SharePoint Project Series.

This is a series of blogs I am writing on SharePoint projects:

Part 1 - Design and Planning Part 2 - Implementation (Stage 1) Part 3 - Implementation (Stage 2)
Part 4 - Training Part 5 - Continued Support Part 6 - Suggested Continued Improvement

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cloning Virtual Machine's in Hyper V

I am still in the process of getting my virtual network up and running to a state where I am content in a state of virtual happiness. One thing I find myself quite often doing is deleting machines and creating new ones. To do this efficiently I have created a virtual machine clone hard drive where I can quickly and easily copy as many as a like and create new virtual machines with hardly any hassle at all. Here is what I do:

1. First Install Windows Server 2003/2008 and get the machine up to scratch (in this instance I use 2003 R2 SP2 64bit enterprise version), after installing the operating system it is a good idea at this time to install any critical windows updates or any other server additions you would like to install. In my case the majority of my servers will be acting in an application role, so at this point I add the application server role to the server. I also take the time to install the .NET framework 3.5.

2. After everything is ready to rumble, insert CD1 of your Windows Server 2003 disc (keep in mind 2008 already has the required tools installed in the system32 directory so you can skip this step).

3. Open the support folder on your Server 03 CD and browse to \SUPPORT\TOOLS\DEPLOY.CAB.

4. Once you have open the CAB file select all of the files inside and right click extract. Extract to Windows\System32\Sysprep (mainly for consistency with 2008, however you can extract it to wherever you like).

5. Now browse to the directory and run setupmgr.exe, click next and then next again to create a new answer file for your installation.

6. Select Sysprep setup and click next.

7. Select your version of Windows server and click next.

8. Change the option to fully automated setup and click next.

9. The next window will allow you to create the answer file for your installation. Fill out all the detail required except where you enter the computer name type in something like "REMOVE".

10. Continue to click next and fill out the details, under workgroup and domain you may chose to not enter your domain yet (I did this as my first machine was a Domain Controller and I didn't want to clone that VHD as being all DCs). You can add your PC to the domain once you have booted up for the first time.

11. Once you have completed all of the information and saved your answer file close the manager (clicking on cancel will close it, I suspect this is a bug).

12. You will notice that there is now an answer file in your System32\sysprep directory. However the one that Windows actually uses when it boots up for the first time after sysprepping the machine is in the c:\sysprep\ folder. Double click on the answer file and remove the text that says 'REMOVE' this will prompt the automated install to stop at this point to ask you for a computer name, therefore enabling you to be able to rename your virtual servers at the point of initial installation.

13. The final step for the system preparation is to go back into the System32\sysprep directoy and double click on sysprep.exe. Click OK and then click on 'reseal'. This will shutdown the machine.

Now the machine is shutdown, grab the VHD and rename it something like: 2003_Template or whatever you like and make as many copies as you want, when you boot the machine up it will automatically run the initial system setup as if it was a fresh machine, prompting you only for the Computer Name. Remember to add your new server to the domain and away you go! Happy virtualizing!

Friday, June 20, 2008

SharePoint List Print View... my oh my!

I have spent a lot of hours designing and creating complicated custom lists for clients (usually to replace communal excel spreadsheets). Many, Many times I have been asked by clients: "Jakob, how can I print this fantastic list from SharePoint." Quite often the only realistic option to print a decent view of the list is to export it into excel and then print it from there. However this doesn't really provide a Business Productivity focused approach to printing out lists my any means!

Our always loved and respected friends at Codeplex have included a very nice and fancy WSP solution file that can be deployed to a SharePoint farm that installs a very easily accessible "Print List" menu item to the "Actions" menu in lists. Excellent! This gives users a very simple and nice printable view of a SharePoint list as can be seen here:

After Clicking on Actions and the Print List, the feature will give you an option to select one of your predefined views:

Next PrintList will display a printable view of your list such as:

What a fantastic tool.

To Install Print List, download the .WSP file from Codeplex.

Once you have downloaded the file run:

1. c:\program files\common files\microsoft shared\web server extensions\12\bin\stsadm.exe -addsolution -filename c:\\PrintList.wsp


2. c:\program files\common files\microsoft shared\web server extensions\12\bin\stsadm.exe -deploysolution -name PrintList.wsp -allowgacdeployment -immediate

That's it!

Now you will need to activate the feature on the site collection through Site Actions.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SharePoint Branding made easy.

Changing the Master page CSS and themes across multiple site collections and sites can be a real hassle, unless you change the default master page. However, you may want to use multiple master page, CSS and theme combinations across your SharePoint deployment.

WSS 3.0 also makes it tricky to actually change the masterpage and apply custom CSS.

Recently I had to create a custom look and feel for a client which involved creating a custom Master page and Custom CSS. I had implemented WSS 3.0 SP1 and a quick search on codeplex I found the SharePoint Branding Tool.

I have to say well done to the creators of this fantastic tool as it allows you to quickly and easily modify which sites use which master page and the excellent thing about it is that it allows you to modify WSS 3.0 implementations.

Here is a screenshot of it in action on my development box:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In all seriousness...

You know what really grind my gears...

I am sick to death of corporations taking their IT solutions so lightly. I have now attended (once as a trainee and once as a trainer) two training sessions to do with PerformancePoint and SharePoint where the 'higher' level employees of the corporation have sent along general administrative staff eg: secretaries, admin staff, hr staff etc. to conduct high level SharePoint and PerformancePoint administrative tasks. I mean come-on, (no offence) secretaries posing as site owners and dashboard designers? Is this how seriously the CEO's and upper management take this type of technology?

I totally disagree with the way that businesses are approaching these technologies and their values to business productivity and business intelligence, yes they are designed to be end user friendly, however having personal assistants and secretaries design business models and content management policies and workflows is ludicrous. Now maybe it is the way that Microsoft is selling it's products but I just felt I really needed to get this off my chest.

I know I write my blog posts in a fairly comical manner (I assure you there will be beneficial technical data in there somewhere), however I take my job and passion very seriously and when I see occurances such as the above mentioned it really gets to me. Hopefully when their systems fall over, upper management will see the errors of their ways and employ some real architects, planners, engineers and administrators to properly implement these fantastic products that Microsoft have provided for us.

Its NOT Rude to Point...

Well I have spent most of today larning Microsoft’s new BI tool: Performance Point Server. It has been overwhelming to say the least, however the trainer has increased my knowledge of the very interesting world of business productivity and business intelligence.

Interesting stuff…

Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Virtualization… welcome to the 21st century

I would like to start this blog post by quoting the great weird Al Yankovich:

“While your computers crashing,
Mines Multitasking,
it does all my work… without even asking,
I got a flat screen monitor 40 inches wide,
I believe yours says ‘etch-e-sketch’ on the side.”

I could go on but I think you get the point. Well I hijacked my gorgeous wife’s machine which was running my old e6300 dual core (my ex overclocked cpu) (thanks babe!) whacked in a new mobo and 8gb of ram and thought it would be a sweet idea to Install Server 2008 and build a virtual network! Yay!

After configuring and clicking around for a fair bit I eventually got everything working hunky dorrily (big up to my main man with the hyper v plan flo rida). I decided to go with this current setup:

Server 03 R2 SP2 - Domain Controller, DNS
Server 03 R2 SP2 - SQL Server 2005
Server 03 R2 SP2 - SharePoint Server 2007
Server 03 R2 SP2 - Performance Point Server 2007
Server 03 R2 SP2 - Project Server 2007
Server 03 R2 SP2 - ISA Server (still a bit iffy about this one)
Server 08 - Exchange 07 and Office Communications server.
Well I got a lot of configuring ahead of me and so far the machines are all bare and ready to be pounced apon.

wish me luck.