Oct 032018

I’ve been honored to present a session at PASS Summit for the past few years, but this year I am especially humbled as I had not one but two abstracts accepted! The first is an introduction to Azure Cosmos DB. The other is covering some of my favorite SSMS and T-SQL tips and tricks that can help you save time!

Select Stars: A SQL DBA’s Introduction to Azure Cosmos DB

Level: 200
Where: Skagit 4 (TCC Lower Level)
When: Thursday November 8, 2018 1:30-2:45pm

Azure Cosmos DB has quickly become a buzzword in database circles over the past year, but what exactly is it, and why does it matter? This session will cover the basics of Azure Cosmos DB, how it works, and what it can do for your organization. You will learn how it differs from SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, what its strengths are, and how to leverage them. We will also discuss Azure Cosmos DB’s partitioning, distribution, and consistency methods to gain an understanding of how they contribute to its unprecedented scalability. Finally, we will demonstrate how to provision, connect to, and query Azure Cosmos DB. If you’re wondering what Azure Cosmos DB is and why you should care, attend this session and learn why Azure Cosmos DB is an out-of-this-world tool you’ll want in your data toolbox!

SSMS & T-SQL Tricks: Working Smarter, Not Harder

Level: 100
Where: Room 6A
When: Wednesday November 7, 2018 4:45-6:00pm

Do you spend a considerable amount of time in SQL Server Management Studio? Are you always in search of ways to write better code with less effort? Attend this session to see demonstrations of all the helpful gems SSMS has hiding in plain sight that will save you keystrokes, mouse clicks, and time while getting your work done. We will also cover useful T-SQL Scripts to make common tasks easier and faster, and solutions to frequently-encountered coding problems. Whether you’re a developer or a DBA, whether you do your work on-premises or in the cloud, attend this session to learn how easy it is to write better T-SQL code and save the day, all while working smarter, not harder!

I hope to see you there!

PASS Summit starts in a little over a month, and if you’re thinking this sounds pretty awesome, registration is still open! The program committee has put together an incredible schedule combining top presenters from all aspects of the Microsoft Data Platform. On top of that, opportunities for networking abound. While the sessions are awesome, the community is PASS Summit’s greatest asset. You really don’t want to miss this.

Even if you can’t attend, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@SQLBob). I’ll be sharing plenty of updates and photos from throughout the conference. Even if you can’t experience PASS Summit in person, by following myself, other community members, and the #PASSsummit2018 hashtag, you can get a great virtual experience.

Sep 272018

The next in my series of PASS Summit Tips may seem a bit strange, but I assure you it comes from experience: Parts of PASS Summit can be loud.

My handy-dandy earplugs

I’m not referring to the official events themselves; if you’re in a session and feel it’s too loud, maybe take a seat farther away from a speaker. What I’m really referring to are the after-events, of which there are plenty. Many of which involve karaoke, some will even have live bands. I can assure you that this will be loud.

Bring Earplugs

I’ve never liked loud noises, but my years spent in high school and college marching bands really turned me on to the importance of hearing protection. In college the band even had the hearing science department take molds of our ears and make us custom earplugs. They are amazing and I still have and use them regularly! I realize not everyone has access to that, but still, pick up a pair of earplugs from a drugstore or online. Some of them even have carrying cases. I just keep a pair in my backpack at all times. If I find myself in an environment I feel is too loud, I can pop them in and nobody else is the wiser. I also have a second pair in my car, so if I find myself heading to a concert or similar loud event, I’m ready to go.

ANC is Awesome

On a similar note, if you want to help your hearing while flying to the conference, you should seriously consider a pair of active noise control headphones. I recently got a pair myself and am just amazed at what a game-changer they are. I never realized how loud it was on an airplane until I started using them. Of course these are much more of an investment than earplugs, but if you do any amount of flying throughout the year, I think they’re worth it. I have the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) wireless headphones, but you can find them from a variety of manufacturers at different price points. If you don’t like over-the-ear headphones, ANC earbuds are also available.

No matter what you decide to do, please remember that your hearing is precious, and even the most basic protection is better than nothing at all.

Sep 252018

I’m always looking for new and interesting data sets for demonstration purposes. I enjoy using data that people can relate to – not only is it easily understood, but often it can be entertaining as well. This data set of real-world parking tickets does all that.

A few weeks ago I came across this blog post by Matt Chapman. Matt filed FOIA requests with the City of Chicago and, after multiple attempts, was able to get access to over 36 million parking tickets written between 2003 and 2016. Matt goes on to explain Chicago’s parking ticket database, how he processed the data, analyzed it, and in one location got Chicago to put up additional “No Parking” signs to reduce parking tickets in that spot by 50%. That is most definitely using analytics for a great cause!

But let’s get back to that data for a second, that’s what really interests me. Matt shared his raw data for others to analyze, but it was formatted as a PostgreSQL dump. Now PostgreSQL is a great tool with an even greater price, but it’s not always the easiest to use. After spinning up a Linux VM and spending hours setting everything up as best I could, I still couldn’t get the dump to restore properly. Apparently I didn’t have all the exact versions of certain extensions installed, and because of that the tables couldn’t be loaded. Grrrr.

After several more hours of manually editing a 13GB text file, I was able to load all the data into SQL Server. With some normalization and proper data typing, the size dropped down to about 3GB, and just about 500MB with compression! It contains dates, locations, license plates, violations, fines, and several other datapoints.

If you’d like this data set for yourself, download it here (500MB download). Inside the archive you’ll find both a SQL Server backup and a file of scripts. The script file contains an additional index you may want to create to enforce uniqueness, as well as a view that joins all tables together.

I hope you find this data as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

Sep 202018

Last week I wrote about SQL Saturday Portland and the SQLTrain. In this week’s PASS Summit tip I have another piece of advice for attendees: Get the session recordings.

Yes, I know they cost extra. And no, I am not blindly playing PASS marketing cheerleader here. There’s actually some really solid reasons to purchase the session recordings:

  • PASS Summit has many wonderful sessions. Just check out the schedule, there’s a ton of great stuff on there. You will encounter time slots where there are multiple sessions you want to attend and you’ll have to pick one and miss the other(s). With recordings of every session, this is no longer a problem.
  • Have you ever had one of those “aha!” moments midway through a session, and now wish you could re-watch it all over again from the beginning? You can do that with a recording.
  • Fatigue is a very real problem at conferences. After spending multiple hours in sessions, everyone is bound to hit the point where their brain is full. There is zero shame in this – it happens to me too. When you have session recordings, you can watch or re-watch any session at a time when you are fully awake, aware, and caffeinated.
  • There may be a time where you’re better off skipping a session or two. Don’t forget, PASS Summit is about more than just sessions, it’s about networking and making connections with people. That’s why everyone gets together in a convention center instead of this just being an online conference. I’ve blogged about this before, but there are absolutely times where I go network with people and vendors instead of attending sessions. Having recordings to watch later makes the decision to do this very easy.
  • Perhaps your manager wishes they could send more people to PASS Summit, but there’s not enough room in the budget. Explain to them that if they were to purchase a full set of conference recordings just a little bit extra, the entire team would be able to benefit from your attending. (I once was on a team where we ate lunch together while watching conference videos one day per week. It was great for all of us!)

So while I realize that PASS Summit session recordings cost extra, in my opinion they help bring even more value to the conference. I think they’re worth it.


Sep 172018

I’m very happy to be returning to Boston this weekend to speak at SQL Saturday Boston 2018. I last attended a few years ago and have been wanting to get back there ever since, so I’m happy the cards fell into place this time around!

The organizers in Boston have put together an amazing schedule for the day that I’m really proud to be a part of. Check it out – they really have some top talent arranged on a wide variety of topics.

As for myself, I’ll be presenting a classic session that I feel will always be relevant: backup and restore performance tuning. Yes, it really is possible to tune backup and restore jobs just like queries! Even if backup performance isn’t necessarily important to your organization, I guarantee you that restore performance will be during an outage. If this sounds interesting to you, attend my demo-intensive session to see how these techniques can help you to save the day when seconds count!

To register for SQL Saturday Boston 2018, click here. I hope to see you there!