Introducing the365project.net

Welcome to the365project.netWith the introduction of Office 2013 and the arrival of Project Online in Office 365 I thought it would be a good time to try and bring some members of the Project and SharePoint community together to launch a new community site. So it is my great pleasure to introduce the365project.net.

Welcome to the365project.net

What is the365project.net? Well it’s a new tips and tricks site for the  Project, Project Server and SharePoint, covering the existing versions and the new 2013 wave of products. As the name suggests the content will also cover some parts of Office 365, Microsoft cloud based solution that provides SharePoint and the 2013 offering has finally been joined with a dedicated Project Server offering called Project Online.

We have been lucky enough to attract authors from all over the world including SharePoint Masters, Community Contributors, MVPs Microsoft staff and other well respected experts with tips for all audiences including End User, IT Pro, Consultants & Developers. Of course we are always looking for new authors and tips, so if there is a tip you would like to share with the community, please submit it through the submit a tip link and we’ll be in touch.

We hope to be posting 2-3 original posts a week over on the site, so make sure you add it to your favourite RSS aggregator, Twitter account (@365prj) or just plain old favourites.

Introducing Project Social

A couple of weeks ago I traded in my iPhone for a new Mango based Windows Phone 7. For those of you that haven’t tried WP7, I would strongly suggest you do. In addition to being able to view your favourite EPM software through the mobile browser, the whole platform and experience seems vastly superior to the Apple offering.

Whilst the WP7 marketplace has a wide variety of application that is growing on a daily basis, it is a little light on Project related applications. So inspired by the fantastic Project Server and SharePoint iPhone app by Giles Hamson, I thought I would have a go at doing something myself, so I am pleased to introduce Project Social.

Project Social Panorama

What is it?

Project Social is a social viewer application that aggregates MS Project related Twitter and RSS feeds from the official MS Twitter accounts and blogs, a number of community blogs and the Project Server Technet content feeds all into one convenient application. Each item can be read directly on the phone where you can interact socially with it by via twitter (tweets, replies or retweets) email or directly via the browser. The application is based on the excellent Codeplex Social Viewer template which is constantly being updated, so watch out for some exciting new updates in the future.

Where can I get it?

Project Social is available now as a free download from the Windows Phone Marketplace or by clicking on the image below.

Download Project Social for Windows Phone

If you have any suggestions, or would like to add or remove your feed, please contact me directly at wp7@epmsource.com.

Unable to publish projects with TRIM Context installed?

I ran into this issue at a customer recently and thought I would share it on the blog in case someone else ran into. The customer is a heavy user of the document management solution TRIM and has the program TRIM Context installed on most of their PC’s in order to allow users to store documents directly in TRIM from their desktop applications.

During user acceptance testing, one user was unable to save and publish their project schedules into Project Server in one session as the publish button was disabled until the schedule was saved, MS Project closed and the schedule reopened. Only doing this would activate the Publish command in the menu.

Publish disabled

On investigation it was found that the TRIM Context integration was causing the issue, specifically, when the file was saved, a TRIM record type dialog would be displayed that intercepted the save, causing the Publish menu item to become confused.

Luckily thanks to some investigation by the customer (thanks Claire and Federico), it seems that a setting within the TRIM Context options to ‘Integrate TRIM with Microsoft Project’ is to blame.

Trim Context Options

Simply unchecking this option will return the normal behaviour of being able to publish a schedule directly after saving.

Project Server 2007 CU Links

imageA week or so ago, I needed to go through the various Project Server 2007 CU’s to see if a particular issue my customer was experiencing had been fixed or was a new bug. After a bit of searching I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a definitive list of all the Project Server 2007 CU’s out there. There seemed to be a few which went from RTM through to SP2 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2002211) but nothing afterwards.

Anyway, I ended up pouring through blog posts and the search engines to pull together a single list, which is posted below for your reference pleasure.

Name Version KB Link
January 31 Hotfix Package 12.0.6300.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/941426
April 3rd Hotfix Package 12.0.6309.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/950816
April 22nd Hotfix Package 12.0.6312.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951169
April 29 Hotfix Package 12.0.6313.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/952000
May 8th Hotfix Package 12.0.6314.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/952289
June 2nd Hotfix Package 12.0.6316.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953136
June 9th Hotfix Package 12.0.6317.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953478
Service Pack 1 12.0.6218.1000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/936134
Infrastructure Update 12.0.6318.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951297
August 2008 Cumulative Update 12.0.6327.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/956061
October 2008 Cumulative Update 12.0.6331.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/957696
December 2008 Cumulative Update 12.0.6335.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/960313
February 2009 Cumulative Update 12.0.6341.5002 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/968271
Service Pack 2 12.0.6422.1000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953334
April 2009 Cumulative Update 12.0.6503.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/968860
June 2009 Cumulative Update 12.0.6510.5003 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/971502
August 2009 Cumulative Update 12.0.6514.5000 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/973937
October 2009 Cumulative Update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/974990
December 2009 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/977028
February 2010 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/978397
April 2010 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/981044
June 2010 Cumulative Update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/983312
August 2010 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2276475
October 2010 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2412269
December 2010 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2458607
February 2011 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2475887
April 2011 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2512784
June 2011 Cumulative update http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2544400

In the next few weeks I will pull in the missing version numbers, and make this a proper page on the site that is updated with the release of each CU.

Showing the Risk or Issue Id’s in the workspace edit and display forms

It’s always puzzled me why Microsoft never did show the ID of a SharePoint based list entry in the edit or display form. What do I mean by that? Well, out of the box, when you create a list in SharePoint, each item has an ID associated. This ID is then used to identify the individual records in the list.  Once you have created an item in the list you can see the ID in the view

Issue ID on the view

But not in the edit or display views of the list item.

Default display formDefault Edit Form

Now this is not unique to Project Server 2010, nor SharePoint 2010 for that matter. The same behaviour can be seen in SharePoint 2007 as well. So why am I telling you all this, well today one of my clients requested that the risks and issues lists on their Project Server instance be modified to show the actual id of the item, making it easier for them to reference and relate to the information they were viewing.

Well, it turns out doing this is pretty easy. Basically all that is needed is to add a content editor web part to the the Display and Edit forms and add a small piece of JavaScript to render the relevant ID. A quick search on the web revealed this article from PathToSharePoint.com that provides the code as well as steps to insert the Content Editor web part on a WSS 3.0 / SharePoint 2007 installation.  So I am going to concentrate on what is required to do so for SharePoint 2010.

First navigate to the list you wish to make the change to,  in my case I am using an issues list. In the ribbon choose List and then click on ‘Form Web Parts’.

List Ribbon

Click on the little down arrow and three options will be displayed.

Form Web Parts on Ribbon

We are interested in modifying the Default Display Form and Default Edit Form. There is no point in editing the Default New Form as the ID won’t be available yet to display.

Click on the Default Display Form, the screen will refresh to show the form in edit mode and display the web part zone.

Web Part Zone

Click on the ‘Add a Web Part’. The Web Part gallery will be displayed, select ‘Media and Content’ in the Categories and then the ‘Content Editor’. Click on Add to add it into the web part zone.

Add Content Editor Web Part

Click on the ‘Click here to add new content link’ inside the Content Editor Web Part.

Content Editor : Click here to add new content

Select the Edit HTML Source from the HTML menu.

Edit HTML Source

In the dialog, paste in the code from the PathToSharePoint site into the HTML Source and click on OK.

HTML Source with code

Choose to Stop Editing the Page and then navigate back to an issue and choose to view it, causing the newly updated display form to be used.

New Issue with Issue Id

You’ll notice a new item has appeared on the top line showing the Issue Id.  Now all that’s needed is to repeat the above for the Default Edit Form and your finished. Of course, this will only customise the list of the site you are in. If you want this to be carried through all of your sites, make sure you make the same changes to your Project template site.

Mobile Project Server Business Intelligence with Windows Phone 7

Out of the box, Project Server 2010 is arguably the most business intelligence heavy application that Microsoft build on the SharePoint platform. It’s a bold statement, but when you think about it, a default installation of Project Server will implement a dedicated relational reporting database and provides the capability for numerous analysis services instances, each containing up to 14 OLAP cubes, all configurable from within the tool.

With the reliance on SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, a number of new and improved capabilities are made available, including PerformancePoint Services & Visio Services which provide new and improved ways of visualising project data to quickly expose trends and possible issues so they can be corrected. Unfortunately whilst the story is fantastic if you are using a PC, it’s a little less impressive if you are using a true mobile device such as a phone. Whilst people may have laptops, wireless and mobile broadband, starting up a laptop & connecting is way less convenient than quickly viewing your data on a mobile device, pretty much instantly.

So I started to wonder what the options were for mobile business intelligence, specifically how could I see the status of my project portfolio, risks, issues & financial information directly from my mobile phone? As my personal phone is an iPhone I started by checking out the various options, including Roambi & PushBI. Both looked pretty good on paper, but either required you to buy licences, were not real time or required you to install propriety software on your farm / servers.

Then thanks to a twitter from JJTotal, I was directed to an application called Blue-Granite Nitro. Nitro is a free Windows Phone 7 app that renders XML feeds of information and produces some very impressive visualisations of data using the WP7 metro interface for rendering.

Example Visualisations from Blue-Granite Nitro

In order to generate the XML feeds that Nitro uses, all that is required is a SQL Server Reporting Services instance running one report. So as Project Server requires SQL Server, this should be readily available. Being based on Reporting Services, developing the report is incredibly simple, either through Visual Studio, or my preferred report tool, Report Builder v3.0.  The reporting services instance needs to be exposed externally and set to allow basic authentication which may cause some network admin headaches. The Nitro application itself then just needs to be set up to connect to the reporting services instance where it will run the report, generate the feed and render the dashboards in real time.

The Blue Granite web site provides a full breakdown of the structure required by the application and a number of run throughs and demo’s. But of course, I thought I would have a go myself wiring up some data in the Project Server Reporting database and OLAP cubes, and whilst I was at it, why not film it Smile

So here are my attempts, best viewed in HD, the first one is a run through of how to create a feed from scratch and then render it in Nitro.

Click to be taken to the video

The second one shows a slightly more advanced scenario with some different visualisations and connecting to both relational and cube based data.

Click to be taken to the video

On reflection, building the report up was incredibly simple, you just need a bit of knowledge of the Project Server Reporting DB schema and what’s available in the cubes (which is documented in the Project 2010 SDK available from here). Where information is not available from these sources, such as extended risk, issue or SharePoint list data, additional tools such as the iPMO data miner or SLAM could be leveraged to make copies for reporting purposes without directly querying the contentdb. As you saw in the video configuring the Nitro app itself was just as easy.

Of course this solution is not just limited to Project Server data, any information you have stored in SQL and could report on using Reporting Services can be queried and rendered through Nitro on a Windows Phone 7. Given the price point, the ease of configuration and the fact it leverages your in place technology without the need to install any new servers / software, why wouldn’t you install it and start to empower your organisation today?

Finally, as I don’t have a Windows Phone 7 of my own to play with (I will gladly accept any donations though Winking smile), I would like to thank Glenn Wilson for lending me his HTC Mozart to build the screencast.

Error 1053 : The service did not respond to the start or control request in a timely fashion error event.

Recently the Project Server 2007 queue at one of my customers stopped working. What made this stranger was that it occurred on the Production, Test and Development environments within days of each other. My first thoughts were to see if the customer’s IT department had made any changes to the environments, like a patch, or hosting configuration change, but after passing my polygraph tests it seems they hadn’t. Smile

Restarting the Queue Service didn’t seem to fix the issue, resulting in the error:

Error 1053 : The service did not respond to the start or control request in a timely fashion

After a quick search, I found this article from the excellent Information Worker Structured Collaboration blog covering this exact scenario. It seems that after a period of time, an error can occur in Virtualised environments which causes the Queue and/or Event services to not start.  As outlined in the blog, the fix is pretty simple, requiring two simple registry changes and a reboot.

image

So if you run Project Server 2007 in a virtualised environment, bookmark the above site as it’s likely to save your bacon.

Error 6875 : Unexpected end of file while parsing Name has occurred. Line 1, position 256.

I thought I would blog this so I can find it again and in case someone else runs into this issue.

Last week whilst performing a health check on a Project Server 2007 installations I came across this error which seemed to be a pretty common occurrence in the event logs.

Error loading and running event receiver Microsoft.Office.Project.PWA.WSSEventReceivers.PSDBUpdater in Microsoft.Office.Project.Server.PWA,Version=12.0.0.0, Culture=neutral,PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c. Additional information is below.

: Unexpected end of file while parsing Name has occurred. Line 1, position 256.

For more information, see Help and Support Center at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/events.asp.

After a quick search, I found this excellent article by Julian Stevens which provides an explanation of the problem, which turns out to be that the complete websafe url of a document, including the machine name, folders and document cannot cannot exceed 260 characters by design. In this particular case, one of the project teams had become a little overzealous in the use of folders and descriptive filenames. The offending team is now rethinking their document storage and looking at using metadata instead of folders for organising their content.

Fiscal Time Dimension Not Set

fiscal not set For the past couple of weeks I have been building some financial reports from information stored within the cubes of Project Server 2007. The client has some pretty full on requirements around presenting the information, so I chose to implement the reports using Microsoft Excel which I can apply a bit of logic and formatting to instead of the out of the box PS2007 data analysis views.

One problem I ran into was that the Fiscal Time dimension in the cubesfiscal populated was showing as ‘Not Set’ when trying to set it as a filter. After about ten minutes of poking around and scratching my head, I checked the Financial Periods set up on in the Time and Task Management section of Server Settings to make sure the fiscal periods had been configured, which they hadn’t. After setting up the fiscal periods and rebuilding the cube, the fiscal time dimension populated. It appears the cubes require this to be set explicitly for the dimension to populate, which makes perfect sense when you think about it as these fiscal periods can vary between organisations and where in the world they operate.

So why am I telling you this? Well, I figured I might save someone ten minutes in the future if they run into this and decide to do a search :)

Enable backwards compatibility mode on a fresh Project Server 2010 install

One of the great features of Project Server 2010 is Backwards Compatibility Mode (BCM). With BCM, users can connect to Project Server 2010 with both Project Professional 2007 and 2010 clients. This can be a great bonus for companies that have already standardised on the Project 2007 toolset but want the features of Project Server 2010 without a costly client upgrade and rollout.

Typically BCM is turned on when you upgrade your existing Project Server 2007 environment to Project Server 2010. If you do a fresh install of Project Server 2010, the server is installed in Native 2010 mode, only allowing Project 2010 clients to attach. However, it is possible to do a fresh 2010 install and enable backwards compatibility mode, and here’s how…

1. Create a set of Project Server 2007 databases by provisioning a new Project Server PWA instance.

Fresh Provision

2. Save the four ‘clean’ databases created in your Project Server 2007 environment and back them up via SQL Server Management Studio. Restore the four ‘clean’ databases into your Project Server 2010 environment database and make sure they have the correct permissions for your environment (more info on restoring databases and setting the permissions can be found here)

Restore DB

3. In the 2010 environment, provision a new Project Web Application instance via Central Admin > Manage Service Applications > Project Server Service Application. In the configuration screen, change the four default database names to reflect the ‘clean’ Project Server 2007 databases restored above.

Central Admin - new SA 1

Central Admin - new SA 2

4. Confirm that backwards compatibility mode has been turned on for the PWA instance in Server Settings > Additional Settings

Additional Server Settings - BCM

There you have it, the server now supports both Project Professional 2010 and Project Professional 2007.

Update: Microsoft have released a set of clean Project Server 2007 databases that can be used to create a fresh 2010 instance. More details here.