Community Off Topic

Come to the dark side…

It’s been a fairly light week after all the news pouring out from the Consumer Electronics Show, but a few highlights of interest.

  • It would seem that Andrew Connell has finally come back to the dark side with the procurement of a MacBook Pro. Funny enough that he’s got a similar logo on his MBP as Scott Hoag. As for me I’ve been sporting a Lego on my MBP for a couple of years now.

Speaking of off-topic, there’s been the drive as of recent for Microsoft to be recognized as more of a devices company than a platform company. In as much, we’ve seen Office 365 begin to bridge that gap, offering Office Web Apps that for the most part provide similar experiences across devices and browsers. Granted, not all browsers are created equal (IE6, you’ll always have a special place in my heart…). Nevertheless, I came across Addictive Tips blog postings on the “Best of Addons for 2013.” Specifically for FireFox and Chrome. So eat your heart out and check these out when you’ve got a few spare cycles:

With all of the security concerns as of recent note such as the Starbucks App being found to store passwords in clear text, it’s interesting to see that Google is adding the ability to send e-mail messages to individuals that you happen to be connected with through Google+. Note that there are ways to get out of this engagement by simply going in and changing your settings. More on how to do this is available here:

And speaking of Google, don’t forget that the same technology baked into the Galaxy Nexus 5 where you simply say, “Okay Google” and a search page pops open ready to listen to your every beck and command – it’s also available for your Chrome web browser as an extension that can be added from the Google Chrome Store here:

If you’re me and you’re still looking to finish out your MCSE SharePoint certification and just have to knock out the 70-417 MCSA upgrade exam, it couldn’t hurt to check out some of the materials that the Microsoft Virtual Academy is offering up on the Windows Server platform. More details are available here – and best of all, the training is free.

The Microsoft Office 365 team has updated the services that were added to Office 365 today for the December 2013 update on their Service Update Wiki. More details on this are available here – Nothing overly significant, just three modifications.

On January 15, the Apps for Office and SharePoint blog posted an article on “Publishing apps for Office and SharePoint to Windows Azure Websites.” Definitely a handy article and walk through when you’re looking to create provider-hosted apps. Kudos to the Office Developer Team.

Last but not least, the Simpsons will be available throug the FX app as its sister station FXX has the exclusive on-demand rights for the show. The details are thin at the moment but it looks like a cable subscription will be required. More on this is available from the Unofficial Apple Weblog post here:

Off Topic

DirectAccess Test Lab Guide Released…

Looking to test out Direct Access and see how it can be used within your organization but don’t feel like setting up the entire infrastructure? Head on over to the Microsoft download center and pick up a copy of the test lab guide to build out a machine using Windows Server 2012. More deets here:

Download Test Lab Guide: Demonstrate DirectAccess Single Server Setup with Mixed IPv4 and IPv6 in Windows Server 2012 from Official Microsoft Download Center

If you’ve not used Direct Access, you’re missing out. With Windows Server 2012 you don’t even need a hard token client certificate but instead can use a hardware certificate which is pretty rockin’ awesome. Only thing to be mindful of, your Windows users need to be domain joined to take advantage of this – but it’s worth it 🙂

Off Topic

Microsoft Office 2013 DocRecrypt Tool – Deciphered…

So if you’re thinking to yourself, “Cool! Microsoft released a tool called the Office 2013 DocRecrypt Tool! I’ll be able to decrypt all those documents and do whatever I want with them! No one can stop me now!”

Not so fast there Kimosabe. You still have to have the escrow key to decrypt files before you can do anything with them. The description is definitely a little misleading if you just read the first bit…

This tool allows admins to unprotect or change the password on password protected OOXML Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

When in reality the entirety of the description spells things out pretty clearly, removing the would be fun of those without escrow keys.

The tool gives admins who have configured the Escrow key feature options to get access to password protected files. The admin uses the tool and the private key of the escrow certificate to decrypt the file. Once decrypted the admin can choose between creating an unprotected copy of the file and changing the password of the file.

If you’re interested in obtaining the tool though, look no further than the Microsoft Download Center link here:

Off Topic

Exchange 2013 Visio Stencil

In case you’re working on that Visio documentation and you’re in need of a stencil for Exchange 2013, look no further, it’s available through the Microsoft Download Center here:

Happy Stenciling!

Off Topic

Windows 8 / Windows Server 2012 Update – Explorer Error

Always interesting when reading through the Download Center Updates that are available when something like this pops up:

Title:  Explorer.exe process may crash when you tap or click the desktop in Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012

Published: 1/18/2013


Is it just me or that’s… “Bad”?

Granted if you dig into the text you’ll see that it’s targeted at a particular language, but still interesting to see something like this pop up.

Off Topic

OT: Mountain Lion + SkyDrive Error

For those that use Mac OSX with VMWare and other products to perform their day to day SharePoint work – props to you for working a little outside the box.

On a side note, if you decided to upgrade to Mountain Lion quickly after it was released, it appears that you beat Microsoft to the punch of providing a fix for SkyDrive to operate properly. Upon first boot up, you’ll probably get a nice little error message stating that the SkyDrive app can’t authenticate to the KeyChain. Mild issue… actually major issue unless you want to use your favorite HTML5 enabled web browser to grab and drop files back and forth between the desktop instead of through Finder integration.

Nevertheless, there’s a work around that I found after seeing Talbott Crowell post something on Twitter earlier today. In the Microsoft forums, an answer was posted here (shortened for consumption). It effectively says to do the following with the note at the beginning as a temporary work around if you really need SkyDrive before a full up fix is provided:

Thank you for reporting the issue, we are aware of the problem and working to get it fixed ASAP.

For now the only workaround is to change the properties in the SkyDrive’s cached credential item to allow access from all apps:

Launch “Keychain Access” from /Applications/Utilities
Select the login keychain from the list
Locate the “SkyDrive Cached Credential” item and select it
Go to “File/Get Info” (Command + I)
Go to “Access Control” tab
Click to select “Allow all applications to access this item”
Click “Save Changes”
NOTE: The “SkyDrive Cached Credential” item is created after you sign-in for the first time.

Off Topic

What happened to me?

IMG_0628For those of you that have known me for a while, you know that I absolutely deplore coffee. I’m not quite certain if it’s the tasty, the acidity, the smell, I’m not quite certain what it is but I deplore it.

Well, similar to wine, if you have bad wine, you basically never want to drink it ever again. If you drink good wine, you relish in the flavour and how it can have such vibrant taste.

In high school I would go and drink Irish Crème Cappuccinos at Starbucks, not because the taste was all that great but because it contained “Irish Crème”. Boy was that a mistake that stunted my growth and kept me from being the 6’8” man that I’d hoped to be.  Okay, just kidding, but seriously, I definitely am not much of a Cappuccino kind of guy. Why ruin the goodness of a shot of espresso with perfectly good crème and sugar that could be used in a baking process for something else?

For me I stumbled into the vibrant taste of coffee this past August. I decided I was going “cold turkey” with diet coke and was just going to switch back to purely water. This feeble attempt lasted for a few weeks before I was finding myself, while incredibly clear (drinking more water always tends to make things more clear) that I was falling asleep – maybe that’s a good thing? I was however finding that in the morning without caffeine I could be a grouch (though I’m sure that some of my closer friends had other names for it Smile).

So after conferring with myself, I decided I would give Starbucks drip coffee a chance. Besides there was a  Starbucks drip coffee machine downstairs in the building that I worked in that was complimentary to anyone that worked there. So I gave Pike Roast a try. Not too bad, but not something that grabbed me and made me say, “Oh you’re amazing.” The flip side was that the caffeine definitely was helping me to be a little more alert and the grouchiness was fading little by little. So I moved on to Bold and found that there was definitely a love affair in the making. The only caveat – it just didn’t have the right flavour to it. But how could I justify the cost I asked myself? Even as a Starbucks Gold card holder, it was still $2 a cup and required a stop by one of the several dispensaries in the area. Further more for days when I wasn’t feeling the Bold, I did have the alternative Café Americano but still, at $2 a cup without a second job, it was going to become financially burdensome to keep up this caffeinated habit.

raycharles-starbucksPerhaps I should have known that I was destined to enjoy Coffee through the enticement of the Ray Charles Starbucks card that I’d received when I bought a copy of the Ray Charles album “Genius Loves Company” (what can I say, I’m the genius and coffee is the company? Winking smile). Which further makes me laugh since whenever I go to Starbucks and hand them this card they all look at it and wonder where I had gotten such a card – primarily since it’s coming up on being seven years old and not readily available. The other typical response is that it’s the coolest or cutest card they’ve ever seen. I even had one barista try to take it when it zero’d out so to speak… yeah that didn’t happen Smile

Anywhere, where does that leave me? Besides having to beat people away from my Ray Charles Starbucks card? Well after a little market research looking at the Tassimo coffee pots as well as the Flavia and Keurig machines I did an analysis of requirements and alternatives. Not to say that I didn’t look at all the different coffee machines out there, but I was looking for something that would be low maintenance, single serving, easy to operate under the influence of next to zero sleep. At least those were the requirements. The alternatives of course were to become more disciplined at going to bed earlier, learn to live on uber-man schedule where I sleep thirty minutes every few hours or to take up something else and after all I’ve read about smoking it just didn’t seem like a good idea Winking smile

So I bit the bullet and pulled the trigger and ordered a Keurig coffee machine and a box of samples of different Kona coffee k-cups. I’ve ended up sticking with Timothy’s Kona Blend Coffee as I’m a sucker for Kona coffee having actually liked the way it smelled as a kid growing up in Hawaii.

But that’s not to say that’s the only coffee k-cups that are magnificent… I’ve definitely found a delight with what is known as “Jet Fuel” from the Coffee People. It’s a strong, dark blend with a taste that is distinct – and free of carcinogens no less which makes it all the better. Plus after taking a some to work to share with colleagues, one of them definitely seemed to think that it made the peppermint mocha mix used as an additive in their coffee that it made the peppermint taste even stronger – can you go wrong with such goodness?

Perhaps, but that’s also why I have an alternative to the Café Americano – Timothy’s Espresso blend. While it’s not a one for one replacement it comes darn close from a taste perspective. And for those late nights where you’re looking for the taste, there’s good ole Timothy’s Espresso blend decaf – sure there’s a little caffeine, but nothing that a little Kerberos documentation won’t do to push you to dream land.

So where does that leave me in the morning? Typically thinking to myself, “Decisions, decisions…” especially with the influence of the Starbucks thermos, the Panera coffee cup and the Jet Fuel conveniently edging itself toward the Keurig machine. There are definitely mornings where I’m looking for comfort and not really the kick of an after burner through Jet Fuel which leads me to the Kona or another favorite, the Nantucket Blend. Either of which provides that nice and warm flavour with a gentle nudge that wraps its arms around you and reminds you that even though it’s a jungle out there, you’ve got your emotional blanket to take with you Smile

Best Practices Community Off Topic

SharePoint Practices Poll Results

During the Holiday break I threw a quickly developed poll up on Survey Monkey to see what folks perceptions were of their favorite SharePoint Practice in the Washington, DC area.  The results were eye-opening. Okay, not really. The results were non-scientific backing, further lacking turnout and non-repudiation controls.  One major control that was lacking was the ability to limit individuals to a single vote (I have a hunch some individuals may have double voted). Further with only a small subset of the SharePoint community voting, the results were incomplete and only took into account the perceptions of those voting.  What this poll did show was that there were indeed individuals near their computing devices that had the stamina to click on a link and then make a selection followed by clicking on a submit button – well played friends.

Nonetheless, there were 34 practices that were entered into the poll and the top ten practices that were selected in order of popularity in this very non-scientific poll:

Ranking Practice
1 ActionNet
2 Summit 7 Systems
3 Booz Allen Hamilton
5 Microsoft
6 Innovative-e
Portal Solutions
Planet Technologies
9 MetroStar Systems


So what does all of this mean? Not much, except that folks were able to click through a poll.

I’m sure that the raw data could be spun in some manner or fashion, but due to the non-scientific collection means and lack of controls in place, I figured it would be more interesting to make note of the practices that did show up in the top ten. Each of these practices do great work in the DC area, Nationally and Internationally.  All of the practices listed likewise  have great people working for them, that in turn have excellent results.

So what’s next?  Speaking with my friend and caped crusader, Joel Ward, we’ve tossed around ideas of how to better poll the community but from a different angle. Perhaps rather than just voting on the best practice to work for, we take an inside look with practice members and managers to find out more about their methods, their approaches and what their expertise is.  Call it reporting and showcasing SharePoint excellence throughout the community.

Practices in original non-scientific poll – ActioNet, Applied Information Sciences, Aquilent, Inc., BlackBlade Associates, Booz Allen Hamilton, Bravo Consulting Group, CACI, CDW, ComSys, Deloitte, Digicon Corporation, HP, i3 Solutions, InfoReliance, Information Strategies, Innovative-e, JHC Technology, Juniper Strategy, LLC, Lockheed Martin, MetroStar Systems, MicroLink, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Planet Technologies, Portal Solutions, Perficient, RDA, Satory Global, Smartronix, Inc., Sogeti, Summit 7 Systems, Watkins IT, WinSmarts

Off Topic

PanTech UML 290 LTE–First Thoughts

So I bit the bullet and bought the PanTech UML 290 from Verizon Wireless, flat out. Works like a champ… when it works. The above speed test was taken from my house.  I noticed that after about ten minutes, the card would stop transmitting traffic.  At first I thought, “alright, maybe there’s a hardware issue.”

Oddly enough though I would run an NSLookup and get a valid response. I would try to ping and it would ping. So I was left scratching my head wondering why I wasn’t able to transmit and receive anything other than just a DNS record or an ICMP. So what did I do? I called Verizon’s tech support.

uml290So I disconnected and then reconnected and all was back to normal with super fast network connectivity that scared me (yes, scared me thinking to myself that just a few years ago these speeds in a wired environment were usually only in corporate data networks or academic environments).  Then about ten to fifteen minutes later, boom, disconnect.  Third times a charm I figured, and gave it another reconnect request, this time the session was flawless and had no issues, lasted 45 minutes long and then I disconnected manually and left for dinner with a few friends.  When I got back, I opened a ticket with Verizon support – they called back pretty quickly and left a message since I wasn’t available.  Rather than shy away from the issue I went ahead and gave them a call to further discuss.

After talking with a gent about what was going on, it was confirmed from my network traffic that there were “at cause” issues where the modem would attempt to talk to a specific node of the LTE cell and be disconnected from transmitting at that level and cease data traffic altogether. Because it’s the network side an official ticket was opened and network engineering team will investigate the network hardware and routing to correct the issue.

So first thoughts, LTE is blazing fast.  LTE is expensive in that Verizon wireless is capping at 5 GB for $50, 10 GB for $80.  I’d like to see VZW man up and do what MetroPCS is doing with unlimited usage for $60

Nevertheless, according to VZW, they should have the issue resolved in 5 to 7 business days, I’m interested to see it get fixed and will report back then.

Off Topic Virtualization

What if Microsoft released Virtual PC x64?

Have you ever wondered why Microsoft has yet to release a 64 bit version of Virtual PC? I suppose it’s a question that most of us ask ourselves when we’re setting up an environment to develop code and we’re not too keen on paving our hefty notebooks to run Windows Server 2008 x64 with HyperV to install other VMs on top of it in support of our SharePoint 2010 instances.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft states that the Virtual PC software is more to assist small businesses…

Does Windows Virtual PC support 64-bit Windows XP as a guest operating system?

No. Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode was designed to help small business with application compatibility from Windows XP to Windows 7. The majority of business applications currently run on 32-bit versions of
Windows XP.


And yet, so many small businesses are adopting SharePoint, wouldn’t it seem like the natural fit to release a software package that can allow for 64-bit virtualization? And I bet that they could write a memory management module that would allow to go beyond what the 32-bit software operating system is typically bound to similar to Windows Server 2003 x86 Enterprise Edition’s ability to see up to 32 GB of RAM and address it as well.

I wonder if they did if it would look something like this:

VPC x64

I guess since it’s not yet available, we’ll go with the next best thing… 🙂