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Infrastructure Update Caveats for Cost Resources

posted July 16th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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While reviewing the white paper that describes the recent Project 2007 Infrastructure Update in detail, I came upon some interesting information at the end of the document.

Before I start, I first want to thank and congratulate Microsoft on a job well done with the quality and quantity of documentation they’ve provided for this update. Compared to the sometimes-cryptic KB Articles that typically accompany hotfixes and updates, the Infrastructure Update’s documentation is outstanding.

That being said, I do have some concerns relating to the changes in Cost Resources, which are a new way in Project 2007 of accounting for costs associated with a project. Cost Resources are typically used to account for non-work costs such as travel expenses. The Infrastructure Update makes some significant changes to the way that Cost Resources function, and while I am a big fan of the idea of Cost Resources, I cannot help but be concerned by some of the caveats I’ve quoted below:




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Project and Project Server 2007 Infrastructure Update

posted July 16th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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For those of you that haven’t heard yet, yesterday morning Microsoft released the long-awaited Infrastructure Update for WSS, the Office Servers (including Project Server), and Project 2007.

You can read an overview of updates here, and read detailed information in this white paper.

This update promises significant performance and stability improvements to the entire line of Office Servers, WSS, and the Project Client. If you haven’t already (or have only read the overview), I strongly recommend you read the white paper. It contains 30 pages of information about the update, and contains a lot of important information (including user scenarios to avoid).

From the overview:

Project Server

  • Timesheets and My Tasks stability and usability improvements
  • Queue Management user interface improvements
  • Logging Tracing improvements
  • Project Server performance improvements
  • Project Server 2003 to Project Server 2007 migration fixes



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“Internet Explorer cannot display the Web Page” error when signing in to SharePoint 3.0 using Windows Authentication

posted June 20th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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I recently encountered a situation where users attempting to login to a SharePoint 3.0 site when using the “Sign In” link were recieving an “Internet Explorer cannot display the Web Page” error. The Web Application was configured to allow Anonymous Access and to also use Integrated Windows Authentication.

No errors showed in either the Application or System logs. The IIS Logs displayed a 401 error:
2008-06-20 14:55:01 W3SVC96982807 ServerIP GET /_layouts/Authenticate.aspx Source=%2Fdefault%2Easpx 80 - ClientIP Mozilla/4.0+(BrowserIdentificationString) 401 1 0. Examination of the HTTP traffic with Fiddler showed the same 401.1 error.

Investigation of the Web Site’s properties in IIS showed that HTTP Keep-Alives were disabled — enabling them resolved the problem.

Integrated Windows Authentication (NTLM) requires HTTP Keep-Alives; this is because Microsoft’s NTLM for HTTP authenticates connections, not requests. This means that the HTTP connection must be kept open while the NTLM handshake completes. More technical information can be found here. There is no method that I know of to get around this limitation other than to not use NTLM.




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Creating or Viewing Views in Data Analysis can cause Analysis Services to become unresponsive

posted April 23rd, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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At a previous client, I encountered an issue where, when creating or viewing certain views in Data Analysis, the Analysis Services service would spike in processor/memory utilization and become unresponsive.

I have recently discovered that this is a known issue in environments that have an interaction between Office Web Components and SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services with Service Pack 2 (which means Project Server).

Although I’m not 100% sure, I believe the KB that covers this issue is KB936251. The symptoms seem to fit.

At any rate, I have been told that the resolution was included way back in SQL Server 2005 Cumulative Update 2. I recommend that you install the current CU, which is CU7, due to the number of fixes it contains. UPDATE: I’ve recieved information that CU6 is a better choice due to some issues introduced by CU7. I’ve posted a followup article here.




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EPM Streamlines Your Activities

posted April 4th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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This is part three of the Understanding the Value of EPM and EPM Consultants series.

One of the best aspects of Project Server is that it does the grunt work of collaboration and data collection for you. As Project Managers, we spend a lot of our time having meetings, preparing for meetings, reviewing and gathering status, and ensuring our plans are in line with expectations. Project Server allows you to handle the legwork for many of these tasks automatically.

Consider a standard status report that a team member fills out. Typically, these reports contain a list of issues, risks, past and future tasks, and a matrix of how their time was spent. The unfortunate downside of this method of communication is that the list of issues, risks, and tasks often becomes complicated and unwieldy on long projects or ones with more than a few people. Some teams choose to work around this by decreasing the detail provided in the report, but doing this obviously decreases the value of this report.



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Adjust the Default Project Web Access Permission Levels

posted April 3rd, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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At many of my clients, I encounter situations where the default Permission Levels created by Project Server for Project Web Access sites cause problems. Typically, everything is going along just fine when suddenly one day PWA has a different theme or the “My Tasks” or “My Timesheets” page is blank and/or throws an error. While on occasion the error is legitimate, usually it is due to an inexperienced user editing the Shared version of the page. If you haven’t encountered this issue yourself, at this point you may be wondering how this is possible… The simple answer is that for many organizations, the default Permission Levels grant too much power to non-Administrative users.

When you provision a new Project Web Access site, Project Server creates four Permission Levels (described in this technet article):

  • Web Administrators (Microsoft Office Project Server)
  • Project Managers (Microsoft Office Project Server)


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Looking behind “An unexpected error has occurred” messages

posted March 31st, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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At one time or another, almost everybody recieves an error while working in Project Server 2007’s Project Web Access. By default, SharePoint (and therefore Project Server 2007) are configured to present what are known as “custom” errors. These are an inherent part of ASP.NET that allow developers to create friendly error pages to report errors rather than the stock ones provided by the .NET Framework. These pages are generally simplistic and often leave out a great deal of information, such as stack traces. The reason for these pages is chiefly to spare the user the gory details of whatever unhandled exception just occurred. Unfortunately, not every error is or can be logged. This causes an obvious problem in Project Server deployments — especially when trying to resolve a transient error.



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EPM is a Business Enabler

posted March 24th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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When developing their software, Microsoft has always made ease of use and installation a priority. Microsoft puts a significant amount of effort into making the User Interfaces in their products efficient, intuitive, and friendly. This holds true for not only their client products, but also for their server products as well. Ease of deployment is one of the primary reasons why I love working with Microsoft products. Less time spent fighting through a difficult product installation means more time for implementing a truly integrated and comprehensive solution.



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Consultants Provide Strategic Vision

posted March 14th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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In today’s modern business environment, most organizations are familiar with the concept of a technology consultant. However, while many organizations tend to use the title consultant and contractor interchangeably, the job of a consultant differs significantly from that of a contractor.

A contractor is typically a specialist in a particular discipline or product, often serving as staff augmentation or hired to perform a specific task. Typically, the job that needs to be done is relatively simple, but the organization lacks the capacity or skill to perform it. Contrast this with consultants, who are typically multidisciplinary generalists who specialize in the creation of one or more types of comprehensive solutions that leverage technology to solve business problems. They may or may not specialize in a particular platform or technology, and they may be very experienced technicians. As such, consultants may perform technical or implementation duties in addition to their other duties. When all is said and done, the true value of a consultant is their ability to “see the forest for the trees”, which is to say that they can view the work as a whole and strategize without getting overly caught up in the details until necessary.



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Are your timer jobs inexplicably failing to complete?

posted January 24th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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I recently encountered a situation where I would see literally hundreds of errors in the ULS logs like this:

01/18/2008 10:22:59.99 OWSTIMER.EXE (0×0600) 0×08F8 Windows SharePoint Services Timer 5uuf Monitorable The previous instance of the timer job ‘Config Refresh’, id ‘{3F51D43C-C7DD-403D-A63B-1163EA9B46A6}’ for service ‘{2F8D95DC-ECBF-4661-83AD-92CA4162CD4E}’ is still running, so the current instance will be skipped. Consider increasing the interval between jobs.

Every single Timer Job Definition was throwing these errors (sometimes hundreds of them) every time it was invoked. There were no other errors in the Application Log or ULS Logs, even with verbosity cranked all the way up. Alerts weren’t going out, the cube build was failing, and literally everything that relied on a timer job was nonfunctional. Restarting the Timer service alleviated the problem temporarily, but it would inevitably come back after the first invocation of the timer job.



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