Friday, July 31, 2009

Article re-featured on SQLServerCentral

The second article I had published on SQLServerCentral, ANSI PADDING, Trailing Whitespace, and Variable Length Character Columns, was re-featured in the newsletter and on the home page today. 

My favorite part of being published is the discussion that hopefully follows.  Even if there are some negative comments, I just consider that an extension of the learning environment.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SQLSaturday 21 – Orlando Announced!

Andy Warren and crew at OPASS have announced that SQLSaturday 21 – Orlando will be held at Seminole Community College, 100 Weldon Boulevard, Sanford, FL 32773, on October 17th.  The call for speakers just opened this afternoon and we have our first session submitted, and it wasn’t by me or @SQLChicken!

This is the third SQLSaturday in Orlando and second at this location, so hopefully we have the kinks worked out.  There is one change this year that there will be a $10 charge to cover lunch, likely from Jason’s Deli.  You’ll still get water, soda, donuts, coffee, and fruit throughout the day for free, plus the usual swag.  That’s not to mention the excellent FREE training.  I attended the first SQLSaturday Orlando and was a speaker/volunteer at last year’s event.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who has not thought it was a terrific event.  I’ve also spoke at the SQLSaturday 14 – Pensacola and everyone there enjoyed that event as well.

If you work with SQL Server there’s no better way to get a free day of training, so register now.  If you work with SQL Server and are passionate about it, then there is no better place to share that passion by presenting.  I don’t think that there is anything more rewarding than sharing your experience and expertise with others.  I’ll be submitting at least one session.

If you have any questions about SQL Server then suggest a session.  I know I check the suggested sessions for ideas and if I have the necessary knowledge I’ll submit a session based on a suggestion.

I’ll be there, and hopefully I’ll see you there as well.

ActiveAugust –> Getting More Fit

ActiveAugust started as a discussion on Twitter and Mike Walsh (@mike_walsh) has set the bar with his blog post about it.  The general idea is to commit to lifestyle changes by becoming more active and/or eating healthier.  The key thing is to setup a plan, blog your plan, and then blog/tweet updates on how you are doing.  Because you have made the commitment public you will have some accountability. There are several SQL Server “personalities” that are taking part including the aforementioned Mike Walsh, Brian Kelley (@kbriankelley), and Jorge Segarra (@SQLChicken).  There may be others that I have missed or don’t currently follow on Twitter. 

Here’s my plan:

  1. Reduce portions at the dinner table.  I don’t measure now, but the goal is to eat 1 helping and stop there.
  2. Fruits and vegetables instead of cookies/brownies/candy/chips for the nighttime snack.
  3. At least 20 minutes of purposeful exercise 6 days a week (walking, biking, swimming, etc…) in addition to the normal time spent with the kids or playing basketball.
  4. Sit-ups and push-ups every day.  I did 25 sit-ups and 15 push-ups last night so I that will be the minimum.  The goal is to add 10 per week.  So on August 8th I should be doing at least 35 and 25.

Another part is a regular weigh-in as the goal is to become more fit and weight loss is usually a good measure of that.  I weighed in yesterday morning at 184.5 lbs so that will be my baseline.  I’ll post my progress weekly starting the 8th.

Hope you join in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Learning some javascript

As part of my work I need to be a “Jack of all trades” meaning I not only need to be able to do SQL Server DBA and development tasks, but I also need to be capable of doing .NET and VFP development.  Yes, I did say VFP (Visual FoxPro for those who are too young to know what it is). 

The major project in which I am involved is using SQL Server and ASP.NET (C#) MVC.  Fortunately I had downloaded Scott Guthrie’s NerdDinner tutorial when it first came out and have just finished going through it.  In the tutorial I came across some code like this:

if (item.Description !== undefined) {
description = item.Description;

Well, I had never seen the !== operator before and assumed that it was a typo and was supposed to be:

if (item.Description != undefined) {
description = item.Description;

since I know that == the equality comparison operator and != is the inequality comparison operator.  Well, then I found the same operator later in the code, so I thought, “Hmmm, maybe this isn’t a typo, but a real operator?”, so off to to see what I could find.  Well, I didn’t find anything helpful on page 1 of either search engine’s results.  Next a quick question on Twitter.  Ahhh, several replies that, “Yes !== and === are operators and they compare type AND value”.  Having always programmed in strongly typed languages this is new and interesting to me.  So basically in javascript 1 == “1” is true, but 1 === “1” is false.

I still would rather be in SQL, but at least now I am starting to understand more about javascript.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meet, Greet, & Remember?

How many of you have said, “I have a real hard time remembering names” or “Excuse me, I know we must have met, but I can’t remember your name”.  I know I have many times.  The question is what am I going to do about?  I’m glad you asked.  As an addition to the PASS Summit, PASS, at the urging of Andy Warren, is adding a 2 hour networking seminar by Don Gabor, Networking to Build Business Contacts, between the pre-conference sessions and the Welcome Reception.  The cost is $60 and attendance is limited to 100.

There are several reasons why I am attending:

  1. To develop confidence in meeting people.
  2. To learn how to build and maintain my network.
  3. To learn how to help others meet people.

Each of these items will be covered during the session, and the Welcome Session and the rest of the conference will give us the opportunity to apply the principles that will be taught.

This won’t just help me as a technical professional, but also in my work.  I currently serve as missionary with New Tribes Mission and part of my “job” is building and maintaining a network of churches and individuals who see value in what I do and are willing to support my work with prayer and finances.  This makes developing networking skills essential. 

Let me give one example of how networking can work.  Just yesterday, I got an email from the Space Coast User Group leaders asking if I could move up from the September meeting and speak at the August meeting as the speaker had to cancel.  I had a conflict so I couldn’t move up.  As I am on Twitter, I put out a message asking if anyone would be able to fill in the August meeting.  I knew at least one person who would be interested, Jorge Segarra (@SQLChicken), and I heard back from him fairly quickly.  I was able to connect him with the Space Coast User Group leadership and he was able to make arrangements to fill in.  Both parties were happy, and I got to “raise” my profile through helping others.

I hope to see you there!  Then we can practice together.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mystery of Failing Database Mail

Have you ever seen this error when you have setup database mail:

The mail could not be sent to the recipients because of the mail server failure. (Sending Mail using [Account] ([TimeSent]). Exception Message: Could not connect to mail server. (No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it

I have, and so have a few others based on my experience in the forums.  If you are like me, you immediately contacted you mail server administrator to find out why the mail server is refusing your mail.  Then once, they told you that there was nothing on the mail server that should be causing this, you tried using GMAIL/Hotmail and got the same error.  Now what do you do?  Fortunately for me I had a production server setup and working so decided to investigate differences.  Lo and behold, I found antivirus software installed on my desktop, but not on the server (let’s save that discussion for another time) So I looked in the antivirus log and, sure enough, mail being sent by database was being blocked by the “prevent mass-mailing worms” rule.  So I disabled the rule, and, viola!, mail sent successfully.  Of course the corporate antivirus policy almost immediately re-enabled the rule, but I had an answer.  I contacted my corporate antivirus administrator and had them add DatabaseMail90.exe (SQL Server 2005) to the exceptions list.

So if database mail is not working, check your antivirus settings.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Off Topic – Why I’m unclebiguns on Twitter

There may be some people wondering why I go by the name @unclebiguns on Twitter.  I am basing this on the following facts:

  1. I have gotten some interesting followers (blocked of course).
  2. Comments that have been made about this user name in other places as well.

I thought I’d blog (at Andy Warren’s suggestion) why I have that handle.

It goes back about 12 years when one of my best friends had their first child.  He and I had an ongoing debate going on who ate more and who was fatter, so to try to get me going he taught his daughter to call me Uncle Biguns after my stomach.  It’s kind of funny because I have grown into the name as I now wish I weighed what I weighed back then.  Since it is a unique name (last night Chad Miller commented that I was the only unclebigun’s he knows), I decided to use it as a user name for fantasy sports, etc….

So if you wondered why or what it meant, there it is.  I hope you aren’t too disappointed.

July OPASS Meeting Recap

Last night I attended, along with about 20 others, the latest and greatest OPASS meeting.  I got there early to help setup and great people as they came in.   I may not be the most enthusiastic greeter, but I’m willing and working on doing better.  Greeting also gives me the opportunity to “meet” everyone and try to remember names and find out where people work and how they use SQL Server.  Of course Andy Warren had to give me a hard time about how I was doing the job.  It wouldn’t be an OPASS meeting without taking some grief from Andy.

The meeting started with some updates from Andy on SQLSaturday – Orlando planning, other upcoming events, and some discussion about PASS and what technologies other than SQL Server that PASS could/should cover (Sharepoint, Excel, etc…).  My personal opinion is that PASS should stick with SQL Server, especially since there is so much that is part of SQL Server (SSIS, SSRS, SSAS, DB Engine), why does PASS need to expand?

We then had about 15-20 minutes of networking (group hug) and I spent the time talking with Nick who works in BI for Hilton and would like to transition to DBA.  We had a good discussion about how to transition and what resources are out there to learn how to be a SQL Server DBA.  I guess my biggest failing was not getting his last name and I probably should have given him a business card.  Hopefully I’ll see him again at the next meeting and rectify the situation.

The feature presentation was Powershell vs T-SQL by Chad Miller.  Chad is very passionate about the power of Powershell and knowledgeable and it definitely came across in his presentation.  I have to admit that I was looking for things to pick at Powershell, but really couldn’t come up with much.  I happen to be a “Jack of all trades” so I do some .NET development and would probably do a lot of what Chad did in Powershell in .NET because I already know .NET, but if I were not familiar with .NET I could definitely see learning and using Powershell.  Chad also did a good job of giving specific instances where Powershell is better/simpler to use than T-SQL and when T-SQL Is the better choice, so he did not have an “all Powershell all the time” stance which I appreciated.  I can definitely see where Powershell can make auditing easier and how it can make managing a multi-server environment easier to automate.  Since I am in a one SQL Server shop right now, I don’t see me using it a lot, but I will try to find a project to test it out and learn it.  Chad’s slide deck and demos can be found on his blog.

After the presentation we hung around and talked for about an hour or so.  I spent some time talking with Chad and Kendal Van Dyke about Powershell and other SQL Server tools like SSIS, etc…  Then Andy, Kendal, and Kendal’s co-worker, Todd, and I had some discussions about the PASS Summit, SQLSaturday’s, and growing speakers.  It’s always interesting getting together with these guys and finding out what they think and why.  I never leave without some interesting things to think about.

Monday, July 13, 2009

OPASS Meeting July 14th

Hey, Orlando area SQL Server folks, don’t forget the OPASS meeting 6pmTuesday, July 14th at End to End Training (map).  Chad Miller will be presenting on Powershell and T-SQL. 

As usual there will be an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting for networking and then again after the meeting.  Even when the presentation is excellent, many times the discussion before and after the meeting are just as profitable.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mid-year update on my goals

I recently saw that Steve Jones had posted an update on his 2009 goals and realized that is was about time for me to do the same.  So let’s get to it.

Learn SQL Server 2008, particularly Policy Based Management, Resource Governor, and Service Broker.

Still not much progress here.  It’s really a matter of getting myself moving.

Write 1 article per quarter for SQLServerCentral

Doing okay here as I have had 2 published and some others in my queue, not SSC’s, but I think this one will get done no problem

Record and Submit 1 video per quarter to JumpStartTV.

Behind on this one as I have only done 1 this year, but I do have some ideas on ones to get in.  I can definitely make it.

One Blog Post per week

I was doing really well on this on until the last month.  I took a vacation where I did nothing technical and didn’t even have internet access and since I have been out of sorts and not interested in writing.  It looks like I do have the quantity, but not the regularity.  This is still a work in progress, but I definitely think I’ll get 52 posts in 2009.

Become more involved in leadership in my local user group (OPASS)

This one is slow going, but I have become involved in pursuing speakers and need to get more involved in finding sponsors and encouraging others to be involved.  I have also been involved in some of the early planning for the next SQLSaturday – Orlando, which is technically a user group event.  I know Andy Warren would be happy to see me do more.

Speak at 2 community events

I have actually met this goal already.  I did my Introduction to Profiler session at the Tampa SQL Server User Group in June and also at SQLSaturday – Pensacola.  I am also scheduled to speak at the Space Coast User Group in September  on the Default Trace.  I will probably submit my Default Trace session to SQLSaturday – Orlando as well.  I did submit 2 sesssions for the PASS Summit that, unfortunately were not selected, but it was the first step.

Attend the PASS Summit

Believe it or not I am still waiting to get permission from my boss to go.  I have permission from my wife to go, so now I just need to get permission from work.  I’m pretty sure this one will happen and if it doesn’t it won’t be because I didn’t try.


Overall I am doing okay, but I need to use my time better to meet them all.  It’s my nature to do the easy ones, speaking, going to pass, and blogging and procrastinate on the harder ones.  I guess that should be a goal for next year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

So Now I’m Gilligan, Finally

Okay I was tagged by Tim Mitchell on the Deserted Island scenario started by Tim Ford which goes like this:

So You’re On A Deserted Island With WiFi and you’re still on the clock at work.  Okay, so not a very good situational exercise here, but let’s roll with it; we’ll call it a virtual deserted island.  Perhaps what I should simply ask is if you had a month without any walk-up work, no projects due, no performance issues that require you to devote time from anything other than a wishlist of items you’ve been wanting to get accomplished at work but keep getting pulled away from I ask this question: what would be the top items that would get your attention?

There’s so much that I could do, I almost don’t know where to start and I rather be off hanging out with Mary Ann anyway, but that isn’t an option in this scenario so:

I’ll start with cleaning up security.  It seems like no matter where you go or how long they’ve been running SQL Server the security is messed up.  I’d clean out dead logins and make sure the ones left met the least privileges test.  In my current environment that would take about an hour (I guess I should get on it then), at my last job it would take most of the month.

Next I’d automate testing of my backups on at least at weekly basis by restoring to a development server.  Unfortunately valid backups tend to be one of the things I take for granted.  This would also include setting up a plan to validate the backups that have already gone to tape and off-site.  I think this is one thing that many administrators, system and SQL, leave out.

Next would come tuning up database maintenance.  I’d start with Michelle Ufford’s index maintenance script and work from there to add in DBCC checks as well.

Then I’d work on monitoring scripts, traces, and performance monitor logs to compare to my baseline or to create my baseline and then compare to it.

Since I’m so late in posting this and someone else might like Mary Ann, too, I’m not going to tag anyone else.