Getting started with HTML5: Three steps

Even though it is unfinished standard you can and should get started with HTML5 and it is more easy than you may think…

The new Doctype
Is as easy as it can get. Just replace
< !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN"
"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">
< html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">


 with
< !DOCTYPE html>
< html>
and you’re done. Simple.

Video
The format wars are being fought rather publicly these days and the best  part is that it should have little to no effect on you. The < video> tag is able to hold more than one SRC. So your browser can roll down through the options until it finds what will work. Again, simple. The best place to learn more is here: http://camendesign.com/code/video_for_everybody where they have loads of samples such as:

< !– Video for Everybody, Kroc Camen of Camen Design –>
< video width=”640″ height=”360″ controls preload=”none”>
< source src=”__VIDEO__.MP4″  type=”video/mp4″ />
< source src=”__VIDEO__.OGV”  type=”video/ogg” />
< object width=”640″ height=”384″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” data=”__FLASH__.SWF”>
< param name=”movie” value=”__FLASH__.SWF” />
< param name=”flashvars” value=”image=__POSTER__.JPG&file=__VIDEO__.MP4″ />
< img src=”__VIDEO__.JPG” width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”__TITLE__”
    title=”No video playback capabilities, please download the video below” />
< /object>
< /video>
< p> < strong>Download Video:
Closed Format: < a href=”__VIDEO__.MP4″>”MP4″
Open Format: < a href=”__VIDEO__.OGV”>”OGG”
< /p>

Next up, smarter forms.
Weary of validating if that really is an email address or proper URL in that field? Well now the effort is in the lap of the browser. Again, they are really easy to implement. Examples would be

Email: < input type=”email”>
URL: < input type=”url”>
Number: < input type=”number”>
Phone: < input type=”tel”>
Color picker: < input type=”color”>

Slider: < input type=”range” min=”0″ max=”10″ step=”2″ value=”5″>
etc.

Simple, no? Failure is graceful too as the fall back is to text.

Placeholder text for any of these is just as easy!

< input type=”email” placeholder=”Your email address”>

And again, the browser does the work by responding to the cursor by clearing the field automatically. 

And even better! If you need to make it a required field just add “required.”

< input type=”email” placeholder=”Your email address” required>

What if your requirements are not listed? You can build / define your own. For example if you need a credit card field – which would consist of a string of numbers ranging from 13 to 16. Your field would contain this:

 pattern=”[0-9]{13,16}”>

Needless to say there is an awful lot more such as the canvas tag and all of its potential badness and goodness but this should get you started! If you are interested in the Canvas tag there is a good cheat sheet here: http://blog.nihilogic.dk/2009/02/html5-canvas-cheat-sheet.html

Windows MultiPoint Server 2010

Built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2 Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 seems to be bring back the days of the mainframe.

The general goal of MultiPoint Server is to reduce costs for certain types of businesses and schools . The solution works by having one server feeding multiple mice, keyboards, speakers and monitors. Each session provides a user with a unique Remote Desktop to the MultiPoint Server. In other words, the dumb terminal once again makes a return. (Needless to say MultiPoint faces stiff competition from the likes of Userful Corporation, the world leader in multiseat Linux desktop virtualization.)

When I looked at it I immediately thought about how this would work at home and at the office. Wireless keyboards, and mice complimented with wireless monitor adapters (that can support audio!) connected to your television? That would make my life very easy and very much cheaper at home.

 It also could be very useful for development shops with small budgets.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/multipoint/default.aspx

http://www2.userful.com/

SharePoint 2010 Optimization: Start with SQL

If you need more than 4Gb of storage for your SharePoint 2010 environment and blob linking is not for you, working with SQL Server is on your plate. 2010 has a lot of databases, each and every one of which has a role and performance profile. Knowing these can help you squeeze out that extra bit out of your environment.

A typical, or maybe not so depending on your individual needs/budget/etc, SharePoint 2010 environment has the potential to look like this. If yours does not, and almost certainly it does not 🙂 , I’m sure you can see similarities.

Viewing this in a compartmentalized fashion skewed towards where you can gain literal and alluded performance improvements you have roughly three major sections.

A: The database
B: The WFEs
C: The UI / General payload

I’m going to focus on the databases, what they are, and what they do. With knowledge comes power as they say.

So starting with the basics…


System
A normal installation of SQL drops a couple of databases on the disk.
Expect to see:

  1. MASTER: Records all system level information for a SQL Server instance. E.g. logins, configuration, and other databases.
  2. MSDB: Records operators and is used by SQL Server Agent to schedule jobs and alerts.
  3. MODEL: Is used as the template for all the databases created in the instance.
  4. TEMPDB: All temporary tables, temporary stored procedures, and anything else that is ‘temporary’ is stored here. Like a cache this is recreated every time the SQL Server instance is started. 

Notes:
  • Of these four, only the last one TEMPDB really should be a candidate for its own spindle. 
  • Size wise, TEMPDB is the only one that you should expect any type of growth from.
  • All four scale vertically, as in you can only allow them to grow in size rather than add in extra databases.
Reporting Services
Reporting Services are often used with SharePoint 2010s Excel, Visio, and PerformacePoint Services but are not required. Access Services does require them, specifically the SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services Add-in. 
Expect to see:
  1. ReportServer: This stores all the metadata for reports such as definitions, history, scheduling, and snapshots. When ReportServer is actually in use the report documents are stored in SharePoint Content databases.
  2. ReportServerTempDB: When reports are running temporary snapshots are found here.

Notes:
  • Both of these databases must coexist on the same database server. 
  • They have a heavy read load.
  • The ReportServerTempDB can grow if there is heavy use of cached snapshots. Just like with the System databases, all four scale vertically, as in you can only allow them to grow in size rather than add in extra databases.
Overview 1
Okay, so now we have a bunch of databases sitting on our server making it look a tad like this:
Now Lets start to add in SharePoint 2010…
Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 drops a number of databases to your disks. (If you install Search Server 2010 Express you will see some of these databases. I have put a * next to the name if it is a factor in play for that kind of scenario.)
Expect to see:

  1. Configuration*: As inferred by its name, this is where information about the environment is stored. Databases, IIS sites, Web Applications, Trusted Solutions, Wb Part Packages, site templates, blocked file types, quotas, they’re all in here. There can only be one configuration database per farm and you can expect it to remain relatively small.
  2. Central Administration Content*: Just like the configuration database, there can only be one, it does really grow much, and as its name infers it stores the Central Administration sites content.
  3. Content*: All site content is stored in these guys. Site pages, documents, lists, web part properties, audit logs, user names and rights, they’re all in here. Office Web Application data is also stored in here.
  4. Usage*: The Usage and Health Data Collection Service Application uses this database. This write heavy database is unique in that it is the only database that can be (and should be) queried directly by external applications. There can only be one per farm. Health monitoring and usage data used for reporting and diagnostics is in here.
  5. Business Data Connectivity*: External Content Types and related objects are in here. It is typically a read heavy yet small sized database. 
  6. Application Registry*: You really only see this if backward compatibility with the BDC API is needed. Typically this can be deleted AFTER upgrading is complete.
  7. Subscription Settings: Features and settings for hosted customers gets put in here. It is not something you normally see as it has to be manually created using Powershell or SQL Server. If it is present you can expect it to remain small and busy only from reads.
Note:

  • Content databases can hold multiple site collections and their content. 
  • They can get BIG. Their size is dependent on size and count of both content and users.
  • 200GB should be your ceiling. Odds are you will see a performance hit as you pass that number. 1TB or more are an option but for Record Centers and the like. I.e. non collaborative usage and data retrieval (read only.) Add more content databases as you reach that 200GB level.
  • Due to its nature it is wise to move the Usage database to a separate spindle.
Overview 2
Okay, so now we have Foundation running with a bunch more databases sitting on our server making it look a tad like this:







Right so now lets move on to the Standard edition.

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Standard
Compared directly to Foundation, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Standard drops a number of extra databases to your disks. (If you install Search Server 2010 Express you will see some of these databases. I have put a * next to the name if it is a factor in play for that kind of scenario.)
Expect to see:
  1. Search Administration*: Used by the Search application the ACL and configuration information is in here. Growth can be vertical or horizontal – if you create new instances of the service application. 
  2. Crawl*: Again used by the Search application, the state of the crawled content/data and the historical crawl records are in here. This database can get a bit big and if you are crawling LARGE amounts of data it is a good idea to not have it on the same server as the next database, Property. It is also a good idea to be using the Enterprise version of SQL so that you can leverage the data compression functionality. This is a read heavy database.
  3. Property*: Again used by the Search application associated data to the crawls is stored in here such as history, crawl queues, and general properties. If you have large volumes of data, move this to its own server and you will see performance improvements with regard to search query result returns. This is a write heavy database.
  4. Web Analytics Reporting*: Used by the Web Analytics application, aggregated report tables, fact data grouped by site – date – asset, diagnostic information can be found in here. Depending on your policies this database can get massive. As it grows scale out by adding more databases. 
  5. Web Analytics Staging*: Temporary data (unaggregated) is in here. 
  6. State*: Used by the State Service application, InfoPath Forms Services, and Visio Services. Temporary state information for Exchange is also in here. More State databases can be added via PowerShell. 
  7. Profile: Used by the User Profile service application, users and their information is found and managed in here. Additional databases can be created if you create additional service instances. Expect lots of reads and medium growth.
  8. Synchronization: Again, used by the User Profile service application. It contains configuration and staging data for use when a directory service such as AD is being synched with. Scaling up or out is the same as with Profile. Its size can be influenced by not just the number of users and groups but their ratios as well. Expect fairly balanced read vs write activity.
  9. Social Tagging: Again, used by the User Profile service application. As users create social tags and notes they are stored, along with their URLs in here. Expect growth to be representative of how much your community embraces the functionality of social tagging. Scaling up or out is the same as with Profile. This is definitely more read than write heavy. 
  10. Managed Metadata Service: Syndicated content types and managed metadata is stored in here. Growth can be vertical or horizontal – if you create new instances of the Managed Metadata service application. 
  11. Secure Store*: Account names, passwords, and their mappings are stored in here. This is where you may have to collaborate with other internal groups as it is suggested that this database be hosted on a seperate database instane with limited access. Growth can be vertical or horizontal – if you create new instances of the service application. 

Note:
  • Watch the Web Analytics Reporting database. It can get very big.
  • Use compression for Crawl if you have the Enterprise version of SQL.
Overview 3
Okay, so now we have SharePoint Server 2010 Standard edition running with a bunch more databases sitting on our server making it look a tad like this:

Right so now lets move on to the Enterprise edition…

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise drops extra databases on top of the Standard list to handle Word and PerformancePoint.
Expect to see:
  1. Word Automation Services: Used by the Word Automation service application information about impending and completed document conversions is to be found in here. This database can be expected to remain relatively small.
  2. PerformancePoint: Used by the PerformancePoint service application settings, persisted user comments, and temporary objects are stored in here. It can be expected to be read heavy and can be scaled up or out.
Overview 4
Okay, so now we have SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise edition running on our server making it look a tad like this:

Where else can we go from here? Well there’s always Project Server , PowerPivot, and FAST… All are complicated products that require SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise.





Microsoft Project Server 2010





Expect to see:

  1. Draft: Not accessible to end users this is used to store data used by the project queue. There can only be one as far as I know. 
  2. Published: When a project is published this is where it lives. Timesheets, resources, custom fields, and all the other metadata is stored in here. This database can get large.
  3. Archive: Backup data of projects, resources, calendars, etc. is in here. Growth can be limited, if it is not and is used it will get large.
  4. Reporting: This is the repository of the entire project portfolio. When you publish a project plan,  a copy will be put in here. Read heavy and large…





Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint





Expect to see:

  1. Search Administration: Stores and manages search setting groups, keywords, synonyms, promotion/demotions, best bets, and search schema metadata. It should stay on the small side and remain read heavy. 




Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for SharePoint





Expect to see:

  1. PowerPivot Service Application: Cached and loaded PowerPivot files are in here along with usage data and schedules. You can expect this database to remain small.  
Note:
  • PowerPivot files can be rather big and PowerPivot stores data in content databases as well as the central administration database. 
So where does that leave us? If you have everything above installed you should expect to see something like this…
Looking at these databases and what could / should be 

candidates for having their own platters you should start to see something like this: 












Note that the Secure Store should be moved primarily for security purposes. 


It has to be mentioned as well that each and every environment can prove to be unique so you may not see value in moving anything other than your content databases to another platter.

So what does this look like in the wild? Viewing a screenshot of, an admittedly deliberately slightly duplicated environment,  you can see these  databases as they would appear in real life…

Their file system looks like this:

Clearly there is job security for DBAs going forward :). There is also a level of complexity that merits caution and planning when considering SharePoint 2010. The phrase a stitch in time continues to hold value…

SharePoint 2010 Workflow: Creating a simple Bid / No Bid Decision Process Workflow

Implementing workflow with SharePoint starts with formally defining a process into UML. Doing so makes all the steps and their logical consequences clear. The first and most frequent mistake I see made is not identifying the true stakeholders in the process. More often than not sales submit the data to administration who then re purpose some or most of it for the next person in the chain and so. Following the trail can prove to be rather revelatory to say the least! 
Once sign off on the workflow is attained there are decisions to be made. 
The first order of business is to look at the final of the workflow and determine if any of the out of the box workflows be used…
The out of the box workflows in SharePoint 2010 are approval based i n nature. The good news is that 
they are easy to work with via the browser allowing you to specify due dates etc. The better news is that you can now use SharePoint Designer 2010 to re mold these workflows as you need. You can copy and then edit these, allowing you to add in your own fields, task assignment methods, etc. You can also reuse these workflows with different lists.
Can SharePoint Designer 2010 handle the features required for this workflow to function?

Improving the user experience with password entry

Sometimes deploying a forms based registration / login solution for SharePoint, or anything else, makes me somewhat weary. Specifically, creating the system that enforces, for sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands of people, the mundane action of having to add a password no less than twice after panning ones brain for a username when registering for an account just seems so old schoolish and tedious…

Adding a bit of colour, literally, here is a good thing. Not to much, not too little and you can add the equivalent of a breath of fresh air. One great tool for this job is Chroma-Hash.

Chroma-Hash is a jQuery plugin that aims to offer a better password input experience with a standard password field replaces the entered characters with “●” characters. The problem is “we never know if we made a typo or not until the form is submitted & a reply is received from the server”. Chroma-Hash, “converts the values entered” into a colored visualization.

A user filling the password field can easily recognize that if the colors are the usual equivalents of the password or not. And, anyone who sees the colors won’t have any idea what the actual password is.

The script can also be used to visualize password confirmations (password & confirm password fields).

A detailed info on the method & security concerns can be found at thedeveloper’s related post.

http://mattt.github.com/Chroma-Hash/

Data Visualization: The Quest for Patterns

Recently I was trying to present a way for individuals to find patterns in large amounts of data. The end result was considered successful and I thought I would share at a high level what was done.

Firstly, the data looked a tad liked this…

Note 1: this is NOT the actual data.
Note 2: C1 and C2 are where I wish to draw interest to in this example. I.e. the final outcome should be a clean visual of the all data with an intuitive focus where C1 and C2 get and send their data.

Certainly not terribly daunting, interesting, nor unfamiliar for the average office/information worker/victim 🙂
Running this through Excel Services really did not produce anything useful. It hinted at associations between the data points but that was it. See for yourself…

Not the best presentation of data I’m sure you’d agree… (Even forgiving the quality of the image.)
So I ran the data around a different set of axis with a bit of custom code and got a dramatically clearer view of the columns and their content associations. At least I think it is.

Colour coding C1 and C2 made things even more clear.

A successful solution!