HMC 4.5 Draws Nearer..

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 06/06/2008 - 21:02

Finally an update on when HMC 4.5 is supposed to be released (last bit of information, which came out in March, said end May) and it is… A few more weeks :(

*sigh* still latest news on the 4.0 to 4.5 upgrade is +60 days after release…

Specified method not supported

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 21:45
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.

Leave your toolbox at home

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 20:24
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 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 \\\tools you can actually browse a file share for the tool you need.

The Zen of Hosting: Part 2 - 40000 Foot View

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 20:18
So part 1 was the reasoning and the bulk of the non-technical in the series, this post is about the high level view of the architecture. At it's core a hosted network is just a normal network except that it needs to not only service one organisation but multiple organisations. The biggest problem with this is that most networking technologies aren't designed for handling multiple organisations and a core strategy for VirtualBox was to use Microsoft technologies (we are a Microsoft Gold Partner and that’s where are strongest skills are as an organisation). So lets look at what that could mean:
  • User Management: Active Directory
  • Email: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • Portal/Intranet: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server
  • CRM: Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Database: Microsoft SQL Server
  • ERP: Microsoft Dynamics GP

This shouldn’t be a shocker of a list, in fact it’s kind of the standard shopping list for any Microsoft based solution but the problem is that some of these products don't easily allow multiple organisations to use them. So lets just start with the most commonly used item on that list: Active Directory, which in my view is also the like the least able to cope with multiple organisations.

Based on what I have seen most large companies, which have a need for multiple organisations in a single deployment, seem to set up a forest and trusts and connect multiple domains together in the forest. This lets each domain be individually named and managed and provides the security for central administration and prevents each domain from doing anything to other domains. The problem with this is that it is multiple domains, which means that the administration overhead is very high, I think I would need a server at least per domain, and I really only want one because I don’t want to deploy everything multiple times. Each service should be deployed once and used many.

Well Microsoft has actually solved this with an interesting solution named Hosted Messaging and Collaboration (HMC), which is currently in version 4.0. HMC is developed by the same division as developed one of my other favourite technologies, Customer Care Framework (CCF). HMC shares the same thought leading as CCF.  What I mean by this is they are are taking very new or different ideas and providing a solution to deliver them. The solution for HMC is delivered in the same way as CCF, in that it is a guidance package.

Next time I will jump into what is HMC and then after that we’ll get back to how HMC allows us to to take one AD domain and put multiple companies into it.


MSCRM 4.0 Developer Errors: My new pet hate

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 20:32
So if you follow all the posts on this site you'll know that I am involved with a hosted MSCRM system.  This is a great system as it allows multiple customers to share a single deployment, and while it has seperated most of the functions so that each customer is seperated nicely there are a few that are not. Developer errors are one of those, if you enable them, you enable them for all customers.

As a hosting providing I do not want to have to enable it globally as it means that the user interface for an error is ugly and I do not want to have to take individual support calls for customers to turn it on and off all the time.

This workflow job was canceled because the workflow that started it included an infinite loop

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 20:10
 Found the best little tip for workflow creation in MSCRM 4.0. See there is a loop detection in the system which detects if the same workflow rule is called 8 times and if it is, stops the workflow from running with the message: "This workflow job was canceled because the workflow that started it included an infinite loop".
This happens even where there is no infinite loop (i.e. when you have catered for it). Well until today when I stumbled across a post on the news groups which clarifies that it is only 7 times per hour. If you stay under that, so once per day or once per year it won't fail.

You can read the actual post at:

MSDN Library Broken

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 19:48
So if you install the Internet Explorer 8 demo and you use Visual Studio, you will find that help gets broken. All that is happening is that the hxds.dll which dexplorer.exe needs gets provisionally blocked from running. The easiest way to fix it, is to start the MSDN library outside of Visual Studio and you should get prompted to run the add-on. If you run it, Internet Explorer will then be happy with it and the MSDN library will start to work

Duplicating the ReportServer virtual directory

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 23:31
I watched a guy (doesn't work with me, works for another company) today duplicate a SQL Reporting Services ReportServer virtual directory by saving the existing one to file using normal IIS and creating a new one. There is a decent enough reason for doing this, but that doesn't matter.
This failed, badly. Reporting services kept complaining about not being able to find the <server path>/REPORTSERVER/bin folder.

The solution to this actually was to remove the folder he created, use reporting services configuration tool to create a  new one and then do an IIS reset (thanks Bruce for the iis reset). This created a perfectly working report server folder and with the original one left untouched it continued to work correctly.

Website Update

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 23:20
So it is time again for my website to get some attention. So in addition to upgrading from Drupal 5.7 to 6.2 (and the only module I couldn't get was twitter, no big loss), and updating Gallery2 to it's newest version, it also got a new theme and logo
The logo still needs a bit of tweaking though...

One of the other motivators besides the software upgrades, and the fact with me finishing Assassins Creed (which has left a void) was the old site (or theme, not sure) did not render correctly at all in IE 8! So this new one renders very well in IE 8 and FF.

Let me know if you like the new look more or less! If Google can get so much attention for just changing their favicon, maybe I could get some too... LOL

The Zen of Hosting: Part 1 - Who, What, Where, Why, and How

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 06/02/2008 - 23:18

So I haven't posted for way too long due to a massive new initiative which I have been involved in, namely setting up a hosting solution provider called VirtualBox. This has been a very enlightening experience in terms of many new skills which I have learnt and a much deeper understanding of the products I worked with. So as a personal outcome from that investment I have written a series on what I have learnt. 

This series is kinda different from my normal blog posts, for a number of reasons. Firstly this is one of the few times I have written the posts out long before posting them (normally I post as I think). This has given me the chance to re-read them and change them so hopefully the quality of this is higher (as a side I used Microsoft OneNote to write this). The length of each post in this series is also MUCH longer than my normal (average of 450 words per post) and lastly this is one of the few times I actually blog about what I doing at work and mention some of the exact products, customers and technologies I am involved with. The reason for this is not because normally I am not proud of what I do or who I do it with, but because I like to keep things separate, but this time I am so excited (kid on xmas eve type) that I really can't not share what has been accomplished by the small team who I feel privileged to work with on this.

Firstly what is a hosting solution provider? Well traditionally when you have wanted an application, like Microsoft Exchange you would go out buy a server, buy the licenses, get an IT Pro in to do the install and configuration. Well a hosting solution provider (HSP) changes the entire game by removing the buying from the traditional way. So you want Microsoft Exchange and you have it, instantly!

Why would anyone go this route? Well there is a couple of benefits for anyone such as turn around time of minutes from needing it to having it ready, getting proven systems in place from day one or having a guide on how your environment is setup which means as you bring on staff you just give them the guide and in a few days of reading and asking questions (and lots of googling) they have a wealth of understanding of the environment from the package (better yet if you can afford a few lab machines and run Hyper-V or Virtual Server they could even do the deployment of the environment to really understand it). But if you are a point haired boss type there is one very important business factor... MONEY.

So for the SME market the significant cost benefits come from them as paying for only what you consume. Licensing for Exchange for instance lets you purchase mail boxes with no support for calendars or tasks (i.e. Just mail) if that's all you need for just a few dollars per month. The HSP also will invest far more in hardware and staff thus providing faster, bigger, better (insert your favourite positive adjective here) that what the SME company could get themselves.

For the enterprise customer an HSP can be a very different route in that it allows an IT dept to move away from the traditional model and allows them to set themselves up as an HSP for the rest of the business. This means that they can lower cost of licensing, properly manage budgets between them and other departments, react quicker to business needs, and lastly once they have moved through the life cycle of setting this could actually allow them to start to offer the services outside the business allowing them to stop being a cost centre and start to become a revenue centre.

That's enough from me sounding like a business expert, so what can you expect in the series coming up? Well we will next tackle the overviews of the system, and then start to dive into some of the cooler technologies.