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New beta release of Live Essentials

I just downloaded and installed the latest beta releases of Microsoft Live Essentials and it seems like Microsoft has taken other users comments into consideration when writing a new release.

The most important change (at least for me) is the merge of Live SkyDrive, Live Sync and Live Mesh. Since I use all three services, I’ve had a pain in the a… trying to figure out what kind of files to place were. There’s still a way to go but so far it looks great.

The client side Live applications has all been made more “Microsoft-ish”. With the ribbon and editing features most people know from the Office products since 2007. Personally I fancy Live Writer, which I use for both personal blogging, public blogging and page editing (articles etc.). The media support in the new release is heavily improved with the ability to insert video from both personal files, YouTube integrated accounts and from any streaming URL. Very cool indeed.

So far I haven’t found any major issue with the current beta and can recommend it to anyone, even if you use services from providers other than Microsoft.

Rhod Gilbert on his trip to Australia

The thing about comedy is that it always lightens up the mood. Even on a stressful workday or when everything seems to go down the drain. Rhod is a Welsh stand up comedy artist which has several very good shows, but my favorite has to be when he went to Australia and had some problems with his luggage.

Unfortunately the sound is quite poor, but if you are somewhat good in English and listen carefully, you get the point.

Rhod Gilbert – Luggage Problems

 

If you fancy his kind of humor, search for Rhod Gilbert on YouTube.

N’Joy!

The fabulous Jeff Dunham and “Ahmed – the dead terrorist”

This video was posted on YouTube several years ago, but it’s still one of my favorites. Even if Jeff Dunham is most famous for his puppets “Walter” and “Peanut”, I think Ahmed is the very best.

Jeff Dunham and “Achmed–The dead terrorist”

To view more puppets and shows by Jeff Dunham, search YouTube or visit the Jeff Dunham official home page.

My WordPress Experience

I’m still searching for the best solution and service for my personal web site and blog. After trying Google’s Blogger, Microsoft’s Live! Space and Office Live for Small Business I ended up with WordPress. Unfortunately, not everything is as I would like it to be, especially when it comes to the following issues:

  1. Theming is nice but when the themes include several errors and does not recognize the importance of printability, it’s more or less useless. There is an option of creating your own CSS, but then you’ll have to pay an annual fee. I don’t want to pay to fix other developers mistakes.
     
  2. Compared to both Blogger, Live! Spaces and Office Live, the flexibility within the pages are very low. The theme defines which page templates that exist and how they work. If you need to change anything you just have to forget it (unless you want to pay another fee to WP). It’s not possible to decide which widgets you want on each page and all widgets you add to your site will appear on all pages with a widget placeholder.
     
  3. There is no contact form available. This should be one of the most basic features of any site. I know I don’t want to publish my e-mail address, but would like my visitors to have the ability to send me an e-mail from the server application. However, even if all other similar services have this feature, WP does not.
     
  4. I would like to have my own URL, and since I already own the Wikmark.name zone, I would have thought blog.wikmark.name was easy to accomplish. But again I was wrong, at least if I don’t pay another fee. Besides, it’s cheaper to have WP register a new domain than it is to use an existing domain, something I found quite odd.

It seems like WP is something like Ryan air. The basic service is free, but if you require a seat with your flight you will have to pay extra. Oh, you wanted a knife and fork with your meal? That’ll be $2 extra please.

So, how come I ended up with WP anyway? First of all, I don’t trust Google. I don’t want them to host my ideas and stuff I write and create, thus Blogger was excluded. Microsoft on the other hand I trust, but the services they deliver are hard to use, not standardized and lacks of basic features as well. Besides, who actually uses Microsoft’s public services for real? So the answer is more or less that WP was the “least bad” service to use. Hopefully this will change in the future.

HowTo remove unused features from a site template file

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment

When you create a site template (.stp) or an export via stsadm.exe you will end up with a cabinet formatted archive with all the data and some XML files. One of these XML files, the Requirements.xml, contains references to all requirements the site template has. Unfortunately, SharePoint adds references to core features even if they’re not required. Typically, when you export a site from a SharePoint Enterprise server, all the enterprise features are included as requirements even if the feature set is turned off and not used.

To fix this you will need to modify the Requirements.xml file inside the cabinet archive. This is how I do it:

  1. Rename the export or template file to .cab
  2. Extract all content to a separate directory
  3. Modify the Requirements.xml by removing all lines referring to features which is not required (be careful!)
  4. Create a new .cab file with all the same content and the modified Requirements.xml (I use Microsoft’s cabarc.exe)
  5. Rename the new cabinet file with the proper file extension
  6. Import the file according to the SharePoint environment

Please note that any errors in the XML file or removal of actual required features may result in a corrupt cabinet file and/or a corrupted site, so BE CAREFUL!

N’Joy!

Codeplex recommendations

To make it somewhat easier to find active and interesting projects at Codeplex, I’ve put together a list of projects which I find useful and from sources I trust (at least so far :).

Solutions

Tools

  • SharePoint Manager 2007
    The SharePoint Manager 2007 is a SharePoint object model explorer. It enables you to browse every site on the local farm and view every property. It also enables you to change the properties (at your own risk). This is a very powerful tool for developers that like to know what the SharePoint holds of secrets.
  • SharePoint Management PowerShell Scripts
    A collection of PowerShell scripts for easier management of SharePoint.
  • SUSHI
    One of the best and most popular management tools for Sharepoint. SharePoint SUSHI is a powerful, user-friendly utility enabling you to accomplish common administrative tasks. You can think of SUSHI as a Swiss army knife for SharePoint.
    SUSHI = SharePoint Utility with a Smart, Helpful Interface 

Accellerators

See also the ordered list of best rated projects at Codeplex.

Sharepoint version number in Office 2003 docs

Since the automatic propagation of Sharepoint version number requires Office 2007 files (.docx), it’s often required to enable this functionallity manually.
 
I came over a blog entry which describes how to do this and implement it as a Sharepoint feature. See the following blog entry for details:
 
If you don’t have the possibility to deploy new solutions, you might use VBA as well. See the following article for information on how to do this:
 
However, since the macro and script security in Office often requires the persmission to run unsecured code, I recommend the feature approach.
 
If you only use Office 2007 document formats, simply add the "_Version" document property to your document and all is done.

SharePoint 2007/WSS3 Deployment Downloads

When deploying SharePoint it’s a lot of updates, additions and tools which should be downloaded and installed. To make it a bit more convenient, I’ve put together a list of recommended updates and additions.

All downloads are pointed to x86 platform releases. If the x64 platform is required, follow the links and choose the x64 download on the download page instead.

Supported platforms are any edition of Windows Server 2003 R2 with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2008. Requires Internet Information Server and ASP.NET installed and configured prior to deployment.

Please note that several security updates and other minor updates may be released and not available through this list. Please visit Microsoft Download sites for more information.

PREREQUISITES

SHAREPOINT CORE COMPONENTS

  • Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 with SP2
    The SharePoint edition which is free with a Windows Server license including Service Pack 2. English version.
  • WSS 3.0 Service Pack 2
    The latest service pack for SharePoint Services 3.0 which is required for quite a few features. The patch is not required if WSS 3.0 is installed with SP2 (the link above). Must be installed even if MOSS is installed with the latest service pack.
  • WSS 3.0 Language Packs
    All the language packs available for WSS 3.0, including my native language (Norwegian).
  • WSS 3.0 Language Pack Service Pack 2
    The latest service pack for the language packs. Must be installed even if MOSS is installed.
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 Trial
    The 30 day trial of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Edition, which includes all enterprise features such as forms and Excel services. English version. A pre-installed virtual machine is also available for download at Microsoft’s download center.
  • Office Servers Service Pack 2
    The latest service pack for all Office Servers including SharePoint Server. Requires WSS SP2 before installation.
  • Office Servers Language Packs
    All the language packs available for all Office Servers, including SharePoint Server.
  • Office Servers Language Packs Service Pack 2
    The latest service pack for all language packs for all Office Servers. Requires MOSS SP2 installed prior to installation.

SQL SERVER COMPONENTS

DEVELOPMENT & CUSTOMIZATION

DOCUMENTATION

SAMPLES

RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS

RECOMMENDED TOOLS

  • Sushi
    A free-prog binary tool for everyday SharePoint maintenance. Published under the MPL agreement.
  • SharePoint Manager
    A free-prog binary tool for exploring and managing SharePoint content. A must for SharePoint administrators.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

 

N’Joy"!

Diamond 2 – The real iPhone killer

I’ve used the HTC Touch Diamond for quite some time, but there has been some issues, such as poor performance and stability. A couple of days ago I got a hold on the new HTC Touch Diamond 2, and now I’m in heaven!

The new Diamond phone has a bigger display, far more user friendly with new applications and a better FLO 3D release, a lot more responsive (quicker) and so far a lot more stabile. In addition, the new Diamond has a micro SD slot as well (finally!).

The critics has commented on the quality of the 5 megapixel camera, but since I primarily use the phone as a phone and PDA and not a camera, I don’t find this to be essential. Besides, the photos is more than adequate for me 🙂

My best recommendations!

Desired SharePoint Solutions

April 21, 2009 1 comment

In many cases there’s a need for a set of default web parts and solutions for SharePoint to give the user a better experience, and designers tools to create nice web solutions. I’ve been working with SharePoint for quite a few years, and during this time my experience is that the following basic web parts and solutions often are required.

If anyone have solutions for these needs or would like to develop them as Open Source projects, please let me know. In addition to the solutions specified below, I think the following solutions might be just as relevant, but will generate quite a lot of work:

  • Organization chart based on user profiles
  • Basic graphical charts, typically as included in .NET FrameWork 3.5, similar to the ChartPart for SharePoint or the Charting for SharePoint projects at Codeplex
  • Phone Book/List view of the profile database (not  just people search)
  • LDAP directory lookup and search
  • Customized list forms with a forms designer
  • File explorer with delegated permissions
  • PowerPoint mini-viewer web part to display a PPT in a small web part (Silverlight)
  • Rolling info screen presentation based on SharePoint content (Silverlight)
  • User self service with AD property modification, password resets and more
  • Server side Power Shell script execution
  • Corporate CV database based on the user profiles shared service

In general all solutions should be flexible in terms of deployment scope, languages, WSS/MOSS and highly configurable.

Content Tagging with Tag Clouds

This solution is more or less the same as any standard tagging feature, but for some reason it’s not included in SharePoint. The solution should cover as many of the following requirements as possible:

  • Tagging of any content type in any site within a site collection
  • Dynamically storing all used tags in a configurable tags list
  • Auto complete lookup towards the configured tags list (Ajax)
  • Highly customizable rendering

The SPTags project at Codeplex is a possible solution to cover this need.

Cross Site List Aggregator and Rollup

This solutions should be able to aggregate information from a specified list type in different sites and display the aggregated result. The solution should be able to use all Sharepoint view features, such as the default list view, calendar, Gantt charts and more.

A possible solution for this is the Portal Solutions SharePoint Toolbox project at Codeplex.

Advanced Lookup Field

The standard lookup field in Sharepoint is very limited. It’s not possible to use this field cross site or towards any other data source other than a Sharepoint list. In addition, it’s not very user friendly, especially with a large number of entries returned to the user.

Some of the basic features of this solutions should be:

  • If the input field is free text, it should be possible to enable auto complete as the user types. Typically implemented as Ajax.
  • It should be possible to use more or less any data source as a lookup source.
  • The lookup should be able to filter and sort the returned results based on configurable options.
  • It should be possible to enable dynamically connected lookup fields which filters the selection list based on a value in another field.
  • Both multi select and single select must be configurable
  • The rendering of the selection alternatives must be configurable

The SharePoint Filtered Lookup Field project at Codeplex covers the need for filters in a lookup field, but it’s not possible to combine this feature with other solutions such as dynamic/connected and auto complete lookup fields.

The SharePoint Connected Lookup project at Codeplex covers basic needs for dynamically connected lookup fields, but again it’s not possible to combine this feature with other solutions.

Multi RSS Feed Reader

The MOSS RSS feed reader does not support WSS and multiple feeds, and in many cases it’s desirable to have multiple feeds combined as one. It’s also important to have a good RSS reader for WSS.

The best solution I’ve found so far is the Smiling Goat RSS Reader, but there are several issues with this solution. Among other things, the solution has problems with non-English characters and the formatting is poor. For commercial use it’s not preferable to have author branding as the web part icon.

Content Rating

This solution should be able to rate any content on a SharePoint site or site collection regardless of content type (libraries, lists and pages). The rating should be configurable as both strings and numbers as well as the presentation such as images, strings or other visual effects.

The SharePoint Tool Basket project at Codeplex contains a solution which might cover this need, but I’ve not been able to try this out yet.

Mini Calendar View

On most intranets and public internet sites, where a schedule is an important part of the business, it’s often requested to have a tiny calendar on the front page which highlights the dates in a month with content and displays the entries when a user hovers over the date. Each date in the mini calendar view should be linked to a calendar and the appropriate date.

I know that Bamboo Solutions have some commercial alternatives, but I haven’t been able to test them yet.

Calculated Icon Field Type

Lists in SharePoint is often used as an alternative to Excel spreadsheets, but there’s one important feature missing which is conditional formatting, especially icons to visualize status of the rows.

I’ve seen some solutions at Codeplex, but these solutions are limited in use. Among other things, it’s not possible to configure which images to use and the criteria/rules are limited to specific values or ranges. It should be possible to define SharePoint formulas as the criteria and custom images based on the result of the formula.

Based on a tip from one of my associates, I’ve manage to accomplish this by altering the fldtypes.xml file on the server, but I don’t think hacks are the way to go in a commercial production environment.

In addition it would have been nice to have conditional formatting in any list similar to conditional formatting in Excel 2007.

User Poll

This solutions is a quite straight forward User Poll, but it should be possible to use the Poll both as an authenticated user and as an anonymous user. It should be configurable if the user may respond several times or not, and if the user may see the results of the poll.

Some projects at Codeplex covers some of the needs, but anonymous poll is not supported and the configurability and styling is very poor.

What’s New and What’s Hot

This is actually two different solutions which is closely related. The What’s New web part should display the newest items on a site or site collection with the ability to filter on specific lists. It should be customizable how the result is displayed and how many items to return.

The What’s Hot web part should display the top x items on a site or site collection. The solutions should be able to exclude some pages/entries, such as the home page of the site, and the information returned or displayed should be customizable.

Web Capture Web Part

In SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS) Microsoft shipped a web part called "Web Capture" which grabbed parts of any web page and displayed the result in a web part. With Office Systems 2007 the feature disappeared, including the client side ActiveX control required to browse and select elements for the targeted web page.

Since it’s lots of web sites and web applications which doesn’t support any kind of data aggregation or integration, this solutions was great. However, it’s gone.

I deployed the SPS web part on WSS/MOSS and the web part it self works fine, but it’s required to use Office 2003 to have the ability to browse and select which element to grab. In addition, the old web part only supports table tags, and the div tags are more commonly used and the W3C recommended tag for layout purposes.

Ticker Web Part

The Ticker should be able to display content from lists, web services and RSS feeds as a scrolling text, both vertically and horizontally, similar to the stock ticker you might find on any financial web page. The web part should be able to use both JavaScript and Silverlight or flash as client side presentation.

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