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Administering Securely

This piece was originally published on Jul 8, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is away on sabbatical.

The other day I noticed a post where someone was asking a question that I’ve seen asked often. I still haven’t seen a great solution, and I expect this question will continue to be asked for some time to come. The poster asked how to securely set up a database to prevent administrators from accessing the data.

Prior to SQL Server 2005 this was pretty much impossible. The sysadmin group was considered to be like a god inside the SQL Server and could access most anything. With 2005 there are more restrictions you can place on the administrator, and with the addition of encryption capabilities, you can prevent casual access to certain data.

However it’s not easy, and most of the time the system administrator still has access to data for tuning, troubleshooting, disaster recovery, etc. That makes sense sometimes, and I feel that you really have to trust your administrator with a lot of responsibility and discretion. Sometimes, however, it’s just not appropriate for the person that runs the server to see other data. Salary information, among other data, sometimes just isn’t the business of the administrator.

I don’t know how you handle this. Does the administrator just get access to the database as a container, able to attach it, back it up, restore it, and perform basic functions? Are they limited to setting security for users, but unable to access the objects themselves? I’m not even sure that’s a valid way to handle things since the administrator can always set up a dummy account for themselves, or change someone’s password and access data.

To me the best solution for secure administrator access is to have a second person audit all actions performed by a sysadmin. Kind of a default trace for sysadmins that is always running, and is not accessible to the administrator. Even then, it’s probably only something that works in larger companies where you have enough people to dedicate to the task of reviewing things. Maybe policy based management (PBM) will help here at some point, limiting the access to data by administrators in an easy to understand manner that a manager of some sort can understand and audit.

There’s no good solution now other than to trust your administrators to responsibly manage data, and that means hiring responsible people for the job.

Steve Jones


Sabbatical–Day 30–Knocking off edges

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.

Today is day 30, really giving me just 3 days (plus the weekend) to complete things. Actually only 2.5 days as I fly out Monday to the UK.

I started today by uncovering things and marking out lines to taper the edges. My router bit should arrive tomorrow, and I’ll continue tapering, but for now I can get started by removing some wood.

The pole isn’t perfect and has a touch of warp in it, but I guess it’s no worse than a single pole I might have bought.

Photo Jul 10, 10 11 00 AM

The plan doesn’t talk about this part, and the video says that a 3/4” line is what was removed, but with the top being 3” wide, I didn’t want to remove 3/4” from each side. I’d like to have 2” when I’m done, so I started with 1/2” at the top, moving to 3/4” at the end of the tapered part. The bottom 49” is straight, so I marked that and then chalked my lines.

Photo Jul 10, 10 34 48 AM

I made two lines on top, but I wasn’t thinking. The saw only tilts one way, so I used just the left one to cut a 45” angle from that side. I flipped the flagpole 90 degrees and repeated this four times. Here’s after the first cut

Photo Jul 10, 11 36 12 AM

At the end, I had a semi-tapered pole.

Photo Jul 10, 11 36 25 AM

As I completed each side, I also did some sanding, trying to smooth out the pole. I had mixed luck with my Harbor Freight, cheap belt sander. I’m considering buying another one tomorrow.

Photo Jul 10, 10 54 42 AM

With all that done, I inspected my work. I found a few spots that had space in them, which bothered me.

Photo Jul 10, 11 36 37 AM

I hemmed and hawed a bit, but decided to use some of the epoxy and fill them. I mixed some up, thinner than before and spread it. I sprinkled some filler on top and then blended it in with a brush to get it to fill gaps.

Photo Jul 10, 12 01 52 PM

I checked it after a few hours and it wasn’t perfect, but it looked much better. Tomorrow I’ll sand again and then taper with the router.

No class tonight with other commitments for my daughter, so I’ll be pressed to work on my project when I get home from the UK.

Sabbatical – Day 29 – More Glue

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.

I got started early today, not wanting the day to get away from me, as the sabbatical has. Not completely, but it looks like I’ll be struggling to finish the flagpole this week and Monday is it.

Today I started by clamping down the top boards and checking the biscuit slots. I found problems.

Photo Jul 09, 10 24 24 AM (1)

The mark on the left is where I marked and cut the first slot. When the top didn’t fit, I removed a number of biscuits, lined things up and clamped them down. I then managed to re-mark (the right mark) and re-cut slots.

With the lower board done, things lined up nicely. I left it clamped and did the upper board, re-cutting many more slots there. As you can see, they aren’t far off, but it’s enough to cause issues.

Photo Jul 09, 10 24 21 AM (1)

With that done, I decided to quickly mix more glue and then get the boards moving. Once again, no pictures of the process because I was wearing gloves and didn’t want to get the phone stuck to them. I mixed more glue (7 pumps), which was enough with a  touch left over.

Photo Jul 09, 12 08 46 PM (1)

The clamps went back on and with an afternoon commitment, I was in a hurry. This time I wished I had bought 10 more clamps Tuesday because these boards were more twisted. Not a ton, but more. As I looked later, a few spots were high and I am debating about mixing more glue and filling in spots.

In any case, I had a completed, albeit rectangular, flagpole.

Photo Jul 09, 12 08 55 PM (1)

Sabbatical Day 28 – More Tenons

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.

With the heat and bad weather, and a few chores, I didn’t get much done during the day except for pulling off clamps and checking the glue on part of the flagpole. Things looked good, but I wasn’t able to cut biscuit slots this morning.

I left for class early, and arrived in time to continue cutting tenons before the lecture started. With two classes missed by the instructor, I was sure we’d end up sitting for awhile.

Photo Jul 08, 8 06 37 PM

With everything spread out, I managed to cut more, but they weren’t much better. I really am struggling with this part of the class and it’s annoying.

We had a lecture where we got the plans for our table (final project) as well as some time spent talking about how to buy wood and what to buy. It was interesting, but when we got to the math lesson for board-feet, normalizing a board into a volume for cost calculation, I had to sneak off to the restroom and a water break. I can do math, unlike quite a few of my classmates.

With the lecture over, I was back to sawing and paring. I am getting better, and the instructor have me a few hints.

Photo Jul 08, 8 13 33 PM (1)

One of the more helpful hints, which the TA hadn’t mentioned, was using the chisel to chop the shoulder straight. That helped me get a few fitting better, though I still tend to rout them too thin. That plane is a challenge.

I also used my square more to check how my cuts went. I think next week I’ll look to cut the tenons short and then chop them down to size.

Photo Jul 08, 8 15 16 PM (1)

Sabbatical Day 27 – Flagpole Week

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.

I haven’t got much scheduled this week, just class Thur night (and Scouts Tues night). I will need to make up some time in the shop, but I’m thinking to go early Thur and work on a few things.

However I have planned on spending most of this week working on the flagpole. This is my last week, and I’d like to get it done, though probably not mounted in the air. I was up early for Pilates, and then grocery shopping, but around 11 I was home and I headed out in the 95F heat.

I uncovered the bench and unscrewed one of the guides on my jig. I want to use that as a way to glue things up in a line, so I got one side flat, flipped it over, and then moved the cleat to the widest mark, giving me a surface for the pole. I laid down the first side, which was the 2x6s that were thinned and tapered.

With that down, I put biscuits in all the slots and then put one of the 2×4 sides on. I quickly realized that even though I’d gone slow last week, I’d completely missed one of my marks. Since the biscuits are for alignment, and not support, I just left that one out.

Photo Jul 07, 12 48 42 PM

You can see above all the biscuits sticking up and one side piece there. I added the second part to this side, and then did the other side. Things lined up well, though the boards were slightly twisted. I used a few clamps and decided things weren’t that far out.

However when I tried to add the top, I had problems. I couldn’t get it to slide onto the biscuits, a few of which were mis-aligned to the side. That means I hadn’t registered things properly with my cutter and one of the slots was too close to the edge or too far.

I also found I’d missed 5 or 6 marks completely. I suspect my marking was compromised with not having everything clamped down, so I need to re-cut 6 or so slots.

I didn’t want to skip gluing today, so I decided to glue the bottom and sides on, and then I’ll re-mark, re-cut, and glue the top on tomorrow. With that plan, I removed the biscuits and then got ready.

First, lay out the clamps.

Photo Jul 07, 1 40 51 PM

It looks like a lot, but as I found out, I wish I’d had 6 or 10 more. With those laid out, I started mixing up my epoxy. I’d used the West Marine system, which has a resin and a hardener.

Photo Jul 07, 1 52 59 PM

I had everything handy as I worried about things setting up in the heat. I mixed 5 pumps each, which I thought was a lot, but I think I should have mixed 6 as I was scraping the bottom of my bowl to finish.

Next I added filler to thicken the mixture and fill in any spaces. I’m not 100% confident I’ll have super tight joints, so I want to fill in spots where I can. As soon as I put some of this in, I donned gloves and mixed it up. As Norm said in the video, "if you get this stuff on you, you’ll be wearing it awhile." I remembered that as a bit of the filler dust came out.

Photo Jul 07, 1 53 32 PM

No pictures here as I was hurrying, but I’ll get a kid to take some tomorrow. I thickened things to a thick waffle batter, and then grabbed my roller and went out. The bottom was down, and the sides were flipped over next to it. I rolled glue down the bottom, covering things thickly and then worked my way down the other side of the bench covering the sides.

I was glad I had gloves as I had to hold and reposition the sides a few times to cover them. Also to get the scarf joints covered. That was tricky and without gloves, I’m sure I’d have glue all over my hands (and probably not be typing today).

With the glue down, I raced up and down getting biscuits in the slots and then putting the sides down. I’d put biscuits in the one bad slot, so I pulled them quickly and dropped them, getting the sides on. The wind was also picking up, which had me worried about debris on the glue.

This was tedious and I worried about things setting up as I aligned the pieces, used a mallet to get them down and clamped sections. I worked my way down all 4 side pieces, using clamps around the scarf joints to hold things tight.

Photo Jul 07, 2 28 46 PM

When I was done, this was what I had. Lots of clamps used, every one of the handheld 6", 12", 18" and even a few larger parallel ones and a bar clamp. Things looked tight, but I wish I’d had 6 more.

Photo Jul 07, 2 28 59 PM

I covered everything up with a tarp as there were some dark clouds and called it a day. Hot, tired, I needed a break.

Tomorrow I’ll recut slots and glue the top. I also need to get the large rounding router bit so I can begin curving it on Wed.

Sabbatical Day 26 – Drywall

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.

It was another build day for me with Habitat. In the past week, this is my 4th volunteer day and I’ve done it all. A critical home repair, a shift in the store, a deconstruction, and today a construction.

I arrived back in Globeville, just north of downtown Denver. This is a few blocks from my critical repair, and it’s a townhouse complex of 2 and 3 unit buildings that are being built on a large square of land. The last set of buildings is being done now, with our volunteers working on a 2 unit and 3 unit complex. There are already 20-30 buildings done, and then there’s a last 3 unit building that’s a few weeks behind the two we were working on.

This was an all single volunteer day, with no companies participating. We only had 3 young Americorps workers getting us set up, with supervisors for Habitat already working with professional contractors when we arrived. They said we’d mostly be painting, which I don’t like, but there were three spots for drywall in basements. I volunteered right away for that.

It wasn’t much work, and I thought we’d easily be done when I saw the first basement. We were only doing the spots around the stairs and HVAC stuff. With the interior of the section under the stairs done, we only had to cut around 80sq ft of drywall to fit around doorways and existing walls with OSB where water heaters were mounted.

The three of us worked with the Americorps guy and finished basement 1 by 10:30. With relatively straight cuts to make, we fell into a rhythm of measuring, cutting, and screwing things in. As the other two started to screw the last piece in, I carried equipment to the second basement.

This one was a mess. Probably only 40sq ft to do, but around lots of pipes. I called the Americorps guy and he said to skip this one for now. We went to the third basement, which was like the first, but more pipes in the way. We got halfway done before breaking for lunch.

It was cool in the basement, but I was glad to get out. I haven’t ever hung new drywall, so this was an adventure. I asked questions and learned how to match up pieces, putting the seams where I wouldn’t expect it. I learned how to cut it, and how to cut out electrical boxes, which wasn’t what I expected. I also learned it creates a ton of dust, which bothered me at times and I needed to walk to a window well and breath outside air a few times.

We managed to get two basements done and we’d gotten the large parts of the third one done, but not much around the pipes. I bet the next day’s crew takes all day to get that one done.

It felt good to help with that house and it was neat to see another way that Habitat is helping people. This site also had the names of the families on a sign in front of each house.

That’s it for my volunteer efforts this sabbatical time, but I’ll be looking to go to more in the future, probably taking some days off when I can.

Sabbatical Day 24–Marks and cuts, but no biscuits

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.

I woke up early and got going, taking a cup of coffee outside to get started. I laid out all the boards and clamped them down, both to get an idea of how the clamps might lay out and also to mark up the places for the biscuits.

Photo Jul 01, 10 58 27 AM

I used almost all the clamps, and realized I was short. I couldn’t get good pressure all over and need another 8-10 clamps. I’ve heard you can never have enough, so this is a good excuse to get a few more.

I was glad I knocked off yesterday as I couldn’t believe some of the marks I made. They were way off, probably because I hadn’t clamped things tightly.

Photo Jul 01, 10 59 03 AM

I remarked things, going slowly and adding arrows so I knew which ones to cut. Once that was done, I used a square to extend the marks to the sides where I need to cut biscuit slots. It was a little slow to mark all boards, and I worried about a few of the boards that were slightly twisted. However I’m hoping glue will move things over and since the biscuits allow some movement, I’ll see how things line up dry in the next few days.

Photo Jul 01, 11 50 16 AM

I got to use the right angle jig that I made with the biscuit joiner when I got it. Since I need to register the biscuit joiner on the same side for all slots. I put each board against the right angle and then cut the slots.

Photo Jul 01, 12 00 25 PM

I worked my way down each board, and then back up, cutting the slots. It actually went fairly quickly, though with 8 boards, and two slots every foot, that’s a lot of cutting.

Photo Jul 01, 11 53 20 AM

I got everything cut, and then put away as the weather was darkening and getting windy. With things put away, the next step is to re-set things up the next time, add biscuits, check fit, and then glue things up.


Class tonight was more catchup with the instructor out. I started by getting ready to cut more tenons. I think we’ll need to hand cut the 8 for our tables, though I’m hoping we can bandsaw a few of them. I struggle with the sawing.

Photo Jul 01, 7 48 23 PM

I finished one I’d started last week and while it fit against the mortised leg fine, it was loose. The router plane is tough to tweak with really thin pieces. I was a little frustrated cutting, so I found the TA in charge and asked about the mortiser. He was happy to show me how to set it up, configuring the x, y, and z directions.

Photo Jul 01, 7 36 18 PM

Once I saw it, I watched someone else cut their mortises and then went to lay out my board. Once that was done, I set the machine up and cut my own. It was pretty easy to use and worked so well. I might need to get one at some point.

Photo Jul 01, 7 36 15 PM

With two great mortises cut, I want back to make tenons. I cut one of my aprons in half to get new ends and then went to work. My sawing got better, especially after one of the TAs found me a sharper saw. With the first cuts down, I worked on the router plane, trying to go slow.

Photo Jul 01, 6 16 32 PM

It’s a semi maddening process, going really slow to shave off bits of the tenon. I got it close, maybe a bit tight, and then cut the other edges and got a great fit.

I started the next tenon, but ran out of time. I think I have three sides cut, though it feels a bit thin. The router plane is fighting me.

Fingers crossed that I get to machine a few tenons on Thursday.

Sabbatical – Day 25 – Deconstruction

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.

This was a new volunteer day for me with Habitat for Humanity. I’d performed other tasks, but today was deconstruction. This is relatively new for the Denver affiliate and involves taking apart a house, usually as part of a remodel, and taking the building materials as a donation to be sold in the ReStores. Since the ReStores fund all the administrative costs for the Denver affiliate, they are able to build more houses.

Today I drove out to a fancy neighborhood, just E of downtown Denver. Checking on Zillow, I found the houses in this neighborhood sell for $1mm+ and I wasn’t surprised. Too close together for me, but they were nice houses, with lots of mature trees.

I arrived and wasn’t sure what to do. I found a contractor’s assistant there, setting up some trash bags, so I assumed I was in the right place, but when I asked him about Habitat, he had no idea. Fortunately an older gentlemen walked up who was also volunteering and told me that the Habitat guy was late. When he arrived, it was in a large rental truck, and we shook hands and unloaded lots of tool bags.

This deconstruction was for a kitchen remodel. We were removing 18 cabinet sets, some upper, some lower, some in an island. We also had to remove the upper crown molding and the countertops. I wasn’t sure how to do this, so I carried things to start, but the rest of the crew (5 of us in total) showed me where to look and the ways in which cabinets are put into a house.

We worked straight through to 1:30, and managed to remove all the cabinets except the one around the kitchen sink in the island. It was buried with electrical and water lines we didn’t want to disconnect. We also took out 4 pieces of granite, including the two large pieces that made a 3x15ft island. It was quite a bit of work, between digging out nails, getting screws out from tight locations, lifting heavy pieces and getting things loaded in the truck.

One extra nice thing was a second thank you email. I usually get an automated one from Habitat around 4 the day I volunteer. However I got a second one around 5 from the supervisor that had coordinated the deconstruction, thanking us for working through lunch and getting it done.

Sabbatical Day 23–Another Bust

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.

I had lots of plans for Monday. However things didn’t go my way. Some family matters delayed me getting started, and after Pilates, I was exhausted. Not from class, but I think from working in the sun all day Saturday and Sunday. I took a nap, and then couldn’t really concentrate, so I decided not to do much. I started to mark things, but gave up, covered the boards, and knocked off for the day.

I had some time with the kids, some family business, but mostly a relaxing day.

Sabbatical Day 22–More Catch Up

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.

Not a productive week on the sabbatical, at least in terms of what I wanted to accomplish. This coming week is semi-busy with volunteering on Wed and Thur as well as a holiday Fri, so I decided to catch up this weekend.

Saturday was mostly working in the garage, cleaning the shop, building some small drawers for pieces and parts, and organizing a touch more. It was windy outside, so I didn’t want to joint and plane wood.


Sunday was much better. It was calm, and with a cup of coffee, I set up the jointer to square two sides of my new 2x4s and then planed them to thickness.

Photo Jun 29, 10 17 42 AM

With the wood ready, I put it on the jig and cut it down to size. Once I was done, I tried to flip the pieces over to see if I could trim them again to give me spares, but they were too small.

It was hot, and I was ready to break, but I decided to see how things look. I grabbed all 8 pieces and laid them out on the bench. The jig is on the left, the flagpole on the right. Looks pretty good.

Photo Jun 29, 11 40 16 AM

As you can see, the top is four small pieces.

Photo Jun 29, 11 40 13 AM

The bottom, as expected, is four larger sizes, with more space.

Photo Jun 29, 11 39 55 AM

Overall, things look pretty good. The two things that have me slightly worried. The first is that the top board, the shorter of a 2×6, is slightly twisted. It doesn’t lay flat with the other boards. I can clamp it down, so it’s probably OK overall. I think I’ll try it and see.

The other worrisome thing is that two of the joints, one on a 2×4 and one on a 2×6 are only about 6” apart. The directions called for all joints to be at least a foot apart, but in this case they aren’t. Not sure if it’s a big deal yet. Stability is an issue, but once it’s glued to other pieces, I’m guessing it will bear up well.

Worst case in both situations is that I need to recut wood. I won’t take the jig down for now, and if I need to, I think I can build another one quicker.

Tomorrow I’ll cut biscuit slots (a few were marked today) and glue up the sides. I need to cut some stands to raise the pole up, but I think that should be fairly quick. If that goes well, I’ll buy a large router bit tomorrow night and work on rounding Tuesday.


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