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!

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August 30, 2010

#sqlsat51 thoughts

Posted in Development, Learning, SQL Saturday, SQL Server at 10:00 am by David Taylor

Thoughts on #sqlsat51

I made the trip up to Nashville to attend SQL Saturday #51 last weekend (August 21), and I am so glad I did! I’ve written, and read, ‘reviews’ of SQL Saturdays before, detailing things like how registration worked, whether there were enough signs pointing the way, how foot traffic flowed, etc. These are good, and probably helpful to people putting on SQL Saturdays, but one thing I learned this time was that you blog for yourself, and hope others are interested. Consequently, I will be blogging not about the mechanics of this SQL Saturday, but how I experienced it, and what I took away from it.

First, though, I’d like to say that I drove up Friday morning, and stayed at a hotel in Franklin, TN. This was about 20 miles from the event, but I justified staying that far away because I drove over six hours to get there, another 20 minutes the next morning wouldn’t kill me, and I found a hotel with an indoor pool and a decent breakfast for under a hundred dollars. Franklin, I found out, has a really neat downtown area, has a great Italian restaurant, and has a Woodcraft store in town! Nearby is a place called Arrington Vineyards, a local winery. They have a tasting, some incredible Riesling, and jazz on the lawn. Nice relaxing afternoon and evening after the long drive.

For this SQL Saturday I wanted to take a little different tack than I usually do, based on the schedule and speakers. SQL Saturdays are known for their excellent technical content, and I usually fill my day with technical learning. To be sure, I attended several excellent sessions with some highly technical content, but my focus for this one was ‘professionalism’ for lack of a better word. I also wanted to make sure I was taking care of the ‘Connect’ part of ‘Connect, Share and Learn,’ touching base with SQL folks I have met over the last year, and meeting as many new folks as would be practical.

I don’t think I can write these next lines and convey the enthusiasm I actually felt, so you’ll have to use your imagination. These are in the order they happened. I met Thomas LaRock (Blog | Twitter)! I met Andy Leonard! (Blog | Twitter) I met Joe Webb (Blog | Twitter)! I met Douglas McDowell (Twitter)! I met Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter)! I met Glenn Berry (Blog | Twitter)! I met Kendra Little (Blog | Twitter)! I met Brian Kelly (Blog | Twitter)! I’m going to be accused of name dropping! Sorry, but being able to meet these stars of the SQL world just blew me away! Not to mention all the folks I met that are like me, ordinary people who are stars in their own lives, but not well known outside their own circles. And it was awesome to see people I only see at these events, but interact with on Twitter. I think one of the highlights of the day was when I was walking down the hall and Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter) (whom I met in Charlotte) smiled and waved and said “Hi, David!” I about fell over when that happened! I was recognized by someone I greatly admire! I tell you what, the SQL Community Rocks!

Now to get into the sessions themselves. One of the best things about SQL Saturday is the number of sessions. One of the hardest things about SQL Saturday is the number of sessions! How do you choose? This time around I chose to focus on the sessions and speakers that covered Professional Development, and in time slots that didn’t offer the subject, get into technical sessions covering things I feel I need or am ready to learn.

First up was Andy Warren’s (Blog | Twitter) Building a Professional Development Plan. I never realized how important having such a plan would be. Andy went over covering how much time do you want to spend on your development, how much money you want to or can spend, and, most importantly because you are probably working on your development outside your normal working hours, how much of your personal life are you willing to give up. Throughout, he emphasized keeping records – what you’ve gotten accomplished, how much time and money was spent. This, I found, was a recurring theme. Write. Take notes. Keep records. These things come in handy. Planning your development, actually writing out your plan, makes your goals concrete and accessible, and keeping good records allows you to see if you are accomplishing what you set out to do.

I then went to see Douglas McDowell’s Realizing ROI for Business Intelligence Projects.  While this was geared more toward a business ensuring ROI on a given project, there were a lot of good ideas for individual professional development, and realizing ROI on any project. I had been taking notes on Evernote all morning, and for this session, the only note I took was “Get this slide deck!” It’s available on the SQL Saturday site.

Following this I attended Fundamentals of SQL Server Internals, presented by Jeremiah Peschka. This was one of those sessions I felt I was ready to learn. Internals in SQL Server is a huge subject, a fact confirmed by Jeremiah. His style was great, though, as he explained concepts to a packed room in an easy manner, pointing out how the various parts of a query get handled by different parts of the Query Engine. His slides are also available on the SQL Saturday site.

Then it was lunchtime, and time for the keynote put on by Kevin Kline (Blog | Twitter) and Thomas LaRock. They made it a good time, and the food was great.

After lunch was another Professional Development type session, this one put on by Jeremiah Peschka. Here he reiterated Andy’s points of making plans and keeping records. He illustrated by pointing out that when review time comes around, if you have been keeping records all along, you can easily show what value you have added to your employer’s business. This emphasis on record keeping must mean something… J

I’m going to admit that I went to Kendra Little’s Take the Awesomeness Home: the Data Collector more to meet Kendra than to learn about the Data Collector. She was someone I followed on Twitter and wanted to meet. Her talk on the Data Collector was very informative, though, and it pointed out to me a couple of things I didn’t know about it. One was that it is not intended to gather data on the server it is on, and secondly, it’s true it can’t be removed easily. I only have one server in my environment, so there is no sense in me having it, but I can only disable it. Ah, well, at least I learned how to use it if I get into an environment where I can.

The last session of the day was Thomas LaRock’s What Are You Waiting For query tuning session. As far as technical sessions went, this one was the one from which I could take the most immediate usefulness back to my server. Using DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) from the Six Sigma world, you go through your queries, defining what’s right and wrong, measure the results, analyze for improvements, make controlled changes, then hit the cycle again. His presenting style was both funny and informative, and his generosity was tempered with tough love J

Overall I had a great time, and learned a great deal. SQL Saturdays are hands down the best training deals out there for SQL Server, with so much given by volunteers, and so much received by attendees. My next SQL Saturday I have submitted a session for, in an attempt to give some back.

Thanks so much, speakers, volunteers, sponsors and PASS!

April 21, 2010

Earning the MCTS SQL Server 2008

Posted in Development tagged , at 2:58 pm by David Taylor

I said on March 8 that I would be posting on, among other things, my recap of studying for and taking the SQL Server 2008 Implementation and Maintenance MCTS, and also my recap of SQL Saturday #33 in Charlotte, NC. Then life took over, things got busy, etc. I won’t sit here and type up excuses or anything, I’ll just forge ahead with my original plan regardless of how late I am with it. We’ll cover the MCTS in this post, and I already have the #sqlsat33 post half written, I will schedule that for tomorrow.

First, I had planned back in September of 2009 to attain my Microsoft certification in SQL Server 2005, so I requested that my company purchased the Self-Paced Training Kit for me to study from, which they did. Subsequently, in October, we upgraded to SQL Server 2008. I decided that because I had been studying for weeks that I would still go for the 2005 MCTS, so I kept working on that. It wasn’t until January that I was convinced, mostly because of working with 2008 for months, that I should try for the 2008 MCTS.

This created a bit of a quandary, first because I had studied 2005 for six months, and second, I didn’t have the Self Paced Training Kit for the 2008 MCTS. I actually acquired a non-Microsoft Press product, more of a video training disk with practice test software, which was OK, but pointed out the next hurdle – the 2008 practice tests covered almost exclusively the new features of 2008, which of course included nothing that I had been studying for months! Throughout January I learned quite a bit about the new features, studied BOL and took practice test after practice. It wasn’t actually until the week before the actual test that I started getting passing grades on these practice tests! Now I was getting nervous.

I probably shouldn’t have gotten nervous. I signed an NDA when I took the test so I can’t reveal what was on it, but I can tell you that what’s on the actual test has very little to do with what is in the study guides I used! From the first question, I was asked about things unfamiliar, and in some cases, the only way I got the answer was because I remembered it being asked about as a #sqlhelp question on Twitter! (shows once again that #sqlhelp works!) In the end, I passed, and I am now a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist in SQL Server 2008 Implementation and Maintenance, w00t!

Next up, MCITP! Going to go for that in the next month or so.

March 8, 2010

Wow, the learning that has been going on!

Posted in Development, Learning, SQL Saturday, SQL Server at 4:21 pm by David Taylor

Forgive me readers, for I have not blogged. It has been more than a month since I have written a blog post. Oh, but what a month it’s been! I think when you read what I’ve been doing, you’ll agree that blogging, while important, kept getting knocked down the priority list until after bedtime every night for over 30 days!

During February, we had a lot of activity at AppDev_VC. For those who don’t know, I am the Volunteer Coordinator for PASS’ Application Development Virtual Chapter (AppDev_VC), which actually gives me a lot of hats. I help with the web site; I help the other volunteers with things, etc. During February, we tried a new thing, engaging users and user groups around the world. We had our first meeting of the month with Allen White (Blog | I don’t actually know if he’s on Twitter), who presented SQL Server Indexing, which went really well but for one little glitch. When I started the recording of the meeting, I mistakenly recorded it locally, to my computer, rather than to the LiveMeeting server! This caused me to spend days and elect the help of the community to figure out how to fix. Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) came to my rescue, converting the LiveMeeting recording into several different formats that I could upload, and even served the recording from his own site for people to view until I could get things straightened out on my end! Thank you, Brent!!!

The second meeting of the month was the world-wide sharing meeting. Our own AppDev_VC Marketing Coordinator Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter) gave his PowerShell for Data Professionals not once, not twice, but three times, first to a New Zealand User Group, then to an Australian User group (which also included a live video feed from their meeting during Aaron’s presentation) and finally at the normal time for American audiences. During this one, the infamous Buck Woody (Blog | Twitter) joined in at the end to give more details on how PowerShell works within and without SQL Server. All three recordings are available on the AppDev_VC archives page.

At the same time all this was going on, I was spending time every day and night studying for the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance certification. On February 22, 2010, I took the test and passed! I am actually very proud of that achievement, have the cert framed on the wall in my office, and even have “MCTS” in my email signature at work. Vain? Maybe, but I worked hard for that, and earned the right to be proud of it! The test itself, and the study process leading up to it, actually deserve their own blog post, which I will do over the next few days, along with yet another post for…

SQL Saturday #33!

Yes, I went to another SQL Saturday, and I’m very glad I did. This particular event was special, as it was the first event after the SQL Saturday reigns changed hands from the folks that originated the whole thing (Steve Jones, Andy Warren and Brian Knight) to PASS. Rushabh Mehta, PASS’ President, and Blythe Morrow, PASS’ Community Coordinator, attended, and I got to meet and spend time with both of them. Also making the event special were the high caliber of speakers that attended, including 17 MVP’s. I attended the keynote with Steve, Andy and Rushabh, then sessions with Mike Walsh, Denny Cherry, Kendall Van Dyke, Aaron Nelson, and Kevin E. Kline. The event was put together by Peter Shire and the Charlotte SSUG, and was held on the Microsoft Campus in Charlotte, NC, and was seriously not to be missed! Like I say, that day gets a blog post of its own, coming soon to this very space!

So, folks, please, as I asked at the beginning, please forgive me for being silent on my blog. Those who follow me on Twitter know that things have been busy, but I wanted to apologize and make up for lost writings here in my public forum. Thanks for listening, and please come back to read about my certification experiences, and my time in Charlotte.

The SQL Server Community Rocks!

January 5, 2010

2010 – Resolution, Schmezolution

Posted in Development, SQL Server tagged at 9:00 am by David Taylor

There seems to be a meme going around the blogging world these last days. Everybody is laying out their goals and tagging one another. I haven’t been tagged, but I am going on anyway! I like one of the things I read on Twitter today, to paraphrase, your resolutions are only interesting to yourself. So I will publish my take on my goals, not resolutions, and you can decide who they interest.

As the infamous Buck Woody (who blogs at Carpe Datum) wrote, goals are better than resolutions, because they are more than promises to yourself, they are definite achievements to work towards because they are measurable. I’ve made and broken many promises to myself; this year, I will try goals, and see if I can stick to them. At least what I have in mind is infinitely more measurable than some resolutions I’ve made over the year.

Goal the first – blog more (hmm, <looks around> starting off well!)

Goal the second – increase involvement in SQL community. This month starts out my commitment as co-leader of PASS Application Development Virtual Chapter, I have a speaker spot in SQL Saturday #32 in Tampa this month, seems I’m off to a good start with this one, too!

Goals beyond number – learn more, measure that learning by obtaining certification, starting with MCTS in late January / early February. Read at least a book a month (SQL books are big, and time is limited!) Get into Development more (currently writing a VB.NET [keep it down C# fanboys!] app for work, we’ll see how it goes as it gets more complex)

These are a good start. Learn more is vague, I know, but with the measurables of certifications, that will narrow it down. Tom Larock  (who blogs at SQLRockstar) has helped immensely by donating to me the training kit books for the SQL Developer certs, which will be next in line after the MCTS, which actually helps his goal of coaching more this year! In return, I will be passing them on when I complete the certs to someone coming up behind me.

Well, there they are, goals probably of interest only to myself, but now they are written, in a public forum, and, if anyone reads this, maybe they can encourage or be encouraged.

Oh, and my Themeword, the other thing that seems to be making the rounds of bloggers this new year? LEARN!