This week Microsoft issued a couple of hotfixes for Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 that really seem to help improve performance. They seem to work fine with the CRM Client for Office Outlook. Give them a try. I think you'll like them.
To download the updates for Outlook, see the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article:
961752 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/961752/ ) Description of the Outlook 2007 hotfix package (Outlook.msp): February 24, 2009
For full Outlook functionality, you can install the Cumulative Update package that is associated with the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article:
967688 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/967688/ ) Description of the Outlook 2007 hotfix package (Outlook-en-us.msp): February 24, 2009"
I downloaded and installed both.
I attended a session on the then in development Windows Home Server during the 2007 MVP Summit. I thought “Why am I here? This doesn’t pertain to a business, just home users. I don’t do homes.” Well, I was wrong. I recently installed 3 Windows Home Servers at one client location. Why? As a backup of their workstations. Their workstations, purchased from their LOB application vendor, have had a tendency to have their hard drives die. Replacing a fully configured hard drive can be a time consuming proposition. Using an imaging program like Acronis or StorageCraft is a bit costly and requires some on going maintenance. Windows Home Server includes a fantastic backup for the connected workstations. We decided to use this. Each Windows Home Server can support up to 10 workstations. They are easy to connect and configure the backups. And quite inexpensive.
One of the owner’s workstation was showing signs of an impending failure. So soon after we installed WHS, we decided it would be a good idea, and test, to replace his hard drive. I did that today. It was really a pretty straight forward process, with a couple of bumps which I’ll describe here. First, the workstation had failed to backup properly to the WHS for the past week. So I tried a manual backup. Fortunately that worked. So I had a very current backup to restore from. Then I physically replaced the hard drive. Next I booted from the WHS Recovery CD that comes with the software package. it whirred a bit then listed some devices that might need drivers, such as the network card and drives. I clicked ‘Continue’ and it tried to find the Windows Home Server. It could not because it didn’t have the drivers for the network card. Great, I thought. Now I have to round up the drivers for the NIC and whatever else. Then I went back to the devices screen and saw a nice little Help link. It told me how I could copy the needed drivers from the backup of that workstation on the WHS server. Cool. I went to another workstation, brought up the WHS console, followed the instructions and copied the Windows Home Server Restore Drivers (or whatever it’s named) folder to a USB jump drive. I went back to the restoring workstation, stuck in the USB drive and tried again. I followed the prompts to scan the USB for the drivers. It found what it needed and proceeded.
Once I connected to the Windows Home Server, it recognized the workstation I should restore. It also gave me the choice to select another workstation. I tried to start the restore. However, since the new drive was unformatted, I had to take care of that first. The restore process gave me the opportunity to prepare the hard drive. There was a button to launch the disk manager. With it I created a partition on the new drive. I wanted to make the new drive the C: drive but it would not let me. The USB Jump drive was still inserted and was occupying the C: drive slot. So I moved the USB to another letter and then created the main drive partition on the C: drive slot. Then I formatted the new drive. This is probably the most time consuming part of the process.
After the format was complete, I was actually able to do the restore. The original drive was 80 GB with about 30 GB used. I was amazed to see that it took less than 20 minutes to completely restore the drive, across a busy network in the middle of the work day. But there was one more bump on the road. Rebooting the workstation resulted in a blinking cursor in the upper left of the screen. It blinked and blinked and blinked, and never even gave me a can’t find boot or anything. I posted my problem to the SBS MVP list and had a number of suggestions. They all centered around using the XP Recovery Console, from the XP installation CD, and issuing a FIX command of some sort. I tried the suggested ones and then tried FIXMBR. THAT did the trick. The system booted and the user later reported that all was working properly as he anxiously got back to his computer.
All in all I am very impressed with the Windows Home Server. It appears extremely simple to use. This simplicity masks the extraordinary things that go on behind the scenes. Although each server will backup as many as 10 workstations, the space on the server is minimal. It currently only takes approximately 114 GB at this point! And each workstation has at least 20 to 30 GB of used space! And there has been a daily backup every evening for the past week plus! Every time I access WHS, I learn something new about it. A nice piece of work!
Yesterday I needed to send (blast) out an e-mail invitation for an event we're hosting this weekend. I decided to use the Mail Merge feature in CRM 4.0. I've used Mail Merge in the past but I seemed to learn a bit this go around. E-mail Merge is now available from the web client as well as from Outlook. In CRM 3.0, you had to use Outlook to do a Mail Merge.
The first step was to create the template for the message I wanted to send. Luckily another member of our group had already created a very nice looking one so I simply copied it and pasted it into Word. Your masterpiece must be save in the Word XML format. CRM doesn't like it very much at all if you save it in a regular Work format.
Next you need to create an E-mail Merge Template in CRM. There are two routes: First you can go to the CRM item on the Outlook menu and select Options. Click on the E-mail Templates tab then click New. The other way would be to go to Settings (CRM -> Go To -> Settings) and select Templates. From there select Mail Merge Templates. Then select New to create your new template.
Most of the new template form is pretty straight forward. Give it a meaningful name, select a language, and select the appropriate entity. I was sending to individuals so I selected Contact. Next click the Browse button in the File Attachment section and find your masterpiece saved in Word XML format, then click attach. Note that Ownership is set to Individual. This means that only the user that created the template will be able to use it. The template may later be promoted to Organization ownership so everyone can use it. Clicking Save and Close creates the template and places it with the Mail Merge templates.
The next step is to select the Contact (or whatever) records you want to send you E-mail Merge to. Advanced Find comes to mind as a good way to do that. Once you have your list of records, select the Mail Merge button from the Action Toolbar. It looks like a tiny Word icon. This launches the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mail Merge for Microsoft Office Word (whew!) dialog box. In the Select Mail Merge Type, select E-mail (or whatever else you might want). In the Start with a: section select the appropriate source (Personal Mail Merge Template in our case) and then select the Mail Merge template you recently created. In the Merge: section select the appropriate range of records. If your Advanced Find returned several pages of records you want to send to, select All records on all pages. In the Select Data Fields section be sure that Email is selected if you are sending an e-mail blast. When ready click OK to proceed. The next part is a little tricky. The Mail Merge dialog box remains in the forefront and Word opens up behind it. So you have to navigate to Word. Word will display the Mail Merge Recipients list so you can be sure it's got the proper records. Then click OK. Next follow the steps in the Mail Merge Task Pane on the right. In the third step select Electronic mail to do your merge. You can also modify the document, adding CRM fields, etc. and click the Upload Template to CRM to save it. If you click on Electronic mail the Merge to E-mail dialog box will appear. Be sure the TO field shows E_mail and enter an appropriate subject. When you hit OK, the Create Activities windows will appear. From here you can select whether to create CRM activities for each e-mail sent (my choice), or not. You can also select whether to create a Quick Campaign out of your blast. If so, replies will automatically create Campaign Responses so you can track the effectiveness of your e-mail. You can also select whether to include an Unsubscribe link so recipients can opt-out of future blasts from you. Pressing OK completes our merge and the system will send the messages for you. Leave Word open to give it a chance to send them all. If you selected to create a Quick Campaign,you can view that campaign and see when all the messages have been created. When you eventually close Word, it will ask you if you want to stop the current mail merge. It says this even if it has already finished. So give it time then close it.
Using E-mail Merge can be an effective way to get your message out. Each recipient receives their very own, perhaps personalized, message rather than being one of a group of recipients. Plus, you can be quite creative in your message format, unlike other types of CRM e-mail templates.
Microsoft has recently released for beta testing their new desktop (OK, and laptop) operating system, Windows 7. I’ve been running it for a bit over a week on my laptop and really like it. I have had very little problem with it though here are a few issues I’ve encountered:
- The CRM Outlook client functions well for the most part but seems to fail in some areas. For instance, using the Outlook client to look up a record fails. If I go to CRM on the Outlook menu, select Go To and then select say Sales and then Accounts and then try to open an Account, I will receive a blank window instead of the Account record and eventually an error that states “A Microsoft Dymanics CRM window was unable to open, and may have been blocked by a pop-up blocker. Please add this Microsoft Dynamics CRM server to the list of sites your pop-up blocker allows to open new windows<server>” Needless to say, I’ve played with the pop-up blockers, etc. It all seems to work fine in the web client.
- Speaking of the web client, Windows 7 comes with Internet Explorer 8. I had trouble with IE 8 in the earlier beta, at least with CRM. Seems better now and seems to function fine except that I notice underlines, extending into the next column, in certain fields when listing a group of records. Doesn’t cause any problems, just a bit funky.
- I was able to install CardScan 4.1 without a hitch. Only problem is my Win 7 does not recognize the scanner itself. I think the reason is that I chose to run the 64 bit version of Windows 7 and CardScan does not have a driver for 64 bit. I seem to remember a similar problem when I first tried Vista-64.
- Windows 7 doesn’t seem to recover all that well from being hibernated. Seems to have problems networking. Haven’t isolated the issue yet. I just reboot to fix it. But rebooting this machine under Win 7, it seems a lot faster than under Vista.
- When joining my Win 7 to my Small Business Server domain, I attempted to follow the normal procedures of adding the computer in SBS and then running the Connect Computer wizard. The wizard appeared to work at first but then failed at the end. Eventually I had to add the computer to the domain manually. At that point though, the wizards took back over and completed the installation just like a normal Connect Computer addition. Been working fine ever since.
Today, Microsoft announced the SKUs that will be available for Windows 7. Basically the ones to look for are Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional. While the announcement seemed to say that those were the main versions, it also went on to list all the other versions. Here is an extract from the announcement:
SKUs for Windows 7:
· The SKU lineup for Windows 7 is: Windows® 7 Starter, Windows® 7 Home Basic (in Emerging Markets only), Windows® 7 Home Premium, Windows® 7 Professional, Windows® 7 Enterprise and Windows® 7 Ultimate.
- For Consumers, we recommend Windows 7 Home Premium for most customers and Windows 7 Professional for customers who want additional features and functionality useful for small business activities.
- For Businesses, we recommend Windows 7 Professional for most customers and Windows 7 Enterprise for medium-to-large business and enterprise customers that choose to license Windows through Software Assurance.
- The features in each version of Windows 7 build upon the one before it. As customers move up from one SKU to the next, from Windows 7 Starter through Windows 7 Ultimate, they gain additional features and lose none.
Personally, I am running the Ultimate version. Over all, I like it. Matter of fact, I had to boot from Vista earlier this evening to use my CardScan and then rebooted back into Windows 7 (I have two separate hard drives i can swap in and out of this notebook) to finish my work this evening and write this blog post.
Recently I taught two CRM courses to students on the East Coast, and the West Coast. And I didn’t have to go to a single airport. Nor stay in a hotel. Nor put up with any of that other travel stuff. I did it all from the comfort of my own office! I did the courses through a training company that specializes in Remote Classroom Instruction (RCI). I was able to log into their computer system and have access to a presentation machine the students could see plus another that showed me the students’ workstations. The students were either at small training centers scattered across the nation owned and managed by the training company, or in some instances also in the comfort of their own homes. There was no live video but all the students could talk with me and each other via a conference call arrangement. It was a little awkward at first but we all got used to it pretty quickly. In the beginning I missed the eye contact and direct interaction with the students. But after a while the students’ personalities came through and I felt a connection with the class. Kind of like radio versus TV. I grew up in the days of radio. Sky King, The Lone Ranger, etc., and know that the Theatre of the Mind can be more vivid than TV. The same applies to these classes, after you get used to it.
With the economy in the state it is, I think RCI is a great way to provide training. No travel expense nor time away. Hope I have the opportunity to do more.