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SQL Server DBA Tips & Tricks

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The PowerShell and XML Corollary

Girl Property Surrounded by Geek Objects

I’ve just started watching The Big Bang Theory so I figured I’d borrow a naming convention from their episodes with this blog post. This is a quick post as the problem itself is small and doesn’t have an application (yet).

A co-worker of mine was asked by a higher-up about possibly creating an in-house iPhone application that displays information from an existing SQL Server database. He is currently dabbling in iPhone development and he found that querying SQL Server directly was going to be a bit of a pain so he asked me if we could access the data via other (read also: easier) means such as reading from a data dump file that is in XML format. This limitation comes from the fact that there are no native API’s for Microsoft SQL in Cocoa. As a production DBA seeing anything involving XML gives me the heebie jeebies and I rely on the kindness of strangers, Scarlett O’Hara-style, to help me bridge my ignorance gap. So first thing I needed to find out was what was the easiest way to translate SQL Server data into XML. Now, I’m not completely dense and I know that from SQL Server 2005 and higher there were “a lot of things” put into the product that helped in the XML space but this particular server I am connecting to is SQL 2000 (ewww I know) and I wasn’t sure if it even handled XML the way I needed. I turned on the SQL Bat-signal and asked my Twitter folks to enlighten me on this enigma.

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SQLSaturday 31 Chicago: Recap

Last weekend I had the distinguished pleasure of attending Chicago’s very first SQLSaturday event. Before I begin my recap I’d like to again give a HUGE thanks the organizers of the event: Wendy Pastrick (Blog | Twitter), Aaron Lowe (Blog | Twitter) and Ted Krueger (Blog | Twitter) as well as all of the awesome volunteers that helped out.

My wife Jessica (Blog | Twitter) and I arrived into Chicago Friday afternoon. We had time to catch a bite at Grand Lux Cafe with some friends and my sister. Pretty nice place, kind of like a Cheesecake Factory but a little better. My wife’s a foodie so she was loving it! After lunch I got the pleasure of meeting Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter), Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter) and Jeremiah’s friend John Jakubowski (Blog | Twitter) as they picked me up and we headed out to the ‘Burbs for the speaker’s dinner. We had plenty of time in car to talk about all things geek such as NoSQL, Ruby on Rails, PASS and a few other choice subjects not fit for print. Let’s just say I learned some strip clubs in Ohio have free steaks for lunch.

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SQL Server 2008 R2 Release Date: May 21 2010

DACPACK Sucks but it's version 1 so...yeah

R2 is ready to roll!

As expected, Brent “Master” Ozar (Blog | Twitter) already scooped the story, but it never hurts to help seed Boogle searches for “SQL Server 2008 R2 release date”. Well now it’s official: May 21, 2010.

Recently I had the pleasure of going up to Microsoft for an R2 event with Donald Farmer (Blog | Twitter) which I’ll be blogging about soon. At this event they did an overview of the new R2 features and got our thoughts about it. Personally, I think PowerPivot is a really awesome tool that will really help put the power of business intelligence  in the end user’s hands in an easy way. Another feature that I get more excited about the more I learn about it is the new StreamInsight feature. I’d still like to test it some and read more about it but I can see some very cool things coming out of that feature.

Update via Brent’s site (reposted with permission):

Update: maybe not May 21. I’m hearing secondhand (nothing NDA) that either the audience heard the dates wrong, or Microsoft announced it wrong.  I’m showing a couple of tweets below from audience members to support that it was probably the latter.
May 21?

May 21?

And:

May 21?

May 21?

Who’s the source, Luke?

I sense a disturbance in the release date

I sense a disturbance in the release date

More news as it happens.

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Creative Writing Pt II: Blogging

In the first part of this week’s documentation series we covered documentation in the traditional sense. In today’s lesson we’re going to talk about a new avenue which many are using as a sort of documentation repository and that is the personal tech blog.

Now I could use this lesson as an entire post on how to get started blogging but I won’t. Instead I will re-direct you to professor Brent Ozar’s series on How to Start a Blog. Consider that your homework assignment for this class. So if I’m not going to talk about starting a blog then what are we going to discuss? How about the significance of blogging or writing for your own personal development and growth? I’m very fortunate in that I have managed to have Tom LaRock (Blog | Twitter) as part of the faculty and this semester he is playing the role of DBA Coach and he touches on some of these points in this week’s lesson as well.

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PASS Board March Meeting Minutes Review

Thanks to Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) for keeping the community abreast of these things by blogging about their availability. That being said since the community clamored about transparency during the last elections I think it’s time we took advantage of that fact. My plan, and I propose if you write a SQL-centric blog you try it out yourself as well, is to read over the meeting minutes every month and give my take on what I’m seeing come out of them. I’d like to warn you that I may say some things that may or may not make friends but that’s what transparency is all about, right? PASS is for the people, by the people and we really should have a hand in how the organization is run. So that being said, let’s get to the fun part. Now while I do go over points I still highly recommend you read the minutes for yourself as I don’t want your views skewed simply from my points. Again, read the minutes and make your own judgements:

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TSQL Tuesday #005: Reports and Policy-Based Management

It’s another month and so we have ourselves another T-SQL Tuesday event, this time hosted by Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter) with this month’s theme being Reporting. If you don’t know what T-SQL Tuesday is here’s a quick blurb from Aaron’s blog:

You Don’t Know What T-SQL Tuesday Is Yet?

Adam Machanic (Also on twitter as @AdamMachanic) had a great idea 5 months back – Invite new and existing SQL Server bloggers to post about the same topic on the same day. The results have been excellent – diverse skill sets and data related job roles all posting from differing perspectives on the same issue.

Since this is still early in the game, a quick list of the post roundups from the first 4 topics:

So given that this month we (Ken Simmons, Colin Stasiuk and myself) are proud to be releasing Pro SQL Server 2008 Policy-Based Management I figured this month’s TSQL Tuesday could tie in nicely. So how can one use Reporting Services in conjunction with the power of Policy-Based Management (PBM) in SQL 2008? Well, you’re in luck!

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Creative Writing Week: Documentation

First off, welcome back class! So this week we’re talking about writing. As a DBA or a developer you are going to be asked at some point to perform a necessary evil called documentation. Why is this evil? Well, it’s not really evil but it is not one of the more glamorous parts of the job, yet it is one of the most essential. Good documentation is everything! Without documentation you can spend all the time in the world developing the greatest system on earth, utilizing some of the most complex and beautiful code ever written but when something eventually (and it will) break, you’re going to be expected to be the one to fix it.

“But I’m working on this really important production issue, I can’t stop everything just to troubleshoot a system I put into production 3 years ago and can’t remember half the things I put into it!” Ah, but if you had only documented it someone else could be supporting the system and you could be blissfully working on the here and now. When we talk about documentation, however, that word means different things to different people. Let’s go over some of the different aspects of documentation within a system and why they are important.

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Pro Server 2008 Policy-Based Management: It’s a Wrap!

Pro Server 2008 Policy-Based Management cover After months of deadlines, late night writing sessions, getting my ass handed to me by ADD and editors, and a loving wife pushing me to write some more the book is now done! A HUGE thank you to Ken Simmons for inviting Colin Stasiuk and myself to be a part of this project. Also huge thanks to all the folks at Apress for doing a great job pushing this along as well as Tom LaRock, whose technical editing on this book was a great asset. According to Amazon, the book should be available April 27th so make sure you buy plenty of copies for you and your loved ones. After all, nothing says “I love you” like the gift of policies that stop developers from horrendous naming conventions Policy-Based Management. You can also get the book directly from Apress by going to http://www.policybasedmanagement.com.

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SQL University: School is Back in Session

rodney-back-to-school If you missed my recent Twitter announcement, SQL University’s next semester is going to start back up on Monday April 12th. This semester will start with Creative Writing week (aka Documentation). I’ll post the full semester’s schedule and topics shortly over on the main page. This semester I’m happy to say we have a lot of new professors on board as well as some returning ones as well! Make sure to check the Faculty page to see their bios. I’m very excited this project has been so warmly received by the community (HUGE thank you to you all) and this year we have a few additions to the program to help improve upon SQL University!

One of the most prominent changes you’ll see this year is the addition of a new Community Lecture series. These will be live sessions you will be able to watch that will have SQL experts come on and discuss from a wide range of topics. These lectures will be broadcast via UStream in partnership with the all new SQL Server TV! Another new change you will see is the addition of formal feedback. As in school at the end of each semester, the professor hands out class evaluations so they can get feedback on what worked, what didn’t and how they can improve upon the curriculum. This year at the conclusion of the week’s lesson you will see links on the professor’s pages to their respective class evaluations. My hope is that this feedback will not only help each blogger improve their content, writing styles, etc. but will also help improve the overall quality and value that SQL University delivers to you!

For those visiting the site directly you may have noticed I have given the whole blog a fabulous total makeover. Hopefully this new theme is a little cleaner, nicer and better to navigate. Any feedback you’re willing to give on that front I’m more than open to hearing! Speaking of makeovers, over the coming weeks I will be giving the bookstore a facelift as well. The bookstore will be categorized by content (i.e. Administration, BI, Professional Development, etc.) and I am also going to incorporate some more multimedia resources in there as well such as links to SQLShare.com, podcasts, and more. Again, if you’d like to see something added or incorporated into the bookstore I would love the hear your feedback.

So sharpen your pencils, fire up your SQL Server Management Studio and get ready to hit the books again starting April 12th!

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Forget NoSQL, I’m starting NoDEMO Movement!

ORLY?!?

Dancing is acceptable alternative to Demos

That’s right, NoDEMO baby. The NoSQL movement basically says data structure is a waste of your time*. Well you know what I say? I say demoes are a waste. If you come to see a speaker you’re not coming for the stuff on screen, it’s all about the speaker baby. So I propose the NoDemo movement. Doing a technical presentation? Don’t do one demo. It just wastes time and people won’t be looking at you. Look at you up there with your black-rimmed glasses, geeky (and probably free from another conference) t-shirt, and mandatory Apple product.

Want to see the product in action? Go download it yourself. When you present it’s all about you. Attendees came to hear your words flow like Wine. Not to see some mouse float around on screen and click things. Besides, demoes just confuse the masses. “You’re going too fast!”, “What’d you do there?”, “Why does that guy smell so funny?”. We’ve heard it all folks and it just takes time away from you droning on and on about technical specs. In lieu of demos I say you talk about it…in depth. Why show them when you can explain “when you open the menu there’s a small blue box in the top rigtht…well actually it’s kind of blue-gray, maybe more gray…anyhow click that and drag it over, just not all the way. You know between that and the other smallish box…which is kind of the same”. Doesn’t that sound like fun? You know it is. Plus it sharpens your public speaking skills like crazy!

*I really don’t know squat about NoSQL other than it sounds like going back to flat file-palooza to me. Don’t listen to me at all.

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