Category: Misc

Apr 03 2014

Thanks For Stopping By

Yesterday I passed 300,000 views on the blog. Recently I went over 1,000 comments. My little joke on Tuesday garnered over 2,000 views alone. I just wanted to say thank you for stopping by and reading about my struggles to understand SQL Server, Azure, our amazing community and whatever else it is that I’ve posted here. I appreciate your time. On to the next 300,000.

Sep 30 2013

An Experiment Concludes

xfittired

That was hard work

You may or may not have noticed, but every single week day for the month of September, I’ve put up a blog post. Some were short little blurbs linking to some other person’s blog or an article that I decided to comment on. Some were the normal, longer, type of posts that I put up, explaining some bit of technical behavior that has interested me or that I’ve had questions about. This is the last week day of the month and I’m excited to be able to go back to blogging 1-2 times a week again. There was no small amount of stress ensuring that I had posts scheduled out for each day, coming up with ideas, getting them written up.

Whew! It’s over.

The outcome?

Well, first off, it was just a personal goal. Could I do it? That part of the experiment is successful and complete. If I were to do this again, I think I’d do what others have done, 30 Days of X. If I had a single topic that I could come up with 30 blog posts about, I think it would be easier than simply bouncing between query tuning, PASS, Azure, whatever jumped into my head or caught my attention. Note, I’m not saying it would be easy. Putting together blog posts is labor. Well, if you care about them at all it’s labor.

Next, I wanted to see how it would affect… influence? I have two pre-cons coming up, one at the PASS Summit and one in Dallas. I was curious if I could drive more registrations to these events. Also, there was a little contest going on in another location, so I was trying to do well there. How did this turn out. OK, but not great. I have more registrations at the PASS Summit than expected, but it didn’t grow that much through September. Which suggests that my attempts at influence were unsuccessful. I also didn’t do too well in the contest. So, saturation may not be a good way to push influence, at least for me. But, you could argue since I was pushing three different agenda’s I diffused all of them. Not sure, but I’ll chalk it up as failed.

Finally, I wanted to see how posting this often affected my ability to pull people into the blog. Using Google Analytics I can compare this past month with the same month last year and with a month earlier this year. Here’s what the daily page views and average time on the page looked like for this past month (minus part of today):

VisitsSep13

 

 

Here is the same measure one year ago:

VisitsAug12

And here is the measure from May of this year as an average of my normal blogging (seven posts for the month):

VisitsMay13

The average time on site in May was 2:54, September 2012 2:52, this month was 0:58. Page views were; May: 7,669, September: 9,612, this month: 10,808.

What does all that tell me? One thing, If not for the single outlier of 1,162 views on September 20th of 2012 (which coincides with presenting at 24 Hours of PASS), the number of views would have been quite a lot less. Still, the number of views, especially the number per day, is up for this past month. Next, more blogging does mean more hits. It doesn’t lead to better quality hits though. And, the increase in hits wasn’t radical. Better? Yeah, but not for the amount of labor that went into it. If putting together 21 posts vs. 7 resulted in a three-fold increase, it would absolutely be worth it. But three times the work for a 10-30% bump… nah.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve frequently been a very vocal member of the “post your goals” type of people. But, I’ve been reading lately that keeping your mouth shut on your goals and working quietly towards them can be more rewarding and, much more importantly, more successful. It worked well enough I guess. Hard to quantify this one, but I didn’t tell any of you I was doing this before I did it.

In no particular order, some things I think I might have learned from this

  • I am unlikely to do it again
  • Presenting and speaking drives hits as much as, or more than, tweeting, etc.
  • Stick to nerdly posts, they don’t do better than the short ones, but they last longer
  • click bait, or at least my ability to identify it, doesn’t work
  • plus, I’d rather have 3 posts I’m proud of than 15 posts that are junk
  • Day of the week matters, Tuesday is better than Monday. Weird.

areyounotentertainedThanks to all who have ever visited the blog, even by accident (some of the search terms are bizarre). Thanks to all who have ever posted a comment, even, especially, the critical ones. Back to our regular, not-quite scheduled, blogging.

 

Sep 17 2013

Great Idea: Tribal SQL

Writing books, even just a chapter, is not easy. Yet, people are desperate to do it for some reason. But, it’s actually hard to break into writing (not that hard, I did it after all). So, when you get the chance to work on a book, if you’re crazy enough to think you want to, jump on the opportunity. My good friend, and co-author of SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2, Jenn McCown (b|t) had an idea. Instead of gathering up a bunch of the usual suspects, what if you gave people who have never published anything a shot at writing a chapter. Yeah, insane, right? But then again, every author you know, at one point, wasn’t published. Someone gave them a chance. Jenn is just that kind of person. The name of her project, Tribal SQL.

What’s more, royalties that the authors would earn are actually going to go to Computers 4 Africa.

I haven’t read the book yet. I work for Red Gate and could get a free copy. I won’t. I’m going to go buy one. You should too. The book will be released in October.

Sep 03 2013

My Next Phone May Be a Nokia

I really like my Windows Phone. Yes, there are not as many apps as on a Droid or iPhone. But the apps there are and the OS itself… wow! And the hardware is always charging forward. And evidently, this new acquisition from Microsoft suggests that it might charge forward in a more coordinated fashion. We’ll see.

Jul 15 2013

A Tale of Two Hotels

This is a long and convoluted post about my experiences at two hotels, but it has a point for DBAs and other data pros. Please stick around to the end.

I stay in hotels fairly frequently. I have friends who stay at them even more than I do. We tell each other stories about turning left in the middle of the night when the bathroom in this hotel is on the right. And, we share good and bad experiences in order to help ensure that our travels are quick, safe, and as worry free as possible. All of us tend to focus on staying at one hotel chain or another in order to maximize our benefits. My personal chain is Hilton. I’ve recently had a very bad experience and a very good one at two different Hilton hotels. Let me share this with you to help in your travels and to talk a little bit about customer service.

I stayed at the St. Charles Hilton in New Orleans for TechEd. Beautiful old building that used to be a Masonic building (some of the rooms are still set up, the workout room is a Blue Lodge and there are others too). Nice, clean hotel. A very short walk away from the French Quarter. But, whatever you do, don’t leave anything behind at the hotel. They employ a thief. I, stupidly, left something in the hotel safe. It wasn’t terribly expensive or important, but I wanted it back. I realized I had left it within an hour of checking out, but I was already through airport security. I called the hotel and spoke with someone at the desk (always get full names and write them down, lesson learned the hard way) who confirmed my personal information in their system and said they would ship my item home to me. I stopped worrying. I had left something else at a Hilton chain hotel (not that one) once before and everything was returned. The trust I had in the hotel chain was one of the reasons I keep going back. But nothing showed up at home. Multiple calls to the hotel resulted in nothing. In fact, because I didn’t have the name of who answered the phone (like they couldn’t see from the work records who was there) they basically refused to help beyond checking the lost and found. My item wasn’t in the lost and found. That’s as far as they were willing to go. I contacted Hilton customer service. They said the same thing. I reported the theft to the police in NOLA (who agreed with me, that I was stupid for leaving it in the first place, I have an incident number if anyone is interested) and that was it. The customer service here strictly met the letter of what they promised. But, it was really clear to me that they didn’t care that someone on their staff was stealing. I didn’t have a name and couldn’t prove it, so tough. No offers to compensate me for the loss (and we’re not talking big money here). Nothing other than a “sorry we couldn’t help you.” If anything, there was an operating assumption that I was lying. I was frankly quite shocked that this was their attitude. My plan was to write up this post about what a bunch of stinkers they were and look into switching hotel chains. Then I got stuck in Dallas.

The family and I vacationed in Tulsa (great SQL Server user group there) and then flew home through Dallas. But there were major storms that caused a number of flight cancellations. We had to scramble to get all four of us on another flight (they had split the family up, two of us leaving at night, two the next morning). Best bet was late the next day. Now time to scramble for a hotel. I got a room at the Dallas Lakes Hilton. Nice place, clean, yadda-yadda. That’s not the important part. The important part was, when we told the staff that we were there because of flight cancellations & didn’t have clothes or deodorant, etc., they immediately sprang into action, supplying us with all sorts of great stuff. They were nice and helpful, just as you’d expect. Story over right? Not hardly. Our waitress at dinner hears us talking about the lack of clothing & gets a flyer for the local mall (on her own) so we can go buy some clothes. The hotel lets us check out very late the next day and didn’t charge us for that. We go to the airport and our flight gets cancelled again, this time due to mechanical problems. No more flights out that night (heck, everything is booked solid because of all the other flights cancelled the previous day). So we called back to the Hilton to arrange another night. Here’s where this gets really good. We show up at the front desk, approximately three hours after checking out, and they recognize us. They then got us all our amenities again, but then went above and beyond. They cut the rate on our stay. Nick, the front desk manager and a really nice and helpful man, even went so far as to buy us a shot glass from their store so we could remember him and his hotel. It was WAY more than I expected. They absolutely went out of their way to help us out and I’m truly grateful for myself and my family.

I have two customer service experiences to look at here. The first, followed the letter of their policy, but completely lost the spirit of it. The second seemed to be nothing but spirit. Those people in Dallas did it right. We database people tend to be sticklers for following the rules. Subsequently we can be like those people in NOLA. There, for a small amount of money and a little kindness & understanding, they could have made the entire problem go away. But instead, they insisted on following the letter of the policy, to their own detriment. I was ready to quit Hilton, taking my business elsewhere and costing them a heck of a lot more money than my item was worth. The people we support as DBAs, they’re looking at us the same way. Remember how you wouldn’t set up a new development database for that dev team because they didn’t have an estimated size on the new database? Yeah, now they’re looking at MySQL or some other means of bypassing you right? That’s because you were behaving like that stupid St. Charles Hilton. Don’t do that. Behave like Nik and the people at the Dallas Lakes Hilton. Yes, they provided service. Yes, it was within their rules. But they made sure that they found all the things that they could, within their rule set, to make us happy. They CUT the cost of the room. Not because we asked or were even worried about it. But because they could and it would be helpful to us. That’s how customer service ought to be. Do what you can for the people you are working for, within the rules, but doing as much as you can for them. It will make a difference in how you’re perceived and in how involved you get with the projects you’re managing. You get the chance, daily, to influence people in a positive or a negative fashion. As much as you can, go for the positive.

Lessons for me. Never leave anything in a hotel room again. Never, ever, stay at the St. Charles Hilton in New Orleans (and I don’t recommend you stay there either, they steal things). Be nice to everyone, regardless of circumstances, because there’s a good chance they may surprise you and treat you wonderfully.

Thanks again Nick. I hope someone from Hilton sees this and lets you and all your staff know how much we appreciate what you did. Hilton should be doubly thankful to you for helping to keep a loyal customer.

UPDATE: After this blog post was read by several members of the Hilton staff, I was approached by the brand manager you can see in the comments. Through my communication with him the situation in New Orleans was resolved to my satisfaction (although I’ll never stay there again). This simply reinforces what Nick and his crew in Dallas did for me. Hilton, as a corporation, does care about their public image and will attempt to do the right thing. Thank you.

May 21 2013

Microsoft Lync Through the Web

Get an invite to a Microsoft meeting? Are they using the new Lync interface? And, you don’t have a paid Office365 account do you? So, you click the link, figure it’ll open a web browser and off you go, right?

Wrong.

Instead it opens up a Lync app that you installed with Office, or the one that comes with Windows 8. And then you’re stuck. You can’t log in if your office doesn’t have a Lync server (office?).

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution. Many thanks to Michael Wood. You just add a string to the end of the URL and you’re off to the web app. I couldn’t find this anywhere, so I figured I’d share with those who might need the help. Just add ‘?sl=1′ to the end of the URL.

Yay!

Mar 18 2013

Star Trek and the Death of IT

GAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

I feel slightly better, but only slightly.

I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix just to unwind my brain and relax a little. Instead of relaxation I found myself pacing back and forth in front of the television, gesticulating wildly, with a string expletives coming out of my mouth in a torrential flood (yeah, my kids loved it). What happened in the 24th century? Did the entire race of IT Pros die out in the 23rd? Because there sure as heck is no evidence that they are ANYWHERE to be found. Episode after episode there are computer problems. And episode after episode my blood pressure is rising. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

For example, in one episode they get an alien computer virus (firewall, checksums, anti-virus, hell, common communication protocols, nah) that’s going to cause the ship to run into a star or something. OK. No big deal right. Shut everything down, format the system, reinstall the OS, restore the last good backup, open the Romulan Ale. No, we go through the episode basically ringing our hands and running around in circles, and that’s the engineering crew. The bridge crew just sat there slack-jawed. Then finally some magic is injected into the computer or something and everything is fixed. WHAT!!!??!!ELEVENTY!!!???! Come on. Where was the 19 hour meeting after the episode where the captain goes on and on at the engineering staff about how “We can never let this happen again.”

Nope. That didn’t occur. Instead, in the next episode (or maybe it was a previous one, I really don’t care at this point), a couple of verbal commands from within the holodeck (and what military in history… scratch that, just been reading about the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI… what COMPETENT military anywhere in history would allow that horror device to remain on board ship past the first time it kidnapped a crew member or whatever other tortures it inflicted, but I digress) allows a piece of one of the programs from the holodeck to take over the entire ship. Everything. Everywhere. Oh, they notice that there’s a lot of memory & cpu power going to the holodeck, but evidently the on-call rotation is in the hands of a junior ensign or something because they don’t DO anything about it. Nope, one program is allowed to rewrite all the other programs. And then, it somehow goes away because they ask it to. Again, no one had to restore any of the memory or storage that was wiped because this thing took over everything.

Look, I get it. It’s fiction. Not only that, it’s fantasy (no, it’s not science fiction, not with all the magical crap injected into the show, sorry, you lose there) so anything can happen. But please, can’t we at least have some internal consistency? Can’t we have a little logic. Couldn’t just one of the screenwriters talk to someone in IT, or barring that, someone in the military. Because, funny thing about the military, and IT, it only takes one serious slip-up before the competent do a review to determine what went wrong, why, and fix it. So, no more insane computer breaches. No more trainees, however smart they are, being given full admin privileges to production (just because their mom once slept with the Captain/CEO, oh, shut up, she did too). We’re going to start running backups. We’re going to test them. We’ll keep an owner’s manual around. We’ll put new programs through a thorough test environment before we plug them into the ship and wind up flying to the far side of the universe (oops, sorry). We’ll keep an original copy of the OS somewhere we can get at it because clearly, the 24th century has more viruses flying around than most free porn sites. We’ll start doing reviews of the ever-lovin engineering staff so that maybe, just maybe, we can make it so the holodeck can’t do ANYTHING to the rest of the ship, EVER. And if we can’t do that, great, we’re getting a squash-ball court or something where the holodeck used to be and I’m ejecting that thing out the nearest airlock (because I wouldn’t trust the thrice-damned transporter to move it successfully off the ship without beaming it inside someone’s head, to another dimension, or creating an evil holodeck with a cool beard).

The 24th century knows more about the evils of the 20th than most of us knows about the evils of the 15th (Crusades & Burning Times for those who aren’t history nerds) but somehow, all we can get are hectoring lectures about how morally backward we all are. Well, I’m here to tell you, maybe we are morally backward, but I sure as heck could revamp your IT department and turn the Federation into a force to be reckoned with, because you don’t want to get me started on just how bad the competing organizations IT work seems to be.

Rant over, I feel a little better. Oh, but if your IT department resembles the one on Star Trek, time to get to work.

I’m going to go watch Babylon 5.

Jan 16 2013

You Can Say “No”

I heard about this new law that was passed to prevent employers from asking for your social media passwords. After the laughter stopped, I realized that, maybe, this would be needed. Not because I need the government to help me manage my interactions with my employers and potential employers. And not because I think the government needs to be involved in other peoples interactions, not at this level. But because I don’t think people realize they have a word that they can use with employers. That word is ‘No.’

“We want you to sign this non-compete agreement that says you’ll never be a DBA for any other company after leaving ours.” Ha! No. And yes, I really had one of these. And yes, there actually are laws against it (I looked it up), but I didn’t need them. I figured out all on my own that I might not stay at that company forever and that, after leaving the company, I might actually want to ply my trade. By the way, this particular dot com is long dead.

“We require you to take a psychological test as a requirement for employment.” OK, I did this, because I was very interested in the output of the test, but I asked them, what if I said no. They said they’d hire me anyway. Why? Because they can’t make you do stuff you don’t want to. Oh, and the output said was I a psycho killer, but they hired me anyway for some reason.

And I’ve heard that some employers want your private email address password. Again, no.

Here’s the deal, what I do in public, out loud, at large, that is my employer’s concern. If I’m posting compromising photo’s of myself and I’m a company spokesman, of course my employer can, and probably will, get upset. But if I’m communicating with my significant other or children, friends, family, etc., in a private space, even one that is digital, that’s what we used to call nunya, as in Nun Ya Business. You just don’t get to go there. Sorry.

Look, I get it. It’s a cold, awful, horrible world out there, especially if you are not employed. I’ll never forget the 3 months (and thank the gods it was only 3 months) that I spent looking for work in the fall of 2001. And when I finally got a job, I took a massive pay cut. Why? Because making X was more than making ZERO, which is what I was making at the time. So yes, you may compromise yourself at times. But, understand, it’s you making the compromise. You get to make the choices. No one is holding a gun to your head. If someone asks you to do something ridiculous or insane, say ‘No.’

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
mand

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 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.