Force Left Nav To at least 200 Pixels wide
Force Body To at least 500 Pixels high
SharePoint MindsharpBlogs > Mike Walsh's WSS and more

 Last 10 Posts

Aug 29
No, this isn't a Microsoft bashing post. Why should you read the Title and think that?

I'm prompted to write about this because I came across all three different UI "improvements" today and even though I've been annoyed by two of them for weeks, the third one turned up today when I was using Feedly to update the SPF 2013 and WSSv4 sites with some new Article links.

They've "improved" the UI so that I now need several extra clicks to achieve the same thing.

Before there were two steps

1. Open an RSS feed and

2. click on the title of an article suitable for one of the SP "FAQ" sites

That gave me the article in its own tab in its original form with the original URL and the look of it on its parent web site.

Now the process is

1. Open an RSS feed

2. Click on the article's title (as above)

3. Click on the article's title again (this gives a "preview")

4. Click on a link to get this in its own tab (which now finally gives me the original URL that I need)

Two clicks extra and yet that's not all because now I need (as before) to close that extra tab but also to close both the preview inbedded "tab" and the inbedded "tab" I got after step 2 above.

So in all four extra clicks - and for nothing!

[Just to confuse even more, sometimes the click at step 3 gives the original article (and URL), but why and when, who knows.]

Moving on from Feedly to a similar case of extra clicks, this time on a Windows Phone app (don't worry, it's still not Microsoft).

This app - Caledos Runner - is used when I'm out walking to get my "sporting" activities onto RunKeeper. It's a free app so I can't complain that they keep wanting you to buy add-on products, but I see no reason when they have made its main use so complicated and yet have done nothing to solve the main annoyance up till the new UI.

When you go out for a walk you used to be able to click on Start and it would (mostly quickly, sometimes never) find exactly where you were (starting always at the Congo in the middle of Africa for some reason and zooming in) and then countdown from 10 seconds (= my previous annoyance that you couldn't reduce this time in settings) before starting to record your walk (time - speed etc.- +map).

Now in the "improved" UI your first problem is to find the start (activity) button in a start page with about 8 other things on it. However click that and you find yourself now at a second screen where you again have to click Start. Now you get to a third screen where AGAIN you have to click Start before it moves to the identifying where you are phase that works (or not) exactly as before.

At the end, too, there's at least one extra Save click needed before it'll save your walk details.

Finally a Finnish bank site. They created a more modern-looking set of web pages for their investment funds.

In order to check once a week what the list price of my 3 funds were I used to go to a single page (URL saved of course) and all three funds were listed along with their latest value to 8 figures of decimals. (In funds, decimals matter!)

Now a URL will only get you to an Investments page. There you have to click on Funds and then you'll get all the funds listed but only to two decimals (and if there are A and B fond types, only the B fund type).

To get to the eight decimal version (and the price of the A type) you need to click on the individual fund and zoom down the page to the bottom where you'll finally find the 8 decimal versions of both the A and B types.

Then you would think going backwards in the browser would get you back to the list of Funds and you could select the next one. But in fact going backwards in the browser takes you back to the Investments page and you have to again click on Funds to get the list of funds ....

Do these developers actually use their own products?

Aug 21
Published: August 21, 2014 10:08 AM by  Mike Walsh
I use iTunes on a Windows 7 machine to keep track of my Podcasts. I don't listen to any of them on the Windows 7 machine (dare I say "of course") but instead transfer them to a particular one of my two iPods and listen to them on my long daily walks.

[aside: this isn't the oddity I mean but the way iTunes works with iPods means that it's safer for me to use one iPod with the Windows 7 machine for my podcasts and use the other iPod with the Windows 8 machine - with a more solid DVD drive - for my music]

I was recently having problems with iTunes. Firstly it was crashing all the time ("solved" by starting it up in safety mode) and - more pertinent to this post - it wasn't refreshing my podcasts as it should.

I finally noticed a small question mark next to one of the podcasts that wasn't being refreshed/downloaded and clicked it.

It told me that it wasn't updating my podcasts because I hadn't listened to them for some time. I had of course listened to almost all of them within the week after they had been downloaded and transfered to the iPod, BUT I had listened to them (again: of course) on the iPod.

So there you have it, Apple designers have added a function to the Windows version of iTunes that means you don't get any podcasts to transfer to your Apple iPod device.

Now that is madness Apple-style!

Aug 21
This is a follow-up to my post of the 16th of August.

Clearly I wasn't the only person to contact Stefan about having KB articles with Titles "Hot Fix ..." and calling them "Cumulative Upgrades" because in his post here

he makes a valiant attempt to clear up what he refers to as "SharePoint Patching".

It's long, detailed but in clear language, and probably does reflect the reality but for me while it makes as much sense as is possible it is still explaining what is an impossibly complicated and confusing way of doing things.

I recommend that you read the article several times to see the original as I here will naturally only be quoting what supports my argument !

Let's start what I think the situation should be.

1. There should be Hot Fixes which solve particular problems and Cumulative Upgrades which solve a number of problems at once (as they consist of the equivalent of a number of those same Hot Fixes)

2. The Hot fixes should have a title including the words "Hot Fix" and the Cumulative Upgrades should include in their titles the words "Cumulative Upgrades".

If these two rules (which I'm sure used to be how things were done once in the distant past) were followed *consistently* we wouldn't need any long, detailed articles from Stefan to explain things!

OK. That's the simple, understandable way I expect Microsoft to do things. Now let's look at Stefan's piece.

In his reply to my comment to his earlier post (about what he called the SP 2010 Cumulative Upgrades but which Microsoft gave titles of Hot Fixes to) he said that "SharePoint Hotfixes are always Cumulative". This is repeated in the new post where the quote is "After release of August 2014 CU I read several statements that August CU is not cumulative - but that is not correct! SharePoint fixes are always cumulative!"

This is the main confusing point because if Hot Fixes are always cumulative then why do Microsoft bring out some KB articles that have a title that includes "Hot Fix" and other articles have a title that include the words "Cumulative Upgrade"?

It takes quite a while for Stefan to get to this but my reading of his piece is that the KB articles with the words "Cumulative Upgrade" in them are a super-set of Cumulative Upgrades which he calls "Uber" Software Packages.

[Note that Stefan's native language is German and that the word "Uber" as used by him here has nothing to do with a taxi service (which Berlin has just banned!) but is in fact an anglicised version of the german word "Über" or over. The usage here is akin to Übergross or Over large rather than refering to a higher power, so an English word which comes closer to the intention here would perhaps be "Super".]

The key quote here for the Uber packages is

"The "Uber" packages which are usually released with each CU not only include patches for the components updated in the current CU but also all patches released for other components of the product"

He then points out that in August 2014 no Uber packages were issued which led to the KB articles called Hot Fixes being (by default?) Cumulative Upgrades.

Clear, maybe. Obvious, No.

Another difficulty in the Microsoft terminology can be seen in his diagram and following text in the (non-Uber) Cumulative Upgrade section of his piece.

In it he clearly explains that a Cumulative Upgrade is only a Cumulative Upgrade of a section of the SharePoint product. In other words, let's suppose you for some reason didn't patch your SharePoint Server for several months and then relied on a single monthly Cumulative Upgrade to get you up-to-date.

Tough. Mostly that would only bring you up-to-date with some of the functions or as Stefan writes

"The problematic piece here is that in the above example in April CU we don't ship fixes for Search and Excel Services. So if someone installs April CU only he will receive all WCM fixes ever released - but none of the Search of Excel Services fixes. The fix packages are cumulative - but you need more than the fixes from April CU to patch all your components to the latest version."

Let's be clear about this. Stefan has - as my title says - made a valiant attempt to describe the way Microsoft issue patches for SharePoint. The problem is that the way itself is mad - i.e. don't attack the messenger, with Stefan around we at least have the possibility of understanding what this madness is.

Aug 16
Until this month there has been a consistency in Microsoft KB articles about their improvements to their SharePoint products (*).

- There were Hot Fixes which were fixes for single problems.

- There were Cumulative Upgrades which were updates which included all the different Hot Fixes up to that point.

(*) Since about a couple of years there have also been "Upgrade for xxxx" posts with no logical positioning ...

This month however - as I discovered when I found that what Stefan Gossner was describing as Cumulative Upgrades were in fact articles with a Hot Fix title - this distinction seems to have vanished.

All the KB articles this month for both the SP 2010 products and both the SP 2013 products have a Title saying they are Hot Fixes. Look carefully in the text though and they say they are Cumulative Upgrades.

(Example: look carefully in the Prerequisites section where it says that "this" (= 2883081) is a cumulative upgrade.)

I've queried Stefan for calling the two SP 2010 Hot Fix articles Cumulative Upgrades; I've added a comment to the above-linked page asking if this is a Hot Fix or a Cumulative Upgrade and I may get a reply from Stefan in his post here but of course no reply to my comment to the MS article's page (as hidden and anonymous - although by now they might have worked out who MW is).

So I've done all that I can do (including this blog) to point out that we need BOTH Hot Fixes AND Cumulative Articles so I hope that someone out there is listening.

However I've seen too many good naming standards destroyed by new sets of Microsoft support people (TechNet articles are no longer "Published On" but always *start* with "Modified On" is just one example) that I fear for the worst.

Aug 09
I went away for two days and despite pulling all the plugs out because of the risk of thunder in that time, when I came back a number of things didn't work.

My DAC that was feeding digital output from the TV into my HiFi system showed yellow instead of green and more importantly *didn't* feed sound into my HiFi any more.

My headphone adapter (physically next to the DAC) still worked fine but no longer had a blue light when switched on.

Clearly I blundered by pulling the DAC power cable out of the DAC rather than (as I had done with virtually everything else) pulling the plug from the wall. In any case the DAC problem was temporarily fixed by attaching a device to the (non-digital) headphone adapter on the TV to give me two headphone outlets with individual volume controls. (Explanation: the sound used to be transfered to the Hifi to then hear it via the headphone amplifier)

More importantly though when I started using the large new Windows 8.1 tower I discovered that its DVD drive wouldn't read *any* media. Now that clearly wasn't caused by any lightning strike coming too close as absolutely every plug in that room was well out of the sockets so what else could have been causing it and more importantly how could I clear it.

I decided that I'd blame this non-functioning on my very recent installation of a Seagate Center "NAS" drive that I had started using as a Media Server (and for which function I had installed an app on that Windows 8.1 machine even though I was actually mainly (only!) accessing the music from my iPad (i.e. lying in the garden).

So the first stop was to try to get rid of the media server functionality from the Windows 8.1. PC. But that had no effect.

So Google then.

Clearly this not being able to read media is a common problem. Unfortunately it also has an awful lot of *potential* solutions.

I tried some of them. No luck.

I found a Microsoft "click here" routine that promised to solve the problem in the same way that their routine for network problems often just works.

It churned along for several minutes doing this and that and then gave me a result list. It had solved two problems but there was one that it hadn't solved - yes, you have guessed it, there was still a problem with being unable to read media! You'd think that if anything an official application for making DVD drives able to read media would make then able to read media, but you'd be wrong.

Eventually (and I think this was the solution) I removed the device DVD player in Device Manager and re-booted. At first nothing seemed to have changed and seconds and minutes went by but then the typical Windows 8.1 prompt appeared in the top-right of the screen asking me what action I wanted to take with the disk in the DVD drive.

Since then eveything (= transfering CDs to iTunes which is how this whole thing started) works, but you'd hope/think that by iteration number eight (?) of Windows CD/DVD players ought to be able to read media always. At least I would. (and that if Microsoft have an application to solve this that it does!)

Jul 26
Let's start with my listing of webcasts at

It's been quite frustrating looking for new webcasts to add to this list as virtually all the ones I can find on YouTube belong to one of five categories

- they are adverts for training companies

- they are adverts for SharePoint products

- they are yet another simple webcast of something that has been done many times before (as in "How to add a document to a document library")

- they are from a conference (*)

(*) Yes they may contain useful information but why don't they edit them before posting to get rid of all the stuff which is no longer of any interest outside the event? Add to that the typically bad sound; often poor quality of the screen shots etc. and the fact that by this phase of the product release most of the info is already out there in a much clearer form and thus there no longer seems much reason to list them.

- they are done by people with very strong accents and while this may not bother some people listening to people with very strong (often) Indian accents does bother me and I'm who decides what is added to those listing and what not. (So there ...)

[As befitting a time period when Monty Python have just done their final stage shows, please note that I started off by writing that there were three categories; changed that to four and then finally to five. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.]

Finally on this (number 6!?) the number of foreign language webcasts seems to have dried up, or is it just that You Tube is no longer offering me anything but those done in English? This seems to be part of a trend as Google for instance - and for reasons beyond my ken - has started taking me to their German language site and only this morning on my iPad Opera decided I was Spanish.


Anyway enough of housekeeping, how about that announcement of the unification of all (?) Microsoft's tech conferences. Reading between the lines my guess is that Microsoft has sent out a three-line whip (look it up!) telling all their bloggers that this is something they must blog about. When you see a very good technical MS blogger having a post that only quotes an official Office Blog in its entirity you have to feel that this is his own personal protest at being told t blog about this and certainly when you see lots and lots of blogs about the same thing (and all within days of each other) it can't be a coincidence.

What do I think of it? It's probably well overdue. Well I would feel that if we knew exactly what was being merged as they are not too clear on this. However let's assume that the new unified conference is Tech Ed and the SharePoint conference and the Exchange+ conference (whatever it is called this year) and a couple of others and all that is really happening is we are back to having a single conference (then TechEd) before in ca 1989 they thought up the enterprise conference once known as MEC (Microsoft Exchange Conference if I remember right and later expanded with among others SharePoint).

So all that is happening is that we are back to the state before the end of the nineties which given the present state of most economies probably isn't such a bad thing.

However there is one consolidation that Microsoft should not do. They should not decide that there should no longer be a European TechEd conference (there was no clear word on that in their official blog). When I worked in Germany it was impossible to attend any conference that was held outside Germany and while most companies in most other European countries are more flexible there is a major difference between getting permission to go on company time (and money) to, say, Barcelona and on getting permission to go to the US.

Later, much later: I have just amended the date of the first MEC conference from 1999 to 1989 which is just as much a guess but given that I attended a MEC conference in the very early 90's has at least a chance of being roughly correct. Sorry, folks, I'm getting old - by way of compensation I seem to have found a extra 20 yards from the tee, (pity) typically in the wrong direction.

Jun 11
My adding data to the various SharePoint "FAQ" sites has been on and off for quite a while because I sometimes can't log in to the three (2013/2010/2007) main sites. I can then usually go to another PC and there I can login [However if I start at that second PC you can be sure that a login doesn't work there either.] but not always.

My assumption has been that this may have something to do with the software on almost all my machines [5 licence copy!] I am using to persuade various German or UK sites that I in Germany or the UK, but I'm not sure.

Today after checking my RSS feeds on my iPad and finding several SP 2010 updates there I (a couple of hours later) decided to try on the nearest PC to see if I could today login to the Mindsharp sites *and I could*!

Great except for one little thing.

My RSS feeds are in Feedly and Feedly has for the past almost 2 hours been down as it has been facing severe DDoS attacks couple with ransom demands.

It's clearly not my day - or their's either.

May 30
Published: May 30, 2014 07:05 AM by  Mike Walsh
I was listening as I do every week to the (UK) PCPro podcast which is for me a welcome contrast to the mainly US-based technical podcasts I listen to (Windows Weekly; MacWorld; etc. although I also throw in the Swedish AppSnack for a further contrast).

Once again there was a snide comment about Windows 8 disguised (but not too heavily) as a positive comment on Windows 7. It was "Windows 7, that's the good operating system between two bad ones".

Now when Windows 8 first came out I would have agreed with that reasoning. It had lots of improvements (better drivers etc.) but those were less obvious than that welcome screen with its massive sized icons and the need to search for applications instead of just finding them easily via the Start menu (and of course the difficulty in even finding the shut down button).

It was in fact a good (or should that be bad?!) example of a company telling you that they knew what was good for you and not allowing you (by, for instance, offering a Classic look) to say "Thanks, but no thanks".

In fact judging by later events it seems likely that it wasn't an example of a *company* telling you but of a single man called Sinofsky ignoring all the warning signs and inside (and, while in beta, outside) comments before the thing was shipped.

But that was then and Sinofsky is long gone and (coincidentally?) with his disappearance there has been a new willingness in the air to respond to (mainly justified) criticism and to gradually (and perhaps too slowly) improve the product so it matches more users' expectations.

In other words the PCPro knocker of Windows 8 might have been right when it came out but he is no longer right if he is talking about the current version. In fact if the current version had been renamed Windows 9 he would probably be putting it on the same pedestal that he continues to put Windows 7 on. It's a pity when expert pundits don't move on until a product is given a new name.

My own experience is that on what used to be a standard set-up (and one that no doubt many users of Windows 7 have) of a desktop machine and one or two large monitors, I live in the desktop and see no difference in my "experience" as far as the operating system is concerned compared to a portable I have that is running Windows 7.

It's a simple and very inexpensive step to install a couple of products from Stardock for a few dollars each and they give me both the Start menu with its list of often-used applications and direct access to the shut down button (the latter is now included in the latest official Microsoft update).

In other words for me on that set-up (and with hindsight given the way XP support ended before Vista support) spending less that 10 dollars means I can run Windows 8 as if it were Windows 7 yet still have the security of a longer time period before support is withdrawn and the benefits provided by the up-to-date drivers.

Given that, why run through hoops to find and buy a Windows 7 machine (or Windows 7 software) when you can easily get a Windows 8 machine; do a simple few dollars upgrade and have the same thing but better.

On that set-up there is hardly any good reason other than curiosity to go to the "Modern" screen and its icons.

My other Windows 8 machine is different in that it's a touch-screen portable. There again it's mainly used in desktop mode but because it is a very small portable (with an equally small screen) the touch screen turns out to be massively useful when trying to read documents (or web pages) on that small screen.

So running that PC on Windows 8 offers more than running it on Windows 7 would offer. (Also it's not important that a list of applications can be obtained via the Start Menu because a small machine almost by definition is used only for a small number of applications and so I know all that is on it and invariably have attached them all to the task bar. Hence there's no need for any add-ons from Stardock.

So in conclusion.

Whereas Windows 8 as it came out was not a great operating system for users it no longer is anything like as bad as people continue to make out that it is. In fact I'd go further and say that on most machines it is as good as or better than Windows 7. You just have to free your mind of your pre-conceptions and give it a fair chance.

May 23
Published: May 23, 2014 05:05 AM by  Mike Walsh
Once Microsoft made available the various major Office products for iPad, I took this as a good reason for finally making the plunge and moving the Excel files I use all the time to the cloud.

[Although this sounds very plausible, it's completely untrue. As I was writing the above I suddenly remembered that I was getting grief from the main user of the new desktop because I was continually interupting her in order to update some Excel files that I had moved to that machine from the portable they were on before. So my first idea was to simply move them back to the portable (which only I use) but then - and here finally the iPad version of Excel comes in - I decided that I might as well make them available to ALL my machines.]

As a first step to moving them to the cloud I decided to both make my "Microsoft" password (used for logging in to my Windows 8 machines as well as to OneDrive) longer and generally more secure; and also to make it a two-level password.

Needless to say I managed to forget the new password several times and it also took a while before all my machines were known to the two-level system (so I didn't need to write in a code - sent to my e-mail account - all the time), but finally it was over and things were back to normal except that I was using a more secure password system.

[and also it should be said I was no longer using a password that it turned out hadn't been changed since 2009 - ooopppps]

So there I was with two PCs running Windows 8.1; one running Windows 7 (and a second one running Windows 7 but not for the moment in use) and an iPad running iOS7.

What's perhaps more important is that I had one copy of Excel 2013 in use; two copies of Excel 2010 and Excel for iPad **without an Office 365 subscription** (so restricted to read only) and thus on that machine if I wanted to update anything I needed to go to the browser version of OneDrive.

Here it's important to note the differences in how the various things I was using store the files you have just updated.

- all the Windows-based full versions of Excel (2010 or 2013) open and store to a drive on that Windows PC that is synchronised with OneDrive. In other words you need to be careful to give OneDrive the time needed to update the files in the cloud before - after making a Save on the Windows device - you turn off the Windows device.

[You do this by going to the little OneDrive icon you can see by clicking on the small upwards-pointing arrow you see to the right of the task bar and making sure it is not flickering with a text saying updating or similar.]

- the browser-based version of Excel doesn't have a Save button [true: it does have a Saved As button if you are feeling nervous about the whole thing.]. Instead it saves your amendments on the fly.

[The problem here is that you have no means of knowing that it has finished saving your changes. So to be safe you should probably make your changes and then go to browse the web for a while before turning the iPad off.]

- the Excel for the iPad version - because I haven't paid for Office 365 - is read-only. There are thus no problems with needing to wait for saves to be synced as you can neither make amendments to your files or save them.

Which brings us to the strange message I mentioned in the title. Whenever I open Excel for the iPad it tells me that it was previously closed with my files not having been fully saved. This message naturally (until I'd seen it several times) put me in a panic as I had no idea which file I would need to check to see whether my changes had been saved or not. In time of course I realised that as my Excel for the iPad version was read-only NONE of my files hadn't been saved correctly or at least there was no way that Excel for the iPad could be aware of that.

Could it be that this message is a deliberate attempt by MS to irritate people so much that they go out and buy an Office 365 license or could it be - as seems much more likely - that MS when writing the software assumed that people would be buying Office 365 licences and would therefore no longer have read-only Excel.

Very Interesting but (60's Laugh-In reference) stupid.

P.S. Why use Excel for the iPad at all if I can use the browser-based version of OneDrive on the iPad and thus upgrade stuff even when on the iPad?

- using the browser based version for updating Excel files while possible is very messy (for instance several attempts before you can copy several blocks), so I tend to update files on a Windows machine.

- for read-only usage, Excel for the iPad is far better than the browser version. In fact I quite often just want to check something in one of my Excel files on OneDrive and then Excel for the iPad is my program of choice even ahead of the full Excel programs on Windows. Of course I first have to get past the "your files might not have been saved correctly" message .....

Apr 20
Although the title is positive, note that I will be talking about my experiences with a very small portable (10 inch) with consequently a very small keyboard and most importantly with a very small gap between having your finger on the TouchPad and having it on the screen.

I remain convinced that it would feel uncomfortable to use a touch screen on my massive 17 inch portable, let alone with a normal desktop keyboard and large screen combination.

So for me the question is where to draw the line and say up to here but no further. Apart from the cost question - the premium for touch screens for midrange portables is often far too high, and while high-end (Win 8) portables tend to include touch as a matter of course, these are in any case very pricey - there's also the question of whether you need some of the useful functionality of touch if your screen is already quite large; and, yes, finally that gap between you and the screen.

At a guess I'd say that touch may well be still very useful at 13 inch but no longer at 15.6 inch. But that's just me guessing wildly.

On a ten inch, it's turning out to be extremely useful to have touch.

First there are the situations where it is very useful to resize things in a controlled way impossible without the touch screen. This includes the more mundane examples such as Zinio magazines and "replicated" web versions of newspapers and magazines but also such things as Excel spreadsheets which unlike on my iPad I can actually modify and save thanks to the included Office 2013, yet modify requires you being able to clearly read the cells, something a controlled (and easy) zooming makes quickly possible without having to guess how much percentage to go for.

Secondly, once you have got used to using the touch screen for the above zoom actions you quickly find yourself using it for other things. For instance this is a slow machine and I've noticed on some web pages that the cursor isn't responsive until the entire page has been rendered. However you can touch a link on the screen (and it works) long before the screen is fully rendered.

In other words *without thinking* once I was used to using the screen with touch for magazines it became almost normal to sometimes use it for other things (and note that I've not mentioned clicking the large icons on the Modern home page because I tend to be always in desktop mode - this is after all a PC with a real keyboard and Windows 8.1 doesn't recognize the touch screen and thus puts me in the desktop when I start up.).

The point is that I am now using touch naturally and not as initially just to see if it worked. Once you start using something naturally (right-click, anyone) it becomes part of your working methods in a way that forcing yourself to go to the Modern home page doesn't.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Admin Links