October 2007 - Posts

I normally focus on actual useful information rather than just opinion, but today I am going to deviate a bit. After attening Tech Fest and listening to the elitists bash SharePoint as usual, I thought it was time for a post. I'll be the first to point out that I am not a hard core SharePoint supporter but I do think its good at certain things. There are a lot of things that such about SharePoint / MOSS, but when used properly I think it is a viable solution for various things. I think most of the stigma about SharePoint comes from version 2 and how bad it sucked and inexperience.

So what is it good for?

Document Management - SharePoint / MOSS is a decent repository for storing documents. There are other products that have things that may be better such as LiveLink, but all in all its not bad for document storage. Couple it with search and you have a decent solution. Don't go telling me you are going to custom dev a document management solution. That is just reinventing the wheel and being stupid. Use a product that is already out there to do most of the work for you.

Enterprise Search - With MOSS comes Enterprise Search. The Business Data Catalog gives you the ability to index line of business data from other systems via database or web service. It can index your documents in sharepoint or off the file system. It can bring in information about people from active directory. One you have all these data sources indexed, MOSS can search all of them simultaneously and provide relavent results across data sources. I haven't tried any other Enterprise Search products out there, but I have to say MOSS is pretty easy to use in this regard.

Ok so those are really the two things that I think MOSS does well. Does this make it an apoplication platform? I don't know. The main thing I wanted to say is that I don't think MOSS is a good solution for everything. There are things that it is good at and there are things that its not good at (i.e. content management). Use it for what it is good at, use something else for what it's not good at. None the less, there are a ton of jobs out there for people with SharePoint experience, so its not a bad skill set to pick up.

This weekend I spoke at Tulsa Tech Fest and it was quite the good time. I am not the kind of douche bag that drops names but I did have the opportunity to party with some respected names in the industry this weekend. All in all a good time.

Here are the slides from my talk, Searching Business Data with Enterprise Search.

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In case any one actually reads this and cares, I'll be speaking at Tulsa TechFest this Saturday (10/20) at 10:30a about MOSS 2007. The talk I will be giving is called Searching Business Data with MOSS 2007 Enterprise Search.

Registration is now FREE, so come check it out.

Searching Business Data with MOSS 2007 Enterprise Search

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A while back I posted about SSPPC, a utility on CodePlex to import and export Enterprise Search settings. After using this utility more I thought I would post an update. Most of the troubles you might run into are during importing. Most of this is due to the fact that things happen to work in a certain order. Don't bother using the Import Settings bat file because more than likely it will not work. The application will just throw an exception so don't expect a friendly error. Most of the time there is enough info to figure it out though.

I am going to talk about content sources for the BDC specifically today. First thing you have to do is import all of your BDC application definitions. If you dont do this, when you try to import the content sources, it will fail because they do not exist. Once you have done that, go ahead and import the content sources. The easiest way is to just copy the command line out of the import batch file. If that runs successfully, all of your content sources will be there. One thing to not is that, the checkbox for the LOB System that the content source maps to will not show up checked. However, strangely enough everything usually works when you start crawling.

The command line to import content sources by default includes a parameter to initiate a full crawl. This is necessary so that your crawled properties will exist. Be sure and wait for it to finish. I have attempted to do the crawled property import but as the product says it is in beta and probably will not work (as was gthe case for me).

Once your crawl is finished, you will have crawled properties. Now you just need to import your managed properties. Copy the managed property line from the import batch file and execute it. This line will import your managed properties as well as which crawled properties they map to. This is a huge time saver, since mapping properties is very slow and cumbersome.

One thing to note is that you do not have to worry about the product importing duplicate scopes, properties, etc. It is smart enough to check and see if it exists first before creating a new one.

After all of that, you can import scopes using the last line from the batch file. Once your scopes are imported and updated, you should be good to go with Enterprise Search. All in all this is a very handy utility and it should save you a ton of time as you move Enterprise Search between environments.

I stumbled up on these web parts on CodePlex the other day and I thought they were pretty cool. They provide some of the features that the Ontolica suite has but they are free. What they do is provide a way to filter search results based upon your managed properties. For example, you can filter search results by things such as state or product type. It also comes with a breadcrumbs control which tells you what you searched for and it allows you to remove filters.

They are relatively easy to set up. It even comes with an installer. They will run under partial trust even. However, the manfiest file in there wsp pacakge is missing the AspNet permission. So after you install it, go and add the following line to the permission set in your trust file. If you have read enough of my posts by now, you probably know where this is. The location can be found by looking at the trustLevel element named WSS_Custom in your web.config and grabbing the path. The file is typically located at C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\config\wss_custom_wss_minimaltrust.config. Here is the line to add to the PermissionSet. Just look for the one for the Faceted Search wsp file.

<IPermission class="AspNetHostingPermission" version="1" Level="Minimal" />

Someone already pointed this out on their issues list on codeplex and I posted this as a fix for it. Hopefully, they will just add it to the manifest some time.

After you have it set up. It's just a matter of adding the web parts to your results page in search center. They are pretty configurable CSS wise. To specify which columns to provide filters on there is a columns property. It takes XML and is in a format pretty similar to that of the columns property of the CoreResultsWebPart.

These web parts are really nice and they provide a nice value add to your users. Give them a try today.