Jack of all that is Microsoft, Master of None

July 17, 2008

The International SharePoint Professionals Association (‘ISPA’) is Live!

I am really proud to announce that the International SharePoint Professionals Association, aka ‘ISPA’, has officially gone live at http://www.sharepointpros.org.  This has been a work in progress for the past few months by Bob Fox, Natalya Voskresenskaya, Darrin Bishop, and myself.  It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but it’s come a long way.  We look forward to working with entire SharePoint community on many exciting initiatives in the near future!

Below is our official press release…

The International SharePoint Professionals Association, also known as ‘ISPA’, is an independent, not-for-profit, community-driven organization dedicated to support SharePoint professionals and groups all around the world.  The primary mission of ISPA is to promote the global adoption of SharePoint Technologies by providing support and guidance to the SharePoint community as a whole – by establishing connections between SharePoint professionals, groups, resources, education and information.  ISPA is led and supported by volunteers across the world, and will focus on bringing the entire SharePoint community closer together.

 

ISPA’s first offering to the community is support to user groups around the world through free WSS v3 web sites for any group that becomes ISPA-affiliated.  In addition, one of the goals of ISPA is to facilitate an exchange of ideas between user group leaders that helps increase the likelihood of their group’s success.  Therefore, ISPA is providing leaders of user groups with access to collaborative spaces where they can interact with other user group leaders, sharing ideas, resources, best practices, guidance, and most importantly – support for one another.

 

ISPA has also established Regional Evangelists – existing community leaders who have previously exhibited a strong commitment to the promotion of the SharePoint community, and who have pledged to carry the ISPA message throughout their particular region.  These evangelists are key local contacts who are available to work with local SharePoint professionals and user groups throughout their region to help promote the community and SharePoint.  If you are interested in starting a user group, have an existing one, or need guidance – the ISPA Regional Evangelists are great resources who are available immediately to assist you.

 

Finally, as everyone knows, no community is complete without a web site, and ISPA is proud to announce the launch of its official site, http://www.sharepointpros.org.  While the web site is still in the early stages of development, plans for multilingual support and exciting functionality that will assist anyone involved with SharePoint are on the horizon. 

 

If you have ideas for ISPA, would like to start a user group, or are looking for assistance, visit the new ISPA web site or contact ISPA at contactus@sharepointpros.org.  Together, the community can achieve what was impossible as individuals – becomes a part of ISPA today!

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June 8, 2008

Some Happenings, New CodePlex Project and More

I’ve been swamped with a few big projects lately, but I wanted to alert everyone to a couple of happenings:

  • I’m down at TechEd 2008 IT Pro this week in Orlando until Thursday afternoon with a few other members of the B&R Team – Jason Medero, Michael Lotter, Bob Fox & Josh Carlisle.  If you’d like to get together with any of us and talk SharePoint, feel free to ping me on the blog or via email – chrisr (at) bandrsolutions (dot) com.
  • Monday night is the famous ‘SharePoint by day, SharePint by Night’ event… more information on it can be found here on Bob’s blog and here on AC’s.  I’ll be there with the guys mentioned above.
  • Jay will be running the SharePoint 2003 -> 2007 Migrations Birds of a Feather session on Wednesday, June 11 at 6:30PM… it will run about an hour, and Jay will be more than happy to stay after and answer all of your questions (as long as you take him out for a drink).  Jay has done more migrations then I can count at this point, and all of different sizes.  He is a great resource to talk to (or bring it to your shop) if you need some assistance. I highly recommend this BOAF session if you are thinking of making the jump to 2007 from 2003, or you are in the middle of it.
  • My BOAF session – ‘Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows Server 2008: What a Match’ is on Thursday, June 12 at 10:30AM.  Some more information on this session:  “With the launch of Windows Server 2008, there have been many discussions in the SharePoint community around whether or not SharePoint farms should be upgraded to the latest and greatest server operating system, or if administrators should take the “wait and see” approach. Based on experience so far, the answer is pretty clear—by upgrading, your life as an administrator is going to be made easier, and you will see performance gains with SharePoint. This Birds-of-a-Feather session focuses on both the technical and business drivers for upgrading sooner instead of later, and how you can go back to your manager and make a convincing argument… one that will not only save you time, but will end up helping your organization as well.”  I hope to see you there!

And then on another note, I’ve been working with Josh Carlisle on the AMD Developer Cental site, http://developer.amd.com, and Josh just released a really cool feature – ‘SharePoint Smart 404’ on CodePlex, which got its roots from the work we’ve done for AMD.  Essentially, instead of giving your users the same old boring 404 page when they type the wrong URL, the ‘smart 404 page’ will provide them with search results based on the url they were trying to hit.  To see an example of this in action, try hitting the site http://developer.amd.com/processors – this Processors site doesn’t exist – but note that you now have relevant search results around the word ‘processors’ (note the ‘Best Bets’ area).  I look forward to contributing to this project.

Until the next post,
Chris

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March 17, 2008

Vote for Jason Medero & Myself – TechEd 2008 – Birds of a Feather Sessions

Hi Everyone,

Well it’s been a while since my last post… but I promise that will be changing in the near term here.  I have a lot of great things to write about, and really want to get them out here.  In the interim, I wanted to ask for your vote – for my fellow team member Jason Medero & myself.  We both submitted sessions for the ‘Birds of a Feather’ Sessions at TechEd 2008 (The ITPro Track), and they are in the final running for acceptance.  All we need is for you to vote for them:

https://www.msteched.com/itpro/voting.aspx

The session Jay needs your votes on is:

Upgrades and migrations to WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 the real truth

We all know that upgrades/migrations are never easy. The best way to learn and understand more about how to go about approaching your organizations migration/upgrade to V3 is by learning what others are currently finding success with. This BOF session will focus on real life upgrade/migration scenarios and how best to approach them. This includes what kind of prep work should be done, use of 3rd party tools (which ones work and which ones don’t work so well) for migration/upgrade assistance, and best practices around re-architecting your new environment according to the new MOSS 2007 site structure. The main goal of this session is to really find out what works best in specific scenarios and what things should be avoided.

And my session is:

SharePoint 2007 & Windows Server 2008 – What a Match

With the launch of Windows Server 2008, there have been many discussions in the SharePoint community around whether or not SharePoint farms should be upgraded to the latest & greatest server operating system, or if administrators should take the ‘wait and see’ approach. Based on experience so far, the answer is pretty clear – by upgrading, your life as an administrator is going to be made easier, and you will see performance gains with SharePoint. This Birds-of-a-Feather session is going to focus on both the technical and business drivers for upgrading sooner instead of later, and how you can go back to your manager and make a convincing argument… one that will not only save you time, but will end up helping your organization as well.

 

We appreciate the votes – and hope to see you at TechEd 2008 for the IT Pro (especially at our sessions!).

-Chris

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November 16, 2007

SharePoint Gradual Upgrade – Random Page Error ‘This Page is Redirecting…’

Earlier today, I was helping a client with a pretty straight-forward gradual upgrade from SharePoint Portal Server 2003 on MSDE over to MOSS 2007 on SQL Server 2005 (no customizations performed and only 2GB of data). We got through the MSDE -> SQL side of things fine, ran prescan.exe (which reported absolutely nothing wrong – zero issues) and then installed MOSS 2007 and performed our upgrade.  Once the upgrade was completed, we tested the 2007 side, and everything but 13 links (lucky number, eh?) worked.  When we clicked on any of these thirteen links, we would get a message similiar to:

This page is redirecting to http://domain/Area/Name in 5 seconds.
To edit this URL click here.

And if you clicked on the ‘edit this URL click here’ you would get a Page Not Found error.  In addition, if you looked at your address bar, it would look something like:

http://domain/whatever/Pages/UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx

So it was obvious that for some reason, the links we were clicking on were trying to be redirected, but they really didn’t know where to go.  After doing some digging, there was a simple answer:

The area was upgraded and moved over to a new page, but for some reason during the upgrade, SharePoint kept the UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx as the Welcome Page.  So there was obviously a simple fix…

1.  On any page where this error was appearing, Site Actions -> Site Settings -> Modify All Site Settings

2.  Then in administration, under Look and Feel -> Welcome Page

3.  Note the URL of the Welcome Page… it’s pointing to the UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx… change UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx to default.aspx

Now when you click the link, it pulls up default.aspx instead of UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx.  Very simple fix. 

Note one other thing – that the UpgLandingPgRedir.aspx is going to be sitting in all of your Page Libraries where you encountered this error.  I like a nice clean environment, so after switching all of the welcome pages, I also went in and deleted that page from the page libraries (xxxx/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspx).

Good luck upgrading!

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-Chris

October 15, 2006

SharePoint Connections

I just wanted to let everyone know that B&R will be attending SharePoint Connections this year in Las Vegas, from November 6-9th (We will be arriving on the 5th – extra day to take in everything!).  Jason Medero & I will be there, and we are very excited, as this is going to be one heck of a SharePoint gathering!  If anyone is interested in getting together for dinner or drinks, please contact me via the Blog – and let’s set something up.

October 1, 2006

Congratulations, Jay!

Earlier today, I received notification that Jason Medero, a good friend, B&R Team Member & SharePoint Guru, was awared Microsoft MVP Status.  This is a huge accomplishment for Jay, as he has worked very hard over the past 2+ years becoming extremely knowledgable with all of the SharePoint products & technologies, and it is well deserved.  On behalf of the entire B&R Team, I want to congratulate Jay and I invite you to check out some of Jay’s work:

‘SharePointing Into Collaboration’ – Blog

MSD2D.com – Visit the SharePoint Administration & WSS Admin Forums

-Chris

September 23, 2006

Getting OWA to Run on an SPS 2003 Server

I’ve been working over the past few weeks with a colleague of mine, Chris Winn, on a huge MOSS 2007 customization / development effort.  Hopefully pretty soon I will be able to blog a bit about the project, as we’re doing some really cool stuff.  Anyhow, the other day, Chris mentioned to me that he wanted to run OWA on an SPS 2003 box that was also running SQL 2005. We agreed that this isn’t exactly supported and not well documented, but frankly, OWA is just a web site… you could shut down the mailbox stores and such, and just have it connect to the back-end mailbox server.  So why can’t it run on an SPS box?  Well Chris took the initiative and worked on this, and came up with the following… if you would like to get in touch with Chris and ask any questions, post them here and he can respond to them.

Basically, the reason for doing this is that the client required SPS users to be able to seamlessly move between SPS & OWA without having to re-login.  As we all know, the SPS 2003 Exchange web parts are quite lacking in functionality, so this would be a way to give them the full functionality of OWA – only a seemless experience.

So here’s what you will need to do, from Chris W, with a few additions that I threw in…

  1. Perform your typical installation of SPS 2003 (Note: Read Step 3 before installing).  In this case, SQL 2005 was also installed locally on the box and the SPS environment was running SSL with a valid wildcard certificate.
  2. Make sure that you hardcode the SharePoint host headers to match your particular SharePoint application requirements (your host header value should not be blank).
  3. Check to see if your SharePoint web site has an Identifier = 1 within IIS.  You can do this by clicking on the ‘Web Sites’ folder within IIS, and in the view on the right-hand side, one of the columns is identifier.   Only the ‘default web site’ that is created upon install of IIS has this default identifier value of 1.  If your SPS site is using this site, then the OWA installation will not work, because OWA requires the default web site (Identifier = 1).  Therefore, before installing SPS, make sure that you create a new web site to extend Sharepoint on to (typically located on a different logical disk).  Note that if you deleted your Default web site, you will need to go on to another IIS server and save the default web site to a config file, then create a new web on your SPS box from this file… because you need that default web site with the identifer = 1 for OWA.
  4. Verify that you have installed and have the SMTP & NNTP services running.  Check this by going into add/remove programs -> windows components -> Application Server -> IIS.  If you have been using SMTP within IIS, then make a note of your settings, as you will need them later.
  5. Open up SharePoint Cental Administration, and choose ‘Configure Virtual Server Settings’ -> then choose the Portal Server that you want OWA loaded on -> then under ‘Virtual Server Management’ choose ‘Define Managed Paths’.  Now, add in ‘exchange’ & ‘exchweb’ as excluded paths… note that ‘exadmin’ is optional.
  6. Now install Exchange 2003 – Minimal – and make sure you include the Exchange System Management Tools.  Then update it to Service Pack 2 (make sure your back-end is also on SP2).
  7. Run Exchange System Manager and find your SharePoint server (that will have OWA on it) under the appropriate Administrative Group -> Servers.  Right click on the server -> Properties, and check the box to configure this as a ‘Front-End Server’.
  8. Now, delete the Default Storage Group by deleting the child Default & Public Stores.  Make sure you do this only on the SPS / OWA server – not your Back-End Exchange server!
  9. Also stop & disable the Exchange Information Store & MTA Stacks services.
  10. In Exchange System Manager -> Under your SPS Server -> Protocols -> HTTP -> Properties for ‘Exchange Virtual Server’ -> Settings tab -> Uncheck the box for ‘Use forms-based authentication’.
  11. Now, head over to IIS.  If you look in the Default Web Site (identifier = 1), you will notice quite a few virtual folders that Exchange has installed.  You will need to save exchange, exchweb & exadmin (optional) to a configuration file.  You can do this by right-clicking on the name -> all tasks -> Save Configuration to a File.
  12. Now, open up your SharePoint web site within IIS, and right click – New -> Virtual Directory from File.  Create a virtual directory from file for the ones you saved in step 11.
  13. Now, download and install the update for Exchange 2003, KB 911829.
  14. Note that if you created the default web site, edit the host header to make it inaccessible.
  15. Also note that if you were using SMTP before you installed Exchange, go into Exchange System Manager & modify the SMTP settings under the SPS server back to what they were set to earlier (Step #4).

That’s it… good luck, and comments & questions are always welcome.

-Chris

July 28, 2006

SharePoint Surveys – Finding the Results in the Database

Filed under: SharePoint, SharePoint Portal Server 2003, SPS 2003 — cregan @ 4:33 am

A while ago, I worked on a project with one of my developers that required building a web part to display the results from a SharePoint survey in a different manner.  The survey itself was a self-assessment… it was composed of 13 questions with approximately five options under each question, and the answers were the ‘Rating Scale’ type.  Below is an example of the survey:

While SharePoint does provide basic reporting out of the box, it never turns out to be what the client needs.  Because of this, a custom web part was built that allowed an administrator to look at the survey results in a variety of ways – by User – with a drill down to the individual Questions, or Summarized – with a drill down to individual questions & users.  An example of the summarized results view by question appears below:

So now I’ve shown off the cool stuff.  Before I go any further, I would like to thank Josh Carlisle for his assistance on this – without it, this post wouldn’t exist.  Now – the reason I’m really writing this post is because I’ve seen questions asked in the past, and I figured I could lend a bit of a hand with Josh’s guidance… the questions were usually…

“How do I find the survey results in the SharePoint database?”

“Where in SQL are the SharePoint survey answers stored?”

And my first reaction is one of caution… from the mouth of Microsoft…

Warning  Modifying the database schema or database structures is not supported. Changes that you make to the database contents may be overwritten when you install updates or service packs for Windows SharePoint Services, or when you upgrade an installation to the next product version.

Okay you say – you understand… and you want to go forward with finding the results data… well, let’s do it!  I’m running SPS 2003 on SQL 2005, so my screen shots are from the SQL 2005 Management Studio – but you can do everything in the SQL Clients Tools in 2000 as well.

  1. First, you need to crack open the Content Database of the portal which contains the survey and open up the Lists table.

  2. I would recommend you expand the width of the tp_ID & tp_Title columns to make your life a bit easier.
  3. Now,  scroll through the tp_Title columns until you find the name of the survey you are looking for.  In my example, I’m looking for the ‘Horizons Self Assessment’.

  4. Once you’ve found the survey name in the tp_Title column, look at the tp_IDcopy & paste or jot down the ID of the survey.
  5. Now, open up the UserData table and expand the width of the tp_ListID column.

  6. You’ve got some digging to do now.  You now need to scroll through this table and find the ID that you wrote down before in the tp_ListID columnNote:  If the survey has been completed multiple times, then the ID will show up multiple times in the tp_ListId column (Each survey submission represents one record in the table).  In my example, I’m looking for the ID of ‘595665fc-6c09-424a-964d-d137b3db5a30’.
    1. I don’t have SQL 2000 Client Tools in front of me (although I know this can be done), but in the SQL 2005 Management Studio, I don’t have to dig to find the ID.  I can just right click on the column, choose Pane -> Criteria.  Then, in the second row up top under Column, select the tp_ListID.  In the Filter column for that row, copy the ID in.  Then execute this query – and you’ve got all of your survey results right in front of you.  The following image shows an example of the query & results:

    2. Or, feel free to use the following query:
      SELECT *
      FROM UserData
      WHERE tp_ListId = ‘unique identifier here’
  7. So you’ve found the rows that contain your survey results – should be no problem pulling out the results now, right?  Well, not exactly.  Depending on the types of questions you are asking in your survey, that dictates how ‘cleanly’ SharePoint stores the results.  So the easiest way to start out is to scroll through the columns to your right, and you will see the survey results stored for that particular response.  In my example, using all Rating Scale questions, all of the survey results are stored in the ntextX columns, where X is equal to a number.  This is a real pain, as Rating Scale questions each get their own ntextX column, but then each Option & answer pair for that question is dumped into the single column that then needs to be parsed.  So, let’s take an example:
    1. My survey has one Rating Scale question about ‘Time Management’, and there are 6 options that the user can rate under this question.

    2. Now, once this is stored in the database, it appears for me in the following format in the ntextX column:

      Establishes satifactory work-life balance.;#+4#Prioritises workload and conflicting demands to achieve key results.;#+4#Organises self and others to meet deadlines.;#+3#Delegates work to achieve optimum overall performance.;#+3#Challenges and improves upon processes which waste time.;#+4#Reduces the impact of distractions upon self and others.;#+3#

    3. So now, in order to use this data, I would have to parse it.  But obviously, the data is there and available for you if you need to work with it.

Finally, just a quick reference guide for you.  I’ve done some research, and I’ve found that the different types of survey answers are stored in different columns… this is a summary of my findings.

TYPE OF ANSWER COLUMN NAME
Single line of text nvarchar
Multiple lines of text nvarchar
Choice nvarchar
Rating Scale ntext
Number float
Currency float
Date & Time datetime
Lookup int
Yes / No bit

And if you are interested in the database schema, you can always check out:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/spptsdk/html/tsdbTables_SV01051532.asp

June 26, 2006

SPS Infrastructure Fix & AD Domain Renames

Not too long ago, I was working on a SharePoint Portal Server project with Jason Medero, and what originally was supposed to be a basic Portal build-out turned into a whole lot more… let me provide you with some background information…

We have a client that provides SharePoint hosting services for a specific industry. The Portal sites they host are for some major, well-known companies that utilize our client’s specific Portal builds for HR & Compliance-related information. Originally, some firm came in and built out the following infrastructure:

Server 1

Server 2

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Active Directory domain controller for domain “ABC”
  • SQL Server 2000 SP3 Installed
  • SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Installed
  • K2.net Server Installed
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Active Directory domain controller for domain “XYZ”
  • SQL Server 2000 SP3 Installed
  • SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Installed
  • K2.net Server Installed

So basically they had all of their eggs in two baskets… and what a mess… talk about throwing best practices out the window!  To make matters even worse, they were not sure how stable their AD infrastructure was, but they didn’t want to recreate all of the user & group objects, especially since that would mean going out to each of the clients they were hosting SPS for and telling them all of their user’s passwords had changed.

So I proposed that they immediately purchase a new server, and we break out their environment in the following way:

Server 1

Server 2

Server 3

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Active Directory Domain Controller for domain “XYZ”
  • Windows Server 2003
  • SQL Server 2003
  • K2.net Server
  • Windows Server 2003
  • SharePoint Portal Server

But there was a caveat – we needed to maintain the old domain name of “ABC”… while we could make the second domain “XYZ” go away, we needed the new domain controller to have all of the user & group objects from both of the old domains but retain the name of the first old domain.

So what did I do… A LOT of testing in my development environment using the Active Directory Domain Rename Tools.  Once I was satisfied with my testing, here’s what I did:

  1. Backup everything and ensure that the backups were functional!
  2. Use the Active Directory Migration Tool v2.0 (ADMT) and migrate all of the users & groups from domain XYZ to domain ABC.
  3. Decommission the XYZ domain (via dcpromo).

So I then had all of the users & groups in the one domain – the domain with the name I needed.  Since I couldn’t bring up a new DC with the same domain name, I used the Rename Tools.  In a nutshell, here are the steps:

  1. Perform a rename domain on the old server.  The domain name will be changed to OLDABC.com
  2. After the domain is renamed, bring up the new domain controller, hosting the new ABC.com domain.
  3. Create a trust between both domains.
  4. Install the ADMT.
  5. Perform the migrations from OLDABC to ABC
  6. DCPromo the old domain controller.
  7. Cleanup.

So basically, yes – you can take a domain, rename it, then immediately bring up a new domain controller with the old domain’s name.  If anyone is interested in more of the step-by-step details, let me know… I have them all documented.

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