Nov 30 2012

Sharing the Love

Just a few blog posts that you ought to go and read.

First up, Tom LaRock maintains a listing of SQL bloggers split up into various cleverly named groups to show you where to go to get good information. This really is an excellent collection of bloggers. It’s the people I go to when I need information. Some of them are better resources than the Books Online when they post something. Personally, I’ve made the list for the last several years, but Tom has decided that I’m worth of elevation, so I’ve gone from the Model database to the Master database. Thanks Tom. One blog that’s not on Tom’s list is Tom’s blog. You should be reading that regularly too. And congratulations to Tom again on making MCM.

Next, one of the bloggers on Tom’s list, and a friend, is Aaron Bertrand. Aaron has posted pretty much everything you need to know about how to get the most out of DBCC, not at his blog. I was considering a blog post on this myself but after reading this, why bother. He has it covered, up to and including linking over to Paul Randal’s advice on how to break up your DBCC checks (and Paul would know since he wrote the silly thing). Seriously, go and read Aaron’s blog post right now. It’s must reading for all the DBAs who are not Paul.

Nov 29 2012

HDInsight: Trying again

And I thought this would be so easy.

Latest attempt. I just did an uninstall of HDInsight. Then I found all the Hadoop folders on the drive and removed them. I validated that there were no services left running or anything else that might interfere with a fresh install. Then, I rebooted the server (have you tried turning it off and on again?). After all that, I tried rerunning the HDInsight Community Preview. This time I ran it as an administrator on the system, even though I already am logged in as one. Paranoia at every step is my new approach since there have been no errors until I try to turn the silly thing on.

And the install went perfectly. I can see two folders, Hadoop and HadoopFeaturePackSetup. Last time there was a third folder HadoopInstall or something like that. This doesn’t bode well. Let me check the services. Nope. I can’t see anything added. Crud. So, I try the powershell command anyway, just to see what I’ll get. It’s a new error, which is nice:

Join-Path : Cannot bind argument to parameter ‘Path’ because it is null.
At C:\hadoop\start-onebox.ps1:2 char:23
+ $start_cmd = Join-Path <<<< $env:ISOTOPEJS_HOME “bin/start_daemons.cmd”;
+ CategoryInfo : InvalidData: (:) [Join-Path], ParameterBindingValidationException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : ParameterArgumentValidationErrorNullNotAllowed,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.JoinPathCom

Crud. My assumption is, I’m doing something wrong. I just can’t figure out what. Lots of searching later, I think I may have found the issue. I’ve been trying to install this on my local server that I use for lots of my tests because it’s a physical box that I can access on the road. It’s also a domain controller. I finally tracked down this thread on Microsoft’s forums. Great. OK. Next step, setting up a virtual server. May as well make it Windows 2012 while I’m at it. More to come when I get past this hurdle. Oy.

Nov 28 2012

HDInsight: First Pass

I installed HDInsight with no errors. The install is so brain-dead, I couldn’t see how there could be errors. But, I decided to fire up the service to start playing with it. That’s when I hit the errors. First up, I was getting logon errors for the Hadoop service itself. I tried resolving them manually, but was digging a hole. So, I uninstalled, and reinstalled, figuring I had missed an error message somewhere along the line. After this install, I didn’t get logon errors. Instead I got internal errors. Some more investigation and it appears that the service was marked for deletion. The uninstall worked, but somehow wasn’t complete. Yay! So, I did another uninstall after rebooting the server. Install #4 coming up.  And we’re back to logon errors. Specifically:

Starting IsotopeJS services
Starting isotopejs
System error 1069 has occurred.

The service did not start due to a logon failure.

Let’s check the logs, if any. Nothing in the c:\Hadoop directory. Checking the system logs to see if there’s anything there. Nothing I can see. No joy. I’ll go through it all again tonight.

Nov 26 2012

Treat Yourself to Knowledge

There’s a one day sale going on at Apress today, 11/26/12. All their eBooks are $15. This means you can start learning about query performance tuning, or get started as a DBA, or explore a whole range of topics by different authors presenting some of the best in the business knowledge. Yes, these are all Apress books that I’ve written on different topics. This is your chance to pick them up at a pretty steep discount. I know I’m heading over there to buy Jason Strate and Ted Krueger’s book on indexing. Check mine out. Check Jason & Ted’s out. Just find yourself something and treat yourself to some knowledge. Today’s a great day to do it.

Nov 21 2012

Final 2012 Learning Opportunity

There’s still a little time left in the year. I know some businesses have allocated training budgets and if they don’t spend the money, they lose it from their budget. So a few of you might still be looking for opportunities to get your learn on. I’ve got one more big one before the end of the year. You can try heading down to Florida for the Live 360 conference. I’ll be there along with several friends (love my #sqlfamily). I’m presenting two sessions, one on setting up an environment for performance testing using the new distributed playback capabilities from SQL Server 2012 and one on introducing the accidental DBA to backups. You can still register here to attend these sessions and all the other great ones being presented. Last chance to use up that training budget for the year, so don’t miss it.

Nov 19 2012

Living with the Surface, Maybe

No major updates at the moment. I still haven’t played with remoting through PowerShell. I’m just living with it.

Had an interesting problem start today. You can swipe from the sides to get different behaviors. Swipe in from the top or bottom and you get menu choices in the app you’re in. Swipe in from the right and you get the Charms. Swipe in from the left… well, you’re supposed to get the list of recent apps or the ability to set an app in another window or even switch to the previous application, all depending on how you swipe. Except, mine stopped. Hurrah.

I did a bunch of poking around to figure out why this happened, hoping I’m not looking at a hardware issue (oh please, not that). When I couldn’t figure it out, I posted to the forums (the only resource for help unless you call Microsoft I think). I found a setting that does in fact turn it off. So I turned it back on. Nothing. Restart the Surface. Still nothing. Oh boy. I cleaned the screen really well. Nothing.

Next thing to check, are there outstanding updates? There are. They’re scheduled to get installed during scheduled maintenance. Scheduled? When did I set up a schedule? Oh, that’s right, I didn’t. Installed the updates manually, I’ll look into the scheduling later. Swipe still isn’t working. Crud.

When I hit problems with Microsoft products, I usually go straight to Connect and find out who has a solution. No Surface and no Windows RT on Connect. Nuts. I’m in trouble. We might be seeing an interruption in the Surface service.

But, I found a chat support window. The person walked through all the stuff I had done. Then had me open a command window as the admin and run the new version of checkdisk, sfc. Took a while and I had a nice chat with the support technician. Good guy. Thanks for the time and the assistance Nicholas M. That didn’t fix it either, so we did a process called Refresh. Note: Not Reset. That’s like crossing the streams, it would be bad. Refresh also took a while. And it fixed the problem. Whew!

And we’re back in business. This Surface thing has really been an adventure.

Nov 16 2012

HDInsight and Buggy Whips

I sat the through the big announcements at the 2011 PASS Summit about the partnership between Microsoft and Hadoop. I recognized it as… interesting, but not necessarily earth shattering. I was aware of the NoSQL movement and understood that it answered a pain point that structured data couldn’t really adequately answer, but that was really it. Then I sat through the sessions this year showing the stuff coming out with the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) and PolycBAse. Then I watched Dr. Dewitt promise me that I’d be seeing similar functionality within the main SQL Server tool and suddenly… I looked at my structured data knowledge, glanced back at the stuff going on in the keynotes and frankly, they really did look a lot like automobiles.

Quick clarification, I’ve mentioned it several times in my blog, but I’ll repeat. I started in IT a gazillion years ago at the birth of desktop publishing. A wise friend at the time pointed out to me that all the people still doing hot & cold type setting were dinosaurs. They were manufacturing buggy whips as the Model T drove by them. It was true then, and a valuable lesson. I try hard to constantly learn, grow, stretch, develop my knowledge and skill set because I’m quite frankly very scared to be caught working on buggy whips. So, back to HDInsight.

I think there are a number of trends occurring in and around development and databases. One thing seems clear, at least to me. Structured data is going to be around for at least another 10 years, minimum. But, the shiny, that’s occurring elsewhere. That shiny is in places without data, which I frankly have no interest in. It’s also in places with really interesting data integration. Data collected in weird and wondrous ways, which is then transformed into different forms, probably structured data as we (assuming you’re a data nerd like me) are all used to, but also other forms. The things going on within PolyBase as Dr. Dewitt talked about at this last PASS Summit 2012. All the new and interesting ways that OLTP is changing is a great deal of shiny for me. So, I decided to get started. I installed HDInsight (aka Hadoop).

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by talking about the install process. It’s too simple. Download the Web Installer on a supported system and the rest is Next, Next, Install. But, now I’m going to start blogging about this new learning. Yes, I’ll keep blogging about execution plans, query tuning, database design, community, my flirtation with various technologies through the POF and the Surface, and maybe new things such as integrating a Windows Phone into the mix (what can I say, shiny). But, at night, until another book project starts taking up all my spare time (ha! spare time), I’m going to learn about this new method for collecting data and I’m going to share in the experience.

First piece of interesting knowledge, you get nothing as a management tool. When  the install is done, all I can see is Python 2.7. Going to go find some “Getting Started” guides to figure out what the heck to do next.

Nov 14 2012

Remote Desktop and Surface

The Windows RT operating system is not the same as Windows. After all the talk about the upcoming OS and hardware, this should not be a shock to anyone. This means that there are going to be some apps that just won’t run on your RT device. OK, not a problem. Because you can always attack to a remote desktop session, right? Maybe.

The principal app for doing remote desktop from the RT has a funky name. It’s called Remote Desktop. It was not installed on my machine by default. I had to go and get it from the Store. No big deal. The UI is incredibly simple. Enter the name of  the PC you want to connect to. I have not made my Surface a part of my domain at home yet, so I just typed in the IP address of the machine I wanted to RDP to. Watched the little dots slide across the screen that means the machine is working, only to get a message saying that machine didn’t exist. Great.

Fine. I launched a PowerShell window on the desktop and tried pinging the machine. It’s visible. That’s odd. Then I tried connecting to the PC from my POF (Piece of Fruit, my Mac) using CoRD. It connected just fine. OK. Something is up. The Surface can ping the appropriate IP address and that machine is accepting connections from devices that are not a part of the domain (but are within the firewall). I tried several other mechanisms to get connected and nothing worked. Then I did a search in the Start menu for the phrase ‘remote’. Turns out there is a desktop app as well as the Windows 8 app.

I type in the exact same IP address and I’m connected up, good to go. But, I’m on the desktop, and the desktop is not where I want to be on this thing. So I go back to the Remote Desktop app to see if I can’t figure out a change in settings. I type in the IP address and it connects right up. OK. Not going to argue with success, even if it was a achieved in a slightly backwards fashion.

I’m wondering what’s up with this, so I start searching for information on the intertubes. That’s when I spot this bit of documentation showing the supported operating systems for Remote Desktop. The one I’m trying to connect to, Windows 2008R2 Server is not listed. But, as you can see, it worked.


OK. The easy part is done. I can RDP into the server and once connected run apps. You can see the SQL Server login screen. I’ve connected up and run queries remotely now. That’s great. Now comes the fun part, setting up to connect to my machines from a true remote location. I set up my telephone to tether and connected the Surface through that. A little juggling with port forwarding and the firewall on one machine and suddenly, there I was, completely remote and connected to a machine through the Surface.

I’m still noticing that if I attempt to connect from the Remote Desktop app, it doesn’t work, but if I connect first from the desktop version of the app it does. Weirdness. This means that I can connect up, but I can’t use the standard app. Like everything else about the Surface, mostly good, some bad. But, the good news is, I didn’t have to do anything special to get it set up and running. It was functional (sort of, mostly) out of the box. I think I’ll go search Connect to see if anyone else is noticing this behavior.

Nov 12 2012

Surface Problems With Azure

I’ve been posting about the Surface over the last couple of weeks and I’ve tried really hard to be positive about it. But there are some serious problems with the device. I’ve already made a stink about the apps, but this time, I want to talk about the Microsoft ecosystem.

I’m working more and more with online services. These vary from storage, such as SkyDrive to Amazon Servers to Azure. And Azure is my problem.

I sit here, typing into a device that is really, really close to being fully productive despite being extremely small and light. Really close. And, it’s supposed to be a major player within the Microsoft world. It’s what the new OS was designed for, or so I thought. But, I might have just found my own personal showstopper. I’ve posted before about how I believe that our way forward as technologists lies with online services such as Azure. I’ve been spending time learning how SQL databases work on Azure and I plan on spending more time working out how Hadoop databases will work online too. I suspect that the PDW technologies we saw at the PASS Summit this year are an automobile and we’re largely manufacturing buggy whips. So I learn about the new features and try to implement them where appropriate. A sidetrack from the Surface? Not at all.

Today, I connected up to the Azure Portal through my Surface RT. Then I tried to manage a database. Clicking the link to attempt to bring up the online management engine, I was redirected to a screen for installing Silverlight. But, after attempting to do the install, I found that Silverlight is not supported on the RT OS. So much for Azure. As a device for production, I honestly expected this to work with the entire Microsoft ecosystem. Or at least, the primary parts of it concerned with mobility and online work. But not true.

Now, of course, I know that I won’t be able to count on this small unit for as much work a I thought it had in it. And this, not because of third party interference, but because Microsoft can’t standardize their own methods. This stinks. Truly. And I get, to many of you, this seems like a small thing, but I was really looking forward to being able to use this device to manage things out in the world and I was including Azure as one of those things. Until Microsoft does something about it I’ve just had a chunk of my hopes for the device chopped off.

I’ve posted a question about this on the Microsoft RT discussion group. If you know anything about it, come on over and help out.

Nov 11 2012

Purpose of the Surface RT

I’m a little over two weeks with the Surface at this point. I’ve been travelling all of that time, so I have been using the Surface quite a lot, as I used to my (beloved) Android tablet. It took a little while to get functional enough, upgrading the dysfunctional Office that came installed, figuring out how to get various email set up, learning how to use the touch type, and figuring out the operating system. But, at this time, the Surface is close to functional. Close. But what’s it for?

First, it’s a consumption device. I’ve got a web browser in my hands, wherever I go, as long as I can get WIFI. That gives me a hefty chunk of the world to work with. I can rent movies. I’ve got music from my ZuneXBox account. There are a couple of games that are entertaining. I’m sorry to say, that’s about it, so far. But, that’s not much more than I used my other tablet for.

Second, and I do mean second, it’s a production device. It’s not a full-fledged laptop/desktop/server replacement. No way! But, I’m actually finding that I am able to use it to do a few things my other tablet wasn’t able to. First up, I do have email… and a keyboard. Also, because I can have separate logins, I’ve got my personal email set up under one, and my professional stuff under another. That’s better than I could do with my other tablet. I can take good notes during meetings, presentati0ns, etc. because of the keyboard. Again, an improvement. That also opens up tweeting (which, I can, and do, use my phone for, but it’s a pain), much better than the other tablet. I’m putting this blog p0st together from the surface, sitting in an airport lounge (flight delays, don’t ask) because of all of the above.

Things I haven’t tried include using this to do PowerPoint presentations, remote to another machine, or coordinating the accounts I’m setting up here with another machine. But these are all possible with this device. With that in mind, is it what Microsoft was hoping I would do? What is the purpose of this thing.

I can’t run SQL Server on this. Nor would I want to. In fact, in case you don’t know, while the RT version of Windows 8 looks like Windows 8, right down to the desktop, it’s not, really, Windows 8. This puts serious limitations on this device (not counting the current instability and lack of good, useful apps). So, if I can’t install anything that would run on Windows 8, am I just wasting time with this? (hush, Brent, we already know your answer). I’d say no, so let me say why.

First off, this thing is small and light and the battery really does last all day. It’s been better than the last three tablets I’ve worked with in that regard. While I don’t have access to all the applications that I might need, or want, I have access to the majority of functional apps to support me as a writer and community person. Further, if I can get at my personal machines at home, maintain a decent connection, and use those apps (all to be tested later), I may not need to worry all that much about the need to have the software installed locally.  I should be able to get at what I need, when I need it. Mostly. For example, I think, I could do a presentation from this device, if I only needed to use slides. I might be able to do demos if I could guarantee a WIFI connection and access to my machines at home. But who wants to rely on that tenuous a thread? Because the Office products are the same format as what I might bet from a more functional machine, that’s out of the way. I’ve got access to files from multiple machines through SkyDrive. All that combined makes you into a productive person.

Now, that said, why is this not a production device. First, the screen is really, really, really small if you’re trying to type into it all day, work with forms, work with apps, etc. The keyboard, which I’m finding quite functional, you’ll note has a qualifier. It’s not fully functional. In fact, I still back space more than I normally do. Although, not like I did, but it’s a pain in the ass. And while I do get all day battery life, and good performance (except for the random crashes), I’m not exactly smacking the server with anything heavy.

But, was this Microsoft’s intent? I’d say yes. For one reason. While I have complained about it, and will probably continue to, the desktop is right here on the tablet. It makes having things like Office possible. It’s also a problematic place to work on a little device like this. But, they could have just yanked it (probably, what do I know) and gone with just the fancy bits of the tablet interface (formerly referred to as Metro). It would have worked if all they were after was a consumer device. But they left the production stuff in there. They want, even expect, at least a few nerds like me to be pounding our finger tips raw on this faux marble bar top (seriously, my fingers are starting to hurt) to actually produce long and meandering posts. Although, as usual, I’m willing to be educated about how wrong I am.