SharePoint Portal Server Hands on Labs

Apparently there are SharePoint Portal Server Hands on Labs available now via Technet – I did not realize this till I read Arpan’s post thing morning.

The hands on labs are awesome if you want to get some guided experience using the product without having to do an install / config etc… on your own.

If you are looking to get familiar with SPS – I highly recommend you try these out.

Chart Web Part From Jesper Halvorsen

A very common request or feature that individuals want on their SharePoint dashboard is the ability to display charts of data. It’s pretty much a guaranteed check mark on the list of requirements. The Office Web Components offer this but I totally cracked up when I read this post from Jesper Halvorsen

For a hobby project I needed the ability to dynamically generate charts based on lists items in SharePoint. Naive as I am, my first idea was to use Office Web Components to draw the charts – but getting OWC to work with SharePoint is enough to make a grown man cry It turned out to be a lot easier to draw the charts myself.
My idea was to make a chart web part that “site owners” could add to their sites and quickly configure, rather than an advanced web part that only developers could use. To achieve this, the web part uses views over a list as its data source – if you want to filter or group items, go ahead and create a new view for the chart.

While I haven’t tried these out yet I am totally going to. One thing I like about Jesper’s approach is making use of the list views for alternate chart views. This is a perferred approach if you are developing something for site owners since it allows them to modify the web part using a method they are already familiar with – creating / modifying lists views and modifying the web part properties.

Nice work Jesper! Really looking forward to checking this out.

CSI Video Game

Last Night I was bored and figured since I can’t take my Xbox with me when I travel I should at least have a decent PC game that could help pass the time.  Shane has been talking about checking out World of Warcraft for a while so I figured maybe it’s time I pick up a copy.  I haven’t played a MMORPG since Asheron’s Call so I would probably enjoy this. 

Of course, I couldn’t find a copy in any of the local electronics stores so instead I picked up a copy of CSI for a goof.  I love the show (the original one!) so I figured the game might be fun. 

Overall it’s not bad.  A little more lightweight on the strategy than I would have liked.  I was hoping that I would be somewhat challenged by the crime solving but really it’s a bit too easy.  If the game had multiple difficulty modes it would be much better.  But it is a decent time waster all the same.  I blasted through the first 3 crimes but hopefully they get more difficult as you advance.

Soggy Cornflakes

So I wake up this morning in my hotel feeling happy that after a very busy week on the road…I am heading home.  I start packing everything up – all the while puzzled as to how everything can go in my suitcase with room to spare on the way up – but it is such a struggle to get everything to fit on the way back, no matter how I fold or arrange stuff.

Then I get a call from the Front Desk asking me what the license plate of my car is.  I suddenly feel a little sick because I doubt this is a courtesy call offering me a complimentary car wash.  Nope turns out someone backed into my rental car in the parking lot and left a major dent in front.  Luckily the lady was decent enough to report it so I remained calm and didn’t get upset.  Although I must admit that I really wanted to…

So now I’m sitting here in the airport…cranky…and wondering how much a pain in the butt this is all going to be.  Apparently all I have to do is report the damage to my credit card company (I was using their collision coverage) and it should all resolve itself.  But somehow I have my doubts.

Anyone else ever have this happen?  Drop me a line.

Customizing and Branding SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services

For those of you who are interested in SharePoint Customization – you may want to check out the MSDN Webcast this Friday by Mike Fitzmaurice.

Many deployments of Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies wouldn’t be complete without modifications to settings and user interface elements to conform to user requirements and/or corporate policies. The latest version of SharePoint offers improvements in the customization, development, and deployment of an enterprise portal and team collaboration infrastructure. This webcast will cover what can be easily configured, what can be safely configured, and what shouldn’t be modified without adequate experience.

As well, there is another webcast by Mike being offered on March 23 to discuss and review alternatives for Enterprise Application Integration with SharePoint Portal Server.

Many options exist for integrating SharePoint Portal Servers with Enterprise line of business applications. This session presents techniques and code for accomplishing common integration tasks. Learn how to call custom APIs to facilitate integration, make use of BizTalk Server, utilize the Single Sign-On services, and synchronize SharePoint Portal Server user profile data with other directories and person-centric data stores.

Business Process Management Solutions Review

Bob Mixon has an excellent review posted on BPM solutions that are available in the market today. I really like how he has compared each product by using the same important high level criteria:

  1. Workflow Designer
  2. Product Extensibility
  3. Microsoft Platform
  4. Workflow Administration
  5. Active Directory Integration
  6. SharePoint Integration
  7. Microsoft Office Integration
  8. Reporting

A quick reminder of how the big picture must always be considered when seeking a great BPM solution. There are always many things to take into consideration. In otherwords, while one may have an awesome GUI for creating workflow – if it doesn’t interact well with the applications that your non-technical workers use to perform their jobs – it may not be what you are looking for.

Fable For Windows

From DailyGame.net

Much like Microsoft took the Xbox-exclusive Halo and beefed it up for release on Windows, the company is now taking its role-playing game Fable and preparing to release it on Windows this fall.

Fable: The Lost Chapters is currently in development by Lionhead Studios and will feature a host of enhancements from the Xbox version. Among the enhancements are new quests, new areas new creatures and new story elements. In addition, Fable: The Lost Chapters has been optimized for Windows with enhanced graphics and greater character customization.

The HD Era…Sounds Good!

Some exciting (yet still somewhat vague) details released today during the keynote at the Game Developers Conference about the next Xbox. (Source: Major Nelsons Weblog) Great to see SOMETHING released officially on it anyhow.

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SAN FRANCISCO — March 9, 2005 — Today at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), Microsoft Corp. announced the first details of its next-generation Xbox® video game system platform, highlighting how hardware, software and services are being fused to power enhanced game and entertainment experiences.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief XNA™ Architect J Allard further outlined the company’s vision for the future of entertainment, citing the emergence of an “HD Era” in video games that is fueled by consumer demand for experiences that are always connected, always personalized and always in high-definition …

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During his keynote J discusses the change from board games to video games and the impact Atari had on the entertainment industry. So true! I remember those days well!

Some other topics that were touched on that peaked my interest:

The HD Era:

Lots of stuff here about expanding the position of games and the experience level provided by them. Overall this concept excites me. But where are all the games for EVERYONE in the family. Here we are 20 years post-Atari and while significant steps have been made to widen the demographics associated with video games – the availability of games and content for the whole family is still lacking. As the Xbox moves to become a more significant member of the household living room – it needs to feature content that appeals to everyone.

I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it – I see HUGE potential for kids learning games for example. My three year old nephew LOVES the Xbox. He loves to come to our house and sort through all my games. Unfortunately most of my games are not suitable for him (too violent or complex). It’s too bad really since he can play up a storm on some of the games available for him on the pc. Games that focus on learning, matching, and colours. Nothing too complex but fun and rewarding for him. Imagine a game series that was released for kids that offered colourful story books, easy to control and educational games and short videos that features songs and dancing and all the other things that drive us adults crazy. All things that parents spend a bazillion dollars a year on for their kids. Why? Because kids love them and they learn from them.

Movies vs Games…Why Choose!

There was a brief segment on the integration of a movie and a game so that each one enhances the experience of another. GOOD call! I have been waiting for this. First we had movies that spun out games…then we had games that turned into movies. The similarities between these two mediums are too enormous to ignore. Glad to see movement in this area. Fact is everyone knows that a typical movie offers 2 hours of entertainment – how many hours can you get our of a game? Why choose – let’s do both!

Making Development Easier

Last week I posted about how excited I was over the Visual Studio Team System – it’s great to see that they plan on extending that system and making a version available for XNA and game development. Listening to some of J’s comments of headaches associated with game development and hitting milestones – clearly not much different than the software development world is it? If we can benefit from these tools in our environments, game devs definitely can as well.

As well it was nice to hear J talk about improving the game development experience by standardizing certain items such as user alerts and making them available to developers across all games. He’s right – no developer wants to spend their time on those pieces. They want to be working on the cool and challenging bits. The more components and controls that can be made available to standardize the user experience for the game and free up developer time – the sooner we will start seeing even cooler features in our games.

Microsoft know what they are doing when they build a development platform. It’s good to see the Windows and Xbox worlds starting to align. It should be an exciting few years as this develops even more.

Personalization

It’s all about user expression and personalization. How many times have I groaned because the person I was playing against wanted to spend 10 minutes suiting out their character? Why do people love funkin out their MSN profiles, names, contact cards and spaces? Because they love to put their own personal touch on the things they use. Whether its a notebook, locker, car, or room in a house – we love to put our stamp on the things we own. Gaming and entertainment are totally about user experience so they more features and tricks that can be thrown in to personalize that experience – the better. As well, the more control a gamer has over their experience – the less restrictive the demographic appeal becomes.

Moving on…

So about the name…Xbox Next, Xbox 360, Xenon – who cares! Show me the features – show me the content and while you are at it, some details on hardware specs would be nice too. Heck why not just take the Windows approach and call it Xbox 200X – that certainly outranks Playstation 3 and makes the naming process a lot easier in the future. My only comment is not get rid of “Xbox” – it would be a waste to dispose of the equity and awareness associated with that brand.