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June 20, 2011

Google Accounts

Filed under: General,Links — phil @ 10:52 am

So, like many people of my ilk I’ve had a gmail account since way back when you needed an invitation to join. (You actually might still need an invitation to join, I have not tried to create a new account recently.)

I’ve also had my own domain for more than 10 years now. It used to host its own mail, but after much gnashing of teeth, and the ability to transfer being made nearly transparent, I converted my domain hosted email to a Google Apps account. It worked flawlessly and I have been happy for many, many years.

…and then Google decided that it wanted it’s Google Apps accounts to have more of the functionality and features normally saved for it’s own full Google accounts. A noble desire, for sure, but it came with it problems of it’s own. For you see, Google accounts and Google Apps accounts used separate authentication structures. This allowed for one to be logged into both (or more) accounts at the same time. However, upon conversion, the Google Apps accounts now use the *same* authentication cookie as the Google accounts do. You can not log into both accounts at the same time, unless you use two different browsers.

So, option 1 is: Use two separate browsers to log into both accounts. While I am perfectly capable of doing that (and I use multiple browsers as it is for work), mentally, I was not willing to make that sacrifice to my normal workflow and have Google open in two different browsers (it used to be two tabs next to each other in Chrome.) There is some good news, though.

There is an option 2: You can configure your two accounts to allow for “multiple sign-ins”. What this does is both accounts are logged in (in the same tab even), but you’re only looking at content for one account at a time. So you can be looking at your mail, and then hit the account drop down in the top left and be looking at the mail for your other account. There are some caveats, but it’s all detailed here:
Using multiple accounts simultaneously. I’m using it now and so far I have no complaints.

June 6, 2011

SharePoint: PowerPivot gotcha

Filed under: PowerPivot,SharePoint — phil @ 9:42 am

PowerPivot is an interesting beast. If you don’t know what it is, I’ll give you a very brief (and probably incorrect overview): PowerPivot is an Excel plugin, provided free from Microsoft, that allows you to import data from external sources into your very own localized cube for analysis. It’s very, very fast AND very, very small (bordering on the impossible as far as compression goes.) However, it makes your Excel workbooks pretty big (still much smaller than the amount of data you can have, but big enough that sending it to someone via email is pretty much out of the question.) Enter PowerPivot for SharePoint. What this does is create a dedicated analysis services engine on your application layer and when you upload a workbook with powerpivot data, that data is separated out into the analysis services engine. Thus allowing anyone viewing to see the fruits of your labor without needing to install Excel and PowerPivot on their local desktop. There’s a catch, of course, there always is.

Installing PowerPivot on your SharePoint farm is no easy feat. Well, Microsoft claims its an easy feat, but only sort of, and only if you install PowerPivot and your farm at the same time. Most people don’t do that. In fact, no one should do that. In fact, if you’re thinking of doing that just stop now and redesign your farm. But that’s a different discussion. You want to install PowerPivot. And you want to install it on your existing farm. Good news: There’s lots of documentation. (How to: Install PowerPivot for SharePoint on an Existing SharePoint Server)

Here’s the gotcha. You’re going to read through all of that documentation. And you’re going to install the analysis services engine off of the SQL CD. And you’re going to configure a PowerPivot service application in SharePoint. And you’re going to create an unattended refresh account in the Secure Store.

And you will have a 50/50 chance that this will all work just fine. Here’s the rundown: If you installed your farm with default settings, and ran the configuration wizard with default settings, and installed SQL with default settings, it might work. If you, like most everyone else, used service accounts instead of the “local service” and the “network service”, then there is a fairly good chance you did all of the above and missed a critical step.

Let me first explain how the services work together. First off, Excel Calculation Services is what displays your workbook in the browser. In order for Excel Calculation Services to use the slicers against your PowerPivot data, it needs to be able to communicate with the analysis services cube on the application server. This is the unattended refresh account inside the Excel Calculation Services service application settings. In order for the analysis services engine to refresh the cube data from the original external source, it needs a separate account. This is the unattended refresh account inside the PowerPivot service application settings. Now, you’ve configured those accounts if you read the information from Microsoft above. But you get the dreaded error: “The data connection uses Windows Authentication and user credentials could not be delegated. The following connections failed to refresh: (name of connection in workbook for powerpivot cube).”

Here’s what you need to know: The account that is running “Claims to Windows Token Service” needs two more permissions. One is it needs to be a local administrator on the machine that has the PowerPivot analysis engine installed, and the second is that that account also needs the permission “Act as part of the operating system” that can be found in the Local Security Policy -> Local Policies -> User Rights Assignment. These are changes that need to be made to the server, not to SharePoint or SQL.

As it turns out, you can find that information here: (It’s under Community Content, if you, like me, read the article and were still frustrated.)

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