Immersion in Internals

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 6 Comments
Published on: January 25, 2011

Paul Randal (Blog | Twitter) and Kimberly Tripp (Blog | Twitter) of SQLSkills are hosting an Immersions training event in Dallas.  This is not run of the mill training, but it is top tier training targeted to three different audiences.  You can read about the event here.

The cool thing about this event is that Paul and Kimberly are hosting a contest and giving away a free seat to their training.  In order to enter the contest, one must write a blog post and explain why they should win.  Details for entry into the contest can be found here.

While prepping to write my own entry, I browsed some of the other entries and two of them really stuck out to me.  The first was by Kendra Little (Blog | Twitter).  Kendra did a superb job of demonstrating that she would employ the knowledge she would learn.  The second was by Robert Miller (Blog | Twitter).  Robert implores Paul and Kimberly to bestow the seat to another person who is more deserving.  To me that is the essence of the SQL Community.  How could I do any better than that?

Why Choose Me?

I thought about maybe making some witty comments about Paul’s accent and needing to get a full week of it.  Or maybe promising that I will definitely wear pants unlike Buck Woody.  Then I thought maybe I could find a cool sheep video.  Those would simply be to hopefully appeal to Paul’s sense of humor.  None of those options seemed to be the right fit this time around though.

I will share a story though.  A few months ago I was speaking at SQLSat54 in SLC.  While in the prep room, we talked about some blog posts from Sean McCown (Blog | Twitter) about bad interviews.  In short, Sean shared some of his interview experiences.  If you read Sean’s rant/series on the subject, you should understand that they were very bad experiences.  I thought these must of been edge cases.

Recently, I have been conducting interviews for a couple of DBA positions.  During those interviews I ask similar questions to what Sean asked.  For some reason every candidate I have interviewed has given the same response to the char() v. varchar() question.  When I follow up with the nchar/nvarchar question, the answers become even more baffling.

How does this relate?  Well, the last candidate that we interviewed happened to be a tenured trainer for SQL Server.  I expected him to nail that question out of the park.  He taught the certification courses as well as other SQL related courses.  He had even taken some of the Certification exams.  Lo and behold the answer was that a varchar held unicode data and char held single byte data.  He was baffled by the nvarchar question.

I have self taught myself for much of my career due to a lack of trust for training programs.  This trainer did not help that cause at all.  I am hoping to get some immersion by REAL trainers with heavy duty SQL training.  I know that Paul and Kimberly are top notch.  I have read many of their blogs and also have listened to some of the MCM prep videos.

In those brief exposures, I know they can restore my faith in organized training.  Furthermore, if I can learn something out of the brief MCM Prep videos, then surely I could learn enough in a full day of immersion with them teaching the course.  As we know, those readiness videos are just the tip of the iceberg.  Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) has said that the Immersion courses go deep on multiple occasions (Our sessions go deep. Really deepcan’t teach OS in 30 minutes, depth of MCM videos).

Having just a little taste of the wealth and value of information available in the MCM Readiness videos by SQLSkills – I want more.  I know that with this kind of training, I can rest easy knowing that there are trainers out there that know there stuff.

There you Have it

I know the content of this training is bar-none the best there is.  By attending this training, I am sure to be exposed to mass amounts of data and possibly a bit of overload.  I’m good with that.  I will definitely put into application and practice the principles I learn.  Furthermore, I will take what I learn and impart what I can with others in the community (within reason).

The Lost Hero – A review

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Published on: January 25, 2011

With what looks to be five books planned in a new series by Rick Riordan, people have some good fantasy ahead of them.

I just finished the first installment in this new series and must say that I am pleased with the story line.  New characters, new aspects of mythology and a third series revolving around those principles.  Rick Riordan has got a really hot topic and something working for him with all three of his series.

In this series we are introduced to the Roman versions of the mythological gods.  With the Roman aspects of these gods, we also get a new class of “evil god.”  Book one takes off from the final prophecy in the Percy Jackson series and brings three new demigods as the central focus.  I like the powers of these new demigods.  I also like the personalities of each.  Rick has done a great job of illustrating their characteristics without making them sound too much like heroes from prior books.

I did not like the grammatical problems constantly repeated throughout this book.  The same thing happened in the Percy Jackson series and got better with each book.  This is not an issue with the dialog but more to do with editing.  An example would be “Jason sat to next to the tree.”  Stuff like that is easily skipped by many people but sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

Overall, I highly recommend the book if you enjoy mythology and fantasy.

SQL Confessions 02 SSRS Encryption

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Published on: January 25, 2011

In December 2010, I started a little series called SQL Confessions.  The idea of this series is as a learning exercise when I come across something that I either did wrong or couldn’t find a better way of doing it at the time.  In that first episode, I admitted to the use of a cursor (drat).  I should go back and update that posting because I got a recommendation of an alternative way to do that.  As of yet, I haven’t tested and it was a one time run (phwew).

This time around, the consequences were a bit bigger.  This time it was a failure and it is related to SSRS.  I came away from the experience with a few options that I want to test and see which method will work best in the event the same thing happens.

In this case, the ReportServer databases were backed up and the backups were good (I used them to restore a secondary database).  We even had SSRS installed on the failover server.  From that one can deduce that a recent failover was required for SSRS – and this was not a test.  Well, if you have the database backed up and a standby server ready to go – what is missing?

What was missing was the encryption key backup.  Life in recovery is a lot easier if that backup key exists.  I could not find it.  This did not prevent me from being able to recover SSRS though – it just meant a little more work.

If you lose your encryption key, then you have an issue with any data that may be encrypted.  Some of the things that are encrypted in SSRS 2008 are:  Connections and Subscriptions.

When you lose the encryption key you lose those items too.  If you have good documentation you can most likely recover them.  In my case I was able to recreate the Connections (DSNs) and bring the reports back up.  I don’t want to reveal the process I used just yet because I do want to test this a bunch more and find the better method to use.

As for the recommended method, here are some articles for reference:

1. Move to a new Server SSRS 2005 (useful even for 2008).

2.  MSDN – Backup the Encryption Key

I hope you find this useful, and the followup should be useful.

January 2011 Meeting Recap

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 20, 2011

One week ago today the Las Vegas User group held our monthly meeting.  One week ago today, at that meeting, we had our best attendance in over a year.  It sure felt good to have a great turnout.

At that meeting, Wayne Sheffield presented to us on temp tables and table variables.  He presented us with a ton of great material.  Many people learned something useful.  Better yet, we got through the meeting without technical difficulty.  We recorded the meeting and it is posted on the livemeeting website for your consumption now.  Near the end of the video, Wayne has requested that you fill out a form at speakerrate.com.  Anybody that was at the meeting, please do so as well.  Please enjoy this little offering from S3OLV to you as you look to learn more about SQL Server.

Recording Details

Subject: January 2011 S3OLV
Recording URL: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/UserGroups/view
Recording ID: GZ76C7

Thanks to all who attended in person and over the net.  It was a great meeting and we sure enjoyed putting it together this month.

January ’11 Meeting Reminder

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Published on: January 12, 2011

If you saw my blog post the other day, you know that S3OLV has a meeting this Thursday (Jan 13, 2010) at 6:30 PM PST.  If not, then you can read that post from here, and then read the rest of this post.

Over the past few months we at S3OLV have been having a tremendous amount of problems with our meetings.  Some of those problems have to deal with the technology.  Some of the problems have to deal with low attendance.  Well, this post is mostly an update on both of those fronts.

As of this evening, we have ~20 people committed to attending this meeting.  That is the highest number I have seen in the last year.  I am real excited to have this many people show up.  We have had decent numbers show up when only 7 or 8 people commit.  If we have people attend that did not commit – that is awesome.  This month I sent out a few reminders of the upcoming event.  That seems to have helped.

On the technology front, I went through a dry-run of the livemeeting with our Presenter Wayne Sheffield.  We made sure audio, bandwidth, and video all worked.  Wayne also spotted a few things he wants to improve between now and tomorrow.  Prior to the meeting we will do another “mic” check to confirm again that all is well.

A third problem was the meeting location locking us out last month.  Oh that was extremely perturbing.  The center has apologized and has confirmed that the space will be available and open tomorrow.  We’ll see on that one if they follow through – but at least they apologized.

I will be signing on at about 6PM PST (7 MST and 9 EST) to do the “mic” check and get the meeting rolling from Utah (hence the MST).  Even from remote, I plan on helping in any way I can with the Las Vegas UG.  For instance, some of the things I can do from remote would be to continue to line up speakers, do presentations, get the newsletter effort rolling, site transition to blog, and move our mailing list to a database on SQL Server that we can manage (less dependency on outside sources).

We are looking for comments and recommendations.  Furthermore we are looking for talented people to help in these efforts.  One area we could really use some help is with the MARKETING.  If you know what you are doing and how we could better advertise our SQL Group to the area – then please drop us a line.

I hope to see many of you online on January 13th at 6:30 PST (UTC -8).  This meeting will be good!

TSQL Tuesday 14: Committed

Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: January 11, 2011

Woohoo, It’s TSQL Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuesday!!! This month we are being hosted by one-half of the MidnightDBA – Jen McCown (Blog | Twitter), and she has asked us to speak on resolutions.

If we look in the dictionary we will find that resolution is closely related to several other words such as resolve and commit.  One form of resolution is the formal act of declaring your personal resolve or personal commitments.  For me, maybe it is just the act of having been committed.

More seriously – a resolution is just a fancy way of saying that you are making a personal commitment or personal goal.  As with all goals, you should track it.  Otherwise it’s not really a goal, nor is it really a strong commitment.

My Commitments

For this TSQL Tuesday post, I will just add a short list of my professional goals for this next year.  Otherwise, this post would be mostly about my non-professional goals.

This goals are nothing earth shattering.  But at least they are goals to keep me going, even with all of the other stuff still going on.

  1. Certification – I will complete my MCITP certification this year.  I wanted to do it last year, but never really focused on it or gave myself a firm deadline.
  2. Build out a Virtual Environment – this involves setting some VMs for Oracle, MySQL, FireBird, and SQL Server.  I may add other RDBMS’ to that list.  I want to use this environment to learn how to interface between them using SSIS.
  3. Public Speaking – Through brown bags, SQLSaturdays and User Groups – I want to speak more often.  I hope to do 2 SQLSaturdays (we’ll see how that pans out), 2 UG presentations, and then quarterly brown bags.
  4. Writing – I have two more articles in queue that I need to write and I want to write two beyond that for a total of four this year.  I also need to write more technical blog entries.  This has been extremely beneficial to me.  Writing in an effort to share knowledge has helped me learn the subject better.

Again, that is just a short list of goals, but it should keep me busy in addition to how busy I will be with my other goals, with life, and with family.

As I pondered these goals a bit more, I am somewhat stoked about them.  These goals will help with other goals.  These goals will help me to learn quite a bit – even though they may seem a bit generic.  I put a fair amount of thought into these and know I can achieve them, but also know that I have stepped them up a tad from last year.  I am looking forward to meeting some of you at SQL Saturdays as well as I am stoked about my Virtual Environment.

January 2011 S3OLV

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 10, 2011

Tis the calm before the storm.  At least it feels like that.  The invites have all been sent.  The presenter lined up.  Reminders have been sent and now we are down to just a couple of reminder blogs and finger crossing.

If you have been following the adventures of the LV UG, you know that the past couple of months have been a real riot.  Definitely not a riot in a good way.  We are talking about problems from all directions and frags blasting our efforts to pieces.  This month we buck that trend.

One thing for certain that will be different this month is that I will be participating virtually.  I will be attending the meeting through our livemeeting setup – remotely.  For those wishing to attend like me, you can do so by following these two simple steps.

  1. Copy this address and paste it into your web browser:
    https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/UserGroups/join
  2. Copy and paste the required information:
    Meeting ID: GZ76C7
    Location: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/UserGroups

Our meeting will be held at 6:30 PM PST (Jan 13, 2011), but you are welcome to join the meeting starting at 6 PM PST.

This month we have a guest presenter from the east coast who will be talking to us about temporary tables and table variables.  There is a lot of good info to be gained from this presentation.  Wayne Sheffield is the presenter and we are glad he has given us a second shot at this presentation.  He, like me, will be presenting from remote.

SQLCruise Contest

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Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 5, 2011

For those who may not have heard, there is training for SQL Professionals called SQL Cruise.  You can find more info here.

There is a bit of interesting news for an upcoming cruise.  There is a contest asking you to elaborate your mad SQL Skills and how you saved the day.  The contest is sponsored by Idera.  Here’s the problem as I see it with that contest though.  In order to participate you have to enter through Idera’s facebook page.  I’m not a fan of that site.  I don’t have an account and I won’t be signing up – not even for SQL Cruise.  For any of you who are interested – enjoy and good luck.  Believe me, I was stoked about the contest until I read that blurb about having to submit via Facebook.

MockingJay – a review

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 4, 2011

After a long wait, I have finally read the final installment in the “Hunger Games” trilogy.  I read the other two books earlier in the year in 2010 and then had to wait for the third book to come out.   Once the book came out (September 2010) I had to find some time to read the book.  Actually, I had to make time to read it.  Reading helps to de-stress and I just needed to do it.  you can read my reviews of the other books here and here (d’oh didn’t write one for the first book).

Up front – this was the third best book in the series.  I was mildly disappointed in this book.  The story was good but was just not as good as the first two.  It seemed to me that the author was trying to develop the story as the story unfolded.  The twists and turns in the plot were minor and mostly the plot was about the Mockingjay recovering from this or that.  It just wasn’t in true hunger games fashion.

It also seemed obvious to me that Plutarch (games master) was busy trying to orchestrate yet another Hunger Games.  That became painfully evident early on but was blaringly obvious when they are in the command center going over the map for Capitol City.  And if there was any doubt in the final chapters as to who did what in regards to a certain bombing event – you weren’t paying attention while reading.

I still liked the book and i still liked the series – I expected more and for it to be better.  If the book was to be another Hunger Games – then play that up a bit more.  It is the how the first two books were written and the description of the games that got people intrigued.

I would still say to go read the book and the entire series though.

Having Cake and Eating it too

Categories: News, Professional
Tags: , ,
Comments: 13 Comments
Published on: January 3, 2011

Every once in a while it is necessary to do something a little more than a blog post about SQL Server.  This happens to be one of those occasions.  This time around I wanted to boast a little about the talents of my wife.  My wife is an amateur cake decorator.  Everything she does is self-taught and from her own artistic creations.  My children really look forward to their birthdays.  For them, it is a lot less about the toys than it is about the cake.  Ask them what their cake was for their last birthday and they will tell you immediately.  Ask them what toy they got and they fumble around trying to figure out the answer to that question.  That is really awesome.

Here are a few of her creations.

This cake is a dinosaur made for our son Garrett on his 3rd birthday.

This cake was made for my first daughter for her first birthday.  She might have a little more difficulty telling you what here cake was.  Too bad she can’t truly store jewelry in this musical ballerina jewelry box.

This tank was created for our oldest son just last year.  Unlike an M1-A1 or Sherman, this tank is fully edible.  Next time, she will need to add some fireworks.

This one is a couple of monster trucks that you may recognize (e.g. Bulldozer with its horns).  This Monster Cake was made for my sons 4th birthday.  You can see he is there ready to eat it.

This cake is LEGO Batman and was for the 5th birthday for Kyle as well.  This cake is also 100% edible and was eaten very quickly.  You should have seen the enjoyment my son got out this.

This R2 unit was made for me.  This was a new challenge for my wife with the cylindrical shape and it being upright.  She did a good job on it.  This was from a couple of birthdays ago.

This cake was a cake that she did as a giveaway.  She did this one for the birthday of another child in our neighborhood.  She did a fantastic job on this cake.

These are just some of the cakes that my wife has done over the past few years.  She doesn’t do the cakes as a part of a business but more as a hobby.  She gets great satisfaction out of it.  I think she should develop this talent a bit more and expand it to be more than just a hobby.  When she has the time and practice on cakes like this, they are incredible.

I would like to see her open up her own shop some day.

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