Jul 022014
 

Introduction

Recently I was asked to look into solutions for moving some WordPress sites in-house for a client.  At first this looked fairly straightforward, until I realised that they wanted the ability to spin up new self contained VM sites with little effort.

Naturally, I pursued the logical step of building a “base” virtual machine with a clean install of the latest copy of Ubuntu Server 14.04, configuring it with the LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) stack and Mail support.  At one pojnt at friend of mine, Craig Harvey, asked if I’d considered a pre-built distribution image such as the ones available from Bitnami.

As it happened, I hadn’t gone that route at the time – but I’m glad I did.

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Enter Bitnami virtual machine images

Suppose you want a baseline application platform with a sizable array of applications and a close to zero configuration effort?  Bitnami provides – for free – two awesome VMWare or VirtualBox virtual machines which are pre-configured to support single or multi-site instances of the latest version of WordPress (3.9.1 as of writing).

Can it be that simple?

Yes, it can.  You simply download the image of choice (using or registering an account) and all you need to do is unzip the contents and attach to VMWare/Virtual Box – then start the VM.

The version of Ubuntu is a little out of date (version 12.04) but is pre-configured.  Bitnami images are built from open source software and distributed for free.

As of the time of writing, the Bitnami WordPress stack ships with the following software versions:

  • WordPress 3.9.1
  • Apache 2.4.9
  • Varnish 3.0.5
  • MySQL 5.5.36
  • PHP 5.4.29
  • phpMyAdmin 4.2.2

One obvious advantage is that the Bitnami template virtual machine could be updated when newer versions of WordPress are released.

Understanding the Bitnami template

The Bitnami template provides a number of pre-installed applications, some of which may not necessarily be used for each WordPress installation.

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Figure 1 – The Bitnami Console

The default root of the hosted site provides access to a range of applications:

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Figure 2 – Default page of the out-of-the-box template

Adapting the Bitnami template for each WordPress site automatically provisions a pre-configured copy of WordPress 3.9.1:

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Figure 3 – Default WordPress site

When you authenticate for the first time, you are forced to change the default password (which is always a good idea!).  From here you may roam the operating system at your leisure. 

One quick tip for those not familiar with Ubuntu – there’s no “root”, to perform administrative functions you use the command “sudo” (as opposed to “su”) before the commands you need to execute.  There’s a compelling console/text editor as standard called nano which you’ll likely get used to.

Summary

It’s still early days for me, as I navigate the murky waters of Ubuntu.  I’ll be taking this image for a spin to determine whether it is fit for purpose, but at this stage it looks very promising.  I’ll most likely be posting a follow-up article to this one, so stay tuned for more updates.

Jun 202014
 

lync2013

This morning I struggled to get Microsoft Lync 2013 to work.  The symptoms consisted of the application running normally – I could authenticate, and the contact list would load – but after a few minutes the application would hang.

Naturally, I Googled the symptoms and found a match for the following:

Now I can load each of the apps but when Lync opens, it may work for a short time or not at all but it goes to Not Responding or just freezes completely.

Which described my situation perfectly.  Scrolling down the page, I noticed that someone had helpfully posted details about how to set Lync’s debug/tracing configuration:

In Lync log files (enable them in Lync settings, set to Full, location: C:\Users\<USERNAME>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Lync\Tracing)

Besides the fact that the information on Lync’s logging is a really helpful reference, it turns out the person who posted that comment had had the exact problem I’d been having – my audio configuration.  For whatever reason, Lync was trying to use the wrong speakers and microphone settings.

My resolution was to disable the playback and recording devices which were not functioning correctly and to perform speaker and microphone tests from within Lync’s settings page.  Problem solved!  Many thanks to the Jussi Palo for the info.

I hope this information helped someone else struggling to keep Lync functioning!

May 152014
 

Do you prefer offline help and documentation?

Sometimes I prefer offline help, particularly when I’m travelling or when a stable Internet connection is not available.  It is particularly useful if you work in an environment where external access is difficult, for example in a secure datacentre.

I find offline documentation to be particularly useful when I’m using a Virtual Machine which doesn’t have direct access to the Internet, or including it on training VMs.  Since SQL Server 2012 came out, local help is not installed locally, even if you select the Documentation Components during install.  Despite this, it is still possible to have SQL Books Online locally.

I’m indebted to both Aaron Bertrand and James Xu for already capably documenting the steps – this article just shows the way to install documentation for SQL Server 2014 from Disk as opposed to from online.

How to obtain the offline help content

This applies to both SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014.

You just need to download the appropriate documentation package for the version of SQL Server you are using.  There’s a link here for:

Download and save locally.  Double click on the downloaded EXE to extract the help content and make note of the location where you’ve extracted the files:

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How to verify documentation components are installed

First, it’s worth verifying you have installed the Documentation Components.  To do this either use the original install media, or go to the Control Panel->Programs and Features and select SQL Server 2012/2014 and select “Uninstall/Change”, then pick the “Add” option.

Click through until you get to Feature Selection, and verify that you’ve selected “Documentation Components”:

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If you have already installed them, it’ll be greyed out as illustrated above, so you can safely cancel.  If not, proceed and install.  If you’re stuck, check out the following article on MSDN for more help.

How to install SQL Books Online from Disk

This applies equally to SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014.

Next, you’ll need to access the help settings for SQL Server.  Depending on your operating system, you can either access this via the Start Menu (Windows 7, Server 2008/R2) or via the “Metro” UI (Vista/8/8.1 and Server 2012/R2).

Manage Help Settings

You’re looking for a shortcut called “Manage Help Settings” which is located under the following hierarchy (old Start menu): SQL Server 2014 > Documentation & Community > Manage Help Settings.  For the newer Operating Systems (without a Start Menu), just hit the Windows key/access the “Metro” UI and start typing:

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Installing Local Help

1. Choose “Install content from disk”:

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2. Next, locate the location you unzipped the help content to from earlier:

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3. After clicking “Next”, select the local help you’d like to install and then click “Update”.

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Once the index merging has completed (could take a while) you should hopefully get a finished updating screen.

To be sure you are using local help, when you’ve returned to the initial screen, select “Choose online or local help” and ensure the  “I want to use local help” radio button has been selected.

The next time you access help (from, say, SQL Management Studio) you should see the local help files integrated:

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