Cliff Saran’s Enterprise blog

December 16, 2008  11:57 AM

Office 2007 Deployment: The results are in… (how to analyse those Officescan cab files)

phughes2 Profile: phughes2
Deployment, Migration, Office 2007, Officescan, OMPM

On our last exciting encounter in the Office 2007 deployment saga, we had put in place some code to run the Officescan application which scans for files on user’s machines to discover if there are likely to be any issues with legacy files arising once Office 2007 is finally installed on machines.

Now a few days have passed and we have collected a vast number of workstation’s cab files in the location we defined in our offscan.ini file.

Before we start with what we do with those cab files, there is one thing which may have popped up in your head while reading the last entry; what happened to scanning the file servers that hold the majority of files that people use?

Well, all we did was run the exe on the server via a remote desktop session out of hours to minimise any potential impact to the end users. We didn’t have to alter the offscan.ini as the options were perfectly fine, although we did of course have to create the directory where the files wouold be stored beforehand and then manually copy over when it was finished. 

The process on the file server took a good deal of time to go through the terabytes of data, but eventually it did finish. Depending on how much data you house, you may want to just kick it off on a Friday and let it run as long as it needs to over the weekend.

So, now we have all our data all nicely presented on a network share.

Now what?

Continued »

December 15, 2008  9:37 AM

Office 2007 Deployment: The Discovery Channel (using officescan to look at your legacy files)

phughes2 Profile: phughes2
Compatibility, Deployment, Office 2007, OMPM

Now that we’ve established the core goal of the project, to rollout Office 2007 via a KIX logon script with add-ons and all sorts of other lovely goodness, the next thing to do is to find out if there are going to be issues with the rollout, and what after-effects the new software could potentially have on people’s day to day workings.

I would like to point out the simple fact that everyone knows but that is rarely uttered outside closed doors for fear of being struck down with a plague: there are going to be problems.

When upgrading to a newer piece of software that many people are not going to be able to fully use straight away, you will come across comments like their ‘machine’s magically broken’ or ‘my old document does’t open any more’.

A lot of the issues come from legacy documents – you know, the kind that most companies keep until 17 years down the track, just in case it’s ever needed again. Then, of course, there are the users with programming knowledge, who may have programmed macros within the documents, either via the record option within Office, or by taking the time to code in Visual Basic for Applications. To add insult to injury, that lone unrecoverable document may just so happen to be key to the company’s success in making squillions of pounds…

We, as administrators of the system, are not going to know the contents of every single document, because if we did, that would mean a) we do nothing else with our lives, and b) we could come across information we shouldn’t see and therefore open up the opportunity to blackmail….er, I mean, er…never mind…

So, how can we make sure we’ve assessed the risk of as many potential problems in this scenario as possible?

Continued »

December 12, 2008  9:01 AM

FaceBook nerds need a reality check

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
career, Employment, Facebook, Job, Redundancy, Skills, talent

Is it just me? Am I the only person who can’t see the point of pandering to the FaceBook Generation.

Analyst Gartner is saying that unless we allow FaceBook in the workplace we won’t be able to attract the best new thinkers out there. This sentiment was reflected earlier this week at an IT directors’ meeting I attended.

I actually think this is total and utter rubbish. It’s true that end users think corporate IT sucks. Since the invention of the PC smart people have innovated their way around corporate systems, stored business data in Excel, and Access databases, circumvented the procurement department, and used things like Hotmail and eBay because the company’s systems were so awful or too expensive.

FaceBook is no different. Anyone who declines a job offer because the company has banned FaceBook needs a reality check. Haven’t you noticed, we’re heading into recession? There’s plenty of very talented people out there desperate for a job.

The real talent lies not with the people who use FaceBook, but with those who can innovate in spite of all the barriers corporate IT puts in place. So for the losers out there on FaceBook, why not update your status to unemployable, and go buy your network of friends a virtual pint.

December 11, 2008  6:37 PM

Office 2007 Deployment: And so it begins…

phughes2 Profile: phughes2
Deployment, Office 2007, rollout

I wish I could start this with “My name is Earl” but alas I cannot. My name is Paul Hughes, and for a short time, you will find entries on this blog written by myself as well as Cliff Saran.

But before I go further, it’s best to start off as to why these guest entries have come about.

Office: it’s one of those programs that most organisations cannot live without. That vital email, the presentation winning you that all important client, it seems that Microsoft Office is the underlying technology in most businesses today.

Now say you were in the position of deploying out Office 2007 to a number of users, say around 800 users. Now I would imagine right now you would more than likely use SMS in some form or push out Office 2007 via Active Directory with some ADM templates added for good measure to customise Office settings for users.

Sounds rather smart at the moment, let’s all go for tea and biscuits to celebrate a job well done!

But what if you don’t have either of those options, plus you had numerous other programs to deploy with it at the same time? That’s the challenge that will be presented here as we endeavour to deploy out the suite to the users over the next couple of months.

This venture first surfaced a while ago, the situation was presented where we needed to push out Office 2007 in a short space of time, with customisations and other add-ins, all at once.

We didn’t have the options of using System Centre as it wasn’t approved software for use internally. And we couldn’t use Active Directory to push it out because, as in many companies, the administration of AD is handled elsewhere and we could not add to any policies or import the templates.

So in essence, to achieve all this, we used the KIX logon script so that Office and all the other parts are installed when the user signs in.

This time we are in the position of deploying out to users, not only in different companies at once but in different locations across the country.

One of the main requirements is that the installation process need no user intervention, which as we all know is basically the fancy way of saying “make sure they can’t break it while it’s doing things.” Pretty understandable, as the last thing you need during a mass rollout like this, is for Michelle or Michael to start pushing buttons that could alter the install process so they miss out on functions being installed at the time.

As well as Office as stated above, the other requirements are to deploy some custom office ribbons for functions and some help files provided by Microsoft to show where functions are within Office after the upgrade.

Hopefully during the course of my posts over the project, you will be able to find information that might aid you if you face a similar scenario, such as discovery of existing issues with Office in use, deploying files and how to ensure – as much as possible – that the scripts can recover from any issues which arise.

It’ll be fun! 🙂 

December 8, 2008  4:25 PM

Mighty Mouse turn 40 today

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Enigma, Linux, Mac, microprocessor, PC, Unix, von-neumann machine, Windows

It’s hard to say what has been the most significant invention in IT of all time: the integrated circuit, the microprocessor, the PC and the web have moulded IT in ways their inventors never imagined.

But 40 years ago, on December 9th 1968, Doug Engelbart and a group of researchers from the Augmented Human Intellect (AHI) Research Center at Stanford Research Institute, gave a public demonstration of end user computing. Englebart showed the world the computer mouse, which was actually made of wood.

Engelbart demoed personal computing, shared documents and video conferencing. He used his wooden mouse  to click through documents, jus like how we use hypertext linking today on the world-wide web. So this week Computer Weekly is celebrating the greatest IT invention of all time. Long live the mouse.

I’d love to hear what IT invention you would rate as the greatest of all time.

December 3, 2008  9:12 AM

Oracle users: Are you really that happy?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Oracle, ukoug

I have known Ronan Miles of the UKOUG  for several years. He’s a good contact of Computer Weekly. Under his leadership, I believe Oracle users in the UK have benefited – especially given the huge change within Oracle itself over the last few years.


Ronan Miles sees the role of the user group is to help users get the most from their investment in Oracle software and, where appropriate, make sure Oracle understands the user agenda.


The latest annual survey from the UKOUG shows people are very happy with Oracle. Call me a twisted, old hack, but I do actually find this somewhat hard to believe. There must be something people would like Oracle to improve. Do you really like the recent licence price hike (due to the weak dollar). Isn’t it time the price dropped to reflect weak sterling? How about virtualisation licensing, or its conFusion strategy?

November 25, 2008  6:26 PM

3D holograms arrive

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Cisco, conference, hologram, HP, Musion, Telepresence

When I was a kid at school we did an experiment in Physics, an optical illusion in which a lit candle appeared in a glass of water.

The trick was performed by used a pane of glass set45 degrees to the viewer, which threw a reflection of the candle in the glass of water. It’s called Pepper’s Ghost, and was used in Victorian theatre to make ghostly actors appear to walk through solid objects.

Now a UK company called Musion has taken this technique and applied it to 21st century video conferencing. Last week the company did a demo transmitting a life-size hologram of its director in London to an auditorium in Berlin. Bill gates, Prince Charles, Lewis Hamilton, even the King of Saudi Arabia have been rendered as holographic images. Musion hopes to give the telepresence providers a run for their money.

The company believes its holographic projection system called Musion Eyeliner could revolutionise the entertainment industry: imagine a concert at the O2 Arena or Wembley where a virtual Bono or Madonna  makes a cameo appearance.

I think Musion Eyeliner may well make traditional conferences more appealing. Fees aside, it would no longer be the case that we only get the people who are prepared to travel to the venue.  The speaker can stay at home and have his or her hologram transmitted by high definition video to a conference hall somewhere else on the planet…or even a planet in a galaxy far, far away like Princess Leia in Star Wars.

Musion obviously has some clever technology – its patented screen, a high performance codec to code and decode high def video and a state-of-the-art network, which is able to run glitch-free. With this technology on hand, sci-fi really is becoming a reality.

November 12, 2008  10:15 AM


Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
iPhone, VMware

VMware Mobile Virtualisation Platform (MVP), the company’s mobile virtualisation platform has the potential to open up mobile application development. The question is whether operators will allow third-party applications on their networks. Mobile telcos seem particularly reluctant about making applications available. The networks are effectively closed off, which means users can only get content and software directly from the mobile network providers.

This has to change, because operators cannot anticipate all the applications a user will need.  Thy are heavily focused on games, video, MySpace and Facebook, because they see these as a way to up sell premium high speed mobile data subscriptions.

If VMWare is successful, it will be able to provide a hardware and network independent architecture for creating platform independent mobile applications. This is what Mobile Java promised. But I have seen little evidence of Java ME, the mobile Java platform. The challenge of getting applications certified has limited Java’s successes as a mobile platform.

Funnily enough, only Windows Mobile seems to have a grasp of network independent apps. I have loaded several useful applications on my trusty XDA Orbit – all downloaded via ActiveSync on the PC.

October 29, 2008  9:43 PM

Office Web Applications – why pay for enterprise licences?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Microsoft, office, Office Live

It comes as no surprise Microsoft is planning to release a browser-based version of Office for its cloud computing service, Azure. When Steve Ballmer visited the UK last month, he mentioned that Microsoft would offer software and services, instead of software as a service.

As it turns out, Microsoft is doing far more than Saas, following in Google’s footsteps, its hosted Office product, Office Web Applications, will be free software supported by advertising revenue, at least according to the Financial Times.

I think this changes the dynamics of desktop software purchasing. We need to assess why we still need to install MS Office, when many tasks can be run from a browser.

The company I work for still provides me with a full copy of MS Office, even though I hardly ever use it.  The print and web production system on Computer Weekly is based on Adobe’s InDesign and InCopy software. I’m happy with whatever basic word editing is available. I have used Hotmail for years, and Gmail; I often use OpenOffice to write articles. Yesterday I used Pocket Word on my XDA Orbit.  Personally it doesn’t matter what word processor I use, so long as it does the basic things: type in words, search & replace, word count and spell check.

So a basic online version of Office will be good enough for me – especially if it’s free. This begs the question of why we need to buy site licenses for MS Office at all. There may be a few people who use its features; but heavy MS Office users probably need a more complete document management product. For everyone else, there’s free software – online Microsoft or Google Apps or OpenOffice.

October 22, 2008  10:17 AM

Microsoft lock-out

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Firefox, IE7, IE8, Internet Explorer, Linux, Windows

I am at a conference in Prague this week. As is usual, I cleaned up my Exchange InBox, before I left on Friday night. By Monday, the  InBox had exceeded the 50 Mbyte size limit set by our IT department. It’s now totally locked.

Now I have wireless access in Prague and I can run Outlook Web Access using the Firefox web browser. But due to the fact that I have some useful rules in Outlook to file certain messages into specific folders, I can’t actually remove any of the large files that have been moved into sub-folders within my InBox.

You can on IE, but Microsoft’s browser does not run on a Linux machine. So thanks Microsoft. I’m now basically stuck. What’s the point in Outlook Web Access if it does not work on any browser. Surely it’s more important for your revenue stream to maintain access to Exchange server than lock-out non Microsoft browser software. This is a ludicrous situation, given browser-based access is supposed to be platform independent. This browser lock-in does not help users.

I have been using GMAIL instead.

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