Sunday, December 24, 2006

SharePoint Services

The newest version of SharePoint is now available for download, so I thought I would experiment using my trial copy of Windows Server 2003 to explore this newest addition. Unfortunately, my "beast" PC is only 400 MHz and thus could not install SQL Server 2005 Express, which is a prereq for SharePoint 2007.

Attempting to install Sp 2007 was a total nightmare. I am accustomed to Visual Studio installs, where the installer will verify prereqs & direct you to the appropriate spot to get the required bits. The SP 2007 installer did not work this way. Half-way thru, it told me that .NET 3.0 was required, so I went searching for it (it was labeled '.NET 3.0 redistributable') and after that was done, I then needed IIS 6.0 which Server 2003 does not install by default (safety measure). I made life much more difficult for myself by installing the FrontPage server extensions (FPSE) but they are not compatible with SharePoint - and then I nuked the SP admin site so I had to un-install IIS, then reinstall without FPSE and then I could resume SP 2007. Or so I thought.

SharePoint uses SQL Server to hold its data and settings - version 2.0 uses the MSDE engine (SQL Server 2000 database engine) but the 2007 version requires SQL Server 2005 Express which by itself requires 800 MHz and 512 MB memory. The beast is only 400 MHz and 384 RAM; that's why SP 2007 wouldn't work. Ditto for Office 2007 hooks to SharePoint.

Once I finally got SharePoint Services 2.0 installed & working, it is really a great environment to use for collaborative work groups. Documents can be uploaded, then checked out & back in, and changes can be smartly merged in, depending on the document. There are lots of other features to distribute newsletters and other general information.

The SharePoint Team Site can be accessed from http://{SERVER_NAME}/
and the opening URL is http://{SERVER_NAME}/default.aspx

I noted that Access mdb files are not allowed for upload; as expected, Help was not very helpful. I eventually found that there is a different URL for central administration, and once I learned that, it was simple to find the list of blocked extensions & remove the MDB file type. Other blocked extensions include ASP, COM, EXE, PIF, VB etc. so I left those blocked.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Office Live Basic

Microsoft has a new offering, under the banner of Office Live. There are three levels of Live; I signed up for Basic which is totally free, including the domain name registration.

I already have a web site which has been online since 1996, but I wanted to establish more of a corporate presence on the web; my personal site has oodles of technical articles for developers; the new site is targeted more at business.

The new site is

The Microsoft-supplied web design tools are a bit limited, but that's a good thing - many smaller businesses can get seen on the web quickly using the minimal toolset.

You begin by signing up for the service, using your existing Windows Live ID (aka .NET Passport) and then decide on a web address if you haven't already done so. Choose the overall layout, color schemes etc. from a set of pre-defined templates. Those templates force certain layouts that you can't easily modify; but for newbie web designers that's a safety measure.

The real deal in Office Live webs is there's a large set of reports that summarize not only page hits, but also the visitor's browser, OS, and even their screen resolution & color depth. Very slick.

Please visit and let me know what you think!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Puppy Linux

I downloaded Puppy Linux 2.12 and burned the iso file to a CD. This happens to be another one of those "live CD" distros so I was able to check it out on the Sony notebook before committing it to the hard drive.

Turns out that Puppy has a comic-book interface IMNSHO which rivals Windows XP's "bliss" (the default desktop which reminds me of the tele-tubbies from PBS) for the most toy-like interface. Not to mention that the Web browser doesn't understand frames or javascript shame on you) and even logging in to Yahoo mail was an ordeal - Yahoo smartly downgrades the html but it still looks awful. Cute only gets you so far.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Changing of the OS's

This weekend I decided not to "work" in favor of working on my infrastructure. To be more specific, I needed to learn more about Windows Server 2003 and SharePoint Server 2007, and I also wanted to explore a Linux variant named "Puppy Linux" which is a mere 85 Megs. (Before you call a foul, note that Windows Server 2003 R2 is a 580 + 123 Meg giant.)

I deleted the Ubuntu Linux from the CTX "beast" PC, removed the partitions & reformatted for NTFS. The first time I had Server 2003 running on that machine, I used a CD from one of the Microsoft events I had attended. This time I downloaded it & burned CD's. Funny thing, the install did not complete successfully the first two (2) times I installed. The first install, it got stuck partway through, complaining about a corrupted file. The second time it acted like it finished, but it skipped the part where you supply the machine name, workgroup / domain name, and administrator password. (Didn't realize that one until it booted & asked for the administrator password which did not exist.) Makes me wonder if CD-R's "go bad" after some time, or maybe the older ones don't have the same shelf life. Dunno.

In any event, I installed Server 2003 and when I booted for the first time it suggested that I visit Windows Update. Which then suggested that I visit Microsoft Update. Which then told me that I needed forty-nine (49) updates to the OS that I had downloaded the day before.

OK. While that one percolates, I'll fire up the other Ubuntu machine, a Sony Vaio notebook - which we'll be trying with Puppy Linux later today. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

User Account Control in Vista

Windows Vista introduces a new concept that should eliminate the need for users to be set up as local admins to install and run software, or modify settings.

Very similar to the setup in Ubuntu Linux, a user who is not a local admin will need to supply the administrative password to continue certain changes. (In Ubuntu, the parallel to Administrator is the root account, which by default is disabled.)

Users who are local admins will be prompted for confirmation, which still provides a layer of protection against rogue software.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Visual Studio 2005 Team Data

This week, I attended an msdn event that covered a new product currently in CTP, Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals.

All I can say is wow.

This new product allows you to place the database schema under source control, and apply versioning just as you would with executables.

The presenter Rob Bagby began with a statement relating to the "truth" of your database schema. Today, typically to get the "true" schema you would go to production. But what about upcoming programming changes that require schema changes?

Team Data allows you to maintain versions of the schema and generate ALTER statements as required to migrate schema changes between db's. Very slick. Used to need a third-party product (or write your own with DMO or SMO) to perform those sorts of analyses.

Another cool feature is that it can generate pseudorandom data, based on the data types and your expectations of relative row counts (e.g. "expect five orders per customer") or even use database tables to feed some of the sample data. And what's really special is that the "random" data is deterministic - you specify the seed value, and Team Data will generate the same pseudorandom data every time - so you can repeat complex data transactions using the same generated data for efficient testing.

At the event, MS also passed out a CTP of Team Data, Windows Workflow for long-running transactions, the new Expression Web Designer that replaces FrontPage on the low side, and "of course" a copy of Windows Vista CTP.