Adding Service Notices to the SharePoint 2013 Suite Bar using PowerShell

 

Overview:

I was recently tasked with installing an update to a live SharePoint 2013 extranet site that is actively used by staff as well as external clients. Since the update caused our extranet site to be unavailable for several hours, I found myself wishing for a simple but effective way to alert all SharePoint 2013 site users about upcoming scheduled maintenance. I could send e-mails, but prefer not to do so since we have quite a few people who have access to the SharePoint site, but very few active users. Instead of sending out alerts to more than one hundred employees letting them know that a service they may or may not use will be unavailable, I wanted to publish a notice to the SharePoint site itself.

The Problem:

I need to find a way to publish a notice of anticipated service interruptions on every page of my SharePoint 2013 site. This seemed simple enough at first, until I began to consider the fact that I have multiple site collections, each with multiple sites in my extranet Web Application. Users access the site from a wide variety of links, so publishing a notice on the home page would not be effective. Every site has unique permissions, depending on which users need access to the site’s contents, so publishing announcements on a site-by-site basis would be a real chore.

I am using a pretty generic out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 installation, so my site is using the default Seattle master pages. I thought about customizing the master pages to include a message, but I would have to do the same for every site collection in my Web Application, which seems to be more trouble than it’s probably worth.

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SharePoint Troubleshooting: Meeting Workspaces are not saving date-specific information to the correct date

Overview:

Meeting Workspaces are a great way to collaborate with team members. They provide a place to store all of the documents, agenda items, attendee information, and other important meeting notes across multiple meetings. Microsoft Outlook can be used to generate new meeting instances for new dates, and all attendees can be given a quick link directly to the site to review pertinent information before and after the meeting is over.

Unfortunately, both Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint have a common problem: There are usually many different ways to achieve a task, but only one way is the “right” way that actually works as anticipated. Meeting Workspaces have the same problem.

The Problem:

Several times now I’ve been asked to help resolve a problem a colleague was having with Meeting Workspaces. In each case, my colleague had set up a Meeting Workspace and created multiple meeting instances (dates) and sent out the invitations to attendees. All appeared to be working correctly. But as my colleague went in to try to update specific information related to a certain meeting instance (such as the agenda items), we discovered that the meeting-specific information was not being displayed on the correct meeting dates. If my colleague added an item to the agenda for the second, third, fourth, etc. meeting, it wouldn’t show up. But when we went back to the first meeting in the series, we found the new agenda item to be listed there with all agenda items for all instances of the meeting.

All of the Meeting Workspaces settings were correct, and there was nothing to indicate what the problem might be. My colleague had successfully created other Meeting Workspaces following the same procedures, and each of those Meeting Workspaces was working correctly.

It took some time, but eventually I discovered the apparent cause of the error. In each of the Meeting Workspaces that was working properly, the URL had no spaces in it (Keep in mind that a space in a URL may be displayed in your address bar by the character string “%20”). In each of the Meeting Workspaces that did not work, the URL had spaces (%20) in it. So, for example, a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/MeetingWorkspace would work correctly, while a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/Meeting%20Workspace would not list the meeting-specific information on the correct meeting date.

NOTE: The two hyperlinks used above are examples only and do not point to real sites.

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Wallpaper changer script for Windows XP

Download Codes:

I’ve been using a linux-based Asus Eee PC (p701) for several years now, and one of my favorite features available is the desktop wallpaper “slideshow” option. I can set up my computer to randomly display a new desktop wallpaper as often as I want. All I have to do is point to the folder(s) the images are stored in and set the frequency, and viola my desktop wallpaper changes “automagically.”

I’ve almost given up on wallpapers for my home and office Windows machines, however. While it’s certainly not hard to change the desktop wallpaper, it’s not something I like to think about. To be honest, the desktop is always covered by the applications I’m working in, so I rarely even think about it. But a few months ago, I stumbled across the Microsoft Digital Photography Winter Fun Pack 2003. While most of the features are uninteresting to me, one of them caught my eye. The Winter Wallpaper Changer feature automatically changes your desktop wallpaper anywhere from once every 15 minutes to once a week. You can point the program to whatever folder you want that contains the background images. Even better, you can set it up so that on certain days (someone’s birthday, a holiday, or whatever), you can choose from a different set of wallpaper images!

I installed this application, and was immediately thrilled with how it worked. I like my wallpaper to change very frequently, so I had my wallpaper changed every fifteen minutes throughout the day. I never knew how easy it would be to brighten up my day just by changing my computer’s wallpaper!

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After inserting a record in a DetailsView control, set the master GridView control to the newly inserted record’s ID (identity)

The problem

I’m learning how to build ASP.NET websites in C# using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. Everything about this is new to me. I have done a lot of work building HTML websites, quite a bit of javascript, and a little php and MySQL development. But now everything I know amounts to nothing as I try to learn a new development environment (Visual Studio), and two new programming languages (C# and ASP.NET). It’s an interesting process, and I rather enjoy what I’m learning, but I wanted to make it clear right up front that the advice included in this post may not be the best advice you can find: I still have a lot to learn!

That being said, let me describe one of the first problems I encountered in my new programming scenario:

I am building a website to allow users to add, edit, and delete items in a list of events. I am using an ASP.NET/Visual Studio MultiView control to manage the process flow for selecting and editing the events. The first view that the user sees is a GridView control displaying the complete list of events in the database.

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Software Review: Listgarden 1.3

Listgarden is a very powerful RSS creation and management tool that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, and can be configured as a Web-based application.

For those of you who subscribe to all of my feeds, let me apologize…I know that I’ve mentioned Listgarden several times: in this blog, the Lockworld Herald News, and my Resources feed.

I think the program deserves all of these mentions, however, because it is so versatile and so simple. Without any knowledge of RSS or XML structure or rules, you can create and edit as many feeds as you want to. You have the options of creating the feeds as local files on your computer, or uploaded to your FTP server (or both). My favorite feature of Listgarden is that you can optionally export an HTML version of your feed containing some or all of your feed items as a Web-based file. This can allow you to offer a preview of your latest feed items to your site visitors or an alternate way to view “what’s new” on your site.
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The Web for You: Year in Review

It’s hard to believe, but The Web for You is already a year old! I know it’s been a very interesting year for me as I tried my hand at blogging for the first time, and I hope that you have found some useful tips, tricks, and ideas along the way. For anyone who might be a new reader, I’d like to take a short moment to review some of the more interesting posts from the past year.
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Create and sell custom products with Cafe Press

I just stumbled across a very interesting site that I thought I should share with my readers. It’s a site called Cafe Press. This site offers a wide variety of print-on-demand products from clothing to housewares and other gifts. You can add your own images to the products to create your very own styles, logos, catch-phrases, etc., which you can sell online in your very own Cafe Press store. The best part about Cafe Press is that you don’t have to spend any money to get started. Because Cafe Press doesn’t produce any products until someone orders them, there are no setup fees or minimum purchases required. Without spending any money, you can create as many custom products as you want, and sell them in your own, personalized online shops.

Each product has a “base price” that covers all of the costs of manufacture and production. To make money, simply set a “markup” price that you will earn as commission on sales of your product(s) (Just a word to the wise…be reasonable: I saw a thong for sale for $200 while I was browsing the site!). That’s all there is to it. It was so easy to get started that I’ve already created my own online shop with a few products that are available for immediate purchase, which I’ve included below as an example of what you can do. Of course, you can also buy your own products directly for the base price, without paying the markup. Continue reading “Create and sell custom products with Cafe Press”

Changes to Microsoft Office Live Small Business

Earlier this year, Microsoft Office Live Small Business (Originally Microsoft Office Live) launched several improvements to their service. I use this service to host my own Web site (LockworldHerald.com), and I’ve blogged about it in the past. Although they no longer offer free domain name registration, they do continue to offer free Web site hosting (which is typically far more expensive than the domain name registration anyway). In the past, I found the service to be very useful to establish an online presence for myself, but was continually frustrated at how difficult it was to edit pages using the built-in page editor. In the end, I simply uploaded all of my Web pages manually to the “Documents” folder – the only folder I had any access to. This allowed me to create my own pages by writing my own HTML codes, but was getting difficult to manage as the number of files grew.

The new improvements to the site now allow even free account holders to design their site using their own Web design tools (I typically use WordPad  or Nvu, but other Web authoring/design tools can be used as well). This new structure allows me to keep my site more organized, but more importantly, it gives me access to the top-level of my site. There are certain Web services that require authentication by checking for files in the root directory (Like Google Web Apps and Delorie). In addition to making such services available, having access to the root directory also gives me the ability to create a robots.txt file that can tell search engine bots to avoid indexing certain file types or folders. Since I use a lot of AjaxIncludes scripting, this is a very nice way to keep all of those partial Web pages out of the search engine results.
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What can Zoho Creator do for you?

I’m constantly amazed at the wide variety of uses I can come up with for Zoho Creator. When I first stumbled across the application, I thought it might be of passing use to collect some basic information from visitors to my Web site. Over the last few months, however, I’ve experimented with a wide variety of less-than-typical uses for an online database tool.

For small business and personal Web site owners without access to a lot of IT support, Zoho Creator can easily serve as the functional back-end of your entire site, allowing you to develop some sophisticated and interactive applications for your Web site. Thanks to Zoho Creator, even a relatively novice user can add some powerful functionality to an otherwise dull Web site. As users become more familiar with Zoho Creator, there is almost no limit to the number of powerful applications that can be developed for any site.

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Adding a more advanced RSS feed to your site

In my last post, I explained how you could use del.icio.us to add a simple RSS feed to your site. The benefits of this method mainly lie in your ability to quickly and easily add any Web page to your feed, particularly if you make use of the browser buttons available from del.icio.us. Just navigate to the page you want to include in your feed, click the button, and enter a title, description, and tags. This method also allows you to easily create many feeds, and add items to as many of the feeds as you need all at the same time.

While this method should work well for the average Web site owner looking to create an RSS feed, it might not be suitable for every purpose. The two primary limitations to using del.icio.us to create and publish your RSS feed are the lack of rich text editing, and the 255 character limit to the description field. Many users may want to include more information in their RSS feed, or include graphics, links, and other information. For these users, del.icio.us may not be the best solution.

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