Mar 072018

If you’ve done any amount of work in Linux from Windows, chances are pretty good you’ve used PuTTY at some point. PuTTY is a free and open-source terminal emulator that supports a variety of protocols, including SSH. I’ve been using it since college and have always been very happy with it. It’s free, it’s tiny, and it just works.

With the advent of SQL Server 2017 on Linux I find myself using it rather frequently once again, but this time around I’m not just using PuTTY for myself. Now I’m trying to take screenshots of it for slide decks, and doing demos in presentations. In a world of flashy graphics and high-resolution screenshots, PuTTY’s simplicity can become a problem. Remember, it’s a terminal emulator. Its job is to display text. By default it’s 80 columns wide* and 24 rows high.

A PuTTY window doesn’t take up a whole lot of screen real estate at this size, especially for modern HD monitors.This is great for everyday use, and terrible for teaching others. Screenshots end up tiny, and if you scale the image they tend to look horrible and pixelated.

A default size PuTTY window.

It might look great on your screen right now, but being projected on a wall this becomes a problem.

Fortunately PuTTY has an option to fix this, which has evaded me for the better part of the 18 years I’ve been using it. It’s not quite as flashy as “Presenter Mode” that SQL Server Management Studio released a few years back, but it is incredibly helpful. On the configuration screen, click the “Window” category and select the radio option to “Change the size of the font.” That’s all there is to it.

Select the “Window” category


Set the font size to change when the window is resized


Now connect to your server of choice and resize the window as you see fit. Instead of the window getting larger and the text staying small, the text will now grow with the window. Screenshots can be much clearer, and on-screen demos are delightful!

(click to view full size)


*Why do terminal windows tend to be 80 columns wide by default, anyway? Probably because the IBM punched card format, introduced in 1928, used cards that had 80 columns. When it came time to ditch the cards and edit them on a screen instead, 80 columns seemed like a good enough size to stick with.

Sep 022017

by @WidowPage

Before I show you the curing process, we need to talk about salt and how it turns pork belly into bacon.  Curing doesn’t happen without salt.  If you look back into the history of bacon, humans all over the world were packing pork belly into salt to preserve the meat.  The Chinese and Europeans started curing meat as early as 1500 BC.  According to the Pork Board of America, Hernando de Soto’s herd of 13 pigs sparked early conflicts with Native Americans who developed a fondness for the taste of pork.  His herd eventually grew to 700 hogs, not including those that were eaten or ran away to breed and become ancestors of today’s feral hogs in the Southeast.

While I don’t know the exact process de Soto’s contemporaries used to cure bacon, they had to have used salt.  Today, everyone uses pink salt or Prague Powder or Curing Salt #1.  Some might confuse it with Himalayan salt.  Don’t do that.  These are 2 different substances.

Both could be called pink salt, but only use curing salt for bacon.

Most Himalayan salt comes from Pakistan which means it should really be called Pakistan salt, but that doesn’t quite have the mystery or cache of Himalayan salt.  Thanks marketing team!  It is purer than table salt, but it is the impurities that give it its pink color.  Some people claim it has special health benefits, but I just find it tasty on baked red potatoes.

Curing salt was trademarked back in 1925 as Prague Powder by Karl Max Seiffert.  He turned around and sold his patent to Griffith Laboratories in 1934.  Here’s the super cool thing about this…I am not from Chicago but I lived here for more than 20 years and love Chicago’s history.  Griffith Laboratories was started in Chicago in the 1900s by a father and son who assumed ownership of a pharmacy.  The son backed out of attending agricultural school at U of Illinois and went Northwestern to study pharmacology.  Once he graduated, he and his father changed their company direction to “bring science to the food industry”.  They initially focused on bread and baking, but in 1934, they bought Seiffert’s patent and began distributing it across the country.  Griffith Labs still exists today as Griffith Foods and their global headquarters are in Alsip, Illinois.  You can buy Prague Power directly from them OR order it off Amazon.

Curing Salt #1

My curing salt came from Williams Sonoma.  When you buy curing salt for bacon, make sure you get Curing Salt #1.  Curing Salt #2 is meant for cuts of meat that cure for longer periods of time.  Think pastrami or ham.

Curing salt is also known as pink salt.  Manufacturers dye it this color to distinguish it from table salt.  Curing salt should NOT be consumed or used like table salt.  It contains 6.25% sodium nitrite which is what prevents the growth of botulism or the other icky things that grow in meat over time.  We will apply this salt to the pork bellies but will rinse it off once it does its job.  Do not use curing salt for any other purpose.

Tired of salt?  Fret not. Tomorrow’s post will be all about combining curing salt with other seasonings and getting on with the bacon process.  Lots of cool pictures and much fun.

Sep 092016

A while back, I wrote about how SQL Prompt now includes execution warnings and how useful I think that feature is. It’s saved my bacon several times now, including just last week!

I’m now happy to announce that I’ve recorded a demo video of this feature for Redgate’s series of #SuperSQLTips for SQL Prompt. Be sure to check out my video, as well as the rest of the series – there’s some super-helpful stuff in there!


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 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.