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  • ‘SharePoint as a Help Desk’ On Tour–Manchester

    I may have mentioned once or twice over the last couple of weeks I’d been invited to the Manchester SBSC group to deliver the presentation I gave at AMITPRO a few months ago.

    So last Thursday I made the trip up to Manchester and as I’ve done every time I’ve presented to a user group I thought it’d critique myself again (in the interests of self improvement of course!)

    But before that the rest of the event.

    First I’d like to thank Simon Belt for organising the event and for very kindly hanging around for a couple of beers afterwards.

    Next, thanks to the group members for their kind welcome and for not heckling. Smile

    Finally the other speaker of the night, Gary Duffield of QA. Garry attended WPC this year and gave a great presentation which summarised the key points that came out of the event and where Microsoft and their partners are heading in the near future. The session was very much discussion based and it was great to see that interactivity and gave everyone some good ideas to think about.

    Garry also has a blog you can check out.

    So onto my presentation.

    On the whole I was pretty happy. I’ve had some nice follow up comments which I always appreciate.

    What did I think though?

    Preparation

    I mentioned in my previous review that I’d used OneNote to put together an outline to work against and I was pleased with how it helped me last time. Because of the way i put it together it made the presentation much easier to pick up and and repeat (it’s the first time I’ve ever done a talk twice!). That said the first time around I created the presentation and then delivered it shortly after I’d finished it so it meant I knew everything inside out. While I had gone back through my notes when preparing I didn’t quite know it in the same way as first time around. Luckily the notes helped so while I did forget to do a couple of things it was very easy to pick that up.

    As a result I actually didn’t build-up the application as much as last time. I did do enough to get my point across though even if I did race through a lot of it. I don’t think there is a lot I can do about this other make sure I’ve got enough time as possible and know the steps as well as I can. Building a fully working SharePoint application and explaining everything along the way in a hour is an ambitious thing to do but worth racing through if it gets people thinking about how they could do it.

    Speed

    When I gave this presentation for AMITPRO I didn’t use a slide deck (it wasn’t actually intentional) this time since very few people in the room knew me I started with the slides to introduce myself. There weren’t many slides but because of how much content there is in the demo to get through it stole a bit of my time. I’ll bear it in mind next time if it’s a packed agenda and maybe go back to the PowerPoint free presentation Guy praised me for last time.

    Demo

    I know a good workman shouldn’t blame his tools but I’m going to anyway. My laptop is a couple of years old now. It’s got an Intel mobile chip (so no virtualisation extensions!) with 3GB of RAM. While it just about ran the two virtual machines I used it very obviously struggled at times and it slowed the presentation quite a bit which wasn’t helpful when I had so much to get through. When I purchased the laptop I never really expected to be using it for running virtual machines for demoing SharePoint to a user group. Times have moved on though and user group presentations aside, the ability to run virtual machines on the go has lots of other benefits. I’m not planning on rushing out and getting a new laptop but when my next hardware refresh comes around I’ll be able to factor it in.

     

    Not too much to complain about on the whole!

    It was also good to see how another user group runs. Other than AMITPRO the only other time I’d been to another group was when I visited the Bristol group for the SBS 2008 launch. That was a slightly different format because of the SBS launch so I’m counting this as my first time!

    Thanks again for to everyone who attended the meeting. Would be great to hear any comments you have!

  • Sorry Bill Thompson, I think you’re wrong

    Just came across an article on the BBC News site by Bill Thompson called “Learning to love computer codes”

    The article talks about how Bill read through the recently released source code to MacPaint Apple donated to the Computer History Museum.

    Bill then goes on to talk about how he thinks everyone who uses technology should have a basic understanding of the nuts and bolts that make up an application or operating system.

    He talks about how his partners daughter is learning Latin to help with her fascintation with acient Rome and Greece and that the same applies to programming.

    My partner’s daughter is currently learning Latin because she is fascinated by the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome and realises that unless she understands the language used at the time she will always be forced to see their world through the filter of another person’s understanding, because everything she reads will be in translation.

    If she knows the language herself then she will at least have removed one of the layers between her and Suetonius.

    I believe that the same is true of programming, and that buy ativan canada anyone using computer technology should have at least a basic understanding of what software looks like and how the lines of code in Pascal or BASIC or C control the operation of your laptop, mobile phone or pacemaker.

    It’s a nice sentiment but one that I think is way off. Yes, learning Latin will help when studying history but the same principle doesn’t apply when it comes to using technology.

    Should I learn how the internal combustion engine works so I can drive my car?

    or know that sound waves are converted into electricity to use a telephone?

    People don’t need to know any of these things, they just want to make use of them.

    Surely the whole point of mass adoption of technology is that it’s easy for the layman to use?

    It’s a nice sentiment and it would be really great (and would make my job easier!) if people had a basic understanding of the technology they use but on a practical basis it’ll never happen because they don’t need to.

  • Manchester User Group–Thursday 19th

    Just a quick reminder! I’m speaking at the Manchester SBSC group tomorrow night (19th).

    I’ll be going through the “SharePoint as a Help Desk” presentation I did at AMITPRO a few months ago

    The meeting is at 18:30 at QA’s training facilities on the 3rd Floor, Westminster House, Minshull Street, off Portland Street, Manchester M1 3HU

    I’ll be staying overnight so if anyone wants to put the world to rights afterwards (or just talk geek!) let me know!

  • Creating an Activity Log with SharePoint

    I was reminded of an old Notepad trick on LifeHacker yesterday.

    Basically if you create a new text file, add .LOG as your first line and then save the file, every time you open it after that the date and time is automatically added for you.

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    LifeHacker then suggest you can use this as an activity log to help keep you focused on productivity. At the end of the day you can take a look and see what you’ve done with your time!

    It also suggested that you added a shortcut to your taskbar so you can get to the log really quickly.

    I’m all for improving productivity but decided I could improve on this a little so created something similar in SharePoint.

    On our companyweb site I also have my own site that I use for testing things out and keeping track of information specific to myself (http://companyweb/andy) so this seemed the perfect place for it.

    First thing was to create a new custom list called “Daily Activity Log”

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    Adding it to the quick launch bar means I can get at it quickly while on my site.

    One new list!
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    Next I created a new standard view

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    From here I made my new view the default view, displayed only the "Created” and “Title” fields (in that order) and set the sort order to “Created" and Descending (newest on top)

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    Scrolling down the page I set the filter options to only show the entries for today.

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    After that I clicked the NEW button to display a form so I could fill out an activity entry.

    You could also rename the “Title” field to something more useful but I haven’t here as this post will be long enough!

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    TADA!

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    I now have a complete list of entries from today and the “created” field gives us the same timestamp effect we had in notepad.

    To mirror the LifeHacker suggestion I then created a new shortcut on my desktop.

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    The target is:

    "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" http://companyweb/andy/Lists/Daily%20Activity%20Log/NewForm.aspx

    (This path will be different if using the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer on a 64-bit operating system)

    You can get the URL by clicking the NEW button and copying the URL from the address bar.

    I also changed the icon to make sure it looked different to the main buy ativan online legally Internet Explorer icon!

    I needed to create the shortcut to Internet Explorer as you can’t pin internet shortcuts to the taskbar – Windows tries to pin them directly to Internet Explorer instead.

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    Once pinned to my taskbar I now have one click access to creating a new activity entry.

    To improve on this some more I created another view. Instead of using a new standard view I used my previous view as a base.

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    I set the name to “Entry History” and scrolled down to the “group by” options and grouped by the “Created” column and set it to a descending sort (newest on top) with a 30 groups per page which effectively gives us months worth of history at a time.

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    I left the default grouping at “collapsed” but this is just my preference.

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    I only created this today so only have one groups worth of information.

    All done!

    This means I’ve got a tracking system for my daily activities where I can easily add entries, view what I’ve achieved today as well as go back and look at previous days.

    There are plenty of ways to improve on this further. Some examples that spring to mind.

    • You could add a category field if you wanted to track types of activity. You could then create views and filters around these. (You may want to see how many times you made a phone call during a day for example)
    • You could add a “minutes spent” field and have SharePoint total up this field. This would let you know how many minutes of productivity you’re getting out of your day.
    • You could share the list with a team of people and use the “created by” field to group and filter on usernames so you can see what each person is getting up to
    • If you had personal site like I do you could drop the list onto the web part page so the current list is always displayed – dashboard style!

    Just a couple there. The whole idea is that it’s quick and easy to use so you wouldn’t want to customise it too much.

    Possibly a little overkill when compared to the simplicity of the notepad based solution but once this is setup it’s done and your old data is very nicely tidied away but you still get easy access to it.

  • Book Review–Daemon

    Daemon cover

    I’ve got out the blogging habit! Not an intentional thing but something that annoys me when it does.

    I finished reading a book this week and enjoyed it so much I thought I’d give it a mention.

    I actually picked the book up in March. I was in a book shop and the cover and title grabbed my attention (Look at it! It’s screaming “buy me you geek!”)

    I got it home, read a couple of chapters and didn’t go back to it until the weekend just passed.

    I wish I hadn’t left it so long! It really drew me in. I was reading it in bed earlier in the week and totally lost track of time and before I knew it I’d been reading for four hours! It did mean I got through most of it though 🙂

    I’ve mentioned on the blog a couple of times in the past that I’ve got a very specific taste in fiction which makes it really hard to find anything as there isn’t really a genre that fits it. “Techno-Thriller” is what they seem to get labelled under but they rarely have their own section in book stores. Amazon had this one down as “Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers” and “Fiction > Adventure Stories & Action”

    So the plot,

    Here is the description from the back of the book

    Matthew Sobel is dead, but his final creation survives.
    A man is found brutally murdered – and the only possible perpetrator happens to be dead. As more killings follow, it becomes clear that mass carnage is being planned and organised from beyond the grave.
    The Daemon is seemingly unstoppable, and murder is the least of its capabilities.
    A lethal program designed by a twisted genius, the Daemon inhabits the systems on which an increasingly interconnected society depends. In a world where everyone and everything is online, nothing is out of its reach.
    Just don’t turn on that computer…

    Without giving away too many spoilers, buy ativan online cheap imagine if a program (or series of programs) were created with criminal intent to make use of the Internet to fulfil it’s goal? This could mean anything from making use of government databases such as automatic number plate recognition services and social security details to simply the ability to scare someone by controlling light switches!

    Or to put it another way, if you’ve played any modern computer game you’ve seen how clever and involved the virtual worlds they create are. What if the game engine ran on the Internet and the game world it controlled was actually the physical world?

    What is really frightening about the book is that most of the concepts aren’t entirely based in fiction. While some of the technology is what you’d call “bleeding edge” it all feels entirely plausible.

    This is in part down to the author “Daniel Suarez” who when not writing books is actually systems consultant so knows his tech!

    Another interesting thing about the book is where it came from. Having written the book Daniel struggled to get a publisher to entertain it (as I imagine happens hundreds of times a week across the world!).

    Convinced he had a product people would buy he got it in front of bloggers who write about topics that are in the book who wrote posts about the book. He created his own publishing company and used a print-on-demand service to create the books!(full details in an article on Wired)

    As I said above it really drew me and the only disappointing thing was when it finished!

    This is mainly because the book is a two-parter so the story didn’t get wrapped up (the second book is called Freedom tm). The bonus is I’ll have a whole other book to read 🙂

    Neither books are particularly expensive so I recommend any self respecting geek has a look!

    The book also has a supporting website (TheDaemon.com) which also has links to more reviews as well as some information about the technology behind the book (Hypersonic Sound Systems look very cool, especially with how they are used in the book) and a couple of sample chapters from both books.