like a dolphin and say “So long and thanks for all the fish”!

Smartphone money pit

Back in July 2008 I wrote an article here about the costs of the new IPhone, especially when used to access the Internet. I warned that the costs of using your smartphone like your PC were going to rack up significant costs if you were not extremely careful.

 

The shocking cost of smartphones” in the Sydney Morning Herald today, illustrates how the unwary are being slugged big time. One user mentioned in the article posted to a technology forum seeking advice.

 

In his post entitled:”Virgin shocker bill $2458.67″ he said he had accessed the internet while on holiday in Cairns, and hadn’t realised his $450 cap plan applied only to voice calls.

Therein lies the trap for the unwary. Telcos treat voice and data as two separate things. Even though you may have a “cap” of $450 per month chances are it only applied to voice not to data. Chances are also that unless you have specified your data requirements up front you are likely to be paying  data charges at the highest rate, as this guy found out with his $2458.67 bill!

 

Wireless Internet is great and there are so many applications that take advantage of it but if you are going to be using your smartphone this way make sure you have setup and understand a data plan. Make sure you know exactly how much you can download each month and what any additional charges are. Also make sure you keep an eye on what applications you load onto your smartphone as they may access the Internet without your direct knowledge. The article also has some handy tips for “avoiding bill shock”.

 

Remember that convenience costs, especially when it comes to wireless Internet.

BotNet video

Here’s an interesting video from the BBC Click program about BotNets. It shows how BotNets are used to send spam emails as well as Distributed Denial Of Server (DDOS) attacks.

 

Also on Click you’ll find “Cyber crime attack from the east” which gives you an idea of the business behind cyber crime.

 

It is interesting to consider that we are building our ‘new world order’ on technologies that were never designed with security in mind. Likewise, there are so many users out there who have no idea their machines are infected and being controlled by someone else. It is amazing to think that many vulnerabilities used by Botnets exploit bugs that have a patch or update available from the vendor. The problem is too many people are using computers connected to the Internet without understanding the basics. Given the world wide reach of the Internet this causes a huge problem when the power of these infected machines is harnessed into a BotNet.

 

Interestingly, the BBC seems to have gotten itself into some trouble about what actions it took while performing the demonstrations in its show as detailed in “BBC cyber crime probe backfires”. This relates to the fact that the BBC used user’s computers without their knowledge and also made modifications to their systems, even if it was to warn the use that their PC was infected. This again illustrates why cyber criminals are always going to win. When someone like the BBC does a expose on BotNets it runs the risk of running foul of authorities, yet users who haven’t maintained or secured their systems and connect them to the Internet face no ramifications! In many cases the only way that some people will know they are infected with a trojan acting as part of BotNet if is they are told. While we debate the ethics of alerting users, cyber criminals simply go about their business and infect more machines.

 

So, watch the video. Make sure you machine is patched and scanned for viruses and spyware. Then make sure you tell other people to do the same, because knowledge is really the only defence we have against BotNets.

Windows 7 features

I’ve been reading Jeff Alexander’s post about the different versions of Windows 7 that will become available.
 
I gotta admit that I am disappointed that BitLocker to Go is only available in the Enterprise edition. BitLocker is the ability to encrypt your whole hard disk. BitLocker to go allows you to encrypt a USB key. It is my understanding that once you have encrypted a USB key using BitLocker to Go it can be read by other Windows 7 machine but you can’t write back to it.

I know that Microsoft has developed these offerings after consultation with customers but I fear it is more about optimizing returns that anything else. I would think it is simpler to have 2 versions, one for home use, one for business use. I think too many versions simply confuses people and actually retards sales but I understand in this day and age where more and more of our computing is moving to the ‘cloud’ a number of ‘cheaper’ alternatives needs to be offered.

Windows 7 will sell well due to the pent up demand of people holding off going to Vista. Windows 7 has a significant positive buzz around, which hasn’t happened for a long time. It is also much quicker and appears to be less resource hungry. My guess for availability? August, September this year. I reckon we’ll see a release candidate in April and the final version in late August.

So in the meantime get familiar with the version and their contents.

Twitter ecosystem

Although I still have reservations about Twitter becoming an effective business tool I can see that an enormous ecosystem of applications is now growing up around Twitter. Once that starts you know that it is something that can’t be ignored ( Facebook deja vu).

 

If you have doubts then take a look at “Getting things done with Twitter” which details a huge swag of applications that you can use with Twitter to boost your productivity (in theory). Now there are also plenty more that I have found that are not even mentioned here, which just goes to show you how big this Twitter thing is becoming.

 

So, if you haven’t started exploring Twitter and you want to stay “current” then I suggest that you sign up and start looking at what Twitter applications are around and how they can help your business and your professional development. Because like it or lump it, it seems to me that Twitter is fast approaching a tipping point where it will become the next big technology trend.

 

Here’s an opportunity to ‘get on board’ before everyone else does, but hurry there isn’t much time left. Remember, when you are on Twitter don’t forget you can always follow me via www.twitter.com/directorcia.