Dec 21, 2004

Changes to Great Plains Certified Master program

Starting on December, 15th, Microsoft Business Solutions has made some changes to the program requirements for most of the "Certified Master" programs, including Great Plains. These changes should be very beneficial because they have made less exams mandatory and given you more electives.

Here is the old structure for the Great Plains Certified Master:

Certified Master–Great Plains Application (Old)

(4 Exams required)

Mandatory exams:
  • Great Plains Financials
  • Great Plains Inventory & Order Processing
  • Great Plains Report Writer
Elective exams (1 required):
  • Great Plains Human Resources and Payroll (US)
  • FRx
  • Great Plains Project Series
  • Great Plains Manufacturing certification
  • Great Plains Field Service certification (as available)
  • Great Plains Field Service Implementation (as available)

And here are the new requirements as of December, 15th.

Certified Master–Great Plains Application (New)

(4 Exams required)

Mandatory exams:
  • Great Plains Financials
Elective exams (3 required):
  • Great Plains Report Writer
  • Great Plains Inventory & Order Processing
  • Great Plains Project Series
  • Great Plains Manufacturing
  • Great Plains Field Service Implementation
  • Great Plains Human Resources & Payroll (US)
  • FRx Reporting Design
And here are the old and new requirements for the technical Certified Master program:

Certified Master – Great Plains Installation & Configuration (Old)

(5 exams required)

Mandatory exams:
  • Great Plains Installation & Configuration
  • MS 70-228 Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition**
  • MS-70-290 Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment**
  • MS-70-291 Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure **
Elective exams (1 required):
  • Great Plains Financials
  • Great Plains Inventory & Order Processing
  • Great Plains Report Writer
And here are the new requirements:

Certified Master – Great Plains Installation & Configuration (New)

(4 exams required)

Mandatory exams:
  • Great Plains Installation & Configuration
  • MS 70-228 Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition*
Elective exams (2 required):
  • Great Plains Financials
  • Great Plains Report Writer
  • Great Plains Inventory & Order Processing
  • Great Plains Modifier with VBA
  • Great Plains Integration Manager
  • MS-70-290 Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment*
  • MS-70-291 Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure *

Dec 3, 2004

Great Plains 8.0 Service Pack 1a is available

Seems that there were a few issues in Service Pack 1 for Great Plains. I know that i personally ran into one of them. After I installed SP1 on a server, i attempted to go into Great Plains Utilities to run the database update scripts via the "Perform special upgrade" option but i received an error message...

"Unable to open input SQL script D:\Great Plains\sql\util\tasks\"

When i took a look in that folder, it was empty. But right next to it was a folder called "Tasks(Original)". So it appears that it had moved the original list of database tasks to this new folder but it failed to create the new SP1-based tasks in the proper folder. MBS support then sent me those scripts seperately so i could populate them manually. They also informed me that SP1a was on its way out and would take care of this issue.

So authorized Partners and Customers should be able to download SP1a from this link.

Nov 9, 2004

Great Plains 8.0 Service Pack 1 is released

Looks like Microsoft Business Solutions has just released the first service pack for Great Plains 8.0.

Authorized Partners and Customers can download GP 8.0 SP1 from this link.

Also this week is the release of Service Pack 2 for FRx 6.7, which is available to authorized Partners and Customers at this link.

Nov 8, 2004

Microsoft Office Information Bridge Framework for Microsoft CRM

Wow, i think thats the longest product title i've ran into in quite some time. :)

This is a brand new add-on from Microsoft that gives you even tighter integration between Microsoft CRM and Microsoft Office.

From Microsoft :
"The Microsoft Office Information Bridge Framework for Microsoft CRM connects Microsoft Office with Microsoft Business Solutions CRM using compatible Web services. By using the Information Bridge Framework, Microsoft Office System users can interact with Microsoft CRM directly from Microsoft Office Word 2003, Microsoft Office Excel 2003, and Microsoft Office Outlook 2003.

A complete Information Bridge solution comprises the Microsoft Office Information Bridge Framework, the Microsoft CRM data sources that are exposed through Web services, and other custom controls and assemblies created for Microsoft Office Professional 2003."

You can grab the download right here.

Nov 5, 2004

Microsoft CRM 1.2 Integration to Great Plains 8.0

Microsoft has just released a hotfix that allows you to integrate Microsoft CRM 1.2 with Great Plains 8.0.

"Currently, Microsoft CRM Integration for Great Plains 1.2 detects and works with Microsoft CRM 1.2 and Microsoft Business Solutions–Great Plains 7.0 and Great Plains 7.5 only. This update enables integration between Microsoft CRM 1.2 and Great Plains 8.0 to function, whether you are an existing user of Microsoft CRM Integration for Great Plains 1.2 or a new integration user."

Click here to download the hotfix.

Oct 25, 2004

New Microsoft SQL Server 2005 webcasts available

In December, Microsoft is running a series of webcasts to take a look at several new features in the upcoming SQL Server 2005 (Yukon) edition. Check out this site for detail and links to the various webcasts. 15 different sessions in all.

Topics include - SQL Reporting Services, SQL Analysis Services, Service Broker, web services, the new Management Studio environment, .Net integration, XML, ADO.Net 2.0, the new security model, Integration Services (formerly DTS), Replication and Notification Services.

Looks like alot of great info. I know I love being the first on the block to get a sneak peak at new technology. So make sure you sign up today!

Oct 14, 2004

Search your PC with the power of Google!

Just released today is the beta edition of Google's new Desktop Search. This is a little app that you download and install on your PC. When your first start it up, it runs a one-time process where it scans and builds an index of files, emails, and web history on your PC. Then you use a browser interface to search this index with the same lightning fast speed that you search the Internet with. Why has it taken so long for us to get something like this??

Currently Google Desktop Search scans the following types of items:
  • Outlook / Outlook Express email messages
  • AOL Instant Messenger conversations
  • Internet Explorer pages (it caches pages you have visited)
  • Text files
  • Word documents
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Powerpoint files
For other types of files (PDF's, MP3's, etc.) , its supposed to at least index the file names. Google Labs will be improving this product over time and adding in more features as well as the ability to search more types of files.

I've just now installed it and the index is currently building. I'll provide more info after i've been able to play with it for a while but so far i'm very impressed. Getting the instant results of a search of my Outlook email is amazing.

Here are some more links...

Get the download
The About and FAQ page
Some screenshots

New "Report Packs" for SQL Server Reporting Services

I wrote about Microsoft SQL Reporting Services in a previous article. It's a fairly new report development and web-based delivery platform for reporting.

Microsoft has just release some new "Report Packs" for SQL Reporting Services. These Report Packs are collections of sample reports. They are available on the SQL Reporting Services download page. There are 3 packs avaiable:
Each pack contains 6 different sample reports. These will be a big help in learning the product, providing demos to your clients plus they'll give you a good head-start on creating similar reports. I'd really like to see some Great Plains reports that work with SQL Reporting Services.

Oct 12, 2004

Two-day Sharepoint Development Workshop from Microsoft

The Microsoft Partner Readiness site is promoting a new two-day workshop on Sharepoint site development and customization. Looks like they cover alot of ground in two days. They even mention working with a Sharepoint customization for Great Plains.

This would be a great class for anyone looking to build customization for MBS Business Portal as well, since Sharepoint is the backbone of Business Portal. I'm going to be attending the session in Falls Church, VA.

It says the class is available to Microsoft Gold level Partners only. Good price though - only $165 with the following promo code - USPRDSPSW. There are many other Sharepoint related sessions available. Browse to the main page and then hover your mouse over the "Product & Solution Readiness" link on the upper left side of the page. This will blow out the full menu of seminars that are available.

Oct 8, 2004

FRx WebView for Great Plains

Since i've been working with this product quite a bit recently, i just thought i'd throw an article out here with a little information about it. For those of you not familiar with FRx, it is a financial report writing tool from Microsoft (via FRx Software) that works with Great Plains, Solomon and I believe Navision as well.

FRx WebView (or WebPort) is a web-based report delivery application. You can generate your financial reports out of FRx as you normally would and you can also select to publish them to the web. Once the report has been published from FRx, users can log into the web application and view their reports. From the website you can also convert the report into a PDF and then print or save it locally if you want it.

FRx WebView has a Web Administrator configuration tool that you use to setup users and groups in order to control security to the reports. You can also setup different folders to hold reports intended for different audiences and then uses security groups to restrict access as needed.

Sep 22, 2004

Sign up for Business Portal 2.5 webcasts this friday

Sorry for the short notice but i wanted to point out that Microsoft Business Solutions is holding two different webcasts live this Friday, September 24th. One at 12pm EST and the second at 2pm EST I believe. And like all Microsoft and MBS webcasts, these are totally free.

First is for an overview of the new features in Business Portal 2.5.

Link to registration for overview.

This second one is specifically for the new Project Time and Expense module in BP 2.5.

Link to registration for PT&E.

If you aren't able to attend the live sessions this friday, they should be recorded and made available about 24hrs after the close of the sessions. Then you should be able to find the archived sessions at this site which are available on demand. These are free as well.

Sep 17, 2004

1 million downloads in 10 days

No, i'm not talking about my Tech Roundup blog unfortunately. I'm talking about the launch of Firefox 1.0. This IE alternative web browser has won over many fans in the past year while still in various beta versions, myself included. I do most of my browsing in Firefox, aside from a few MS-heavy sites and applications that don't work quite right - namely Outlook Web Access 2003. You would also not be able to use Firefox with Microsoft CRM or Business Portal from Microsoft Business Solutions.

For the first time since being crowned king in the "IE vs. Netscape" browser wars of the mid 1990's, Microsoft is losing market share in browser usage and Firefox is steadily increasing. Interest in Firefox has been driven in large part by all of the security holes in Internet Explorer. In fact, even the US Government has warned against using IE...

"In June, the U.S. federal government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team warned Web surfers to stop using IE after Microsoft disclosed a bug that allowed spyware to be downloaded to people's computers without their involvement."

Firefox is also a great browser if you love to tweak things. You can download all sorts of Themes and Extensions to make Firefox look and act exactly the way you want it to. Once you've used tabbed browsing and some of the other cool features, you'll never go back.

The Firefox folks are pushing to have 1 million downloads of this 1.0 preview release and they are certainly well on their way to crushing that goal. They've had over 750,000 downloads in the first 3 days. Be patient though. Their servers are getting hammered.

Cnet's has a nice article about the whole thing.

Hopefully the success and rapid adoption of Firefox will light a fire under Microsoft to improve IE. They've added some enhancements with Windows XP Service Pack 2 but really we've been stuck on IE 6.0 since 2001.

Sep 8, 2004

First look at Microsoft SQL Reporting Services

Earlier this year, Microsoft took their first crack at delivering an enterprise-level reporting solution. The full name is Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services. Originally this was going to be built into "Yukon" aka "SQL Server 2005" but apparently this feature was finished early and was released as an add-on to SQL Server 2000.

After you install SQL Reporting Services, you'll see a new type of project added to your Visual Studio .NET development tool. Yes, you'll actually be building these reports in Visual Studio .NET. This process is much like working in Crystal Reports or Microsoft Access. You select your tables and fields, design the layout of the report and then preview the data.

Now comes the cool part. Once your report is ready, you will deploy it to the Reporting Services website directly from Visual Studio. Now all of your users can access these reports from the web server. Don't worry - there are plenty of security measures available to ensure only the right people can access this server and then only access the reports you want them to see.

You can have the users run them on demand, or have them scheduled and cached or they can be emailed out directly to the users. Users can also "subscribe" to various reports and get a notification whenever a newer version is published. Once the user is viewing the report, they can export it into a variety of file types - Word, Excel, PDF, XML, TIFF, etc.

I've been very impressed so far. The report delivery mechanism is very slick. The product is also very open to expansion since the reports are stored as standard XML-based RDL files (Report Definition Language) and the Reporting Services engine itself is an XML web service.

And don't be fooled by the name _SQL_ Reporting Services - it can connect to a variety of data sources - SQL, ODBC, OLE DB, and Oracle.

If you are already running SQL Reporting Services, don't forget to grab Service Pack 1.

I'll have more info in my blog later on once i've been able to play with it for a while. Oh, and did i mention that this product is FREE as long as you are licensed for SQL Server 2000? Nice!

Sep 3, 2004

Microsoft CRM 1.2 "Outlook Client Enhancements" release

In the ongoing line of "Feature Pack" releases for Microsoft CRM, the latest edition is called "Outlook Client Enhancements".

Description from Microsoft:
"The Microsoft CRM Business Group is pleased to announce the availability of another Microsoft CRM 1.2 Feature Pack Enhancement. The download to the "Outlook Client" enhancements one of the key pieces to the Microsoft CRM 1.2 Feature Pack is now publicly available. Using these new enhancements, customers should see fast and more scalable sync performance and can now run their Outlook clients in a more secure environment with locked down desktops and no requirement that users have local admin privileges. This is yet another great example of how Microsoft is continuing its efforts to improve Microsoft CRM. "

The download link can be found right here.

Aug 30, 2004

MBS Business Portal 2.5 is on the way

Last week Microsoft Business Solutions Business Portal 2.5 was released to the manufacturer. ("RTM'ed" as they say.) This means it should be shipping very soon.

With this new version of Business Portal, MBS has started the process of dropping some of the older web-based products and instead rebuilding new versions inside of the Business Portal framework. This includes eRequisition and Project Time and Expense. Here is a list of the new features.

Integration with Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Proactively manage disclosure and control documents and processes related to compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Project Time & Expense for Business Portal

  • Allow project team members to enter time and expenses in an intuitive new user interface.
  • Review and approve time cards and expense reports online.
Requisition Management for Microsoft Business Portal

  • Empower employees to enter requisitions online.
  • Set up a user-friendly approval hierarchy.
  • Enable employees to complete common procurement tasks quickly.
Electronic Document Delivery for Microsoft Business Portal

  • Send the right documents to the right customers.
  • Choose formats that work for you and your customers.
  • Tailor documents to meet specific needs.
  • Improve scheduling and delivery efficiencies.
Microsoft Business Portal 2.5 is available in US English and works with Microsoft Great Plains 8.0 Professional, Microsoft Great Plains 8.0 Standard, Microsoft Solomon 6.0 Professional, and Microsoft Solomon 6.0 Standard editions.

This MBS site has links to all of the new PDF brochures if you want to read up on the new features and see some screenshots. Stay tuned to Tech Roundup for more info on Business Portal 2.5.

Aug 25, 2004

Windows XP SP2 and MBS Business Portal 2.0

From Microsoft Business Solutions PartnerSource site....

"Microsoft Business Solutions has found a compatibility issue between Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Business Portal 2.0 for Great Plains. Do not load Windows XP Service Pack 2 on any machine that will access the Great Plains Business Portal. A Great Plains Business Portal Service Pack will be released shortly to address this issue. Business Portal for Solomon has no known issues with Windows XP Service Pack 2. "

Aug 23, 2004

New Microsoft CRM IP telephony integration from Cisco

Just announced today is a new product from Cisco that will allow their IP telephony systems to integrate with Microsoft CRM. Microsoft also collaborated on this project so its a fully Microsoft endorsed and supported product.

You can read the full article right here.

This product will provide some pretty cool features such as "screen pops". This means when one of your customers calls you on the phone, the Cisco IP phone system will see the incoming caller ID value and then your Microsoft CRM system will open up the Account or Contact screen that goes along with that phone number. It can also pull the Caller ID info into a new contact record if they don't already exist and it will also create an Activity record in the system to capture the date, length of the call, etc. You'll be able to place a call to an Account or Contact simply by clicking a button on the CRM form next to the desired phone number.

I'm looking forward to seeing this in action.

Aug 22, 2004

Greetings from 14,110 feet

I've been on vacation this past week in Colorado. Here's a picture of me on top of Pikes Peak, just outside of Colorado Springs. I wonder if i can get wireless Internet access up here?

I was just thinking - if i had only brought along a PC, lasso and a cowboy hat, i could have recreated the "Tech Roundup" logo. :)

Click here for the full size image.

Update : Ask and you shall receive. You have to take a look at this hilarious version of my Pike's Peak photo. Thanks to my friend Carlo for the submission!! Great work!

Aug 19, 2004

Tech Roundup is a "Microsoft Featured Community"

Great news! Tech Roundup has been selected as a Microsoft Business Solutions "Featured Community". You can find the link here on the MBS Community website. After a week or so if its not on the front of the MBS Community page then you'll be able to find it with the rest of the MBS Related Communities at this link.

Aug 16, 2004

Sneak peak at new Microsoft Keyboards and Mice for Fall 2004 Exclusive: New Microsoft Hardware Fall 2004 Lineup Photos has a nice roundup of the next generation of keyboards and mice from Microsoft. I'm especially interested in the ones with built-in fingerprint readers! You can tie all of your various network and website passwords to your fingerprint and then just touch your finger to the reader to log you into your various accounts. Sweet.

Results of Great Plains 8.0 and FRx 6.7 upgrade

As i wrote last week, i was getting ready to do our first upgrade to a Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains 8.0 system. Along with FRx Analytics 6.7. Everything went very smooth through out my several jumps from Dynamics 5.0 all the way up to Great Plains Standard 8.0 on MSDE. Here are a few things that i made note of...

  • The actual company upgrade part of the process where the data conversion takes place seemed to be a little more tolerable to you doing other things on the PC at the same time. Normally if the upgrade is running and you try to pull up another window, the Great Plains Utilities window will go all grey and show as "not responding". But now i was able to do something else and flip back to monitor the conversion and after a few seconds the screen would refresh and the progress bar would become active again. Nice.
  • A few new elements related to the 8.0 installation itself - you are now asked separately to define the System password and then a DYNSA password. You can also specify if you want the Lesson User sample users created and if so, what passwords you want. Blank passwords are not allowed in GP 8.0 anymore. And system admins will be glad to hear that they don't have to give out the SQL 'sa' password anymore. The GP administrator can use the DYNSA account to create users and manage security and other tasks that previously required the 'sa' account.
  • The FRx 6.7 installation requires that you update to MDAC 2.8. So as soon as you get started on the FRx install, you have to cancel and then go back to the splash screen and select "Install FRx Prerequisites" and there you can find the install for MDAC 2.8.

  • Then once the FRx install actually kicks off, you'll see it automatically install the Microsoft .Net Framework 1.1. So apparently they've been doing some of the FRx overhaul in a .Net language. Or maybe the new FRx Report Manager is written in a .Net language. I did see some totally redesigned windows within FRx - namely the Company Setup window and the Spec Set setup window.

  • If you recall from previous FRx implementations, you always would get this "Check OFSI..." error message the first time you ran FRx. This would require that you run an additional FRx script against your DYNAMICS database. It created a new table that held a timezone value. Then you ran another script to insert your timezone into this table. MBS support has confirmed that this is no longer required. Yeah!! This process now takes place automatically when the DYNAMICS database is created in Great Plains Utilities.

  • I also had to run a database migration for this project to go from the Pervasive database to an MSDE database. Since Pervasive doesn't exist in the GP 8.0 world, you must do the migration at the GP 7.5 level. So you have your GP 7.5 Pervasive version running and then you build a GP 7.5 SQL/MSDE version on the same machine. Then you run the migration tool to push the data from the Pervasive system into MSDE. Only issue i ran into here was with the extra tool included in the migration kit called "SQLCreateObjects". This is a chunk file that you load into your system once its deployed on the production server and it looks at your list of Great Plains user accounts and then builds the matching SQL user accounts automatically. A very handy tool. But since the migration kit is for GP 7.5, this tool didn't work for me when i installed it in the clients GP 8.0 system. This meant i had to manually create those SQL accounts and set security to the proper databases. There are also some SQL scripts available to help with this but i just did it by hand since their were so few user accounts.
So there are a few new twists that'll you'll run into when you get your first crack at a Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains 8.0 update. Let me know if you have any questions.

Aug 7, 2004

Getting ready for first Great Plains 8.0 upgrade

I'm preparing for my first upgrade on a Great Plains 8.0 system. Luckily its a small client who doesn't have any fancy modules or third parties, just GL and AP. Along with FRx Financial Reports.

The interesting part of this upgrade is that they are currently running Dynamics 5.0 on Btrieve. Yes, Btrieve! Remember the good ol' days of Btrieve Error 20's? I sure do. (Bonus Tip: Did you know that it IS possible to run Dynamics 5.0 on Pervasive rather than Btrieve? There are a few Pervasive DLL's that you need to delete which will allow it to function more like Btrieve and Dynamics 5.0 will be happy. Leave some Comments down below on this post if you are interested in getting the details.)

So i'll be making several "hops" during this upgrade. Here is my upgrade path.

Dynamics 5.0 on Btrieve -> Dynamics 6.0 on Pervasive SQL 2000
Dynamics 6.0 on Pervasive -> Great Plains Standard 7.5 on Pervasive
GP Std 7.5 on Pervasive -> GP Std 7.5 on MSDE
GP Std 7.5 on MSDE -> GP Std 8.0 on MSDE

Whew - I'm exhausted just typing it in! While i'm working on this, i'll be sure to note if I run into anything new with the 8.0 upgrade process. I've read over the new 8.0 update manuals and nothing different really jumped out at me.

So check back here at Tech Roundup later this week and i'll let you all know how it went. Wish me luck!


Aug 5, 2004

Microsoft CRM hits the road

With in the last few weeks, Microsoft Business Solutions has launched Microsoft CRM Mobile 1.2. (Although this is the first version of the product.) This allows users to run a slimmed-down Microsoft CRM client on their Pocket PC's to keep track of their Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities and Activities when they are out of the office.

Click here for the link to download this FREE add-on.
(Note: This is not a stand-alone application. It's an add-on that requires a pre-existing Microsoft CRM 1.2 installation. )

Check out this site with MBS Recorded Webcasts. Scroll down to the "CRM" section and you'll see "Microsoft CRM Mobile 101" and "Microsoft CRM Mobile 201". I attended both of these sessions this week and they were very informative. The first one is more of a general overview and demo of the product, while the more technical "201" class deals with installing and troubleshooting the application. The installation and deployment is definitely a very technical process.

Great Plains 8.0 is here!

Great Plains 8.0 from Microsoft Business Solutions has just been released. This version brings us the first major overhaul to the user interface since the first 1.0 version for Windows was released more than 10 years ago.

It's designed to look and feel alot more like Outlook 2003 - with the tool bars down the left side of the screen, etc. The idea is to make it more familiar and comfortable for your users.

Click here to read a little info on what's new with Great Plains 8.0 and see some screenshots as well.

Links added

I've added a new "My Links" section to the sidebar on the right side of the page. The "My Blog Feed" link can be added into your news aggregator so you can subscribe to Tech Roundup. Also have a link to the growing list of RSS blog feeds that are published by Microsoft.

Make sure you check my "Microsoft Business Solutions Links" and "Microsoft Links" to see all of the Microsoft Webcasts that are available. These are all FREE mini-training sessions that are broadcast over the Internet. You can attend the upcoming Webcasts live and ask questions of the presenters. They also archive all of the Webcasts so you can tune in at your convenience and watch the previously recorded sessions on demand. Usually about 1-2hrs long. It's a great source for Microsoft product information. I'm usually signed up for several every week.

Aug 4, 2004

Let me know what you think!

Below each post, you'll see a little "comments" link. If you click this, you'll be able to post a comment associated to the article that you just read. It will ask you to log in, which you can do if you have a account, or you can simply click the "Post anonymously" link and then type your message.

So let me know what you think about this blog, or blogging in general, or any topics you'd like to see covered on Tech Roundup, etc.

Thanks! Can't wait to here from you.


Google + Email = Gmail

The latest company to get into the game of web-based email service has caused a real stir on the Internet and especially among its competition. Google has launched a beta version of its free email service called Gmail ( . So whats the big deal? How about 1 GB of email storage – that’s 1,000 megabytes!! Compare that to the 2-4 MB of Yahoo Mail or Microsoft Hotmail. Or even your Exchange account is probably around 50-100 MB. Why would you ever need 1,000 MB of email storage you might ask? The thought is that you probably wouldn’t ever have to delete any of your email – you’d have enough space to store it all. Then you can use the power of Google’s search tools to run searches through all of your email to find your messages, no matter how old they may be.

In response to this unheard of amount of free email storage, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail have announced storage space increases as well. Yahoo Mail has already upgraded to 100 MB and Hotmail has announced they will soon be bumping their free account limits up to 250 MB. Amazing what a little competition can do to a market.

Another handy aspect of Gmail is that it has a 10 MB size limit per email. And with 1 GB of free space, it’s almost like having a personal FTP site to store files and documents.

So are you ready to get a Gmail account? So is everyone else. Unfortunately it’s still in beta mode and not open to the public yet. However “Gmail invites” are becoming more common as people that already have a Gmail account are able to invite new users to come and setup accounts for themselves.

Check out these links to learn more about Gmail. And be sure to mail me at and let me know what you think of Tech Roundup!

Inbox screenshot -

New “conversation mode” screenshot -


Microsoft CRM Roadmap

So are you wondering about the future of Microsoft CRM? Lets take a look at the Microsoft CRM Roadmap to get a glimpse at some of the future enhancements that they are planning to make.

  • The first quarter of 2004 brought us the 1.2 release which added support for countries outside of North America, streamlined the installation process, boosted performance, some GUI improvements, and added support for new technologies such as Windows 2003 Server, Exchange 2003, and Office 2003.
  • In August we should see the release of CRM Mobile 1.2 for Pocket PC devices. (Even though its called 1.2, this will be the first release of the CRM Mobile product so we are anxious to check it out.) This will give the road warriors the option to access their Account, Contact, Opportunity and Activity data right in their PDA. It will support syncing to the corporate CRM system either directly thru a docking cradle or wirelessly.
  • Second quarter of 2005 will hopefully bring us CRM 2.0. This long awaited release is supposed to provide more powerful customization tools, Activity customization, Account rollup, record merge, Customer Service for Outlook, the ability to email Knowledgebase and Sales Literature items, marketing automation, service scheduling, field service dispatch and more.
  • Also sometime in 2005 will bring the 2.0 release of the CRM Mobile product. And way off on the horizon, currently slated for Q4 of 2005 is the release of CRM 3.0 which will have a "unified CRM client integrated with a breakthru release of Office and Windows" which sounds like they are talking about the upcoming "Longhorn" version of the Windows which i doubt we'll see by Q4 2005. And a big bullet point for this release is a Customer Portal which is a much requested addition to the product.
  • The back office integration component using BizTalk has been available for Great Plains since last year. The Navision Integration is scheduled for sometime in 2005. The timeline for the Axapta Integration is still to be determined.

CRM 1.0 was great for a 1.0 product but now you know what to expect from CRM 2.0, 3.0 and beyond!

Google Tricks

I'm hoping that most of us know that Google is the best darn search engine out there. But did you know that you can use it for so much more than just finding websites? Here is a list of some other cool searches you can do with Google.

Definitions - Go to and enter "define: your word here" in the search bar. For example "define: alacrity" shows us that alacrity means "liveliness and eagerness".

Maps and Directions - type an address right into the Google search bar. Typing in "11350 McCormick Rd, Hunt Valley,MD" gives us a link to MapQuest with a big red star indicating the location of the Hunt Valley office. From this page you enter your To or From address and get driving directions.

Calculator - type your equation into the Google search bar and it will turn into a calculator! For example "6 * 49" shows us "6 * 49 =294". It will also do unit conversions. Typing in "100 miles in kilometers" shows us "100 miles = 160.9344 kilometers". Visit here for more info...

Phonebook Reverse Lookup - enter in a known phone number and get back the matching phonebook entry. Typing in "410-229-9898" gives us "Aston It Group Baltimore Llc - 410-229-9898- 11101 Mccormick Rd, Hunt Valley, MD, 21031". Not quite accurate since we just moved, but you get the idea.)

Package Tracking - want to track your FedEx or UPS package? Simply enter your FedEx or UPS tracking number right in the search bar and it will provide a link to your tracking results. For UPS, just enter the tracking number by itself, such as "1Z9999W99999999999". For FedEx, you'll want to format it like this "fedex 608653491746".

Now hop on over to and give it a try!! And be sure to keep an eye on "Tech Roundup" because we have more Google Tricks on the way!

Windows XP gets serious about security

In this weeks edition well take a sneak peak at the upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. It’s set for release this summer and will of course include all of the various critical updates and security patches that have been available via Windows Updates, but it will also give us some new and improved functionality in Windows XP, primarily in the areas of security and wireless networking. I’ve been running a pre-release version (Release Candidate 1) for a few weeks and have been very happy with it. Here are some highlights of the improvements.
  • Major overhaul for XP’s built-in firewall. The original was VERY basic but the new one is much more sophisticated and is highly configurable. For starters, it can look at both inbound and outbound network traffic and it will ask your permission before letting certain connections in or out of machine. It’s also turned ON by default now.

  • Includes a new “Security Center” window to give you a “digital dashboard” for many security aspects of your PC. It will show your Windows Update status, firewall status, and third-party anti-virus status. You’ll get a notification in your system tray if it detects a security hole in your system – such as a missing critical update or your anti-virus software has been disabled.

  • Several enhancements to XP’s built-in wireless networking support. The original XP wireless interface was pretty weak but with Service Pack 2 the interface has been much improved and should make it easier to configure and connect to your wireless networks.

  • The first major update to Internet Explorer since version 6.0 was released in 2001. What is the best new feature?? BUILT IN POP-UP BLOCKER!! Sweet! The pop-up blocker is also configurable so you can add sites to your “safe site list” if they have legitimate reasons for having pop-up windows that you want to see.

  • Also improved in Internet Explorer is the way it handles “Add-ons”, meaning all those little ActiveX controls and browser plug-ins that certain websites want to install on your machine that can sometimes cause problems. You can easily pull up a list of these add-ons right in IE and then disable anything that shouldn’t be there.

Intro and keyboard shortcuts

Welcome to the first installment of my “Technology Roundup”. Tech Roundup was born earlier this year at our Great Plains “Stampede” conference in Washington, DC. I did a series of presentations filled with cool tech tips, tools, and other assorted useful info to make your computing life easier – both at work and on your home PC’s as well. It was such a big hit that we decided to keep bringing you this kind of info. You can look forward to topics such as protecting your home network, wireless networking and security, handy keyboard shortcuts, making the most of Outlook and other MS apps, new product news and reviews, spyware detection, Google tricks, etc. etc.

So lets get down to business. One of the favorite topics was keyboard shortcuts. Here are my top five that I use every day.

  • Windows Key + E = Opens Windows Explorer

  • Windows Key + D = Minimizes all windows and shows your desktop

  • Windows Key + R = Opens the “Run” dialog box

  • Windows Key + L = Locks your PC while you step away

  • Ctrl + Enter (while in Internet Explorer) = Adds “www” and “.com” to whatever you typed in the address bar (for example, type only “microsoft” in address bar and then hit Ctrl+Enter and it will send you to Congratulations! You’ve just tripled your productivity!)
That’s all for now. See ya’ll next time at the Technology Roundup. Yeeeeehaw!!!

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