Book Review: Pro Power BI Architecture

I was pleased to see Reza Rad's latest book Pro Power BI Architecture: Development, Deployment, Sharing, and Security for Microsoft Power BI Solutions: Rad, Reza: 9781484295373: Books now out the door. Reza is an old friend, fellow Data Platform MVP, and fellow member of the Microsoft Regional Director program.

I was pleased to have been a technical reviewer for this book, and I hope that, along with the other reviewers, we have improved what was already a good book.

Not Just an Update

This is version 2 of the book that Reza produced in 2019 but it is not a book with minor updates. Most of the book is rewritten.

Reza is a book-writing machine. In this book, he has covered so very many aspects of architecture for Power BI. He has provided an emphasis on reliability and ease of maintenance. In particular, I was pleased to see a discussion on environments as that's often omitted in Power BI related books. And a discussion on how to save money by using the right licensing. Once again, that's a topic that's often not discussed.

Target Audience and Style

The book is really for anyone who needs to build Power BI reports (often analysts and developers), but with a view to the bigger picture of how to structure a project so it continues to be usable as it (or the team) grows in size.

I like Reza's conversational style and it shines out in his writing. When I read it, I often feel like I'm sitting in a room listening to him talk. That's a tough skill and Reza does it effortlessly.


Great book and well-written

8 out of 10


Book Review: Chernobyl 01:23:40 by Andrew Leatherbarrow

I've been fascinated by what happened at Chernobyl for a long time. Many of my readers wouldn't know that when I first started university, I was studying nuclear physics and mathematics. Wasn't long afterwards that I headed into computing but, at the time, there were very few degree courses on what's now called computing.

I decided to move on from that study for many reasons, but a primary one was that I could see Australia heading into a pretty solid ban on using nuclear power. The only reactor running in the country was a high flux reactor at Lucas Heights and was used primarily for producing medical isotopes. (It was replaced by a 20MW open-pool lightwater reactor in 2007).

The ban on reactors in Australia has pretty much continued to this day, but there is now some renewed interest. Given the abundance of sunshine, wind, waves, etc. here, you wouldn't think we'd need them now, but over the years, we've continued to mostly use coal. And while we've come a long way with renewables now, we're still far, far behind where we need to be to provide our base load needs from alternatives. For a start, we'd pretty much have to rewire the country.

It does fascinate me that if you ask the average person here about nuclear power though, they quote details of a handful of accidents, and primarily from reactors built in the 1970s. There is an assumption that what would be built in 2023 is the same as what was built in 1971. Even allowing for the difference in severity, if we applied that logic to other areas, we would have, for example, stopped using aircraft long ago (drastically more people have died from aircraft accidents and incidents).  And there seems to be a wilful blindness to the deaths directly and indirectly linked to the use of coal. Perhaps they just aren't as spectacular.


I've seen a lot of material about Chernobyl over the years. I think my standout favourite was a  1996 Horizon documentary from the BBC called Inside Chernobyl's Sarcophagus. I saw it back in 1996 and it was the first time that I really started to understand what had happened there, and more importantly, how poorly the government reacted and how poorly those involved were treated. It had such a wake-up call about how technologies that we thought would work, just didn't.

I'm not sure why Andrew Leatherbarrow's book Chernobyl 01:23:40 recently got me interested. It might have been the renewed public interest in the accident from the recent HBO/Sky miniseries. (I already knew enough about the accident to note the amount of dramatic license taken by the miniseries). I listened to Andrew's book on Audible.

The book was really not what I was expecting. And I say that in a good way.

Rather than just a dry rehashing of facts, it was Andrew's personal story. He had researched the accident for many years, and finally managed to make a trip to visit the site. For him, it was like a pilgrimage.

The book describes not only what he saw when he got there, but also the details of the trip, from the planning stages, to how he and his companions managed to get around when nearby, on site, and more.

I also particularly liked the detail he had on the legendary Chernobyl divers.


Have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

8 out of 10



Book Review: Tripping Over Myself – Shaun Micallef

I've been a big fan of Shaun Micallef for many years. So I was very excited to listen to his new book Tripping Over Myself, A Memoir of a Life in Comedy both to learn more about his background, and to hear his thoughts on it.

I truly appreciate his sense of humour, and as someone who speaks publicly regularly, I appreciate watching his timing and delivery. That's the number one reason why I wanted to listen to this on Audible rather than reading the book. Shaun reads the book himself, and I knew that hearing him deliver the content would add to the value it brings.

And I was right. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.


It's not for everyone. There are many, many Australian references that I think would be lost on anyone who hasn't lived here, and also, who hasn't lived here long enough to understand all the references. Fortunately, that suited me just fine.

Shaun does a wonderful job of seeing the funny side of life. He does poke fun at people, but even more so at himself. I love his self-effacing humour.

Hearing the background about TV shows that I've seen in the past was fascinating. The book does a good job of letting you see how his style has developed over the years.

Mad as Hell

Shaun's most recent TV series in Australia was Mad as Hell. The name of the show was a reference to a famous line delivered by Peter Finch in the movie Network, often described as a satirical black-comedy drama about a newsroom. I remember Peter Finch saying "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" at a crucial part of the movie.

While Shaun was the clear star of the Mad as Hell show, he (and/or the producers no doubt) assembled such a talented team around him. Shaun always produced a masterclass in comedy timing and delivery.

The one exception I'd make to this is his desire to keep impersonating Kenneth Williams. That really, really needs to be removed from his performances.


I don't normally listen to biographies. As I mentioned, I loved it. Well done Shaun.

9 out of 10


Book Review: Leap First by Seth Godin

I'm a fan of Seth Godin, and have always enjoyed listening to him. Recently I finished listening to Leap First on Audible. 
When I started listing to this book, I didn't quite know what to make of it. I always enjoy Seth's anecdotes. At first, the book seemed more like a series of anecdotes than an in-depth treatment of the topic. It seemed to lack a continuous train of thought. I started feeling like I was listening to a collection of anecdotes from Seth, rather than a "real" book.
It's brief: only 2 hours 6 minutes long. I started to wonder if Seth had felt the need to push out another book, when one wasn't needed.

But Later

I was wrong.

As the book continued, a real train of thought did emerge to tie the thoughts together. I ended up quite enjoying it. The book is a recording of parts of a session that he was delivering. The audience was aspiring entrepreneurs and others. And Seth is a great public speaker.

I loved when he called us all out on procrastination, and our failure to "leap".  Other people's reviews were strong. "Highly recommended for anyone who might be stuck or trying to find meaningful work."  This is where the brevity of the book might well be a good thing. I can imagine people listening to it many times, particularly when they feel the need for a "pick me up" in their work.
I loved the stories of authors reading the one-star reviews of their work, and the analysis of why they do that. I've seen that many times and he's dead right.


A brief but interesting book. Don't let the feeling that you are listening to a collection of anecdotes put you off. An message does shine though as the book continues.

7 out of 10.


Book Review: The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being

Ever since I watched Professor Alice Roberts' series on travelling Egypt by Train, I've been quite a fan of her work. (It also means I probably came to knowing about her later than I should have). Since then, I've been working through a number of her books. On Audible, I just finished listening to The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

Amongst many other things, Alice is an English biological anthropologist. She also worked as a doctor in the National Heath Service in Wales for a while, but she left clinical medicine to focus on anatomy.

This is an amazingly powerful book.

I can't describe just how many things I learned when listening to it. Alice shows a mastery of so many disciplines (like anatomy, genetics, biology, evolution, and more) and combines them to tell a detailed story of the evolution of the human body. She fills in so many gaps that I didn't understand about why things in the body are the way they are, and importantly, how they came to be that way.

Alice works through each of the major systems of the body, one by one, and describes so much about how they function in humans, and how they function in other animals, particularly those that share a common ancestor with us in the tree of life.

When I was at high school, biology was considered a softer science than chemistry, psychics, mathematics, etc. In fact, in an indication of the appalling gender-divide back then, at our school biology was taught over at the girls' high school and males who wanted to learn, needed to go there. Worse still, because it didn't rate as well as other sciences, it put students in a less competitive situation for university entrance. That meant that if you wanted to be a medical doctor, the worst thing you could do was to study biology at school, as it would reduce your chances of getting into medical school. How ridiculous!

As I've aged, I've now built a complete fascination with biology. I wish I'd spent more time on it when younger. This book hit the mark for me nicely.


I've seen a few comments from people (one or two from the USA) who have some difficulty with Alice's accent and found the book harder because she read it herself. I couldn't disagree with those comments more. I'm so very glad that Alice read the book herself. She has a steady pace, a clear accent, and is obviously used to teaching. Her accent is a pretty straightforward English accent.

The Verdict?

After learning so many things from the book (and it's a long book), I got a hint of just how much more I don't know about this.  At some point, if I have another 11 hours 15 minutes to spare, this is one book that I'll likely listen to again, to try to catch some of what I'm sure I missed.

10 out of 10



Book Review – Make Your Data Speak – Alex Kolokolov

Over the last year, I've come to know Alex Kolokolov more, through involvement with his data visualization challenges. I was really pleased to see he'd written his first book Make Your Data Speak (Creating Actionable Data through Excel For Non-Technical Professionals).

Things I Liked

I really liked the conversational style of the book. It's all structured around  an approach of "Let's see how this happens by example". The tone was really refreshing and should be good to hold people's interest.

I also really loved the approach of starting with a (believable) mess and cleaning it up. The level of the book would probably work best for the "not really comfortable with pivot tables yet" audience but I could see it being useful for people who've worked with these types of problems before, and who have probably made all the mistakes that Alex talked about in the book. Alex did say it's for non-technical professionals and I think that's spot on.

Having QR codes for linking to sample code was a simple but nice addition.

I found myself chuckling a bit when reading the  colours and theming parts. When I see demonstrations of material like this, people often demonstrate truly awful colours, and I think "no-one would do that". Alex has chosen examples that are nasty but believable. I've seen worse in the field.

Similarly, the section on choosing visualizations was detailed and well-argued.

The book finishes with a section on improving data-driven culture in the organisation. That's a good way to end.

Things I'd Like to See Improved

Not much. It's great!

It's important to note that the book focusses on Excel. I did keep thinking about how I'd do it in Power BI instead, but there is a very, very big audience for Alex's take on how to tell data stories using Excel.

I was concerned about how the English would be, from a non-native speaker. Some was a little odd, but Alex has done an outstanding job. In fact, it's so much better than so many books I've recently read from native English speakers. I really did not notice errors apart from a few things that sounded grammatically odd to me. As an example, the chapter "Dashboard Assembling" really should be "Dashboard Assembly" or perhaps better "Assembling Dashboards". Some sentences like "Assembly according to the layout is faster and easier…" is strictly correct but sounded a little odd.

I'd have to say though that nothing really grated on me. And that's quite an achievement. I hope one day I can do the same in Mandarin, but I fear I'll be far short of the level of what Alex has achieved in English writing.

The Verdict?

If you need to learn to tell a story with data and using Excel, this would be a worthwhile addition to your library.

7 out of 10


Book Review: SQL Server Query Tuning and Optimization

I was pleased to be sent a pre-release copy of Benjamin Nevarez's new book SQL Server Query Tuning and Optimization. Last time, I reviewed his High Performance SQL Server book.

This book seems to be somewhat new and somewhat an update, but this time with the main focus on query tuning and optimization. That's pleasing as the main way to get better performance out of SQL Server is to fix the queries. much more so than anything to do with the hardware or server configurations that so many people focus on.

I've known Benjamin for a long time. He's a very skilled SQL Server professional. And again the technical reviewer for the book is another very skilled old friend in Mark Broadbent. Brandon Leach, Ajmer Dhariwal, and Artur Wysozanski were also technical reviewers. Once again, I had high expectations.

And once again, I wasn't disappointed.

The book covers a rich set of topics, including most things you need to know when performing query optimization for SQL Server. It provides a detailed background to each area, and then recommendations on how to proceed.

Once again, it was so pleasing to read a technical book that was well written, used English well, and  wasn't full of technical errors. Nowadays, there aren't many technical books that fall into this category. Several times lately, I've been sent technical books for review, and I've ended up telling the publisher that they don't want me to write a review as those books were so poorly written. It's important to support people who are still writing quality technical books.

Now, were there again areas that I disagreed with Benjamin on?


I just don't share the enthusiasm for the in-memory OLTP options in SQL Server, even for temporary objects. I wish it wasn't so, but I've spent so much time trying them over the years, and let's just say, I don't use them. The SQL Server team spent so much money on their in-memory OLTP and in its current form, even in SQL Server 2022, it just doesn't deliver. I think it's one of Bob Ward (product team)'s dreams to ever have me happy with it, but that's not happened yet. It shines in a few very niche areas, but for most customers, I tell them to avoid it.

Another area that I'd also differ on now is the Data Collector. I really don't think this has much future. Benjamin covers it still in this version of the book, but I'd strongly suggest that customers give it a miss.

Were there again areas where I'd love to see the book improved?


Here are some suggestions:

  • I'd like to see statement terminators in all the code (personal bugbear).
  • The order of the topics in theory makes sense, but again in practice, I'm not so sure. I'm concerned that most developers who pick up this book won't get through the theory, to then find the gold. Perhaps there's a need for another book that just lists all the common issues for query tuning, and then for each one, explains what's going on. Alternately, it might have made for an interesting appendix, to have a list of common issues, and for each to tell you which parts of the book are most relevant. So many developers would be just looking for quick answers, and aren't going to read the whole book to find that.
  • I'd love to see more info on working with captured traces. There is so much value in this analysis, of both the core queries, and the normalized versions of the queries. Nowadays, it's the number one thing I start looking at when doing performance tuning work on systems that I haven't worked on before.
  • I'd like to see the book call out even more on the importance of appropriate application design. In my work, I find that at least 70% of the SQL Server performance-related issues that I run into, are application design issues.

The Verdict ?

Overall though? Again, a wonderful book.   9 out of 10.

It should be released very soon:

Want to learn more?

If you'd like to learn much more about tracing queries and improving your T-SQL, check out our online courses at


Why is Greg holding a book about a duck?

One weekend many years ago, my youngest daughter Erin was looking for something to do. She was a very creative child so I suggested "why don't you write a book?"

She said she could write one, if she only had a title. I told her that you could write a book about almost any title. I randomly picked:

What the duck didn't see

(with the emphasis on didn't)

To get her started, I wrote some content, then asked her to continue. She did the same, and then I wrote some more. I turned out to be quite fascinating. I had no idea where she was taking the story and I'd be excited to read what she'd written. Along the way, my eldest daughter Kirsty wrote some content as well. My second daughter Andrea's name was used for the main person in the story.

When life intervened, we hadn't quite finished it, and quite a while elapsed. So last year, I thought it was time to complete it. And this (relatively short) book is the result. I also thought it would be great for the two of them to be "published authors".

It's the story of Andrea Blowhard who is a new detective in Lyttleburg, looking to make a great impression on her new boss. And a fascinating case fell right into her lap. You can find it here:

I hope you enjoy it. But more importantly, I wanted to share this as a concept that you might consider with your own children.


Book: Implementing Power BI in the Enterprise

It's been a while coming, but my latest book is now out. Implementing Power BI in the Enterprise is now available in both paperback and eBook. The eBook versions are available in all Amazon stores, and also through most book distributors through Ingram Spark distribution.

I've had a few people ask about DRM-free ePub and PDF versions. While the Kindle version on Amazon is their normal DRM setup, you can purchase the DRM free version directly from us here:

It contains both the ePub and PDF versions.

Book Details

Power BI is an amazing tool. It's so easy to get started with and to develop a proof of concept. Enterprises want more than that. They need to create analytics using professional techniques.

There are many ways that you can do this but in this book, I've described how I implement these projects.  And it's gone well for many years over many projects.

If you want a book on building better visualizations in Power BI, this is not the book for you.

Instead, this book will teach you about architecture, identity and security, building a supporting data warehouse, using DevOps and project management tools, learning to use Azure Data Factory and source control with your projects.

It also describes how I implements projects for clients with differing levels of cloud tolerance, from the cloud natives, to cloud friendlies, to cloud conservatives, and to those clients who are not cloud friendly at all.

I also had a few people ask about the table of contents. The chapters are here:

  • Power BI Cloud Implementation Models
  • Other Tools That I Often Use
  • Working with Identity
  • Do you need a Data Warehouse?
  • Implementing the Data Model Schema
  • Implementing the Analytics Schema
  • Using DevOps for Project Management and Deployment
  • Staging, Loading and Transforming Data
  • Implementing ELT and Processing
  • Implementing the Tabular Model
  • Using Advanced Tabular Model Techniques
  • Connecting Power BI and Creating Reports

I hope you enjoy it.

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I get a lot of book recommendations from friends. One that I'd heard about a number of times was Mark Manson's book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life so I thought I'd check it out.

I don't overly love the title. I think having expletives in book titles is a bad omen. For me, they are in the same category as, and are reminiscent of, childhood fart jokes. And the book is full of endless repetition of the same expletives. I can only imagine Manson thought they made for good shock value. For me, they don't.

The premise of the book is pretty straightforward. Manson argues that many aspects of life are pretty messed up and for so many of these aspects, there's nothing you can do about them.

This is not a "think positive" book. The analogy from the publishers is that instead of telling you how to turn lemons into lemonade, he's telling you that you need to learn to stomach lemons. At least then you have a chance to be happy.

Clearly, having bad things happen to you can sometimes produce good lessons, but obviously, too many bad things can't be borne.

What is an interesting discussion in this book, is about how you define happiness. I agree with him that there's little point worrying about things that you can't change. I'm a little more positive than him though, on how many things you can actually change.

Many people seem to go through life with the "if only" syndrome. If only I could get a better job, I'd be happy. If only I could pass this exam, I'd be happy. Often these same people have a very unhappy life in the meantime. A different frame of mind might help there.

The Verdict

I liked a lot of the messaging in this book, once you ignore the expletives designed to slap you in the face.  6 out of 10 for me.