Immersion in Internals

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 5 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.

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