Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
“Cannot retrieve the URL specified in the XML Link property. For more assistance, contact your site administrator.” I AM THE BLASTED ADMINISTRATOR! TELL ME WHAT THE FUCKING ERROR IS!!!
Wednesday, 05 November 2008 16:01:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Links | Microsoft | SharePoint#
Monday, 03 November 2008

Today’s frustration is brought to you by… SharePoint! WSS 3.0: when it absolutely DOESN’T have to be done overnight!

The other day I received a request to set up a blog in SharePoint to replace an old-school email newsletter that was distributed throughout one of the divisions at work. Sure it’s the beginning of SharePoint Sprawl, but this is a good reason to USE SharePoint and to get people used to spending more time in it.

WSS3.0 comes with a Blog site out of the box. It’s very, very basic though. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by using DasBlog for the last five years or so, but the WSS 3.0 blog only allows ONE category per post and it just looks so plain. There’s a free third-party add-in called Community Kit Enhanced Blog Edition available at CodePlex which allows multiple blogs, theme/skin-ability and more than one category per post but I didn’t feel the need to start experimenting with a new solution on the production site. It’ll do for now.

The good news is that Windows Live Writer works with the SharePoint Blog right out of the box (as it were, it’s a download).

More good news is that like every other thing in SharePoint, it generates an RSS Feed.

The BAD news is that Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS3.0) does NOT come with an RSS Viewer out of the box. What the shit? It comes as part of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, but not WSS3.0.

Back over to CodePlex, there’s a free third-party add-in called Feed Reader. I downloaded it and installed it to my test SharePoint site… and it doesn’t work 100%. There’s a broken image link for the icon, a broken image link for each bullet-point image and a broken “refresh feeds” link down at the bottom. Other than that, it works pretty well, but I’m not about to go and start messing around with the production server with something that’s only 90% working. It’s PURELY a visual problem, but it’s enough to generate calls to the helpdesk and minimizing those is of course, job #1.

Falling back to the things that come with SharePoint, there IS an XML web part. I thought I’d give that a try, because what is an RSS feed anyway? It’s an XML file! I even found an XSL example that would display it the way I wanted to that was as simple as copying and pasting. Just when you thought everything was going to work out, there it is. The Rub. The RSS feed generated by SharePoint is a a file called listview.aspx?List={Gigantic Guid} and not a .xml file. Because of that, SharePoint cannot resolve the listview.aspx GUID to an XML file and it fails, even though IE7 resolves it and displays it as a newsfeed properly. Le Sigh.

It HAS to work, other people are using it, and even some comments on the page with the XSL file said “it works great, thanks!" so I don’t know what my problem is, other than the obvious: I’m not 10% smarter than the program is.

Monday, 03 November 2008 15:21:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Microsoft | SharePoint#
Thursday, 30 October 2008

Have you ever clicked “cancel” during an installation wizard, or managed to hose something on your computer or one of your servers by manually messing around with settings because you think you’re smarter than you really are? If you’re like me, you have. :)

Yesterday when I was messing around with SharePoint Services 3.0 on our development server, I managed to not only hose IT, but I also hosed our Windows Software Update Services server.

WSUS is like having your own Windows Update server. Rather than have all your computers check and download updates from Microsoft’s servers (chewing up all your bandwidth and/or ISP’s quota) you download them to one central location and then having all your computers download from that server on your network. As the Administrator, you can approve updates and they will automatically be available to your clients, but new updates that you haven’t approved won’t be available. In the event that you come across a Windows Update that breaks an application on your computer, you can prevent your computers from downloading and installing it.

It runs as a web site, it uses a SQL database for it’s backend and then it uses some local storage for the actual updates (in whatever languages you specify you will support)

If one of those parts gets hosed (like when you’re mucking about in IIS admin and break the WSUS website, or you manually delete the database instance that it’s using), then there’s not much you can do but uninstall and reinstall the application.

What happens if WSUS has disappeared from the Control Panel’s “Add/Remove Programs” list? If you think you’re a smart cookie, you’ll re-run the installation program which (depending on the program) will give you repair or uninstall options. In the case of WSUS, there’s no “repair” option and re-running the setup program launches the uninstall routine. If some piece of WSUS is missing however, then it fails with a generic error. Stumped.

I found a similar post on Experts Exchange and the accepted solution was a Microsoft Office utility called Windows Installer Cleanup Utility. The utility’s home page on Microsoft Support explains that it wipes out the registry information for uninstalling. If you have a corrupted installation or un-installation it MAY allow you to re-install the application successfully. With nothing else to lose, I downloaded it, installed it and fired it up.

It showed a list of all the programs that were installed on the server, based on the registry information. I found Windows Software Update Services v3.0 SP1 in the list, clicked on it and then clicked "Remove”. It ran successfully and then I closed the application before I did any other unintended damage and then ran the WSUS setup program again. This time instead of starting the uninstallation routine, it came up with the fresh install screen. Choosing the same locations that were set up before installed the software “over” the old locations. The installation created the web server over again using the same ports and the downloaded updates are in the same place.

Because all the clients were either pre-configured or receive their Windows Update configuration info via Group Policy, everything “picked up where it left off”

The Windows Installer Cleanup Utility is a last-ditch effort when you’ve exhausted every other process to remove a corrupted installation. It’s a nuclear attack on the registry and Microsoft’s warnings and as-is and disclaimers highlight that. If you find yourself in this kind of a situation, it makes a handy addition to your Bat Utility Belt. If you try it and you do more harm than good, well, too bad. :)

Thursday, 30 October 2008 13:41:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Microsoft | SharePoint#

I referred to it earlier, but haven’t elaborated on it (at least on here) but I did land a job earlier this month after spending a month re-adjusting to Vancouver. I waited to look for an apartment until after I started working so I could find somewhere that wasn’t a huge PITA to commute. I had a 15km radius in mind so as to reduce my auto insurance footprint as ICBC has a “15 km or less” category.

As I did before, whenever I refer to work, I’m only going to refer to it in a general sense without any specifics or names (to protect the innocent… and compared to me, everyone is an innocent!)  People who know me well or know me through other social networking sites will be able to figure it out pretty easily but people who end up here randomly or from a search engine, I’ll still be somewhat anonymous. There’s no HR policy on blogging in the Employee Handbook, and I don’t want to force them to make one.

At my previous job, we deployed a small-scale SharePoint Portal 2007 site. Those of you who are familiar with SharePoint are probably laughing right now but seriously, it was a small deployment with one site and only a few pages. At least it was when I left!

When I took an Exchange 2007 course in December of 2007, the instructor referred to SharePoint as a cancer. It starts off small… one site, a little collaboration but as people start using it and hearing and reading about some of the things it can do, then the feature requests start coming in and the sprawl begins. Before you know it, you have an entire datacenter just to support SharePoint.

That portal we set up was mostly about a KPI dashboard for the Board of Directors. We had a specialist from Toronto fly down for a few weeks and help us set it up and do some custom coding to draw specific data from our SQL databases (Mo Paul represent!)

At my new job there was already a SharePoint portal in place. In fact it there were a couple. There was a SharePoint Services 2.0 portal up and running using an Access database as it’s backend and some serious line of business applications custom-written to run on it. There was a SharePoint 3.0 portal running that we are slowly migrating to that was SQL Express based but each of those line-of-business applications had to be re-written to run from SQL instead of Access and because they were so intertwined, we couldn’t migrate them one at a time, but rather all at once so it became a pretty gigantic project.

There were also some other sites and a document management system in place that was running either WSS 2.0 or a custom application that those authors wanted integrated into SharePoint as well.

All of this required me to get up to speed on SharePoint pretty quickly. In the past, my experience with SharePoint was “it’s a cancer upon my network, growing uncontrollably and sucking up all my resources.” I referred to it to my brother as “the ominous black cloud on the horizon of IT and developers” and went so far as to quote Colonel Kurtz “Horrors” soliloquy to a friend via IM who then remarked that “being this far north is affecting my mind”

I’ll probably start posting more stuff about SharePoint as I learn it and cross-post it to the IT Team Blog I set up in SharePoint (See? the sprawl is starting already!) to help document my descent into madness.

Thursday, 30 October 2008 09:00:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Microsoft | SharePoint#
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