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 News.com 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.