IE11 (+Win8.1.1) F12 Developer Tools for the SharePoint Dev


This blog post is about all the new nifty features I'm finding in the latest IE11 F12 developer tools.  I updated my Windows to 8.1 update 1, and IE11 was updated.  I started seeing a few cool new features, and went on Twitter to find the official documentation.


Was supplied by @AdamTReineke



Rather than bore you with a list of features, which is on MSDN.  I want to just quickly share how I'm using some of them.

Disclaimer - I had just watched LEGO movie.  So EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!


DOM Explorer


1. CSS Changes


  • When you "touch up" CSS in SharePoint to get the exact look you want.  You often forget which rule you had applied.
  • The DOM Explorer's "Changes" tab tracks all the individual changes, and you can revert an individual rule, or copy them all and paste to your CSS file.
  • Copy All.  Awesome!



2. Pseudo Rules


  • You know those pesky :hover and :visited CSS rules in SharePoint that can never find to eliminate? 
  • Now you can apply :hover or :visited and see the effect rule without actually trying to catch your mouse hovering.  Haha.  Awesome!



The super cool updated Console object


3. Console info, warning, error

  • My "warnings" are currently filtered. 
  • use console.info() console.warn() and console.error() to write to these.



  • No ribbon button but you can right-click to filter Log messages too.  For those really spammy libraries, which is pretty awesome!


4. Console handles objects, multiple objects and HTML


  • Chrome and Firefox both were able to log objects and inspect them.  IE11 used to just log the [object].tostring which was pretty useless.
  • The update now fixes that, and allow multiple arguments to be logged at the same time.




5. Console always available for dev. 




  • So you can have all your logs happening without trying to start the debugger before you load the page
  • Remember your end users won't have this on, so TEST before you deploy code.


6. Console can switch target to an iFrame. 


  • Note, I couldn't get this to work in IE8-Compat mode (which my SP2010 runs on).  This works fine for IE9, IE10, Edge.
  • This is awesome for debugging objects in the SP.UI.Dialog





7. Debugger can be attached without reloading the page


  • Not sure if we need a picture to describe how awesome this is.  I imagine the picture will involve unicorns, rainbows and kittens.  AWESOME!


8. Just My code



  • Debugger only stops on my code.
  • Note, some libraries can throw error when you call it wrong - so sometimes not so awesome.


9. Pretty Print


  • Oh crap.  Something in sp.runtime.js don't know how to read this...


  • Not anymore in 2014!
  • Hit pretty-print - the sp.runtime.js becomes actually readable, and you can set line-based debugging too!


  • I didn't switch to sp.runtime.debug.js - this is awesome!


10. Source Maps


  • Now finally we have source map support.  Here is me debugging Typescript in IE11






  • The developer story on IE11 (after this update) is awesome!

3 sessions in //BUILD on TypeScript


Quick blog.  I'm keeping an eye on TypeScript sessions in //BUILD

TypeScript by Anders Hejlsberg.  Is probably the introductory session at Day 1, 4-5pm

Building a Large Scale JavaScript Application in TypeScript by Erich Gamma, who discuss using TypeScript in a serious production environment.  This is a follow-on session at Day 1, 5:30-6:30pm


Internet Explorer 11’s Developer Tools, F12, Just Got Nicer (Again) by Andy Sterland, mentions that IE11 can do Sourcemap debugging for TypeScript.  This is an ability that's been available in Chrome for a while.  I'm glad this is happening.  This is a session on Day 3.


The Microsoft MVP Community Camp is happening next Saturday March 22. What is it?


Microsoft APAC is hosting a simultaneous event in multiple cities around Asia and Oceania. 

It is named the Microsoft MVP Community Camp.



There are two parts to this event.  All the events are free.  But you need to register.

Firstly it is a week of streaming sessions from March 17~21


The various sessions are in different languages targeting the different markets in Asia Pacific.  There's usually one English session in every time slot.

Different regions have a specific 'theme' to the streaming sessions, in Australia (and New Zealand), the focus is on

Running Small and Mid-Business with Microsoft technologies

This includes lots of discussions on SharePoint, Office 365, One Drive (for Business) and Azure. 

Some sessions are very timely.  A number of sessions in Japan focuses on Azure - since they got their Azure datacenter earlier this month.


Concluding on a Saturday of local "in person" sessions on March 22


Now this one is important.  Because even though this is free, you need to register.  Also, there's not much time left.  So you really need to register now.

For Sydney, our schedule and registration link is here.

For other cities in Australia


There are several sessions on Azure, Web Development, OneDrive as well as other related technologies such as Dynamics CRM.

Links for other cities - not just the ones in Australia, but also around Asia are available from the main event link at the top of this post.


I am not presenting at the event, but I'll be attending and attempting to field any SharePoint or Office 365 related questions.

I hope to see you guys there.


Building a 2013 No Code webpart for XKCD.com/now

Last week, XKCD (of nerd comic fame) produced this most excellent comic http://xkcd.com/now/



This complex looking image describes essentially an outer ring and an inner ring.  The outer ring is the current time on your machine.  The inner ring is the regions of the world.  The chart tells you quickly what time it is for someone living in another part of the world.

Being the SharePoint lover that I am, you know what I'm thinking.

Time for a fun toy Web Part

Step 0.  Environment.
Step 1.  Create a SharePoint Sandbox Solution, add Client Web Part (Host Web)
Step 2.  Create the assets (images, HTML and CSS)
Step 3.  Plug in the javascript code.
Step 4.  Permissions.
Step 5.  Create a test page.  Add the App Part to play.  Change web.regional settings - see webpart change.


Step 0.  Environment

My Environment setup is very simple:

  • Office 365 with Developer site, at: https://sharepointgurus365.sharepoint.com/sites/Developer/
  • Visual Studio 2013
  • Running on Windows 8.1
  • I do not have SharePoint installed on this client PC
  • I have a paint program Paint.NET which is an excellent developer's tool when you don't have Photoshop


Step 1. Create a SharePoint Sandbox Solution, add Client Web Part (Host Web)


Select SharePoint-Hosted.  This App Part will be hosted by Office 365.




Step 2.  Create the images.



I split the image into two layers.  Because I want to rotate them separately.  I also change the text labels for the time 6PM, Midnight and 6AM on the Time-Ring.  Since when it's upside down it still needs to be readable.

I add these to the Project, under Images


I also modify the App Part html


I added CSS for the two rings.  Position:fixed so that they overlap. 

        .timezone-ring {
            background: url(../Images/xkcd-now-land.png) no-repeat top left;
        .time-ring {
            background: url(../Images/xkcd-now-time.png) no-repeat top left;
            width: 706px;
            height: 705px;
            top: 0px;
            left: 0px;
    <div style="position:relative;">
        <div class="timezone-ring">

        <div class="time-ring">


<ClientWebPart Name="xkcd-clock" Title="xkcd-clock" Description="Clock based on xkcd.com/now the outer ring rotates to current machine time.  The inner ring rotates to web region." DefaultWidth="720" DefaultHeight="720">

  • Note: tidy up the ClientWebPart definition.  Set the default width and height.


Step 3.  Plug in the javascript code.


There is very little JavaScript,  So I wrote them inline.  In practice, this made the debugging a lot more difficult.  I recommend always writing your Javascript in a separate file.


<script type="text/javascript">
    //'use strict';  // have to turn off 'use strict' because I use eval() later :-P

    // Set the style of the client web part page to be consistent with the host web.
    (function () {
        var hostUrl = '';
        if (document.URL.indexOf('?') != -1) {
            var params = document.URL.split('?')[1].split('&');
            for (var i = 0; i < params.length; i++) {
                var p = decodeURIComponent(params[i]);
                if (/^SPHostUrl=/i.test(p)) {
                    hostUrl = p.split('=')[1];
                    document.write('<link rel="stylesheet" href="' + hostUrl + '/_layouts/15/defaultcss.ashx" />');
        if (hostUrl == '') {
            document.write('<link rel="stylesheet" href="/_layouts/15/1033/styles/themable/corev15.css" />');

/*** John's code starts here ***/

        function turn() {
            var hour = (new Date()).getHours() + 12; // clock faces up so need 12hr offset
            var degrees = -((hour % 24) * 15); // turn anti-clockwise so negative
            var rotate = "rotate(" + degrees + "deg)";

            $(".time-ring").css("transform", rotate);

            setTimeout(turn, 1000 * 60 * 15); // 15mins

        var ctx = SP.ClientContext.get_current();
        var hostCtx = new SP.AppContextSite(ctx, hostUrl);
        var timezone = hostCtx.get_web().get_regionalSettings().get_timeZone();
        ctx.executeQueryAsync(function () {
            // has current timezone

            var description = timezone.get_description();
            var m = /UTC(.*\d+):/.exec(description);
            if (m) {
                var offset = eval(m[1]) -2;
                // map is aligned with Egypt (UTC+2) so need a 2hr offset.

                var degrees = -(offset * 15); // turn anti-clockwise so negative
                var rotate = "rotate(" + degrees + "deg)";

                $(".timezone-ring").css("transform", rotate);

            turn();  // call turn

        }, function () {
            // failed.




Few quick notes here:

  • turn() function calculates the rotation degree for the outer ring, based on the current machine time.  See comments for all the offsets.
  • the clientContext query needs to get the App Host Web settting.  Otherwise it will return you the regional setting for the App Web which would be pretty pointless.
  • finally, once we have the timezone information from the regional setting, it looks like (UTC+10: Sydney).  I take the +10 and do more offset for the inner ring.
  • I only request region information once on page load.  But I put turn() on a timeout call every 15minutes.  So if you leave the webpart on a screen it'll keep checking and turn every 15mins.


Step 4.  Permissions.



By default, the App has no permissions to read from the Host Web.  We need to set up the permission to Read from the Host Web.


When deployed via VS.NET you'll see this pop up in the browser.  You'll also get this when you activate the App.


Step 5.  Create a test page.  Add the App Part to play. 







I'm in Australia (AEST UTC+10).  Which is pointing up.  My current time is 11:40pm


Change the Host Web's region to (Pacific Time UTC-8).


Web Part still shows 11.45PM - that's my current time.  But the map has rotated to point to the West Coast.



I did not test this on any other machine but it should work.  Let me know if it works for you.

And if you really enjoy using this in your company, please buy something from the XKCD gift shop.


Using SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflow to copy file via REST on Office 365

This is a bit of trial and error, but works very well at the end, so I want to publish this and share the syntax.


Related References:


I will tackle the next step.  How do you call a POST REST service, with the CopyTo function on SPFile.  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms455020.aspx

The flexibility is that you can easily tweak the urls and essentially allow your workflow to copy files anywhere.


Step 1.  Understand the correct URL


Put this into your browser's address bar (this executes a GET request):


No good.  Need POST.


Step 2.  Make that SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflow


  1. First step, with the POST call, we need to add a Request Header for Accept: application/json; odata=verbose
    Put this in a dictionary variable.

  2. Second step.  Call Web Service!

    You need to set up Request Headers as well.  This has to be done via the Properties, since it's not a link that's shown.  Set this to the dictionary created in the previous step.
    This step is the same as mentioned in Adrian Fiechter's blog.

  3. You should capture the ResponseContent, and add an additional action to log it to History
    The Stage ends.  Go to End of Workflow.


  4. The whole thing, in 3 lines:


Step 3.  Run it.



Here's me starting the workflow on the top1.png file.



The top1.png is copied to top2.png!  Interestingly, it's copied the Call Workflow "workflow status" column.  Both links (which is a lookup field) go to the same workflow.



This is the workflow history. 

Notice that the CopyTo method returned void (null) in this case.  Should there be an error, you'll see it logged here.


That's all!  Hope you find these steps useful.


InfoPath's future and what everyone's saying



Andrew Connell

  • "the future is unclear at best, realistically pessimistic and a dead-end at worst"
  • "I do not use InfoPath any more & I do not recommend people use InfoPath going forward"




Mark Rackley



Corey Roth

  • Lists a great list of feature sets for the future Forms solution
  • Suggest: wait and see SPC348



Jeremy Thakes

  • "I  found that if  you used InfoPath in your Organization to empower Information Workers to build their own forms, a lot of the times they’d hit the 80/20 rule and then hand it off to developers who would have to fix them or complete them."
  • Suggest: ISV Nintex Forms




  • InfoPath is dead.
  • Long live Forms:



Patrick Halstead

I like Patrick's coverage the best, probably because this is his bread and butter.  He has been thinking about this and planning for a while. 

His upcoming webinar series will cover the various approaches to deal with the data that's currently in the forms:

  • Status Quo: keep same format (XML): Formotus, ServBus, Qdabra eForm Viewer
  • Hybrid (SharePoint List): move the form's data into SharePoint Lists, then use SharePoint list forms
  • Convert to ISV: Nintex, K2, Adobe, Salesforce
  • Custom development (database): extract data into database, then build pages and use full set of controls

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_rhNrFx5D8 [After InfoPath: Planning your Form's Future] 


I say: Please Don't panic.

I'm waiting to see:

  • Qdabra eForm Viewer (cheap /  free / open source?  does the user need to do anything?)
  • Nintex Forms (roadmap, feature compatibility)
  • Microsoft's SPC348 (upgrade roadmap?  future support?  feature compatibility? could be the most expensive path)

I'm sure everyone will have a lot to say in time for the SharePoint Conference.  Stay tuned.


Building No-Code Sandbox WebParts for the past, present and the future [Proposed Session Outline]


[Previous Working Title: Build amazing web parts using only JavaScript and evolving your code with any version of SharePoint]

I've modified the session title based on recent events.  Namely, this big one: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sharepointdev/archive/2014/01/14/deprecation-of-custom-code-in-sandboxed-solutions.aspx 


In this session I really want to talk about investing in a safe, new technology (JavaScript) that isn't going away anytime soon, and have it being useful for you, today, regardless of whether you have/are/won't migrate to SharePoint 2013 anytime soon.  I want this to be a talk about the timelessness of the technology, but also the ever-changing landscape.  I hope I can get us there.  I think it is awesome.


Session Description

SharePoint is an evolving platform: in 2007, we were all building farm web parts. Then in 2010, we were introduced with sandbox web parts, with the beginnings of the client side object model. In 2013, we are looking at the evolved app model, with a super-charged REST service.

As developers, while it is great to learn about what's coming down the pike, it feels extremely frustrating not knowing what to learn, or attend a session and learn a technology that you can’t put to use because you don’t use the latest and the most cutting edge in your organization.

Let’s take a step back, let’s look at how to build a web part using only JavaScript. Let’s separate the UX from the logic. Then let’s plug in different types of CRUD code to work with different versions of SharePoint, across different data sources: lists, search or user profile.

This session is about learning how to use JavaScript to build amazing web parts, regardless of what version of SharePoint you have.


Session Outline


  • What is in a little WebPart
  • Where do you run your code
    • Running the code on the Server (.NET)
    • Running the code on the browser (JavaScript)
  • Choices:
    • SPServices
    • CSOM
    • REST (listdata.svc)
    • REST (_app)
  • Platforms
    • SP2007
    • SP2010
    • SP2013
    • Office 365
  • Framework Considerations:
    • Plain JQuery
    • KnockoutJS
    • AngularJS
  • Adding Value:
    • TypeScript (Syntax, Intelli-Sense)
    • Jasmine (Unit Testing)
  • Where are we, where are we going
    • Where should we be?
  • Demo
    • Can't possibly cover everything and still have a working demo, can I?  Though I do love having demos to show people at the end of a session.


This is a session in ongoing development.  But I wanted to throw out the outlines and get some feedback on what do you want to see?  And what do you NOT want to see.

Let me know below!


Using spservices to create discussion and reply in a Discussion List

This updated blog post describes how I go about building a threaded, inline comments system for any page, using a SharePoint Discussion List as the backend storage for threaded data.

I choose to use SPServices because originally, the webpart is built for a SharePoint 2007 environment.  

I've rebuilt the webpart using the JavaScript code and confirm it runs happily in SharePoint 2013, and this time, with much better screenshots!
In SharePoint 2010 and 2013, you should be able to talk directly to the REST endpoint to perform read and updates.

Enter the Discussion List


Many users have a love-hate relationship with SharePoint's Discussion list.  Perhaps more hate.  The main culprit is the inflexible UI.  Lack of many modern forum needs:

  • Can't show all discussions and show threaded replies together
  • Can't do inline new discussion
  • Can't do inline replies
  • Poor support cross browsers
  • Can't easily filter for a subset

But still, the list itself is very functional.

  • Does support threaded discussions
  • Calculates total replies and last discussion updated
  • Has email notification through SharePoint alerts
  • Has tweaked permission model where users can create but not modify their own posts, or can edit.



Figure: A basic SharePoint Discussion List


Let's ignore the problems with the native Discussion List UI, and build our own with JavaScript

Read from the Discussion List


This code queries using SPServices' GetListItems on list and populates a UL.discussions dom element on the page
var $ul = $("ul.discussions");
var list = "My Discussions";

function getDiscussionList(list, $ul) {
var promise = $().SPServices({
  operation: "GetListItems",
  listName: list,
  CAMLViewFields: "<ViewFields><FieldRef Name='Title' /><FieldRef Name='Body' /><FieldRef Name='Author' /><FieldRef Name='Modified' /><FieldRef Name='DiscussionLastUpdated' /><FieldRef Name='ItemChildCount' /></ViewFields>",
  CAMLQuery: "<Query><OrderBy><FieldRef  Name='DiscussionLastUpdated' Ascending='FALSE' /></OrderBy></Query>"

  var items = $(promise.responseXML).SPFilterNode("z:row").SPXmlToJson({
    mapping: {},
    includeAllAttrs: true,
    removeOws: true
  $ul.empty(); // clear old list

  $.each(items, function(index, item) {
    // render each discussion
    var $li = $("<li class=discussion' />");
    $li.append("<div class='replies'>replies</div>");

  });  // end items.each
}); // end promise done
promise.fail(function(xhr, status, error) {
}); // end promise fail

} // end getDiscussionList

Key points:

  • List.asmx - GetListItems
  • This returns the top level items in the list, which are Discussions


Figure out the threaded discussions

In SharePoint discussion lists, the top level "Discussion" items are folders.  The subsequent "Message" reply items are list items within that folder.
So to query for the replies to a discussion, we query the list with the filepath of the top level Discussion item as the query filter.

This second function figure out the threaded replies when you expand one discussion

Note: The FileRef usually has a value that looks like this:
// 15;#Company/Site1/Web1/Lists/My Discussions/15_.000
You need to clean the URL and use only the file path:

function getFilePath(fileRef) {
  if (!fileRef) return;
  var m = /;#(.*)$/.exec(fileRef);
  if (m) {
    return m[1];

This will give you:
Company/Site1/Web1/Lists/My Discussions/15_.000

function getDiscussionReplies(list, filepath) {
var options = {
  operation: "GetListItems",
  listName: list,
  CAMLViewFields: "<ViewFields><FieldRef Name='Title' /><FieldRef Name='Body' /><FieldRef Name='Author' /><FieldRef Name='Modified' /><FieldRef Name='DiscussionLastUpdated' /><FieldRef Name='ItemChildCount' /></ViewFields>",
  CAMLQueryOptions: "<QueryOptions><ViewAttributes Scope='RecursiveAll' IncludeRootFolder='True' /></QueryOptions>",
  CAMLQuery: "<Query><Where><Contains><FieldRef Name='FileRef' /><Value Type='Text'>" + filepath + "</Value></Contains></Where><OrderBy><FieldRef  Name='FileRef' Ascending='TRUE' /></OrderBy></Query>"
var promise = $().SPServices(options);

  var items = $(promise.responseXML).SPFilterNode("z:row").SPXmlToJson({
    mapping: {},
    includeAllAttrs: true,
    removeOws: true

  $.each(items, function(index, item) {
    // render each reply
    // snipped

  });  // end items.each
}); // end promise done

} // end getDiscussionReplies


Key points:

  • Use CAMLQueryOptions for RecursiveAll
  • Use FileRef contains FilePath to find all threaded (Message) replies

Create a Discussion in the Discussion List

To create a new discussion, you just need to create a new item in the Discussion List

var list = "My Discussions";
var title = $("input.title").text();
var body = $("textarea.body").text();

function newDiscussion(list, title, body) {

var promise = $().SPServices({
  operation: "UpdateListItems",
  batchCmd: "New",
  listName: "Team Discussion",
  updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' >" +
       "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
        "<Field Name='ContentType'>Discussion</Field>" +
       "<Field Name='FSObjType'>1</Field>" +   // Important: FSObjType = 1 means that this is a folder.  If this isn't specified SharePoint sometimes create the wrong root level item.
        "<Field Name='Title'>" + escapeColumnValue(title) + "</Field>" +
        "<Field Name='Body'>" + escapeColumnValue(body) + "</Field>" +
       "</Method>" +
  var $ul = $("ul.discussions");
  getDiscussionList(list, $ul);

}); // end promise done




Figure: Start a new discussion inline

Key points:

  • List.asmx - UpdateListItems
  • Set FSObjType = 1, this is necessary or there were head-scratching bugs


(Optional) Filter a Discussion List to only related item


In the Discussion List settings, you can add a lookup column RelatedItem to an external List (or Document Library).
Then when you use the JavaScript above, you can filter your CAML Queries so that they only return elements that are related to the current page.

For getDiscussionList:

CAMLQuery: "<Query><Where><Eq><FieldRef Name='RelatedItem' /><Value Type='Number'>" + related + "</Value></Eq></Where><OrderBy><FieldRef  Name='DiscussionLastUpdated' Ascending='FALSE' /></OrderBy></Query>"

And for creating discussion threads:

updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' >" +
     "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
      "<Field Name='ContentType'>Discussion</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='FSObjType'>1</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='Title'>" + escapeColumnValue(title) + "</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='Body'>" + escapeColumnValue(body) + "</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='RelatedItem'>" + related + "</Field>" +
     "</Method>" +

In my project, I linked my discussion list to a Video Library, and each Video has an area for creating comments and reply to threaded discussions.  All the conversation are saved in one single Discussions List, but filtered on each page as required.

Understand the nested format for Discussion List items

In a SharePoint Discussion List:

  • Discussion (content type) is a Folder.  FSObjType = 1
  • Message (content type) is a List Item.  FSObjType = 0


Reply in a Discussion List.

var list = "My Discussions";
var filepath = "Company/Site1/Web1/Lists/My Discussions/15_.000";
var body = $("textarea.body").text();

function replyDiscussion(list, filepath, body) {

// RootFolder needs to start with /

var promise = $().SPServices({
  operation: "UpdateListItems",
  batchCmd: "New",
  listName: list,
  updates: "<Batch OnError='Continue' RootFolder='" + "/" + filepath + "'>" +  // RootFolder needs to start with /
     "<Method ID='1' Cmd='New'>" +
      "<Field Name='ContentType'>Message</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='FSObjType'>0</Field>" +
      "<Field Name='Body'>" + escapeColumnValue(body) + "</Field>" +
     "</Method>" +
promise.fail(function(xhr, status, error) {
  getDiscussionReplies(list, filepath);

} // end replyDiscussion



Figure: Threaded Discussions, with inline reply.

Key points:

  • List.asmx - UpdateListItems
  • Set FSObjType = 0 (for List Item), this is necessary or there were head-scratching bugs
  • Set RootFolder to the Filepath of the parent Discussion (folder) item.  This way, UpdateListItems creates a new list item within that folder.



Conclusion: here we are.  Threaded, inline, replies.

Combine everything together, the javascript lets me now do:

  • Tie a Discussion List to a Picture Library
  • Start one or more discussion threads on any Picture
  • See replies inline in one single UI.
  • Inline comment-creation
  • Inline comment-reply


  • Inline Edit and Inline Delete is possible, but the end-user will need to follow SharePoint permission settings on the Discussion List.  I have not written code to do those operations. 

Living with the Surface RT for 4 weeks


Across the new years holiday, I took a long four week holiday off in Indonesia with my family and in-laws.  Previously I have always taken my Dell laptop(s), but this time, I decided to take my Surface RT tablet.  (Yes, the first generation one, not the Surface 2).  I have owned the Surface RT for over a year and while I always thought it is a decent device, it lacked the number of Apps that the iPad has, and lacked the ability to run old x86 apps.  I wanted a decent attempt at using only the Surface RT for a number of weeks, and figure out where I stand on the device.

My Surface RT has been regularly updated and runs the latest Windows 8.1, it also synchronizes with my Microsoft Account and shares the Apps I have purchased on my main machine. 

In Indonesia, I have access to slow internet, based on where I was.  I didn't have mobile data, and turned off roaming.  So I relied on the Surface RT for both online and lots of offline activity.

So, consider this my report card.

The good:

  • Mail (not Outlook)
    The built in Mail app is very handy.  It downloads both my gmail and Outlook.com emails, which are available and fast to browse and read.  I can compose emails offline which is very handy.  I did not use either gmail or outlook.com websites during my 4 weeks.
  • Internet Explorer
    Is surprisingly useful for almost everything else:
    • Newsblur
      Runs great and I was able to catch up on all my blog reading.
    • Twitter
      Runs fine and I was able to read and write tweets.
    • Facebook
      Runs fine.  Although the people Tile was updated regularly, I find the browser experience for Facebook on par with what I have at home.  My wife isn't so impressed with many of the Flash-based Facebook games, some do run, but is sluggish.  I wondered if the new Surface 2 would handle these a lot better.
    • Reddit
      Actually works very well.  The only thing I missed is the Chrome extension: RES.  But I've stopped using Google Chrome a while back and increasingly don't really miss that plugin.  I will probably look for an App for Reddit next time.
  • Office
    I had to read a number of attachments: Word, Excel and PowerPoint on my holidays.  The built in Office did the trick, and I didn't feel I missed a beat.
    I had not set up Outlook to my office exchange server, and didn't want to start downloading a lot of emails on a slow data connection.  Luckily, my colleagues were really nice to me and didn't send me much work!  All the Office documents I was reviewing are related to conferences and activities throughout the year.
  • Apps
    I wanted to download a bunch of games and play them everywhere, but honestly I've stuck with Tiny Death Stars and Frozen Freefall - both great apps by Disney and available across both Windows 8 store as well as WindowsPhone.  Very happy with the games.
    I also downloaded a manga application and had it download some manga for offline reading. 
  • Account sync
    I really enjoyed the tiles' positions being synchronized across my Windows 8.1 desktop at home and the Surface RT.  I had no trouble remembering where my apps are. 


The bad.

  • Touch Cover
    The touch cover, oh how much I wanted you to work, but you are just not comfortable.  I can type reasonably well on the touch cover, but I'm afraid I will never be able to type perfectly.  I need the Type-Cover.  Rumour goes there is a better Powered-Type Cover coming.  I can't wait.
  • Windows Updates and poor battery management
    Windows Update must have ran at some point, and I found the Surface poor at handling the battery when I'm not using it.  I did read there was a firmware over December that was causing a lot of issues but I thought it was only with the Surface PRO devices.  This one was not good.  I could use the table for half a day.  Close it and put it down.  And there won't be any battery left when I pick it up again in the evening. 
  • No Windows Live Writer
    I wanted to update my blog, but without a good blog writing software, I was stuck with the web interface.  I ended up writing most of my blog on OneNote, and then copy the text over to the web interface to post to my blog site.
    A Windows 8 Store Blog Application needs to be a thing.


The surprise.

  • Dropping the Surface RT
    I dropped the Surface RT - face down, from a bedside table onto the wooden floor.  Luckily there was no damage.  I... don't want to try this again.
  • Rotational Lock and reading manga
    Rotational Lock and how easy it was to access from the charms bar was great.  On the Windows Phone rotation lock is a bit harder to reach in the settings.
  • Fast charging
    The Surface charges really quick.  From a depleted Surface it can be charged within 2 hours.
  • Take picture from lock screen
    I discovered that you can swipe down from the lock screen and the Surface RT will activate the camera!  I was not able to do this on my laptop - I can't swipe the lock screen down.

2014 begins with a SharePoint Server MVP Award 

Sometime in the early hours of the 2nd of January (I live in Australia time), I received a confirmation email from Microsoft that I've been awarded MVP for 2014. The award is for contribution in SharePoint Server technical communities.

I am extremely honoured to be counted with many long time MVP that are the faces in the community.

Thank You

There is a long list of people I need to thank:

Ivan Wilson - boss and long time SharePoint veteran in Sydney. Runs the Sydney SharePoint user group. Ex-5yr-MVP but just got too busy after our company started growing (a certain trouble-maker, me, joined the company). Dear leader, I'm glad to finally return an MVP Award to the shelf!

Jonathan - boss, appearing briefly in the user groups, but understood and supported Ivan and my adventures in the community. Lets me fly or travel to all the events. May be its because he likes flying as well.

My colleagues Justin, Jumpei and Bart for being my test audience for some really rough presentations. On the positive side, they have seen presentations that has never made it out of the office door - too geeky or just too crazy.

My lovely wife Lina who has to deal with my flying everywhere and now also handle two kids like a PRO. She knows this award made me really happy, but let me tell you: Behind every great man, is a wife who isn't impressed (and no, I'm not great - though she definitely remains not impressed).

Brian - from our first meeting in a Canberra pub where I try to sell an MVP the virtues of running reporting services integrated with SharePoint - not knowing who he was. It has been great to go to the numerous SharePoint Saturday events around Australia. There are too many shenanigans to list, and plenty of fun memories.

Elaine - the MCM that I know the most, and the MVP that I tried to follow. Friendly, relaxed knows everything. Seems to be everywhere, all the time. You realise as you attend the sessions that Elaine and other MVPs hold - there's so much experience and knowledge and they make it into a session that people can consume and learn from.

Adam Cogan - MS Regional Director and running the oldest user group in Sydney. Adam's SSW was the first user-group company that I worked in, and showed me the value of the communities that I've come to love. Even as I focus only on SharePoint and away from general .NET, I still get to see Adam in the communities rallying the crowd. I've always held Adam as a master magician. But I've realised that a magician is also a teacher, and Adam may be the best that I know.

Debbie Ireland - for running the SharePoint Conference in Australia and NZ. The premier event for SharePoint in the Oceanic Region and letting me present for the last few years!

So Young Lee - our MVP Lead, I missed a good opportunity to catch her in TechEd last year. So have only talked via email. Thank you for granting me the Award!

Mark Rhodes, Daniel Brown, Daniel McPherson, James Milne, Ishai, Sezai, so many other MVPs for being an inspiration to me, both with what you knew, and the efforts you put into the community. Thank you for being great examples, made it fun to be in the community and I look forward to more MVP in the future!

The Process

I don't believe there's a Rule about not talking about the MVP Award process. So here is how it works, as I understand it:

  • The MVP Award is given by Microsoft for contributions to the community in the previous year.
  • You need to be nominated - anyone could nominate, including self nomination, I personally think there's probably a filtering that happens. It may help if the MVP lead in your region knows at least your name, or if the nomination came from someone well known.
  • Then you fill out a really complicated score card of all the events and activities that you have participated in the last year. There seems to be a few different versions, Excel or web application. The end result is to quantify your community reach.
  • Finally, you are told which round your application is being considered, and you hold your breath on that day. Mine happens to be 1st of Jan.

I've been holding my breath the entire week.

Get Involved:

  • Go to your user group. Present. Lots of users groups around Australia also accepts remote presentations.
  • Present at the SharePoint Saturday events when they roll around your city. Or volunteer to visit another city!
  • SharePoint Conference in Australia and NZ
  • TechEd AU
  • Write a blog. Keep it fresh. My blog documents a number of interesting techniques with InfoPath and has been referenced continuously from the Microsoft forums - even long since I lessened my involvement in that community. Engage with people commenting on your blog.
  • Create a CodePlex or github project relating to SharePoint
  • Participate in SharePoint on StackOverflow
  • I'm told if you write a book or runs web series on SharePoint that would help.

Remember you'll need statistics from all these activities for the score cards.

Getting nominated:

  • Get to know the people in the SharePoint community around you.

This helps for your nomination. I personally don't know who nominated me. I wasn't sure whether to ask anyone or just wait. I decided to wait and someone did nominate. I have a few guesses but honestly I have no idea.

Keep a positive, can-do attitude with SharePoint

Finally, we work with SharePoint day in and out. We know it's got lots of quirks. I personally believe it's not good to dwell on the bad but focus on what you can do about it. It's all too easy to jump on the wagon complaining about what SharePoint does. It is far better value and more useful to the community when we explain why SharePoint does what it does, and what we can do to tell it to do something else that we wanted.

Happy New Year!  It's been awesome so far.