SharePoint development

My boss told me this week that I may need to do some SharePoint development work for my next project. I don’t have any details on what exactly I might need to do, but I think it’s likely to be creating a Web Part that will interface with Dynamics AX in some way, probably through a web service. I’m well-versed at this point on the Dynamics AX side of things, but I know almost nothing about SharePoint development. So, being the proactive kind of guy that I am, I’m starting to flounder around, trying to figure out what I can about SharePoint development.

It’s not easy to get started. At work, I asked one of the other developers for some pointers, since she’s done some SharePoint work before, but since I don’t really have any details about what I’m supposed to be doing, she wasn’t much help. I don’t want to waste her time, so I’m going to hold off on asking her any more questions until I have a better idea of what I need. And, on the IT end, I had one of the SharePoint admins set up a site that I can apparently use for testing, once I’m at the point where I actually have something to deploy. But there’s not much I can do with it right now.

I have Visual Studio 2012 installed on my AX VM, so I went ahead and installed the SharePoint tools on that VM. That worked, and I now have the templates needed to create a new SharePoint web part project in VS. But, it seems that you can’t actually create a SharePoint web part project on a machine that doesn’t have SharePoint itself installed on it. Looking into it a bit further, it seems like it might be possible to do so, but it’s not obvious or simple. And that’s about as far as I got in work on Friday.

Today, I decided to see how far I could get in setting up a full SharePoint 2013 VM on my ThinkPad. I’m using VirtualBox on the ThinkPad, and I have plenty of hard drive space, so I decided to give it a go. I loosely followed the instructions in this blog post by Bill Baer, though I simplified things as much as I could. I downloaded the 180-day trial of Windows Server 2012 as a VHD. Then, I got that up and running in VirtualBox. I had to mess around with the settings a bit to get it to work, but it seems to work fine under VirtualBox, once you get the settings right. Then, I downloaded the 180-day trial of SharePoint 2013 and installed that. I hit a few snags, but nothing that I couldn’t get past with a little Google-fu. All of that downloading and installing killed most of the day. Now, the sun is about ready to go down, and I’ve got a VM that probably has a working SharePoint 2013 install on it. I say “probably” because I haven’t been about to bring it up in a browser yet. I think that’s just because the VM is running slow, and it’s taking a while to get past all the background stuff that needs to happen on a new Windows Server 2012 and SharePoint 2013 install. So, for now, I’m patiently letting it chop away at 100% CPU, hoping that eventually, it’ll settle down and become usable. There may be a few more things to straighten out though. If so, I guess I’ll be spelunking through some log files and doing some more Google-fu.

Once I’m sure I’ve got a working SharePoint 2013 install, then I’m going to have to install Visual Studio 2013. I’m hoping I can just use the free version of VS 2013, but I’m not sure. If I can’t, then I guess I have to check and see if there’s an eval version of VS 2013 Pro, or whichever version I need for SharePoint dev.

I’m not sure if the end result of all this is going to be a usable VM. The ThinkPad is a few years old. Though I did replace the hard drive with an SSD recently, it’s still only got 4 GB of RAM, and a mediocre CPU. That’s all fine for doing normal work, but it’s a little thin for powering a VM that’s got a full SharePoint install on it. So I may have to give up on this thing entirely.

I found a good blog post on how to set up an “awesome VM” for SharePoint development, but it looks like I’d need a much more powerful laptop to follow those instructions, and probably a lot more free time too. So, if the fairly basic VM that I’m trying to set up now doesn’t work out, I’ll probably give up on it for now.

Meanwhile, I’ve started reading Beginning SharePoint 2013 Development, via my company’s Books24x7 subscription. (And I ordered a used copy of the physical book from Amazon.) I haven’t gotten much useful information out of the book yet, but I haven’t gotten very far into it yet.

I went into this process knowing that I might hit some dead-ends, and knowing that I might not be able to get very far on my own. But I’m hoping that I’ll at least get far enough that I can ask the right questions when I start getting project details from my boss. I’m not sure if I’ll need to set up a new VM on my work PC with the full SharePoint install, or if I’ll be able to hook up my existing AX VM to the test SharePoint site that the admin guy set up for me. Or if I’m even going to need to do any of that at all. But, either way, I’m hoping to learn some new skills, and add “SharePoint developer” to the old resume!

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