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Create a SQL Azure Database–Old Portal

Another post for me that is simple and hopefully serves as an example for people trying to get blogging as #SQLNewBloggers.

I worry about beta software, so when I wanted to create a new Azure database, I stuck with the old portal. Call me nervous, but the new portal worries me at times. It works, but since the default is the old one, I often use that one.

You can use either, but here I’ll show you how to create a database with the old (which will be gone someday) portal.  It’s simple and easy, and this only takes a few minutes.

Creating a Database

Here’s the “old” portal. I wish it had a major version number, because that’s what it needs.

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I’ve got a few things running here. In the lower left corner is a “New” button, which I can pick. When I do, I choose Data Services and get this.

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I select SQL Database and then click “Custom.” You could click quick create, but I wanted to show more options. There aren’t a lot, but you can put in a few.

You get the settings page. The first thing you need is a database name. You can pick your subscription as well as the size of the system. Be aware of charges when you pick sizes. S0 is not cheap.

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I had an existing server, so I used that, but the system will create one for you if you need it. This is really the name you connect to, so if you care, create one first and then use it here.

The next screen is really for the main admin account. Enter a decent password and save it. You can reset this form the portal once it’s up, so don’t be too concerned, but build good habits. Don’t use the same password everywhere and use a password manager so you pick strong ones.

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Once that’s done, create the database. It will take a little time, but you’ll see a moving “Creating” item in the status. There’s no percentage, but I think it was about 3-4 minutes for me one afternoon.

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Once it’s done, the database list will show you the database as online.

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If you go to the dashboard, you’ll see  a number of items listed.

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Scrolling down, you might see the important item that you care about. How to connect. The server is listed, and if you’re using an app with ADO, PHP, OLEDB, etc, you can click the link and get the strings you will use.

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That’s it. Simple, easy, and ready for you to use.


I was actually working on something in the new portal and wanted to go back to the old portal to see how things worked. As I waited for the main screen to refresh, I though, hey, write a post.

So I captured screen shots. It took maybe 10-15 minutes to type this up.


None used.

Your Portfolio

I believe in managing and working on your career regularly. Early in my life, I randomly went from job to job. I looked for new opportunities when I lost old ones. I took the first job I was offered. I really let my career happen, as opposed to actively trying to move it in a direction that was best for me.

One of the things I have suggested to many people is to build a blog and chronicle their career. This is a way to showcase your knowledge and allow a potential hiring manager to perform some due diligence on who you are.

However the front page of your blog, with the last 5-10 posts you’ve written on some random topics might not be the image you want to present. Perhaps you can better show yourself off and control the image that you present to the world.

I thought about this when I read a piece about a photographer assembling a portfolio of their work. I thought, this might be a good exercise for a technical person as well. Perhaps there are specific skills, posts, software that you want to show. Put the links on your resume or cover letter that build the impression you want to make. Maybe send someone to a landing page that contains the projects that you are more proud of.

Certainly this might not work, and a manager might just randomly look through your blog, but I think it’s worth a bit of time, especially for a developer. Showcase the things you are most proud of, or perhaps most applicable to the positions you’re seeking.

Above all, it might be a good chance to re-evaluate what you think of your career and relive some of your proud accomplishments.

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. feed

SQL Saturday #403–Louisville

This weekend I’ll be attending SQL Saturday #403 in Louisville, KY. If you’re in the area, think about taking a few hours out of your Saturday and coming to learn some SQL Server stuff. There’s a great schedule, with 6 tracks and 6 sessions per track.

That’s 36 opportunities to improve your skills and career!

I’ll be delivering two sessions during the event. I have my Branding Yourself for a Dream Job first thing in the morning at 8am. I know it’s early, but I like to give you some ideas for networking and planning your career for the rest of the day.

My second session is Continuous Integration for Databases at 10:30. I’ll give you a taste of how to improve your software development process by using version control and a build server to verify and test your database code.

There are some great afternoon sessions, but I likely won’t be there as I have family in town and want to spent a few hours with them. However come grab me in the morning and say “hi”. I really enjoy meeting the SQL Server community and look forward to another great SQL Saturday in Louisville.

Mission Critical Deployments

Talk about a lot of pressure to get a software deployment correct. A software install on an Airbus airplane resulted in a file containing parameters being wiped. This error caused (apparently) an airplane to crash when three engines cut off in flight and four people were killed.

I don’t know if this is the final report on this, but the fact this is a possibility concerns me as a technologist. Certainly we have probably had similar mechanical failures and installation issues in the past, but there are some scary issues here with regards to software. There was a faulty software installation (yikes!), a poor architecture (not assuming more then 2 engines would stop), too much tolerance for software errors (the review letting this pass), and poor overall design (no alerts on the ground).

I can’t decide if I think that software makes issues like this more or less likely. Certainly checks of physical systems are skipped regularly by people. It’s far easier, and more reliable, to automate checks of software systems, especially with deployments, than it might be for complex mechanical changes. However, maybe that’s not true. Perhaps mechanics are more likely to notice a loose bolt than a misconfigured software menu. Or maybe we need a new type of mechanic that’s savvy with technology.

Ultimately I think that any software that makes changes to systems, including through deployments, needs to have double checks by an independent process and clear alerting of any issue, not relying on someone to look for the success of a long series of steps. We also need to take review of potential software errors very seriously and ensure the tolerance for potential issues shrinks as the impact of those issues rises.

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

How many environments?

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that in order to develop software, you need multiple environments. I think that outside of school projects, I’ve always used at least two environments: development and production. At school there were times I worked on software that I also used, and would make changes on my live (and only) system. I had no shortage of regrets, and whenever I question using a Version Control System (VCS) or separate environments, I think back to those days.

People I meet these days that develop software almost always have more than one environment, and most have at least 3. The most common model might be development, test, and production, but plenty of people work with even more. Maybe not as many as the seven Grant once had to deal with, but I have worked in environments where we had six database environments for one of our software pipelines.

How many different environments do you work with?

The poll this week asks for the count in your organization. I realize that you probably have multiple applications and test environments, but choose one or more and give us some answers.

The most I’ve worked with was in a financial services company. We had a development database and a separate QA system for testing. There was a staging system to mimic production, a Beta database for users to actually test against and production. That worked well, and we were able to easily refresh environments as needed without impacting our development efforts. Mostly because we have a strong DevOps type process.

Let us know this week how you’ve got your systems set up and what each one is used for in your software pipeline.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.8MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.

Catch up with T-SQL Tuesday

T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party where we get an invitation the first week of the month to write on a specific topic for the second Tuesday of that month. Adam Machanic came up with the idea and he chooses the hosts.

If you’re interested in hosting, contact him.

While there’s a sense of community and participation here, and certainly the chance to showcase some of your knowledge for others, it’s also got another benefit.

It’s the chance for you to learn something.

Not by reading other’s posts, but by writing your own. This is your opportunity to bolster your own skills, and teach yourself something new.

Don’t Worry About Timing

I know many of you are worried about the pressure of producing something good. I know many of you will find that the first weekend of the month is really busy and you can’t write.

That’s fine.

I’ve got a list of all previous invitations and topics. Go back and pick one of them and write your own post today. Start working on it, teach yourself something, and put some thoughts down. Research what others have done by looking through the roundups. Get a friend to review the work and see if it’s readable and makes sense.

Do that ten times. It might take you ten months, but I’m sure you can write something down about SQL Server once a month.

When you get ten, start a blog and publish them. Use the T-SQL Tuesday tag, but I’d also encourage you to use the #SQLNewBlogger tag as well. Start showing your boss that you’re improving your skills. Be ready to impress you potential next new boss with a series of posts on SQL topics.

Your career will be better off, and the world will start to see better software being written.

Start improving your skills this weekend, or start documenting the learning you already do. Either way, start building a better brand for your career.

The Tally Table

I saw a someone post a question recently about solving a T-SQL problem. One of the answers given used a tally table, which the original poster didn’t understand. A few follow up links pointed them in the right direction, but it got me wondering.

How many of you know what a tally table is and how to create one? I bet a few of you don’t, which might mean you’ve never had the need. Or it might be a hole in your skill set and you didn’t realize that a tally table can be very useful in solving a number of problems. Anything from generating dates to splitting strings. There are plenty more ways to use one, and feel free to mention more in the comments that others might not have tried.

I’m not sure the tally table is a core T-SQL skill, but I think it’s an important one you should learn as you grow your skills. After you’ve mastered the basics (Insert/update/delete, aggregates, outer joins) Adding in an understanding of window functions, the APPLY operator, and CTEs are also important to allow you to become better at solving the problems you run into with more efficient T-SQL.

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

Window Functions at IT/DevConnections

I’m honored to have been chosen to present again at the IT/DevConnections conference this September in Las Vegas. It’s being held once again at Aria, which so far has been the only conference center I’ve seen that handled the bandwidth needs of a tech conference.

I’ve got a few sessions, but one is on windowing queries in SQL Server. It’s an intermediate T-SQL session, looking to get you started in using Window functions in your code. It’s good if you’ve never used them, and I expect I’ll get some developers at this session, perhaps more than DBAs.

If you’re looking for advanced usage, this is the wrong place. I’m not covering complex scenarios. I’m just trying to get you started.

If you can get your boss to invest in your career, this is a good conference to attend, especially if you wear multiple hats or are responsible for multiple roles. You can get the chance to see an amazing set of sessions from some of the best people working in technology. You can learn about SQL Server, Visual Studio, SharePoint, ASP.NET, C#, Powershell, Azure, Windows Server, and more.

The event is in Las Vegas, which is always fun for me. I don’t gamble, but I can take a night and see a show, which is always fun. If you want to come out for a few days, Hoover Dam is nearby, some great hiking outside of town, and of course, lots of music at various venues.

It will be a good time, and I hope to see some of you there.

Updating to Windows 10

I’ve been cautious about Windows upgrades. Throughout my career, I’ve alternatively been interested in, and wary of, Windows upgrades. I beta tested Windows 95, and then adopted Windows 98 as soon as I could at a company with better multi-monitor support. I avoided Windows ME entirely, and upgraded to Windows 2000 a few months after it was released. I upgraded to XP late in the beta stage, and stuck with that for a long time, eschewing Vista as a fat, slow OS. I eventually ran it on a laptop, but my experience with Vista made me glad I hadn’t upgraded my desktop.

However, with Windows 7, I adopted it on my desktop early. I loved the increased speed and slimmer feel of the OS. I was happy enough that I didn’t bother to go to Windows 8 for quite some time, really until 8.1 was released. Windows 10 has been similar. I haven’t been too worried about it, setting up a VM, but spending little time using it. The past six months have had me more concerned about stability than experimentation.

That changed last week. I was informed on both machines of my upgrade status the first week of August. I looked at the upgrade screen for a few days, being slightly worried, and finally scheduled my laptop upgrade late in the week after a trip. I was a little worried, but the machine upgraded itself overnight and other than a new welcome screen, I haven’t seen much difference.

Things went smoothly that after 4-5 days, I went ahead and upgraded my desktop as well. Again, very little difference that I’ve seen. When I hit the start menu, the whole screen doesn’t flip away, but since I tend to just type the first few characters of an app and hit enter, not much of a change. The bars underneath applications in the taskbar as nice, and certainly easier to see, but that’s a minor change. Control panel has moved, and it’s only annoying as I keep looking to the right side for the pop out menu before I realize I have a normal window already open.

All in all, the Windows 10 upgrade has been smooth for me. Some of the changes in Windows 8 are changed back (like the power down options), but overall, the OS has really faded in the background for me. That’s how I like it. The OS is a tool. Just get things done.

Your experience may vary, but so far it’s been a smooth upgrade with no issues for me.

My upgrades were on:

  • Toshiba Z30, Windows 8.1
  • Custom built W8.1 desktop, upgraded from w7 -> w8 -> w8.1


Business Pressures

I know a little something about building and scaling a system on the Internet. While SQLServerCentral isn’t the largest site out there, we’ve had lots of experience with growing a site while trying to manage a business. We were successful at it for years before Redgate Software purchased the site. I’d like to think we’ve continued to run the site successfully and balance the commercial needs with our goal of hosting a world class SQL Server community that educates the community on a daily basis.

I thought back about our history and the way things have gone while reading an article on Github and some of the challenges they have faced they they try to build a business from their (primarily) free service. I certainly hope they succeed as I really like the Github model and only hope their investors are as enlightened and visionary as the founders of Redgate.

There are constant challenges in running a business. No matter how good your intentions, the pressure to break even or turn enough of a profit to survive are always there. At the same time, there is just as much pressure from ethical business owners to keep their customers’ and clients’ expectations and needs in the forefront of their minds as they run their business.

I have struggled with this regularly at SQLServerCentral and still do today. Serving the community while providing value for my boss (or making a profit to pay my salary in the past) are two conflicting goals. I think that things have worked out well, but I am constantly striving to maintain some balance between what is best for all.

I do hope GitHub and many of the low cost services are able to transition and survive as they mature as businesses. Even if many of them can’t continue to provide the same services for free, I hope customers see enough value to pay for some level of service, and the sites survive.

Steve Jones


The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.4MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.


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