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SUGUK and SharePoint in April

Things are really gathering pace in the SharePoint arena this month, both generally and specifically here in the UK.  It was announced on the SharePoint Product Team blog their intent to RTM (Release to Manufacturing) SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 sometime this month before the May 12th launch date.

This week Microsoft is hosting Microsoft Tech Days United Kingdom 2010; a “week of free technology events for developers, IT professionals and IT managers”.  There promises to be plenty of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 coverage not to mention all the supporting technologies; Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008, a “Virtualization Summit”, Silverlight 4 and Visual Studio 2010.

In support of the UK Tech days 2010 week the SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) decided it would be a great idea to host a few cinema nights around the country.  I am hosting the evening at the Showcase Cinema in Reading where we’ll start with an informal discussion about all things 2010 whilst nibbling pizzas and dishing swag (generously donated by Microsoft) before settling down to watch Clash of the Titans (2010) and then finishing the evening in the George pub next door for SharePint or two.  Special thanks here have to go to Mark Macrea and Steve Smith whose dedication and support made these events happen.  It’s not too late to sign up for Reading so if you’re in the vicinity then register here and come along.

And talking of Steve Smith, he has again brought a collective of some of the worlds greatest authorities on SharePoint together for a three day conference in London next week.  The SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference will be happening between 19th and 21st April 2010 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre near Westminster in London.  There are no less than 6 tracks running on all 3 days;

  • IT Professionals
  • Developers & Designers
  • Information Worker, Business Strategy and Adoption (2 tracks)
  • Deep Dive – Level 400
  • Community – Tales from the trenches

There will also be lunchtime and evening partner sessions and over 90 sessions recorded for the post conference DVD that all attendees will receive.

Then before you know it, it will be May and we’ll all finally be able to get our hands on the real thing!

11th March London SUGUK meeting review

I had a nightmare day last Thursday!  I haven’t been feeling 100% for a few weeks now and I had a rearranged client meeting to attend that afternoon.  That went on way longer than advertised so I hit the rush hour traffic with all the kids leaving school and then I got stuck behind a road accident on top of all that!  I ended up abandoning my car somewhere in Sidcup and making a run for the station so eventually made it to Cardinal Place, Victoria just 15 before the meeting was scheduled to start.  Big thanks go to Ben Robb and Paul Hunt for making sure the pre meeting arrangements were in place and preparing to cover my absence.

Despite my antics the meeting went really well.  We had a great attendance again with 115 attendees and Ben’s first session on Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2010 went down really well.  There were some fantastic demos and great insights into how it all hangs together.

After half time pizzas and refreshments all very kindly laid on by Microsoft we had a Q&A session on Business Intelligence in SharePoint.  Mark Macrea very kindly came all the way down from Nottingham to join Ben out front to answer questions and they were also joined by a very nice and knowledgeable chap from the audience (whose name I have forgotten due to having the memory of an OAP goldfish!)

We finished the evening in the Duke of York opposite Victoria Station for a well earned SharePint.  I made mention of the upcoming UK Tech Days 2010 and SharePoint Evolutions events in my slides which I have uploaded here.

SUGUK meetings in March 2010

Following hot on the success of our January meetings the SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) have 4 meetings planned for March.  If you see a meeting you really like the sound of then make the effort to get along, support the speakers and meet fellow members with an interest in the product.  If you really can’t make it along on a particular evening then talk to me or one of the other regional coordinators and we’ll try our best to get the speakers along to a more local meeting.

Tuesday 9th March 2010 – Manchester

Net Monkeys have very kindly arranged the venue in the City Inn Hotel in Central Manchester. The location is very close to public transport links and there is an NCP car park very close for those who wish to drive in.

We are very happy to welcome Spencer Harbar who will be giving us a talk on Information Architecture in SharePoint, followed by Jamie McAllister who will be walking us through Multi-Lingual sites in SharePoint.

Please arrive at 6pm and we intend to run through until 9pm. As usual, we will finish off the evening by moving onto a local pub to carry on the SharePoint conversations.  Spaces are limited, so please sign up here to ensure your name is on the list.

Thursday 11th March 2010 – London

For the first session of the evening we welcome back Ben Robb (SharePoint MVP) to give us an overview of BI in SharePoint 2010.

After half time pizza and refreshments Ben will be joined by Mark Macrea for our second session answering your questions on BI in SharePoint.  Mark has presented on various applications of BI in SharePoint including integrated SQL Server Reporting Services and PerformancePoint.  If you have a question you would really like the panel to discuss then post it when you register for the event.

Sign up here leaving your FULL NAME and plan to arrive from 18:00 for a 18:30 sharp start. SharePint at a local watering hole from 21:00.

Thursday 18th March 2010 – Leicester

Our next Midlands meeting will be moving slightly south to an additional venue in Leicester at the Samworth Enterprise Academy.  A fitting venue for our theme for the evening “SharePoint in Education”.  SharePoint is a key player in education up and down the UK, and we are aiming to discuss various aspects of user adoption, implementation and development.

Alex Pearce MVP – 101 Questions before Implementing SharePoint into Education.  Questions that can be asked both from a technical and end user adoption point of view.  Have you got everything you need for your SharePoint or having trouble getting all your staff and students on board?  Maybe its just one of these questions and answers, that you need for your own school that will drive your adoption through the roof.

Arrive from 6pm for a 6.30pm sharp start
6.30pm – Session 1 [Alex Pearce]
7.30pm – Break for Snacks & Drinks
7.55pm – Session 2 [TBC]
8.30pm – Session 3 [TBC]

The final session will finish at approximately 9pm when we will be off to the pub for SharePint, and also trying out the local curry house for ShareCurry.  It promises to be a great evening for all those involved in SharePoint and/or Education. Please sign up here if you wish to attend!

Thursday 25th March – Southampton

Next meeting for the South region is at Southampton University.  Everyone welcome, especially newcomers, and attendance is free.  Agenda is as follows:

6:30pm Penny Coventry MVP – Best Practice for Designing and Deploying Workflow using SharePoint Designer 2007.  More often than not companies are never sure of the best method for building and using the workflow engine used by SharePoint. This session will briefly look at the out-of-the-box workflows using SharePoint Server 2007 and the browser and then look at using SharePoint Designer for building workflow solutions. Penny will discuss why this may or may not be the tool you need for your deployments pointing out the ease of use plus the limitations when trying to use SPD and solutions around these limitations.

7:30pm Ian Woodgate – SharePoint 2010 Records Management in 15 Minutes.  A quick tour of records management in 2010.

7:45pm Break

8:00pm Symon Garfield – Answering The Ultimate Question: What is SharePoint?  “What is SharePoint? This is still a question I get asked when out visiting customers… It’s kind of magical in a certain way. It’s a really special kind of product… It’s kinda like an operating system”, Steve Ballmer Microsoft CEO, SharePoint Conference 2009 Keynote speech.  Despite ten years in the market, one hundred million licenses sold, over one billion dollars of sales revenues, and four versions of the product people still ask the question, “What is SharePoint?”, and even those at the top of Microsoft struggle to provide a meaningful answer.  Answers range include; “An operating system”; “A business productivity infrastructure”; “A replacement for your file server”; “A web site with a database backend”; “A Collaboration platform”; “An Information Workplace Platform”; and, “A Horizontal Portal Product”.  This session explores why this basic question is so hard to answer, unravels some of the mystifying answers given, and explains why you should care!

8:45pm New Speaker Slot – Go on give it a go! This is your chance to tell us what you have been doing with SharePoint. Don’t worry you don’t need to be a SharePoint guru – contributions with a business or user angle are very welcome and of interest to all!

9:00pm SharePint!  We’re in a university, there are loads of pubs around, it would be rude not to…

Sign up for the Southampton meeting here.

SUGUK meetings for January 2010

The early signs are good that the new regional organisational structure of the SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) is working in terms of getting more members involved in regular meetings.

This month there are four meetings confirmed:

Thursday 14th January 2010 – Nottingham

The next Nottingham event will be a Designer/Branding special! Penny Coventry will be joining us to do a SharePoint Designer 2007/2010 session, covering what’s possible in 07, and what’s new in 2010!!  We will then have some ‘tales from the trenches’ where a few individuals will be showing off their real project examples of SharePoint branding/theming with discussion around what’s possible, and the trials and tribulations along the way!

The usual fayre of pizzas, drinks and of course SharePint in the Broad Oak pub, Strelley Village.  Everyone welcome, whatever your background or experience. For further details and sign up, check out the meeting post.

Wednesday 27th January 2010 – Bristol

The south user group will be meeting in Bristol at 6:30pm on 27th Jan 2010.  HP Labs have kindly allowed us to use their auditorium and are going to be providing pizzas! To attend please post a response to the meeting post giving names of attendees by Monday 25th January.  Directions to the venue can be found here, and there is plenty of free parking.

The agenda is below and there is still a 15 minute "new speaker" slot available so if you would like to take this please get in touch with Ian Woodgate – this is a great chance for you to tell us all about some cool stuff you have been doing in SharePoint!

6:30pm Welcome

6:40 – 7:20pm Andy Ginn: An overview of HP white papers and tools organisations can use when adopting SharePoint Andy introduces some useful tools for sizing and configuration of SharePoint environments, and reviews research from HP labs looking at the performance of SharePoint on Windows Server 2003/SQL Server 2005 versus Windows Server 2008/SQL Server 2008 – come along and see if the results are as you would expect! Best practice guidance on the use of virtualised solutions is also reviewed.

7:20 – 7:35pm New Speaker Slot

Contact Ian Woodgate if you’re interested!

7:35 – 8pm Break, pizzas

8 – 9pm Mark Macrae: Utilising SQL Reporting Services in Integrated Mode for SharePoint and Empowering Information Managers with Report Builder In this session Mark will be focussing on Reporting Services – a ‘free’ but often forgotten Business Intelligence tool which has much improved with SQL 2008. Mark will discuss the steps required to install and configure SSRS in SharePoint Integrated Mode, complete with the much improved Report Builder 2.0. He will then demonstrate how Report Builder can be used by Power Users to quickly build reports, manage and version them in SharePoint, approve and publish to an audience. Finally, Mark will examine the improvements which SharePoint 2010, SQL 2008 R2 and Report Builder 3 will offer when they are released.

Thursday 28th January 2010 – Newcastle

We kick off the new year with a very informative session from Steve Smith MVP on some of the new highlights and features of SharePoint 2010, co-hosted by John Timney. Steve will add his own insight to a well balanced presentation on the replacement for the product we have all come to know, specifically highlighting the new metadata management model and the new records management and records routing features of 2010, the Ribbon, Office integration, migration options, architecture and new facets of the product likely to keep you employed well into the next few years. The session will be an open forum to allow participants to ask questions as the session progresses

Everyone welcome, whatever your background or experience. For further details and sign up, check out the meeting post.

Thursday 28th January 2010 – London

Kicking off the new year with a meeting hosted by Microsoft at their Cardinal Place, Victoria offices.

Session 1 – An Introduction to SharePoint Designer 2010: Top Ten Great Things to Know – Ben Robb (SharePoint MVP)

SharePoint Designer 2010 is the tool to design powerful no-code solutions and applications in SharePoint 2010. In this session get a broad overview of some of the new capabilities of the tool, from site customisations such as modifying Site Metadata, managing Site Security, or creating Site Content, to building List or Site-based Workflows and connecting to a variety of Data Sources.

Session 2 – Ask the Experts: How and Why Should I Migrate to 2010?

The early signs are that Microsoft have put even more thought and planning into migrating and upgrading to SharePoint 2010 but the reality is it’s an enterprise level platform and a non-trivial undertaking. So what are the benefits to the business? Why would you upgrade (or why wouldn’t you)? What can you be doing now to minimise the impact? We have assembled a panel of technical and non-technical SharePoint experts who have all had good exposure to the beta products and are all looking forward to discussing and debating your questions.

Microsoft will very kindly be providing refreshments and half time pizza.  For further details and to sign up check out the meeting post. Plan to arrive from 18:00 for a 18:30 sharp start and SharePint at a local watering hole from 21:00.

I’m planning to get along to 3 of these events so if you can make it along to one or more then why not show your support, learn something new and even go for SharePint.  See you there.

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Search index configuration for FBA MOSS

I am working with a client on a public facing internet site that includes a public area for unauthenticated users and a ‘members’ area for which there is already a bespoke SQL database holding all members’ credentials (including clear text passwords!)  Given the tight timeframe and the amount of bespoke development required for other areas of the site I decided that it would be best to use the standard .NET Framework forms based authentication (FBA).  The site owners manually process new member applications and maintain the existing database so we will create an additional administration screen to maintain the FBA database via SharePoint.  The site owners would use Windows authentication (NTLM) via an ’’ URL and members will use FBA via an ’’ URL.

The requirement

At least two document libraries will be included in the members area of the site but they will not be directly exposed to members.  Instead, each library will have a dedicated page on the site where members can browse through all the documents in the library or submit a basic search.  The documents will be displayed in a formatted table (grid) for both browsing and search results.

The solution

As the CSS formatting of the page was so bespoke I decided that my starting point would be a clone of a WCM page from elsewhere on the site to which I would add an ASP.NET GridView control.  When a user first visits the page it displays all the documents in the related document library by binding the grid (called searchResultsTable) to an SPDataSource object that has had the List property set to reference the document library.

bind to SPDataSource

figure 1 – binding to an SPDataSource

That was the easy part.  To perform the search I added a text box and an image button as per the following screen shot.

formatted results page

figure 2 – formatted results with paging

When the user submits a search the grid is bound to the results of an SPQuery that has been loaded into a DataTable.  The important thing to note here is that the AuthenticationType property of the SPQuery object must be correctly set depending on whether the user is NTLM or FBA authenticated as per the highlighted section in the code below.

SPQuery code

figure 3 – binding to an SPQuery filled DataTable

The problem

Before any of this will work the search indexer has to be configured to index the FBA version of the site.  The NTML site is automatically included in the default search content source (typically named ‘Local Office SharePoint Server sites’) and therefore any documents stored anywhere in the site are automatically indexed.  However, FBA authenticated users trying to search the site don’t see anything in that index as they are accessing the site through a separate URL.  I therefore added a search content source that I dedicated to indexing the site via the FBA URL.

FBA content source

figure 4 – adding a dedicated FBA search content source

As per the code in figure 3 the query passed into the SPQuery object via the QueryText property specifies the name of the search scope to be queried similar to this (where x, y, z are the fields to return and scope_name is the name of the search scope);

SELECT x, y, z FROM Scope() WHERE "scope"=’scope_name’

I therefore needed to set up a search scope for the document library but ensure it worked from both the NTLM and FBA sites.

NTLM & FBA search scope

figure 5 – document library search scope for NTLM & FBA

The final piece of the puzzle is ensuring that the search indexer has access to the FBA site.  As per the following screen shot, on a standard SharePoint Shared Service Provider the default content access account (used for indexing site content) is an NTLM account.


figure 6 – default content access account

Therefore the default content access account cannot create an index that FBA users can query.  I tried to add a crawl rule that would use a specific FBA account to crawl the FBA site.

add crawl rule 

figure 7 – add a crawl rule

The FBA site is currently using the default SharePoint FBA log in page which unauthenticated users are automatically redirected to when they first attempt to access an area of the site that requires authentication.  I entered the URL of the log in page ( in the Form URL field (under the Specify Authentication section) but when I clicked the Enter Credentials button I got a 403 error.

Enter Credentials 403 error

figure 8 – 403 error when entering FBA credentials

I noticed that every time a user is redirected to the log in page a ‘ReturnUrl’ query string is appended to the URL something like this:

When I used this extended URL on the Add Crawl Rule page and and clicked the Enter Credentials button the site log in page was correctly displayed.  I entered the credentials of the FBA search content access account and was redirected to the default FBA site page.  The following dialog popped up asking if the log in had succeeded.


figure 9 – successful log in with FBA credentials

After clicking OK I was returned to the Add Crawl Rule page and a message (highlighted below) indicated that the credentials had been accepted.

apparently correct

figure 10 – apparently correct FBA credentials

However, when I clicked OK I got an error telling me the credentials had either not been entered or had not been accepted?!

credentials not accepted!

figure 11 – credentials not accepted?!


This got very frustrating.  I couldn’t find anything useful in my excellent reference book Inside the Index and Search Engines: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 because it is nearly 2 years old and there have been some significant advances since then such as the infrastructure updates.  Just like my book, the most relevant information I got from searches was about using the addrule.exe command line tool which didn’t seem right for an installation up-to-date with service packs and hotfixes. 

The fix

One blog post I found explaining how to add a crawl rule caught my attention because of the log in page URL that was specified.  It was similar to the URL I had used but the ‘ReturnUrl’ query string parameter was notably shorter (just ‘%2f’) so I tried creating the crawl rule again using the shortened URL:

This time everything worked and the crawl rule was successfully added!

crawl rule added

figure 12 – crawl rule added

With the crawl rule in place the indexer had FBA credentials and details of the log in page but the FBA account still needs to be given permission to read all the content in the FBA site.  This is accomplished in exactly the same way that the default access account is granted rights to browse an entire (NTLM) site, by means of a policy.  From the Application tab in Central Administration click on the Policy for Web application link.


figure 13 – Policy for Web application

On the Policy for Web application page click the Add Users button and ensure that the appropriate Web Application is selected.  Select the zone that the FBA site is running under then click the Next button.  Then enter the FBA user account and check the “Full Read – Has full read-only access” check box before clicking the Finish button.

And finally I could run a full crawl against the FBA site content source…

start a full crawl

figure 14 – start a full crawl of the FBA site

… and watch the index grow!

finally an FBA index!

figure 15 – finally the FBA site is indexed!

VSeWSS v1.3 and source control revisited

Back in May I blogged about my experiences of using the latest version of the Visual Studio extensions for Windows SharePoint Services (VSeWSS).  Having had confirmation from Paul Andrew that there would be a supported upgrade path for solutions developed using the extensions to Visual Studio 2010 I have exclusively used them on all projects for all my clients since.

Like most other developers in the SharePoint space I am really looking forward to building solutions using Visual Studio 2010 with all the built in support for SharePoint.  However, that is exclusively for SharePoint 2010 onwards with no support for previous versions so it won’t aid my current projects and clients right now.  There haven’t been any updates since my blog post in May and despite talk about possible and desired updates I’m not sure this is where the focus will be now.

All that said, having developed exclusively with the extensions for over 6 months now I am happy to report that I only have one real issue which is to do with usability.  As per my previous post the recommended approach is to include the ‘pkg’ subfolder in your Visual Studio project and therefore source control and also the WSP and .bat files created in the output (bin) folder.  Visual Studio will fail with an error if  the WSP and .bat files are not checked out for edit when you attempt to deploy your solution which could be a real pain in team development and/or continual/automated build environments.  Also, the feature.xml file in the ‘pkg’ subfolder will be automatically checked out during the deploy process even though no changes will be made which is inconvenient at best but could also be a real issue if someone else in the team has it checked out.

I’ve also experienced an intermittent and inconsistent (major) issue with Site Definition solutions where the ‘pkg’ subfolder is included in source control.  Even with the entire solution checked out for edit, during the deployment process the ElementManifest node in the feature.xml file gets duplicated causing the deployment to fail and the solution to become corrupted.  When this happens I have found that excluding the ‘pkg’ subfolder from the Visual Studio solution and therefore source control is the only way to recover.

So overall, my goal of finding a simplified and consistent supported means of developing and deploying SharePoint solutions hasn’t quite been achieved.  My overriding requirement is for developers who are not necessarily fully aware of how SharePoint works to be able to understand and maintain the solutions.  I wonder though if that will always be a compromise even with the more advanced integration of SharePoint support into Visual Studio 2010?

SUGUK November meeting review

Last night was the first SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) meeting that I have taken responsibility for organising since taking on the role of a regional organiser.  We had a great  turnout of over 100 members and I was very well supported by several SharePoint friends including former organiser and group co-founder Nick Swan, Paul Hunt, Simon Doy and Chris Forbes (Scotland organiser) to name but a few. 

If the standard of presenters and presentations remains as high as last night then my job is going to be a breeze!  First up we had Martin Hatch from Content and Code presenting on building an accessible SharePoint system.  Now I know Martin from a mutual client we had a few years ago so I know that technically the guy is pretty sharp.  What we saw last night is that Martin has a very confident and engaging manner with the audience because he knows his subject inside out and backwards.  What I liked most about the presentation was that although the subject matter was accessibility (I learned a lot about that I never new!) all the techniques were demonstrated to be applicable for more general application which I wasn’t expecting.  (The slides and demo files from Martin’s presentation are all downloadable from his blog post).

Our second speaker was Chris O’Brien, independent SharePoint consultant.  Chris is a very relaxed and accomplished speaker and he gave us an excellent tour of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) enhancements in SharePoint 2010 demonstrating some Visual Studio 2010 enhancements for good measure.  Special thanks should go to Chris as he is a father of 8 week old twin boys and is preparing for best man duties this coming Saturday all on top of his normal hectic schedule!

Chris was one of several SharePoint MVPs in attendance and clearly from the questions and discussions during the evening there was a lot of experience in the room.  In all a great evening and even a quick SharePint in the local pub afterwards!

PCG at the Houses of Parliament

Today was National Freelancers Day and I was fortunate enough to be invited to a reception held at the Houses of Parliament.  I have never been before and so arrived an hour early in order to have as much of a poke around as I could.  It truly is an incredible place steeped in history and I could have easily spent 2 hours or more perusing the paintings and architecture on display.

The reception itself was enlightening, interesting and enjoyable and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with the Chairman of the Professional Contractors Group, Chris Bryce.  Chris is a contractor of some 17 years and is articulate, well reasoned and very passionate about getting a better deal from the UK Government for freelance and contract workers.

MPs from all three of the main political parties addressed the reception and I was genuinely impressed with all of them.  It’s reassuring to hear that there is an agenda within all the major parties and the shortcomings and inadequacies of the current legislation (such as IR35) are at least acknowledged.

So in all a useful and very memorable day indeed for me.

November SharePoint User Group meeting in London

As per my previous post I am now more involved with the SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) helping to organise meetings in London and the South East.  I am pleased to confirm that the first meeting under my watch is on Wednesday 25th November hosted by Microsoft at their offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, London.

We have two great speakers, both of whom I know personally and the session details are as follows;

Session 1 – Developing an Accessible SharePoint System – Martin Hatch

  • What is accessibility?
  • Presenting “SAS”: our unique SharePoint Accessibility Solution presenting the functionality that is delivered by the platform.
  • Challenges and major hurdles
  • Technical approach
    • AAA XHTML rendering
    • Accessible Content Management
    • Web Part Editing
    • List views, toolbars and menus
    • Back-end administration Roadmap
  • Questions

Session 2 – ECM Enhancements in SharePoint 2010 – Chris O’Brien

Enterprise Content Management is SharePoint’s bedrock. The 2010 release adds significant new capabilities in all ECM pillars (Document Management, Web Content Management and Records Management), and Microsoft have addressed some of the top ECM pain points reported by clients in SharePoint 2007. This session looks at the improvements in user experience, scalability and taxonomy, with demos showing how to leverage new features such as Enterprise Content Types, the Managed Metadata field and Content Organizer to better manage your documents and/or pages. Specific enhancements in WCM and RM will also be discussed. This session is a great way to kick-start your awareness of SharePoint 2010, and questions on other aspects of the new version are welcome in the Q & A wrap-up at the end (or the pub!)

For more details and to sign up check out the post on the user group site.

Formula 1 in 2010

Next year sees some significant changes in Formula 1 with the introduction of a cap on spending for each team for the first time ever.  In theory this will mean a far more even playing field and this has attracted several new teams.

I’m an infrequent race goer for many reasons; it’s expensive and time consuming and I’m lazy!  However next year I have been invited to the Belgian Grand Prix by my good friend Steve and his family (who live near Brussels) and I am arranging a trip for a small group of friends to the Italian Grand Prix.

As I am acting tour operator for the Monza event I have been digging around for good information.  So far I have found plenty of ticket touts but this site had some great information including the all important travel to and from the circuit.

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