Switch between modern SharePoint homepages using PnP PowerShell

I’ve been working on a modern intranet project amongst over projects for the last 12-months. This has been more about the transformation of content and business processes, rethinking information architecture and reimagining a modern intranet than it has been about custom development.

We’ve recently been testing variations in the design of a homepage with different audiences. This side-by-side comparison has allowed end-user feedback, performance and accessibility testing. The same approach has also been useful for previewing and testing the capabilities of new features (like the new Yammer web part). The challenge comes when you need to promote or switch over one of these variations as the new site homepage. The homepage is the page users are directed to when first navigating to a site or clicking on the site logo. It is like as important as the index.html or default.aspx page existence to a website. Note that these variations of the homepage permit testing of content and not site configuration. To test navigation, theme or similar we have separate sites and environments for this purpose.

To solve the problem switching the homepage from an existing page whilst preserving the home.aspx page name I’ve leveraged the SharePoint Pnp cmdlets to create a script that will rename or remove the current homepage (and can remove it through a toggle) and then rename an existing page to make it the new homepage.

Set-SPNewHomePage script demonstration
Demonstration of the Set-SPNewHomePage script in action.

Use my PnP PowerShell script to replace the home.aspx page

Alternative methods

Change the default homepage through SharePoint

Site Owners can use the out-of-the-box make homepage action to make any page the default homepage or welcome page. This is available from the toolbar in the site pages library. But this keeps the page name and means the default page is /sitepages/randompagename.aspx instead of the standard /sitepages/home.aspx that all sites have. From my perspective this is not great. Certainly, intranet-like sites should follow some basic content management principles. Call in a touch on the OCD side but consistently having a standard homepage is one of these for me.

Screenshot of setting a new homepage in the site pages library.
Screenshot of setting a new homepage in the site pages library.

Change the welcome page site property through Site Settings or PowerShell

Previously you could use the classic settings page (typically exposed by the publishing feature) or by browsing to /_layouts/15/AreaWelcomePage.aspx to make changes to the welcome page. This method no longer works and throws an error.

As with the make homepage action describe earlier this changes the default homepage to the use the page name you have provided and means the site won’t be available if users have bookmarked the site with the page name (/sitepages/home.aspx) in the URL.

Screenshot of the welcome page site settings page.
Screenshot of the welcome page site settings page.

What is my point? To this day can I still memory recall core settings pages. With these, you can quickly review or makes changes to settings pages rather than using the UI to navigate to them. This includes those that may no longer be exposed in the UI. Whilst my memory serves me well I don’t recommend this approach as these pages and settings are gradually being replaced with alternatives or removed by the SharePoint and Office 365 engineering team for a reason.

Instead, you can also use Pnp PowerShell to change the site welcome page property. I’ve provided an example script below.

As simple as my script is, it is the approach worth learning the most. I hope you find this article useful and as with all Pnp development effort. Sharing is caring!

Framing an #IOT thing of beauty

A picture can tell a thousand words. That’s just what I wanted to achieve by placing my Raspberry Pi into a picture frame. This all started with a long trip to IKEA over the weekend. One of those trips where you get to the car and realise you have way too much to fit it all in the car. During this long trip, I spotted a thick picture frame. My mind jumped at the thought of placing a working Raspberry Pi within it. Well, this evening I decided to give it a try and went about trying to house a Raspberry Pi in the picture frame and succeeded.

I researched how others might have tackled this. My searches returned examples where people have made a digital picture frame as opposed to housing or framing a Raspberry Pi in a traditional picture frame. Bizarrely the one example I did find, Digital PI-cture Frame by David Park was from IKEA Hackers. Great minds! This, although some years old was what I had pictured in my head.

IKEA Ribba picture frame

I love my tech and whilst I appreciate the clean, tidy and organised side of life. Sometimes I hate hiding things away too. This isn’t just any Raspberry Pi, this is one that is the hub of our home automation. One that should be out on display for everyone to see.

I was really torn whether I should house a Raspberry Pi 3b or a Raspberry Pi Zero within the picture frame. They are both absolutely beautiful and remarkable devices. In the end, I decided on the Raspberry Pi (RPi) 3b as it is such a significant device to our home. I may add another frame to house a RPi Zero for another project in a few months. For now, the frame currently sits on my desk but I plan to hang this on a significant wall in the house and make a feature of it including some internal lighting.

A picture frame as a Raspberry Pi case

The list below is a summary of bits I used:

  • Picture Ribba frame – IKEA £3.50
  • Black backboard – cut from a recycled notepad
  • Mounting nuts/bolts – taken from a spare Raspberry Pi case

OpenHab

For those wanting to know what that other bit is that is included in the picture frame. It’s a RF transmitter (315MHz). This RPi runs OpenHab where I have some rules that trigger my projector blind to come down or go back up when using my Logitech Harmony remote. Personally, I think the picture frame looks better for having something alongside the RPi rather than having it sat there by itself. I’ll have some more posts on this topic very soon!

My Raspberry Pi at work sending RF codes

Battery powered portable Sonos Play:1

Well my Sonos Play:1 warranty is now void less than 24 hours after being delivered. This isn’t going to be one of those sexy extreme unboxing it instead of my personal experience in making my first Sonos speaker more portable and more accessible by powering it via USB. In short, I stripped apart a new Sonos Play:1 speaker and added the circuitry to power the unit using USB.

I love music and listening to a few stations on the radio. We have radios scattered throughout the house. This tends to result in me not listening to any of my music or playlists because of the convenience of having a radio in almost every room in the house. I’d say I listen to music or the radio far more than I watch TV. Sonos speakers have always been a ‘thing’ on my ‘for the house’ list and after experiencing them while visiting some friends recently (who highly recommended them mind) I decided to buy a Play:1 and give Sonos a try!

Battery powered Sonos Play:1
A Sonos Play:1 you can move anywhere you like using a portable battery.

I’m now in love with Sonos speakers and question why it has taken me so long to buy one. They’re amazing!

The build quality is great (inside and out!) and more importantly the sound quality is superb (okay so maybe the bass is a bit overdriven on the Play:1 which causes excess bass driven vibrations at times). They kick the ass out of any of my other Bluetooth speakers. I will no doubt buy more Sonos speakers to have throughout the house but until then, I just have the one Play:1 to play with. Which is why I wanted more flexible to move this Sonos Play:1 around the house – from the study to the kitchen to the bathroom, garden and bedroom. This is the reason for this post.

I have plenty of sockets I could power the Sonos Play:1 from both inside the house and out, but I felt USB powered comments would give me the greatest flexibility to move it around. We even have those power outlets with USB included in them which this was another reason to add USB power. Plus I just love tearing things apart I guess.

Struggling with power with volume above 80%

So what gives, nothing other than volume at the top end. I have the same issue with the power consumption of the Play:1, if the volume is above 80% the unit requires more power than what can be supplied. This causes sound distortion and is demonstrated in one of the videos that inspired me to do this hack in the first place (Sonos PLAY:1 USB powered, how-to!!). Anything above 80% volume is really kicking it in the first place so I’m not troubled by this compromise.

The wireless performance of a portable Play:1 is really impressive. I moved it throughout the house and garden and I’ve yet to experience the Play:1 stop streaming due to connectivity issues. This in part is down to the quality of my home network but credit, where credit is due Sonos, has done a great job here. When I travel, I travel with my trusted MiFi device. It replicates my home SSID. This means any of my devices connect just like they would at home and don’t need any more config. I could, therefore, take my Sonos speaker with me when on the road, staying away or travelling, assuming you have an amazing data plan or a music library accessible by the Sonos speaker!

Hacking apart the Sonos Play:1

I won’t detail the specific steps involved, in part, I don’t want to be hit with the bill for replacement Sonos speakers. But also because I managed perfectly by watching two YouTube videos – Sonos PLAY:1 USB powered, how-to!! and Howto open Sonos PLAY:1 – Part 1. Happy for you to reach out to me for any questions or help if you’re trying this out yourself.

Basically, I took the Sonos Play:1 apart, carefully pulled the circuitry out. I then added a micro USB socket and step up converter that takes the 5.5V current from a USB input and increases it to 24V to power the Sonos speaker. The only thing I did differently from these videos was that I included the micro USB socket. This makes the cable detachable like most other devices. I intend to use the Play:1 in various locations and didn’t want to lose the figure eight mains power lead nor have a USB cable attached all the time. Win, win!

Inside a Sonos Play:1
Step up converter fixed inside a Sonos Play:1

What I used to pull this off.

  1. Micro USB PCB board (remember power out from a USB requires pin VCC to Positive and GND to GND)
  2. Dremel used to drill and shape the hole used for the micro USB socket on both the speak enclosure and the speaker cage cover
  3. Power step-up converter to increase the USB power from 5V to 24V
  4. 5.5mm USB to a power socket for testing power from a USB power source
  5. Solderless 5.5mm female socket, again for testing with the above lead
  6. Glue gun – the cables and terminals inside the Sonos Play:1 are very well insulated with what appears to be a PVA like glue gun insulation – I did similar with my soldering joints and used the glue gun to secure the step-up converter
  7. Soldiering skills
  8. A good set of Torx screwdrivers
  9. A Jenga like a mind to work out the best place for the extra step up converter component and micro USB socket while still being able to put it all back together again
  10. Dappy looking zip bag to enclose the speaker and battery and make it even more transportable and big buggy pram clip – for example hanging the Sonos under the garden parasol
  11. USB power source or a USB battery and micro USB lead to make your Sonos speaker portable – my current battery is a Repower PB19 a 4.5amp 17000MaH
  12. Heavy duty Velcro to stick the battery to the speaker
Portable Sonos Play:1
Portable Sonos Play:1 powered with a USB battery pack in front of my fire place.
Sono Play:1 with battery attached using velcro
Sono Play:1 with the battery attached using Velcro

My portable Play:1 will live on.

I completely get why you would have a Sonos in almost every room. Until a time when I do, this solution will suffice perfectly thank you. Once I am fully Sonos’ed in every room, my Portable Sonos Play:1 will live on with its dappy looking pull string bag.

Philips Hue LED kit extension lead hack

With most of the house HUE’d up, I thought I would add Hue lighting under the cupboards in our kitchen. I love cooking but am often frustrated because of the poor lighting on the work surface in the kitchen. The trouble is the Philips Hue LED kit is only available in two sizes, the 2m main kit and in 1m extensions. Our kitchen cupboards are split in two by our cooker hob extractor. This leaves me with cupboard lengths of 1.4m and 1.6m. I did some research but could not find an extension lead for the Philips Hue light strips so rather than shedding out on two kits, I decided to hack together a solution to create my own extension lead.

Philips Hue lightstrip extension lead hack
Philips Hue lightstrip extension lead hack

Appreciating the risks and the potential cost of replacement involved if I failed, I took off and carefully hacked my own extension lead together. Below is a list of what you’ll need to do this yourself and the steps involved to make your own extension lead for your Hue light strips.

What you’ll need to hack your own Hue light strip extension lead together

  • Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting 2 m Lightstrip Plus
  • Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting 1 m Lightstrip Plus Extension
  • Wire cutters and a good wire stripper
  • Heat shrink to protect any exposed cables once we finish
  • Soldering iron and solder to join the extension lead wires onto the Philips Hue light strip
  • The desired length of cable (this will be your extension) – I couldn’t find a wire with six cores so used two five metre lengths of four core wire. Far less attractive but good enough for the hack this time around
  • Optional connector terminals and a crimp tool (male/female spade terminals) – these allowed me to pass the extension lead through backs of my cupboards more easily
  • Optional staple gun to tack the leads to the cupboards.
The tools you'll need to create the extension lead.
The tools you’ll need to create the extension lead.

The steps involved…

  1. Plan and test the placement of your light strip and where you will attach the extension lead.
  2. Work out the route of your extension lead – in my case I went through the backs of the cupboards and then up and over the top of my extraction fan. This required a few holes to be drilled into the cupboards.
  3. Prepare your extension lead. Strip and tin each of the wire with the soldering iron.
  4. Decide if you will include a connector to allow you to separate the extension lead from the light strip. If you are going to add one, cut, strip and crimp the wires with your connector – in my case I used a set of spade terminals.
  5. Grandad always said measure twice cut once – so run through your placement and cabling route once more.
  6. And don’t be silly – remember to power off the light strip before the next step!
  7. Cut the light strip at the nearest cut joint because this is where we will solder our extension lead wires onto.
  8. Carefully cut back some of the outer plastic on the light strip so that you can solder your wires onto the terminals. Make sure you don’t forget to include some heat shrink to protect these joints once you have terminated the wires.
  9. Test the lights work correctly before fitting in your desired place.
  10. Tip! If placing under cupboards, place the light strip at the back for the best effect.
  11. Optionally use a cable staple gun to tack the extension lead throughout its route to make it extra secure.

Grandad always said, measure twice cut once.

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Product improvement idea

Philips could avoid this problem altogether and avoid any hacking at all. Firstly they should offer an official 6 core extension lead. Secondly, they could alter the cut joint they include at various points throughout the light strip. Making each cut joint made up of a male and female connector under the plastic. To extend the lightstrip you would then simply cut over the joint and use the official Philips Hue light strip extension lead. The extension lead would have a male and female connector at each end, allowing you to simply connect it to the section you have just cut.

extensionlead

That aside, kudos to the Philips team for creating amazing lights and for placing cut joints throughout the light strip. This made my hack so much easier to pull off.

The Philips Hue light strip at it's brightest.
The Philips Hue light strip at it’s brightest.

I’m really impressed with the outcome of the Philips Hue LED light strips and my custom extension lead hack. I hope you find this article helpful and it inspires others to extend Hue light strips more easily. This post is part of my home automation series. If you liked this hack, be sure to check out some of my other home automation hacks.