Surface Pro 3 and Office 365

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has set out a clear strategy to transform Microsoft into a Services and Devices company. This transformation has been in the works for a few years now with the team in Redmond reinventing themselves and the way they do things. So what does this mean for us?

Rather than explain the technical and business in’s and out’s, I thought I would illustrate the new way of working by telling you about my day. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a business owner and IT Consultant.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 8.30.37 pm

The “cloud” is at the core of our business. Office 365 for email, calendars, collaboration and document management, Xero for financials, JIRA for managing software projects and Dynamics CRM to support sales and marketing. We eat our own dog food using the tools we recommend to our clients.

This choice has allowed us to build a business that can operate from almost anywhere. In our first few weeks, it was from a kitchen table. These days it is from our offices, home, client sites, café’s, airports and even the car parked on the side of the road! All we need is an Internet connection and we’re ready for action.

Productivity to us, means being able to “sell” our time efficiently. This means being able to work from anywhere. That’s where the cloud helps us.

SharePoint

SharePoint provides our team with document management and collaboration capabilities. It’s the place we go for templates, contracts, statements of work, project and client documentation. No matter where we are, we can access our documents. Office Web Apps ensure we can edit documents and spreadsheets if we are accessing SharePoint from a device without Microsoft Office installed.

We also provide some of our clients with portal access for sharing documents, ensuring we are all working on the right version. Our clients love it and so does our Project Manager.

OneNote

OneNote might just be my new favourite application. It allows us to create and share “notebooks” with each other and our clients. Multiple people can contribute to the same notebook at the same time, making it a very useful tool for all sorts of tasks.

Notebooks are synchronised to SharePoint on Office 365 meaning they are accessible from anywhere that has an internet connection. The notebook can be updated from a web browser, laptop and even my iPhone.

Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s latest tablet / laptop device. The Surface Pro 3 has a larger screen, faster processor, better battery life and better keyboard than it’s predecessors. Unlike other tablets, it runs a fully functional version of Windows 8.1 Professional allowing it to run anything your Windows PC can run. I have a full version of Office 2013, various Windows VPN clients, Citrix, Vmware View, SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio. Did I mention, it weights in at just 800 grams?

The touch screen combined with Microsoft smart stylus (pen) and OneNote, makes the Surface a brilliant note taking tool. I can sketch up screen layouts and scribble down notes without paper. Now I have my notes with me anywhere I go rather than in a serious of paper note books and scraps of paper on my desk.

I should point out that I have used older Surface devices. The “3” is a major improvement and resolves any of the short comings of older devices. Better screen, keyboard and kick stand make this device a pleasure to use. Having said that, it still isn’t the perfect device for everyone, so try it before you buy it.

Conclusion

Combining “cloud” services with a versatile mobile device makes it possible to work from almost anywhere, with everything you need at your finger tips.

These tools combine to improve productivity by reducing downtime between jobs and ensuring we have the information we need when we need it. They make it easier to work from anywhere and keep us in touch with our team and customers.

That sums it all up for me. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences too.

SharePoint Double Authentication Issue

I struck and interesting issue on a SharePoint 2013 web application. I had configured the site to allow anonymous access but started getting multiple login prompts when after signing in to the site.

Developer tools in the web browser revealed an access denied error on the URL http://sharepoint.domain.com/_api/contextinfo

The issue was resolved by disabling the “Require Use Remote Interfaces” setting on the web application as follows:

  • In Central Admin \ Web Applications
  • Select the web application
  • Choose Authentication from the ribbon
  • On each zone, remove the tick from “Require Use Remote Interfaces”
  • Click OK

Further details:

The double authentication prompt only occurred on specific activities e.g. editing pages.

In my case this problem occurred after extending a Web Application. In the primary web application I had customised the authentication settings (in IIS). These settings reverted back to defaults after I extended the web application via Central Admin.

Can I use Office 365 on a Mac?

I’ve been watching a little revolution taking place over the past few months. I’ve noticed a few people in my wider circle (human, not Google+) becoming a little bit “Mac-curious”. They’re starting to ask questions like, should I buy a Mac or a PC?

The answer is of course depends on what you want to use the computer for…A few years ago, if the answer was “work” then for 95% of people a PC was the right choice. My own recent experiences seem to make that line a blurry.

Word Online with Safari

In my day to day job, I am a company Director and an IT Consultant working largely with Microsoft Technologies with a major focus on SharePoint and Office 365. Here’s a few things I’d like to share about my experience of working with Office 365 from a Mac.

Using nothing more than a Mac Book Pro (13 inch retina display) and an internet connection at the office, paired to my phone and a variety of Wifi locations including home, airports and cafes, I can get my work done. No hassles, it just works!

I have Office 2011 for Mac installed locally, but actually I hardly need it. The Office Web Apps are great, far better than Google Apps (yep I’ve use them daily too). I love the Excel and Word Web Apps. Pair these two work horses with Outlook Web App and SharePoint and I can do almost everything I need for my day to day work. The experience is the same as if I was on a PC.

I can drag files from my local machine to a SharePoint document library. I can sync files locally using the Mac One Drive client. I can edit without compatibility issues. I can print without wonky formatting. It just works.

Office for Mac includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Lync. It has some limitations so do your homework, particularly if you need VBA or third-party add-on support.

I still have a few little things that work better on a PC, particularly connectivity into a few of my clients, however the Microsoft now providing a great RDS Client for Mac, I hardly ever need to boot into Windows.

I would like to congratulate the folks at Redmond for providing great Mac OSX support. I see this as a real positive for Microsoft as many of their services are now accessible to people using other platforms including iOS and soon Android support for Office. Nice one!

 

SharePoint Initialize-SPResourceSecurity Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation

Here’s a tricky little issue I struck, so I thought I’d share the solution. In my situation I was installing SharePoint 2013 Server on Windows Server 2012.

I built a new SharePoint environment using AutoSPInstaller. The installer PowerShell script threw an error but continued running until it got to the provisioning Enterprise Search step. At that point I get an endless number of blue dots appeared in the script and it never ends………………………………………

Initialize-SPResourceSecurity : Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.

I tried running Initialize-SPResourceSecurity from the SharePoint Admin PowerShell (run as Administrator). I received the same error as above.

I thought the issue was with AutoSPInstaller, so I tried running PSConfig only to have it fail with a similar error. The PSConfig log file contained an error with the same description as the one above. It included an additional line indicating the issue was a file system permission problem. This lead me to the solution below.

Solutions:

The solution was to change the “Local Administrators” group permission on the C:\Windows\Tasks folder from Modify to Full Control.

Rerun the AutoSPInstaller or PSConfig and the error should no longer occur.

I hope this helps the next person who strikes this problem!

SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 Fixed and Re-released! #KB2880552

Microsoft have fixed Service Pack 1, resolving the issues with Search described here.

The Knowledge Base article includes the following:

The Search box is missing after installing the public update such as MS13-100 (KB 2850058). You may receive the “Sorry something went wrong” error message when you try to access the Search Center.

Service Pack 1 features bug fixes and introduces the ability to replace the SharePoint Newsfeed with Yammer.

Download Service Pack 1 from here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2880552

SharePoint Foundation Search Broken after installing Service Pack 1 (Update with fix)

Service Pack 1 for SharePoint was released a couple of weeks. Unfortunately it appears to break Search in SharePoint Foundation and it doesn’t look like we will see a fix until the April 2014 Cumulative Update is released at the earliest.

More Details can be found in this article “SharePoint Foundation 2013 broken search experience

I have seen this problem first hand on two SharePoint Foundation sites. Others are reporting that the problem occurs after installing KB2850058.

The bad news is that this update cannot be rolled back. Once installed your choices are put up with broken search or install a new SharePoint Foundation farm.

——————

UPDATE: 24 March 2014

Microsoft have released a fix to resolve the issue: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2760625

My kids want to code and it makes me nervous!

This morning I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about “why we should learn to code”. I shared it on Facebook and it generated an interesting response from a friend I went to primary school with who is now faced with raising kids who are really into technology and want to learn to code!

I think it is fantastic that her kids want to learn this stuff. What I didn’t think about was how scary this might be for a parent who doesn’t know much about this stuff. I am sure my parents had a similar fear when I was that age, 30 years ago, but about mathematics!

Keep Calm

Here are my opinions on some of the questions raised:

Question.1: Is the education system letting them down?

I don’t think the education system is letting us down but I do think it could do better. We need to think about technology in a holistic way and recognise that we won’t all be Software Developers, but chances are we will all engage with technology throughout our lives and careers. Teachers can provide the tools, but reality is you’re better learning some things yourself and Coding falls into that category.

Question.2: Should we be teaching them ourselves?

Definitely! I see it kind of like reading. A child reads at school only, they won’t develop the skill as fast as someone who reads at home and has parents who read to them. Coding is kind of like reading, combined with a bit of math and critical thinking.

The good news is there are a lot of free resources online that make it easy to start learning, all that is needed is time and a little motivation. I’ve included some links below.

Questions.3: I am nervous…is this OK?

YES! You can expect to be asked complicated questions that might as well be in a foreign language. Think back to the days when you had quadratic equations in your homework. How do you think that made your parents feel?

It is OK to be nervous, the trick is to have a strategy. Now with math my Dad would say “ask your mother”. In today’s world you might say “take a look on Google” or “have you tried breaking the problem down into smaller parts?”

How hard can it be?

Learning to code takes time but can also be a lot of fun. Why not learn with your kids at home. Here are a few tips for parents with wannabe geeks!

  • Sign your kids up to Code Academy – everything they need is online.
  • A beginners HTML and (basic) CSS course is a good place to start (age 10+)
  • Take baby steps and repeat. Coding is like learning a language, so repeating the lessons will reinforce the concepts and make it easier to remember the core concepts and syntax.
  • If you have older children then languages like JavaScript and Python are popular in schools and Universities.

Expectations:

Now just because your child genius is learning to code doesn’t mean they will become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Chances are they won’t become a Billionaire but they will never the less have many other fabulous opportunities. Learning to code will give them a skill they can use for the rest of their lives in many careers, not just IT – think engineers, accountants, managers, sales, marketing, education to name a few.

Of course there is always the odd exception to that rule. If you do happen to have a genius then don’t worry about learning to code yourself, teach them business skills!

What are you thoughts on this?