16 Sep 2008

Automated Testing Testimonial

At the end of last week a very interesting document on doing automated testing was added to SA Architect, and what makes the document interesting is not the content (there is a lot out there on automated test) but the fact it is a document type I have never seen, it’s a testimonial.

What is a testimonial? It’s written by someone who worked with the system extensively and then provides their feedback, good and bad, on it. In some respects it’s like a white paper, but where a white paper may be more technology, brand, or system focused this is people and, to a smaller degree, project focused.

Congrats to Sacheen for providing this document and doing so well with it (it was the first time he had to write anything like this)!!
You can get the document here.
Thanks to Willy for the heads up!

15 Sep 2008

Take your toolbox with you

Previously I posted about two ways to get SysInternals to your machine, well that great bunch have released yet another method! This time in a download package which contains all the tools and none of the fluff (so no BSOD screen saver)! This is a great addition for your toolbox! You can get it from here.
Thanks to Sarah for the heads up on this!

11 Sep 2008


Earlier this year I attended a great event called Dev4Devs which is run by Microsoft on a Saturday morning at their offices and invites any developer to get up and present for 20mins! This is a great introduction into a lot of things as well as a great place to start if you want to become a presenter. Well it’s happening again in October! I will definitely be there so head over to Eben’s blog for more details.

05 Sep 2008

Random Tool Musings

This is a little different from my regular scheduled blog posting in that it's kind of a +1 post (I promise I am not becoming one of those blogs) because there is a bunch of things I wanted to speak about but they each don't need their own post.
First off is pptFlex which is an add-on for PowerPoint which provides a DeepZoom (those at the TechEd closing know what I mean) like experience with your slide deck. It's an Office Lab add-in so a prototype that will never see the main stream. After a touch of configuration (select  backdrop, transition between slides, configuring sections) it appears to generate an XPS render of the slides with cool transitions but as XPS doesn't support animation that is the first (and biggest) loss in functionality when compared to normal PowerPoiunt. At the end of the day I doubt it will be shipped, but I think we may see these sort of transitions appearing in Office "13".
In my upcoming post on shrinking a VHD, I briefly mention that I reclaimed the disk space by emptying the SQL log file. That is a bad idea for most systems for many a reason beyond my non SQL guru mind, but if you are interested in how to do it anyway see the following article which is what I used my guidance: http://madhuottapalam.blogspot.com/2008/05/faq-how-to-truncate-and-shrink.html
Lastly there have been updates to some of my favorite tools, first from Microsoft namely StyleCop and FxCop which both are everyone. That’s very positive news especially since FxCop has been a bit stagnent but the news about another favorite tool, Reflector being taken over by RedGate (see here) does worry me. I do not think they will kill it or kill a free version but I am worried about two versions coming out (pay and free) with pay being all the features and new stuff and free being crippled or not getting enhancements. Only time will tell...
26 Aug 2008

Slide.Show and SharePoint: Part I - Configuring Slide.Show

This is a multi-part series. The other parts can be found at

This was inspired by a post on the IWSA group, about how to get a decent slide show in SharePoint using a picture library as a source. The poster went on to say he Slide.Show looked like it would meet his need and wondered if it could be used. For those who do not know Slide.Show is a cool Silverlight 1.0 component which takes a list of images and displays them as a slide show, with the presentation looking brilliant. Slide.Show has options like pausing, skipping the current image, viewing a grid of thumbnails so you select which one to skip to, and even a full screen view! It has in fact over 300 options you can tweak to get it just the way you like it!
/>If you don't know what SharePoint is, how is life under that rock? ;) SharePoint (or as it is officially known as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) is a cool system too, it has all kinds of functions for document management. One of them is a picture library but the downside of the picture library when displayed normally is a boring list or if you configure it one static picture… *YAWN*. So there is a perfect harmony just waiting occur!

But how can you use Slide.Show together with SharePoint? I wish it was as straight forward to add a web part in, but it isn't. That said it is not difficult to get up and running and requires a few tricks and thinking outside the SharePoint box to get up and running.

The first step is to add a Content Editor Web Part (CEWP), which can be found under the Miscellaneous section.    
The CEWP is interesting in that it allows you to set the content using rich text (ala Microsoft Wordpad like options) or actually put the HTML directly into it using the Source Editor option. Being able to put HTML directly in does not mean just HTML, but means that you can actually put anything in it and have total power of what will be rendered! Since we will be using a lot of JavaScript this is exactly what we need to use, to get Slide.Show into SharePoint.

The first step in getting this working is to get Slide.Show setup, so once you have downloaded the source package and extracted it you need to run the release.bat file which will combine a lot of JS files into two files in a release folder. You then need to take the release folder and place it in a folder under your SharePoint web site, which is definitely the cleanest way to configure it, but I preferred to take the Slide.Show folder (part of the files extracted) and place it under the SharePoint web site as it allows me to run some tests to make it easier to get the system setup correctly as in the screen shot below.

If you have also followed my thinking about taking the slightly messier config, you should be able fire up your favorite browser and type in http://<your website>/slide.show/samples/empty/default.html which should show you a pure black screen (right click and it should say Silverlight config). The point of that boring sample is that it just makes sure that the content is available, there is no server issues or client issues preventing it for working. Another simple test to check everything is configured correctly is to go to http://<your website>/slide.show/scripts/release/silverlight.js which should prompt to download it (like in the picture below).

Now that Slide.Show is configured correctly we will get back to the CEWP we now need to plop the code into it to make it work. Since the CEWP allows us to actually drop in any source, we will use that to put in the JavaScript we need for Slide.Show to work. This is where we lose the straight-forwardness of doing this, because if you thought you could follow the Slide.Show quick start guide and get it to work… you would be screwed. This is because we can't put in the <script> tags in the header of the page like the quick start guide tells us as SharePoint won’t let that happen. So our first step is to put our own code in to load and run the JS files and then we can then start using Slide.Show as normal.

To do this we first need a to tell the system that we will be running some JavaScript by a normal script tag:

Note: A complete version of the JavaScript is available at the end of the article without number to allow for easy copy and paste.

1: <script language="JavaScript"> 

Next we will use the XMLHttpRequest class to load the JS file synchronously. However if we just called XMLHttpRequest then this would only work in real web browsers (IE 7 and higher, Firefox etc…) but since so many people use older IE versions we need to cater for them by adding a bit of code like this (source of the next 8 lines is not my bubble like mind but Wikipedia):

1: // Provide the XMLHttpRequest
    class for IE 5.x-6.x:
2: if( typeof XMLHttpRequest == "undefined" ) XMLHttpRequest = function() {
3:   try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.6.0") } catch(e) {}
4:   try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.3.0") } catch(e) {}
5:   try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP") } catch(e) {}
6:   try { return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP") } catch(e) {}
7:   throw new Error( "This browser
        does not support XMLHttpRequest." )
8: };

For the following example we will just load one file, but when we are done we will need to repeat this for all our JS files:

1: var silverlightRequest = new XMLHttpRequest(); 
2: silverlightRequest.open("GET", "/slide.show/Scripts/Release/Silverlight.js", false); 
3: silverlightRequest.send(null); 

NOTE: If you have put Slide.Show in a different location to me then you need to adjust the second line as needed.
The last line of loading the file is to call the eval function which will allows us to execute the JavaScript from the JS we retrieved. This enables the classes and methods will be available to us:
1: eval(silverlightRequest.responseText); 

Once we have loaded both Slide.Show JS files, we can then use Slide.Show as normal by calling:
1: new SlideShow.Control(); 
Lastly we close our script block with:
1: </script> 

Now click OK to close the HTML source code editor and OK (or apply) again for the web part and it should give us the same result as our first test, the empty sample. That’s kind of boring so to end off part one in this series lets modify the Slide.Show creation line to load a configuration file from one of the samples, and we will use the Flickr one as it requires nothing on the machine. The modified Slide.Show creation line with the configuration specified looks like:
1: new SlideShow.Control(new SlideShow.XmlConfigProvider({ url: "/slide.show/Samples/Flickr/configuration.xml" })); 
Now  you should have something that looks like the image below:
The full JavaScript that we would place in the CEWP to get it this far would look like this:
<script language=
// Provide the XMLHttpRequest class for IE 5.x-6.x:
if( typeof XMLHttpRequest == "undefined" ) XMLHttpRequest = function() {
try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.6.0") } catch(e) {}
try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.3.0") } catch(e) {}
try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP") } catch(e) {}
try { return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP") } catch(e) {}
throw new Error( "This browser does not support XMLHttpRequest." )
var silverlightRequest = new XMLHttpRequest(); 
"GET", "/slide.show/Scripts/Release/Silverlight.js", false); 
var slideshowRequest = new XMLHttpRequest(); 
"GET", "/slide.show/Scripts/Release/SlideShow.js", false); 
new SlideShow.Control(new SlideShow.XmlConfigProvider({ url: "/slide.show/Samples/Flickr/Configuration.xml" })); 
Updates to this post
  • Update – 25 Sept 2008:  I have cleaned up this post a bit to make it easier to understand.
  • Update – 26 Sept 2008: Added information/fix to get it to work on older IE versions.
28 Jul 2008

Team Foundation Server could not resolve the user or group

One of my recent tasks was to setup a TFS 2008 server, and migrate our VSS system across to it. Once done setup the projects and users. Well since I have a good knowledge of the systems and I did a TFS 2005 deployment previously (although it was not adopted), I felt confident that the install wouldn’t be an issue. I did the usual prep of reading blogs and learning from others and that did help me avoid some pit falls.
Next up was the migration of VSS to TFS, which was actually not a major requirement as it is just there for legacy projects. All active projects would have to check their code into new TFS projects planned to create in TFS. The key benefit of this is it would allow us to align with EPM better than the migration tool would allow us to. I created a project, and imported the 1.7Gb of source code into it! It took some time. Then I needed to add the users, and this is where I met a problem.
Regardless if I used the command line, or the TFS admin tool or the GUI I kept getting an error: Team Foundation Server could not resolve the user or group. <AD Distinguished Name of the User>. The user or group might be a member of a different domain, or the server might not have access to that domain. Verify the domain membership of the server and any domain trusts.

The AD issue and TFS issue both revolved around the fact that in our AD the Authenticated Users (AuthUsers) group does not have read permissions to our users and the containers they are in. This is odd to the outside person because when AD is setup the AuthUsers group does have permissions, so why would our AD be different and what are the implications of changing it. The reason there is a difference is because our AD is setup according to Hosted Messaging and Collaboration (you can read more about it here) which specifically removes the AuthUsers group permissions for security reasons (i.e. to prevent users from seeing other customers). Because of this change, the GPO could not access the users accounts and neither could TFS read from AD what it needed.
To solve this for TFS meant giving AuthUsers read permissions to the users who needed to access TFS and their immediate container while for AD/GPO it required just AuthUsers to have permissions on the container for the users (it doesn’t need the permissions on the actual users) and all it’s parent containers. Once those were done the group policies and TFS started to work 100%.
That’s great but what is the impact to the hosted environment and is this the best way to solve the issue? Well this does open up a security risk in that customers could see other customers, simply by logging into the domain. For us this is mitigated as we are not offering hosted TFS, this is just for our own internal staff who are aware of who our customers are and we aren’t worried if our customers know about our staff. It is also very difficult for a customer to see other customers as most applications don’t allow it and those that do allow it in their standard configurations, such as MSCRM, ignore it in a HMC environment.
In regards to is this the best way to solve the issue, my view is that it is not it. You should run a separate AD for each customer, this is a normal AD system which runs at the client premises and using the Customer Integration component of HMC (which is based on MIIS) sync the customer AD to the hosted AD. This means that you could run GPO’s and TFS on the customer site without the need to change anything in a hosted way.
05 Jun 2008

Specified method not supported

I had a great chance to write some kick ass Silverlight code last week as a proof of concept for a potential new business venture the company I work at is thinking about, and hopefully in 6 months to a year I will be able to talk about it. The final solution won’t be Silverlight based but for the POC it provided the delivery method, functionality and UI that gets the message across.


Part of that POC was to be able to have a local XML file (local as on the server) loaded when the application was open and parsed. So the only way to do that is to use the WebClient class and call the DownloadStringAsync method with the URI to the XML file and then parse that in an XDocument. Not rocket science at all, but when I tried it I kept getting a message “An exception of type ‘System.NotSupportedException’ occurred in System.Windows.dll but was not handled in user code Additional Information: Specified method not supported.”

No matter what I tried I could not get it to work :( Eventually I figured out that it only was occurring when debugging/running from within Visual Studio. Publishing it to an actual web server and running it as a user would worked perfectly. This is a big issue for me, since it makes ad-hoc testing and debugging very difficult. Thankfully for me it was just a POC, but this could be a big pain for serious projects.

05 Jun 2008

Leave your toolbox at home

So if you are an IT Pro or a developer worthy of that title, then you must have at least seen the stuff Mark Russinovich and his team built called SysUtils, and if you have been around for long enough you have you them. Well I keep my favourites on my flash drive but sometimes I’ll forget it or be roped into a situation where I wasn’t expecting to need them.

Well there is a solution for that now besides going to the web site and downloading them, it’s called Live! Yip, Microsoft’s hosted solutions, have the solution in two forms. Firstly there is a file listing page http://live.sysinternals.com which just lists all the files so in one click you can get the tool you need, but even better, it’s also published as a file share! So if you open \\Live.sysinternals.com\tools you can actually browse a file share for the tool you need.