New Year -> New Blog -> From Office 365 to an Azure WordPress site

If the new year is meant to bring renewal in all things, then my blog will be first (or possibly third, considering I didn’t get to it until the 3rd of the month) on the list of renewed life and expectations.

I had been playing around with different aspects of Azure websites and ran across the Azure WordPress template.  Although I spun it up over a year ago, life (2nd child, moving residences and work responsibility) intervened and I was unable to get my blog kicked off as I had hoped. Enter 2015!

Although I have not been a prolific blogger by any stretch of the imagination, I had some posts within my SharePoint Office 365 website and didn’t want to just start over.  I came across a recent blog post by René Hézser where he posts about migrating a SharePoint blog to WordPress and provides an entire windows application and source code.  I had to try out the code and see if it could give me the shortcut I was hoping to find.

What I discovered was that his code uses the lists.asmx web service on the SharePoint side and was designed to use credentials for an on-premises SharePoint blog.  With a little bit of fiddling with the code using techniques found on Tomasz Rabiński’s blog, I was able to just swap out the authentication credentials and leave the rest of the code intact.

Steps Taken:

  1. Add reference to Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.RunTime
  2. Modify the Connect() method to use SharePoint online credentials

After this, I was able to just do the migration with the authentication working like a charm.  A nice beginning to a new year!

Installing Visual Studio 2012 on the Surface Pro’s Micro SD

When I heard that Microsoft was going to be releasing a piece of computing hardware, I have to admit my first instinct was to question their intent and what that would mean for their OEM hardware partners. After I got over that shock, the excitement started to build. Here, the OS/Office Productivity king was diving into the hardware business for their newest OS (Windows 8). Why was I so excited? Well, I had already purchased an original XBOX, an XBOX 360, and the Kinect is a wondrous piece of hardware. The thought of having a tablet computer to take on the Metro with me for my morning commutes was something I couldn’t pass up.

I had been waiting for something like this and didn’t jump on the IPad bandwagon early on because I had a feeling Microsoft would come along (better late than never) with something special. When the Surface RT specs were announced, I felt a bit apprehensive and decided to wait for the Surface Pro. If I had a guaranteed connection to the internet at all times, I would have jumped all over the RT because of its extended battery life and ability to RDP to the cloud. Since I knew I would be underground during my commute, I decided to wait.

What do you mean I can’t mount my ISO?

Before I went to buy the Surface, I found out that the OS would take a large chunk out of the available disk space. I knew I had to get a micro SD card to augment my storage. When I got home, the first piece of software I tried to install was Visual Studio 2012. Much to my surprise, the Visual Studio ISO didn’t mount didn’t properly because my Micro SD card was installed as the "D:" drive. A simple trip to Disk Management allowed me to remap the Micro SD’s drive letter to "E" seemed to fix this, but that was only the beginning.

My MicroSD isn’t a local drive?

When I tried to install Visual Studio, I got an error specifying that I could only install Visual Studio on a local drive. What could I do? Well, with Disk Management fresh on my mind, I just created an empty folder (which I simply named E to refer to my drive E) and went back and added an additional mapping for my Micro SD to an empty NTFS folder (the aforementioned E directory). And now Visual Studio could be installed without clogging up my precious C: drive.

Steps to Install

  1. First open up your Disk Management (Use the Windows-X shortcut and select Disk Management)

  2. Right-click the Removable disk and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths…"

  3. Click Add

  4. Select "Mount in the following empty NTFS folder" and then click "Browse…"

  5. Create a new folder (I named mine E) and then select it and click OK

  6. Observe the wonder of double mapping

  7. Install Visual Studio (or any other software requiring a local drive) by selecting your C:\E directory as the target!

Managing Anonymous User Permissions on Office 365 Small Business

I recently presented a session at SharePoint Saturday New York City about Office 365 Small Business. In preparation for the session, I was deciding on how I could best showcase what is possible with O365 and how I could use it in my daily life. Any of you have given O365 for a spin probably soon realized that the limitations to the Public Web Site are enough to sour the taste enough to consider abandoning the product. While attempting to create a public facing blog using O365, I found myself encountering issues when accessing the blog anonymously. I thought it would be easy enough to create a subsite of my public site (using a blog template) and things would just work. I was wrong. It seemed that, as an anonymous user, with every click I was presented with prompts for authentication. This made my blog almost entirely unusable. I found a very good workaround on Martin Hatch’s blog which describes how to modify the AnonPermMask64 property, but his WSP solution falls short of my needs to open up other areas of the blog such as Links and Photos, as well as opening up other areas of my public website. Never fear, the Anonymous Access List Permissionator (AALP) Web Part is here. The purpose of the web part is to provide a way to set the AnonPermMask64 permissions for any list within your SPWeb (including the RootWeb).

The AALP web part is a no-frills way to manage Anonymous Access permissions in any web on your site. After activating the WSP within your sandbox, the web part is added to your Web Part gallery. Simply add it to any page within your website. The web part will let you select from a drop down for which list in your website you want to modify permissions. After selecting the list, the existing permissions will be shown and you will be able to multi-select what your desired permissions will be for the Anonymous Users.

I started by granting the ViewListItems, ViewFormPages, Open, ViewPages permissions to the following lists:

  • Posts
  • Categories
  • Links
  • Photos
  • Comments

I also added the AddListItems to the Comments list to enable Anonymous comments to blog posts.

What this essentially allows me to do is use Microsoft Word to create and edit my blog posts as well as copy and paste photos directly into Word before publishing (I’m using it right now for this blog post). It just works the way it should! Be sure to turn on approval for the Comments list!

Now you are able to open up your limited O365 Small Business website in any way you see fit. I’ve made some quick additions to the Root site as well by allowing Anonymous Users to access the ‘Documents’ and ‘SiteImages’ libraries as well as others (such as ‘Announcements’) to create a more configurable experience. With a little elbow grease, restyling the Master Page and adding web parts will make the locked down public site more appealing as an inexpensive way to present content to the public.

The Anonymous Access List Permissionator is free for use and is available here as a WSP and full Visual Studio Source Code:

WSP: AnonymousAccessListPermissionator