Forth Coming Attraction: Brian Noyes speaking

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 10:37

Brian Noyes will be in South Africa next week and for one night only he will be giving a free presentation on MVVM at Microsoft’s offices in Bryanston. Brian works at IDesign and is a Connected Systems MVP and is known for being one of the top Silverlight/WPF/WCF/WF experts and so if you interested in those technologies or the MVVM pattern then this is must attend!


Upgrading to SharePoint 2010: In the field experience

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 04/26/2010 - 12:03

sharepoint1Last week I was able to upgrade BB&D’s internal intranet site from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010! So you can properly understand what happened let me cover a little bit about the intranet first. Our intranet is a small deployment, just a single server deployment however it is kept up to date with technology so it is running on SQL Server 2008 with SP1, Windows 2008 R2 on a 64bit virtual machine. We have also not gone with heavy customisation, rather focusing on small tweaks and adjustments. A good example is we do not have a customised master page but rather use the theme options to get the colour scheme we want.

The first step I did was to download the pre-requisites for SharePoint 2010, and using the option on the installer this was a breeze. I’ve seen this before with Dynamics CRM and once again I am impressed by how a very simple feature makes such a big difference. Next step was the install, which was pain less and quick.

Once installed the configuration manager had to run and this is where I had two issues. The first problem was that I got stuck on task 1! The cause here is that a dialog box had appeared behind the main window (telling me to do the same to all servers in the farm) and won’t go until I clicked OK. This annoying little bug cost me a few minutes.

The second issue was that the SharePoint 2010 install needs to do some Active Directory queries and this meant my user account was not good enough. Not having a good enough user means that the installer produces a very unhelpful error at step 3:

   at System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary`2.get_Item(TKey key)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Utilities.SPUtility.GetUserPropertyFromAD(SPWebApplication webApplicaiton, String loginName, String propertyName)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPManagedAccount.GetUserAccountControl(String username)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPManagedAccount.Update()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPProcessIdentity.Update()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPApplicationPool.Update()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPProcessIdentity.UpgradeToV4ManagedAccount()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPConfigurationDatabase.ResolveObjectAndClassVersions(SPLog log)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Upgrade.SPConfigurationDatabaseSequence2.Upgrade()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Upgrade.SPUpgradeSession.Upgrade(Object o, Boolean bRecurse)

sharepoint2It took ages to figure this out, mostly because it is not a documented requirement. To get the correct permissions you need to get a domain admin to do the following on the domain controller:

  1. Open up Active Directory Users and Computer.
  2. Select Advanced Features from the View menu. Failing to do this means that the tab in step four won’t be visible.
  3. Right-click the your AD account and select Properties.
  4. Select the Securities Tab.
  5. Select Authenticated Users in the Group or user names field.
  6. Allow Full permissions in the Permissions for Account Operators.
  7. Repeat this process for any SharePoint service accounts you may have created.
  8. Next make sure this change replicates to all domain controllers.
  9. Now connect to your SharePoint server, and open the command prompt (cmd.exe) and type gpupdate /force. This will force the changes to the machine as it may have a cached version.
  10. Finally reboot the SharePoint server and start the configuration wizard again.

After all that was done the configuration wizard completed and the upgrade process started in central admin. The upgrade process also took a while to do, but once done everything just worked.

Lastly we applied some theme tweaks and a quick run through of testing it and it was done. One thing that is important to remember about this process is that the entire time it was happening the current intranet was done so plan your deployment accordingly. This is easily the best experience I’ve ever had installing or upgrading SharePoint and shows that the product is maturing.

Death of a SharePoint Developer

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 04/21/2010 - 14:08

Originally from : I have had to explain many times in the last year why I, a normal developer, am involved with Information Worker which is (mostly) a SharePoint group? I am involved because I believe that the idea of a SharePoint Developer is a fast dying one and soon, people who call themselves a SharePoint Developer will be using it just as a way to justify higher consulting costs more than anything else.

I do not think this is because SharePoint usage is dying, rather the growth (maturity and adoption) of SharePoint is causing SharePoint developers to die off. This is not because SharePoint is so user friendly we no longer need custom code, because we still need custom code in SharePoint. The two reasons for my thinking this is based on two questions, “What SharePoint development really is?” and secondly “What Microsoft is doing about SharePoint development?”.

What is SharePoint development really? In SharePoint versions past (2007 and before) you would develop code for SharePoint using development concepts unique to SharePoint. Now that SharePoint has matured, development of the code for SharePoint involves concepts that are universal to development. There are two examples which come to mind which highlight the maturity of development concepts. First is web parts, which are now the same as ASP.NET web parts, and secondly is web services (and OData if you have SharePoint 2010). Both of these concepts are the exact same as used by many other products made by Microsoft and other companies. For example if you understand how to get data from Twitter, with OData in SharePoint 2010 you will understand how to get data from SharePoint. Yes, you will have some specific bindings/API’s/code that are SharePoint specific but the concepts, which is the difficult part to learn, are the same.

I mentioned two questions and the second is about Microsoft and it’s strategy for SharePoint development, in particular their 2010 strategy (Visual Studio 2010 + SharePoint 2010). A SharePoint developer used to have to go and download special files, install them, fixed issues, try installing again, fix more issues, have special machines or virtual machines to run SharePoint on and so on. The actual process of just writing code for SharePoint meant that you became elite because you had to go through a ritual of fire before you could start. Microsoft have really made SharePoint 2010 development simple and more importantly easy to start with, both by making SharePoint run natively on Windows 7 and also by including everything you need for development within Visual Studio 2010 from day one. It is as hard start wring code for SharePoint now as it is to make a WPF application!

What I am trying to convey is that previously a SharePoint developer had “paid their school fees” by learning so much that was so specific to the process of SharePoint development that they actually had earned a special title. Now that all those barriers have been removed, the title of SharePoint developer no longer applies, we are all just developers now!

DevDays coming to your town soon!

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 03/03/2010 - 12:25

header DevDays, one of the premier Microsoft software developer is starting this month with events in Johannesburg and Cape Town and will be in Durban next month! Not only does it have great local guys presenting but Bart de Smet and Brian Keller will be there too!
Most importantly I will be there, just admit it you want to see me more than Bart and Brian ;), and will have prizes and giveaways at the BB&D stand!

To see the session list head over to: and once you are sold signup at:

MVP Summit 2010, Sightseeing - Part 3 (Warning Photo Heavy)

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 03/02/2010 - 08:47

[The series index can be found here.]

Considering Zayd Kara, Rudi Grobler, and I were in Seattle we took a few days extra to sightsee around the town and so here is some of the highlights from the camera:


First thing we did was find the Needle – since it was the only thing Rudi wanted to see.


The entrance to the Microsoft Visitors Centre – worth a look at the cool tech. Not enough Visual Studio in there though ;)


A entire store devoted to Lego was almost too much for me! You could even buy individual bricks based on type and colour for specific products.


At the Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame (SFM), I geeked out A LOT (ask Rudi about my running tour of the place). R2-D2 was cool.


Still at SFM the flying cop car from Blade Runner!


Right next to SFM was EMP – Experience Music Project. This is the HUGE concert screen in the lobby.


The Yes time capsule at EMP.


Rudi Grobler, Zayd Kara, and myself in our “band” at EPM!


The Eagle artwork at the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) Olympic Park.

MVP Summit 2010, Shiny - Part 2

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 03/01/2010 - 09:40

[The series index can be found here.]

As with any conference event you can expect to fill you bag with trinkets to bring home. You know the stuff which is interesting but basically you would never pay for it yourself and Summit had some of that, but that Visual Studio jacket I got I would’ve paid for :) However this is not about those things, this is about two VERY special shiny things I got to bring home.

Towards the end of last year I was awarded VSTS Rangers Champion award however at Summit I got my “trophy” – it’s a Visual Studio 2008 Team System box, personally signed with a message from Jeff Beehler!


The second special item was a big surprise in that internally in the Team System MVP’s there is an award for the best MVP (think of being called the Tom Cruise of Top Gun), which Ed Blankenship deservedly won! Not to be outdone, I won the MVP in Residence award for spending a ridiculous amount of time away from home and doing stuff for Microsoft. The trophy for this was a photo frame with a certificate signed by Brian Harry!


MVP Summit 2010, Welcome MVP's - Part 1

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 02/26/2010 - 14:09

[The series index can be found here.]


The welcome banner goes up at MVP summit!

“Remember this is NDA, no talking about it, posting on the internet, tweeting or sharing in any way” – That message I think is the MVP Summit slogan because it was told to attendees so many times, and for good reason. MVP Summit, for those who do not know, is an invite only conference which Microsoft runs yearly at their head office in Redmond, Washington (near Seattle). The conference attendees are made up of Microsoft staff, MVP awardees, and regional directors which means that the depth of knowledge is massive. I was comparing it to TechEd, except every session is interactive and starts at least at level 300 (Advanced) and most of the audience has the knowledge that they could present it too. I cannot go into the details of the sessions because of the NDA’s but what I can say is that all the sessions were direct, open and honest communication between MVP’s and the product teams.


This is what a session looks like at MVP summit. Plenty of MVP’s in front and product team towards the back.

Stepping back for a second let me explain how I got there: Travelling with fellow MVP’s (and co-workers, yip BB&D has 3 MVP’s) Rudi Grobler and Zayd Kara we left Johannesburg to go to Atlanta (15 hours) and what should’ve been a 1 hour stop in Atlanta – which turned into 5 hours, thanks to Zayd’s bag losing it’s boarding pass meaning we missed the flight (admittedly it would’ve been a heroic run to catch it, but that sealed it). Unfortunately Rudi couldn’t get a seat on the next flight and he ended up in Atlanta for 8 hours! We (me and Zayd) touched down in Seattle very late, raced to the hotel and then raced to our first dinner.


Why are South Africans always the last people at the pub?

Summit would be tiring enough between jet lag, getting up early to eat, catch the shuttle to Microsoft campus, spend your day trying to have your brain not explode and catching the shuttles back – but being the limited time there meant using evenings too for special dinners. So I had dinners with MEA MVP’s, product teams, and general all the MVP’s where plenty of networking and side discussions happen.


Ruari, our fearless MVP lead, giving me the evil eye for disturbing his pool skills (which still didn’t help us win) at one of the dinners. 

What I take away from MVP Summit is two fold

  1. Relationships – meeting people you know by email, meeting new people and catching up with old friends.
  2. Guidance – A lot of content is focused on the why rather than the how, this means that I better understand Microsoft and that helps me put myself in a better position at work and in the community.

It really is in the interest of companies to send their employee’s who are MVP’s to the summit (put in conditions to safe guard them from leaving if you are worried about that), because what they bring back, even if they can’t tell you, will help you in the long run.

Most Valuable Indian

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:45

ee358786_ZaydKara(en-us,MSDN_10)So yesterday I posted about myself getting the MVP award, well today it got better as my friend, co-worker, fellow VSTS Ranger and S.A. Architect lead: Zayd Kara has also been awarded a MVP for his work with Team System! Congratulations Zayd!

And the award goes to...

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sun, 01/03/2010 - 19:07

With the count down clock at T-10 days to my sabbatical trip an email popped into my mail box… it was an email from Microsoft congratulating me on getting the MVP (Most Valuable Professional) award for my work with Team System!

What is this MVP Award?

The Microsoft MVP Award is an annual award that recognizes exceptional technology community leaders worldwide who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with users and Microsoft… With fewer than 5,000 awardees worldwide, Microsoft MVPs represent a highly select group of experts. MVPs share a deep commitment to community and a willingness to help others. They represent the diversity of today’s technical communities. MVPs are present in over 90 countries, spanning more than 30 languages, and over 90 Microsoft technologies. MVPs share a passion for technology, a willingness to help others, and a commitment to community. These are the qualities that make MVPs exceptional community leaders. MVPs’ efforts enhance people’s lives and contribute to our industry’s success in many ways. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, and providing objective feedback, they help people solve problems and discover new capabilities every day. MVPs are technology’s best and brightest…

Richard Kaplin, Microsoft Corporate Vice President

So this is a great honour for me to be welcomed into a group of people who I look up to and respect :)  You can see my new MVP profile up at