March 24, 2011

Back in the (blogging) Saddle

Posted in Development, Learning, SQL Community, SQL Saturday at 9:00 am by David Taylor

This blog is all about learning, and recording things that I have learned. The thing I learned most recently is that I have been remiss in recording what I have learned. Mostly through the lack of time that has been my bane for months, but also because of the high level of interest I have had in what I have been learning, and for a SQL Server DBA, it’s a strange thing – it’s .NET!

Let me work backwards through time. I will be a bit brief, because, once again, lack of time is creeping up on me (it’s nearly midnight as I write this, and I need to be up in the morning.) This past weekend, I attended, and spoke at, SQL Saturday #70. I have been to quite a few of these events in the last couple of years, and they always recharge my batteries, so to speak.

I won’t go into session by session detail about the event, but I will say it was one of the more well run SQL Saturday’s I have been to, with an as usual for SQL Saturday stellar lineup of speakers (aside from your humble author, of course) people like Andy Leonard, Julie Smith, Jessica Moss, and those are just the BI track folks. I spoke at some length with several people at the Speaker dinner and the actual event. One man, Brian K McDonald, said to me, if you’re going to get anywhere in this business, you have to blog, blog often, and blog more. Along with the general battery charge mentioned, that was the impetus for me to dust off my WordPress password and get back out here :)

Like I said, briefly and going backwards in time, the .NET learning I have been subjecting myself to is the result of a huge project given to me at my place of work. While I am the DBA there, I am also sort of a jack of all trades, dabbling in mechanical Quality issues, training, SQL Server, and Office programming. We have Office 2003 there, still, and, if you’ve ever done any programming with that version, maybe you know what a bear it is.

The project is to take our paper work instructions, and create a paperless work instruction delivery system. So far, I have written a VB.NET program do deconstruct our Word 2003 instructions into their constituent main body text and what Office calls Shapes (all the Textboxes, Callouts, Pictures, etc.) get them into a memory stream of XML, and then get that resultant XML into a SQL Server database. Then I wrote another program that takes a part number and station ID, and displays the correct page(s) of work instruction for that station. It’s not done yet, right now I display everything except the callout lines, and I hope to have that going tomorrow. After I get that, I will wrap it all up into a WCF Service and Client set of programs so that I can have the service running on our server and get Thin Clients at each workstation to display the instructions.

Brief, as I said, but I hope you get a sense of how big this thing has been, how much of my time it has taken.  All of this is to, in my own way, apologize for not being around much these last couple of months. I know some of you asked, after the first few weeks, why I wasn’t blogging, and I know I was letting some folks down. I am sorry. I have several blog posts lined up describing in more detail what I have learned in my .NET adventure, and how it relates to SQL Server, how I have built the database and what stored procedures and whatnot I am writing for it, both for my own documentation and, hopefully, your interest.

Thanks, and I hope to see you around here more, as I plan on being around here more!

October 19, 2010

I’ll be presenting at the Columbus, GA PASS Chapter!

Posted in SQL Community, User Group at 9:00 am by David Taylor

I’ll be presenting my “To Click or Not to Click…” Presentation for the Columbus, GA Chapter of PASS, Wednesday, October 20, at the Main Branch of the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.

I’m quite honored to be asked! I’ve only spoken four times ever before, two SQL Saturdays and twice at this User Group. I assume, of course, that someone else bowed out :)

The blurb on my session goes something like this (well, exactly like this, as I copied and pasted it from the UG site!!)

When administering SQL Server, in SSMS are you a clicker or a typer? This session explores the use of the GUI vs. using scripting in SSMS to get day-to-day tasks accomplished, with a bent toward scripting for increased accuracy, control and speed. Tasks are illustrated through the use of the Day-to-Day section of Brad McGehee Sure DBA Checklist at http://www.bradmcgehee.com , Used with Permission and Great Thanks.

Please visit http://columbusga.sqlpass.org/default.aspx for more information about our little group, and I hope to see you there!

July 20, 2010

I’m an MCITP SQL Server 2008 DBA!

Posted in Certification, Learning, SQL Community, SQL Server, SQL University at 10:00 am by David Taylor

Last week, I passed the Microsoft 70-450 exam, PRO: Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Administrative Solution Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008. I have the SQL Community to thank for it, and I’ll outline why as we go. Mainly, I was asked to write a blog post about how I prepared for the exam, so I will cover what I found helpful, and what I found not so much.

The preparation starts, as with all Microsoft exams, on Microsoft’s Learning site. For this exam, one would start at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-450, which gives the overview, skills measured, preparation, and community links. The overview gives just that, the 50,000 foot look at the exam and the intended audience, along with what Microsoft thinks should be the set of features and concepts the candidate should have experience in. Good enough. I then skipped right to the Preparation Materials tab, thinking I would, like I did for the 70-432 MCTS exam, order up a Training Kit. How often do you see these two words together? #Microsoft – #Fail!

What I found was the following, copied verbatim from the page:

Preparation Tools and Resources
To help you prepare for this exam, Microsoft Learning recommends that you have hands-on experience with the product and that you use the following training resources. These training resources do not necessarily cover all of the topics listed in the “Skills Measured” tab.

Classroom Training
There is no classroom training currently available.

Microsoft E-Learning
There is no Microsoft E-Learning training currently available.

Microsoft Press Books
There are no Microsoft Press books currently available.

Hmm.

OK, plan B. Apparently Microsoft isn’t interested in training their users for a product that has been on the market for two years, and has actually been superseded by an R2 product! Looks like I needed to find my own way to study for this thing. Luckily, I am a member of the online SQL Server community, and can learn from the best! So, following Buck Woody’s school of thought, I turned to the Skills Measured tab.

If you haven’t seen it, this exam covers a lot. I mean a whole lot! The list of skills measured is actually kind of intimidating, at first. There are seven broad categories of features covered, with innumerable bullet points within each category, which in turn all have multiple objectives. I had taken the MCTS in February, and that was a little difficult, now I had scheduled the MCITP for July 6th, figuring that six months should be ample time to prepare for it.(I know, I know, I missed the Second Shot deadline, but there were reasons.) I was starting to wonder if that were long enough.

The first thing I did was look to see what was out there besides Microsoft’s non-offerings. I had heard good things about Train Signal, and they were having a sale, buy their Advanced SQL Server 2008 Database Administration Training DVD, and get their Windows Server 2008 R2 Training DVD free. Their DVDs do not come cheap, but one thing I had going for me was that getting certified was part of my annual goal at work, so they footed the bill.

So I sat through the 20-some hours of videos, thinking through 60-70 percent of it, ‘I know this stuff! And I am being talked to as if I were in the studio audience at a taping of Barney the Dinosaur!’ Really, it wasn’t that bad, but for something that bills itself as ‘Advanced Training,’ they sure spend a lot of time on the basics! Overall, I would say it’s a decent reference to have around, but I’m not sure it’s worth what they’re charging.

Next, I figured that I should have followed my first instinct, and turned to the community. I asked around a bit, and heard that several people had gone several ways, but the common denominators were Books Online, and Practice.

Always, it’s the basics that works. If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise. If you want a good retirement, live frugally and save. How often is it that we lose sight of these things?

So for the last few weeks before the exam, that’s what I did. I went down the list of objectives in the Skills Measured list, looked up each term I didn’t already know in BoL, and tried each thing out that I could on a test server (my home computer, really – I don’t have a real ‘test server.’ At the time, (and even this moment) I did not have the proper setups to actually practice or perform any of the multiserver HA stuff, like clustering, or replication. I only have one little server box at work, with a whopping 2GB ram, and my home computer to play with. So really, I just read through everything I could about those technologies, trying to at least make sure I had a proper understanding of the concepts.

Throughout, as I said in the beginning, I had the community of which I am so proud to be a part. Every day folks were writing multiple blog posts, SQL University had a week on Certifications, just all kinds of resources to learn from. Actually, some of the best tidbits came from people’s #sqlhelp questions on Twitter, as they tried to figure out why one or the other of the things listed in the Skills Measured wasn’t working, the answers given were actually found as some of the multiple choices on the exam!

So that’s how I prepared. I found out what the requirements would be, I determined how to learn those requirements, I got a nifty couple of training videos, then I followed the community’s recommendation – I got back to basics. I followed the RTFM method, and practiced all I could. Now, because of all that, you are now reading the words of a Certified Professional.

June 25, 2010

SQL Community; PASS Call for Nominations; Exceptional DBA;

Posted in SQL Community at 10:00 am by David Taylor

I am a person of many hats. I am, first and foremost, a father; I am a Quality System Analyst at work; I am a woodworker by hobby; I am a SQL Server DBA / Developer. I am also a member of the SQL Community. I have found that community a terrific group to be a part of. I have made many friends through the community; I have gotten the opportunity to present at a SQL Saturday, I have gotten help through the #sqlhelp tag on Twitter, I am and, if I play my cards right, trust to luck but be sure to cast out my nets (points if you get the reference!) I will soon have a new career simply because I am part of this community. All of these things are of immense benefit, freely given by everyone in the community, and all this and more are available to any who find themselves a part of this community.

But what I feel is the largest and best benefit of being part of this great group of people is the many and varied ways we can all give back to the community. In my last blog post, I mentioned one way I am giving back; I get to be part of the faculty of SQL University. That’s a great honor. Another, ongoing way I give back, and I am not sure how many know this, but I am a Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Virtual Chapter Volunteer. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Application Development VC. In this capacity, I moderate the LiveMeetings twice a month, and in between work with the team of volunteers that really make the VC great, Speaker Coordinator John Jakubowski (Blog | Twitter), Marketing Coordinator Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter),  and Website Volunteer Eric Humphrey (Blog | Twitter).

My blog post today is from the standpoint of a PASS Volunteer. I think if you are part of the SQL Community, you should also be a Member of PASS. If you’re not, go to sqlpass.org right now and sign up – go on, I’ll wait… It’s free; they have terrific learning resources, and are associated with the best in the business. If you’re a member of PASS (and I’m sure that if you weren’t a few minutes ago you are now, right?) then you should take an interest in the governance of PASS. You can read the Board minutes, what the Board is planning, all kinds of great info on their Governance page (login required – I *told* you to sign up, didn’t I?). Further, you should take an interest in who is on that Board.

That is the subject of the first part of my post today. I received an email today that started “The 2010 PASS elections process kicked off this week with the Call for Nominations” asking the email recipients to help get the word out, through emailing, blogging, Tweeting ( hashtag #passvotes), etc. Now, I am seriously as apolitical as they come, so you know I’m not writing this to toe any party line or whatever other clichés any arm chair politicos spout from their La-Z-Boys during the evening news. PASS is something I believe in, wholeheartedly. I can honestly say that my life has gotten better and easier since I have been a member of both PASS and the SQL Community. I feel good asking you to go to http://elections.sqlpass.org to find out more and see what you can do.

Let me paste a couple of paragraphs from that email, this is interesting stuff…

If you’re considering running for the Board, we strongly urge you to apply. The more applications we receive, the better the elections process will run. More importantly, though, PASS would like to see its most talented members in leadership positions. If you think you or someone you know is an ideal candidate, please review what it takes to be a Director, download the application and apply before the July 21 deadline. Click here for other important dates.

As a PASS Director, you would be responsible for the day-to-day activities of the organization, as well as setting the course for the organization on short- and long-term decisions. The primary directive of the Board is to focus on the key strategic issues of the SQL Server community by providing members with opportunities to advance their technical and professional skills, network at the local and international levels, and interact with the industry’s most accomplished users and experts.

You can read more and stay up to date on the elections process at http://elections.sqlpass.org. Please feel free to keep in touch with the Elections team at HQ (consisting of Johannes Bezuidenhout, Governance and Web Content Coordinator and Nancy Nasso, PASS Community Coordinator). You can also voice your opinions via Twitter (#passvotes) or visit the elections discussion forums at http://elections.sqlpass.org (to be launched in early July).

Thanks in advance for staying involved. PASS couldn’t run without your dedication and support!

The second part of my blog post today I would like to spend pimping promoting some of the folks I have met since being in the community, and tout up the great job they have been doing. Yes, I am talking about the Exceptional DBA Award finalists that were announced yesterday. Go on over to http://www.exceptionaldba.com/ and check out the finalists. I can honestly say I have had the honor of actually meeting two of them, and have been blessed and honored to be called friend by at least one of them. All six are terrific in their own right. Check out the site, read their bios, then go and read their blogs, you’ll see all of them deserve the right to be called Exceptional DBAs. And when you’re done reading, VOTE!

This is such a big deal that it was picked up by big news organizations! Check out what CNBC has to say about it on their site… http://www.cnbc.com/id/37868062.

And with that I am going to go put on one of my other hats, and get back to work. Thanks for reading, and see you next week in class at #SQLU!

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