Opinion: Don't call me and then ask me to identify myself

I continued to be stunned at how banks don't get security.

Had a call just now from a sales guy from the my bank. It's annoying enough that they call at night, but I really don't like it when they want to confirm who you are before they can talk to you.

Told him, Sorry, can't do. Have no idea who you are.

Why would I tell personal details to some guy who just calls out of the blue, claiming to be from my bank?

He said "you don't want to continue with the call then?", so I said "I'm guessing that's a no then". Invariably, it's just a marketing arm of the bank that's trying to sell you something or some service anyway.

I also had the same thing with a credit card company. They call me then say Before I continue, I'll need to confirm who you are".

I don't think so. You rang me.

Now the credit card company must be getting told this a lot, because they then followed up with You can see from the number that we called from that it's us.

I told them how easy it is to spoof a phone number, and told them that I'd received a phishing attack just the day before, that appeared to have come from Australia Post, and merged right in with previous texts from them.

I'm not sure what the right answer is for outbound marketing from banks and financial institutions, but I'm guessing that over time, they're going to get fewer and fewer responses to this type of approach.

Fix: curl complains that HTTP protocol is not supported in libcurl (same for HTTPS)

I'm writing this post more to remind myself next time I run into the same problem, but hopefully it'll help someone else too.

curl is a useful utility but the Windows version of it certainly has some quirks. Often though, that leads to error messages that aren't helpful at all.

I kept running into an error where it complained that HTTPS protocol was not supported in libcurl. When I tried HTTP, I saw the same error.

That started me on a journey trying to find the issue, and there are lots of articles that tell you that you need a version that was compiled with those protocols.

But of course, that's not the real issue. The problem is that the Windows version doesn't cope with single quotes like the other versions do. It wants double quotes.

Hope that helps someone sometime.

Ever wondered about Camtasia and/or Snagit?

I'm an unashamed fan of TechSmith and it's products. In particular, SnagIt and Camtasia.

Whenever I'm asked for a list of products that I wouldn't want to live without, SnagIt is near the top of that list. I use it all day, every day. I've tried a number of screen capture programs over the years, and I've watched people struggle to do simple things, just to avoid buying a commercial application. Don't be that person. Use the right tool.

As for Camtasia, once again it's one of my favorite products. We use it constantly for creating videos for our online training site http://training.sqldownunder.com.  Once again, I've tried free options like OBS and many others. Camtasia just works. It's not worth my time messing around with something else just because they others were free.

The reason for the post today though is to call out that they've got a series of intro webinars happening. If you don't know why you should be using these apps, check out the webinars here.

 

Opinion: Don't bludgeon your customers with surveys

For better or worse, I spend a lot of time in hotels, airline flights, dealing with many suppliers, etc. What's become really common now, is that a few days later, they're sending me a survey asking me how they did.

Now I'm sure that they're just trying to follow some best practice to make sure they're delivering what was expected, but lately, I'm finding many of the surveys really quite annoying. I'd like to suggest some simple rules to avoid that.

First Rule: Don't pester or nag

If I don't complete your survey in the time that you'd hoped, please don't keep chasing me for it. If I decide to complete it, I'll do it when I have the time and inclination. And if I decide not to complete it at all, don't bug me about it.

Second Rule: Keep it short

If I do decide to click into your survey, I'm happy for you to ask four or five questions on a single page. That's it. No more.

If I open your survey, and on page one it says that it should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete, sorry, I'm not completing it. What exactly do you assume your customers spend their days doing? I've seen surveys for flights waste more of my billable time than the flight cost. Don't do this.

Third Rule: Survey site must be fast

Make really, really sure your survey website works and is fast. Can't tell you how often I've gone to complete a survey and abandoned it because I'm tired of waiting for the survey engine to get to the point.

Fourth Rule: Get the survey tested

Get someone who speaks clear English to proof-read your survey. It needs to have questions that are straightforward to answer. And the tooling needs to work. Don't ask me a question with four answers unless they are the only answers that could possibly exist. Don't ask me to select all that apply, and then just give me a radio button, etc. etc.

If you keep to these simple rules, you'll probably get a much higher completion rate on your surveys.

Opinion: Data ingestion and opposites

In a previous post, I discussed the way that adjectives have been replacing adverbs, and pondered about what had happened to "ly". For example:

Drive Safe

rather than:

Drive Safely

I had quite a bit of feedback on this, both on and offline. Language discussions are always busy. But another similar trend came up in a discussion that I recently took part in.

A friend asked that if you used the term:

Data Ingestion

was the opposite:

Data Exgestion

Now I know that most words that change an in to an opposite usually use e and not ex. For example ingress and egress (rather than exgress). This means that it would be more likely to be:

Data Egestion

Given that Ingestion normally refers more to food than anything else, it's hardly suprising that Egestion typically refers to what comes out of a backside, so it's probably not a great option, at least in common usage 🙂

Others suggested that the terms:

Data Import

Data Export

should just be used instead. While I agree, it's interesting to note that the above terms are often used as nouns. And that got me wondering about when we started using verbs as nouns.

I never hear anyone talk about a Data Ingest, as though it's a "thing", only about Data Ingestion an an act. But we talk about performing a Data Import, and treating it as both an action, and the act of performing the action, yet I rarely hear anyone say Data Importation when they are discussing the action.

Language is curious.

So what is the best opposite for Data Ingestion or is the term best avoided in the first place?

 

Opinion: Whatever happened to "ly" ?

In recent years, there's an odd trend that I've been noticing. Adverbs seem to be getting replaced by adjectives, and at an increasingly fast rate. I see signs that say things like this:

Drive Safe

Now when I was at school, we'd have been given a hard time for writing that. We'd have been told in no uncertain terms that it should have been:

Drive Safely

I was trying to work out if it was more of a US-based thing. I see it far more often in US-based writing, yet it's also happening in the UK, Australia, and others as well.

Puzzled by this, I was starting to wonder if it was just me, and, more importantly:

Whatever happened to "ly" ?

Turns out that I'm not alone in wondering this. This Quora discussion asked Why have so many people stopped using adverbs and instead use adjectives, such as "quick" instead of "quickly"?

The article argues that it's part of a very long-term trend, and that you notice it more as you age, and as you visit other places and come across other dialects.

More concerning(ly), this article asks: Is it poor style to use adverbs ending in "ly" in formal writing? Some commenting on the article make a more curious claim: Some grammarians consider "ly" ending adverbs as bad style in formal writing.

Now I don't see specific evidence to support that, and one person commented that it was primarily advice for sci-fi writers.

A recent article in the Guardian asks:  Where have all the adverbs gone? And how did they go?

The author says: Meanwhile, in everyday parlance in America, people are quite happy to do things "real quick". I hope that doesn't catch on here. There's plenty of time to bother saying "really quickly". 

At least it appears that I'm not the only one that's wondering where "ly" went. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Opinion: Some thoughts for today on professionalism

Who moved my cheese (diagram tool)?

I was part of an interesting email chain today. It started with a guy complaining that in SQL Server Management Studio 18x, the database diagram tool had been removed.

Now I was disappointed to see the tool gone. Mind you, I didn't ever think it was a great diagramming tool. I would have hoped they might have replaced it by a better one instead of just removing it.

Anyway, what caught my eye was his complaint that by removing it, Microsoft had stopped him doing his work effectively on "complex legacy databases". In particular, he told me how he would use the diagram tool to add and delete foreign key relationships in the databases that he worked on.

I have to admit to being a bit horrified by that. I cannot imagine almost ever wanting to do that, let alone routinely. 

If I want to add a relationship, at the very least script it and run the script. That would give me a record of what I did. Often I'll need to apply the same change to another copy of the database anyway. But even if there was only one database, if it had to be restored to before the change, what would I do? Make the change again and hope to do it the same way?

I mentioned that I'd really prefer this to be in a database project and in source control, and deployed from that.

Professionals vs Cowboys

And the guy mentioned that he always just made changes the simplest way, and moved on, mostly because his customers were disorganized and didn't ever have things like source control or places to keep scripts. It all sounded like pure cowboy stuff and left me thinking about a consultant's role in this.

Awesome image by Oleksii Hlembotskyi

Perhaps age will fix it?

I especially loved it when he assumed I was young and when I'd been around long enough (he thought another 20 years), I'd think the same way. I've actually been in this industry 42 years so far, 27 of them with SQL Server. I might just have to disagree with him on that. I'm far from sure I'll still be doing this in 20 years' time. I suspect that if I'm still around at all, I'll be doing something more relaxing.

Awesome image by Vlad Sargu

Simple Thought for the Day

Look, the message for today is simple: No matter how sloppy your customers are, you owe it to yourself to try to do professional quality work.

Opinion: What are six SQLs and four Jiras?

Over the years, many product names have become verbs that describe what the product does. The typical example is to google for something, or to super-glue something to something else, and so on. The first and dominant product in their markets tends to become associated with the action that they perform.

But was has me puzzled in recent years, is I keep hearing company names used as nouns for something that their applications deal with.

For example, I spent quite a while at a software developer (ISV) where every time they were talking about SQL queries, they'd call them SQLs. They'd say: "look at these four SQLs", or "we have to write a new SQL for this". I can't tell you how much that jarred on me every time I heard it, yet almost everyone in the place said it.

But lately, I've been hearing this sort of thing everywhere. I hear people saying "I'll create a Jira for that" or "we still have four Jiras to complete today". They are referring to tasks.

One of my favorites is also ServiceDesk. Whenever someone says "I'll raise a servicedesk for that", it strikes me how surreal that language has become. They mean a ticket in ServiceDesk.

Does anyone else find this odd?

 

 

Opinion: Another plea to developers – please avoid fixed size windows

Just thought I'd send another plea out to my developer friends:

Please stop making windows fixed size when they don't need to be.

Take a look at the main image above. The issue isn't just this one application, it's a plague. The window:

  • Is fairly small
  • Is way smaller than the desktop space
  • Has no resizing handles
  • Is not able to be maximized
  • Has content that doesn't fit in the current window size

Why?

 

 

FIX: Headset volume too low on Windows 10 (LX-3000)

After some recent upgrade to Windows 10, I've found that the headphone volume is way too low for me. I'm using Microsoft LX-3000 headsets, and have always really liked them.

So I was really puzzled what makes the volume so low.

The thing that's made the biggest difference for me is to enable loudness equalization in the properties of the device. For those that aren't sure how to do that, here's a quick set of screen shots:

First we open sounds from the task bar by right-clicking the speaker icon:

Then we go to the properties of the LX-3000:

Finally, on the enhancements tab, enable the loudness equalization and OK.

For me, this made a huge difference to the usability of the headphones. Hope it helps someone else too.