Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About those SPC12 labs-- Necessary instructions so the Hands-On Labs work for you online

Hi there!

I'm back from the SharePoint Conference 2012, and wow am I am tired. I didn't get to do all the things I wanted to do, and want to apologize to all the people I expected to see while I was there. I just spent too much time in the labs this year. I promise not to do that in the future.

Speaking of the Hands-On Labs from the SharePoint Conference. For those of you who were there, you know that we had our fair share of problems in the labs, which resulted in the labs being up and down in terms of availability.

And because of that, everyone assumed they'd just do the labs online.

AND YOU CAN!

Yes, the labs are completely available (you should be a paying SharePoint Conference customer, of course) online from the MySPC link on the SharePoint Conference 2012 site. Just log into MySPC, click the Hands-On Labs tab, then the hands on lab link. That will take you to a site where all the labs are listed in a page very, very reminscent of the one used in the hands-on labs all week. Keep in mind that the labs should be available to you to use for the next two months or so. Feel free to try them, show them to coworkers, etc. That's what they are there for. [EDIT: The labs will be available for three months online, so until Feb. 15th, 2012. Extra time is good.]

EDITED TO ADD: A link has been added to the Hands-On Labs page off of MySPC that lets you download all of the lab manuals in one zip file. So for those of you who were looking for the lab manuals by themselves- they're there now. Woo hoo!

The Lab Menu page for the SPC 2012 Hands-On Lab online environment

Unfortunately, some of the small problems that plagued us proctors in the labs are still there for the online labs. So to that end, because you gentle folks, using the labs online, won't have a proctor behind you to help you at your computer at home or the office, here are some very important tips.

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ADDITIONAL EDIT: It looks like the labs that require an Office 365 online account require you to create your own FREE 30-day TRIAL of Office 365 Mid to Enterprise size business, Plan E3 first (click this link to sign up).

If a lab manual says "Start on the site collections page of the SharePoint admin center (for example, https://-admin.sharepoint.com/)." or anything else related to a your_tenant site- use your Office 365 trial account's tenant address for "your_tenant".

In other words, the lab will not work when it requires that address to continue, unless you have signed up for a free trial or have an Office 365 enterprise account. That's the only way to have a tenant-admin.sharepoint.com site that can definitely do all the things the lab wants to do (as far as I know, please comment below if a lower version of Office 365 can be used). My apologies. I had hoped that issue would have been addressed before those labs went online.

The labs I've noticed that need an Office 365 account are: HOL006 and HOL007. These are developer labs. There may be more I haven't seen yet. So do not fear. If you want to do those labs, just sign up for the trial version of the E3 edition of Office 365 yourself- then you can do any of the labs that refer to Office 365 without issue.

I've also noticed that some of the labs open with the remnants of someone else's lab already there. Sorry about that. Apparently they are recycling existing VMs for the online labs too. If you find that you start a lab, and there are windows already open in your SharePoint VM (whichever that is, more on that in item 2 below), just close the windows that are open. If you cannot save a file, project, or whatever with the name the lab suggests in the manual- try it again, but add a number the the end of the file name (like a "1" or "23" or something like that). That should help make the file name unique. Otherwise your labs should work fine, no harm done.
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1) When you select a lab from the list and click Start Lab, it will open a bunch of VMs conveniently located under tabs. You don't need to use all the VMs for your lab, you'll be logging into only one of them- the others are used for other labs or are just needed in the background, like the domain controller. There are buttons to the right of the tabs. The one that you really need to know is the RECONNECT button (looks like a green arrow pointing at a server icon). More on that below.


An example of the VM page after you Start Lab. Note the first tab is Lab Menu (so you can get back to the lab menu list page), and the RECONNECT button on the far right of the tabs

Keep in mind that the VMs will open for the lab, but the LAB MANUAL will not. To open the lab manual, go back to the lab menu page (the first page you were on when you went to the lab site, it is under the Lab Menu tab on the left if you're in the VMs), and click the little link that says "To open the lab manual, click here" that shows up at the bottom of the lab list when you select a lab (you can see it in the first image in this post). Clicking the "here" link will open the manual into a different browser window. Every time you select a lab, the option to open it's manual shows up in the box below the lab list, just click the here link. Clicking the link also will refresh the manual window, should you need to.

Also- if you want to keep your VMs open and just go to the next lab, you can go back to the Lab Menu, select the next lab you want to do, and just open the manual for that lab there. You don't really have to End Lab on the VMs you're using to start a new lab. Just a tip for you to save time.

2) The lab manuals never explicitly say WHICH VM you should actually log into to do your lab. I don't know why, since that's a pretty big deal. And this is where a little glitch in the labs shows up:

-- For the labs that are IT PRO focused (they're usually labs numbered HOL021 or higher, the VM set ends with a "Lync" tab)- you should log into the server that has SharePoint 2010 installed on it. The server that has SharePoint and SQL installed on it is mistakenly under the DC tab. I know, crazy right? There was a mix up where the SP and DC tabs were switched, so the Domain Controller is under the SP tab, and the SharePoint server is under the DC tab. I'd assumed it would be fixed before the labs went online.

So to use the HOL for IT Pros, make sure you log into the VM that is under the DC tab. Always check to make sure that SharePoint is installed on the VM you're working on before you start working.

--For the labs that are DEVELOPER focused (they're the labs numbered from HOL001 to HOL020, the VM set ends with a Win8 tab). SharePoint may be installed in the VM under the WIN8 tab. Please make sure it has SharePoint and the developer tools you need to do the lab before you get started.

3) Sometimes the remote desktop access to the VM you're on can get disconnected. It's okay. If the VM you are working on goes black and says it is disconnected, just click the little button to the far right of the VM tabs that looks like a green arrow pointing at a server (you can see it in the second image in this article).

This is the RECONNECT button, and will reconnect you to your VM's desktop. No fear, the VM is happily chugging along in the background, unaware that you can't see it. Nothing in your lab has been lost or delayed. It just lost your desktop connection for a moment. We are going across the internet, you know.

If you get a dialog box saying one of the other VMs in your set disconnected, don't worry about it. You don't really need desktop access to those VMs, they'll run just fine without you connecting to their desktops remotely.

4) As far as I know, even if the manual tells you to hit F5 on your keyboard, such as in Visual Studio, do not hit F5 on the keyboard. That will likely refresh your connection to the lab site itself, kicking you out of the lab. It is best, if you need to refresh, compile, or whatever you would use F5 for, do it using a button on the toolbar, or select it in on of the menus in the menu bar of the application (such as Internet Explorer) in the VM you are working on. Just an FYI to save you the time of having to start over if you get kicked out.

I hope you get to use the labs like crazy, and if you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments of this article. (mind you, I was trained to support the lab environment, not to memorize every lab manual available, so I might not be able to answer all step by step questions)

Thanks to all of you who attended the SharePoint Conference, especially those dearhearts that had issues using the labs while I was there. I'm here for you bro. ;P

3 comments:

Sudharsan Raman said...

Hello, I have been going through the HOL's but noticed that in HOL017 the instructions asks me to go to the (already pre-created) http://intranet.contoso.com/sites/contoso site. However, this site doesn't even exist on my lab environment and I'm unable to proceed with the labs. Did you run into this issue? If so, would you know how to resolve this?

Thanks,
Sudharsan.

Sudharsan Raman said...

Hello, I have been going through the HOL's but noticed that when I got to HOL017 the manual asks me to go to http://intranet.contoso.com/sites/contoso. However, this site collection doesn't even exist in my lab environment and I'm unable to proceed. I assume this site collection was pre-loaded into the lab environment with content to perform the labs. Did you run into this issue as well? If so, do you know the resolution?

Thanks,
Sudharsan.

Callahan said...

My apologies for getting back to you so late. Unfortunately, I did not get to test every lab, and don't know how to resolve the issue. I hope you did manage to work around the issue and finish the lab.