We Windows Geeks in the Systems Architecture and Administration group are always striving to improve the services that we bring to you, our beloved clients. Most often, the changes that we make in services are small, incremental, and (if we do our work correctly) unnoticed by you. However, we sometimes make enhancements to our services that we want you to notice. With the release of Windows Vista, Office 2007, and the impending release of Windows Server 2007, a lot is going on in the Campus domain. In this article we will highlight a few of the most significant changes that are taking place. Sit up and take notice!
Windows Sharepoint Services Enhancements:
Sharepoint Services v3:
On January 2, 2007 we rolled out version 3.0 of Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS3) on our server "https://sharepoint.uvm.edu". The upgrade added many new features to the increasingly popular service including Blog and Wiki templates, incoming and outgoing email integration (with workflow extensions also available), a site "Recycling Bin", tight integration with Outlook 2007, and improved page customization features. This upgrade and all of the cool new features that it added previously was announced on the IT-DISCUSS mailing list. You can read more about WSS3 at the following Microsoft URL:
To improve communications regarding Sharepoint, we created a new Listserv mailing list. This list is intended as a community forum for Sharepoint support. You can subscribe here:
Rich-text editing for Firefox and Safari:
On the whole this upgrade has been very well received, although there has been one major disappointment; Microsoft promise of full support for non-IE browsers not fulfilled. Users of "Safari" and "Firefox" web browsers at UVM have noted the absence of the rich-text controls that are present for IE users when editing Sharepoint content. To add rich-text content, users of these non-IE browsers had to enter HTML tags manually.
Fortunately, Microsoft heard the cry of angry and disappointed Sharepoint users. Subsequently, the Telerik ASP.NET developer company was contracted by Microsoft to adapt their award-winning radEditor control for Sharepoint:
The radEditor for Sharepoint adds rich-text editing controls to Sharepoint Discussion Boards, Lists, Blogs, and Wikis. Additionally, a "radEditor" Web Part is added which allows for the addition of Firefox-compatible content in "Web Part Pages" (such as the entry page of each Sharepoint site.
We are pleased to announce that as of April 10th, this new "solution" has been added to our Sharepoint server. Go ahead and try it: access a Sharepoint list from Firefox. Create a wiki, blog, or entirely new site:
Do it without fear, because now Sharepoint is for everybody... see how it works out for you.
New site templates:
In March, Microsoft release 40 new Sharepoint 3.0 site templates to the public:
These templates are split into two categories: "Site admin" templates, and "Server admin" templates. All Sharepoint site owners can download and install the "Site admin" templates without the assistance of ETS. However, the "Server admin" templates need to be installed centrally. Last month we added most of these "Server admin" templates into our Sharepoint server for your use.
If you have experimented with Sharepoint in the past and found that the existing site templates did not quite suit your needs, have another look. It may be that one of these new templates will make a difference for you.
Windows Deployment Services and the Business Desktop Deployment System
(or, RIS... the Next Generation)
With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft replaced their venerable "Remote Installation Service" (RIS) with an entirely new product: "Windows Deployment Services" (or Windows DS). You can learn more about Windows DS here:
RIS has been in use at UVM since 2003. This year, we will be phasing our RIS in favor of the faster/better Windows DS service.
At the present time, we have installed the Windows DS software on our central imaging server, SYSIMG1. We have converted all RIS images in our server library into the new "Windows Image Format" (WIM) used in Windows DS, and made these images available on the server. We are now in the process of validating all of the converted images, and testing out the deployment using Windows DS. When validation is complete, we will remove all of the RIS images and deactivate legacy RIS services. Expect this process to be complete by the end of the semester.
Business Desktop Deployment 2007:
To complement the Windows DS service, Microsoft also has released a major update to their Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) toolkit. BDD started out as a collection of technical reference and best practice guides to assist IT professionals with enterprise deployment of Microsoft operating systems. With the latest release, BDD is now a toolkit consisting of documentation and a wonderful new tool, the Deployment Workbench:
The deployment workbench makes it possible for IT staff to quickly develop and maintain a nearly-unattended Windows XP and Vista deployment solution. Using BDD, we will be able to develop new system images in hours rather than days. With Windows DS integration, we then will be able to start distribution of these images immediately.
The "Lite Touch" deployment methodology implemented though the BDD Deployment Workbench is extremely easy to use. A major benefit of this simplicity is that we will be able to standardize redeployment of OS on systems for which no image currently exists, or for which the existing image is hopelessly obsolete.
Many places on campus can start using Windows DS and DBB "Lite Touch" deployment simply by "net booting" their computers. However, network boot can be slow and is not available to everyone. As an alternative, you can create a bootable CD or USB flash drive to access the servers. Directions are available on the Campus domain file server:
Presiding Windows Weenie
ETS Systems Architecture and Administration