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Culture Differences: US v UK

This is a bit of an off topic post from the technical stuff, but there’s a bit of a tie-in, so stick with me.

I had to get a tire fixed this morning. I actually owned a replacement tire, so I just needed someone to mount it on the existing wheel (the existing tire needed to come off). I stopped by Discount Tire this morning in Parker, and I had a quick conversation with the salesman, Brian. He arranged for the service, even gave me a discount, and told me it would take about an hour.

At this point I knew I needed to do some work, and at 9am, I wanted some coffee. I mentioned this to Brian, who said, “It’s a long walk to get coffee.”

He noted that Starbucks was quite a distance for a walk. Certainly it was a hot day, approaching 85F as I exited the shop with my laptop, but a long walk?

My friends and colleagues in the UK would laugh at this. I had to go down a busy road, and it was warm, but 0.6mi is “long”? I think not. Certainly no navigational issues following the blue dotted path.

2015-07-27 12_53_47-Starbucks, South Parker Road, Parker, CO to Discount Tire Store - Parker, CO - G

This struck me as strange as I walked along the road. Certainly I think lots of people in the US might see this as a long walk. They would perhaps ask the shop for a ride, or they’d stay in the store and skip coffee. I suspect that lots of people think any distance outside of the parking lot of an establishment might be seen as “long”.

Far too many of us in the US as lazy in this manner, not willing to move dozens, much less hundreds, of yards. I’ve seen people wait minutes for a close parking spot to a store, when there were plenty of parking spots seconds away.

I thought about this as I walked, and as I walked back. The thought bothered me a bit as I tried to answer some emails and check on SQLServerCentral. Why do we struggle with simple movement in the US? Are so many of us really wedded to cars that much? A summer morning is hot, but it’s a few minutes in the sun.

I was curious how far I traveled in terms of steps, so I checked my Fitbit before leaving Starbucks. It was around 3,100 steps for the day. I checked when I got in my car, and I was at 4,500 steps. That’s about 1,400 steps for a cup of coffee. Each way, of course, but just a mile.

When I think about how little we need to walk, it’s amazing. My job is worse than many in some ways. My meetings are at my desk. My commute is a few dozen steps. Getting lunch in the kitchen is maybe 50 steps. If I don’t make a concerted effort to move, I can easily spend a day at work and get to 6:00pm having traveled less than 2,000 steps.

That’s sedentary.

I do make an effort to exercise and move. Certainly I could do better with my diet, but I am at least attempting to move. That goal was one thing that kept me going on my running streak. I often felt refreshed and no matter how much time I’d spent in front of a computer, I at least ran a mile.

We can all make an effort to move a bit more, especially those of us that spend lots of time in front of a computer. Taking breaks, walking up and down stairs, parking far away, scheduling walking meetings at times, or just making sure we spend some time before/after work moving.

Many of you will have long lives, regardless of how you treat your body. Your career might not be affected at all by poor physical health. However the quality of your life is lower, in my opinion, if you aren’t taking care of yourself a bit.

In the past we often had daily exercise as we lived. We walked around, we had to work to grow our food, or transport it, or just to find social company. Today we can avoid much of that, but I’m not sure we should.

Find some exercise in the margins, find a sport you enjoy, or just take some long walks to contemplate life and enjoy your own, or a friend’s, company.

What We Want and What We’ll Pay For

I’m sure many of you see surveys that note IT job growth is up 30%. Or that executives want to hire 20% more people. Or that the market dictates that salaries will be going up 12%.

Those are exciting numbers, and I see them too. However I saw a great post that summed up the fact that those are just quotes, perhaps even desires, but not necessarily realities. This answer notes that what we want and what we’ll pay for are often two different things.

Many IT executives would like to hire more staff. They know that there’s a backlog in IT that can be reduced with additional staff. They might also believe that hiring more staff increases the chances of talented staff that can produce higher quality work, playing a game of numbers. They also know that newer hardware or software technologies can often produce better results for the organization.

However whatever their beliefs, they will often be constrained by budgets. There are always going to be other priorities in an organization that compete for additional resources. Sometimes IT will get what they want; sometimes they won’t. Often the end result will be less than they want, but more than other groups would have spent on technology.

The surveys and quotes we see published, good or bad, aren’t worthless. They’re often a reflection of a best case hope, like so many of the estimates that developers give about their work. The numbers can indicate a trend, but take them with a grain of salt. Apply a little skepticism and treat them like averages. Remember, an average of 50 can come from 49 and 51 or from 1 and 99, both pairs of numbers reflecting different realities. Above all remember that an average or ideal also doesn’t necessarily reflect what you, personally, will experience in your career.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.3MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

Is Skynet Coming?

That’s the question this week: Is Skynet coming?

I read a piece recently that noted Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have warned us about artificial intelligence. They have been quoted as this is potentially something that the human race needs to be cognizant of. However, I wonder.

I know what IBM’s Watson does is amazing, but is it intelligence? Is it anywhere close to sentience? Or is it really just pattern recognition and matching with facts? I think more of the latter, and I’m not sure we’re moving closer to a computer intelligence.

I guess there are narrowly defined domains where computers seem to be improving their capabilities, but it seems to me that these areas are defined by the programmers and the systems are tailored to a specific ability.

I do agree with the article that combinations of massive computing power and humans will make fundamental changes in the world. I think many, many jobs are potentially going to be lost and workers dislocated because of the ability of computers to do many jobs that humans perform today. I don’t have any solutions here, but I am glad I work in technology.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 1.6MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

Get Away from the Heat and Learn some Database Version Control

I have enjoyed the trips I’ve made to New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the past. It’s a good getaway, stopping in the French Quarter for a few minutes before an easy drive up the road. However it’s warm, and I can’t ever get my wife or kids to come with me. For some reason, they don’t seem to enjoy the warm, August Baton Rouge weather. I, however, am looking forward to a jog around University Lake.

LSU University Lake at BREC Milford Wampold Park

This might be the best time to run, but I’ll likely be going around when it’s sunnier, and a touch warmer.

However if you want to get out of the heat, perhaps you’d like to come learn about Database Version Control with Ike Ellis and me? Redgate Software has partnered with Crafting Bytes to deliver our workshop in Baton Rouge. We’ve put the workshops on sale, and only $100 for a full day of training.

What will we cover?

We’ll show you how to get your database in a Version Control System (VCS). We use Redgate’s tools, but the idea of using version control can be done in other ways. I’m running the labs, and you’ll see how you can keep track of all of your database DDL code, including Lookup data!

2015-07-23 18_45_53-DLM-Workshop-2015-02-19-1708-export-i-fg1k1eq0 - VMware Workstation

We are also covering some advanced features that the Redgate tools make easier. Things like branching, merging, and deployments. How many of you would love to know that development is done and we can deploy our changes like this:

2015-07-23 17_14_22-Schema Compare_Deploy - Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio

I’ll show you how you can deploy your changes right from inside SSMS.

This is an in-depth workshop, covering way more than I could ever do at a SQL Saturday or conference. What’s more, we provide you with a VM and let you actually work through the skills we teach you. You will get real practice during the day to give you the confidence and practice for your own environment back at the office.

I hope to see you at either the workshop or SQL Saturday #423 in Baton Rouge.

My SQL Server Service Account Philosophy

Recently someone sent me a question about service accounts. They weren’t sure how they should go about setting accounts up for various instances and services in their environments. Specifically they asked me about having domain accounts, or accounts separate for services.

Note that I’ve managed SQL Server for years this way in environments up to hundreds of instances. I haven’t managed thousands, so there might be issues with this philosophy at scale.

Here’s how I view service accounts. In a short list, I try to manage things like this:

  • Domain accounts for the SQL database engine and SQL Agent
  • Separate accounts for all instances and all Agent services
  • Long, complex, one-time passwords that aren’t stored.

This has worked well for me, providing separation of services so that password changes or security issues on one instance don’t affect other instances.

It’s also been scalable in that I rarely setup SQL Server instances. In most organizations I’ve worked in, we are adding a few instances a week at the most. The overhead to create two new accounts per instance (db engine and Agent) is minimal.

Note that I would also have a separate domain account for SSAS or other items I install.

With today’s rapid provisioning of machines through virtualized environments, I realize this isn’t necessarily a good hard and fast rule. If I expect an instance to be a production level instance and live for some period of time in the organization, I’d follow this philosophy.

However if I am bringing online development and test instances that may not be kept around permanently, I think the local service accounts are fine. These will probably handle your needs and are worth scripting into your VM/instance creation process.

I’ll add a few more thoughts on this across other posts, but there’s my idea in a nutshell.

The Evolving DBA

It’s interesting to think about the role of the DBA and how it might evolve in the future. I regularly see predictions about the DevOps movement, and increasing ability of fewer staff to manage larger scales of systems (more systems or more data). There is also the fundamental way in which larger “cloud” type providers (inside your organization or third parties) can include features or services that reduce the need for DBAs.

However I ran across a statement that I think certainly provides some view into how the DBA might be affected in the future. The statement was: “The more an organization values its data, the more the DBA is under pressure to provide access to this data.” That includes all the people working with and managing data, whether developers, sysadmins or dedicated DBAs. They must ensure the data is available and useful to clients.

I’m sure many people unconsciously realize this is their role, but they sometimes get caught up in looking at performance, or normalization, or backups, or some other task as being the highest priority task. In reality, we must continue to ensure backups are available if we need them, and systems perform well, and all the other ancillary tasks, but remember that backups and tuning and everything else are tasks needed in support of making data available for users.

More and more I really believe that anybody that functions as a data professional, whether that is a small part of their job or all they do, needs to keep this fact in mind. The data is the more important asset we work with and all our efforts need to be geared towards helping our users access in as many ways as possible.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.1MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

Argenis Without Borders – v2

Last year at the PASS Summit, Kristen Benzel and Argenis Fernandez put on a fundraiser to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. It was very successful, bringing over $13,000 to the charitable work this organization does.

We had fun with it, with some great rainbow costumes that were displayed at the PASS Summit, including me.

doctorswithoutbordersrainbow

This year, 2015, there’s a new campaign. Once again, we’re raising money for Doctors without Borders. The goal is $20k, but we’re already close to $1,000 raised. That means that Argenis will be dressed like Ted.

Halloween Steve

My costume has yet to be chosen. I’m not usually a Halloween person, but in this case I’ll make an exception. The last day of the PASS Summit this year is Halloween, so I’m thinking that’s the day to

However, I’m not sure what to commit to. Should I be a super hero? A classic horror look? What would make you donate a little to the campaign? I’m looking for a few ideas, thoughts, things that you think would bring a smile to your face, and the willingness to help raise some money for a great cause.

Donate today and post your costume suggestions below. Feel free to see if you can come up with something that might embarrass me.

There Are Always Constraints

Many of us have spent years learning about technology. I suspect that many of you might enjoy these pieces I write, but you visit SQLServerCentral for the same reason I started building it: to become better at your jobs. Many of you work regularly to improve your ability to make SQL Server perform as well as possible.

I’m also sure many of you have had to deal with what you see as “bad decisions” from your management at some point. I’m sure many of you have felt that if we did something a little differently, or spent a bit more money (or time), we could have built a better application. That may be true, though I’ve found over the years that technologists sometimes don’t make better decisions than project managers. We often have different priorities, but also different views on what success means.

There are always constraints involved with building systems. The most successful technologists I know may gripe about constraints, but it’s a passing comment. They don’t get bogged down in the limitations that are imposed on them. They move forward, deal with the constraint, and make things happen. They get the software working or the system running.

Like many things in life that may irritate us, and potentially hold us back, the limitations will always exist. We need to accept the lack of staff, money, time, or even technology and do the best with what’s available. It’s fine to disagree and complain, but don’t let that hold you back from making the best of the reality that you work within.

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.

Azure SQL Database – Link User to Login

I’m writing this post as a way to help motivate the #SQLNewBloggers out there. Read the bottom for a few notes on structuring a post.

I created a login for an Azure SQL Database, but couldn’t log in. I would get this message, which makes perfect sense.

2015-06-23 14_52_41-Connect to Database Engine

Just like an on-premises instance, I need to link a user to the login for access. However, unlike an on-premises SQL Server, I can’t willy-nilly change databases. If I do this:

Use SQLServerCentral GO

I’ll get this message.

2015-06-23 15_00_31-SQLQuery3.sql - mhknbn2kdz.database.windows.net,1433.SQLServerCentral (jt (58))_

I can’t switch, I need to reconnect. In this case, I use the same login (an admin level) and reconnect to a different database. This certainly can make scripts more cumbersome, and imply that your work, whether through T-SQL or PoSh, needs to include the connection strings for the correct database. In fact, I might recommend PoSh over SSMS for this reason.

Once I’ve connected, I can use standard commands. In this case, I’ll use this code:

add user to SQLServerCentral database connect to database CREATE USER sscdev FROM LOGIN sscdev; add a role for ddl admin EXEC sp_addrolemember db_ddladmin, sscdev;

Now when I click connect with my user, I see this:

2015-06-23 15_02_22-SQLQuery4.sql - mhknbn2kdz.database.windows.net,1433.sqlservercentral (sscdev (5

Just what I need.

SQLNewBlogger

This was a second post as part of the previous one. I was adding a user and login as part of a bit of work and when it didn’t work, I captured screen shots and split this part from the last one.

Five minutes writing this one, probably no more than five minutes slower in running the code to capture the images.

You can do this.

References

Presenting Data

Many of us that develop or manage database systems are concerned with the actual bits and bytes that compromise data. However our clients and customers are more interested in the information, in gaining knowledge from the numbers, strings, and dates that are kept in our database tables.

I really think that one of those things that can truly allow a developer or DBA to show their employer they are valuable to the organization. Employees prove this when they can retrieve information in a way that clients find valuable. Not that we, as the technical people value, but in the ways that clients find valuable.

This doesn’t mean you need to learn PowerBI or PowerPivot or any other Power tools, but that you learn how to present the data you work with in the best way you can. Whether that’s in an SSRS report, an Excel worksheet you email around, or a complex visualization, all of these formats have one thing in common: a query. One of the best things you can do as a developer or DBA is ensure you can write efficient queries that assemble data from a variety of tables in different formats. Queries that retrieve data that can answer a question or reveal a pattern.

Learning how to build a fancy visualization is great, but be flexible. If you get the opportunity, work with a new technology and develop some comfort, take it. However make sure that above everything else you can get the data sets to the end user. Clients can always use their own tools, but the efficiency and performance they experience will often come down to your query writing skills.

Make sure you are constantly improving those skills.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.0MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.

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