Posts Tagged ‘Annoyances’

How do I – Activate my MSDN copy of Visio 2013 Professional?

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog, How Do I...

Situation:  You have a MSDN subscription and you have downloaded Office 2013 or one of the Office products, like Visio 2013 Professional, from Microsoft and have installed said product.  You have a license key provided by MSDN, but the installer never prompts you for the license key.  This is a departure from traditional installer behavior where you would enter the license key before the install can even be done.  Once you’ve completed the install, you open your product and are confronted by this little gem of a warning just below the Ribbon:


Since you have a license key, you click the “Activate” button.  You are presented with this screen which is there for a while, so be patient:             


Eventually, you’re presented with a Sign In screen like this:


Having gotten your license key from MSDN, you promptly enter your MSDN UserID and password and click the “Sign in” button.  Unfortunately, you’re presented with an error thus:


After trying the login a couple more times (just in case you fat fingered the password), you click the “Can’t access your account?” button.  Your browser opens and you’re taken to this page:


Again, you enter your MSDN UserID as well as the CAPCHA code and click the “Next” button.  This time you’re presented with an error screen stating that your ID doesn’t exist thus:


So now what?

This is the problem with the new installer.  In order to use our MSDN license key, we’re going to have to follow these steps:

  1. Click “Start”.
  2. On the popup menu, click “Control Panel”.
  3. In the Control Panel, double click the “Programs and Features” icon.
  4. Scroll down through the list of installed products and locate the product in question.  In this example it was “Microsoft Visio Professional 2013”.
  5. Select the target product.
  6. In the toolbar above the list, click the “Change” button.screenshot.498
  7. When the configuration window appears, select the “Enter a Product Key” radio button and click “Continue”.screenshot.499
  8. No enter your product key and click “Continue”.screenshot.500
  9. Unfortunately, you have to go through the configuration piece again.  For a simple license key addition, I don’t see the need in this, but that how it works for now.  You could just click “Continue” but in my case, I wanted to make sure nothing was getting reset so I clicked “Customize”.screenshot.501
  10. Ensure your configuration settings are as desired and click the “Continue” button.screenshot.502
  11. It sets in the Configuration Progress screen for quite a while.  Just be patient.screenshot.503
  12. Once the configuration completes, click the “Close” button.screenshot.504
  13. Finally re-launch the application and the red warning should now be gone.screenshot.505


This took me a while to figure out, so hopefully this saves someone some time.



InfoPath AND OR logic with boolean types and bit values in C based languages – Why your checkboxes are not working as expected

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Annoyances

OK, that’s a massive title for this blog post. 🙂 Nevertheless, if you’re having trouble with your InfoPath check boxes not having the desired effect in rules, then read on.

To simplify this explanation, I’m going to use a simple form with two check boxes and a button. The form looks like this:


As you can see, it’s a pretty simple form. The two check boxes simply bind to two fields and our data structure looks like this:


When we right click on each of the check boxes thus:


and then click “Check Box Properties” on the popup menu, we’d see the properties as expected thus:


As expected, the default state of the check box is “Cleared” and the value corresponding to that state is “FALSE”. The inverse is true of the Checked state having the value TRUE. This is all as it should be thus far.

Now let’s suppose that we want to hid the Button if either of the two check boxes are unchecked i.e. set to FALSE. We do this via the Rules on the Button control. If we look at the rule defined in this case, we see it looks like this:



As we can see, the rule is pretty simple and straight forward. Given that both check box controls have a default value of Cleared i.e. FALSE, we would expect the form, when loaded, to hide the button, correct?

This is unfortunately, not the case however, as you can see from here:


Check checking the first box, the button is still there:


When we uncheck the first box, the button disappears, as we expect it to.


Rechecking the box, shows the button again, even though it shouldn’t since the second box is unchecked. The same behavior is found when dealing with the second check box.

So what could possibly be the problem here?

The issue here is the way in which InfoPath deals with the Boolean data type. Keep in mind that InfoPath was developed with C# and C++. All C based derivative languages share the same common handling for null values. In C based languages, a boolean value is defined thus:

bool myValue;

The thing to note is that a boolean value is represented by a single bit in the data stream which is either turned off i.e. false or turned on i.e. true. In C based languages however, the declaration of a variable such as the above, does NOT assign any value to the variable and the value is considered to be unknown or NULL until assigned.

We can debate the merits of null values all day long, but the short of it is that a boolean value could actually have 3 values per se.

We have already looked at our Check Box control in detail and we have found that it can either have a Checked or Cleared value representing TRUE or FALSE. The control itself does not have any way to represent a null value, but we must remember that the control is almost certainly bound to a data value somewhere. The data value is a distinctly different object value that is synched with the value of the check box. As such, it’s governed by a separate set of rules so let’s take a look at the data field properties.

When we locate field1 and right click it, and click “Properties” on the popup menu we see this:


The fact that the Default Value property of the data field allows a value of “(Blank)” to be assigned means that the data field can represent null values. This is where state comes into play. If we consider the fact that the check box control can only have TRUE or FALSE values (Checked or Cleared), and we keep in mind that the data field value is synched with the control value, then what is happening here?

The answer lies in the timing of synchronization between the check box control and the data field. In order to preserve resources and cut down traffic, most controls are event driven. That means that the control doesn’t actually update it’s underlying data field value unless the value of the control itself changes. As such, when the form is first loaded, the check box has a value of Cleared i.e. FALSE while the data field does not have any value and as a result, InfoPath assigns the “(Blank)” or null value to the field. This results in a mismatch of state i.e. the data field value does not represent the visual value displayed in the check box.

Due to the fact that InfoPath rules operate on the underlying data field values rather than their bound control values, the formatting rule we had defined for the Button would be checking if the check boxes had a FALSE value. Since upon first load their value is in fact null rather than false, the rule fails the check and does not hid the button as we expected.

When the check box is checked, the TRUE value is synched with the data field and when it is unchecked, the FALSE value from the check box is synched back to the data field. That is why after checking and then unchecking the check box, the button is hidden as expected.

Though I believe allowing “(Blank)” to be a valid value for the data field is a design flaw, the reality is that it’s unlikely to change so we need to be aware of this kind of behavior when designing InfoPath forms.

Special thanks to Chuck for working through this logic with me until we were able to identify what was causing this odd behavior.



SPFarm.Local is null in SharePoint 2010 causing C# Console App to throw a “Object reference not set to an instance of an object” error

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Annoyances

This one is one of the more annoying errors you’ll encounter in SharePoint development. The simple reason for that is because the error you’re receiving is bogus. I mean, sure it’s a “valid” error since the SPFarm.Local is actually null and you’re trying to reference it, but it doesn’t actually lead you anywhere. As a SharePoint developer/admin/architect, you will often be faced with the need to iterate content in the farm. Every good SharePoint developer knows that it all starts with the simple statement: SPWebService svc = SPFarm.Local.Services.GetValue<SPWebService>(“”); This should NEVER fail, unless you don’t actually have a SharePoint farm on your DEV box, but naturally you do, right? 🙂 So then why would you ever see the below from your debugger window? image[18] The problem stems from the architectural nature of SharePoint. SharePoint as you know, has been purely x64 based since the 2010 version. Add to that the fact that most utilities we write in the C# world to pull information from SharePoint, are Console apps, and you have the ingredients for our problem which is caused by Windows attempting to run a x86 based app under a x64 based architecture. Now where this should normally work, it doesn’t in this case. The real problem is that no architectural error is thrown. The code simply returns null and does not work. It can lead to many frustrating hours of debugging. Since console apps are by their very nature x86 based, it’s very easy to make the mistake of compiling your console app to the x86 architecture. If we go to the project properties for this console app, we’d find the following: image_thumb[14] The “Platform target” is the setting we’re interested in. By default Visual Studio 2010 will set this value to x86 for console apps. It’s easy to forget to reset this value when quickly knocking out a console app. Here’s how this should be set: image[38] Once we make this simple change and press F5, we’ll be able to step past the problematic line of code and continue on our merry way. Hopefully this article will save someone some time and frustration.