Professional Geek
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  • Upping Sticks

    I mentioned recently I’d been planning some changes around here

    I wanted to do this on the two year blog-anniversary as it seemed a cool thing to do but it hasn’t worked out that way so I’m doing it today (it’s just a coincidence it’s Halloween)

    I’m moving my blog and hosting it myself

    When I first started the blog I had no idea where it would be going to, if I’d stick at it or even if anyone would read it!

    WordPress.com was great for this is at meant I could get up and running and it wouldn’t cost me a penny. If I decided it wasn’t for me then I could just walk away and that would be that

    However, two years on it’s more than just something I dabble in. Even when I’m on one of my quiet periods I still think a lot about my blog.

    Obviously the free WordPress services comes with some limitations. You are limited in the plugin’s and themes you can work with, your own advertising is a no-no (not that I’m planning on having any!). In a nutshell the creative control of how your site works is taken away from you.

    The upside however is that I don’t have to worry about the admin side of things. Backups, security patching, server performance, uptime, etc, etc

    I’ve had the andyparkes.co.uk domain name for ages now (redirected to the wordpress site) so that wasn’t an issue. I already pay for hosting due to other sites I have so the only decision I had to make was over which software to use

    Making a move is something I’ve been agonising over for a while and I heavily tested blogengine.net which I was pretty impressed with. It’s written in ASP .NET, is open source and is very easy to work with. My only issue was when I had a problem importing my old posts across. If it hadn’t been for that I’d have jumped at it I think

    But I’ve been so used to using WordPress for so long I couldn’t turn away from it!

    Another reason for not doing this sooner was that I was worried about broken links and the fact that since the site has been around so long that certain posts were turning up toward the top of Google searches (do a search for netmeeting and vista on the UK site) which also gave me nice ego boosting stat graphs 🙂

    But in the end I thought – screw it.

    The new home for this blog can be found at

    www.andyparkes.co.uk/blog

    Please update any feeds you may have and if you visit the site itself excuse the dust while I try to figure out which themes, plugins, etc I’m happy with

    I’ll cross post for a little while until I’m happy all is well and then parkey.wordpress.com will remain as an archive. I need to keep that WordPress account open anyway so I can use askimet and the stats plugin’s so I don’t plan on deleting the site

    If you’ve read my blog over the last two years I’d like to say thanks. I’ve had an awful lot of things happen that would have just bypassed me if I hadn’t started rambling here two years ago. If you have any feedback (or you think I’m an arse!) please drop me an email or a comment

    Now we just need to get someone else on a proper blogging platform 😉

  • Creating a multi-column search form in SharePoint v3 with SharePoint Designer

    This post isn’t anything ground breaking or new but I remember the first time I tried to do this! Also every time I do it I always forget something

    The requirement here is simple

    Create a form that allows the user to enter some search criteria and have it search across specific, multiple columns

    For example,

    There may be a Customers list (which may not be too different to the Northwind database in Access 2007…wink, wink). This list holds lots of details including the customers name, address, phone number, post code, current balance, account number

    When the customer calls you need to be able to call up their details quickly. To identify the customer you may ask for an account number, a post code, etc (even just a part of that information – first three digits of their post code for example) which is why this needs to work across multiple columns

    You may be thinking “why don’t you just use the built-in search functionality?”

    The built-in search functionality in SharePoint is still a great tool (and we’ll leave Search Server Express out of this for now!) but the main problem in this scenario it doesn’t work as we as I only want to search on specific fields

    So to get this running first create a Web Part Page

    Click “site actions”, “create”, “Web part page”

    Enter a name for your page (We’ll use “customer search” here), select a layout template and select a document library to store the page in and click OK

     image

    Once you’ve done that you will be taken to the new page. It will be in edit mode ready for you to add some web parts!

    Click “Add a web part”, select a “Form Web Part” and click OK

    image

    If you just wanted to search on one specific column you could add your list to the page, setup a web part connection and never have to touch SharePoint designer!

    But why do things the easy way? 🙂

    Open SharePoint Designer, then open your site and then open your Customer Search Web Part page (if you want to take a copy of that file, now is the time to do it before we mess with it!)

    Click on the “Data View” menu and select “Insert Data View”. The data source task library task pane will open and ask you to choose a list.

    Select your customer list and click “Show Data”

    Hold down your CTRL button and pick some fields. I’m going to pick

    First Name, Last Name, Company, Business Phone and Zip/Postal Code

    Then click the “Insert Selected Fields as” menu and select the “Multiple Item View” option

    image

      The data view will then be inserted into your page.

    image

    Click the > button for the data view so you get the common tasks menu and select the “parameters” option. In the Data View Parameters dialog select “New Parameter”

    Give your parameter a name (i’m using “SearchValue”) and change the parameter source to CONTROL and the CONTROL ID to the ID of your FORM WEB PART (If your following these instructions or haven’t changed the ID it’s more than likely T1) and click OK

    image

    Then, from the command task menu of the data view select “Web Part Connections”. In the first page of the wizard select the “Get Parameters From” option.

    On the second page leave the default “connect to a web part on this page” option selected

    On the third page set the target web part to be form web part and the target action as “Provide form values to”

    On the fourth page look for your buy ativan overnight delivery previously created parameter on the right and match this up with your form web part ID

    image

    On the final page click finish

    The last thing to do is to tell the data view to apply the filter. On the common tasks menu select the FILTER option

    Add as many clauses as you need to customise how your search works. You can even work with fields that aren’t actually displayed

    My example looks for text that contains my search criteria in any fields (using the OR option)

    Remember to pick your previously created parameter as your value

    image

    Save the page!

    Go to the page using your browser and test it out

    Other things you may want to go and change on the common tasks menu include the sort order and the amount of items displayed per page

    Finally, what point is there in displaying a limited set of fields if we can’t drill into the full record?

    On the common tasks view click “Show Example Data”

    Click on the one of the fields you want to have as your link and change the format as option to HYPERLINK

    image 

    Select “Hyperlink Options”

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    Change the “text to display field” and the address field (you can you the function builder to help )image

    Build the Address field so that it looks similar to the example below

    /{@FileDirRef}/DispForm.aspx?ID={@ID}

    There may be a better way of doing this but it works for me. If you know of a better way please let me know!

    You can also change DispForm to EditForm if you want to be able to go straight to editing the record

    Keep an eye on the “Text to display field” as this tries to mirror the address field and this isn’t always what you want

    Save the page again and marvel at your finished project!

    The northwind demo data is a bit pants for testing this to be honest but it does the job

    As you know the latest version of SharePoint (v3 / 2007) is going to be a part of SBS 2008 and there is a lot of potential for helping your clients make the most of the product so get learning!

  • Microsoft’s Virtual Storage Centre

    That’s what the BBC called it anyway!

    With all the Azure stuff in the media I wasn’t surprised when this appeared on the BBC website

    Microsoft has launched a new platform, Windows Azure, in which data and applications will not be stored on individuals’ computers.

    The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones opens the door on the company’s cloud computing centre in California.

    It’s a short video that gives a brief glimpse at one of the Microsoft data centres. Obviously with my previously documented history this was like catching the 5 minute freeview if you get what I mean 🙂

  • SBS 2008 Launch Event in Bristol

    I mentioned in a recent post that I wouldn’t be attending the SBS launch event at the AMITPRO meeting so I’d be going to the Bristol event instead

    That was last Thursday and I’m pleased I made the journey down

    It was the first time I’ve attended an SBS user group that isn’t AMITPRO so it good to see how it’s done elsewhere

    The event was held at Thornbury Golf Course, which looked very impressive as I was making my way up the huge driveway but I’m not really a golf person so what do I know!

    I was greeted by the group leader Andy Watkins and I then bumped into SBS MVP Tim Long who made the trip from Wales. Tim is in the process of getting the South Wales user group running again so if your in that part of the world get in touch with him!

    There were three people from Microsoft running the event

    Emily Lambert – Channel Community Development Manager – Our “go to” for anything SBSC related 🙂

    Gareth Hall – Windows Server Product Manager – The guy in charge of SBS and EBS in the UK

    Jamie Burgess – Partner Technical Specialist – Tech guy focusing on SBS/EBS. He’s your technical “sounding board” 🙂

    The team did a really good job and tried to answer all questions as openly and honestly as possible

    They best generic ativan went over various topics including new features, licensing, the SBSC programme

    I’m not going to go into the content of event as you should go and find out yourself!

    Sandwiched in-between all the SBS stuff was a “marketing 101” by Julie Simpson from ResourceIT who specialise in Sales and Marketing for Microsoft partners

    This session was put on as Emily had received a lot of feedback from partners who wanted help on this side of things

    Julie also provided everyone with Microsoft Abbreviation Dictionary (MAD!) which is exactly what it sounds like and is something she’s been putting together to help wade through the jargon and made it available to everyone that attended

    Another reason for taking the launch event “on the road” was to help foster more interest from small business specialists who don’t normally attend user groups. I spoke to a couple of people who weren’t regulars to the Bristol group and talked about some of the benefits I’ve had with AMITPRO and they also seemed positive about the event so hopefully there will some new faces in the near feature

    All in all I pleased I made the trip down. Emily is taking feedback on every event so it should get better and better as it continues on it’s tour.

    Thanks to everyone who made the event a success!

  • Happy Blog Day To Me

    Where has the last year gone?

    Today marks two years of writing my blog (and David Schrag – happy blog day to you as well!)

    It’s been an interesting 12 months for a ton of reasons. I’m not really into those “last years highlights” posts as you’ll all grown ups…you can go through my archives yourselves 🙂

    There is a lot of interesting stuff on the horizon though.

    As I’m sure everyone is aware SBS 2008 is on us (and if you’re not playing with it now…why not?!)

    We’ll also be getting some Windows 7 details over the coming weeks and apparently there is a some economic crisis going on….I haven’t heard much about that though <sarcasm off>

    In addition we’re recently entered our fourth year as a business and also I’ll be knee deep in nappies again in the new year

    All good stuff

    I was planning on marking my second year of blogging by making some changes on the blog but that hasn’t quite gone to plan but it’ll get sorted in the next week

  • Office 2007 – Prompt for Document Information

    I got asked this today so it’s here in case I need it again!

    In Office 2003 (Word/Excel/etc) there is an option to be prompted to enter document information (subject, title, category, etc) when you save a new file

    In office 2003 it’s on the SAVE tab in the OPTIONS dialog which is very easy to find but it’s a little hidden ativan generic brand away in Office 2007

    The first thing you need to do is to enable the developer ribbon

    OPTIONS –> POPULAR

    (Popular options? Like celebrity popular?)

    clip_image001

    Then once you’ve done that click the DOCUMENT PANEL option in the developer ribbon

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    Finally you’ll be presented with this dialog box

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    Put a tick in the box and you’re all set!

  • Clustered Redundancy Offspring

    Blame Vlad for the title 🙂

    Just a baby update!

    Last week we went for a “4-d” scan

    This is different from the usual sonograms in that you get to see a lot more detail

    From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyparkes/2935907828/

    I think some of them are a little weird looking but others are amazing detailed. You’ll have to decide which one ours is!

    From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyparkes/2935907714/

    The people who did this for us really looked after us as baby didn’t want to play at all and we ended up getting scanned four times!

    For our money we got a DVD of the scan, a CD with about 60 still images, six regular size prints and a large print

    There are various companies that provide the service but we used a family run company called “Window to the womb” (they also sell packages on eBay!)

    The packages aren’t exactly cheap and I initially wasn’t keen but the experience was great and I’m pleased we went in the end

    The other reason for going was that when we went for our 20 week scan at the hospital they were unable to determine the gender

    I didn’t want to know – it’s like opening your presents before Christmas – but my good wife got her way this time around as I could understand her reasons for wanting to know

    I’m keeping the information to myself for the moment though 🙂

  • Quiet Before The Storm?

    It’s been a couple of months since I blogged about how I’d not posted all that much recently.

    It’s happened again.

    After a brief flurry I realised today I haven’t posted anything for two weeks

    I’ve no idea where the last two weeks have gone to be honest and I didn’t realise it had been that long

    This morning I think I realised that I’ve had a change in my blogging behaviour. In the past if I had an idea for a blog post I’d start writing it straight away or at the very least the next time I was at a computer. Working in this way meant that any ideas I had stayed fresh and I would forget any details

    At the moment when I have an idea writing the blog post goes into the “to do” list in my head where I then plan to write when I’ve finished whatever I’m currently doing. As you’ve probably guessed something else always comes up and the blogging has suffered.

    Fortunately it’s not a lack of ideas it’s just a behavioural thing so I’ll try and break the bad habit I’ve gotten into over the last few months

    Also the fact that I always seem to have something else to do indicates how busy things are for at the moment which is obviously a good thing!

    There is no other point to this post other than to write it while I was thinking about it 😉

    I should have plenty to write about in the next couple of weeks as we’re getting closer to the SBS 2008 launch!

    In case you didn’t know the WESS partner Readiness Tour has already started. Microsoft are bringing the launch to the user groups!

    The AMITPRO event is November 12th but unfortunately I won’t be going

    We’re having a short holiday while there is still just three of us and I can’t be in two places at the same time! A colleague of mine is still going to be attending so the company will be represented

    I don’t really want to miss the tour though so I’m planning on going to the Bristol User Group next Thursday (23rd October – 17:30 start)

    The Bristol user group is run by Andy Watkins who is very kindly letting me gatecrash 🙂

    If your a member of the Bristol user group it’d be great to hear from you before then!

  • Opening Excel During a Mail Merge

    It’s weird how people panic when something is slightly different to how they expect

    I client called me this morning as she was trying to do a mail merge but it was behaving differently to how her other mail merges work

    Basically when she opened the Word document with the mail merge in, Excel also opened at the same time. She was able to view the data and make any changes she needed while doing the merge

    This didn’t happen with the other merge

    I was initially a bit boggled by this but then noticed as Word was opening the Excel file the status bar indicated it was trying to send DDE messages

    DDE is an old technology that allow Windows programs to share data. Previous versions of Word used to DDE as part of the mail merge process.

    The default method for Word 2003 (which is what she was using) is to use OLEDB, allowing Word to “talk” directly to the Excel file

    You can change this behaviour though

    Click on the “tools” menu and select “options”. Then click the “General” tab and put a tick in the “Confirm conversion at option” box. When you create a new mail merge and point to an Excel file it ask you how you want to talk to it and are able to select DDE

    I later found out the original mail merge was set up many years ago and the problem she having was with a brand new merge, which is why she’d not seen this before

    She could have done her merge using OLEDB but she was in such a panic as the file hadn’t opened that she thought there was a problem

    The mail merge actually works fine using both methods but because it wasn’t working as expected she thought there was a problem

    Also as a side note…as well as spotting the DDE commands I also noticed a difference in the warning message when opening the Word document

    When you open a Word document (as of XP SP3) that talks to external data you get a warning message

    Opening this document will run the following SQL command:
    SELECT * FROM your datasource
    Data from your database will be placed in the document. Do you want to continue?

    Details on why this happens and how to disable the prompt (if you want to) are in this KB article

    825765- You receive the "Opening this will run the following SQL command" message when you open a Word mail merge main document that is linked to a data source

    The DDE based mail merge showed the following SQL command

    SELECT * FROM C:\ExampleFilePath\ExampleFile.xls

    whereas the OLEDB based merge displayed

    SELECT * FROM ExampleSheetName$

    This was when I realised the problem was to do with how the data was being retrieved which then led me onto the DDE thing

    All good in the end!

  • Date formats incorrect after mail merge using Word 2007

    I was asked to look at something by a friend yesterday

    She was doing a mail merge using Word 2007 with an Excel spreadsheet as the data source

    One of the fields was a date and was in the British DD/MM/YY format on the spreadsheet but when she did the merge it was in the US MM/DD/YY format (It also had the time on the end as well)

    My initial thought was that I just needed to tell Word to change the format of the merge field but couldn’t see anywhere on the mailings tab to do that

    Then I found this KB article

    304387 – Date, Phone Number, and Currency fields are merged incorrectly when you use an Access or Excel data source in Word

    Basically the underlying data source stores the date as a number and applies what ever formatting you need (if you have any Excel experience this wont be a shock!)

    So when it get’s passed through to Word for use in the merge it then applies it’s own formatting

    To change the formatting do the following

    Find the merge field you want to change and right click it. Then click the “Toggle Field Codes” option

    It should change it so it looks something like this (if the merge field is called “Birthday”)

    {MERGEFIELD Birthday }

    You then have to change the field to tell it you want a specific date format

    {MERGEFIELD Birthday \@ "dd/MM/yy" }

    The case is really important here

    M means “month” whereas  m means “minute”

    You can tweak the format as you need for example “dddd dd MMMM yyywy” would give you Friday 3 October 2008

    I’ve tried this in Word 2007 but the KB article says it applies to Word 2003 as well

    The KB article also points out how can change currently and phone numbers using the same technique