Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is the eBook worth reading?

Recently (e.g. an hour ago :-) I was having a discussion on Twitter with Sahil Malik about the virtues of a eBook reader vs. reading an electronic book on something like a laptop. It got me thinking, is the eBook worth reading?

barnes-noble-nook-e9My wife and I recently obtained a new Barnes & Noble Nook eBook reader, so we have some first hand experience with the form factor. Much like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, it uses eInk technology to display text instead of a standard backlit LCD screen typically found in a laptop or tablet. The eInk is much easier to read for longer periods than LCD screens, the resolution is close to print, and the power consumption is very low so a reader can last for days on a single charge.

So is this relatively new form factor worth considering? Short answer: yes. Long answer: it depends.


  • More portable than a laptop
  • Longer batter life than a phone or laptop (days vs. hours)
  • Form factor more like a book; easy to hold
  • Larger screen than a phone, smaller form factor than a laptop
  • Lower glare than an LCD screen
  • No backlight to fatigue the eyes and consume power
  • Simplicity – it is for reading, not for much else. It’s not a replacement for a laptop, it’s a replacement for a book
  • Ability to hold hundreds of books and periodicals instead of having to lug around printed material


  • Hardware cost – readers are still upwards of $300 or more
  • Content cost – books aren’t necessarily cheaper than paperbacks, newspapers aren’t necessarily cheaper than home delivery
  • Content selection – limited vs. print, limited newspaper and magazine options and even within them less content per publication
  • Standardization – Content spread out amongst different readers, not available on all, different formats. Though there are some standards like ePub and PDF, but they still can contain…
  • DRM – limits display and sharing of eBooks, even with yourself
  • Immature – the technology, while not brand new, is still in its infancy

In the next year, I hope to see a big leap forward in eBook readers. Features that would make it a much better platform:

  • Touch screens (already appearing on some Sony Reader models)
  • Color (not necessary but might be nice)
  • Better navigation of books, newspapers, and magazines (may come with the touch screen interface)
  • Better formatting for newspapers and magazines
  • More selection
  • Less DRM
  • More wireless
  • More sharing, less restrictions (one can dream)
  • Lower entry cost

Much like the early days of MP3 players, eBook readers are in the phase where they’re still not for everyone. However, in a few years more people will have them and understand why they might be beneficial over other form factors.

This is a good review in PC World that summarizes the state of eBook readers pretty well. They don’t have a Nook review on there (yet) so you should add that to the mix.

I like the Nook because it’s more open than the Kindle, at least at the moment. I see the Kindle right now as similar to the iPod/iTunes experience a few years back when DRM ruled.

The Nook is still full of DRM, but may help open up things to less DRM or at least more open DRM, where you can buy eBooks from multiple stores on the reader itself and then read them on whatever device you have (other readers, phone, computer). You can sort of do this with the Nook/B&N eBooks—there are readers for PC/Mac, Blackberry, and iPhone, but not for Android (strangely), Palm, or Windows Mobile.

The Nook is based on Android, and I’m hoping that Barnes and Noble opens the platform to 3rd party development to help enhance the reading and browsing experience.

eBook readers could be a boon for the office one day, as well. Instead of printing that 100 page proposal or 1000 page manual, you could wirelessly sync it from your document management system to your eBook. Then you can read and annotate it using a touch screen/stylus and then sync back the comments to your document management system. All comments could be consolidated back as notes in Word or PDF format, and the author can then easily make the necessary changes. Voila! Finally, the paperless office! (Again, one can dream :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SharePoint 2010 Single Server Install Roadblock

So I finally have some time to sit down and create a virtual machine for SharePoint 2010. In classic Joel fashion, I can't just run the "standalone install." I have to run standalone with SQL Server, because I might just need full SQL Server for something in the future, right?

So in SharePoint 2010, you can't run a farm installation using local accounts by default. So there is a fix (see link), but when I run the new-SPConfigurationDatabase PowerShell command I get the following error:

New-SPConfigurationDatabase : The passphrase supplied does not meet the minimum complexity requirements. Please select another passphrase that meets all of th e following criteria: is at least 8 characters; contains at least three of the following four character groups: English uppercase characters (A through Z); E nglish lowercase characters (a through z); Numerals (0 through 9); Non-alphabet ic characters (such as !, $, #, %). Type a passphrase which meets these require ments. At line:1 char:28 + New-SPConfigurationDatabase <<<< + CategoryInfo : InvalidArgument: (System.Security.SecureString:S ecureString) [New-SPConfigurationDatabase], SPException + FullyQualifiedErrorId : Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell.SPCmdletNewSPCon figurationDatabase

Screen shot:

My farm credentials account has a passphrase that meets the requirements. Thing is, I am never asked for my Farm passphrase, like shown in the other blog post screen shot. So I am wondering what's going on?

[9:21pm] I'm trying the full command line route, e.g.

PS C:\Users\MyUser> New-SPConfigurationDatabase -DatabaseName "SharePoint2010_Co
nfigDB" -DatabaseServer "SP2010Demo1" -Passphrase (ConvertTo-SecureString "Password1$$$" -AsPlainText -force) -FarmCredentials (Get-Credential)

However I've now realized that my SQL Server 2008 SP1 needs the CU2. Downloading now. The saga continues.

[10:12pm] Finally got CU2 installed for SQL Server. Alas, now getting " The user does not exist or is not unique" error mentioned in the From the Field blog. More troubleshooting...

[12:45am] Gave up with SQL Server 2008 and went with standalone SP2010 install (using SQL Express). Still got the user profile manager error during SP config wizard, but SharePoint 2010 is installed for the most part. Time for bed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Compelling SharePoint 2010 Features and Enhancements

After parsing the information from last week's SharePoint Conference 2009, I've come up with a list of SharePoint 2010 features and enhancements that might make it worth considering an upgrade. Some of these features are in SharePoint 2007 but have been improved in 2010, like the concept of content types. Some of these features are new, like tagging and rating.


  • Services a la carte via Service Applications; Can build your own
  • Performance enhancements
  • Throttling
  • Tens of millions of documents per library
  • Multi-tenacy - Keep content separated via application level security
  • Claims (SAML) based communication - sort of like Kerberos for external authentication

User Experience and Content Management

  • Managed Metadata Service
  • Enterprise Content Types
  • Tagging and Rating (Taxonomy & Folksonomy)
  • Content Organizer (routes content based on pre-set policies)
  • Records Management (in place or upload to record center)
  • Delete, Hold in-place, Archive with Link options
  • Social features, social search, social bookmarking, search for user content
  • My Sites: Customizable My Site templates, org chart, user's activity feed
  • User Profile Service; Sync data from multiple sources into SharePoint profile
  • Unique document IDs
  • Visual Upgrade from 2007 sites - gradual or immediate
  • Cross-browser support (IE 7+, Firefox, Safari)
  • Improved mobile support
  • SharePoint Workspace for offline collaboration
  • ...and Office online applications


  • SharePoint Designer as a respectable development platform
  • Visual Studio templates for SharePoint development
  • InfoPath and Visio development of web forms and workflow (along with SharePoint Designer)

I plan to post more detailed blog posts on certain topics as time permits. For now this should give you a taste of what's coming in the new SharePoint.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SharePoint Conference 2009

I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday to attend the SharePoint Conference 2009. I came exited to learn about all of the new enhancements and features of SharePoint 2010. Two days into it I can say that this is definitely one of the most useful conferences I've ever been to.

I'm here with about two dozen of my colleagues and another 7000 or so of our closest SharePoint friends. Sessions have ranged from the overview keynote by Steve Ballmer and Jeff Teper, user experience improvements, social media, topology, administration, upgrade from 2007 to 2010, development with InfoPath, SharePoint Designer, and Visual Studio.

Two more days of sessions that are getting more and more advanced. Day 1 and 2 had many 100-300 level sessions. Tomorrow and Thursday have more 300-400 level sessions.

When I get some time I'll post some notes from the sessions I attended. What I can say now is: SharePoint 2010 is a big step up from 2007. I want to be working in 2010 sooner rather than later.

Oh, BTW, SharePoint/Office 2010 public beta will be released sometime in November 2009 with the final product release sometime in the first half of 2010.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Still here

Yep, I'm still here.

Been in and out of SharePoint for the past five months. Mostly in.

Looking forward to the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas from October 18-22 and the release of more information about SharePoint 2010.

More to come.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Results Show: SharePoint Saturday DC

Dan and Joel talk about SmartCardsThe most recent iteration of the SharePoint Saturday franchise, SharePoint Saturday DC, was held yesterday at the Microsoft Technology Center in Reston, Virginia. The day went very well, thanks to Dux Raymond Sy and his team of event coordinators, volunteers, and sponsors! Over 200 people were there and most of the sessions were packed and a few were standing room only!

There were a variety of session topics, including Dan Lewis's Social Computing talk, Tom Resing's Business Data Catalog presentation, and Jonathan Distler's overview of Arlington County, Virginia's SharePoint pilot. All-in-all, there were twenty-eight sessions plus an open "Ask the Expert" discussion in the lobby.

Dan Usher and I presented our talk SmartCard Authentication: Considerations, Options, and Pitfalls with SharePoint during the last session of the day, 4:45-5:45. Surprisingly, we still had the energy in us to have a lively discussion about security, SmartCards, and how they fit into a SharePoint implementation.

View the slides on SlideShare or download the PowerPoint file (PPT or PPTX) which includes the slides plus notes and resource links.

Slide deckView Online (slides only)

View PowerPoint (slides + notes/resources)
PowerPoint 2003 (PPT)
PowerPoint 2007 (PPTX)

A video of our talk may be made available at some point, and I'll post it here if it does.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Speaking at SharePoint Saturday DC

In recent months there has been a series of interesting free weekend events called SharePoint Saturdays centered around the topic of--what else--SharePoint! Well, SharePoint Saturday is coming to the Washington, DC, area!

Dan Usher and I are scheduled to present together on the topic of smart card authentication with SharePoint 2007. The talk is entitled SmartCard authentication: Considerations, options and pitfalls. Oh my!
With the ever present risks of data integrity and non-repudiation, several organizations have begun to utilize smartcards for authentication to systems. With the greater number of SharePoint instances being stood up within organizations, ensuring the smartcards can be used to access data is key. In this session, we'll discuss smartcard authentication, considerations when determining the appropriate architecture, options for integration with different authentication providers and implementation pitfalls.
There are a few different ways you can integrate smart cards (or other two factor authentication) into a SharePoint instance. We'll talk about the various methods, including the option of using a custom membership provider.

There is a special food drive going along with the event. Check out Dux Raymond Sy's explanation on the SharePoint Saturday DC website.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Search Settings in SSP gives error "Authentication failed because the remote party has closed the transport stream"

There was an odd error that we have been seeing in one of our SharePoint 2007 server farms. When trying to access the Search settings page in Central Administration's Shared Services Provider, the SSP gives this error:

"Authentication failed because the remote party has closed the transport stream."

It ends up that it's an issue with the SSL certificate that is installed on the "Office Server Web Services" IIS instance. Somehow it gets corrupted when .NET 3.5 Service Pack 1 is installed.

Microsoft knows about the issue and has a fix right here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Custom Smart Card Authentication and SharePoint

One of the great new features of SharePoint 2007 was the ability to utilize multiple means of user authentication: Active Directory, LDAP, SQL, and more. This is nothing new, and since the advent of MOSS 2007/WSS 3.0 the use of non-AD authentication via Membership Providers has been well documented.

What if you need to use PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) certificates and/or Smart Cards (like Common Access Cards, aka CAC)? There are a few ways to do this, depending on how the user certificates need to map to your account store. If you use Active Directory, there are built in ways to map certificates to users and have IIS handle the handshake. Or you can use a third-party system or SSO. This assumes you have a defined user directory and pre-defined certificate mappings.

But what if you need to accept PKI/Smart Cards, but do not have a master user directory (AD, LDAP) of everyone who will attempt to access the site?

The Concept:
  • Use a custom ASP.NET Membership provider to accept and read PKI certificates (using IIS)
  • Create and login to a NEW account (AD, LDAP, SQL)
  • Forward the user to the SharePoint site.
Very similar to this idea from Adam Buenz.

Easy? We shall see.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Opening PowerPoint Slideshows

Scenario: Users want to store files in SharePoint and open them from another website. The users are on a network with Internet Explorer (IE) 6 or 7 and Office 2007. This should not be an issue.

However, files of type .pps (PowerPoint slideshows) were opening in a undesirable manner.

Instead of opening in full-screen slideshow mode, the PPS files were opening in Edit mode inside of PowerPoint.

After doing a bit of research and testing, I believe this is the only solution that will allow PPS files to open in slideshow mode when using Internet Explorer and Office 2007. This site talks about it too. In a nutshell, it requires a client side configuration. Nothing on the server side can do the trick if the user is on Internet Explorer and Office 2007. It's not even an issue with SharePoint. It happens on non-SharePoint sites too.

This solution references this Microsoft KB article:

Basically, each computer needs to have its registry changed:

  1. Start Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe).
  2. Locate and click the following key in the registry:
  3. Edit or add the following registry value:
    Value name: BrowserFlags
    Data type: REG_DWORD
    Radix: click Hexadecimal
    Value data: (see below)

It appears that Office 2007 changes the default value to "a", which means PPS files open in Edit mode. You can change the value to 8 (open in a new window in show mode) or 0 (open in the browser window in show mode), but this is a local computer change that would need to be done on each PC. Not realistic. :-(

Accessing the files in Firefox works fine: PPS files open as slide shows, no problem.