Thursday, October 28, 2004

Musings about InfoPath

I presented some workshops around SharePoint technologies the last couple of months and one of the things that I always include is a quick overview and some demos of InfoPath . It seems that this is still one of Microsofts best kept secrets - both developers and IT decision makers seem to have little or no knowledge about this tool. For those of you who haven't heard about it, InfoPath is a tool for designing electronic forms and the coolest thing is that underlying it uses nothing but XML.

I demo it in SharePoint workshops because of the excellent way it integrates with SharePoint through form libraries but you can also use it without SharePoint. Mostly I start off with the Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 HL7 CDA Demo. It is easy and understandable, just as a demo should be.
One of the major downsides of this product is however that every user needs a complete installed version. I think it would be much more popular if there would be a developer edition (to actually create the forms) and a freely distributable runtime for users who only use InfoPath to fill out forms. The InfoPath Viewer application that Mark Bower created is a good start but it is not enough especially because InfoPath is not standard available in all Office 2003 versions, only in the Professional Enterprise version.

Yesterday I saw another Technet presentation - this time about InfoPath and SharePoint, the presentation was done by Jelle Druyts and Yves Kerwyn. Microsoft positions InfoPath as "The smart client for webservices". Well it seems that it is still lacking some features to be a really smart client. The first missing feature is support for different devices - there's for example no InfoPath for Pocket PC. The other feature is missing Offline support. Microsoft says that InfoPath supports offline scenarios through the use of Outlook outbox but this is not really an ideal scenario. Jelle Druyts presented a solution for supporting offline usage by showing us some code. I can't wait until we can download this code, must be very interesting.

Interesting links:

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Microsofts development process

I really liked the Scott Guthrie's post about the ASP.Net development process, mostly because writing software still seems like a chaotic endeavour to me. I have been writing software for about 5 years now and I have read a lot about software engineering methodologies such as Extreme Programming, RUP (Rational Unified Process) and more general project management methodologies such as Prince2. But in the end it is still the code that matters and articles like this definitely illustrate this fact. On Benjaminm's blog there is also a nice followup article about it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Customizing SharePoint

I saw a MSDN evening session in june 2004 on SharePoint customization from Patrick Tisseghem but only found the time to
start playing around with Frontpage and SharePoint today,... well better late than never. It seems that there are a lot of things you have to think about when doing SharePoint customization, luckily I found a lot of information on the Internet.

In the meantime I have messed up my SharePoint VPC image so much that I think I need a rollback,... well at least it has been fun....

Sunday, October 24, 2004

SharePoint integration scenarios with SAP

There exist a number of different integration scenarios for SAP, the scenario which you should choose depends on the level of integration, we can divide these integration options in 4 broad categories:

  • Web capture : with the page viewer webpart and the webcapture webpart (not standard installed but can be downloaded as part of the Office 2003 webparts), SharePoint can display information of LOB (Line of Business) applications such as SAP, if these applications have a webinterface. The most important limitation of this scenario is the limited level of interactivity.

  • Point to Point connection : through the SAP .Net connector - available for SAP systems starting from release 4.0B so for all SAP R/3 systems as well as the SAP Web Application Server - it is the point to create a direct connection to SAP. This is however not always feasible nor desirable from a security standpoint.

  • Data cache : by creating a datawarehouse which centralises all information for different LOB systems when can create a more secure and scalable solution than the direct connection. However all data has to be replicated and this scenario is perhaps best suitable for readonly access.

  • Application/Integration server : through the Biztalk SAP adapter it is possible to exchange data with SAP.

Mid august Microsoft released through their “shared source” program a couple of new “enabling technologies” which can help in realising some of the scenarios described. These are the WSRP Web Part Toolkit for SharePoint (WSRP =Web Services for Remote Portlets) and the SAP iViews Web Part Toolkit. These toolkits enable sytem integrators to create a customer specific solution based on the toolkit framework.The iView webpart makes it possible to display information from SAP directly into SharePoint The WSRP toolkit is directed towards providing SharePoint functionality through an enhanced webservices layer to 3d party LOB applications.

Lately Microsoft seems to be putting a lot more effort into integration with the SAP platform, a lot of documentation you can find on their joint website,

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Uninstalled Google Desktop

It seems that I'm not the only one who uninstalled Google Desktop. I uninstalled because it caused some problems with Outlook and SharePoint Portal Server. In SPS 2003 you can manage users of a website by clicking "Import fom address book". If you have Google Desktop installed it locks your Outlook 2003 address book so the screen totally freezes after selecting the user you wanted to add to your site.

Monday, October 18, 2004

How google challenges the desktop

The first comments about how big a challenge Google Desktop will be for Microsoft are already appearing.By creating a suite of strongly web focused products - Blogger, Picasa, GMail and now Google Desktop, Google is indeed shifting the focus away of the OS - still a Microsoft stronghold - to the web. ....

A clear explanation about it is found on Microsoft Monitor, read the full article at Google Desktop Search and Microsoft. Some other interesting ideas are described in a blog posting of Patrick, Google Desktop - What next?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

No more free .Net hosting

It seems that my free .Net hosting account at webmatrixhosting has disappeared. You can always create a new account but it will only remain active for 30 days. This was my last don't free ASP.Net hosting account. Too bad, I will probably have to pay for it, currently I'm considering Dotnetcentral, Webhost4life and ActiveSpace. Anyone else some other ideas, feel free to comment...
Whow, way cool C# will also have Edit and Continue .... Check it out Announcing: C# Edit and Continue support for Visual Studio 2005 . Well it seems that not everybody is very happy about it
C# Gets Edit-And-Continue? BOOOO!!!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Paintings added to JOPX paints

I uploaded some more paintings of mine to JOPX paints this week,... Go check it out

Google desktop

Today I installed Google Desktop. Google desktop provides the same search for data on your PC as it does for the web. The searches are really fast. It also indexes your Outlook PST files so I think I'm going to uninstall Lookout.

Some other blogger who seem to have discovered this awesome tool,Jay Nathan, Lamont, Bryant Likes, Chris Meirick, Computer Zen, LongHornBlogs and Cyrus. All raving reviews...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Howto disable SPS OnLine gallery

I'm quite frequently doing demos of SPS2003 with virtual PC on a portable which is not connected to the network. Now if I tried to add a webpart with "Modify Shared Page\Add webpart\Browse..." it always took for ages. It seems that if you disable the Online Gallery, things will speed up significantly. To do this, go to "SharePoint Central Administration" > Configure virtual server settings > Manage security settings for Web Part Pages... In the Online Web Part Gallery section, click disabled to prevent access to the gallery.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Office on the move ...

Apparently Microsoft is planning some changes in their positioning of Office, a couple of days ago this article about InfoPath Server was published. Yesterday this article with more details about the direction Microsoft is going was published.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sales at amazon UK

Amazon UK is giving 50% discounts on some cool computer books, check it out. Amongst it at are some books of Chris Sells

Friday, October 08, 2004

I paint ...

Because there is more to live than programming... I created another blog on which I'm publishing some paintings of the last couple of years. Check it out

CMS ODBC error - the solution

A week or 2 ago, we ran into a strange error when accessing the homepage of our CMS site, especially when we refreshed the page a couple of times in a row.

Exception details:
" System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException: Server ODBC error. Contact the site administrator."
Stack Trace :
[COMException (0x80041b67): Server ODBC error. Contact the site administrator.]
Microsoft.ContentManagement.Interop.Publishing.IRcwPosting.__BeginWrite(Boolean ignoreMarkedForActions) +0
Microsoft.ContentManagement.Publishing.Posting.BeginWrite(Boolean ignoreMarkForActions) +47

Today I noticed the following blog posting about the mystery ODBC error on the blog of Mei Ying. The solution seems quite trivial but its something we tend to forget quite easily : if you use CMSApplicationContext in your code, call the dispose method when you have finished using it.

The Aussie split his blog

It seems Paul split his blog, one for the techie geek stuff and the other one on a more personal note