Blog

  • May 29, 2012

    New Signature Honored as One of the 100 Best-Run Companies in Washington, DC Area

    New Signature is excited to be named a 2012 SmartCEO100 Best-Run Company. This prestigious accolade honors 100 companies that have experienced consistent growth and are leaders within their industries.

    The Best-Run Companies have the vision, talent, customers and internal processes in place to serve as a strong example to others in their same market and industry. They have stood the test of time and have a proven track record outperforming competitors. Their brand has created a strong reputation in the community they serve.

  • May 25, 2012

    Nibletz Interviews Barrel Of Jobs At MAVA’s Capital Connection 2012

    Kyle and Cameron from Nibletz interviewed Christopher Hertz and Craig Zingerline in their “We Interview DC Startup Barrel Of Jobs At Capital Connection 2012” segment. Below is a short excerpt and you can read/watch the whole interview here.

    “While at the Capital Connection/TechBUZZ conference in Washington DC this week we got to meet Chris Hertz and Craig Zingerline, the co-founders of Washington DC based startup Barrel Of Jobs. They were one of 28 new startups that presented their business in a four minute presentation on Wednesday at the conference.

    Of course by the name, Barrel of Jobs, you already know it has something to do with jobs and careers. With Barrel of Jobs though, we’re not talking bout the next monster.com or Career Builder.  Barrel of Jobs is a social recruiting platform to connect employers to the best candidates.  Barrel of Jobs is using the social web to help recruiters, employers and even startups, find the best talent.”

     

  • Using Wait Chains and Task Manager in Windows 8

    We’ve all been there before: a particular application stops responding and there’s no indication why! In the past, savvy power users might bring up task manager to kill the errant process and restart the application, but digging into why​ the problem occurred in the first place is beyond most individual’s comfort level.

    With Windows 8, the tools to resolve common application hangs are now at your fingertips, courtesy the enhanced task manager. Let’s walk through a purely hypothetical scenario to explain how the new feature works.

    In this scenario, your version of Lync stops responding. Eager to fix it, you fire up the new task manager in Lync on Windows 8. To do so you have three options: either right click the task bar on the desktop, or simply start typing “Task” at the Windows 8 start screen, or from a PowerShell window type tm.exe. All will work (and we’ll come back to this later).

    Once in Task Manager, simply go to the process that’s hung, in this case, Lync. (We’ll ignore the issue in OneNote for now.) By right clicking on the process, you can select “details” and go into the more traditional list of processes.

    Within that advanced dialog, you can right click the process once more, and select “Analyze Wait Chain”. This will reveal whether the process is waiting on another process to be able to return control to you.

    Lync, it appears, is hung because of a particular process with a PID of 552, called svchost. Experienced admins might realize what’s going on, but if you start looking for this particular process in Task Manager, you won’t find it. Why? Because you invoked task manager as a regular user account, rather than an administrator. Go ahead and close task manager and fire up PowerShell in administrator mode, and then run tm.exe, or start typing task again, and right click the application and select “run as administrator“. You’ll instantly be treated to a much richer list of processes, including system ones such as svchost.

    Going then to svchost running as PID 552, you can once again go into the details and analyze the wait chain. You can see that the service is waiting on a particular process, audiodg, running as PID 6380. Selecting the process and choosing to end it, immediately will return control to svchost, which will then respond back to Lync, allowing your application to resume control.

    With just a few clicks, you’ve now properly identified the errant process causing instability! The process to do so is streamlined and simple, allowing most staff to self-troubleshoot, rather than remaining frustrated. Here at New Signature, we’re incredibly excited to start showing off the new features in Windows 8. With the next beta release only a couple weeks away, that excitement continues to build: if you’d like to see Windows 8 running on a slate, laptop or server, we’ll be happy to show it off.

  • May 23, 2012

    TechNet Gallery – Microsoft’s Hidden Gem

    How often have you found yourself in a situation where you’re being asked for
    a list of all computers that haven’t logged into the network in 6 months? Or
    maybe you’re being asked to provide a list of all group membership of all users
    in a specific department. Perhaps you are like every other admin looking for the
    easy way out and trying to find a way to do something with a one line command
    instead of going to 4 different consoles (think user provisioning). Lucky for
    you, there are a lot of bright minds out there and someone has probably already
    figured out how to do this.

    Enter the Microsoft TechNet Gallery (http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/).
    This is a place for IT professionals to come together and submit their best
    scripts and tools to the community for other people to find and use. From Active
    Directory to Remote Desktop Services to System Center, the TechNet Gallery has
    tools and information that will make you look like the next IT genius. Many
    scripts and solutions have been submitted by key Microsoft employees and teams (The
    Exchange team and PowerShell teams are very active here) but just as many are
    submitted by the community (including New Signature’s own Reed M. Wiedower!)

    Some of my favorite tools include:

    Client System Administration Tool: (http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/a5aff367-7b47-4b50-a2ef-20dcb4bb6d64)
    – This is a tool all help desk administrators should keep in their back pocket,
    using PowerShell and a easy to use gui interface to remotely pull information
    about any desktop including permissions, update logs, local admins or startup
    items.

    User Termination App: (http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Z-Term-Active-Directory-2dcb5756)
    - The process IT has to follow after an employee termination is often a tedious
    one involving multiple consoles and systems even within a pure Windows
    environment to ensure that access is properly revoked. This PowerShell tool
    attached to Active Directory, Exchange, Lync and File Services ensures that
    all Windows level access is de-provisioned at the same time in a consistent and
    repeatable process. A must have for any helpdesk that is looking to speed up its
    departing user procedure.

    Lync Server Unified Backup Tool: (http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Unified-Collaboration-Lync-d9ddeedd)
    – Lync Server is a great program, however there are so many pieces involved,
    it’s sometimes a massive effort in itself to make sure that you are backing up
    all the right pieces. This tool takes all the guesswork out of the backup
    process and allows you to run your backup from one central location and ensure
    you can restore from them when necessary.

    This is only a small snapshot of the types of scripts and tools that you can
    find on the TechNet Gallery. New items are added almost daily and existing items
    are being updated with new versions. Check it out!

  • May 17, 2012

    CSS Media Queries and Flexible Embeddable Widgets

    While CSS3′s media queries are typically used in service of responsive design, we’ve identified another use for them: embeddable widgets.

    It’s not uncommon for an organization to want to offer to its customers/supporters something they can quickly post onto their own websites, such as a poll or artwork announcing an upcoming event or current campaign/sale. In the case of images, the typical approach has been to offer several variants at some standard sizes and let the users choose which to embed. For more dynamic content, such as a poll or Twitter feed, users are typically presented with a fixed size.

    Combining CSS3 media queries with iframes, however, gives you the ability to offer embeddable content that adapts its layout to the space given. You can offer one layout for columns only 150 pixels wide, one for 150-300 pixels, and another for when your widget is over 300 pixels wide, for example. Here’s how we’d recommend approaching this:

    Design your formats and write your CSS with media queries

    The first step, obviously, is to figure out how many different layouts you want to offer and what the “breakpoints” are for switching between them. How many there are and where those breakpoints will lie depends on the content you’re putting in your widget, but a good starting place for considering what sizes to target is the IAB Display Advertising Guidelines, which outline common Web ad sizes (and may give you a good sense of what people’s websites are likely to be able to accommodate).

    Once you’ve got your layouts designed, code them out with media queries (here’s a quick introduction to writing media queries), setting your breakpoints appropriately.

    Depending on how you’ve approached your designs, the iframe your content appears in may be able to always work at a fixed height, or might need the height to vary depending on the width. Either way is fine, though having to adjust the height makes things a little bit more complicated.

    Include code for compatibility with Internet Explorer

    CSS3 media queries are only supported by IE9 and above — and even IE9′s support is buggy. This normally isn’t an issue for responsive design, since the goal in that situation is to adjust to mobile devices (which aren’t running old versions of IE). But your iframe will be appearing on desktops, so you need to make sure your CSS is being loaded properly.

    Fortunately, there’s respond.js, which you can embed into your page to ensure that old versions of IE will load the proper CSS. Respond.js is a small javascript that helps IE support media queries.

    Unfortunately, though IE9 in theory supports responsive designs, it actually has problems with iframes that load external CSS files. So unless you’re including all your CSS inside a <style> tag in your page, you need to also get around this problem. As of this writing, the stock version of respond.js doesn’t affect IE9, so we’ve forked it and added some code specifically to account for this scenario. You can get our modified version of respond.js here.

    Write the code for embedding your iframe

    How complex this is depends on several factors, such as whether or not the height of your iframe needs to adapt to the width. If it doesn’t, you can simply offer your users something like this:

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    <iframe frameborder="0" height="X" src="http://www.yourwebsite.com/path/embed.html" width="100%"></iframe>

    Where “http://www.yourwebsite.com/path/embed.html” is the location of the HTML file for your embed, and X is set to a fixed height you’ve planned for your layouts.

    However, if you need to adjust the height based on the width, instead what you’ll want to do is write some javascript that dynamically adjusts the height of the iframe. It might look something like this:

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    (function(){
        document.write('<iframe src="http://www.yourwebsite.com/path/embed.html" width="100%" border="0" frameBorder="0" style="border:0;" id="the-embed-id"><' + '/iframe>');
        var the_iframe = document.getElementById('the-embed-id'),
            offsetWidth = the_iframe.offsetWidth, newHeight = '60px';

        if (offsetWidth < 300) {
          newHeight = '600px';
        } else if (offsetWidth < 400) {
          newHeight = '300px';
        } else if (offsetWidth < 600) {
          newHeight = '80px';
        }

        the_iframe.style.height = newHeight;
    }());

    You’d then put those lines of Javascript (adjusted for your own breakpoints and desired heights, of course) into a file on your webserver, probably in the same directory as your embed.html with a name like embed.js, and offer the following snippet to your users to put on their sites:

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    <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.yourwebsite.com/path/embed.js"></script>

    And there you have it! Provided your CSS media queries are well-formed, you’ve got the correct version of respond.js linked to from your embedded HTML page, and your embed code is error-free, you should now have a flexible widget that your advocates can put on their sites, and it will eat up as much horizontal real estate as allowed and the layout will adjust accordingly, even in IE.

  • Christopher Hertz Named 2012 Small Business Person of the Year by the DC Chamber of Commerce

    Christopher Hertz, New Signature’s CEO, has been named the 2012 Small Business Person of the Year by the DC Chamber of Commerce.  The award is presented to the individual who embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, demonstrating characteristics such as civic community leadership, innovation in customer service, entrepreneurial spirit, outstanding contributions to the community, social responsibility or who have made a significant social and/or economic impact in the District of Columbia’s business community.

    He received this prestigious honor at the Chamber’s Champions Small Business Awards held on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at the Renaissance Washington Hotel.  Each year, the DC Chamber of Commerce recognizes the region’s most innovative and successful small businesses–and the people that support them– through the Chamber’s Champions Awards.

    New Signature is one of many of the small businesses that make up the backbone of the American economy, employing more than half the country’s private work force, creating three out of every four jobs, generating and driving a majority of American innovations and increasing U.S. competitiveness. New Signature and other small businesses of Washington, DC are no exception. We have led the economic recovery of our city, and are propelling our city’s growth.

  • May 11, 2012

    SharePoint Online for External Access

    Many of our customers who were using Microsoft’s previous online hosting platform, BPOS, have recently transitioned to the new Office 365 platform and are extremely happy with the new set of capabilities.

    One of the new features I was really looking forward to using when a client transitioned
    from BPOS to Office 365 was the ability for external individuals to be able to access
    SharePoint site collections.  This is great for a company in two ways:

    1. They don’t have to take time away from their usual tasks to either contact IT
      support to create an account or to do it themselves
    2. They don’t have to spend the money on an additional Office 365 license

    All a company has to do is ask the external individual if they already have a Live ID –
    including an MSN or Hotmail email account – and if not, just follow this link
    to sign up for one:

    https://accountservices.passport.net/ppnetworkhome.srf?lc=1033&mkt=EN-US

    …and they will be able to authenticate with Office 365 site collections.

    For customers who have just signed up for Office 365, this process works normally.
    Unfortunately, when I tried to share out the site collections for a customer
    who transitioned from BPOS things did not end up being that simple.  I
    took care to follow the link below so that the site collections were set up
    correctly in Office 365:

    http://www.office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/share-a-site-with-external-users-HA102476183.aspx

    Upon clicking on Site Actions I was still unable to see the option for sharing the
    site collection.  Perplexed, I did a little research and found out that
    all existing BPOS SharePoint site collections were not transitioned from
    SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 making the option to share the site
    collections with external users impossible.  To remedy this I performed
    the steps below to transform a client’s existing BPOS SharePoint site
    collections into SharePoint 2010 site collections and invite external users.

    Warning: Please make sure to contact the administrators of the site collections you wish
    to change and warn them that the look will be different so they know to expect
    it.

    1. Open the SharePoint 2007 site you’d like to make the
      change on and click on Site Actions followed by Site Settings
    2. Click on Visual Upgrade under Site Collection Administration
    3. Click on the update all sites button
    4. Once that’s done, the site will now look like a 2010 site and you can use the share
      site feature.

    Armed with this information, you  can ensure that all transitioned organizations get to experience the full look, feel and features of SharePoint 2010.

  • Windows Internals, 6th Edition Part 1

    6th editionMuch like a blockbuster movie, the Windows Internals team decided to split their latest tome, Windows Internals 6th Edition (WI6), covering Windows 7 into two chunks to ensure it arrived before Windows 8 was released. The first part of the series arrived earlier this month, and is a comprehensive look at the inside of the Windows platform.

    Alex Ionescu, Mark Russinovich and David A. Solomon have all contributed to the rich tapestry of Windows Internals in the past, and their work is, as usual, top-notch. The decision to split the book into two sections was a good one, as it has been almost 3 years since Windows 7 was released, as well as the last Windows Internals volume, which covered Vista and Server 2008. Though it’s not their fault, with Server 2012 and Windows 8 due out later this year, the only frustrating part of reading WI6 was the realization that within a year, many design decisions will be out of date.

    With that frustration out of the way, the book is quite comprehensive, much like its predecessors. Because it covers both Window 7 and Server 2008R2, which are evolutionary updates from the kernel present in Vista and 2008, the content is mostly deeper, rather than wider, in nature. Many of the key concepts will not have to be completely relearned if one was already familiar with the underlying architectural decisions. Over the past three years, the tools used in the book have also been updated greatly, and revisiting them is a key improvement. Having the tools documented in a previous work resulted in a quicker learning process as well, which wasn’t possible with earlier editions.

    From how processes work, to the internal functions of the kernel to power management implications in multi-processor architectures, WI6 lays out every concept in readable detail. Because this isn’t designed for the casual systems administrator, or even the mid-level developer, the concepts can get extremely technical in a hurry. As a reference book, WI6 is perfect, but it falls a little flat from a narrative perspective, simply because many of the concepts are interlocking in a way that prevents a serial approach to learning. On the plus side, this ensures that every chapter stands on its own. For fans of the Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference, this work is far drier and academic, but no less useful.

    For serious developers and system administrators, the tools and methods detailed in WI6 are without equal. As such, it definitely belongs on your wall (or in your Kindle) for advanced troubleshooting. Even when Windows 8 and Server 2012 are released, Windows 7 and Server 2008R2 will continue to be deployed at many enterprises, making this reference work invaluable. Hopefully the second half of the book will be released before those products!

     

  • May 10, 2012

    New Signature Video Debuts at Annual Meeting Cocktail in Australia

    As part of the sneak preview to their new website, New Signature produced a video for the Lowy Institute which debuted at their Annual Meeting cocktail event in Sydney. In addition to web design, the Lowy Institute approached New Signature requesting ideas for one of their most important annual events with their stakeholders, which was hosted by Lowy’s Director, Michael  Wesley. New Signature proposed creating a 2-3 minute animated video of their site which would build up excitement to Lowy’s new online presence, establishing themselves with full authority and character, as the brand evolves to a solid global name.

    New Signature’s out-of-the-box solutions has helped different organizations strengthen their presence through a variety of channels, not just web design. As video continues be one of the most  influential channels of communication, we have expanded our portfolio to offer these services to our clientele with smart visuals that support their branding and messaging.

    We are proud to add this video as part of New Signature’s growing portfolio, that will expand our creative offerings beyond website development,  packaging our abilities from web design to multimedia for purposes of promoting our client’s brand.

  • May 9, 2012

    New Signature Launches Strategic Website Redesign for The Lowy Institute

    New Signature is excited to announce the Lowy Institute website redesign launch.

    Ranked as Australia’s top think tank, the Institute provides high-quality research and distinctive perspectives on the trends shaping Australia and the world and fresh policy options on these questions. The Lowy Institute commissioned New Signature to create a website design that reflects their global reach.

    Our team spent extensive time analyzing their current website, visitor analytics, and usage patterns. This work led to a series of strategic recommendations for the redesign project. All subsequent design and development effort took place with this larger strategic framework.

    Three examples:

    1. Like many think tanks, the Lowy Institute had been using a legacy “subject based” taxonomy to organize web content.  We recommended a revised classification structure that divided their publications into Issues, Regions, Experts, and Program.  The site navigation and search are designed for professional users to quickly “drill” to topics of interest.
    2. The content is “interconnected” to allow for rapid transitions between topics. This encourages the user to explore the range of Lowy Institute publications.
    3. The Lowy Institute covers a large geographical area with extensive research on the Asia Pacific region.  The redesigned site incorporates Google Translare for effortless translation of content into 16 Different languages.


    About the Lowy Institute

    The Lowy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank located in Sydney, Australia. The Institute hosts debates and discussions within Australia and internationally. The Institute’s vision is an open Australia, engaged with the world. Their work is inspired by the knowledge that Australia’s future depends on our capacity to understand, and respond to, a rapidly changing world. They know that Australian views and ideas can make a real contribution to dealing with global challenges.

    The website can be viewed here: LowyInstitute.org

    About New Signature

    New Signature provides a range of Strategy, Design, and Development services.  Please contact us if you are interested in learning how we can work together.