Friday, November 30, 2012

SharePoint 2013 Conference–Upgrade Deep Dive

Speaker: Sean Livingston (Senior Program Manager, Microsoft)

Developing a solid foundation for your users is critical to the success of your SharePoint Server 2013 deployment - in this session we'll share the major changes in how upgrade works in SharePoint Server 2013 and how to best take advantage of new capabilities to enable and deliver a smooth upgrade experience to your users.

This was a 400 level session that described in detail the various out of the box upgrade options that are available for SharePoint administrators. The fundamental message of the session was upgrade is “safer and faster.”


This session was in a huge room and it was almost full. In fact, the session was actually moved to a larger room and there were still people standing in the back. Here are my notes:

· Deferred site collection upgrade is the main new feature. I wrote a post about the deferred site collection upgrade option when the SharePoint 2013 preview was first released. My message in that post was that it’s a good feature, but don’t confuse “deferred” with “incremental.” This is not a feature that allows you to take, for example, one site out of a site collection and migrate it to 2013 while leaving the rest of the content on a 2010 server.

· In short, the deferred site collection upgrade allows SharePoint 2010 customers to “upgrade’ to SharePoint 2013 but still run site collections under the SharePoint 2010 code base. In other words, you have to upgrade the DB schema, but you can run 2010 site collections in 2013. This means--in principle--that custom code for SharePoint 2010 should just work and continue to work until you’re ready to upgrade the site collection. Once you do that, you’ll be running on the 2013 code base.

· Note that this is all at the site collection level—not on a sub-site by sub-site basis.

· Upgrade preview creates a copy. default is 100MB mac. that copy will actually be used is the site collection is upgrades. The size is configurable.

· Upgrade queue is used to control how many upgrade actions are happening at the same time. upgrade throttling. PowerShell upgrade commands will honour the upgrade queue unless you explicitly override it.

· Performance is about 5mins for a small site collection and can be as quick as 45 seconds. However, Sean was clear that, if your site collections were slow to upgrade last time; they will be slow to upgrade again. The “more stuff you have” the longer it will take. This includes features, numbers of sub-sites. it could take hours to upgrade (for “big and gnarly site collections”).

· You can run PowerShell commands to get all the site collections and pipe them into the upgrade queue so that they are all upgrades.

· get-spsite is now shown by default  shows compatibility level in PowerShell commands

· get-spsiteupgradesessions info will show what’s going on the in queue on the server

· get-spsite | upgrade spsite is the basic upgrade command

· Sending email updates when site collections are queue and/or completed is an option. The default is to send mail if upgrade was UI initiated.

· Evaluation site collection creation uses SQL Server snapshots. if mirroring is being used, it won’t work.

· This process snapshots the whole DB regardless of how many site collections are in the DB. Then the site collection is cloned (in the original DB) with -eval added to the URL.

· Expiration date is set for evaluation copy. You can optionally added it to the upgrade queue. Then the snapshot is cleaned up.

· If you don’t have snapshot, a different process is used—a site collection backup. 85GB is the recommended max size for this option. Then backup is restored to a -eval URL. Then the backup is cleaned up.

· SharePoint 2013 does not support partially trusted code solutions. It still supports sandbox. Bin directory is full trust only.

· Claims authentication is now default for new web applications. The recommendation is to use claims mode exclusively. Existing 2010 claims providers would just work.

· If you delete s site and then upgrade the site collection(or apply a CU patch), the site recycle bin can now restore the site (by running the upgrade. This means recycle bin is now much safer.

· Cross farm services compatibility means now that you don’t have to do a big bang upgrade . 2013 federated services can be consumed by 2010 farm.

· Added in RTM is a maintenance window feature. These are called maintenance windows objects. many settings such as start, end, Duration. It also allows you to display a message to users about maintenance; that’s handy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wading into the SharePoint Conference

As part of my SPC as an Attendee blog series, I’ll be publishing some posts about specific sessions. It’s getting late now, so I’ll have to continue with that over the next few days.


One definite highlight at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012 was the Jon Bon Jovi concert at the attendee party. The venue (just like the last SPC in Las Vegas) was the Mandalay Bay beach. As you can see in the photo above, the stage is actually across the water from the beach, so the best ‘seat’ available required wading into the pool. I decided that I’d take the plunge and was pleasantly surprised to find that the water was actually warmer than the air.

Yes, they did have lifeguards on duty (lots of them), so you can rest assured that the attendees were safe.

the fireworks at the SPC12 concert were amazing

Halo History: Version to Version Evolution

Halo 3 sold more than US$170 million worth of copies in the first twenty-four hours of release, breaking the record set by Halo 2 three years prior.[5][6] The games have sold over 34 million copies worldwide, and all Halo merchandise has grossed more than $1.7 billion.”
- Wikipedia

“Microsoft Corp said its "Halo 4" video game racked up $220 million in global sales on its launch day, beating records set by previous installments of the hit series.” – Yahoo News

Since the announcement of Halo 4 at the E3 conference, I’ve been reminiscing about the Halo franchise. I have fond memories—after all, I spent enough time with Halo to write three books: The Black Art of Halo Mods (Sams), Halo 2 Hacks (O'Reilly) and The Unauthorized Halo 2 Battle Guide (Thompson).

The Halo video game series has clearly been a fantastic success for Bungie, Microsoft and the Xbox group. As I played through Halo: Reach, I thought I’d write up a post about the most memorable differences between the various flavours of Halo. I wanted to do this as much from memory as possible so that the things that were really memorable get the most attention.

I didn’t get around to posting what I wrote, so now that I’ve had some time with Halo 4, it seems like it’s about time to post.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Halo 1) — 2001

- © 2001 Microsoft. First released screenshot of Halo

The first version of Halo (Halo 1, or Halo: Combat Evolved) is a first-person shooter (FPS) that was released on the original Xbox platform. It became the most important game in the success of the new Xbox video game console and spawned a massive franchise.

These are the aspects of the original Halo that I remember most vividly:

  • It was beautiful (which sounds funny when you see the anniversary upgrade)
  • The game engine was solid
  • Melee attacks were addictively fun
  • Vehicles were cool (see warthog jump). Combat with vehicles was a lot of fun
  • The story was good
  • Multi-player (deathmatch) was a lot of fun but there was no Xbox Live option when Halo was released, so you needed to either use the same Xbox (up to four players) or network Xboxs together (up to 16 players). In Building 25 on the Microsoft campus they had large screens and would network Xboxs together to play. That was the first time I played with a group. Later my roommate and I would thread a network cable to our neighbour so we could play.
  • The pistol was clearly overpowered
  • Large portions of the game involved playing through a level and then going backwards through the same level
  • How do you run?
  • The race at the end was exciting

- © 2001 Microsoft

Halo PC — 2003

A couple of years after the Xbox version of Halo, a PC edition was released. This became known as Halo PC. It was a popular game since consoles were still not considered cool by hard-core gamers. Basically, if you couldn’t use a keyboard, a lot of FPS fans, wouldn’t take the game seriously.

Thanks to networking options there was a vibrant multi-player scene for Halo PC and it boasted far more maps than the original Xbox game. If I remember correctly, the flamethrower—which was cut from the original Xbox game—was available in Halo PC.

Halo 2 — 2004

- © 2004 Microsoft

Halo 2 was a significant advance. Included in the upgrade was:

  • Faster movement
  • Dual-wielding (using two weapons at the same time)
  • Exploding vehicles
  • Jacking vehicles was a fantastic addition
  • Xbox live multi-player support
  • Health status was hidden and no health packs were available. This made it harder for better players to dominate by constantly rejuvenating.

Here are some of the Halo 2 Cons:

  • The ending
    The ending was a let-down because there isn't any in-your-face way to see how many levels are left in the game (as there was in Halo 1), many gamers were surprised when the game ended. personally, I enjoyed the direction of the story, but at the end I was incredulous. "that's it?"
  • The Jackal snipers sort of ruined part of the Legendary level experience. The Jackals were so ridiculously good with the Covenant beam rifle that they would immediately take you out. The only way to deal with them was to learn where they were and get the drop on them.
  • Weapons aren't balanced
    Having played the Halo 2 Beta, I was disappointed with some of the changes (primarily to do with weaponry) that made it into the final release. I believe that too much was done to limit the impact of gamers who can actually aim. My pet theory is that players such as char (from crew116) kicked ass so badly in the Alpha and Beta that Bungie thought their favourite weapons were overpowered; the truth is that they were just the best players. To 'balance' the weapons, Bungie beefed up the weapons that require less skill. For example, the sword is clearly overpowered - there is no logic to the fact that the sword lunge has better range than the shotgun. IMHO, the sword ruins Lockout Slayer.
  • One positive weapon change was the pistol being toned down—which prompted the Red vs. Blue joke “Balanced doesn’t sound like more powerful.”
  • Still no run?

I wrote my first Halo book about Halo 2 multiplayer: The Unauthorized Halo 2 Battle Guide: Advanced Combat Techniques. Despite some unfounded allegations to the contrary, I did not violate any NDA agreement by writing this book and I did not release any information that wasn’t already in the public domain.

And since I did have a legal right to write about Halo, I decided to exercise it by writing Halo 2 Hacks. Which is a book about Halo 2 Easter eggs, glitches, skulls, tricks and mods. I tried hard to spread the word about modding as a creative and positive hobby, but I have to admit that most press at the time focused on modding as a form of cheating and it was hard to have my voice heard above the people claiming that all modding is bad—a perspective that is indefensible when people take the time to understand the modding community.

Halo 2 Hacks: Tips & Tools for Finishing the Fight. After the experience with my first book, I had to take precautions. Before writing Halo 2 Hacks, I paid an overpriced lawyer to write a decision in support of my legal right to write books about Halo. That document clearly asserted that the 1980 “Pac-Man decision” set the precedent for instructional books about software. After that, no one bothered to question whether there were any legal issues with writing books about Halo.

Halo Custom Edition (HaloCE) — 2004

In 2004, Microsoft made the enlightened decision to release some of the developer tools that were used to create Halo. This version was called HaloCE (for ‘custom edition’—not to be confused with ‘combat evolved’) and was an add-on for the PC version HaloCE brought modding support to the Halo universe. Unfortunately, it was the last time a version of Halo included support for ad-hoc modding. A map editor was added later on, but it doesn’t compare to the power and potential that Halo modders experienced with HaloCE.

If you had a Halo PC disk, you could install Halo Custom Edition (HaloCE). Some people confused HaloCE with Halo: Combat Evolved, but they’re entirely different beasts.  I wrote the Black Art of Halo Mods about modding HaloCE. This book combined many tutorials from the Halo modding community.

Halo 3 — 2007

- © 2007 Bungie/Microsoft

Halo 3 was another step up for Bungie. The graphics and game play were better, but it really felt like they spent much more time on the multiplayer experience than the campaign.

  • The enemies were largely the same but with better graphics
  • Equipment was added. Items including sprint and invisibility could be picked up.
  • Two-handed weapons such as turrets
  • Legendary campaign was too easy. It really felt like the new equipment and weapons put the game out of balance and Bungie didn’t have enough time to fix it before releasing the campaign. I can remember one instance where there was an invulnerability item that I ignored because I got through the whole fight without needing it—that struck me as odd at the time.

Halo Wars — 2009

- © 2009 Bungie/Microsoft

The original Halo concept was a real-time strategy game. However, that vision didn’t become a reality until 2009 when Halo Wars was released.

Halo ODST — 2009


- © 2009 Bungie/Microsoft

I understand that ODST was meant to be a different kind of Halo game—I get it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. What I remember from ODST is long sections of walking around in a dark city and not doing much. There were flashback scenes to daylight that had the best battles in the game; some really fun fights.

  • No multi-player
  • Because you’re not a Spartan (you’re an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper [ODST]], you had limited “stamina” and had to rest. This ruined the experience for me since I’m all about getting into really gnarly battles and you simply couldn’t go hard enough for long enough to have the crazy fights I enjoy.
  • An over-charged plasma burst can temporarily disable a vehicle
  • Halo 1 Pistol was back
  • Achievement progress was shown on screen

Halo Reach — 2010

- © 2010 Bungie/Microsoft

  • Armour abilities were added. When a player spawns in multi-player, she can choose an armour ability such as armour lock or hologram.
  • Dual-wielding is gone
  • Weapons seem to disappear faster than previous Halo games
  • Some new monsters that were fun to fight
  • ‘plays more like Halo 1 or Halo 2‘
  • Can’t jump as high as you could in Halo 3
  • You have health again along with your shields like Halo 1. Pick up Health packs to restore your health.
  • Fight in space was cool and difficult
  • New assassination animations which are really cool.
  • There is a new cR (credit) system where you earn credits by using anything in Halo Reach. This includes campaign, firefight, multiplayer, theater, and forge. You rank up using cR. You cannot de rank. Details of multi-player system:
  • No social matchmaking.
  • The vehicles were the best yet—until Halo 4, that is
  • Best selection of modes: driving vehicles, manning turrets, flying, etc.
  • Ending was anti-climactic
  • This was the last Halo game developed by Bungie.

Halo 4 — 2012


- © 2012 Microsoft

Halo 4 is the first new Halo game developed by 343 Industries. They worked on the Halo 1 Anniversary Edition, but that was just a graphics upgrade—not a whole new game. I’ve only just begun Halo 4, but so far I like it.

  • Master Chief is back! He has been done for a few games. He’s back for a three-adventure.
  • The game feels a little bit different. I noted earlier that Halo was slow in comparison to Unreal Tournament. I’m not saying Halo 4 is as fast, but the way the engine feels and the weapons behave is closer to the Unreal experience. For example, the Storm rifle.
  • The graphics are great. The detail improvements are obvious; warthogs even have red gas cans at the back that get knocked off when the jeep takes damage.
  • Equipment has been revamped yet again. It seems that this is the hardest problem to solve in the Halo universe because it keeps getting fundamentally changed. Armour lock is gone in favour of a directional shield.
  • Weapons and ammo seem to disappear even faster than Reach and saving doesn’t seem to save them. This would be a big issue if ammo wasn’t so abundant. I’ve run into numerous occasions where my carefully stashed weapons were cleared away… annoying.
  • The Elites look cool, but I don’t like the new grunts. The old models were better in my opinion. The fact that some can fly for short bursts is cool, and it’s also kinda cool that some of them look like they’re wearing Mexican wrestling masks, but I liked the old look.
  • One issue that I have in the early levels is that ammunition is far too abundant on the Legendary setting. I remember having to be pretty frugal with ammo in past versions, but so far in Halo 4, I’ve had my pick of numerous weapons in most fights. This is just getting more and more obvious as the game goes on. I’ve regularly left entire crates untouched. I’d rather have fewer weapons but not have them ‘stolen’ by the game.
    If there is so much ammo because it’s the same amount for a co-op game, then there needs to be some logic to change this. Just as one example, I was in a section that boasted Elites as the toughest opponent (that’s on Legendary) and yet I had easy access to: an Incineration Cannon (the most lethal weapon in the game—thus far), plenty of small arms such as Plasma Pistol and Needlers, easily 200 rounds for the Covenant Carbine, numerous Storm Rifles, a Scattershot, lots of grenades, two Binary Rifles and at least three Banshees (I didn’t use any of them). Just a crazy arsenal considering the limited opposition.
  • So far the new weapons and ‘monsters’ are cool. I’m enjoying fighting the new race: Prometheuns.
  • The new vehicles are fantastic!
  • RUN! FINALLY! It’s so nice to be able to run without using some special armour ability.

Halo has obviously had a grand impact on the gaming community. I don’t know the numbers, but it must be the best selling game for the Xbox. Halo 4 is the beginning of a new trilogy and I’m sure that 343 will do an excellent job with the next two installments.

Monday, November 12, 2012

SharePoint Conference as an Attendee

SPC as an Attendee

I’m writing this post in the first developer session of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas. This is the first time I’ve attended SPC and not spent a lot of time either preparing speaker sessions or working booths in the exhibit hall. This year, I’m working the Microsoft booth but most of my time will be spent attending sessions and learning as much about SharePoint 2013 as I can absorb. However, as an MVP, I also want to do something for the SharePoint community at large, so I thought I’d write some posts about SPC as an attendee.


The first thing to note at SPC12 (aside from coffee costing $4 in my hotel room—if I make it that is!) is that the scale is not just as big as ever, but bigger.

- the cool thing about this view (Mix on the 64th floor of The Hotel) is that we could actually see bats flying into the Luxor’s beam—presumably to catch insects attracted to the light

There are roughly 10,000 people here at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The first SharePoint conference I attended had roughly 400 attendees and last year’s event was about 7500. That’s amazing growth.

- excellent to see NCompass Labs mentioned in the SharePoint timeline

- 10,000 people having breakfast

SharePoint Conference Keynote

#spc12 was the top trending tag on Twitter during the keynote this morning. What’s even more impressive about that is that 10.000 attendees from 85 countries can pretty easily overwhelm the network. I couldn’t even get on.

I was wondering about the strong Yammer content at this show (including the keynote), but now it makes sense to me.  Microsoft is working hard on the SharePoint/Yammer integration, so waiting for the next SharePoint conference would be too long. During the keynote, they showed the current integration, talked about the future and demo’d a Windows 8 app for Yammer. Also, they announced that Yammer will be free with SharePoint online (inc. features you'd have to pay for in the paid Yammer subscription today).

I was impressed with the customer video. It featured a Nationwide SharePoint “Spot” solution that uses Yammer today. It looked great. I was also impressed that the keynote Office 365 videos were run out of one of the European data centers. That was a gutsy move for such important demos and they looked great. Microsoft wanted to make the point that performance doesn’t have to suffer because you move to the cloud and that point was clear.


The exhibit hall is about 30% larger and boasts 250 partners. I’ll have to write more about the exhibit hall. There are a number of additions to the exhibit hall this year including the community lounge.


And here’s a random Vegas image for you…

- coolest vine rack in Vegas… baby

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Installing SharePoint 2013 on Windows 8 Client Hyper-V

[Author’s Note: This content has been unlawfully copied and pasted into another blog. I’ve asked the offender to take it down and hopefully he’ll have the common sense to respect my request. Update: after I messed with the thief a bit, he finally took it down. Victory!]

For me, one of the biggest enhancements in Windows 8 is the ability to run Hyper-V in the client O/S. This means I don’t have to have a server O/S running on my laptop; I can simply run virtual machines with whatever I need. For example, the shiny new RTM build of SharePoint Server 2013 that was released recently.

There are already a bunch of useful and detailed posts describing the install process for the SharePoint 2013 Preview. Here’s the short version for people who want a relatively simple RTM setup on a Windows 8 client machine (i.e., not running Windows Server 2012 as the host operating system).

SharePoint working on it from by Stephen Cawood

Caution: Hyper-V will only work if your BIOS/hardware/CPU support Hyper-V. It’s a really good idea to check first before you try to use it and get frustrated. Whenever I order new hardware, I explicitly ask if it supports virtualization and Hyper-V. That way when I get something (e.g., a CPU) that doesn’t work—and that happens—I can return it for something that will work.

First, this setup is “relatively simple” because I chose a particular setup and I repeat it often. I run SharePoint in a Hyper-V virtual machine in a single-server farm. I install SQL Server and the domain controller role on the same virtual machine. This means I can export the VM, import into a different Hyper-V instance and it all just works. Because the whole setup is self-contained and doesn’t require Internet access, it’s great for demos, webinars, conference sessions and other presentations. However, this is not the best practice for a production SharePoint install. For example, you should not install SharePoint on a domain controller.

[Update: By request, here are the hardware specs for my setup: Dell Precision M4600 laptop with 16GB RAM and Intel Core i7-2860QM CPU @ 2,5 GHz. I’m allocating up to 8GB of RAM to the SharePoint VM because it’s self contained and I only have to run the one image.]
Step 1: Install Windows 8 and Add the Hyper-V Feature.

Once you have Windows 8 running, scroll to the top or bottom corner on the right side to open the fly out menu and then choose Settings > Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off. Then check the box next to Hyper-V and install it. This will require a reboot.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Step 2: Create a New VHD in Hyper-V
I’m choosing Windows Server 2012 so I’ve downloaded that .ISO file from MSDN and selected it as the O/S when I created the new virtual machine in Hyper-V. I’m going with a 30GB VM with 8GB of RAM (but I can always up these numbers later). If you don’t need Office and/or Visual Studio, you won’t need 30GB of space.

Note: The initial O/S image file will be less than 10GB. After installing SharePoint Server, the VHD is roughly 19GB and the image is using 30GB of the 50GB.
Step 3: Install the O/S (Windows Server 2012) and Name Your Virtual Machine
(Changing the name after installing SharePoint has historically been tricky.) I’m installing W2K12 Datacenter Edition with the GUI. Remember to activate Windows after you install. No one likes a VM with an O/S that hasn’t been activated. After you’ve installed the O/S, run Windows Update.

Note: If you choose Windows Server 2008 as your O/S, it will take a while. The last time I installed it, there were 123 W2K8 updates.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Step 4: Add the Web Server and Active Directory Domain Services Roles
I also add the Wireless LAN Services feature. Once you’ve installed AD, you’ll have the option of promoting the server to a domain controller. After that is finished, create the domain accounts you’ll need. I always add one for myself and another to use as the SharePoint admin account.

Step 4: Install SQL Server
I’m installing SQL 2012 as a stand-alone server (default instance). It’s a simple install process. I install the Engine (obviously) with the client and management tools. If I need more, I’ll add it later.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Note: I often export the virtual machine and save a copy at this point so that I have a base image of the O/S with SQL Server. Since both of them have been released recently, that’s what I did this time. You can also create a snapshot, but I’d rather just export a reusable copy than increase the disk space needs of my base image.

Step 5: Run the SharePoint 2013 Prerequisite Installer

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Download the SharePoint RTM ISO from MSDN and launch the default.hta file. The setup file will run the product install, so don’t run that first. You want to first run the prereq install.

Note: I ran into an odd “File Not Found” error when installing the prerequisites. I have a theory, but no hard proof about why it was happening. I think that W2K12 mounting ISOs works differently than it did in W2K8. It seems that when a mounted ISO needs to continue an install after a reboot, it can’t find the files because the mounting doesn’t persist. To get around that, I burned the ISO to disk.

Step 6: Install SharePoint 2013
The actual product installer doesn't really ask any questions—that’s saved for the two configuration wizards.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Note: The first time I ran the installer, it failed. Eventually, I was able to get the install to complete. I manually restarted the VM, manually ran Windows Update and, I also ran the .NET Framework Repair Tool (thanks to Chris O’Brien for that tip).

Step 7: Run the SharePoint 2013 Configuration Wizard

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

There are lots of questions in the config wizard. I’m not going to go through them here. There are plenty of posts on that topic.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Step 8: Run the Farm Configuration wizard.

After running the SharePoint Configuration Wizard, you’ll be asked to run the farm config. This step includes creating a root site collection and choosing which services will run on the server.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

That’s it, you’re done! Now you have a SharePoint 2013 image on Windows 8… so handy.

SharePoint 2013 install from by Stephen Cawood

Note: If you’re still installing the SharePoint 2013 Preview build (I won’t know why you would), don’t forget that the “Working on it…” screen for configuring the SharePoint services will not close—it just keeps going forever.