Archive for November, 2007

CLARITY: Flash versus Flex versus Silverlight

Posted on November 28, 2007. Filed under: Clarity, Microsoft, Technology |

Summary: Flex is to Adobe as Silverlight is to Microsoft

Silverlight is often referred to as Microsoft’s version of Flash, however it is more correct to say it is Microsoft’s version of Flex.

You could say the following…
Silverlight 1.0 = Flash
Silverlight 2.0 = Flex

[UPDATE: Silverlight 1.1 has been re-branded as Silverlight 2.0]

Here’s a very basic comparison of Flex and Silverlight:

Flex is an Adobe product which allows you to build Rich Internet Applications* (RIA)

It is basically a developer tool which has a framework of functions that allows you to build applications that run in a browser (any browser on any platform).

Flex can use the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR)** to run those very same web apps on the desktop as desktop apps.

Flex is currently building in .Net framework support.
Flex is currently in Beta for version 3.

In comparison, Silverlight is a Microsoft technology that allows you to build RIAs.

Silverlight apps are built using Visual Studio, Blend and other tools.
Silverlight 1.0 (released in October 2007) focused on providing Rich Media support.

Silverlight 1.1 (currently in Alpha) is focused on the programmability behind the apps.

Via a Silverlight plug-in, the apps run in any browser on any platform (there are some limits though).

Silverlight does not provide desktop app functionality. WPF is the Microsoft solution for rich media desktop applications.

* Some people contest that RIA stands for Rich Interactive Applications
** AIR used to be referred to as Apollo (it’s previous codename)

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CLARITY: SharePoint – WSS versus MOSS

Posted on November 26, 2007. Filed under: Clarity, SharePoint |

There’s still plenty of confusion out there about SharePoint, particularly around what is included in WSS versus MOSS. Part of the problem is that there is soooo much information about SharePoint that the simple details get lost…

So, let’s go through the various options, comparing WSS with MOSS Standard and MOSS Enterprise as simply as possible. I’ll exclude technicalities (eg that you need R2 of W2K3 etc) and just focus on the main points.

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS)

Currently in version 3.0, WSS is a free add-on to Windows 2003 Server. WSS is the foundation of SharePoint. It provides a stack of features (or services), including document management & collaboration, Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, strong Office integration (Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint) including alerts and synchronisation, basic workflow and some search capabilities. It has the foundational elements such as security and storage services.

Many intranet requirements are completely catered for with WSS. And WSS can be used quite effectively as a web site too.

[I’ve seen discussions about storage limits within WSS being set at 4GB*, but my current understanding is that this is not the case – ie there is no set limit.]

Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) Standard

MOSS** sits on top of WSS and comes in two main versions: Standard and Enterprise.

MOSS Standard has stacks of features of course (including Enterprise Content Management, Portals and comprehensive Workflow), but the main ones to consider are:

  • Enterprise Search (which allows you to crawl a number of data sources)
  • People management (which includes all the My Site stuff, Personalisation features, Single Sign On and more)
  • Analytics (which includes all the usage and auditing functions for example: you can audit who is searching for what)

Point to note: Enterprise Search IS included in the Standard version.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) Enterprise

Moving on to MOSS Enterprise, we get everything in Standard, plus a few more features added, the most important of which are:

  • Business Data Catalog or BDC (which is a means of linking SharePoint to basically anything including SQL Servers, Oracle Servers, Microsoft CRM, SAP and more, and providing the BI functions including dashboards and KPIs)
  • Excel 2007 Services (which allow Excel spreadsheets to be ‘hosted’ and rendered, and even accessed as web services)
  • Forms server (see below)

Point to note: People sometimes confuse BDC with Enterprise Search. To clarify: BDC can be considered an extra source of data feeds into Enterprise Search.

Other versions

There also used to be various flavours of MOSS for Search, and these can best be summed up as WSS plus Enterprise Search (ie they lack some of the other MOSS features such as ECM etc). They have recently been re-branded as Microsoft Search Server 2008 and come in a free ‘Express’ version and the Standard version.

Aside: There is another SharePoint pseudo-version known as the Office Forms Server 2007 which basically allows InfoPath forms to be rendered in the browser. It can be added to just WSS if required, and is included by default in the MOSS Enterprise version.

Comment

Microsoft hasn’t gone out of its way to make all this clear I have to admit – the hype around SharePoint is usually focused on the MOSS side of things – and why not? After all that’s where the big dollars are. Speaking of big dollars, it may not be as big as everyone keeps making out.

Licensing

Sure enough the Internet facing licensing is off with the fairies (at around the USD 40K per server mark!), but inside the company it can be significantly cheaper.

I don’t claim to understand the SharePoint licensing intimately, but this link will give you an overview of licensing (eg a basic intranet MOSS license is under $5K, although moving to Enterprise will get you into $60K level – Yikes!). However, the real kicker comes when you have to weigh up all the CALs you need (and for Enterprise you need to buy both the Standard CALs and the Enterprise CALS on top).

Getting confused yet? Yep, and to top it off you also need to factor in SQL Server licenses if you don’t already have those in place.

Summary: You need MOSS Server license + CALs + SQL Server licenses

Point to note: If you want to expose your intranet on the internet (eg via your web site) then you are in for a headache 🙂

This barely helpful link from Microsoft attempts to make it clearer, but requires about five readings before it starts to make sense.

This Excel spreadsheet is a great SharePoint feature comparison for those wanting to get into the nitty-gritty (well worth the download).

Consider this…

Here’s the main takeaway… if you are considering SharePoint for your intranet but have been worried about licensing costs, then start with WSS. It has stacks of collaboration features and may be all you need. And it’s free. Plus you can always build on it, adding MOSS features later.

If you did move to MOSS, start with MOSS Standard and think carefully about whether you need the Enterprise features.

And think very, very carefully about making your web site MOSS based 🙂

References

References: Inside Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 by Patrick Tisseghem

Notes

* 4GB limitation – MOSS running on SQL Express will be limited to 4GB (due to the SQL Express limitations), but WSS seems to run on a special version of SQL that is not limited. MOSS is never recommended to be run on SQL Express. Disclaimer: I am not sure of these details.

** MOSS is technically MOSS 2007, as there has not been any previous MOSS versions. The previous version of SharePoint was SharePoint Portal Server 2003, usually referred to as SPS or SPS 2003.

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SBTUG: This Wed with Social Networks, and Silverlight. Plus a great Prize

Posted on November 25, 2007. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

Another (!) big night this Wed 28 November 2007 with Laurel Papworth and Michael Kordahi presenting.

Both sessions will focus on the business value of their respective topics – eg is social networking of use to businesses? Is Silverlight really of interest to companies at this stage? The answer to both is Yes. Come along and find out why.

A bit about the speakers: Laurel is a Social Media lecturer at Sydney Uni as well as an online community strategist (amongst other things). Her passion is analysing social networks.

Michael is a Developer Evangelist in Emerging Web technologies, of which Silverlight is a big player right now.

Prize: I will be giving away a copy of Eric Sink’s excellent book: The Business of Software.

Details at www.sbtug.com

See also the Facebook group details and the Facebook event details.

Date: Wed 28 November 2007

Time: 6pm (till 8:30pm)

Location: Microsoft HQ, 1 Epping Road North Ryde (view map)

Phone: 0413 489 388 (call me if you are having trouble getting in – doors are locked at 6pm, and need a security guard to let you in)

See you there.

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CLARITY: Microsoft is a marketing company

Posted on November 23, 2007. Filed under: Clarity, Microsoft |

Not wanting to be too much of ‘well duh’ post, but I thought it was worth reminding ourselves that in software we need to be focusing extensively on marketing and sales. It all too easy to get caught up in the development, to the detriment of the marketing.

I’ve (finally) finished ‘Partnering with Microsoft‘ by Ted Dinsmore and Edward O’Connor. It’s a little dry, and can get repetitive, but overall it is a useful analysis of how Microsoft Partners should approach their relationships with Microsoft and other partners. In the process, the book details how Microsoft organises itself.

The following quote is worth reflecting on in light of your own software company:

Of the total employee base, 23,200 (42%) are dedicated to research and development, which includes product development; 25,100 (46%) are engaged in sales, marketing and support; 4,300 (8%) are assigned to finance and administration; and 2,400 (4%) work in manufacturing and distribution.

(p37, based on Microsoft organisation details in 2005)

So, to be clear, Microsoft has more people working in sales, marketing & support than they do developing the actual products. The inclusion of support in the 46% is distorting, and ideally I’d like to know how many just in sales and marketing. My guess is that the bulk is in sales & marketing. But even so the message is clear.

Now, I’m not saying that Microsoft’s model should be your model, but if you find you have heaps of developers and no marketing resources, then perhaps there’s food for thought.

How to Make Money in Trusted Partnership with the Global Software Powerhouse

(btw – I’m linking to the book on my Amazon store page – I get a commission from every sale – which I use solely to help cover costs I incur running SBTUG)

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CLARITY: SaaS versus S+S

Posted on November 23, 2007. Filed under: Clarity, Technology |

If, like me, you’d just assumed that Software + Services (S+S) was Microsoft’s way of trying to take over and re-brand an existing concept – namely Software as a Service (SaaS) – then the following diagram is a helpful corrective.

It’s taken from page 18 of Issue 13 of the Architecture Journal (download here), and is a nice overview of how S+S and SaaS relate to each other.

image

Aside: I’ve tried reading this excellent magazine in soft form (ie PDF) many times (in fact I originally referred to this issue back in September). But, call me old fashioned, it wasn’t until my printed copy arrived a few weeks back that I actually read and absorbed the content in depth. Amazing what you miss on screen.

It’s one of the reasons I’m dubious about the Kindle (even though I’d desperately love to have one).

Anyone else have this problem?

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CLASSIC: Mark’s Infinite Solutions

Posted on November 9, 2007. Filed under: Humour, Technology |

This is seriously one of the funniest sites I have witnessed – I was in pain laughing at some of his amazing solutions. The attention to detail is priceless. The best IMO is his tip to increase WiFi strength, followed by his now famous How to Sign Up for GoogleTV Beta, but all of them are good. Mark Erickson is a genius.

Even reading his blog is amusing.

There are more of his videos on YouTube.

Morgan Webb has the full behind-the-scenes story.

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MADNESS: I finally understand Ads

Posted on November 9, 2007. Filed under: Social networking |

I’ve been scratching my head trying to work out why Facebook’s recent announcement about the Ad delivery is soooo important. In fact for months (years?) now I’ve been wondering what the fuss about online ads is?

After all, who ever sees any of these ads?

Turns out lots of people. Probably most people.

You see, I hardly ever see ads. I don’t know whether it is IE natively or my IE7Pro add-in killing Ads, but I have never seen an Ad in Facebook, nor for that matter on many other sites.

That is until I used FireFox to do some browsing.

Here’s Facebook as I normally see it (in IE)

image

But here, OMG, is the same page in FireFox, complete with big ugly ad (in Red square).

image

I checked a few other sites and the same result – they all have ads. Who’d have thought?

Here’s http://www.ninemsn.com/ in FireFox (the Ad is in the red square)

image

And here it is in IE (hmmm, what’s that blank space?)

image

I can’t believe it. I mean, how do people put up with all those annoying things?

Ads in Search Engine results I can fully understand. But annoying pop ups and blinking chunks on a page are madness.

Now, to be clear, this isn’t an IE versus FireFox post, as I’m sure FireFox has Ad blocker plug-ins as well.

Rather, this is just a post about someone who has ‘missed out’ on all that visual pollution, and can’t believe there is a whole industry surrounding it, let alone organizing big events to announce some ‘enhancement’ to it. Incredible.

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TECHED: Please don’t split it down under

Posted on November 8, 2007. Filed under: Microsoft |

Microsoft has split TechEd 2008 into 2 back-to-back conferences in the US.

I hope they don’t do this in Australia. One of the things I loved this year was going to a big mix of sessions, covering both developer and infrastructure topics. Although I’m a developer at heart, in my current role I need to be across a number of areas, and TechEd was a perfect ‘source of truth’ for much of it.

I’m guessing the reason for the split in the US is a logistical one. And on the upside, I could possibly go to both conferences (and see even more sessions – woo hoo!), but I have to admit to being pretty tired by the fourth day this year.

I’d prefer they ran the whole conference twice, rather than split it. That would actually give them a benefit with scheduling for the second week, based on stats, popularity of sessions etc in the first. But I guess that’d be too long for all the speakers to stay for.

(via Alan Stevens)

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HAPPY: Michele Connolly – Happiness Strategies – Why being happy matters

Posted on November 8, 2007. Filed under: Personal |

I’ve mentioned the amazing(1) Michele Connolly(2) previously, but that was before she had even finished her first How NOT to be Happy series. Now with 62 posts under her belt, I’m *happy* to report her writing just gets better and better.

Whilst some of her posts are laugh out loud funny, and others are pithy, research based insights, there are also thought provoking ones like her series on the Philosophers of Happiness.

My favorite so far is this post on mind tricks.

She even has one for the geeks.

But the best thing is how she treats happiness with respect – it isn’t just some ditzy, hedonistic fluff, instead it is about the realities of happiness, primarily through the positive psychology lens, and how happiness is good for your health, relationships, and even the economy to name a few key areas.

Subscribe to the Happiness Strategies blog

And you can sign up for her monthly newsletter ‘The Happy Times’ on the site as well.

She has also started a Happiness group on Facebook.

Michele is new to blogging, but has taken to it with gusto. I’m keen for her to gain a bigger audience – if you think her stuff is worthwhile, could you help spread the word?(3)

(1) Disclaimer: I am married to Michele.

(2) You won’t find Michele talking about this, but I wish more people knew: Michele was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence last year at Macquarie University. She also won an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship (and $60K!) to progress her research into a PhD. However, she declined the academic path, and has instead this year been writing a book on Happiness Strategies – with the sole aim of equipping people to be happier, higher-achieving contributors to society.

(3) A year from now when her book is on the NYT Bestseller list and her blog is read by absolutely everyone, you can sit back and feel *happy* that you were part of the early readership that helped her become known. 🙂

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Google’s OpenSocial

Posted on November 2, 2007. Filed under: Social networking, Technology |

Old news now of course 🙂 but surely the most devastating/interesting/wonderful technology announcement this year. Scoble has a round up of all the best bits on the new Google OpenSocial API that every social networking site on the planet is signing up to.

Open Social is available here.

Plaxo, Ning, MySpace, Beebo, Six Apart, Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Friendster, Oracle, Engage, the list goes on (via TechCrunch).

Incredible. Perhaps even scary.

Marc Andreesson comments (with screen shots), as does Dave Winer (here and here) and Dan Farber.

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