Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WSS 3.0 Installation Best Practices

Today comes another Rant on my blog. It's about MOSS and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Installation. Too many times now have I now come across a MOSS or WSS installation where the admin acocunt is also known as the System Account in WSS. This means creating workflows to interact with the admin becomes difficult, group belongings don't work as expected, emails don't work as expected. Effectively a whole bunch of things don't work as expected. So Please Please Please log on as a dedicated WSS account before doing the Install. And most importantly before executing the Configuration Wizard. That way your Central Administration will run using that dedicated account and not the Admin Account. I've seen cases where Central Admin was running under the Primary Domain Administrator Account. AAARGGHHH.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Installation of CRM 3.0 on Small Business Server Fails

I've come across two major hickups when trying to install CRM 3.0 on SBS.
The first, is the lack of a default SQL instance. Installing SQL Server 2000 or 2005 from scratch will solve that issue. Don't even think of installing SQL Express for CRM 3.0. Which brings me to the second common problem when installing CRM 3.0.
Reporting Services are installed already and the express SBS install fails. You will need to go down the advanced route and specify your Reporting Server url in the installation process. Don't specify the Report Manager url. But the root URl of the site hosting the SQL reporting services. http://servername or http://servername:
One last thing to remember. When installing CRM onto an existing Reporting Server you will need to copy the CRM css files fromt he install DVD\wwwroot\Microsoft CEMReports\rsstyles to C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL\Reporting Services\ReportServer\styles
there should be four files to copy: msrcm.css, mscrmx.css, mscrmp.css & mscrmxp.css. Otherwise your reports will look horrendous.

Installing CRM 3.0 onto a WSS or MOSS macihne

Over the next few weeks I will be diving into the depths of CRM 3.0 and 4.0 and see how the synergy of MOSS, WSS and CRM work to create powerful Enterprise apps for your small, medium or large organisation. To be able to fully appreciate the new features in 4.0 I will be taking a brief look at 3.0 first.

Here a couple of tips along the way:
Installing CRM 3.0 onto SBS.
Remember here that the default install of SBS will create a WSS SQL Express instance but no default instance. CRM needs a default instance (no instance name) running to install. So put the SBS Premium DVD back in the drive, look at the premium content and install the SQL Server that is part of the SBS Premium package. That is also one of the reasons why CRM 3.0 for SBS only works with SBS Premium and not SBS Standard.
when Installing SQL Server 2005 you can choose to install Reporting Services too. This is generally a good idea. But beware! It will clash with the express install for CRM 3.0 and you will need to do the advanced install and specify the Reporting Server manually.

Installing CRM 3.0 onto WSS 3.0
Should you have installed WSS 3.0 onto the SBS machine prior to installing CRM 3.0 be aware that CRM3.0 installs the management web onto port 5555 by default. So have that port available and not used for things like Central Administration. If you have used port 5555 already for one of your webs and can't change it, you will either need to run the CRM setup via command line and specify a custom port in the config file or pre-create the web you are going to use for CRM in ISS and specify that during the installation. SBS users, note that you will need to do the advanced installation option to specify the final web site to be used.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Major SharePoint Updates Released

Some major updates were released a couple of days ago fixing many issues with content deployment and performance, as well as including new features in the search and adminstration area. Definately worth checking out!

How To Share Authentication Cookies across ASP.NET V1.1 and ASP.NET V2.0 Applications

While scanning for interesting MOSS stuff on the net I stumbled across this little gem. Old news for sure, but a topic that had kept me awake at night some time ago. By fixing up the encryption and decryption key of the cookie values, one can share quite easily the same cookies across different apps and even subdomains. This allows for smooth Single-Sign-On style behaviour across multiple apps, even v1.1 and v2.0 apps, as you can also share the forms authentication cookie. Because Browsers only send the cookies based on domain, this will not work for cross domain requests (sub domains are ok). For cross domain scenarios a passport like structure will be needed with one cenrtal authentication service doing the work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best practices for WSS images folder

This is a topic that has been bugging me for some time now, and as I have not found a single post out there telling me otherwise I'll just go ahead and rant out aloud!

In WSS you have effectively two ways of storing files. either by uploading the files into a document library which is available via web, webdav and SharePoint Designer or via adding the files to a folder created through either webdav or SharePoint Designer (not via web). Each teamsite comes with such a built in images folder.

I have found that these "hidden" folders do have their use. Namely for images and files that are used for design purposes only. If your WSS site is using several images to make the site look pretty, those folders will keep them away from the main content of your WSS site and keep them nicely separated.
That way you only use document libraries for documents relevant to your enterprise and not for designing the WSs site. The biggest benefit in my eyes is hiding away those files from end users who might accidentally decide to move or delete the files and ruin your site.
The drawback is that you won't have the power of versioning and check in-out as youhave with libraries. But then how much versioning do you need for your gifs and jpgs? the master page is the one you want to worry about!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Free Elearning access for MODL courses

Some of you out there might not know it yet, but all MCTs get free access to all Elearning material on A great resource for gaining new skills. But also a prerequisite to teach MODL courses. Each MODL module will include one or two E-Learning courses for the students to complete in between sessions (the Expand bit of GEAR). and you will need to know the content of those modules before sending your students on a wild goose chase. 'Cause quite some content is pure revision and duplicaiton of the material you just covered in class. If you don't want your students to be all grumpy because they wasted an hour reviewing material you already had taught them, you should advise them which bits are revision and which are added content so they can work out their learning schedule better.

So how do you get access to all that wonderful E-Learning material?

Well, you will have to phone up your Microsoft Regional Service Center and get the access code from them.
apparently simple Instructions are viwable here:

But beware! the process is not that simple. the code consists of three blocks of 4 alphanumeric characters separated by dashes. If they say, we'll email it to you, don't hang up but wait until it arrives. First time I waited and 2h later nothing arrived. next time I waited on the phone and got the email, without noticing that I got the wrong code. I received the access code to the mcp site, not the e-learning content. Third time round I kept the operator on the phone while I verified the correctness of the code. That woked.

happy e-Learning!

Just a shame that your E-Learning catalogue is now rendered useless as you have no way of searching through the thousands of courses. Just sorting them and going through page by page.
I always use the main E-Learning site to find the course I'm interested in


don't go to the http version of the address. that will redirect you to
and you'll get totally lost and frustrated, you will be forced to use your catalog, which now is rendered usesless since it was spammed with thousands of subscriptions and you won't find what you are looking for.
use the https version and use the searchbox at the top left hand side. Much smoother.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Activating vpc images for MOC

Oh, man! One of those well kept secrets! If nobody tells you how it is not as easy as one might seem. I would have expected Microsoft to send out a bunch of keys in my welcome pack, but that sadly enough was not the case. So how do we get those vpc images running before the class starts?
The trick is knowing whom to ask. You would have expected to have this as part of the MCT FAQ but no, no info there. There used to be a link on the MCT homepage, but no luck there either.
After spending ages going through the MCT homepage I gave up looking for the link. It is gone.

This is how you do it:
Send an Email to "mslpkd" at microsoft with your request for product keys and your MCT ID (also known as MCP ID). They will then send you back a nice email with instructions and some time later another email with the keys you requested. You can request keys for Windows 2003, XP, SBS, and Vista. Then follow the instructions to change the product key of the vpc images during the activation process and activate the vpc by phone.
Remember to commit changes to the VPC after doing that and reusing that activated image for your class. You really don't want to go through the hassle of activating each and every image for a class of eight people every other week! At some point in stage you will have maxed out the amount of activatons you can do with those keys and simply send another email to the same address aksing for some more.
It really isn't that hard, when somebody tells you how to do it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Are UAC related problems permission related or security related?

This is effectively the debate going on in my virtual classroom right now. One of the questions in Assessment 3-1 triggered the debate, as two of my students didn't choose UAC as a possible cause of a security related issue and two did.
The one side is arguing based on the material in the book. Several questions are expecting a textbook answer and UAC is explicity referred to in a paragraph above the security related issues and not under the security related heading.

This is the way I see it:
UAC is based on controlling access to ressources based on which privileges a user has at the time of executing a program. with UAC on, that would be the least priviliges required to run an applicaiton. Priviliges mean effectively permissions on files, settings and folders.
When we talk about security we usually differentiate between physical security, securing access to the data and securing the information itself.
  • We put our servers into locked rooms to secure the physical aspect
  • We put firewalls and passwords in place to secure access to the data
  • We put encryption in place to secure the information itself contained in the data.
Where does UAC belong? in the middle section. Securing access to data. By requesting elevated permissions or even an username and password to continue executing a piece of code or accessing a certain file or setting, we have another layer of access security in place to protect our systems.
Thus when anybody asks me if UAC could be a possible cause for security related installation or execution problems I'd go for "yeah, sure it is. look there first!"

Be sure to mention to your students that the paragraph in Module 3-1 headed "Security-Related Problems" should reall be labelled "Other Security-Related Problems" to avoid this discussion :-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

5118 AL Module 3-1 Demonstration

Something I noticed today and want to share with fellow MCTs.
In Module 3-1 there is a flash based demo showing how to use the compatibility settings wizard through control panel.
The steps are really simple and you should demonstrate this directly on the vpc instead.

The reason I say that is twofold.
  1. one of my students actually had a problem loading the demonstration and missed out on it, which forced me to give everybody a quick run down anyway.
  2. you can easily answer questions using the vpc directly and show alternate paths. For example show the students that right clicking a exe file and changing the compatibility settings there will also allow you to troubleshoot that particular application.

Scenario IE7 Problem

One of my Students had problems getting the toolwire scenarios to run. The whole intro would work but when it came to the lab it simply would not load.
The labs use a vpc activeX control which in his case did not run under the custom security settings he had in IE7. After adding the site to the Trusted Sites Zone AND resetting the trusted sites settings to its defaul level of medium, the lab excercicse loaded correctly.

Just a tip if you come across this particular problem with your students in future

Who said what in livemeeting

One of the most useful tools I have found in livemeeting is the ability to hover my mouse over the input from my participants to find out who wrote that comment or drew the line. That has helped me initiate a discussion or get some more interaction out of the users by either praising the individual who added some specially good nugget of information or putting somebody on the spot and asking them to explain their answer so everybody understands the reasoning behind it. (which I have deemed to be true and accurate from the comment) Don't abuse this to inflict pain or shame on obviously incorrect answers!

But what about poll questions? Well you won't get around calling into the room for elaboration and comments as you can not see who answered there and then. But you could find out later...

How? Using Poll Reporting you can actually review after the session who answered what to the poll slides. But beware! that only works if you set up the meeting by setting up an event around it first. If you don't use Events, you don't see the reports. That has to do with the fact that you have a whole registration process around events and thus can keep better track of who is doing what with your meetings, recordings and thus, poll slides.

Friday, July 4, 2008

5118AL Teaching Tips

Over the next few Posts I will share with you all my experiences from teaching 5118 using MODL and Livemeeting.
Today I'll start with some general tips on organising the material

  1. Add page refrerences to the instructor manual & Slides

    The page numbering in the instructor manual does not match the student workbook. That makes it really hard to point things out to students in the book. I found it really useful to create references in my instructor manual and on the slides to the individual pages in the student course book so I could direct them to the correct pages without having both books open all the time. Directing the students is an important task during the session to encourage them to write into the book.

  2. Add Headings to the whiteboard pages

    to instruct the students about the task at hand. Using the slide name can be sufficient in most cases. That really helps the student remember what they are supposed to be doing right now.

  3. Create real world demonstrations

    Create a copy of one of the vista vpc images and bust it by killing the bcd config or deleting winload. That will show nicely how a startup failure looks like. and allows you to fix it in the demonstration. How to bust it? start the vpc using either a Vista DVD and enter Recovery Environment or make your own WinRE PE iso file. Before busting it, activate System Restore and create a manual restore point. You can use that in one of the demonstrations too! Much bettern than "ahhm, and now you would see XYZ". This image cna now be fixed using the console, the startup-repair or the system restore tool in RE.

  4. Upload flash animations and web pages to web server

    Normally I'd upload the flash animations for the course directly to the livemeeting session. But with 5118 the flash files don't work by themselves and only work in a web page. Thus I uploaded them to our webserver and made them available via a Web Page in livemeeting. As each student can control the media individually this way I asked them all to change their colour to green once they had finished viewing the content. That worked like a charm.

  5. Upload flash games to the web server

    uploading all flash media to a web server instead of to the livemeeting session directly also allowed each student to try out the sorting game themselves. and that was definately more fun than writing down the answers in the book or aksing them to start the game from the student cd.

  6. Check the assessment forms before you send them out!

    Most of them have Polarbear's Logo on the Feedback worksheet and I assume you might want to exchange that with your company logo. Also fix up the references on the feedback sheet. Two cells (E14 anf G17) are not referring to the answer sheet but have fixed values instead.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vista Presentation settings on a Desktop

Ever wondered if you could change presentation mode settings also on a desktop?
In vista you can!
a littel tweak in the registry will get you going in no time

first, to activate the mobility center, create the key MobilityCenter under MobilePC, if it does not exist yet. then create a DWord(32 bit) value called RunOnDesktop and enter 1 for it's value


Then you are able to open up the mobility center on a desktop machine running vista using the exe called mblctr.exe

To change the Presentation Settings another tweak is required...

under MobilePC check that the key AdaptableSettings exists.
It will have no values yet.
Create a new DWord(32-Bit) called SkipBatteryCheck and set it's value to 1


Voilla, now you can set presentation settings and start using the features also on a desktop by calling PresentationSettings.exe

Charitable New Zealanders!

ASB has launched a cool campaign to raise emoney for St. Johns. They are selling off preloaded bank accounts at half price on trademe.

Yeah, you can bid for a bank account worth 250$ and only pay 150$ for it. Your payment goes to St. John, and ASB gives you back the full amount! The only problem is that the kiwis seem to have a grudge against free money. Currently five accounts are up for grabs and each one of them has a bidder paying more money than he's getting back. One charitable guy even bid 285$ on a 250$ account. Although I'm sure that was not quite the way it was intended to go, nobody from ASB or St.Johns will be complaining. More money towards charity!