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Back from DevConnections

I spent a few days at DevConnections this week and really enjoyed the conference. The location was Aria in Las Vegas, where I’ve never been, but it was a new, really nice hotel and there was one amazing thing:

The wi-fi worked.

Not on and off, pretty much the entire time I was sitting in sessions, I had access from my devices. I think that was the first time this worked for me at a conference. Congrats to DevConnections and Aria.

The conference itself was short for me, with too many other commitments for presentations and talks, I had to cut short my time there. Tues afternoon – Thur morning, which mean I saw a couple talks on Tues, only one on Wed, and gave two Wed.

That’s disappointing. There were other things I wanted to see, and I wish I had the chance to do more. I’ll be looking to schedule less trips next year as more and more I am finding myself picking up things from really interesting sessions.

One of the great things about DevConnections is that I can get a variety of knowledge from the event. I watched a session on Azure diagnostics, as I’m curious how to actually track the performance and issues of your application. I still hope to port some (or all) of SQLServerCentral to Azure, so understanding the telemetry is something I’d like to have.

From there, I went to an interesting logical query processing talk from Itzik Ben-Gan, which I really enjoyed.  If you get the chance to see Mr. Ben-Gan talk, you should take it.

That’s hard to do at many events, where we often have the focus on one technology. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we have some amazing events in the SQL Server community. However there are times that I want to learn a bit more about development, Sharepoint, Azure, or something else. DevConnections gives you the chance to do so, as does DevIntersection/SQLIntersection (coming in November).

If you wear multiple hats, think about coming to one of these conferences in the future.

No Compelling Reason

When I’m talking to people working with SQL Server, many of them are quite pleased with the platform. It solves their issues and problems. While they always wants changes and improvements, not to mention bug fixes, overall most people seem happy with their particular version. However, there’s no shortage of things that are slightly broken in SQL Server, and while I appreciate the Cumulative Updates every other month, I’d like to see even more work done fixing code.

The development of SQL Server has accelerated in the last decade. After the five year span from SQL Server 2000 to 2005, we’ve seen new versions coming just over every 24 months, and I expect that to continue in the future. This rapid release cycle means that many of us end up supporting 3, 4, or more versions of the platform at any one time.

We often install the latest version for new instances, often because that’s the only version we can buy at any time. However we don’t seem to upgrade older instances quickly. This week I’m wondering why.

What are the reasons that prevent you from migrating those 2005/2008/2012 instances to 2014?

Are there technical reasons you don’t upgrade? Is it cost-related? Or is there no compelling reason to adopt the newest features and enhancements to the platform? I suspect a combination of these reasons for many of you, though I also feel the platform is very mature, and has been for many versions. The applications I run, primarily SQLServerCentral, don’t really benefit from any of the features in later versions.

Let us know this week, and I’m especially interested in knowing if there are technical reasons any of you can’t upgrade.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.2MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music.

 

DevConnections–High Performance Encryption

The talk page is updated, but in case you attended my talk, the downloads are here:

Slides: EncryptionPerformance.pptx

Code: EncryptionPerformance.zip

There are also a few great questions in the talk. One that I certainly need an answer to is how do clients deal with the change of SSL certificates in communications. If someone knows send me a note.

For those of you that attended, the Asymmetric Encryption query was still running at 24 minutes when I killed it.

DevConnections–Continuous Integration for Databases

Thanks to everyone that attended my Continuous Integration for Databases talk today. I’ve included download links to the deck here if you’re interested.

Slides: CI for Databases.pptx

I’d also recommend that you check out a few other resources if you want to get CI working.

And remember, this starts with Version Control, so be sure you implement a VCS at your company. If you don’t have one, I’d recommend you try Subversion or Git, both of which are free.

Some great questions on testing and the entire CI process and I hope I answered them all. If not, please feel free to ask.

Keep in mind that the process isn’t about specific tools. The Red Gate tools work great, and help you get this running quickly and smoothly, but CI is about automating a process that you likely do manually already. It does it consistently and automatically, with less room for error.

If you are looking for more information, check out the CI resources at Red Gate.

DevConnections 2014

It’s time for Devconnections again, and I’m back in Las Vegas for the conference. This is a great conference if you work with a variety of Microsoft technologies, or want to learn about something in addition to SQL Server. We have some great SQL Server talks, but if you want to pop over and learn some Sharepoint, ASP, Visual Studio, or more, check out the schedule.

If you’re not here, consider coming to DevConnections next year.

We’re On

We crossed the $10k mark for the Argenis Without Borders campaign, meaning that Brent, Grant, Adam, Gail, and myself will join Argenis in dressing up in colorful costumes at the PASS Summit. I’ve already purchased a few things, and I’m ready.

I’d like to thank everyone that donated, as this is a great cause, and one that can make a real difference in the world.

Please consider donating if this is a cause that speaks to you. Maybe we can even get a few people their SQL Server tattoos if we can cross $25k.

Better Presentations–Zoom

This is part of a series of tips for speakers on how to make your presentations better.

I’ve given around 30 presentations a year for the last few years, and easily a dozen a year for a number of years before that. I visit events all over the US and in the UK at schools, conference centers, churches, youth centers, and more. I usually sit and watch a few presentations in addition to speaking, at all hours of the day or night.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned across all those events, it’s that the screen with your slides and code on it is hard to see. Not always, but often.

I’ve talked about fonts, now let’s look at visual display.

Zoom

Buck Woody mentioned this in a rant, as does Paul Randal in his post on speaking. It can be difficult for attendees to read words or follow the action on the screen. Sometimes it’s so bad you can’t od anything about it. A weak projector and nearby windows can cause the display to wash out. However you can help by using some sort of zooming technology on your machine.

ZoomIt

Please, please, please download Zoomit. It’s free and it’s well written, so use it. Practice learning how to zoom in and out. It’s easy, but learn how to do it so you’re not fumbling. When you practice your presentation, zoom in on that laptop screen in front of you.

Also learn how to highlight things. The audience doesn’t always know where you’re looking or what part of the screen you are emphasizing, so help them. If you can’t draw, like me:

zoomit1

then learn to box things in.

zoomit2

I think Zoomit is easy to use, but I’ve used it for years and practiced.

Magnifier

Windows 7 and 8 include the magnifier in the OS. If you hit the Windows key and hold it while you hit the + and – keys, the screen will magnify in or out. There will be a little window that gives you the size, but rather than hit these buttons, just hit + and –.

magnifier

Yes, I’m aware that the + is above the = on US keyboards, but just hit the key. No shift needed. Go ahead, try it now. Learn how to zoom in and out.

Explain Yourself

If it’s really hard to see, it is helpful to explain what you’re doing on the screen. Make sure that you avoid pronouns. Don’t point at your screen (yes, I’ve seen people do this). Describe what you are doing.

“ I’ll copy this text.” – You’d be surprised how many people forget we can’t tell you hit CTRL+C or CTRL+V.

“The first CASE statement in the query is the one that is used to calculate the SUM for certain rows.” – Give visual cues, use numbers and locations. Use the names of operators, windows, buttons, etc.

The more you can clearly explain what you are doing in addition to how it works, the better the session for attendees.

Even if they can’t see the screen.

Sabbatical–Finally

My company, Red Gate software, has given me a 6 week sabbatical. I’m documenting the time with all the posts under a tag if you want to follow along. The sabbatical is over, but I’m still catching up on things.

I started working on my flagpole on June 3, mainly by starting to build a jig. Across six weeks, I got the main flagpole done, but no base, and certainly no place to plant it. I’ve continued to work on it slowly, building the base and more painting and other work.

Today things finally came together.

Photo Sep 15, 6 31 39 PM

It’s a good day for me, one where I completed this project, one that I’ve wanted to work on for a few years, but haven’t taken the time.

After getting Delaney home and making dinner, I went outside before dusk and checked the base. It looks good, and I covered it with a bit of dirt, tamping it down with boots. Still more work to be done there, but once that was done, I get the flagpole ready to raise.

Photo Sep 15, 6 24 02 PM

There are two bolts that hold it in place. One is a pivot point, which you see above. The other is lower, and I had to raise the pole slowly, not let it tip in the other direction, which might have shattered the wood, and then get the bolt through. As you might expect with wood, things moved a bit, but it’s I used a hammer to tap through bolts and then tightened them.

Photo Sep 15, 6 31 24 PM

With the pole done, I unpacked my flag for the first time and attached it to the rings. A nice breeze made raising it and taking this picture interesting.

Photo Sep 15, 6 30 51 PM

It’s been a long summer, and a long project. I learned a few things, only messed up two boards, and had only minor issues. I didn’t learn a lot about woodworking that I didn’t know, but I did get to build some confidence on a project I wasn’t sure would turn out well.

I’d like to build another one, and there are a few things I’d do differently, but for now, I’ll enjoy this one.

 

Photo Sep 15, 6 31 39 PM

The Ten Commandments for DBAs

I like lists, and this list certainly caught my eye: the 10 commandments of database management. It’s from a lead database architect that has experience with a variety of RDBMS’s as well as NoSQL technologies. It’s an interesting list, and one that tries to cover all the aspects of a DBA’s job.

It’s a good list and for the most part it’s how I’ve tried to manage systems throughout my career. I believe in monitoring systems. I believe in testing backups. I believe in change management, though it doesn’t have to be heavy-handed. I think automation is key, and certainly DBAs should understand the pros and cons of their platform.

However, I don’t know that I think upgrades should be completed for systems without some evaluation of the benefits and risks. These days, with releases of database platforms coming every 2-3 years, I’m not sure that I would want to upgrade many of my systems to each version. I might skip every 2-3 versions and upgrade rarely.

I recognize that some of these can be outside the control of the DBA, but to the best of their ability, I do think a DBA should be looking to help developers, secure their systems, and choose the best systems to meet their needs, given whatever restrictions their organization puts on them.

I don’t know that this is the best list of commandments for a DBA, but it’s certainly a great start. It’s also a good basis on which to conduct yourself as a DBA if you don’t have a well defined code you follow.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 1.9MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. 

The DBA Team Wants You!

We’re looking for a few good DBAs. Actually, we’re looking for a few DBAs that wouldn’t mind sharing some of their human frailty and submitting the worst day they had as a DBA. Grant and I will be judging the entries and we’ll pick one to be the theme for our Christmas edition of the DBA Team.

Don’t worry, we won’t make you ride a horse, but we’d like to feature you by name as we “enhance” your story with a few small additions. Perhaps you’ll be driving a fancy car, or be dressed to the nines. We might even have you performing a stunt or two.

It won’t be pretty, probably not too flattering, but it should be fun. I haven’t heard if we will give out prizes to the top entries, but the winner will be relaxing Not Only SQL style in the sun, with a free ticket to SQL Cruise 2015.

This contest should be some fun, and all it takes to enter is a little humility, a recognition of your mistakes, and a good sense of humor. If you’ve had a bad day, enter your submission and cross your fingers. And if you haven’t clicked through any of the links, you might want to. They make this editorial much more interesting.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 1.7MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music.

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