Tag Archives: microsoft

Microsoft Access 2003 Data Access Pages On Windows 7 with IE9

I’ve spent a couple of days recently trying to get Access 2003 Data Access Pages (DAPs) working within a Windows 7 environment.

Yes, I know DAPs are no longer a supported technology as far as Microsoft are concerned but what The Client wants The Client gets.  And they did have a reasonable reason for wanting DAPs to work at least in the short to medium term.

What are the symptoms?

When you open the DAP within Access it all works swimmingly, however when you open the DAP directly by double clicking on the .HTM file any data fields (text boxes etc) within the DAP are populated with the dreaded “#Name?”.

The same DAPs work fine on XP Pro machines but not Win7 Pro.  I’d even gone as far as creating fresh virtual machines to ensure there were no corrupt or missing DLLs and OCX files but no joy.

Googling for solutions didn’t help – DAPs have long since been abandoned by Microsoft and most users and Access developers have moved on, so answers were thin on the ground – a few others have been seeking solutions but none of the proposed answers that worked for them worked for me.

I was left with trial and error.  I’d assumed the issue lay with IE9 (or IE8) but as “Compatibility Mode” didn’t help I decided I had to minimise the security within IE9 as far as I could and see if I could the DAPs to work.  Which they did!  I then had to unpick all the settings again until I found out exactly which setting had caused the issue.

So what’s the solution?

  1. Firstly you will have to place the files and database in a folder which is accessible via a UNC path (e.g. \computerfolder), this is so that when you view the files in IE, IE will understand that they are in the “Intranet” security zone.
  2. Connect the DAP and the database using the UNC path.
  3. Within IE, click the Tools menu (or the cog, dependent on version) and select “Internet Options”
  4. Go to the “Security” tab
  5. Click “Local Intranet”
  6. Uncheck the box labelled “Enable Protected Mode”
  7. Click “Custom Level…”
  8. Scroll down the list of settings until you find “Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe for scripting”
  9. Click “Enable” (NOTE: selecting “Prompt” will NOT work)
  10. Click OK twice to return to IE
  11. Close IE
  12. Open the DAP and it should work.
Hopefully it will work for you too!
Security Concerns
Obviously it’s up to you to satisfy yourself that you fully understand the security implications of making the above changes – even for your Intranet security zone, but if you really must use Access 2003 DAPs in the modern world, then this could well be your only option.

Office 365 – Moving from Beta to a paid subscription (P plan to E plan)

I had an interesting day today: it should have been a straightforward case of taking a client’s Office 365 beta account and converting it into a paid-for subscription and then configuring their devices.

The client had already verified the domain they wanted to use (this is the time consuming part of the initial configuration of Office 365 as you have to wait for the global DNS system to replicate some changes – it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days!) so I figured it would be a quick and easy job.

But then comes the gotcha.  The beta subscription the client was on was a “P1” plan (small business), and the subscription they wanted to buy was an “E” plan (with all the Enterprise lovelyness of SharePoint).

The thing that everyone needs to be aware of is this: a “P” plan CAN NOT be upgraded to a “E” plan.  Somehow I’d actually managed to do this on a beta account a few months ago so thought it didn’t apply to Office 365 beta accounts.  But it doesn’t.

The work around?

  1. Create a new account with a new <domain>.onmicrosoft.com domain (because you can’t currently delete your existing subscription).
  2. Remove the vanity domain from all users in your beta subscription (the vanity domain is your “public” domain, e.g. hilldatasystems.co.uk/)
  3. Delete the vanity domain from the beta subscription
  4. Create the vanity domain on your new subscription and wait for it to verify (the time consuming bit!)
  5. Set up your users
  6. Configure your apps
  7. Migrate any data from your original subscription

I could have done without this today, but we got there in the end.

I would imagine most Office 365 beta accounts are the P1 plan, and so far, all of my clients are after the features of the E plans – so this is a “gotcha” of some note.

As subscriptions (beta or otherwise) can’t currently be deleted (although I’m assured by Microsoft Technical Support that this feature is in the pipleline) you have to go through the rigmoroll of setting up a new <domain>.onmicrosoft.com domain and then reverifying your public facing domain.

Microsoft Technical Support did also indicate that the ability to upgrade from a “P” plan to an “E” plan is being developed, but until then: beware!

Issues installing Service Pack 1 on Windows 7

Service Packs are a roll-up of important critical updates, security updates, feature updates and the occasional new feature.

Historically businesses wouldn’t move to a new Microsoft Operating System or application until the first service pack (SP1) was released as this would mark the point at which all the usability issues and common crashes were resolved.

That’s not really been the case with Windows 7 which, unusually, has been remarkably stable (just goes to show that a disaster like Vista can make even the largest corporations sit up and pay attention…

However, there comes a time when it makes sense to install Service Pack 1 and I went throught he process a few weeks ago.  It didn’t go smoothly – I received a number of unhelpful error messages and after much scratching of heads and searching of interwebs, I came across this very useful forum post which lists a number of different things to try:


I’d recommend starting with the post immediately under the “accepted answer” as this has a list of the least “destructive” options and one of those might work for you.  Unfortunately for me, I ended up having to resort to the accepted answer: in-place upgrade (from Windows 7 to Windows 7!), which didn’t lose any of my data (but make sure you take a backup just in case!) but did stop some of my programs working until they were re-installed.

Was it worth the hassle?  Can’t say I’ve noticed any difference.  So possibly not.  But at least that shows that the service pack is stable – once you manage to get it installed!

The Current Microsoft Cloud (BPOS)

Confession: I use and sell Microsoft Online Services (amongst other things).   There, I’ve said it.

Let me clarify by pointing out that I’m not anti-Google (I use their Chrome browser and their Android mobile phones, as well as their search engine and maps service).  I didn’t fall into using (and selling/supporting) Microsoft ‘s Online offerings because I’m a Microsoft “fanboy” – like everything Microsoft that I use, I use it because it’s what I know.

Does that make me lazy?  I don’t think so, I have, after all been supporting Microsoft products for the best part of 20 years now.  I know their quirks – and more importantly I know how to work around them.

Does it make me wrong? No, as I’ve said in a previous post, the Cloud is personal – Microsoft’s offerings won’t be a perfect fit for all businesses.  Likewise, Google Apps won’t be a perfect fit for everyone.  It just so happens that Microsoft’s offerings work perfectly for my needs and most of my customers.

But like I say, the key point here is that I’ve never needed to use Google Apps.  When I made the decision to move my business to the cloud I chose Microsoft initially for all the reasons outlined above and not out of some misguided loyalty.  To be honest, I think the geek in me wanted it to fail so that I could justify spending time-out learning new techie stuff…

But the remarkable thing about Microsoft’s current online offering (the rather ridiculously named Microsoft BPOS – or “Business Productivity Online Suite”) is that there is nothing new to learn. 

The migration process is simple enough for most moderately techie users to follow and the step-by-step guides provided are good enough, but it’s always worth having someone with experience of the process on hand – and this is where Microsoft’s Online Partners come in with assistance and advice, if you’re looking for one I can strongly recommend a small outfit in Salisbury by the name of Hill Data Systems!  However,  there is also an integrated helpdesk system with which you can contact Microsoft’s Online Support team directly.

The migration path is flexible enough that you don’t have to move everyone in one go – you could for example migrate one department or group at a time, make sure they are happy, and then migrate the next users.

So, once users have migrated across, what will they notice has changed?  Well, they’ll have a shiny new “Single Sign on” tool that will pop-up when they first start their computers and will automatically sign them in to the service – but this can be set to minimise down to the system tray once it’s done its thing – and no user input is required once this is configured.  Other than that, they probably won’t notice anything at all!  And that’s the beauty, for me at least, of BPOS – there is very little user training to do at all.  No need to learn a new word processor or e-mail client or whatever.

Your techies will probably be glad to see the back of your old e-mail server once migration has finished.  And your users may find that they no longer need to use fiddly VPNs to connect up to use their e-mail when on the road:  Outlook will have been reconfigured to automatically connect securely to the Exchange-Online servers from wherever you are.  There you go:  things actually get simpler for the user!  And, if you don’t have Outlook to hand (because you’ve borrowed  an iPad for example) you can just point a web browser to the Exchange Online servers and use the full featured Outlook Web Access client.

Other than Exchange Online, BPOS also offers Sharepoint Online – a cut down version of the full Sharepoint solution that you may have installed on your own servers and which offers very limited shared storage for files (250MB added to “the pool” for every user signed up to BPOS – so if you have 5 users, you get 1.25GB of total storage space for any use to utilise) but it still provides the important things you’d expect from Sharepoint: version control, search facilities, basic document workflow (the ability to forward a document from person to person as it is filled in and authorised), customisation, Wikis, team sites etc.

The other apps included are Live Meeting (which enables you to conference/collaborate/present with others across the internet) and Office Communicator Online which in BPOS provides Instant Messaging functionality (think MSN Messenger/AIM etc) and presence information (the ability to see if a colleague is free/busy/in a meeting etc).

Now don’t get me wrong, BPOS is a good, solid way to start moving to the cloud, free up IT departments from supporting troublesome e-mail servers and minimise training for users.  It’s just not as glitzy as other offerings, such as Google Apps. 

Even its name is a little embarrassing: “BPOS”.  This is why it’s a good job that “Office 365” is just around the corner (it’s currently in the final stages of beta). 

From what I’ve seen of Office 365 so far, things are about to get exciting… 

Ken Hill is the owner of Salisbury based Hill Data Systems.  Hill Data Systems specialise in providing IT services to start-ups and small businesses.  We are experts in Microsoft Online (and on-premise) solutions but enjoy nothing more than finding the right cloud solution for our clients (Microsoft or otherwise).  For more information on anything raised in this blog – or for a friendly chat about your current or future IT requirements – please call us on 0844 824 1918, e-mail us at info@hilldatasystems.co.uk/ or tweet us at @hilldatasystems.