May 202016
 

Parenting is most definitely something that parents are constantly learning more about. Our son is 11 weeks old today, and while Michelle and I are by no means experts, we’ve learned a bunch in that time. We’ve also found some techie tools that have proved incredibly helpful these past few months, and I wanted to take a brief break from database speak to share them. Here they are, in no particular order:

Whoa – I’m 11 weeks old today!

Baby Tracker. This awesome app helps you keep track of your baby’s eating, sleeping, and diaper-ing. It’s incredibly simple to use, and never again will you have to wonder if your spouse changed them recently, or how much sleep they’ve gotten today compared to yesterday. It syncs between multiple devices, and creates some really nice visualizations of your data. It comes in free and “pro” versions ($5). The pro version has no advertisements and better charting and has been well worth the cost to us.

Eye-Fi Mobi Pro WiFi SD Card. I’ve wanted one of these for a while, and wish I had bought it sooner because it’s really been useful. Admittedly, most of the photos we take of our son (and in general) are on our phones, but for the times I need a real camera, getting those photos off of it has always been a (relative) chore involving removing the SD card, sticking it in a reader, and copying files to my computer. Getting photos off my phone is trivial by comparison; I just use Dropbox‘s camera upload feature. Eye-Fi makes getting photos from my camera to my computer just as easy. For an added bonus, it can also transfer photos to my phone, so they can be shared right away if I’m not at home.

Google Photos. Years ago, I was a huge fan of Picasa and Picasa Web Albums. Then the whole Google+ Photos thing really turned me off. Last year, Google unveiled the new Google Photos, and I’ve been a fan ever since. It’s extremely easy to use, and while I hope they add a few more features, it does an excellent job of letting you store photos from all your devices in one place in the cloud. You can also create albums to share with others very quickly, thus keeping those rabid grandparents happy.

Foscam FI9821P IP Camera. Audio baby monitors are no longer good enough, now we need video ones. There’s no shortage of options in this space, but rather than go the baby monitor route I decided to just buy a real web camera and stick that in junior’s room. Not only was it cheaper, it’s easy to watch/control from our phones and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it once we no longer need to watch our son sleep. I also bought a PoE adapter so it can be powered by my network – no power cord necessary!

Anker Astro E5 USB Battery. If you attend PASS Summit or any other conference, you probably know these things are pretty much indispensable anyplace where you need to charge a mobile device and can’t be tied to a power outlet. The ability to charge our phones anywhere has proven very valuable since our son was born, and we’ve been using this almost daily. It’s not just for conferences anymore!

Remember The Milk. I’ve been using this app to keep track of my to-do list for years. Now that I have less time to do things, maintaining a list of what needs to be done has become even more helpful. There’s tons of apps out there for task lists; I’ve tried several others just to see what they’re like, and RTM is still my favorite by far.

So these are our favorite tools. If any new parents out there are reading this, hopefully you’ll find them helpful too! And don’t worry, next week I’ll be back to posting things more database-centric.

May 122016
 

For the past few years I’ve had the annual goal of attending a SQL Saturday in a location that’s totally new to me. For 2016, that new place is Maine. The closest I’ve ever gotten to there is Boston, so I’m really looking forward to this trip and honored to be among the presenters at SQL Saturday Maine 2016!

I’ll be giving my talk entitled “Introduction to SQL Server Encryption”, the same one I delivered in Madison earlier this year and went quite well. If your organization is investigating deploying any of SQL Server’s encryption features, this is the session for you! Please bring your questions and I’ll look forward to seeing you there!

If you still haven’t signed up for SQL Saturday in Portland, Maine, there’s still spots available as of when this post went live. The organizing team has built an amazing schedule, and it’s sure to be a great day of education and networking!

May 102016
 

I’ve loved using Redgate’s tools ever since I discovered what they were, and now that I’m a Friend of Redgate it’s even more fun because I get to give feedback to their developers and hear all about what’s coming out in new releases! Recently, Redgate announced SQL Prompt 7.2, with a bunch of new features and improvements. My personal favorite of all these is execution warnings.

Databases (and computers in general) have this pesky habit of always doing exactly what we tell them to do, instead of doing what we really meant to tell them to do. Have you ever been burned by running a query without the WHERE clause? Perhaps you ended up updating or deleting ALL the rows in a table instead of just a few? A common way to reduce the risk of this is to run those commands inside a transaction, and if you see an abnormally high number of rows affected, it’s simple to rollback. This works great, until you’re in a hurry and forget to run BEGIN TRAN, greatly upping the chances of disaster. Now in SQL Prompt 7.2 you have an added layer of protection – the tool is watching your queries and can warn you! Check it out in action:

If I try to update my table of important data and don’t specify a WHERE clause, I’ll see the following:

The same happens for deletes:

And I think it’s great that I have the option of checking the box and not showing that warning again, but I definitely won’t be doing that.

A lot of times it’s the little things that really make a difference, and I think these warnings are a simple and unobtrusive way to make sure you really meant to run what you typed.

Mar 222016
 

This post took me a little longer to put together than it should have, but seeing as how I now have a two week old son at home, time is a little harder to come by these days! My T-SQL Tuesday topic ended up attracting 4 excellent responses, which I’m very happy to recap.

The first post was from Rob Farley (@rob_farley). Rob has some great insights into text search, but not full-text search. (That’s perfectly fine, I left the topic open on purpose and never intended for it to be limited to full-text search.) He tells us all about how collation can affect text searches and can greatly influence your results. Collation matters, folks! If you don’t believe me, try Rob’s example and you’ll see that he’s not joking. Rob finishes up talking about how indexes and collation can affect columns included in the GROUP BY clause, and includes a great tidbit on how collation can necessitate transformation of text when calculating hash values.

Next was Kenneth Fisher (@sqlstudent144). He walks us through the query in the header of his blog, which does a bit of text manipulation to create a hidden subtitle. I’ll admit I’ve never tried running that query myself, but the results sure are nifty. Good work, Sir!

Anders Pedersen (@arrowdriverolled his own full-text search back in the days before SQL Server supported it. Sounds simple and effective, and if it worked for the business, that’s all that matters, right?

Last, but certainly not least, is Jon Morisi. Jon tells us about his experiences with full-text search in terms of migration, and how recent developments in Azure sound most interesting to him. He is hopeful for the future.

So that’s T-SQL Tuesday for this month. Thanks to Rob, Kenneth, Anders, and Jon for posting, and to everyone else for reading our work. Thank you to Adam Machanic for dreaming up the idea for this a mere 76 months ago. If you’d like a complete listing of all 76 (and counting!) T-SQL Tuesday topics, Steve Jones has been kind enough to compile one.

See you next month!

Mar 112016
 

Recently, PASS Immediate Past President Tom LaRock posted on the PASS blog about changes to the process by which members of the PASS Nomination Committee (NomCom) are chosen.

Previously, NomCom membership has been an elected position, which has necessitated another election each year prior to the PASS Board of Directors election. I very much agree that this generates “additional noise” in the PASS election cycle, and could also contribute to lower voter turnout during the Board of Directors election. There apparently is also a perception that the NomCom is seen as “a private club”. I can’t say I’ve ever felt that way myself, but everyone is entitled to an opinion.

As a result, Tom has proposed the following changes:

  • Replacing the NomCom election with appointments by the Board of Directors; anyone can apply for consideration
  • New guidelines for the composition of the NomCom
  • Term limits: No NomCom member can serve more than three consecutive years

Personally, I agree with these changes. The NomCom serves an important purpose, but I’m not sure it warrants its own election. I think these changes will help PASS in the future, especially if voter turnout increases for the board election.

For more details, check out the blog post. Tom says these proposed changes are up for a board vote at the March 10 meeting, and there will be a town hall meeting on March 17 to discuss these changes as well as the upcoming 2016 elections.

UPDATE (16 March 2016): The proposed changes have been approved. Those wishing to be considered for the 2016 NomCom can submit letters of interest until Wednesday, 23 March 2016.