A deeper look @ PowerPivot

PowerPivot for Excel

PowerPivot for Excel supports self-service business intelligence in the following ways.

  • Current row-and-column limitations in Excel are removed so that you can import much more data. This goes far beyond 1,000,000 rows!
  • A data relationship layer lets you integrate data from different sources and work with all of the data holistically. You can enter data, copy data from other worksheets, or import data from corporate databases. You can build relationships among the data to analyze it as if it all originated from a single source.
  • Create portable, reusable data. Data stays inside the workbook. You do not need manage external data connections. If you publish, move, copy, or share a workbook, all the data goes with it.
  • PowerPivot data is fully and immediately available to the rest of the workbook. You can switch between Excel and PowerPivot windows to work on the data and its presentation in PivotTables or charts in an interactive fashion. Working on data or on its presentation are not separate tasks. You work on both together in the same Excel environment.

PowerPivot lets users build relationships between completely different data sources and still have all the data held entirely within the workbook.

Try it out:

You can download PowerPivot for Excel here. Note: It requires Office 2010 beta.


3 tier diagram of client, middle, backend add-ins


PowerPivot for Sharepoint:

“PowerPivot for SharePoint adds services and infrastructure for loading and unloading PowerPivot data”. The PowerPivot System Service tracks usage of PowerPivot workbooks across the app servers on the farm and deals with “setting up new connections to data that is already loaded in memory, and caching or unloading data if it is no longer used or when there is contention for system resources.” It then presents server health and usage data in reports, enabling admins to see how well the system is performing.

Excel Services renders the Presentation layer of a Pivot workbook  while the Analysis Services instances detect, extract and process the Pivot data. Here’s a diagram showing how a query request is processed:

Data processing request diagram

You can see a full overview over on the MSDN site here.

Try it out:

You can download PowerPivot for Sharepoint here. Note: It requires the CTP of SQL 2008 R2  AND Sharepoint 2010 beta.

Installing PowerPivot for Sharepoint

There are a number of pre-requisites and steps to installing the product, and they can all be found here:


Microsoft Black Screen of Death

Recently, a new buzz phrase has risen up…”Black Screen of Death”. Supposedly Microsoft’s latest updates for November have been causing user’s machines to boot up into blackness with no system tray, side bar, desktop etc. The cause, according to PRevX, is that the registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Shell key

was being edited.

This issue was brought to light by security firm PrevX, who said “millions” of people have been affected. However, actually finding someone who’d experienced one has proved very difficult…even on Twitter and the internet at large. This was strange but it didn’t stop it becoming the #1 story on the BBC site today and starting to become quite a talking topic. Microsoft have just released a statement about this saying:

“We’ve investigated these reports and found that our November Security Updates are not making changes to the system that these reports say are responsible for these issues…Thus, we don’t believe the updates are related to the “black screen” behaviour described in these reports.”

As the information and issues weren’t given directly to Microsoft, they are unable to give a definite answer as to what is causing the problem. However, the important thing is to reassure users that Microsoft Updates are safe and should still be applied regularly as normal.

You can see the full MS statement here:




It is still an odd state of affairs as PrevX are a reputable company with some great technology that has really helped me, and our customers, out of some sticky situations. So it’s unlikely that they’d just make it up but perhaps almost as unlikely that they’d be this wrong about something they’ve publicised so much. On the other hand, it’s even less likely that Microsoft would be wrong! So where does that leave us? To be honest I’m not sure…could it be that they’re both right?

MS note that “Black Screens” can be caused by the “Daonol” family of Malware…but “Black Screens” are known in Windows…as this Wikipedia page shows.


A Windows 3.0 BlSOD error message.

Maybe if you have a machine infected with certain Malware AND you do the updates, then the “BlSOD” is triggered?

I honestly don’t know but I’m intrigued to learn more and see how this case is solved!

Update: They’ve Apologised

PrevX have released a statement on their blog confirming Microsoft’s statement that the November updates from MS did NOT cause the Black Screen of Death.

“Having narrowed down a specific trigger for this condition we’ve done quite a bit of testing and re-testing on the recent Windows patches including KB976098 and KB915597 as referred to in our previous blog. Since more specifically narrowing down the cause we have been able to exonerate these patches from being a contributory factor.” (Bold mine)

You can read their full statement here:


Thanks to @Jamestutt for letting me know

SQL Server 2008 R2 Release Date

SQL Server 2008 R2 AKA Kilimanjaro now has a release date..May 6th 2010.

A post over on one of the MSDN blogs confirms this:


This tightens it up from “1st half 2010”, which is good for partners and customers…enabling us all to plan a bit better.

Props to Mary Jo Foleys for this.

Office 2010 coming in June

Office 2010 will be with us in June. This was confirmed by a (now vanished) MS web page, stating that Office 2010 would be released in June 2010. I nearly didn’t bother posting this as it doesn’t seem, to me at least, to be news. I’ve been stating to colleagues and customers that Office 2010 will be here around April/June for a while…based on info already released by Microsoft.

However, I thought I’d better mention it so I don’t look like I’ve missed something ;-)